How do you expand the political arena by shrinking it?

Political dynasties na naman ang debatihan because relatives of incumbents and end-termers filed certificates of candidacies. It is unpopular these days not to be against political dynasties so I will be unpopular. Dynasties are not the issue, voters are.

The Constitution prohibits but does not define dynasties. So here we are today arguing over something forbidden. But we don’t know exactly what it is. We have to define dynasty first. And in such a way that it does not curtail the constitutional right of all qualified citizens to run for elective office and the constitutional right of all qualified voters to elect the candidate of their choice.

It would be ironic if we pass an anti-dynasty law that is the flip-side of hereditary monarchy laws, instead of disqualifying people from leadership because they do not belong to a bloodline we will disqualify them because they belong to a bloodline. How can that be called progress? That’s no more a sign of progress than a cannibal dressing up for dinner is.

Below is the anti-dynasty bill introduced by Sen. Miriam Santiago. I chose it because it reflects the anti-dynasty mentality and not because I am picking on her.


    SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared the policy of the State to guarantee equal access and opportunity to public office and public service. Towards this end, it is likewise declared the policy of the State to prohibit political dynasties as defined in Section 3 of this Act.

    SECTION 3. Definition ofTerms. -The following terms, as used in this Act, shall mean:

    (a) “Political Dynasty” – shall exist when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official or relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies the same office immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official. It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons who are spouses or are related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective public office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent elective official.

    Sec 4. Persons Covered; Prohibited Candidates. – No spouse, or person related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity whether legitimate or illegitimate, to an incumbent elective official seeking reelection shall be allowed to hold or run for any elective office in the same province in the same election. In case the constituency of the incumbent elective official is national in character, the above relatives shall be disqualified from running only within the same province where the former is a registered voter.

    In case where none of the candidates is related to an incumbent elective official within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, but are related to one another within the said prohibited degree, they, including their spouses, shall be disqualified from holding or running for any local elective office within the same province in the same election.

    In all cases, no person within the prohibited civil degree of relationship to the incumbent shall immediately succeed to the position of the latter: Provided, however, that this section shall not apply to Punong Barangays or members of the Sangguniang Barangay”

Miriam’s bill disqualifies some candidates so we can have more candidates. That’s the essence of anti-dynasty thinking. Tama ba ang logic na yan?

Okay, political dynasties are like business monopolies. They limit the number of players thus consumers are deprived of a wider variety of choices. Free markets are good because they invite more participants, inspire innovation, and foster competition.

We applied that free-market philosophy to politics. We turned elections into consumer wars hoping that only the best would dominate the market. Unfortunately, like consumer goods, the product that dominates is not always necessarily the best because, more often than not, organization and marketing not product superiority spell the difference between first and also ran. But that’s the free market, the engine of capitalism. There are no free markets where there is no democracy and vice-versa.

Let’s go back to the problem of political dynasties. The quick solution is to define them along the lines anti-dynasty advocates draw. From there we can credit dynasties with all sorts of ill intentions and unfair advantages to justify an undemocratic solution to a perceived problem. Now we can eliminate a whole class of people from participating in the political marketplace because of their bloodline and feel good about ourselves too. We can likewise pat ourselves on the back for doing for voters what they won’t do for themselves.

There are families that I would rather not see in politics but there are also families I cannot get enough of. And I do find myself asking why others keep voting for families I can’t stand. I’m sure they do the same thing. But that’s democracy. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. It leaves choices to majorities who I think are stupid when I’m in the minority and who think likewise of me when I’m with the majority. But the solution to stupidity is not more stupidity.

The solution lies in the realization that political power lies in one’s hands. It does not lie in some law that will do your work for you. If you don’t take time to assess a candidate before giving him your vote, if you are naive enough to fall for bullshit promises and easily swayed by political ads, if you are cheap enough to exchange your vote for a few pesos, then you deserve what you get. Because political dynasties do not create themselves. Voters create political dynasties.

Manuel Buencamino

Buencamino was a weekly columnist for Today and Business Mirror. He has also written articles in other publications like Malaya, Newsbreak, "Yellow Pad" in Business World, and "Talk of the Town" in the Inquirer. He is currently with Interaksyon, the news site of TV5. MB blogged for Filipino Voices, blogs for ProPinoy and maintains a blog, Game-changers for him, as far as music goes, are Monk, Miles, Jimi, and Santana.

  • baycas

    Even MDS’s definition must be defined according to Atty. Fred Bertulfo Pamaos…

  • GabbyD

    “Unpopular dynasties are those that impose themselves on the people through cheating or intimidation. Or both. But in a society where people are free to vote then all dynasties are popular.”

    This is the presumption of the dynasty provision. The writers PRESUMED that all families that consistently hold power do so by cheating, intimidation.

    without that presumption, the dynasty provision makes no sense.

    • mismo! so let’s just focus on honest elections.

      • GabbyD

        its not that easy either. when you say intimidation, is that “cheating”?

        what is intimidation?

        moreover, even if one uses “intimidation”, that doesnt mean that candidate is universally hated. so he might still be popular AND use “intimidation”.

        its complex, and the idea is to use the simplest solution.

        the bsanning of dynasties, such as santiago’s, is an attempt to come up with a clear solution that has obvious costs, but might yield benefits if executed evenly.

        meanwhile, combatting “intimidation” is a difficult thing.

