Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Philippines Family Power - A Perspective

"Is the Philippines truly a democratic nation or a lucrative family business?" This was the question the show 101 East posted at the start of their episode where it tried to tackle the role of the Family, dynasties, in the Philippine political arena.

As said in the film, some will defend political dynasties on the basis of an argument that these families bring "continuity and experience necessary for a successful government;" but despite of this, the Philippines (political system) still ranks among the most corrupt in the world.

Still the rich are getting richer and poor are getting, you've guessed it, poorer. The gap between the rich and the poor is in fact still widening. Quoting our Supreme Court Chief Justice, "The root cause of this problem is well-known. It is the relentless greed of a few families who, from the beginning of time, have always controlled the wealth of our country.” And people would say, that among these families Puno cited are identified with, no other than, the political dynasties (which unfortunately still exists up to this very day and age).

From the video, they reported that out of the 265 representatives in Congress, there are at least 160 of them belonging to the political clans or dynasties. This fact strengthens the assumption of people that the elite (and consequently their families), in this case these politicians who dominate the law-making bodies of the Philippines, has that much power.

Of course, they blame it on colonialism, rooting from the "colonial past"; but come one, that was more than 300 years ago? As the cliche line from Spiderman movie says, "with great power comes great responsibility," but that's easier said than done, right?

The Phonomenon of Political Dynasties: In the Philippine political arena, there are more or less 75% of them who have relatives (meaning grandparents, parents, wives, husbands, nephews, children, grandchildren) who became/ was one way or another a government official. Needless to say, it's easier to spot a government official who is related one way or another to another government official (past or present).

Democracy in the Philippines may be attributed to a "government of the people and by the people", but the political dynasties are a testament to the lack thereof (so they say). But as a result, some would argue that this is still a democratic procedure because these officials are still voted by the people.

Another argument presented is the capability of these officials (whether coming from political dynasties or not), that they come from the best schools from around the world, better equipped to handle such position.

Popularity, connections and resources ultimately dominate the playing field (ruled by the incumbent, or in this case, the incumbent's family/ family member). True. The incumbent may have the popularity, all the connections and resources to put himself or his kin into the office, but we must level the arena.

Dean Alex Brillantes of the National College of Public Administration and Governance in the University of the Philippines pointed out in the film that even this is the case, we must put everything in context, that 1.) there are good and bad dynasties, and 2.) there's still hope for people to participate actively in the Philippine political system.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri supports the Dean's claims and furthers the discussion with emphasis to campaign finance reform and party system reforms to help level out the playing field. Poor people given chance to spend from legal means.

The constitution is clear, Article 2, Section 26 of the Philippine Constitution states that "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law." There's no enabling law, as of date.

"But the notion of a "political dynasty" could not be defined – at the most basic because elective posts are not inherited, they are elected," Alex Magno explains.
He writes about and explains more in detail why even if there's a law against political dynasties, it shouldn't be the focus of reforms; instead he suggests "a shift out of single-member district representation."

On the other hand, there has been efforts on the Anti-Dynasty Bill by both the Congress (HB 5925) and the Senate, but until this date, there's still no clear and definite progress on the said bill.

These arguments presented, I ask you what's your stand on this issue? ^^

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1 comment:

  1. I found the film very informative and thought provoking. I am against the principles of political dynasties, however i tried to keep an open mind throughout the film. I noted though that when Senator Zubiri was asked, what he would do if faced with a conflict between family interest and his constituents, his response was NOT RESPONSIVE to the said question. He was not able to answer question frankly



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