Bill seeks end to turncoatism

October 21, 2018

TO get rid of political butterflies or turncoats, the proposed law on strengthening the country’s political party system seeks to remove politicians from their elective posts should they violate the measure, a House leader yesterday said.

At the same time, Citizens Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, who chairs the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, said the still unnumbered measure that his panel approved recently will disallow violator-politicians from running again in the next scheduled election and ban elected officials from being appointed to public office if they transfer to another political party one year after their election and one year before the scheduled next poll.

“Under Section 13, ito ‘yung penalties for political turncoatism. ‘Yung mga balimbing kapag sila ay nagpalit ng political party nila one year before or one year after, iyung elective office nila ay ipo-forfeit,” Tugna told Rowena Salvacion’s radio morning program Buena Manong Balita over dzBB.

“Wala namang kulong. Ang mga penalty ay disqualified ka na tumakbo ulit for any elective position doon sa susunod na halalan. Disqualified ka rin na ma-appoint sa gobyerno or for holding any position in any public or government office three years after na mag-expire ‘yung term na kung saan ikaw ay lumipat o naging balimbing. Disqualified ka rin from assuming Executive or administrative position in the new political party,” Tugna, a lawyer and member of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) led by its President, Martin Romualdez, explained.

Under the measure, Tugna said politicians, including senators are only allowed to change their political party during the second year of their term.

“Maaari mo lamang itong gawin (transfer) kapag ikaw between na ng term mo. Ibig sabihin, ang mangyayari sayo ay pwede ka lamang lumipat on the second year of your term,” said Tugna. “Kapag lumabag ka, tatatawagin na iyang political turncoatism o sa Tagalog ay balimbing.”

The Tugna panel approved the substituted four bills, including House Bill (HB) No. 697, principally authored by former President-turned Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, which envisions changing the norm of having political butterflies during and after election period.

The three other substituted bills are HB No. 522 authored by Deputy Speaker and Capiz Rep. Fredenil “Fred” Castro, HB No. 1695 by Cagayan De Oro City Rep. Maximo Rodriguez, and HB No. 7088 by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano.

Tugna said the measure is designed to prevent newly elected politicians from taking advantage of the perks and resources of the new administration by shifting allegiance to the party.

He said the bill would help promote the principles of the party to which they belong where the measure guarantees political subsidy.

“Napakaganda talagang batas ito [because] it will bring stability to the country, kasi kapag hindi palipat-lipat, maipagpapatuloy 'yung ideology ng mga partido,” said Tugna.

Arroyo said her HB No. 697 aims to give importance to party ideals and policy agenda rather than political pragmatism and survival.

“Our history tells us that political parties in the Philippines are normally used only as political vehicles to win an election. Hence, most political aspirants change political parties for convenience, rather than conviction. This only shows the lack of ideology commitment to the members of a party because they choose parties based on the rise and fall of the tide of opportunity,” said Arroyo.

She further said that “turncoatism” should never be encouraged nor tolerated since it only distorts the concept of word of honor and dignity of a leader.”

The substitute bill aims to institutionalize and strengthen political parties in the country by introducing reforms in campaign financing and providing financial subsidies to political parties to augment their expenditures for campaign.