SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Democracy as a farce

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/6 October) – As the filing of the certificates of candidacy for next year’s midterm elections closed on Friday, October 5, Filipino voters will again have to face a lingering malady of Philippine politics – the dominance of entrenched dynasties.

In my native province, Agusan del Norte, the Amantes have remained secure in their position. In 2010, they withstood the attempt of the Plazas to wrest the governorship. Like the Amantes and many other political families in Mindanao, the Plazas, who have ruled Agusan del Sur for roughly half a century, built their fortune on logging.

Elsewhere in Mindanao, politics has likewise remained the enclave of a few rich, privileged families. We have the Zubiris of Bukidnon, the Emanos of Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, the Pimentels and Pichays of Surigao del Sur, the Jalosjoses of Zamboanga del Norte, the Dimaporos of Lanao del Norte, the Dutertes of Davao. The list goes on.

Aside from the old names, would-be dynasties have also emerged. In Sarangani province for example, Rep. Manny Pacquiao has fielded wife Jinkee as vice governor. His brother Roel is now eyeing the congressional seat of General Santos City, the same post that the Pacman ran for in 2007. He lost to now City Mayor Darlene Antonio-Custodio, a progeny of another dynasty.

In the Zamboanga peninsula, the Jalosjos family is now trying to extend its reach with former congressman and convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos running for mayor of Zamboanga City. The entry of Jalosjos threatens the hold of the Lobregat family on local politics.

With well-entrenched families alternating themselves in power, the voters are left with choosing between the proverbial devil and the deep blue sea. Democracy in Philippine context has become more of a legalized form of feudalism – sometimes cult worship – where economic power assures victory and perpetuity in position.

As the options narrow, so have the qualifications that the politicians have imposed on themselves. A boxing champ thinks lawmaking is as easy as crafting a knockout inside the ring, and that there is nothing wrong with leaving his legislative work so he could focus on his training for a megabuck fight. Movie stars believe that memorizing scripts is a good training ground for public administration.

They call their victory mandate. I call it suicide on the part of the gullible, naïve, stupid voters.

I remember a story shared by one of my aunts (may she rest in peace) about a congressman during the pre-Martial Law years who offered to sing a song instead of being made to explain his vote. Later, I read somewhere that another congressman wanted to file a bill that would prohibit typhoons from entering the country.

The Commission on Elections may disqualify so-called nuisance candidates, or those who file candidacies to make a mockery of the electoral process. I agree that there are really people who just want to land on the news by filing candidacies for reasons that even a toddler would find outlandish. But there are also those who are disqualified simply because they are deemed incapable of expending for a serious campaign.

I have lost hopes that Congress would pass a bill banning political dynasties. We cannot expect its members to commit political suicide. However, don’t you think there should at least be a law that would raise the bar of qualifications for candidates regardless of their economic status? Democracy should not mean limiting the people to a few stupid choices. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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