By Angie M. Rosales
The Daily Tribune
Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero yesterday waxed pessimistic that the bill providing state subsidy to political parties and seeking to penalize “balimbing” or turncoat politicians, would be approved in the plenary, much more before the 2013 mid-term elections.
The bill, Escudero said, had too many “complications,” especially in its implementation.
Besides, he said, it would not look good if they prioritized its approval given that the next round of electoral exercise was just around the corner.
But Sen. Edgardo Angara, one of the authors of the bill, defended it by saying it would help promote transparency in governance, especially regarding campaign financing.
Escudero told the weekly news forum at the Senate he will oppose the proposal to provide subsidy to political parties, but he will support the call for reforms to improve and make these organizations “mature.”
The matter of penalizing “balimbings” had been attempted in the past, Escudero said. The late President Ferdinand Marcos issued a presidential decree, the penalty of which was prohibition from running in the next elections.
“It will create an undue advantage to any party who is with the administration right now,” he said.
“Political parties were conceived as a government consultative mechanism. They must represent all sectors so that when the President consults them, it will be as if he consulted their constituents. But personalities and not platforms carry the greater weight here. We should dwell on issues not on political leaders,” he said.
Escudero was also lukewarm to the idea of expediting the bill’s approval considering that there were a number of pending bills, and because elections were forthcoming. “We cannot pass a law that benefits us who will run in 2013.”
Angara, however, maintained that the “Anti-Balimbing Act” was vital to promoting a mature democracy and was aligned with the good governance thrust of the administration.
“Even with a multi-party system like ours, it is possible to have alliances so that ultimately, only two teams are facing off. We should have political parties with clear ideals, programs and platforms that we can weigh instead of just choosing the most popular candidate,” he said.
The Political Party Development Act (Senate Bill 3214) seeks to institutionalize a strong party system in the country and promote transparency in campaign financing. It will establish a party development fund that will supplement the operating funds of accredited political parties for party development and campaign expenditures.
Political parties will be accredited based on political representation, organizational strength and mobilization capability, and performance and track record of the party.
Angara said one of the important features of this measure was the provision penalizing political turncoatism, or changing one’s party affiliation after being elected on that ticket.
Once this measure is passed, political turncoats would be prohibited from running for any position in the succeeding elections, and will be disqualified from appointment to any public office for three years after the expiration of their term.
They will also be disqualified from holding any administrative or executive position in the new party, and will be directed to refund all amounts received from the previous party.
However, Angara explained that this provision may still be refined to incorporate a transition period after the bill is enacted.
Angara and Estrada authored their own versions of the The Political Party Development Act (SB 51 and 607). These measures have been consolidated into SBN 3214 under Committee Report 164, which will be sponsored by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, revision of codes and laws.
SB 3214 is pending second reading.