Political observers note that Philippine political parties are often centered on personalities and political clans
MANILA, Philippines – A ban on political turncoatism is among the provisions on political reform that the Consultative Committee (Con-Com) finalized on Wednesday May 2.
With the majority vote for the wording sponsored by political scientist Julio Teehankee, the Con-Com will propose that the provisions be part of a new constitution.
Fourteen voted to adopt the provisions completely, while 4 voted yes but with reservations on certain provisions.
The final provisions propose that members of a political party be banned from switching parties during the following timeframes:
The penalties for political butterflies include:
Meanwhile, political parties that accept political butterflies could face the cancellation of their party registration with the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
One Con-Com member, however, expressed reservations over the proposed section on turncoatism.
Lawyer Roan Libarios called the provisions "draconian," saying they unduly punish party members who genuinely feel that their party no longer represents their ideals.
"If the party no longer represents the interest of the people then a party member should not be punished for leaving the party," said Libarios.
He also said the penalties for leaving a party could make party bosses even more powerful.
"Established party bosses will have greater control over our party and political processes because any member of a party will think twice, thrice before taking a stand different from the party bosses," said Libarios.
No to guest candidates
The Con-Com also sought to disallow "guest candidates" from elections, a common practice in Philippine politics where politicians benefit from associations with multiple popular parties.
To do this, a provision states that political parties cannot nominate "more candidates than the number of persons required to be voted for in an elective position."
The only exception is for proportional representative seats in the House of Representatives. However, coalitions of political parties is allowed.
No to candidate-centric parties
The Con-Com also hopes to put an end to "candidate-centric" and "clientele-based" political parties by placing in the constitution measures to improve parties and make them more responsible.
The goal, said Teehankee, is to cultivate "genuine party politics" and lay the foundation for parties that are based on "issues, idelogies and party platforms."
The committee finalized a provision that requires parties to submit to Comelec their constitution, program of government, and list of officials and members.
Parties must also implement "democratic processes in nominating and selecting party officials and candidates for public office."
This, said Teehankee, compels political parties to hold party primaries or party conventions.
Representation for women
An interesting provision also boosts the chances of more women being represented in political parties.
Under the section on party candidate selection is a provision stating that parties should provide "as far as practicable" equal representation of women candidates in every election.
Another provision orders the State to ensure even marginalized sectors are represented by political parties. The provision says the government must "take affirmative action" so that such underrepresented sectors can "organize themselves into genuine political parties."
Below are the proposed political reform provisions in full:
Political Party Registration
Section 3. The State shall ensure the development and strengthening of political parties as mechanisms of citizen representation and democratic governance.
(a) Every political party shall be registered with the Commission on Elections which shall ensure that the political party submit its constitution and by-laws, platform, principles, policies and general program of government a verified list of national officials, members of the executive board, or its equivalent, and the heads of its regional, provincial, and city chapters.
(b) Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Parties which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration.
(c) Financial contributions that influence the electoral outcome coming from foreign governments and their agencies, and criminal sources, and given to political parties and their affiliated organizations, political coalitions, or candidates, constitute interference in national affairs, and, when accepted, shall be an additional ground for the cancellation of their registration with the Commission on Elections in addition to other penalties that may be prescribed by law.
Party Candidate Selection and Nomination
Section 4. The State shall promote the development of political parties as democratic public institutions.
(a) Political parties shall be freely established and open to all citizens who share the same party program, adhere to the party constitution, and practice party discipline.
(b) Political parties shall develop a democratic system of internal decision-making and allowing for active citizen participation.
(c) Political parties shall observe fair, honest, and democratic processes in nominating and selecting party officials and candidates for public office.
Political parties shall assist in democratic public education and promotion of democratic values in society.
(d) Political parties shall provide, as far as practicable, for equal representation of women candidates in every election.
(e) The State shall take affirmative action so that marginalized and underrepresented sectors may organize themselves into genuine political parties with articulated platforms of government and capable representatives.
Section 5. The State shall assist in ensuring strong and cohesive political parties.
(a) Any member of a political party elected to public office is prohibited from changing political parties within their term of office.
(b) Any candidate for public office or any official of a political party is prohibited from changing political parties within two years immediately after an election and two years before the succeeding election.
(c) Any political party is prohibited from accepting any of the persons above referred to. Any violation thereof shall be a ground for the cancellation of its registration.
(d) Any change in the membership of any political party arising from a violation of the abovementioned provisions shall be reported to the Commission on Elections.
(e) No political party shall nominate more candidates than the number of persons required to be voted for in an elective position, except for the proportional representative seats in the House of Representatives, nor shall any candidate be allowed to accept nominations from more than one registered political party, except in cases of aggrupations or coalitions thereof.
(d) Candidates to public office who violate these provisions shall lose their position to which they were elected, barred from being immediately appointed to a public office, prohibited from running in the next election and if the party provided funds for their election, reimburse these funds.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.