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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 ei...



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“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” – US Senator Robert Kennedy, 1966.

“Iilan ang magiging dakila sa pagbali ng kasaysayan, subalit bawat isa sa atin ay maaaring kumilos, gaano man kaliit, para ibahin ang takbo ng mga pangyayari. Kapag pinagsama-sama ang ating munting pagkilos, makalilikha tayo ng totalidad na magmamarka sa kabuuan ng kasaysayan ng henerasyong ito.” – Senator Tito Sotto, September 5, 2012

Showing his opposition to the reproductive health bill, Senator Vicente “Tito” Sotto III spoke last August 13 but lifted from two American bloggers (the other one’s a food blogger), where one of whom accused him of twisting the blogger’s words to suit his anti-RH bill arguments. In his second speech on September 5, Sotto translated a speech delivered by the American senator Robert F. Kennedy, again to further the anti-RH cause.

But it seems that the former comedian did not learn his lesson from the first social media whipping he got and yet repeated the transgression for the second time. It clearly showed that he and his staff saw nothing wrong with, to the anguish of the netizens. There’s no wonder why 4 US copyright holders have spoken out saying that the Filipino senator had infringed on their intellectual property rights and plagiarized. This includes the president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights: RFK’s daughter, Kerry Kennedy.

Now, at least 30 faculty members of various Manila-based universities filed ethics complaint against Sotto for plagiarism. But in a speech to defend himself, Sen. Sotto argued that “plagiarism is not a crime in the country”, and that “the copyright infringement was not applicable to his case”. 

Before Sotto’s misdeed, other notable plagiarism issues are that of Justice Del Castillo in jurisprudence, Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s keynote speech at the Ateneo in 2010.

Taking the preliminaries into consideration, Plagiarism is “stealing other people's words and ideas; and claiming them as his own”. It is a form of “intellectual dishonesty” where the deserved credit is not indicated. “Whether you translate or not, whether you interpret or not, it makes no difference. You have to attribute," in the words of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Well, can the good senator’s misdoing a crime? Let’s look at Republic Act No. 8293, known as the “Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines” passed by the 10th Congress, one of whose members was the senator from Wanbol University.

The Moral Rights of an author is highlighted in Chapter 10 of the law. On the other hand, Section 193 talks of the Scope of Moral Rights, which includes the right “to require that the authorship of the works be attributed to him, in particular, the right that his name, as far as practicable, be indicated in a prominent way on the copies, and in connection with the public use of his work.”
Our law provides that the name of the author should be prominently mentioned when his or her work is used publicly. In other words, even if I made a blanket statement that everything I said in a particular work was taken from the work of others (like what Senator Sotto did), that does not satisfy the requirement of the law. Section 198 further states that “the rights of an author under this chapter (Chapter 10) shall last during the lifetime of the author and for fifty (50) years after his death and shall not be assignable or subject to license”. Mentioning the name of the author from which one took words or ideas from, is needed.

If a person adds or alters a word here or there, or even if all the words were different from those of the original author, one would still be committing plagiarism if the idea is the same. That is the main difference between copyright and plagiarism. Copyright protects the expression of an idea or the exact words of the original author. The prohibition against plagiarism protects the idea itself, no matter how it is expressed. Ergo, using different words or even a different language but expressing the same ideas is plagiarism.

Is this brouhaha just due to a person's pretensions on intellectual matters? Or a fruit of laziness maybe? Whatever it is, this senator is making a joke out of himself and because of that, he's getting all the “tough hits”.

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
"Pusong Bato" from

This may come off as a surprise to many considering that I taught at the university for a couple of years. Time and again, a lot of successful people proved that getting a good education is the only way to succeed in this dog-eat-dog world.

This entry is not my way of blowing off steam but just my way of stating apparent truths on why high marks are not the only means for a successful upshot.
10. Grades do not give you invaluable experience.

9. It determines your tolerance for working on tasks you don’t find useful (because others want you to do them or believe them to be helpful or socially acceptable).

8. Your marks determine your ability to regurgitate information in the way others want you to.

7. Grades determine your ability to memorize mostly trivial things.

6. It merely determines your ability to understand what adults want from you and give it to them.
5. It does not determine whether you’re a good person.

4. It does not determine your emotional capabilities.
3. It does not determine your creativity.

2. It does not directly determine your likeliness to succeed.

1. It does not determine your intelligence.

Yes, this is my inflated list on why grades don’t matter. And with regards to a counterpoint article about this, I think I’ll separately post 1,000 reasons why grades matter.