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On Padrino and Turncoats

Michael Clarion D. Endab | The Meek Clarion | Layout Artist

JUST WHEN THE NUMBERS DECLARED THE IRON-FISTED RODRIGO DUTERTE PRESIDENT-ELECT, A FLEET OF POLITICIANS CROSSED OVER TO HIS BANNER PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO-LAKAS NG BAYAN (PDP-LABAN) PARTY. WEEKS BEFORE THE PRESIDENT’S INAUGURATION, THE PDP-LABAN AMASSED AND SECURED A SUPERMAJORITY COALITION IN THE 17TH CONGRESS.

Even local officials are not exempt from this epidemic. For instance, Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo, who supported Mar Roxas of Liberal Party (LP) during the 2016 elections, reverted to PDP Laban months after the elections. More than 600 local politicians in the province pledged allegiance in September 2016, according to a Negros Chronicle report. And since the barangay elections is scheduled this year, and   another national and local elections next year, the influx of new members and pending membership applications nationwide is an expected outcome; which urged PDP Laban President Aquilino Pimentel III to extend the party’s deadline for recruitment until the end of this month.

The outbreak of turncoats–or balimbing in Filipino parlance–is always expected during election season. As remembered, the country’s political color and symbol was dominated by yellow and “L” hand signs, signifying LP,as early as when  Noynoy Aquino entered the presidential race.

But House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez was quick to defend the PDP Laban converts, reprimanding the media for calling them balimbing. “For me this is loyalty to the country. If you believe in the administration’s program for meaningful change, then you align with the political party of the president,” he said during a meeting with Northern Luzon Alliance in 2016.

In it for service or for personal interests, politicians always fall into the patronage or padrino system, which has perennially been the framework of Philippine politics. It is a common Filipino value system where one gains favor such as appointment or promotion, or merely popularity to the voting population, through friendship (cronyism) or family relations (nepotism) with the influential or powerful, instead of individual capability. And what other better ways can politicians secure their seat to advance their interestsor appease their greed of power, than to side with the most powerful person in the land. This has always been the cycle–a political malady that could take years or centuries to break, or maybe never at all, which overlooks those who are truly capable and passionate in service. And as the padrino system persists, checks and balances in government could possibly be curtailed or skipped, which in effect could swarm the government with corrupt and incompetent leaders, stunt our country’s development and leave societal problems unresolved.

Basically, a political party is formed by leaders who share the same goals and aspirations for the community and the country; hence the party they are in speaks volumes of their ideals and personality. Cross-overs could mean a change of ideals or simply just an attempt to gain favor. This attempt could have sprung from say, “loyalty to the country,” as what Speaker Alvarez said, or loyalty to self – who can tell? It is then immensely imperative in us citizens to be more discerning about the programs that our local and national leaders are working on. For the Filipino majority to thrive in a padrino-propelled politics, we need to have a critical mindset and a sound judgment as to which leaders should be retained or restrained. To be deceived brings regress, but to choose the deserving will bring progress.

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