Editorial: Butterflies

(Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera)

BANDO Osmeña Pundok Kauswagan (BOPK) councilors could be trying to preempt any move by Barug-Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) to tilt the balance in the coming Council with a proposed ordinance that intends to impose penalties on “political butterflies.”

Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr. wrote the proposal: “An Ordinance imposing administrative sanctions on the elective members of the City Council who switch political party affiliation or political aggrupation within their term of office.”

The next set of legislators in Cebu City will be dominated by BOPK councilors, but already, there is talk of backroom deals to pave the way for party-switching.

“... this committee finds the proposed ordinance to be within the power of this August Body to enact. However, this committee recommends to hold a public hearing on the proposed ordinance to hear the sentiments of all stakeholders,” said the committee report.

The Council will hold a public hearing today, June 11, 2019.

Osmeña wants his fellow councilors to uphold their principles and platforms. He wants to discourage them from joining the party of the administration during elections.

But what sort of sanction can be imposed on Council members who cross the floor? Stripping of committee chairmanships, suspension from party?

A councilor can stay loyal to a party, but can he vote against his party?

Tasmanian Senator Reg Wright of the Australian Parliament has the record of voting against his own party, the Liberal Party of Australia, on 150 occasions. In the Philippines, however, our politicians pretty much have the reputation of being incorrigible shapeshifters; it’s almost like second nature for them to quickly shed off affiliations and float like a butterfly.

In the Russian Federation, it is illegal to switch parties in the State Duma (lower house), and politicians who jump ship are frowned upon. The chairman of the ex-political party can actually cause forced resignation on party switchers. The sanction, however, does not cover independent politicians, who have the luxury to swing anytime.

There were attempts to introduce anti-turncoatism into our laws. The late senator Miriam Defensor Santiago proposed the Anti-Political Turncoatism Act of 2007 during the 14th Congress. The late senator Edgardo Angara earlier filed the Political Party Development Act, which intended to institute party mechanisms promoting party loyalty. Both proposals intended to impose harsh sanctions—such as disqualification or prohibition from public office—and both hit hard opposition and naturally waned.

This proposed ordinance brings to mind the late president Manuel Quezon’s words: “Loyalty to my party ends where my loyalty to my country begins.”

In the ideal world, perhaps. Where leaders are inspired solely by public interest, and not by career survival and political expedience.


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