        • Okay I was referring to warlord dynasties when I used the term intimidation.

          “the banning of dynasties, such as santiago’s, is an attempt to come up with a clear solution that has obvious costs, but might yield benefits if executed evenly.”

          What does this mean in practical terms? Does Miriam’s clear solution entail the curtailment of my and my bloodline’s constitutional right to run for elective office and does it curtail as well my constitutional right to choose my leaders? Miriam’s solution are birds in the bush, while my rights are in my hand. Why should I give up my rights for something that might “yield benefits if executed evenly”? That’s too much uncertainty, too much of a gamble for my rights.

  • baycas

    Leni Robredo will attempt to disrupt the line of succession of the Villafuertes.

    Find a Leni all throughout…

    • UPnnGrd

      …. except… except… except Leni will be elected because there was a funeral.

      To get more Leni’s may be good for the funeral industry, but kinda the wrong way ( in my opinion ).

      • baycas2

        Still a tough one, really. And that will just be an attempt to win.

        Maybe a Padaca or an Among Ed (sans the “funeral”) will again rise…a lasting one this time.

        But then again it’s really difficult to cut the succession line…

  • baycas

    “Section 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.”

    Ito malapit na…sa FOI Bill.

    Bigyang kahulugan muna ang “dynasty”.

  • Regardless of what you feel about the merits of political dynasties, the constitution mandates that they have to be banned. Congress has basically failed to uphold the constitution by failing to act on this. They either have to amend the constitution by striking out those provisions or pass a law consistent with its provisions.

    Secondly, as defined by the proposed measure, family members are simply prohibited from succeeding their kin or running with them in the same jurisdiction. If they choose to run in another jurisdiction that would be perfectly legal (just like George and Jeb Bush who became governors of different states).

    Thirdly, I agree with you, that even with a ban on dynasties, politicians will probably still find ways to work around it. It basically falls to voters to judge for themselves. But, that still does not negate the fact that the constitution which the people ratified must prevail.

    • Doy,

      First, the Constitution did not define dynasties. Congress did not do it either. In a situation like that we don’t know if we see the same thing.

      Miriam attempts to define dynasties. Unfortunately her definition fails to take into consideration that there are popular dynasties.Those are the dynasties elected by voters. And then there are dynasties that impose themselves on the voters. She cannot put them in the same bag because that will be a violation of the constitutional right of a voter to choose.

      • GabbyD

        arent all dynasties “popular”? thats how they win elections right? unless you mean the unpopular ones win by cheating?

        • GabbyD,

          No, not all. Unpopular dynasties are those that impose themselves on the people through cheating or intimidation. Or both. But in a society where people are free to vote then all dynasties are popular.

      • Did the charter make any distinction between popular and unpopular dynasties when it said that Congress should enact an enabling law to ban them?

        • Doy,

          It did not. Because it could not. How could it make a distinction when it didn’t even have a definition?

  • Yes, I come at it from the standpoint that the advantage is not in the name, but in the glory attached to the name, often backed by the best damn education money can buy, like at Harvard. And if I am Senator Angara’s son, and I am crackerjack smart, and enjoy politics, why in God’s green earth should the State tell me I cannot serve? So we can have some guy in boxer shorts take my place? His education is in the cock-fight arena and gambling halls and now the Bible.Or HIS wife and brother can be qualified by the glory halo, too, for Chrissakes.

    The electorate is damn lousey at parsing candidates for skill and character, and the newspapers an tv stations are damn poor at helping them out. Indeed, the media build the glory rules, and glory rules. Screw the anti-dynasty laws and (1) regulate media to require public service content, and (2) develop an “executive development program” to identify and educate crackerjack non-family people for public service. And (3) push the internet out into our schools so people have access to really clued-in bloggers like you ‘n me. So we can convince people that pounding Morale’s face in is not the same as writing laws.

    • UPnnGrd

      JoeAm: Pilipinas for many years already has an “executive development” program to identify and educate crackerjack non-“dynasty” people. It goes by the name “Fulbright Scholarship Program”.

      • Thanks. I’ll se what I can find out about it.

  • GabbyD

    why the same province? why not the same municipality? i’d love to hear the political science behind these definitions.

    • I would substitute the word ‘jurisdiction’ for ‘province’ and amend the bill that way. Under Miriam’s bill, what is happening in the senate would be perfectly legal, because senators are not elected based on provincial constituencies but national ones. The same applies to congressional candidates who run for districts and for mayors, etc.

      • manurlbuencamino

        Doy papano kung gusto ng taong bayan sori na lang sila?

        • Taong bayan din ang nagratify ng charter di ba? Kung ayaw na nila sa probisyon tungkol sa anti-dynasty, siguro dapat bigyan sila ng pagkakataon na amyendahin ito sa pamamagitan ng draft ammendment tsaka ng plebiscite in accordance with the constitution.

          • Doy,

            Hindi kailan amyendahin ang isang bagay na walang may alam kung ano yun. Ibinato ng framers ang problema ng definition sa kongreso. So kung gumawa ng definition ang kongreso at magpasa sila ng batas batay sa definition nila at hindi sangayon ang taong bayan eh batas lang ang kailangan palitan.