Author Topic: Still, dynasty  (Read 11967 times)

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Offline eBalita

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Still, dynasty
« on: April 30, 2013, 04:13:26 PM »
By Conrado de Quiros

Dynasty was the issue in the Inquirer debate held in Cebu and the participants were pretty animated.

Having spouses, children and siblings in Congress, that is dynasty, said Teddy Casiño, and shouldn’t be allowed. But that shouldn’t be a problem if the parent is resigning, added Sonny Angara whose father, Ed, is. There’s no need to define political dynasty since the law is clear, said Samson Alcantara, and bans it. The problem, said Dick Penson, is that the electorate keeps voting for the “wrong candidates,” which promotes it. His party, Ang Kapatiran, Rizalito David said, was pushing for a referendum to allow the people themselves to enact a law ending dynasties, and was confident it could do it in two years.

There’s no problem having parents and children in politics, said Migz Zubiri, he personally knew some children who were better than their parents. True enough, said Grace Poe, dynastic politics tended to push out new entrants to the fold, in many instances due to finances: It takes a fortune to run. It’s all a matter of merit, said Eddie Villanueva, you can’t discriminate against a candidate because of his family name.

All this must suggest that the issue of dynasty is fairly complicated, or confusing, which is the reason it has been there for as long as we’ve had elections. It certainly suggests that the law, specifically the Constitution, has by no means defined “dynasty” or what exactly it means to ban, or else the candidates would not be expending a great deal of time and spit debating it.
I do sympathize with at least curbing dynastic politics, since you can’t really stop it altogether. Unless you change the culture that sustains it. You can always argue that you may not discriminate against merit but you can never know the depth or range of merit that’s out there unless other people are given the chance to run and win. But some realism is in order about what exactly we can do, or specifically what kind of laws we can have, to curb it.
There are fairly commonsensical and doable things there. Banning relatives to the first degree of consanguinity—parents and children and siblings—from occupying the Senate or House at the same time is one of them. Having them one after the other is another matter entirely, and you’ll have all sorts of legal challenges, and quite formidable ones, not allowing it.

The first betrays the spirit of democracy: Family—parents and children or siblings—will quite literally try to keep it all in the family, which is antithetical to contention and debate. Which is to say that, yes, I do think the Cayetano siblings should not be in the Senate at the same time. It’s exclusionary—if you can allow two, why not three or four?—and strains the limits of the ethical, or sensible. A brother or sister or father or daughter running for the same position one after the other is another thing. On what grounds can you forbid it? The voters are being presented with a not unreasonable choice. The voters want more of the same, that is their problem.

Which is the locus of the problem really.

There are limits to what you can do to curb the dominance, or monopoly, of families in politics, as far as preventing them from running goes. But there are no limits to what you can do as far as preventing them from winning goes. The point is to work on the voters, not on the candidates. The point is to get the voters not to vote for them, not to put the candidates out of the running. The first is democratic, the second is not. I grant it’s not easy, voters’ preferences being what they are and the culture being what it is. But it is not hopeless, or indeed desperate.

The case of the entertainers a couple of decades ago shows so. You may no more ban movie stars, TV personalities and basketball players from running than you may relatives from running for different positions. That would be discriminatory. Which posed no end of problems in the 1990s, entertainers being recruited right and left by the various parties and winning hands down particularly in national contests where popularity was a huge factor. That tapered off eventually, aided in no small way by Erap’s impeachment and ousting. Today, you’d be hard put to see political parties opening themselves up to entertainers as a matter of course, let alone lining up at their doorstep.
If that can happen to actors, that can happen to relatives. If that can happen to popularity politics, that can happen to dynastic politics.

But I also grant that the problem of relatives goes deeper. Much, much deeper. At its root is the fact that family governs pretty much everything in our lives. It is the fulcrum of our social existence. At its best, that makes OFWs endure enormous sacrifices to take care of their own. At its worst, that makes many Filipinos think only of their own. That’s what accounts for nepotism rather than efficiency, connections rather ability,  walang  iwanan  (sa  tama  o  mali) rather than choosing right over wrong.

You can always launch all sorts of legislative or legal initiatives to stop relatives from running, but I doubt that they can be done or are defensible. I’d rather go for launching campaigns that dissuade the voters from voting for them, like the anti-epal  campaigns that have sprouted over the years. Or like the  yosi-kadiri  or  Asiong  Aksaya  ones that were launched years ago to fight smoking and profligacy respectively. If the activists managed to make the mouthful “imperialism, feudalism, bureaucrat capitalism” a slogan shouted even by the  masa  in yesterday’s wild, wild world, I don’t know why the kids in particular can’t make “dynasty-kadiri” (or something much better) into a veritable meme in today’s wired, wired world.

Better a slim chance of success than none at all.

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