It was just over a decade ago when I took my oath as president of the Nationalist’s Peoples Coalition Party. It was a time when the country was experiencing a political turmoil, having experienced, for the first time, the impeachment of a president.
The NPC Party had supported President Estrada during the presidential elections of 1998. It had formed an alliance with other political parties during the campaign period leading to the election; however, the alliance never took a formal stature. Time and again, attempts to formalize the structure with a formal coalition failed due to inaction. Perhaps the apprehension on the value of a political party system was forefront in the minds of the then president. I guess, he believed that his personal charisma, which he certainly had much of, would allow him to govern the country sufficiently. The fallacy of his thinking, I guess, was shown in the succeeding turn of events.
Many people who enter the political arena believe that to be successful, one has to have the proper ingredients of ‘popularity’ and ‘money’. While others still cling to the belief that the traditional ‘guns, gold and goons’ are the key elements. Perhaps to some extent these would get them elected into office;. however, success in politics does not necessarily mean merely getting elected into office. For me the key element necessary is possessing the ability to govern properly. To possess this does not merely mean having the intellect and resolve necessary to enable one to make decisions, but more so, in ensuring that these decisions will be implemented.
I am a firm believer of the importance of the political party system to enable democracy to work as it should. I believe in a system where those who desire to serve in elective positions are properly nurtured, and supported to ensure their success. It is not enough for someone to desire to serve the people; it is imperative that they actually effect the programs to serve the people. It is in this aspect that a political party becomes a necessity for it is with the backing of the other members of a political party when one will be able to realize the fruition of this noble desire.
When I accepted the presidency of the Party, foremost in my mind were the words of our Chairman Emeritus Danding Cojuangco – “The Party that does not touch the lives of the people has no reason to exists”. I believed and valued that statement and expressed so to those whom I called upon to help me in the process of party building. To me, it was an expression of the need for an institutionalized Party whose members will truly represent the interest of the people. I envisioned a party run professionally like a corporate body where decisions are made and implemented through a formal system of rules and whose membership are made up of political leaders who value their affiliation to the party and would work together to ensure the enactment of a program of government that are both practical and enforceable.
Institutionalizing a political party, especially an existing one, takes a lot of effort. Through the years, we initiated several ‘tasks’ along this line. One of the areas that we focused our attention to was setting up of the regular Party Secretariat. We created and maintained membership records and party files through these years. Through the secretariat, communication with and among party members was greatly facilitated. However, the task is not yet through; we still have to beef up our secretarial staff to ensure that it will be able to meet the needs of a growing membership in the years to come.
Aside from the regular membership get-together or socials that we held through the years, we started publishing a quarterly magazine- “The NPC Herald”, to keep in touch with the membership and to publish some “best practices” that our members have initiated in their areas of governance that other members might find beneficial to emulate.
While subsidies for the secretariat’s operational requirements continued from the traditional sources, we introduced a system of tithing among the elected NPC members to cover the operating financial requirements of the party. We initially requested for contributions from members of House of Representatives and the Senate; later, we included the NPC Governors and Vice Governors in the lists. Hopefully, in the years to come, we would request contributions from all the other elected NPC members.
Further, to truly feel the sense of “belongingness to the Party”, we worked with the idea that members should be ‘dues-paying and card-carrying’ members. In line with this, we started to collect a token amount for ‘membership dues’ ; in return, we started issuing numbered NPC Identification Card to members who paid their dues.
We realize that the amount collected from the above efforts would merely cover part of the Party’s monthly financial requirement, we should, therefore, come out with fund raising activities to develop funds for an “electoral war chest”. (I remember that during the early years of my term, Rep. Jules Ledesma, developed a model along this line.) Hopefully, in the coming years we would have this in place as this is another important element that we have to establish to make the party truly institutionalized. We need to be able to assist those who aspire for political office with some form of funding support, election paraphernalia, image boosters and legal support should this be needed.
We still have to do a lot to institutionalize the NPC. However, I believe we have started in the right direction. I leave it to those who would take over the helm of the party leadership to continue the effort.