02 April 2007

Revisiting political dynasties

ON PAGE 12 of Philippine Star today can be found 58 texted responses to the issue of whether political dynasties are good for the country; unfortunately, they are not available online.

The texters came from all over the Philippines, including a few who come from Bicol and one from Naga; with the increasing ubiquity of cell phones -- penetration rate for mobiles has reached 45% as of yearend 2006 -- I think they are a fairly accurate representation of popular sentiment in the country.

They also show how far detached our politicians are from ordinary citizens they are supposed to represent. It is another instance where Philippine theory -- expressed in the constitutional prohibition against political dynasties -- diverge wholly from practice, as Philip Alston noted in his damning report.

By my count, there are only three responses (5%) who look favorably at political dynasties, coming from places like Capiz (turf of the Roxases, led by incumbent senator and 2010 presidentiable Mar Roxas), Las Piñas (home to the Villar-Aguilar combine, headlined by Senate President and reelectionist Manny Villar, who is also expected to contest the presidency); and Cabanatuan (where the Josons have lorded it over since the birth of the republic). The rest (95%) are overwhelmingly against them.

Which means an argument can be made that political dynasties elsewhere failed to "make the country progressive," "deliver efficient and graft-free goods and services," and "get things done in the interest of taxpayers" -- the three reasons advanced in favor of this practice.

Yet here we are, having to contend with the pained reasoning of reelectionist Sen. Joker Arroyo who, in endorsing the candidacy of a Pampangueño carpetbagger for the 1st congressional district of Camarines Sur, sees nothing wrong with dynasties "because it is a fact of life tolerated all over the world." Later this week, he will headline a list of national bigwigs who will pay homage to the centennial of Fuentebellas of the Partido district, ironically being bandied about as "a tribute to the constituents"!

In the same article, former senator Tito Sotto rues the alleged difficulty of defining by law to what extent the ban should be made, trivializing it with the non-issue of political mistresses as a means of circumvention. Then there's this post which appeared in the Eleksyon 2007 section of the Inquirer, employing finely crafted legal goobledygook in justifying the practice.

But how about listening to the sentiment of ordinary cellphone-using folks who share the wisdom of the 1987 Constitution's intent to guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, precisely by banning these dynasties?

That's one of the things we haven't really tried yet.