The ruling parties’ (lack of) platforms

To guide voters in the upcoming 2013 elections of the upper house, I decided to study the campaign platforms of the major parties. This in a way is a follow-up to a previous post in which I detailed Five Ways to Elevate Political Discourse in the Philippines.

The first of the five points I made in that post was for the parties and/or their coalitions to publish their official platforms. I decided to do a web search to find out what these parties/coalitions have stated to voters as their policy directions once voted into office. Here is what I found.

Let’s start with the administration ticket. We have recently learned from the Comelec that Team PNoy was not officially registered as a formal coalition. It is to be treated as merely a “tagline”. So as far as having a formal platform on which to launch their candidates, I went to the Liberal Party website where the Team PNoy candidates are hosted.

Here I found very little regarding the legislative agenda the administration is presenting to the people. All that I found was the same old “platform” that the LP took to the electorate in 2010, which is really a kind of “party principles” or motherhood statements. There really isn’t any detailed policy agenda here.

Three years after taking charge of Malacañang Palace, I was expecting a bit more. If we as voters are being told to treat these elections as a referendum on PNoy’s presidency, there should at least be a list of his achievements and what he plans to carry forward towards the remainder of his term in office, with the team that bears his name.

I then did a web search of UNA (United Nationalist Alliance), the only officially registered coalition with the Comelec, an alliance comprised of the parties headed by the vice president, the senate president and a former president. Again I was disappointed, as all I found was a Facebook page with a brief mission and description of the coalition. It does not really provide any detailed platform or policies for the 2013 election.

So in terms of providing a detailed set of platforms, both major coalitions failed to even provide some kind of agenda for the Filipino people. That speaks volumes about our political system.

Next, I decided to go to the political parties that comprise these major coalitions. I already went to the Liberal Party’s website, as mentioned above. I then decided to visit the website of the Nacianalista Party (NP), the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), the Partido ng Demokratikong Piliono-Laban (PDP-Laban) and the Partido ng Masang Pilino (PMP). It was a dead end as most of these sites were empty shells or sites for their party heads. The NP site had some information regarding their three nominees, but most of the content was on the spouse of its president (the spouse is running to join him in the senate) and the foundation which they run.

Makabayan, which is fielding one senatorial candidate (it has dissolved its alliance with the NP), probably has the most detailed policy platform of all the major parties competing in this election. Their 10-point platform is discussed in detail in a document that you can download from their site.

The Democratic Party of the Philippines website contains a 12-point agenda that its three candidates support. Very little detail however is provided on this platform.

Ang Kapatiran’s website provides voters with their stand on 5 major issues, reproductive health, gun control, pork barrel, political dynasties and freedom of information. It also provides detailed policy positions on each of these issues. It also has a 50-point plan for the nation. It is fielding three candidates.

I couldn’t find anything on the Social Justice Society, which is fielding one candidate.

As far as I can tell from this quick web search, it is the alternative political parties which are more serious about developing policy platforms from which to launch their candidates. It is perhaps a sad feature of our democracy that the parties that respect voters enough by providing them with detailed information about their platforms are the ones lagging behind in the polls.

Undeterred by this dismal outcome, I then decided to look at the individual candidates themselves and here I found a bit more information regarding their policy stances and platforms. Off hand, I found eleven (UPDATE: as of 14 March 2013, it is now fourteen) who have outlined some sort of platform. These are Bam Aquino, Chiz EscuderoRisa HontiverosLoren Legarda and Koko Pimentel of Team PNoy, JV Ejercito, Gringo HonasanErnesto Maceda and Migz Zubiri of UNA, Teddy Casiño of Makabayan, and Greco Belgica of the DPP. (UPDATE: to this list we can now add Sonny Angara, Jack Enrile and Peter Cayetano)

I am not saying the other candidates don’t have platforms. They might not have released them yet or published them online. A lot of candidates have policy positions or advocacies listed on their personal pages. Some incumbent or former legislators provide detailed information regarding their priority bills. So the implied message here is that we should re-elect them based on their previous performance. It is preferable that they tell us why we should re-elect them. What is the work that remains for them to complete?

The absence of consolidated party platforms puts the burden of selecting the candidates based on their individual platforms onto the voter. This is made even harder by the scant or incomplete information that can be found regarding their positions and personal legislative agenda.  The following is a run-down of what I found on the individual candidates.

