Political parties in the Philippines have a long history ever since the very first founded political party in the year 1900, which was the Partido Federal. From the very first political party up to the many political parties today, it is evident that the Philippines’ political system would not be what it is today without the emergence and growth of these political parties. However, the history of the Philippine party system would not be as simple as any other kinds of history. As what Joseph Hayden says, “The history of Philippine political parties is a record of mergers, consolidation, coalitions and reconciliations of groups, cliques and factions.” (Banlaoi). True enough, throughout the Philippines’ history, political parties have always been subjected to different changes-may it be party leaders, party factions and party coalitions. The occurrence of the Martial Law in the year 1972 resulted in the banning of the other political parties aside from Marcos’ own founded party, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, which became the only dominant political party during the Marcos regime. But after the successful ouster of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the constitution of the Philippines had undergone another renewal, this new Constitution gave rise to the establishment of the multi-party system in the Philippines (Banlaoi). The Philippine 1987 Constitution serves as the constitutional backbone of the Philippine Party System. In the said Constitution, Article IX-C Section 6 states: “A free and open party system shall be allowed to evolve according to the free choice of the people, subject to the provisions of this Article.” The establishment of the multi-party system allowed other multiple political parties to compete over the power to control the Philippine government, either separately or through the formation of coalitions. Because of the birth of the multi-party system in the Philippines, not only two major parties can have control over the government, and the people could already choose among a wide variety of choices for their possible leaders (Poolitikang Pinoy). In the Philippine setting, there are two types of parties: the major political parties or the traditional parties and the minor political parties or the party-list organizations. Recent 2010 elections have acknowledged eight major political parties in the Philippines and they are: Liberal Party, Lakas-Kampi CMD, Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition, Nacionalista Party, Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, Kilusang Bagong Lipunan and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino- Lakas ng Bayan.
The record of political parties from the 1900s to the present demonstrates some of the evident general characteristics of Philippine political parties:
Political parties are leader or personality-centered
Political parties differed little in their platforms and programs
There is constant shifting of political party membership
Political turncoatism is rampant (Banlaoi)
Joel Rocamora, in his book ‘Philippine Political Parties Continuity and Change’, presented other distinct characteristics of Philippine political parties aside from those listed above. Rocamora stated that the most significant characteristic of political parties in the Philippines is that they are elite-centered, or, parties of the elite. Nevertheless, while some political parties in other countries are mainly composed of elites whose goals are to gain more economic and political power, many parties, in the slightest, still endeavor to manage regularized support from the wider part of the populace. These attempts result in a more or less steady membership, regularized patterns of relations within and between parties, and distinguishing types of ideological or political self-definition. On the contrary, in the Philippine setting, political parties are shameless ‘old boys clubs’. Rocamora stated that non-elite individuals, mostly men, are present in parties and categorize their selves with one or another party, but all of them are merely “retainers” or followers of elite individuals. Some other distinct characteristics of Philippine political parties are: the changing character of membership and leadership and the lack of ideological or programmatic differentiations between parties (Rocamora). The characteristics provided lead us to the idea that there are lots of weak points present in the Philippine political parties and that the main functions and goals of political parties in general are not fully met. Nonetheless, more things about the success of the Philippine multi-party system in their functions will be discovered throughout the course of this paper.
Political parties today are progressively projecting themselves to become ideologically-based institutions. However, the presence of a party ideology should not be the end of the political party’s goal. The ideology, through the party leaders, must affect the political, socio-economic, and cultural lives of the country. The presence of a rational and efficient ideology differs from party to party. Some political parties have more detailed, developed and sophisticated ideologies than others, while some parties have almost the same ideological thoughts (Leopoldo1). Here are the ideologies of the eight major political parties in the Philippines as of the 2010 elections:
Liberal Party envisions a democratic and free Philippine society, as well as a society free from external domination, but just as flourishing, and a society that promotes the innate dignity of the Filipino people. LP focuses on the ideas of national sovereignty, genuine freedom and democracy, economic reconstruction, improvement of the welfare of labor, education, energy development and environmental protection. In summary, social democracy is what appropriately defines the nature and direction of LP’s ideological thought (Leopoldo1).
Lakas-Kampi CMD (Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats)
Lakas-Kampi CMD’s ideological thought is greatly influenced by Christian and Islamic democracy, and by populism as well. Lakas-Kampi CMD focuses on developing a socially responsive, democratic, political structure and a revitalized, streamlined, graft-free government that will contribute to a stable and durable democracy, and effective national governance.” (Poolitikang Pinoy)
Nationalist People’s Coalition
Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition’s goal is to create a system of governance that develops the quality of life of the Filipino people through addressing poverty, spreading prosperity and ensuring social justice. NPC promotes national pride, builds national unity and advances national interest. On the whole, NPC envisions a system that upholds the welfare of the Filipino people (WEBSITE).
Nacionalista Party claims itself as “the vanguard for freedom, democracy and independence”, and supports the republican form of government. NP also supports federalism, decentralization of the decision-making process, devolution of power, and a limited central government “whose authority continues over foreign policy, defense, and national security” (Leopoldo1).
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (formerly called Partido ng Masang Pilipino)
Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino envisions a pro-Filipino and pro-poor society, or a nationalist society. PMP’s nationalist aspect foresees a society that “is free from foreign interference and domination” and “a self-reliant and independent national economy controlled by Filipinos”. PMP’s ideological thought gives importance on the principles of “Filipino democracy”, nationalism, social justice and human dignity (Leopoldo1).
Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino
Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino aims for the achievement of a “peaceful and democratic way of life and the establishment and maintenance of a Filipino society characterized by political stability, economic self-reliance, social responsibility, and respect for human rights and dignity”. LDP also believes on the ideas of a Supreme Being, absolute sovereignty, sovereignty of the Filipino people, popular democracy and equity under the law /social justice (Leopoldo1).
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan
Kilusang Bagong Lipunan ideological thought revolves around a democracy, purposive local autonomy and “institutionalized grassroots democracy”. KBL supports an economic system that promotes individual initiative and the establishment of a “self-reliant, progressive, market economy geared towards the improvement of the Filipino people’s material well-being”. On the whole, KBL seeks a free enterprise form of capitalism which is restricted and regulated by the government (Leopoldo1).
Partido Demokratiko Pilipino- Lakas ng Bayan
PDP-LB’s ideological thought is both radical and revolutionary by nature. PDP-LB seeks to dismantle the structural roots of the country’s main problems, which are, according to PDP-LB, the following: bureaucrat capitalism, feudalism and imperialism. The party also believes in the notion of a Supreme Being, who created man and will liberate humanity. Its 5 major principles are: theism, humanism, nationalism, socialism and political democracy (Leopoldo1).
Based on the different parties’ ideologies, their political orientations can be determined. Some of their ideologies are almost the same in nature, which causes the people to not determine which party would be more effective than others. Nevertheless, some political parties can be easily distinguished from another because of their varied principles, for example, Lakas-Kampi CMD believes in Christian and Islamic Democracy, LP believes in social democracy and PDP in what it calls “Filipino democracy”.