Framework -- By Elfren Sicangco Cruz
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Recto on political parties
The exodus of politicians from one political group ing to the ruling party has unfortunately become a widely
accepted practice even by civil society and the so-called responsible media.
In the past, this has prevented the Filipino people from developing full political maturity. The reality also
is that the shaping of a nation’s political system, whether we like it or not, is dependent on the nature of its political
This tragic situation has existed throughout the entire political history of the country and we can only hope
that future elections will see the end of this tragedy.
Claro Mayo Recto was our nation’s most preeminent statesman and nationalist. He was a prominent member
of the 1935 Constitutional Convention and an intellectual giant in the Philippine Senate where his career spanned three decades
until his death in 1960. He was a prolific writer and, until today, the most important Filipino figure in the advocacy for
Fifty years ago, Recto wrote that the basic cause for our weak political system was that we inherited what
was inherently a colonial system which was perpetuated by the ruling elite of this country. This is what he wrote:
"Because the broad colonial policies for the Philippines were pre-determined and formulated in Washington,
the limited authority given to Filipino participation found expression mainly in the distribution of patronage and in the
constant jockeying for positions of rank and distinction."
One has only to read the front pages of newspapers and listen to the talk shows of self-proclaimed
political pundits to realize that Recto’s observation, on patronage and centralization, is still applicable to the present
situation. In 1960, he wrote:
"Political patronage on the scale and in the strictly partisan manner it was being distributed, and the
lack of autonomy of provinces and municipalities in the management of local affairs, particularly in the matter of raising
their own revenues, placed these administrative units completely at the mercy of the central government. Their growing needs,
especially permanent improvements like markets, schools and barrio roads, made inevitable the continuous grants of aid by
the central government to the local governments which practically made the veritable fiefs of the former, with the controller
of the party patronage as the feudal lord, whose will had to be obeyed in all matters of party business by the local chieftains
under pain of political liquidation. In such circumstances no opposition could survive. In reality the party system became
known in this country only since 1946 with the birth of the Liberal Party, a splinter of the Nacionalista, motivated by a
purely personal rivalry between two Nacionalista leaders in the struggle for the Presidency."
The administration of our new President must, sooner or later, recognize that it is not enough to just appoint
honest and sincere people in government. Even these new appointees will become tempted to the harsh reality that political
patronage is the essence of government in an obsessively centralized system of government.
As soon as possible, there must be acceptance that the permanent solution to the culture of corruption in
our society is to eliminate the fixation that political patronage is the primary goal of political parties.
Government corruption has been the primary cause of the social evils in this country. Even in the 19th-century
novel of Jose Rizal, El Filibusterismo, Father Florentino in a dialogue with the hero Simoun said:
"True, the vices of a government are deadly in itself , they cause its death, but they also kill society
in which they develop. For an immoral government, there is a demoralized [citizenry]; for an administration without a conscience,
there are rapacious and servile citizens in the towns, and bandits and thieves in the mountains. Like Master, like slave.
Like government, like country."
Today, in the year 2010, the situation is eerily similar to the same situation that Recto described in 1958:
" What the matter is in reality is that we are confronted with problems -- economic, social, political
-- among the gravest, perhaps, in all our history, which have been the result of wrong policies and malpractices of the government
ranging from incompetence and opportunism to downright dishonesty and perverted morals -- to put it bluntly, crookedness --
of public officials, and from misconduct, complacency, and unawareness, of many and the criminal rapaciousness of a privileged
and powerful few."
But in spite of all his harsh judgment of the government, he believed that it was the privileged elite that
were responsible. He continued to affirm his faith in democracy, the electoral process, and the Filipino people in all his
writings. He believed that to preserve democracy, it was necessary to safeguard the electoral process.
Recto reiterated: " It is as much the privilege of the people in a democracy to be
wrong in their judgment as to be right. The periodicity of the electoral process offers them the opportunity to correct their
But till the end of his life, Recto retained his faith in the Filipino people. His words, written more than
50 years ago, seem to have predicted the results of the 2010 automated presidential elections:
"Times have changed, rulers have come and gone, but our people, by and large, have kept alive
their unerring sense of justice. They know in their hearts when something is wrong, and when they are given the opportunity
of rendering their verdict through the untampered use of the ballot, they have seldom been mistaken."
Elfren S. Cruz is a professor of Strategic Management at College of Business MBA Program, De La Salle University. E-mail
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