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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion


Next year’s Philippine midterm elections are fast approaching and it paints an all too-familiar image once again: candidates that are either re-electionists or relatives of political families running for available seats.

 


For decades, talk regarding political offshoots has been going on for decades. And after decades and decades of botched attempt on clearly defining what a ‘political dynasty’ is, this predicament led me to ask: Is this something permissible, alarming, or should it be accepted as part of the Filipino political culture?

Political dynasties usually crop up from a good forerunner who is loved by his or her constituents. After the forerunner’s term, it is then ‘passed on’ to other members of the family reminiscent of empires where there is a succession of hereditary rulers. While this trend is not unique to Philippine politics, this phenomenon is widely evident in this democracy of ours. Flicking through the list of the senatoriables and other aspiring politicians would let you know what I mean.

Checking out our country’s fundamental law, the Constitution gives us light regarding this matter. Article II, Section 26 states that: “The state shall guarantee equal access to public service and prohibit political dynasty as may be defined by law.” [emphasis supplied].

A much less skill in statutory construction is needed to infer the provision’s gist: The clear intent of the framers of the Constitution is to prohibit political dynasties and it is the duty of our law-making bodies to define the same. The Congress is given the discretion in defining political dynasty but not the discretion on when to enact the same. Various anti-political dynasty bills were introduced in the Congress time and again but those were simply set aside and forgotten to be pushed through. We still don’t have enabling laws up to this point that prohibit individuals from the same family or clan to run for an elective position despite the explicit clamor of charter.

On the other hand, pro-political dynasties (apparently composed of people from those political families) contend that it is not about the number of politicians from the same clan but their integrity and track record in public service. “It would be better to have a family of politicians in the government with clean track record than a single government official who is so corrupt”, says Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, in an AksyonTV interview. “It would be wrong or unfair for them to say that they are against all dynasties”, he adds. The son of the former statesman Renator Cayetano has a point. His sister, Senator Pia Cayetano would also concede, I suppose.

Name recall is the name of the game for the political pedigrees. People vote those people who they ‘already know’ and backed by the resources of an outgoing family member, chances of losing in the political race are slim. Dynasties do not level the political playing field and concentrate political power among few political heads. Political dynasty drags our country down because politicians will protect and prioritize their own family interests. The public interest becomes a distant next.

In order to win, a lot of means are employed to secure the elective posts. The use of violence and overspending are just two of the strategies most political empires utilize. This legal loophole allowed most of these powerful families to abuse their authority and waylay a locality’s resources.

Well, you may ask how the party-list system is faring. Party-lists, that system of proportional representation in which voters choose among parties representating marginalized sectors, should help offset the dynasty-dominated Congress but they don’t. Instead of counter-acting with the evils of the political dynasties, the party-lists became another avenue for those former politicians to “serve for life”. We rarely see people from the farming sector, the fisheries sector, the laborers, or from the teachers; we instead see leaders from same political families.


A careful scrutiny of the political parties would help us understand that democracy is absent in these political parties. The center of our parties are ‘leaders’ coming from political families themselves. Clearly, electoral and political party reforms are needed. We need a wiser electorate that would revolutionize the landscape of Philippine politics coupled with the guidance of our statutes.

But at the end of the day, it is ultimately the Filipino people who will decide if they will deem certain families as simply “political dynasties” or “families with a legacy of public service”.  Still, the coming elections are reflections of the cultural value of close family ties… as evidenced by their political ‘family reunions’.



Picture Credits:
"Political Dynasties" from PhilStar.com
"Pusong Bato" from YouTube.com
Political Dynasties in the Philippines: In My Opinion
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