A vicious cycle

"The proliferation of political dynasties is as much a fault of the electorate that keeps voting them into office."


Once again, the issue of political dynasties has been resurrected after the Ateneo School of Government found, in a study, that “fat” political dynasties in the Philippines have become “obese.”

Santa Banana, according to the study, the number of families whose members simultaneously hold elective posts has been growing by leaps and bounds! In 1988 they only made up 19 percent of all local positions. In 2019, they make up 57 percent of gubernatorial, vice gubernatorial, congressional, mayoral, vice mayoral, provincial board and local council posts.

My gulay, about 57 percent of governors belonged to fat dynasties in 2004, and this swelled to 80 percent in 2019. For congressmen, the number was 48 percent in 2004, which grew to 67 percent in 2019.

Another significant finding was that political dynasties were prevalent in poorer provinces. Maguindanao has the highest percentage of fat dynasties, with 51 percent of elected posts occupied by political clans with two or more family members in office.

This was followed by Pampanga (49 percent), Bulacan (45 percent), Davao Occidental (41 percent), Isabela (41 percent) and Sulu (40 percent).

Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution specifically provides that the State “shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Despite this provision of law, attempts to have it implemented have proven to be an exercise in futility. Political dynasties in Congress have managed to avert any passage of law to this direction.

What the research failed to show was that the proliferation of political dynasties is as much a fault of the electorate that keeps voting them into office.

It's a vicious cycle, fat dynasties running and people electing them. The reason for this is multi-fold. People see in dynasties a continuous source of what they need: money, jobs and livelihood.

It all boils down to poverty—still the foremost problem of our country.

People also see in dynasties some kind of protection from criminal elements. This is the reason why at times, dynasties simply take the place of other dynasties.

And, Santa Banana, so long as people remain jobless, lacking in livelihood and money to buy food and other basic needs, dynasties will continue to prevail.

In Moroland, political dynasties are a way of life, historically and culturally, because that is how Muslims live—in a clannish environment.

When I was in Cotabato in the 1950s, the Sinsuats were the dominant political clan. The congressman, governor, and some mayors were all Sinsuats. The secretary of public services during Marcos' time was a Sinsuat.

Another thing that the study failed to mention is that not all political clans are bad or anti-poor. Some dynasties have been good for the electorate.

Even in the United States, there have been dynasties. They had the Kennedys and the Bushes. Political clans have been tested. This is the reason dynasties have lasted this long.

* * *

A question amid the revelation of anomalies at the Bureau of Corrections is this: Will an overhaul of the personnel, from top to bottom, end all the irregularities prevailing in the prison system?

I don't think so.

The problem springs from the fact that the system itself breeds corruption. For as long as personnel are given discretion and intervention, there will always be corruption.

A very clear example of discretion is deciding who can benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law.

Freeing convicts, as well as the hospital rest-for-sale racket, will likely continue.

For change to happen, the system, not just personnel, needs to be overhauled.

I believe corruption can be minimized by placing the BuCor immediately under the Department of Justice. These days, BuCor is almost autonomous. There is just too much power given to BuCor officials and personnel. Under the present system, not everything that happens is known to the bureau chief. This is exactly what happened to Nicanor Faeldon.

The Senate should revise the GCTA Law because it has too many loopholes.

Santa Banana, with the present set-up at the BuCor, it is possible for rich convicts to have anybody killed by other convicts who can be released anytime and then allowed to return to their cells. This is the most dangerous prospect of all.

* * *

There have been many suggestions on how to solve the traffic mess. One wants to make Edsa one way from the North, and C-5 one way from the South. To me, that is the worst suggestion of all. This will breed even greater problems.

During the past several years when Edsa became a traffic nightmare, I have come to the conclusion that unless more subways and skyways and mass transit systems are put in place, Edsa will continue to be a traffic nightmare. Right now, if the productivity lost is quantified, it runs up to about P3.5 billion a day.

I am reminded of Bangkok many years ago. When I was there, it took me three hours to go from the airport to my hotel. Years after, Bangkok was able to solve its traffic problem. Now, traffic is smooth and easy.

So unless we have more roads, more skyways and more subways, Edsa's horrible traffic situation will continue.

* * *

My daughter Nina posted a birthday greeting for me on Facebook. I turned 92 on Sunday. That post now has close to 200 likes. I thank everybody for all the good wishes. 

Topics: Ateneo School of Government , Department of Justice , Maguindanao , Bureau of Corrections , GCTA Law
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