Benjie Oliveros | Defections Not New to Philippine Politics, But…


News about incumbent government officials jumping ship or abandoning the Lakas-Kampi-CMD have filled the headlines of major news networks almost everyday. The administration party’s presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro has been trying to downplay these defections by saying that it would make the party stronger as these have the effect of cleansing the party ranks of those who are ambivalent regarding their support for his candidacy. But as the defections increase, Teodoro’s chances of winning are getting dimmer because his survey ratings are hardly increasing – he is in a close fight for fourth place with Sen. Richard Gordon but both are way below the ratings of third-placer former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada – and the much-vaunted Lakas-Kampi-CMD machinery appears to be in disarray and dissipating. Party elder former House Speaker Prospero Nograles is even threatening to split the party ranks.

Defections from outgoing administration parties are not uncommon in the history of Philippine politics. Traditional politics in the country are elite-dominated, personality-oriented and opportunistic. Thus, the shifting of parties among politicians are hardly frowned at, especially if it involves the mad scramble toward the party of the winning candidate for president. It is deemed natural for politicians to try to position himself within the corridors of power to share in the crumbs of the victor.

What is new is that the defections are occurring at such an early stage in the run up toward the May 2010 elections. In fact, there is still no clear winner yet but incumbent officials are already taking chances by transferring either to the Liberal Party (LP) or the Nacionalista Party (NP). Traditional politicians or trapos taking chances is hardly characteristic of Philippine politics. They are wont to kill, buy votes, and cheat their rivals to ensure victory.

This new phenomenon is reflective of three things:

First, the Arroyo government and consequently, her party Lakas-Kampi-CMD have become so unpopular that for trapos, sticking with it means sure defeat in the May 2010 elections. The Arroyo government has become so unpopular – registering a historic low of negative 53 percent net satisfaction rating – that the so-called “kiss of death” has become so real.

Second, it reflects the reality that nothing would change after the May 2010 elections. Arroyo’s economic guru Joey Salceda who has connived with her to bring the country to its worst economic crisis and the people to the most difficult times so far, has now joined former senator Ralph Recto, the author of the much-hated law imposing the value-added tax, in the Liberal Party of Sen. Noynoy Arroyo who, ironically, is running on the slogan of change. The ease by which other Lakas-Kampi stalwarts have transferred to the NP also raises questions regarding the direction the party would take in the future.

Third, it shows that Philippine traditional politics has sunk deeper into inanity. While the clamor for change by the Filipino people who are suffering from the economic and political crisis is intensifying, traditional politics has become more opportunistic.

The party of the victorious presidential candidate – whether it be the LP, NP, PMAP, Bagumbayan, Bangon, or Kapatiran – would surely be populated by trapos. It could not resist the entry of trapos because the national government is dependent on local governments to implement its programs and keep the restive people in check. A national government alienating itself from local powers runs the risk of being paralyzed. Worse, the next government has to kowtow to the wishes of the US and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which are the staunchest defenders of the current state of affairs in the country. Thus, nothing less than a major overhaul or a radical restructuring of the political system would result to meaningful change. (

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