Article Ii, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution states very clearly that "the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law." But it does not say what it means by "political dynasty." House Bill 5925 defines it as "the concentration, consolidation or perpetuation of public office and political power by persons related to one another," which is fair enough for me.
But without an enabling law, the intent of the Constitution is not being followed. But what is the violation if there is no law yet? Who says the family of a town mayor, who happens to be the brother of a congressman and a councilor and the father of the Sangguniang Kabataan [Youth Council] president, is violating the Constitution for establishing a political dynasty? Who will argue that a mayor seeking the gubernatorial post and fielding his wife for mayor is building a political dynasty? No one, because the term has not been given a legal definition.
In the meantime, why forbid someone, who is a Filipino citizen, of legal age and able to read and write, from running for public office? What happens to "equal access to opportunity for public service" if some people are disallowed from running?
On the other hand, the presence of ruling families in some places discourages the entry of new politicians and limits the opportunity to hold public office to members of the dominant families. No one would bother to make the necessary physical, emotional, mental and financial investments during election campaigns when winning is a very remote possibility. Under the present conditions, and especially in local politics, people tend to vote for those who have become household names in their localities, have experience and, of course, the resources. The ruling families have all these.
Many officials argue that there is nothing wrong with political dynasties. In fact, they facilitate the delivery of services. For instance, a mayor would not have any problem asking for funds to set his livelihood projects from a congressman who happens to be his brother. Likewise, the mayors who supported the governor would get livelihood, health or infrastructure projects from the Office of the Governor.
But while they may facilitate the delivery of services to their own localities -- and not every town or city -- political dynasties actually monopolize the resources of local government units or, worse, the local government units (LGUs) themselves. Ruling families are not likely to give priority to a livelihood project proposed by a councilor belonging to the minority, and the end result is the chances for reelection of the councilor are greatly diminished. On the other hand, the members of the ruling families (who make it a point announce their projects with giant streamers) can easily win election further strengthening the family's political foundation.
Members of these ruling families try to justify their monopoly on power by saying it is the people who decide to keep them in power through their votes. People vote for the candidates who possess qualities that could improve the quality of the voters' lives. It's not illegal to run for public positions because members of the ruling families are qualified. It's not illegal either if they are elected since the people gave their consent to be administered by ruling families.
But what they are really saying is that they deserve to monopolize government posts because theirs is a "family of leaders." A mayor, a congressman, a governor, a councilor and an SK president, belonging to one family are not members of a political dynasty. Instead, they are the hope, the heroes and the champion of good leadership to whom the people have entrusted their own lives. Ruling families are the messiahs who are willing to face the endless problems of their localities and rescue their constituents from poverty and improve their localities by building roads, schools, hospitals, etc.
The Philippines is so blessed to have so many messiahs. We have been fortunate to have ruling families whose members have the highly desired leadership skills. All the members of the ruling families are born leaders, and that is why they dominate the political arena.
The people are truly wise to have elected the members of such heroic families. They have put the members of such families on a pedestal and elected them to different positions, convinced that candidates belonging to the same family have similar qualities. If a mayor is good, his wife or a brother must be good as well.
Unfortunately the messiahs that the Filipinos have been waiting for do not belong to these "families of leaders" which have been occupying different elective posts. What we have are simply relatives who have been bequeathed power by the mayor, the governor or the congressman. They are merely the parts of a chain of a political dynasty.
In the next election, just as in previous ones, most candidates, especially for seats in the House of Representatives, are members of political dynasties. Some of them have really contributed to their localities, but most are merely part of a chain. They will win if Filipinos agree to continue to be represented by ruling families. But if the voters say they have had enough of such families, the members of ruling families won't win.
That decision lies in the hands of the voters. And I hope that our voters will choose candidates not because they are members of family dynasties but because they have the competence and the integrity to govern their localities or represent them in Congress.
Eugenio Antonio E. Dig, 20, is a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration graduate from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.
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