"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Gordon wants turncoats punished

By TJ Burgonio
Inquirer News Service
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the August 27, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

IN PHILIPPINE politics, lawmakers and local chief executives switch parties faster than you can say "impeach." And nobody seems to mind-at least until last week.

In a bid to curb this common but revolting practice, administration Sen. Richard Gordon has filed a bill penalizing political turncoats and opportunists in the country's political system.
Gordon lamented that a political party, essentially a democratic tool that offers the people choices for government positions, had been stunted by "rampant party-switching" in the system.

"This practice is so rampant that switching party allegiance is already taken for granted," he said in his explanatory note of Senate Bill No. 2082.

Still independent
Only last Wednesday, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile completed his switch from opposition to independent to administration when he announced that he had forged a ''working coalition" with the Senate majority. The veteran senator returned to the Senate last year under
the opposition Partido ng Masang Pilipino, of which he is still the chairman. And he still calls himself "independent."

Enrile said he cleared his switch to the majority with ousted President Joseph Estrada, president of the PMP.

Gordon said ''in effect, party-switching has contributed to the stunting of the political maturity of the Philippine electorate and encouraged transactional leadership instead of transformational leadership."

Above all else, this practice had encouraged a personality-based politics and limited the relevance of party platforms in the election of government officials, said the outspoken senator, who ran under the administration's K4 coalition in last year's national elections.

Programs not continued
"This unfortunate system has resulted in the non-continuity of government plans, programs and projects which eventually redounds to the disadvantages for the Filipino people," he said.
In his proposed legislation, Gordon defined a political turncoat as any member of the political party who would change party affiliation any time after being included in the party's ticket.
A political party might consider a member who regularly voted with another political party as a political opportunist, he added.

The classification, however, did not apply to any member who would object to a change in party direction "by reason of his or her religious, ideological, or moral training or belief," according to the senator.

Gordon proposed a host of tough penalties for turncoats, like he should be prohibited from assuming office if he would change party affiliation during the election period, or he should forfeit his office if he would change affiliation while serving his term.

The other proposed penalties for a turncoat were:
• Disqualification from running for an elective position in the next election immediately following the act of changing party affiliation.
• Disqualification from being appointed to or from holding any position in any public office for three years after the expiration of his or her term.
• Disqualification from assuming any executive or administrative position in his or her new political party.
• Requirement to refund amounts received from his or her political party, plus a surcharge of 25 percent.

An opportunist, on the other hand, shall not be entitled to any of the benefits given to party members and may be expelled by his party. He may also be required to refund all amounts received from the party, according to Gordon.

Gordon did not say if a recent incident of turncoatism prompted him to author and file such a bill.

Like anti-dynasty bill
But he voiced the belief that punishing turncoatism would bring "greater stability" in the political system "because it would ensure that membership in political parties will be relatively permanent, and the electorate can expect, if not exact, strict compliance from government officials in terms of promises and platforms upon which their political party is grounded."

If passed, the Commission on Elections will draft and enforce the implementing rules. But first, the bill, which is expected to meet stiff opposition like the unpopular anti-dynasty bill, has to get the nod of senators and congressmen alike.