Team PNoy

  1. Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Jr – has a website that provides his profile and accomplishments as a legislator in the lower house. At the bottom of his home page, there is a video clip labelled, “Agenda ni Rep. Sonny Angara sa Senado” from a TV interview presumably, but it was not working at the time of this publication. (Update: he has been steadily updating his site with news from the trail which details his legislative agenda.)
  2. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV – from his Facebook page you can read his policy prescriptions for encouraging entrepreneurship and skills matching. There are a few news releases which feature his statements and advocacies.
  3. Allan Peter Cayetano – has a Facebook page which shows him going out into the community but provides very little in terms of the sort of laws he has either sponsored as a senator or plans to push for if re-elected. (UPDATE: he has recently launched his platform here)
  4. Francis “Chiz”Escurdero – buried deep in his website is a 7-point agenda with no date.
  5. Risa Hontiveros – has Facebook page which provides some of her recent policy pronouncements particularly on making healthcare “more universal” and that of her Akbayan partylist members.
  6. Loren Legarda – has a website that lists her advocacies in the form of a useful acronym called L.O.R.E.N. From here you can read the sort of bills she has filed as senator some of which have been turned into law.
  7. Jamby Madrigal – has a website which details her policy stance on a number of issues and her past accomplishments as a senator. There is a non-functioning tab on her site for “Platform”.
  8. Ramon “Jun” Magsaysay, Jr. – does not have a web presence, but his profile in the senate website provides his bio and his legislative agenda while serving there.
  9. Aquilino “Koko”Pimentel III – has a Facebook page which provides some policy positions the senator has taken on infrastructure and governance.
  10. Grace Poe Llamanzares – has a Facebook page which does not really provide much in terms of a legislative agenda or her position on any relevant policy issues.
  11. Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV – has a website  which provides information on the bills and resolutions he filed in two sessions of congress and some policy, research material mostly on national security issues which date back to 2001 and 2002.
  12. Cynthia Villar – has a website which details her accomplishments as a congresswoman and as the head of the Villar Foundation. Very little in terms of policy detail on how she intends to pursue her tagline “Hanep Buhay”.

UNA

  1. Nancy Binay – as a colleague from this site has said, she does not have a web presence at all.
  2. Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco – has a Facebook page which shows her two video advertisements. Unfortunately, apart from the endorsements of her three celebrity daughters and a few throw away lines about her advocacy, there is hardly any detail regarding what she plans to push for as senator.
  3. JV Ejercito – has a website which lists a 13-point agenda which the mayor of San Juan plans to pursue in the senate.
  4. Jack Enrile – has a Facebook page which contains a video of his campaign speech. He details the problem of hunger which he intends to focus on and nominates the bill he sponsored as congressman, which he claims will address it.
  5. Richard “Dick” Gordon – has a web Facebook page, but has very little information about why he is running.
  6. Gregoria “Gringo” Honasan – has a website which lists his platform as senator.
  7. Ernesto Maceda – has a website which lists a 13-point agenda which the former senate president intends to pursue if returned to the senate.
  8. Mitos Magsaysay – has an “official Facebook fanpage” which shows her touring as a candidate, but there does not seem to be any content devoted to policy detail.
  9. Miguel “Migz” Zubiri – has a website which details his platform around five themes.

Other parties/candidates

  1. Sammy Alcantara (Social Justice Society) – has a Facebook page, which contains a short video clip in which he answers a few shallow media questions, nothing with regards to policies.
  2. Greco Belgica  (Democratic Party of the Philippines) – has a four-point platform found in an image in his Facebook page.
  3. Teodoro “Teddy” Casiño (Makabayan) – has a website which contains a platform and policy positions on several issues.
  4. Lito Yap David (Kapatiran) – has a Facebook page but has nothing about his candidacy.
  5. Baldomero Falcone (Democratic Party of the Philippines) – has a Facebook page with hardly anything on it.
  6. Edward Hagedorn (Independent) – has a website but the vision and initiatives shown there deal with the city of Puerto Princesa where he is the mayor.
  7. Mars Llasos (Kapatiran) – has a blog  which seems to be regularly updated.
  8. Ricardo Penson (Independent) – has a Facebook page which shows his anti-political dynasty advocacy. It seems he is campaigning mainly on this issue.
  9. John Carlos “JC” delos Reyes (Kapatiran) – has a Facebook page with no platform or policy positions.
  10. Christian Señeres (DPP) – has a Facebook page which has a video which shows his profile as a former partylist lawmaker and some policy positions.
  11. Eduardo “Eddie” Villanueva (Bangon Pilipinas) – has a website but it does not contain a platform or policy positions of any kind.

