Party and Principle

The Liberal Party of the Philippines is certainly the most sophisticated and legitimate political party in the Philippines, in regards to its organization, structure, coherency of platform, and history. Recently, however, the LP seems dangerously close to departing from the very traditions that make it the Philippine standard of what a political party should be. This danger stems from the tendency of the LP to focus all of its attention on one man – Senator Manuel Roxas II.

There is nothing wrong with Sen. Mar Roxas – he is a quality public servant who deserves to be mentioned alongside the other “Presidentiables.” What is troubling is that the LP, more than 16 months before the May 2010 elections, has practically already designated Mar as its presidential candidate and has begun to focus all its energy on promoting the Mar brand.

This is somewhat understandable. After all, Mar is the grandson of former President and LP founder Manuel A. Roxas. Combine his storied lineage with a solid credentials, a marketable personality, and political savvy, and Mar looks to be the ideal LP standardbearer for 2010.

But what about the other LP members? Liberalparty.ph, the party’s official website, lists 35 LP members other than Mar holding elected office, including other big names like Sens. Francis Pangilinan, Benigno S. Aquino III, and Rodolfo G. Biazon. Yet on the front page of that very same website, the activities of Mar dominate the space.

Let us compare the LP website to that of the triumphant Democratic Party of the United States of America. There is a lot of mention of President-elect Barack Obama, and with good reason. However, there are several other stories clearly linked concerning other important DP figures and policies.

LP must be careful not to become a personality cult for Mar. With a potential “time for change” feeling poised to flow from the US election straight into the Philippine election, the LP can be very successful across the board and, more importantly, implement their proposed policies and make a real difference. Sen. Roxas should not be merely anointed the LP presidential nominee because his father founded the party and he is the president of it; rather, Mar should be subjected to a formal, competitive selection process. A man and politician of Sen. Roxas’ calibur will surely be able to earn the nomination based on his merits, and not merely because of his name. The reputation of the Liberal Party as a legitimate political party may very well rest on this, and, really, more legitimate, organized political parties are exactly what the Philippines needs.

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