Thoughts on Political Dynasties

2013 is right around the corner. There is universal disdain. The argument goes: The same old crowd is running for elected positions. The wife, the sons, daughters, the aunties and uncles and nephews of politicians are taking positions in politics. One only needs to look into the Senate and see their argument in play. Brother and sister Cayetano are both senator. Senator Koko Pimentel is the son of another senator. The Estradas have been in the senate for years, while holding other key positions in San Juan. The Marcoses have seats in both the Senate and the House. While the Arroyos have multiple house seats. Running for the Senate you have Bam Aquino, cousin of the sitting President, and you have another Aquino running for senator. The Villars too are there. The Enriles, The Biazons, Guingona family. The Rectos have a seat in the Senate, and a governorship in Batangas. The Binays too have a controlling interest in the Financial Capital, and a vice presidency. The list goes on and on.

The scene in local politics seemingly is no different from a medieval society. The lords, ladies, barons and baronesses, and the dukes and duchesses control positions of power. The art is done for various reasons. You can pick the disdainful ones— doing it for power, money and business interest. You can pick the innocent position: these people are doing it for the good of the masses. Let us not quibble with the details. Political dynasties exist in the Philippines. In fact, it is the reality.

You would find many to write that this is absolutely wrong. The wife runs when the husband’s term of office expires. And round robin it goes. Worst, everyone has a position.

The argument is correct: the wife is different from the husband. The son is different from the father. Noynoy Aquino is different from both his parents who held positions of power in the last three decades. How do we know that that particular person we’re banning is the right person for the right time?

The problem isn’t political dynasties. It is the lack of choices, and rivalries. Political parties exist only in paper. And politics is seen as a dirty, evil business. So society is programmed to avoid it. Shun it. Walk away from it. So you have absolutely no mechanism to build political parties. There is actually no interest to serve, much less have a clear idea of what to do once you run.

It isn’t actually a chicken and an egg problem. There just has to be parties— no pun intended— who would reengineer the political landscape. Don’t count on it coming from the political families. While it is in their interest to disrupt the market, they won’t. And that’s what is needed. A real political machinery built from every district, participating in every market to create alternatives to the status quo.

The problem isn’t political dynasties. To bark at it as if it was absolutely evil is wrong. The problem is the lack of choices. Like in Philippine business, it would seem no one would dare reinvent politics in the Philippines. Until such time as people would dare, political dynasties will remain, and what’s worst you have the lowest common denominator running the show. It can only be bad for democracy.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • I have personally known some of the officials you mention, and I have nothing but respect for them. To advocate a ban on dynasties is not to question their moral authority, character or competence to hold public office. It simply is a desire to uphold the basic law of the land, the Constitution, which the people ratified.

    The ban on dynasties is intertwined with term limits that the drafters wrote into the constitution. The principal motivation behind these two provisions was to prevent families from dominating indefinitely a jurisdiction through direct succession (handing down one’s office to a member of one’s family after term limits had come into effect) and to allow the political system to open up. It just so happens that the latter was hard-coded into the constitution, while the former wasn’t.

    We can debate the principle behind that, but at the end of the day, maintaining the status quo is unacceptable. We either have to strike the constitutional provision banning dynasties out, or we have to enact a law in accordance with it. For congress to do otherwise would be a dereliction of its duty to uphold the constitution.

    • UPnnGrd

      Speaking of constitution, here is a question. In the BangsaMoro entity should it become reality…. can an Iglesia Ni Kristo have a chance of become the head-honcho supra- Leader? I think the BangsaMoro chief-of-Police is also reserved, but who knows???

      More important item —- have you folks seen where it is being negotiated to be pencilled into laws of Pilipinas that,on any day of any month of any year, a BangsaMoro has to be a member of Pilipinas Supremo Korte? Cool, huh?!!!

  • UPnnGrd

    There are ways to break into the party. Murad and Jaffar…. also that special-negotiator with China the Trillanes guy — have shown the way.

  • But you have to get to some kind of solution, or perpetuate . . . See my comment to MB’s blog, also published today. Three steps to solving the problem. You can’t lead people to intelligent choices by banning the best qualified people from running. That’s MB’s point and I agree. That’s like flogging a dead horse.