Pacquiao Policy: Political Butterfly

Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines' international boxing star, stings like a bee but doesn't float like a butterfly, as the heavyweight boxer Muhammad Ali once put it, in the ring. He is more like a hornet that zips to his target, one who digs his venomous punches when someone stirs his nest. But as a politician, Congressman Manny really knows how to float.

Pacquiao, the World Boxing Organization Welterweight champion, was elected a congressman from the 15th District in Sarangani Province on Mindanao in a landslide in May 10 national elections as a member of the Nationalista Party headed by Presidential candidate Manny Villar. However, he recently made a “homecoming” to the political party he once belonged to, the Liberal Party headed by President-elect Noynoy Aquino, who was sworn in today as Philippine President.

Pacquiao was a member of the Liberals way back in 2006, when he first entertained thoughts of running for public office. In switching parties, he illustrates a major phenomenon in Filipino politics today – the anchorless stance of far too many politicians. Ask former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who thought she would have enough loyal members to guarantee her the speakership of the House of Representatives. She discovered after Noynoy Aquino's landslide victory in the presidential election that her support had diminished considerably as congressmen scrambled to realign themselves with the new political reality.

When Manny made his first political move by joining the Liberals, Noynoy Aquino was a congressman with the Drilon-Roxas faction of the party. Pacquiao cast his lot with former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza's wing of the Liberals. Atienza then launched a failed coup against Drilon and Roxas. Pacquiao didn't stick around. He ran in 2007 under the Lakas-CMD banner but lost to Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio of the Nationalist People's Coalition.

Shortly after his electoral loss, Manny then switched to KAMPI, Arroyo's party. But during the 2010 elections, he declined the nomination of what now was melded together into Lakas-KMPI-CMD and threw his weight behind Villar and the Nationalistas. With Villar only able to pull 13 percent of the vote and returning to the Senate, Pacquiao is back to the Liberal Party after Aquino won the presidency.

During Monday's inauguration of Manny Pacquiao, I huddled with his uncle-in-law, General Santos City chief prosecutor Edilberto Jamora. Our conversation invariably drifted toward politics after a cursory exchange of pleasantries. Jamora said Pacquiao should look into the deteriorating situation in the justice department.

Then we touched the multiparty system that the framers of the 1987 Constitution debated rather passionately. Unlike neighboring Indonesia and other parts of the world like the United Kingdom and Japan, the multi-party system in the Philippines is a hybrid one. People still elect individuals running for a political party or independently while a provision in the Constitution allocates 20 percent of the total seats in the House of Representatives for representation by non-governmental organizations selected or elected from labor, the urban poor and other NGOs.

Something must be done to prevent political turncoats from hopping from one party to party another as they only defeat the spirit of the multi-party system. Pacquiao could correct himself and the others by introducing amendments to that provision.

For one, no one should be allowed to switch political parties immediately preceding an election. Those who switch should be prohibited from running for any post in a scheduled election immediately prior to switching parties. In short, anyone who switches party should take a “leave of absence” from at least one election. This would not only discourage political turncoats. This would also strengthen the country's multi-party system.

A multi-party system works best in a parliamentary form of government, of course. But that is another story. Manny's switching parties under the present circumstances is for political convenience and there is nothing wrong if the man wants to deliver his campaign promises by aligning with the Malacañang Palace now occupied by Aquino. It is operative implementation of the multi-party system enshrined in the Constitution that is defective.

Edwin Espejo blogs for Asian Correspondent at Chronicles from Mindanao by a Mindanao Journalist.