The Long View
Hi’s and hello’s in three stages
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:35:00 10/22/2009
According to the Comelec calendar, the schedule for holding political conventions to nominate official party candidates for all elective positions in the 2010 elections started yesterday, Oct. 21, and ends on Nov. 19. The United Opposition was the first to hold a convention yesterday, proclaiming Joseph Estrada and Jejomar Binay as the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the UNO coalition.
The ruling PaLaKa coalition has (tentatively) set its convention for Nov. 11 or 12. Party officials insist that the fourth national executive meeting held at Edsa Shangri-La Plaza in Mandaluyong City last Sept. 16 was not a convention but “merely” a consensus-building exercise. Yesterday Sun-Star Online Tweeted that “Environment Secretary Lito Atienza remains loyal to Lakas-Kampi,” which conclusively settles the real affiliation of Atienza and friends and the nature of his so-called Liberal rump: nothing more than a divisive ruse to further the President’s agenda.
It’s less clear whether the Nacionalista Party or the Liberal Party will hold formal conventions with actual balloting, or whether their respective leadership councils will simply ratify the candidacies of Manuel Villar Jr. (and whoever ends up as his running mate) and the Aquino-Roxas ticket, respectively. Senators Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda are expected to announce their candidacies as the Nationalist People’s Coalition tandem for 2010 by the first week of November, before the Senate resumes its sessions on the 9th, and some party-list organizations affiliated with the NDF are expected to endorse the tandem by Nov. 3, which suggests they changed their minds about supporting Villar’s candidacy.
Party conventions, ideally, are supposed to decide two things: who the party’s official candidates will be, and then, the revision of the party’s platform with an eye to the coming campaign. PaLaKa, the NPC and the LP have existing platforms, which represent the common creed of those affiliated with those parties. These parties can simply decide to campaign under their existing platform, or revise it, during their convention, to present to the electorate.
This is also the period in which coalitions are formalized, and when they decide on common candidates and a common platform. If the candidates of a particular party, with an existing platform, are adopted as the candidates of a coalition, then chances are that a new platform will be hammered out to harmonize the existing party platform of the candidates with other issues brought to the table by the coalition partners.
Once party conventions have taken place, the filing of certificates of candidacy for all elective positions follows, from Nov. 20 to 30. The Comelec, via Resolution 8646, shortened the period for the filling of COCs to 11 days (in 2007, the filing period was twice as long).
Theoretically, then, parties have barely a month (the convention period) and candidates slightly over a week (the filing period, when parties, theoretically, can cobble together coalitions) to decide who their standard bearers will and what alliances they will forge. This is actually a very short period either for campaigning, which is required to secure nomination, or for reflection, which is necessary for drafting and ratifying a party platform.
But of course the campaigning has been going on, and the drafting of platforms is (hopefully) taking place. The era in which parties were composed of life-long, card-carrying members who sent delegates who had to be courted by candidates, is long past.
The closing acts of the traditional conventions took place in 1965, when the Nacionalista Party convention went to Ferdinand Marcos due to Imelda Marcos’ charm offensive to court the support of the Lopez bloc, and because Emmanuel Pelaez refused to bribe his way to victory, and in 1969, when there were allegations that the Liberals chose Sergio Osmena Jr. as their candidate because Diosdado Macapagal wanted a candidate who’d lose (so he could make a comeback), and supposedly because of the “Marcos Liberals,” who maneuvered to select the weakest possible candidate versus the incumbent president.
Having subverted the integrity, such as it was, of the two leading parties, Marcos then devoted himself to systematically destroying them during martial law. He tried to restore the prewar one-party system, and much as we have a theoretical multi-party system, his legacy continues, except that the shelf life of every administration party is only as long as the term of the incumbent who created it.
What we have then is a political period in which certain events – conventions and the filing of candidacies – serve as ritual events, sign posts of the coming election period that formally begins on Jan. 10, 2010. The national campaign period for candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, the Senate and party list, begins on Feb. 9. For candidates for House seats and provincial, city and municipal officials it begins on March 26, 2010. All end on May 8, 2010.
Up to now, candidates have been introducing themselves, individually, to the public (who, after all, are also party members and whose preferences influence the party elders). In November, they will be introducing themselves as standard-bearers of parties with platforms to the same public to form coalitions (that form on the basis of public opinion). In February, they will be competing with the other candidates to convince voters like you and me, individually, that they, their platforms, and coalition partners, deserve our vote.