THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Families subverting our values and institutions

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 28 Jan) – So much is said about the role and value of the family. Well and good. Because family is the most basic of our roots and our loyalties—our basic identity, support group, and wellspring of our individual and collective ego. It is why the Pope took pains to remind us that family is the greatest treasure of any country…the cornerstone of society.

Unfortunately, there’s a downside to excessive family obsession and loyalty, the kind that subordinates the welfare of community and society and places family interests above others. It is what characterizes the reign of political dynasties throughout our archipelago.

Family ambition, pride, or obsession trumps any other consideration, overpowering the demands of the common good, exacerbating inequality, raising discontent in community after community.

This unseemly social/political phenomenon causes family units to subvert instead of enhance communal well-being, worsening inequality and lack of opportunity in our society.


By any measure of fairness or justice, it makes no sense for a family or clan to crowd everybody out of choice places in the public domain by stocking it with relatives and cronies.

Family or clan monopoly is abhorrent to democracy just as mono-cropping is abhorrent to agriculture or the natural environment.

This social problem has been spawned by the dominance of traditional politicos (trapos) in our politics, along with the cupidity of their cronies in the economy. Their dominance draws attention away from elementary democratic principles and the ethical values of the community.

And the broad scale of their dominance has made greed and the urge to aggrandize appear perfectly normal and fashionable.


Unmindful that human diversity is just as important for society’s survival as nature’s diversity is essential for environmental survival, they mindlessly go power-tripping in defiance of what’s socially acceptable and what’s legally frowned upon.

As a result, community solidarity is shattered as trapos sacrifice harmony and mutual consideration on the altar of ambition and greed. In the process, they spread ill-will and resentment as they go about merrily in search of plunder, loot, and advantage.

The capture of politics and the economy by these shameless trapos has spread and institutionalized corruption as never before. Supported by dynasties with no sense of civic responsibility, they are driven by the spirit of opportunism, the urge to aggrandize, and thus expand up their family’s fortunes.

Cheered on by cronies and sycophants eager for a share of the loot they acquire from being in power, they dominate every level of our political system without compunction.


They have a stranglehold on politics and economics because they are devious and unscrupulous and do not hesitate to exploit the tolerant nature of the typical Filipino community.

Meanwhile, because we, the people, do not apprehend what it means to be a sovereign citizen—and the sacred duties it entails, we cannot or do not act to push back the attrition they cause to our values and institutions.

We seem unable to understand that it is we who make government possible, establishing it at every level. It is we who fill its bureaucracy with people like ourselves, but who inevitably get corrupted by the dominance of corrupt bureaucrats and their perverted values.

We can’t act responsibly and decisively unless we keep in mind that because it is we who vest officials with authority, delegating to them the powers that belong to us, the task also falls to us to discipline, remove, or replace them.


Although it is writ large in our Constitution that “Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them” (Article II, Section 1) we don’t exemplify what it means; we don’t act accordingly.

We lack awareness that our government, local or national, derives its power and authority from us; that therefore it is our duty to see the same exercised responsibly, honestly, accountably, and transparently.

Not only that, we need to understand that irresponsible citizens create irresponsible or illegitimate governments; and that to prevent this from happening, we must be civic-minded and do our duties accordingly.

We do need always to be mindful of the fact that all official corruption is made possible by the improper or corrupt exercise of our power (sovereignty) and authority—which we merely lend to our officials. It is our power. It is authority we delegate it to them by electing them.


But although it is our duty to see that the same is exercised responsibly or honestly we don’t do so. We don’t keep politics on the straight path and let it perform to our satisfaction.

And so the ruling families can indulge in corrupt and perverted practices to their heart’s content. It is we who allow them to be venal and unfocused on their mandates. It is we who let wrong family values prevail, allowing public servants to turn our government into a self-service enterprise.

It is time to put family values in perspective, time to stop dynasties from gutting the resources of our community and society at every level; time to penalize the malefactors.

We must put a stop to the culture of impunity. And to do it, we need to start with family and clan!

[Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at Development Academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. [email protected]]