I am happy to be proven wrong. So should any of the candidates or their representatives wish to make corrections to this, the Comments page is most welcome for them to do so.

 

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • GabbyBD

    Open discussion question:

    what should the criteria be for voting for senators?

    should we vote for single issue senators? or single “minority group” senators?

    this is one reason why parties are important. in one sense, single issue/minority group politicians can be difficult to justify as there is no reasonable way to determine if their advocacies will translate to policy or laws. coz there is only one of them.

    one way to justify a push for policies as an object on which parties run is to simplify the political calculus for the individual voter. “if you vote for our party, you will get X,Y,Z through the system”.

    my hope is that the electorate can figure this out, and political campaigning can be professionalized. i’d love to do a study that examines this issue.

    • In hung parliaments where no one major party forms the majority, single issue candidates and minority blocs can exercise tremendous leverage in getting their single issues handled appropriately if their support is needed to form a majority. In Australia, the hung parliament meant the Greens and independents were needed to form a government. This gave them bargaining power to set the policy agenda.

      • GabbyBD

        thats only if they are swing. being swing is unlikely, the larger the voting body.

        it would be ok if the whole thing were more predictable. Mr. X is swing for issue A, Ms Y is swing for issue B… etc. Then as a voter, you can make a rational decision based on the platforms and the likelihood that they can be swing for whatever issue u want.

        as it stands, i’m not sure if its possible to know BEFORE voting who you need to vote for to get whatever you want passed.

        to know that, there must be some indication of coalitions ready/committed to voting for certain issues.

        knowing what politicians will do in office is the whole POINT of campaigning on issue/policy. its what makes politics less of a crap shoot.

        the more of a crap shoot there is, the more unaccountable politicians are.

        • The uncertainty comes when there is a minority government. If on the other hand, one party gains a majority and campaigned on a platform, then there is greater certainty with regards to policy. Their mandate would be clear.

          What we have now is a situation where the two major coalitions are not campaigning based on an agreed set of policies, and instead are branding themselves a certain way. This means that if you as a voter feel passionately about a certain issue, you would have to pick candidates across party-lines based on the candidates that agree with your position accounting for the number of incumbent senators that support your stand. This is where single issue candidates might prove useful, if your policy lacks one vote to get passed.

          That is a highly complicated affair if you are looking to have a number of policies enacted into law. You would have to perform this calculation with the goal of maximising the number of policies that would gain majority votes. Clear party platforms and positions simplify this calculus and create better informed decisions.

          • GabbyBD

            “The uncertainty comes when there is a minority government. If on the other hand,”

            ah, so my contention is that it is worse than that.

            even IF you vote for one party, there is NO WAY to predict how this party will vote for anything, given that there is so much cross-candidate variance in advocacies/policies.

            hence even within a minority party, there is NO WAY to predict how this bloc will vote.

            i’ve heard that there is one determinant — the party of the sitting president. so the PRESIDENT becomes the key factor the the predictability of policy.

            this makes the president TOO strong, in my opinion. also, it probably overestimates the strength of the philippine president.

          • Well, that’s how a democracy works, I guess. But compared to our present set up where even members of the same party don’t necessarily have a common party stand on issues, even the case I mentioned above is preferred, and btw that only happens if people are dissatisfied with both major parties.

    • Depends on your goals. I use the following:

      1. Rizal/Robredo Qualities: Character (honesty), intelligence, and capability (skill and accomplishment).
      2. Strategic: continuing the LP good governance push gives LP candidates and guests bonus consideration; it will take 20 more years to go straight.
      3. Strategic: get rid of troubled and troublesome dynasties (Enrile).

      My preferences according to these criteria are posted in the right column of my blog site, rank ordered.

      • GabbyBD

        so joe, why is LP good governance? isnt UNO (UNA?) good govt too?

        • Neither party has the platform that details specific acts. Both mouth the words “good governance.” President Aquino has the track record of administrative changes (bidding processes), hiring (honest cabinet members), and enforcement (Arroyo). UNA has pillars of Enrile (coup master), Estrada (plunderer), Binay (bad allegations from term as Mayor of Makati), and all three went to support and pray with a disobedient governor of Cebu. So the LP candidates have President Aquino’s endorsement, and that’s good enough for me, because I think the current stability needs endurance.