MANILA — A Palace committee drafting a new federal constitution has agreed to punish party-switching as a cure to a wide-open party system often abused by political turncoats, one of its members said Thursday.
Between 70 and 75 percent of politicians have moved from one party to another since 1987, said political science professor Julio Teehankee, whose sub-committee studied ways to strengthen political parties.
“If we do not have functioning political parties, what we will have are more of the same — personality- candidate-centered and patronage-based party system,” he said in a press conference.
Under the proposal, an elected official will lose his seat if he moves to another party during his term.
Other candidates and party officials will also be barred from switching parties 2 years before and 2 years after an election.
The proposed provision bars violators from any appointive position and from running in the next election. They will also be required to return “any party funds they used for their campaign.”
Political parties that will accept transferees within the prescribed period will lose their certificate of registration.
WILL IT BENEFIT PDP-LABAN?
“If you are not in good terms with your party officials, then you should fight it out from within the party... so there will be internal party democracy,” said Teehankee.
He said the committee had yet to decide if members expelled by their own parties would be covered by the ban.
Politicians often join the party of the incumbent president as a matter of convenience, a reality now enjoyed by President Rodrigo Duterte’s PDP-Laban party, which continues to swear in new members.
Asked if the proposed ban could end up benefiting the ruling party, Teehankee cited a transition period in the shift to federalism when PDP-Laban members could “opt to stay or transfer elsewhere.”
Teehankee said political parties would now be “obligated” to recruit from the “really economically marginalized” such as workers, urban poor, fisher folk, and indigenous communities.
Parties should also get members from “underrepresented” groups such as persons with disabilities, youth, professionals, educators, and the LGBT community.
“What we have introduced is to shift the burden from the sectors, especially the marginalized sectors, from organizing their own parties,” he said.
A “revolutionary” proposal, he said, would mandate political parties to field a “proportionate” number of women candidates in an election.
“Statistically, 51 percent of our population (is composed of) women, so statisticaly, how difficult should it be to recruit women?” he said.
Teehankee said the committee decided not to include state subsidy for political parties in the proposed charter for fear “it might be considered as pork barrel” for these groups.
“It might again be an incentive for attracting elite interest,” he said. “Eventually, if there’s a need for it under the new constitution, let the legislative body decide whether they would legislate state subsidy for parties.”