Philippines Table of Contents
Philippine political parties are essentially nonideological vehicles for personal and factional political ambition. The party system in the early 1990s closely resembled that of the premartial law years when the Nacionalista and Liberal parties alternated in power. Although they lacked coherent political programs, they generally championed conservative social positions and avoided taking any position that might divide the electorate. Each party tried to appeal to all regions, all ethnic groups, and all social classes and fostered national unity by never championing one group or region. Neither party had any way to enforce party discipline, so politicians switched capriciously back and forth. The parties were essentially pyramids of patronclient relationships stretching from the remotest villages to Manila. They existed to satisfy particular demands, not to promote general programs. Because nearly all senators and representatives were provincial aristocrats, the parties never tackled the fundamental national problem--the vastly inequitable distribution of land, power, and wealth.
Ferdinand Marcos mastered that party system, then altered it by establishing an all-embracing ruling party to be the sole vehicle for those who wished to engage in political activity. He called it the New Society Movement (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). The New Society Movement sought to extend Marcos's reach to far corners of the country. Bureaucrats at all levels were welladvised to join. The New Society Movement offered unlimited patronage. The party won 163 of 178 seats in the National Assembly in 1978 and easily won the 1980 local elections. In 1981 Marcos actually had to create his own opposition, because no one was willing to run against him.
Data as of June 1991