[OPINION] Dear political dynasty
Dear dynasty, you are not that bad all the time.
Take, for example, the Cayetanos of Taguig. While some politicians mark public property with their name and face, here the bailiwick takes center stage with the ubiquitous “I Love Taguig”. And under the sometimes fanciful viral traps – a cyber-graduation in the era of the pandemic with robots wearing gowns bearing the faces of students! – it is a prosperous city with a vision, an identity and an effective governance.
The COVID crisis has proven that Taguig can have quick and smart solutions for just about anything: mobile markets, free tests, quarantine facilities, and just because they’re ‘extra’, health teleconsultations not just for humans but also for pets. And one more thing – flashy graduation robots? Made by the Taguig robotics team, made up of students from the local science school.
The Binays of neighbor Makati are never left out. Between episodes of corruption allegations and family tragedies, they consistently keep their city among the richest and best run in the country. Their empty coffers and partnerships with the private sector have enabled them to deliver enviable benefits to “Makatizens,” including government-subsidized healthcare, education and entertainment, and technology initiatives like public wifi. in targeted barangays. and government cashless transactions. It is a global competitor of the “smart city” and soon the most ambitious of their projects will also see the light of day: an intra-urban metro.
Thank you all for doing your work.
Unfortunately, even the best political dynasties can be problematic.
The painful truth: Members of the political family may be qualified for a position, but they are not always representing. They might follow the letter of the law, but maybe not its spirit. They can be democratically elected, but by their very existence they can be effectively undemocratic. They may mean and even do well, but they usher in corrosive hidden dangers for a mature democracy.
Let’s see the representation first. Here’s a simple thought-provoking exercise: Remember when formal education and the elite workforce were almost entirely male dominated? This meant that about 50% of the population (women or other identifications) had a limited contribution to the management of industry and government. While this was a personal loss for them, it was an even greater loss for society as a whole: imagine missing out on 50% of people’s unique perspectives, solutions and good ideas! How long could we have had new ways of fighting cancer or inventing computer programming if the types Marie Curie and Ada Lovelace hadn’t had a voice sooner?
Unheard voices mean lost opportunities to improve society. This is what could happen if we continue to fill our government with the same names. Our policy, already so anemic with the lack of representation of the middle to lower economic classes, loses even more of the dynamism that one might expect from diversity. We need experts from a wide range of disciplines and people from all walks of life. We need a variety of hard-earned perspectives born from experience, not the same island existence shared by a group of people at a family table.
See, it’s not that political families don’t care about the fate of the so-called ordinary man – it’s just that sometimes they can not. It’s a lack of imagination, not a lack of intelligence or empathy.
How many of them are able to spontaneously state the content and price of a shopping basket, or the average number of hours spent on a shared journey? How many of them can understand that for so many Filipinos, a single medical emergency puts the whole family in debt? How many can describe food insecurity?
They just can’t change what they can’t see.
The importance of diversity in governments, schools and businesses is fundamentally understandable because it reflects nature; inbreds emerge damaged or incompatible with life. Our politics, in a way, are becoming more and more inbred and getting sick from it.
Not that this is illegal. (Most) political families operate within the law, showing up and performing functions one after another and / or side by side. But while this is so, we must also take into account the spirit of the law.
One of the most beautiful things about the law is that in his bare bones the common man has a sense of what is right. Juries are components of the legal process in other parts of the world for this reason – there is basic logic, common decency, and fair societal expectations, even among people without a law degree.
This is why political dynasties can leave a bitter taste in your mouth, even though they are technically defensible … because if you get into the more basic idea of ”fairness” it gets stickier. As elusive as the concept may be, let’s face it – even a 3-year-old in the playground can understand ‘Give Others a Chance’.
This is even before addressing the subject of political dynasties being an obstacle to the pursuit of justice, especially against state crime. By acts of commission, by omission or even by incident, political families do not create an atmosphere of transparency and impartiality. Would Mayor Child, for example, look into the sketchy finances of daddy’s ex-mayor? Is Baby President continuing to investigate Parent President’s repressive regime? Or even to a lesser degree – will a DUI political black sheep be punished if the governor and mom’s sister are in Congress?
While we’re at it, let’s imagine, let’s say, how President Bongbong Marcos might celebrate the anniversary of the People’s Power Revolution. Or what will happen to the cases against his mother, or the ongoing quest for recognition and reparations for victims of martial law.
Maybe he’s objective, maybe not. But the point is – by his very existence in a position of power, we don’t know how he will affect the allegations against his family members. He and political scions like him – a certain presidential “Inday” with his own powerful pedigree and divisor included – can make people reluctant to investigate or uphold justice. And as human history has shown us so many times… individual courage can fail under such pressure.
As a corollary to this, political dynasties are corrosive to a functioning democracy because they undermine our checks and balances, including the separation of powers. And with so many at stake, they are also dangerous, because they create and perpetuate a toxic territorialism that sometimes degenerates into violence.
Most realists agree that political dynasties are more tolerable than ideal, and some semblance of stricter anti-dynastic laws still seem to be in the works. However, they are difficult to define and operationalize, and many efforts have been delayed. So, naturally, many politicians are reluctant to fire their jobs.
No one wants to be unemployed and I can agree that it does not seem fair to exclude qualified people from certain occupations. However, if you treat the Philippine government like a family business, this is the “tax”: a member of your family has to back down. These are your duties to society; it is the equalizer.
Another reason why a political family may be reluctant to let go is because they fear that their enemies will gain the upper hand and do worse. It’s a reasonable apprehension too, but let’s look at this conundrum in another way: If your family members are the only ones qualified and decent enough to fill the job, you’ve failed.
Why? This means that you have not been able to train educated and competent officials beyond yourselves. That means you haven’t created durable systems of checks and balances that could withstand challenges. It means, in the end, that you didn’t create a healthy government – all you created was dysfunctional dependence on you. I hope our proud and accomplished political families will remember that, like a teacher releasing a student into the world, or a parent releasing their adult child, the final test of true service is gracious letting go. – Rappler.com
Isabel Lacson-Estrada is a freelance writer with a Master of Science in Global Affairs from New York University. She is a stay at home mom and is underqualified but lucky to have the best job in the world.