The Filipino is losing his democracy. It’s now in the hands of entrenched interests, family dynasties and money.
We thought we recovered it in May 2010 but we might want to look again. Under the covers, everything is the same.
To truly regain our cause we need a new way of doing things, a new paradigm, an enterprise to rival the current political players.We need a political party.
It is said viable political parties require mature electorates. Yet in India, South Africa and Mexico; the Congress, ANC and PRI parties respectively have held sway in these young democracies.
A party system thrives best under certain conditions. One, the electorate trusts political institutions rather than (or together with) personalities. Two, voters are educated. Three, there are disincentives to switch allegiances (e.g. a law against turn-coatism).
The Philippines is not there, not yet. Filipinos gravitate to personalities because parties are meaningless, they are simply vehicles of convenience. Manny Pacquiao, disappointingly, has switched affiliations four times in three years.
Yet we now have a unique opportunity to change all this. We have an honest leader heading a party, the LP, with an ideology. These could be enough to start.
Building a political party is like building a consumer brand. It must offer the electorate a predictable, quality product at good value, an experience people can trust. This means providing essential Government services well, consistently and at the best price (i.e. no corruption). With the President’s “Daan Matuwid” and his (reasonably) competent Cabinet we are almost there. We just need to bottle the ingredients into an institutional vehicle the people can believe in.
The President needs to brand the Liberal Party.
This is what it takes to build a viable political party:
1. An iconic face- The country must be constantly and unashamedly reminded P-Noy is not only the leader of all Filipinos but also the leader of the LP (How many Filipinos know this?). The P-Noy brand must be extended to the party. South Africa’s ANC Party was built off Nelson Mandela.
2. Passionate and disciplined followers- The LP’s natural constituencies are the NGO’s, the intelligentsia and the youth (defined as 18-30 years). The numbers for the young are compelling. They comprise more than 50% of the voting population and growing. If the LP can build a solid youth component of say 500,000 to one million (the Gandhi Youth Party in India has reportedly over two million members), assuming a factor of 4-8 for parents friends and relatives, this could translate to up to 4 million votes or 10% of the voting population (35 million voted in 2010). Such a margin would have elected every Filipino President in history (P-Noy won by 7% over ERAP). With such a bloc, the LP need not rely on the religious sectors and other power brokers for victory.
3. Organization- The LP should leverage the NGOs to jump-start the movement. They are the only ones who can mobilize the numbers being envisaged. After being abandoned by the Administration, community organizers must be brought back on board.
4. Funding- The money is there but it must still be raised, raised aggressively and raised now.
5. Outreach programs outside of Government- These should revolve around social and economic activities. Many NGO projects exist, they just need to be consolidated under a common initiative.
6. A cadre of new and honest leaders- The LP should nurture new names at the local and national level.
7. Aggressive marketing- The LP needs signature endorsers, a unified look and feel.
8. Market dominance- Strength begets strength. Like all successful brands (Apple, Google, Facebook, Coke) and political parties (ANC, PRI), the LP must dominate its space. This will give it pricing power to set the political table and attract the best talent.
9. A universal theme- The best brands offer something greater than themselves. Apple does not just sell a product, it offers an ecosystem of social technology and entertainment, a lifestyle. The LP must expand its agenda beyond “Daan Matuwid”. It should present a holistic ideal that captures the economic imperatives, spiritual aspirations and visceral dreams of the people.
With commitment, vision and early action, there might, barely, be enough time to build a viable political movement to rival the entrenched interests in 2016. The initiative will be founded on concerned citizens and what would effectively be a LP Youth Party, a political version of the (Binay) Boy Scouts.
The enterprise could allow P-Noy to control the political dynamics, to perpetrate the Administration’s gains beyond his term.
More important it will mean the nation can finally reverse the process where the tail wags the dog, where a few unrepresentative groups dictate the national agenda; to one where the dog does the wagging, where the people decide their destiny.
We might then regain the democracy we deserve.