I’ve been meaning to write about this since July. Aside from the interesting experiments people are undertaking to analyze and understand the public opinion data coming in on the various candidates (see Journal of the Jester-in-Exile and Far From Neutral Notions), there’s an ongoing effort to get people to think deeper about the process of voting. And that includes going beyond liking or disliking individual candidates and asking what, if anything, they adhere to in terms of a cohesive vision for governance and what they actually hope to accomplish during their time in office.
Since 1935, when we had our first national presidential campaign, platforms have been part of the political landscape, an essential foundation document not just for campaigning for votes, but for cobbling together coalitions. Emilio Aguinaldo, in announcing his candidacy, apparently unveiled a 44-point platform.The document above, for example, was the 14-point Coalition Platform for the Nacionalista Democratico and Nacionalista Democrata Pro-Independencia parties approved on June 16, 1935, the realigned factions of the Nacionalista Party that split over the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act and the Democrata Party that dissolved over the same question. You can survey the State of the Nation Addresses for 1936, 1937, and 1938 to see how the platform was carried out, or not, particularly in terms of the question of agrarian reform. (a glimpse into how the reunified Nacionalistas put together their campaign platform for the next presidential campaign, in 1941, can be be seen in a Free Press article from July, 1939).
A description of the NP Convention in 1953 in which former Liberal Ramon Magsaysay became the Nacionalista standard bearer, shows how a platform is the formal basis for affiliation in any electoral contest where a tug of war takes place not just for the votes of the electorate but the affiliation of candidates and other leaders. In 1985, the Convenor Group and National Unification Council had to hammer out a platform as a basis for unity and participation in case Ferdinand Marcos called for a snap election. Most recently, the President herself put forward a 10-point Agenda for her administration.
There have been two entries of note that go to the heart of making a vote not just for the President and Vice-President or the Senate, but for an entire ticket, an informed one. Ideally, one shouldn’t just vote for particular positions in isolation, but as much as possible give leaders a chance to have a basis for governing, which requires electing as many like-minded people as possible so they can support each other once a new administration’s inaugurated.
See Platform Plez and Kepner-Tregoe and the 2010 Presidential Elections to see how citizens can go about evaluating candidates, not just on the individual merits of particular candidates, but according to the affiliations they’ve chosen. In an ideal democracy, the basis of that affiliation should be a party platform. Everyone in the party is obliged to uphold a particular set of party principles, and beyond that, to adhere to a set of objectives the party hopes to accomplish within the forthcoming term.
However, in our imperfect world, the standing of political parties is low and only a minority, a little over a quarter of the population, takes parties or party affiliation seriously. The survey, which dates back to 2007, revealed that three parties stood out in terms of platform, etc.: Lakas-CMD, the Liberal Party, and Bayan Muna. Of these three, the survey findings can be explained on the basis, first, of ubiquity in terms of Lakas-CMD as the dominant administration party; in the second instance, because the LP had, until it was divided over the question of continued collaboration with the President, gone through the process of requiring seminars for aspiring members and trying to modernize the party’s processes; and in terms of Bayan Muna, because of the identity of the party as a front organization for a movement with a specific ideology.
In all three cases, and in the case of all parties, there will be those who are leaders and members of the party who are unconcerned with what the party platform says; but even if this is the case, the existence of the party platform represents a set of principles and programs to which it is reasonable to expect the leader or party member to adhere. It is a starting point, at the very least, for evaluating any candidacy: a candidate proven to be ignorant of, or dismissive, of the party platform ought to be taken less seriously than one who has bothered to at least parrot the party line. If the candidate can be shown to have worked towards accomplishing the party’s objectives, then the candidate can be said to have passed a major hurdle in terms of having a respectable candidacy.
At the very least: if certain candidates have an existing political affiliation, then they can be assumed -and expected- to adhere to the platform of the party they belong to; if they move to a party, they can be assumed to have signed on to the platform of the party they’ve joined. More importantly, the first basis for evaluating these candidates is to ask what their party affiliation, formally at least, stands for, and then, asking whether the candidate’s affiliation is nominal or more deeply-rooted, and that can be by means of inquiries in forums, etc. There will be instances where candidates, besides their party affiliations, also have their own, personal platforms (the Magsaysay Credo for example, or that of Noynoy Aquino).
An individual candidate who belongs to party is bound by the party platform; he can add to it, but not subtract from it, or deviate it from it to an extent tha would make his affiliation meaningless. One thing is sure: a candidate should be held accountable to a party platform; from the start, identification with a party means that candidate automatically adheres to the party platform.
For this reason, it’s useful to see what platforms are available on line, for comparison, and in terms of seeing what the presently-affiliated candidates already officially subscribe to. With the caveat that party platforms are changeable documents, ideally revised during the party convention preparatory to waging a new campaign; and that party platforms are, ideally, consensus documents, reflective of the various factions and interests within a party seeking wider public support at the polls.
Lakas Kampi CMD, which has as its potential standard bearers Vice President de Castro, Defense Secretary Teodoro, MMDA Chairman Fernando, and Senator Gordon, among others, has a Lakas Kampi CMD Party Constitution online, with a Declaration of Principles and Polices (Article II), and a General Platform of Government (Article III).
The Nationlist People’s Coalition, which as as its potential standard bearers Senators Escudero and Legarda, has a Nationalist People’s Coalition Party Manifesto online, in Mission-Vision form, with further breakdowns for Human Capital Development; Good Governance; Enterprise Development; Energy and Infrastructure Development; Fiscal Discipline and Security.
The Liberal Party (one assumes all factions subscribe to the same platform) which has as its possible standard bearers Manuel Roxas II or Benigno Aquino III, puts forward what it calls The Liberal Vision, which includes The New Agenda which proposes Policies for the New Century subdivided into three categories: an Economic Program, a Political Program, and a Social Program.
The most meager information is provided by the Nacionalista Party, which is heavy on reciting its past history but terse when it comes to specifying what, exactly, the party stands for. See Nacionalista Part FAQ. In his own wesite, Manuel Villar, Jr. is also rather unforthcoming about the specifics of his candidacy and relating the specifics with the party he heads.
As for the other major parties, I haven’t found their official websites with their party platforms.