Across the globe, the sun hardly sets for the political dynasties. Just look at the long-running wacko rule in Stalinist North Korea. A fifth generation leadership is a 99 percent certainty in the Hermit Kingdom. Then, we look at Jeb!, who ambitions to be the third tax-cutter and war hawk in the Bush political family. From closed societies to mature democracies, the dynastic urges of nations never cease to amaze.
We have yet to talk about Japan, the world’s 3rd largest economy. And the princelings that have a grip on China. Or the Philippines for that matter. Venturing into the dynastic nature of Philippine politics, this is the long and the short of it, will give one fits of depression. The 2016 presidential elections explain the “ whys.”
For a relatively young republic whose first inaugural centered on a president named Manuel Acuna Roxas, the 2016 elections will feature his grandson, Mar Araneta Roxas, as the standard bearer of the ruling political coalition, the Liberal Party. The LP, this is essentially political trivia, had its first big moment in 1946, and it was then a nascent political party that just broke away from the mainline Nacionalista Party (NP) to banner the candidacy of the the Roxas who became the first president of the republic. So forming a new political party, not based on principles but to banner the ambitions of a group of politicians, is really nothing new. It came with the birth of the republic.
So it was in 1946, so it would be in 2016. The same names and political party, including the A in the middle. As if nothing has changed with the world. The Pooh-Bahs of 1946 are still the same Pooh –Bahs today. There were only a few deviations from the eternal rule of durable Pooh-Bahs.
Actually, no surprises there. What adds spice and color to this narrative is another surname, Aquino, with which the Roxas political family seems to be intertwined.
Before the declaration of martial rule in 1972, which was also the schedule of a presidential election, the LP was torn between the presidential; ambition of two leaders, Gerardo “ Gerry “ Roxas, the senior senator who was backed by the party elders led by Jovito Salonga, and the junior senator who was the unanimous choice of the party rank-and-file, Benigno S. Aquino Jr.
The party elders kept pushing for Roxas but the groundswell of popular support was for Aquino. Governors, congressmen and local government leaders had rallied behind Aquino in defiance of the party elders. They saw in Aquino a runaway winner against the candidate of the unpopular Marcos regime. The declaration of martial law settled that issue but it was believed that the groundswell of support for Aquino would have intimidated the late Gerry Roxas, to a point that he would just abandon his presidential dream in favor of a brash upstart who was deemed, at that pre-nomination stage, as the country’s next president.
In 2010, this drama of two political families was repeated anew. Another Roxas, Mar Araneta Roxas, endorsed the presidential dream of another Aquino, the incumbent president without further ado, despite the latter’s thin governing and management resume. The year 2010 had recognized the data in politics. And Mar Roxas, looking at his mathematical chances of a presidential win, saw nothing and just gave way to the more popular Aquino.
It was a good decision for Roxas. Sliding to be Aquino’s veep candidate, he lost to Mr. Binay, an unexpected defeat that turned out a lot of tears and recrimination and self-doubt. President Aquino repaid in full. Over the past five years Mr. Aquino allowed Mr. Roxas to get any position in government that was perceived to be helpful for a presidential run. He was placed at the front, back and center of every important undertaking of government, a de facto co-president.
With just one presidential cycle as gap, we will be witness to this Aquino-Roxas drama anew. President Aquino has endorsed Mar Araneta Roxas as the LP’s 2016 candidate. The same names, the same party and nothing has changed. It is our bloodless Game of Thrones, in which a few families attempt (two families precisely) to pass on the power to govern from one to the other.
In a sense, we are a monarchy operating under the false pretenses of a democracy.
But then, are the two other declared candidates, Ms. Poe and Mr. Binay, exemplars of political meritocracy? Sadly, no.
Mr. Binay presides over a sprawling political family, although new. The son is the mayor of the country’s premier city, a post passed on by the elder Binay to his Junior. There is a daughter in the Senate and another daughter in the House of Representatives.
Ms. Poe is technically outside of a political dynasty. Her parents, though, are considered the King and Queen of Philippine Movies and in this star-struck country of ours, that is a lineage more valuable and influential than being the descendant of a president.