CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/02 August) — The fact that more than 90% of our provinces are ruled by political dynasties says a lot about Filipino gullibility or simplemindedness.
Falling for the wiles of power-greedy traditional politicians (trapos!) isn’t much different from swallowing fantasy served up by fairy tales or teleseryes; an episode provides momentary distraction and somehow locks the viewer into following the series.
Doing so provides temporary relief from reality, especially harsh reality. Fantasy is enthralling, even spellbinding for one seeking an escape.
Following tales and contrived legends of royalty is also an engaging distraction, especially if one can imagine himself or herself as part of the narrative.
The Filipino’s fascination with royalty is well-established. We like to crown a make-believe queen or princess during fiestas. We hold other festivals where a “Mr. This,” a “Miss That,” or a “Mrs. Whatever” is chosen or elected. He or she then gets to mount a royal “throne” and reign for a day or week or month…with pomp and pageantry!
“Royal” pageants are regular features in all kinds of festivity, street-level community-wide, nationwide. It stops people in their tracks and sets off the flashbulbs.
Filipinos tend to drool over royal personalities, be they pretend or real, a beauty queen or a screen star or a make-believe princess.
It dates back to the days of monarchs and queens, princes and princesses, and the stories and legends that court habitués wove around them.
What’s appalling is the way the masses take such pageantry for real, letting the fantasy spill over into politics—and even participate in “royal” battles waged by political dynasties.
Part make-believe, part deadly Game of Thrones, it would be so entertaining if only it weren’t being waged in earnest, casualties and all.
Played out in fields where rival forces collide, as in the Ampatuan Massacre or, earlier, in Antique where Evelio Javier was gunned down, it’s no longer a matter of whether the winner is malakas or maganda. It has become a lethal game where it’s not the Force of Law but the Law of Force that decides the winner. Or, alternatively, as the pork barrel scandal tells us, the name of the game is money. In which case, the grand prize will go to a Pogi, a Sexy, a Tanda, and the like.
In this game, the winners get to shed off their persona as public servants and democrats and behave like royalty, who then insist on staying on the throne forever.
If this were just make-believe, it wouldn’t be so bad. The trouble is, trapos stretch the fantasy to the limit, thinking and acting as if they’re above the law.
And that’s how propriety, legality, and morality get thrown out the window as pretenders to the throne conduct the business of government without transparency, accountability, or the participation of their “subjects.”
The problem is aggravated when constituents do behave like subjects, tolerating imperious behavior and impunity, letting even gross manifestations of wrongdoing go unpunished.
And that’s why political dynasties crop up like mushroom throughout provinces and regions—turning the political system into a haven of dynastic privilege, corruption, opportunism, inequality… and impunity!
Actually dynastic politics is not new. Dynasties have come and gone in our relatively short history. What is new is its epidemic scope and the utter shamelessness, the in-your-face indulgence, that violates the nobler nature of Filipinos and what is proper or acceptable in a civilized society.
Dynastic politics has become so widespread that even its victims view it as ineluctable, and no one even bothers to point out how it exacerbates inequality and greed.
As long as this docile, unquestioning behavior persists, dynastic officeholders will always monopolize political and economic power, doing so by bastardizing the democratic process—cheating or buying votes, bribing the Comelec, bending the popular will to their whims and caprices, and manipulate the economy to their advantage.
It is sad that these royal pretenders don’t have delicadeza or a sense of propriety. It used to be that officeholders were icons of society—illustrados—learned, edifying, worth emulating. Not anymore.
Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, development academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Govt’s Peace Panel; and awardee, PPI-UNICEF most outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org