Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Political Dynasty in the Philippines, a Social Ill That Should Be Eliminated

Webster Dictionary defines a dynasty as “a succession of rulers from the same line or descent”.  The reign of ancient rulers’ family and their descendants in China and the absolute monarchies of Europe are example of dynasty. Emperors and kings ruled and when they were gone, their power was passed to an appointed successor who was a member of the same family. In the present Philippine situation whether at the national or local level a political dynasty is meant as a reign of a family and its relatives whose members occupy different elective positions in a particular area all at the same time. This kind of practice can be termed as oligarchy which the Webster Dictionary defines as “a government for the few or a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes”.   In the Philippines it is the practice of some politicians to have members of the family hold different elective positions thereby controlling the political and economic landscape of a particular area. Once it establishes its stronghold, the political family uses its influence and financial resources at their disposal to hold on to power for as long as possible. A political family is also a dynasty since most often power is passed from one member of a family to another and its reign can last for many years or over a generation or beyond.                                                                                                                                                

Aware of the maladies that are caused by political dynasties, the framers of 1987 constitution made a provision which is Article 2, Section 26 on State Policies that says: “The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibits dynasties as maybe defined by law”.  Legal minds have it that said constitutional provision needs an enabling law in order to be effectively implemented. The present constitution has been in effect since February 11, 1987, and since then many congresses have come and gone. However, the past and present set of legislators has not passed a bill to deal on the issue of political dynasty. Many people doubt that any of the legislators would initiate an action with regard to the matter considering that many of them come from political families. A law of that kind will certainly diminish the legislators’ political influence or power in their respective areas or districts.

The constitution has also provided for a term-of-office limit of elected public officials. This provision should have been one of the ways to help prevent the emergence of political dynasties. But politicians have gotten away with this provision by simply running to a lower position when his term expires, and he takes back his position when his subservient ally has served out his term of office. With this practice politicians are able to stay long in office as they wish despite the constitutional ban.

Some politicians contend that there is nothing wrong with political dynasty since it is ultimately the people who decide if a person will hold an elective position or not. They say that a well qualified and dedicated person should not be denied of his right to serve a public office for the mere reason that he belongs to a political family. That statement is theoretically correct. However, the reality in Philippine politics is that more often than not it is only the well entrenched, well connected and moneyed politicians who usually win an election.  In the Philippines most of the voters belong to the lower income group. And because of their number their votes is a crucial factor in the outcome of an election. Because of their poverty, the poor people are the most vulnerable to fall prey on traditional politicians’ trick to provide for the poor’s immediate day’s needs like food and money during election time in exchange of their votes. Winning over those types of voters needs huge financial resources. Simply put, it is difficult for a deserving person of ordinary means to run against an incumbent politician let alone one who is a member of a powerful political family or clan.

Political dynasties in the Philippines are sprouting like mushrooms. Not all of them are bad and some are honest and dedicated to serve their constituents. In some cases the existence of political dynasty has even benefited the people of a particular area. There are also politicians who are sincere and have served their people well. But generally political dynasty is not good for the Philippine democracy and well being of the Filipinos. Political dynasty is a system that brings about corruption, unequal political and economic opportunities, nepotism and patronage system in job opportunities and the monopoly of political and economic powers over a long period of time by few people who belong to the same family or clan.