House of turncoats

>> Friday, June 3, 2016

By Val G. Abelgas

Why am I not surprised that despite having just three members in the House of Representatives, the PDP-Laban is almost certain to have control of the chamber?
With the election of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the official candidate of the PDP-Laban, to the presidency, the small party headed by Sen. Koko Pimentel has suddenly become a magnet to the old and new members of the coming Congress. Politicians are suddenly shifting their allegiance to Duterte and his party. After all, that’s what political chameleons do. They change colors as often as political expediency dictates.
Just a few days after it was certain Duterte would be the next president, people and parties of all shades and colors started trooping to Davao City to hopefully partake of the spoils of the recent political war.
First to shift allegiance to Duterte was the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC), the country’s second biggest political party and the party with the biggest number of House members.
NPC president Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said the party has committed to support Duterte’s legislative agenda, which includes the reinstatement of the death penalty and the amendment of the 1987 Constitution to change the country’s system of government to federal, and the speakership bid of incoming Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, who is Duterte’s choice for Speaker of the House.
The NPC, which was a member of Aquino’s “Daang Matuwid” coalition in the House, had supported the candidacy of independent candidate Sen. Grace Poe and just as soon as Poe lost, became a Duterte ally.
Next in line for a share of the political booty was the Nacionalista Party, headed by former Senate President Manny Villar. The NP was also a member of the Liberal Party-led coalition in the House. With the entire Villar clan by his side, Duterte announced that he would appoint Las Pinas Rep. Mark Villar as secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways.
Villar’s appointment was met with strong criticism from friends and foes alike, including longtime friend and ally Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, but everyone knows there are no permanent friends in politics, only permanent interests. And so Villar’s appointment stays in exchange for control of Congress.
Next in the Davao queue were the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats, the original party of the present-day political chameleons; the National Unity Party, a breakaway group of the Lakas-CMD; and the 45-member bloc of party-list representatives.
And guess who came next in the rush to join Duterte’s Coalition of Change? A group of 45 Liberal Party representatives, who are abandoning Aquino even before he steps down from office on June 30 and leaving a handful of party loyalists, led by incumbent Speaker Sonny Belmonte, to tend the store for LP, which suddenly becomes the minority party.
Guess whose name we saw in that bunch of LP turncoats? A former governor who was the chief apologist of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, was, as I suspected, in the group. When he was elected congressman at the same time as Aquino became president, he turned Liberal and became one of Aquino’s chief apologists.
With the movement of the balimbings, Alvarez, Duterte’s anointed and a one-time congressman way back from 1998 to 2001, is suddenly assured of becoming the next Speaker of the House of Turncoats, also known as the House of Representatives.
Why the exodus from the Liberal Party? Aside from the fact that nobody wants to be a part of the losing party, at stake in the division of the spoils are six seats for Deputy Speakers, and chairmanship of 57 committees and 20 special committees.
And, of course, a share of the congressional and presidential pork barrels, which although already declared illegal and unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, eventually find a way to get into the annual national budget.
The frequent political movements by these political turncoats are normal phenomenon in Philippine politics abetted by the onset of the multi-party system under the 1987 Constitution. With parties lacking clear ideological delineations and their members lacking principles, members change party loyalties in the name of political expediency, or what these politicians call “political resiliency.”
I’ll repeat here what I said in a previous column (“Poltical chameleons,” June 15, 2015):
“The instability of these political coalitions reflects, and contributes to, the instability of the country’s political system. Because these parties were formed primarily for the vested interests of its founders and leaders, they are devoid of ideology and platform of government. The parties change stands on issues, and shift loyalties as often as political exigency demands. They change color as they wish like the chameleons.
“Because they are based on the self-serving agenda of the leaders, parties tend to change platforms depending on what can win them votes at the time, or what can be advantageous to their own objectives. The needs of the people that they are supposed to serve are often overlooked. And because the members join the parties not because of the party’s ideals and principles, there is no loyalty on their part and they become political butterflies, moving from one party to another in the same manner that parties move from one coalition to another.
“If the parties and the party members cannot be loyal to their own ideals or their own parties, how can they be expected to be loyal to the people?”(


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