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Casting their lot

More than 200 locals from various political parties in Metro Manila, Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Camarines provinces on Friday took their oath as members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

The mass defection is seen as a reaction to declaration earlier this week of Senators Grace Poe and Francis Escudero of their intentions to seek the presidency and vice presidency, respectively in the 2016 elections.

The NPC, a party founded by businessman Eduardo Cojuangco, appears likely to support the Poe-Escudero tandem. Its officials say they expect more politicians from other places in the country to also join the party in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, the Palace played down the defections even as most of those who jumped ship came from the administration Liberal Party. “The thrust of the President is not personality politics,” said deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte, conveniently setting aside the fact that President Aquino himself was packaged as the son of heroes who was out to battle corruption during the 2010 elections.

But more than the implications on next year’s campaign and elections, the local executives’ transfer is a spectacle of  turncoatism.

“You see these [shifts in the landscape of political parties] in every election,” Valte added.

On this, the woman is spot-on. And sadly.

What happened Friday as the new NPC members took their oaths is a reminder of our skewed party system and sick party mentality—something which no national or local politician seems keen on correcting.

Parties are ideally organizations with fixed principles and positions on specific issues, its people merely variables who come and go. Its leaders are groomed and bred as soon as their talent is spotted. In a perfect world, or at least in a mature democracy, the few political parties that exist are distinct from one another. Transfers and defections are not taken lightly and are done for compelling reasons, often as a last resort.

The Philippines claims to have gone a long way, and it may be that way in some aspects of developments, but not in the matter of political parties. It is no surprise that politicians in general are seen as opportunistic and corrupt, spineless and unprincipled. They jump ship and troop to another party when their interests so dictate. Sometimes, they establish their own parties when nothing would suffice.

How they can do this and claim to only want to serve their constituents better is beyond our comprehension.

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