CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 5 Aug) – Like fish-pen operators on Laguna de Bay, political dynasties stake their claim on an area or district which they then operate exclusively. They erect fences or barriers around it, mobilizing kith and kin to fend off any challenge to their monopolist control.
It’s unseemly of course. They have this attitude that winning public office makes it their possession—official status, privileges, and all. To them the office is something they own rather than owe to the people and the community they’re supposed to serve.
Against all canons of democratic governance or ethical practice, they reserve public office for themselves and family members. Such is the case of the Binay dynasty in Makati or the Ejercitos in San Juan and the Dutertes of Davao.
They may justify it by conjuring up popular demand; still it violates the democratic principle that public office is a public trust; that it is not meant to be permanent or held for a lifetime; and that the opportunity to serve must be open to all, subject to the will of the people always.
They even ignore the Constitution, defying its express provision banning political dynasties, betraying their greed for power as well as their contempt for the spirit of the law.
No one should substitute personal ambition and selfish desire for statesmanship, for society’s ethical expectations, for the common good.
It is reprehensible to circumvent the Constitutional ban by some trick of legal prestidigitation. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Relying on legal technicality to justify self-serving objectives is revolting. It’s an affront to decent society. It’s shameless. But there seems no shame in people obsessed with power.
What’s so disgusting is that those who justify dynastic rule do so “because there’s still no definitive implementing law banning dynasties.” And they’re either lawyers or are enabled to do so by disingenuous lawyers.
Propriety or delicadeza seems to have no ethical value to such people. “It’s not really illegal,” they’ll say. Ok, it’s borderline, but why would anyone institutionalize borderline corruption? What has value to them is whatever they can get away with.
Such putative legal professionals make society helpless against political predators. Charlatans and guns-for-hire, they buttress alleged “leaders” who really are misleaders. They’re nothing but mercenary “officers of the law” who specialize in justifying and reinforcing impropriety and unethical behavior.
For all their education and training, it’s hard to believe they don’t know how monopolistic political practices make a mockery of democracy, the legal system, the principle of equal opportunity, and everyone’s moral obligation to be at least honest and fair if they can’t be generous.
To advance Filipino values, institutions, and civilization, politics ought to be open to all. There must be equal opportunity for all who aspire to public service. And no family may reserve for itself the right to contribute to the common good, even if importuned by cronies and sycophants.
What the legal profession needs to do is point out that to convert politics and the power and privileges of public office into a monopoly is selfish, undemocratic, destructive of the social order, and a rank disservice to the attainment of a dignified, noble, and civilized nation.
No one has the right to place self-interest above public interest. To pursue dynastic ambition is abhorrent and unbecoming to a society yearning for statesmen to be its leaders.
Political dynasties promote mediocrity in government. They subsist on the presumption that no one and no other family can serve the community or society better. They deprive others who may even possess superior knowledge, aptitude, or leadership of the chance to contribute to nation-building.
As matters stand now, with over 90 percent of our provinces in thrall to dynasties, no matter how good or talented a person may be, he cannot vie for a public service post that is already claimed by a family. It’s happening everywhere in our country.
Dynasties selfishly keep talent, enterprise, or other families with promising leadership material off-limits to the field of public administration.
It doesn’t occur to them that hereditary succession to power throws our society back to medieval times. The feudal mindset has long been repudiated by civilized societies; but they even stretch the idea by making a bid to stay on for life.
The sooner this Neanderthal attitude is rectified, the less conflicted will be our society’s politics and governance.
One hopes that present dynastic officeholders realize that there is such a thing as social responsibility and noblesse oblige:noble people are obliged to behave nobly, not trash basic fair play and equality!
[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; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. firstname.lastname@example.org]