CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 14 Aug) – Who are in power today by virtue of nepotism, family connections, or of the advantage of a prior hold on the position?
Are they a credit to our society’s ideals of freedom, democracy, equality, or fairness?
As election fever starts to rise in anticipation of heavy traffic going into the 2016 political jousts, it may help to ponder essential points that in our oligarch-dominated system tend to be overlooked.
For one, it’s important to distinguish between self-service and public service. The penchant for grandstanding and ego-tripping should not be mistaken for leadership or fitness for the public service; it’s one thing to be popular, or to be hailed as a tough guy or a “Dirty Harry;” quite another to be an edifying statesman.
Nepotism and dynastic political practice are two sides of a feudal coin. Both are versions of favoritism.
An official who supposedly serves the community but who favors relatives or friends by appointing them to government positions, fielding them as candidates for public office, stultifies the maturation of a democratic community.
Nepotism is especially reprehensible where the anointed candidate has little or nothing to commend him for the position other than his personal relationship with his patron. Both the anointer and the anointed abuse a public trust, treating it as if a family heirloom, taking over society’s right to determine succession.
Preferential treatment to a family member—spouse, brother or sister, son or daughter, or an in-law—is abuse aimed at keeping political power, its exercise and its benefits, within the control of family or clan to the prejudice of all others.
It is abuse of authority. It projects arrogance and reflects bias that places self-interest above public interest. It offends the Common Good. It is discrimination.
It violates the sense of fairness that is presumed to guide the actions of a public steward or trustee.
A person in authority is expected not only to respect social norms but set the example for all members of the community to honor, emulate, and institutionalize so that it may enhance the sophistication of the social order.
Nepotism is bias in favor of self interest. It belittles public sensibility and ideals. It defies expectations of fairness and equal opportunity.
An official—say, a congressman or governor or mayor—who pushes the candidacy of a relative, commits an impropriety. He uses his position to give the relative an advantage that others cannot enjoy.
It is selfish and unfair. It violates democracy’s basic tenet that opportunities for public service ought to be open to all under conditions of fairness and equality.
Political dynasties should have no place in a democratic society, not especially in a developing one like ours.
To tolerate it in a still-developing society distorts the development and maturation of democracy. It stultifies the habit of fairness and civility before it can firmly take root in its socio-political value system.
To have political power concentrated in a family or clan is to establish a special class of citizens enjoying special privilege over others.
Anyone who indulges such discriminatory practice or seeks to establish it violates the spirit of democracy, offends the need for solidarity, and trashes comity.
Insatiable greed for power characterizes political dynasties. It is typical for a dynastic officeholder to hold on to the honor and privilege of public office not just once or twice but for the longest time possible, for all time if possible.
To indulge them in this unseemly fixation to political monopoly not only institutionalizes greed, it slows down social development and progress.
While it is normal to aspire to leadership or to seek public adulation, it is improper, even immoral, to pursue it by foreclosing the right of others to aspire to it under conditions of a level playing field.
It is thoughtless, unfair, and unethical to reserve for one’s self or for family members the opportunities and advantages of political and economic monopoly.
Such opportunism, shameful as it is dishonest, is a trait that is as antithetical to one’s avowed faith in any of the great religions as it is to one’s claim to being a democrat.
[Manny among others 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 Pane; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected]]