It’s a joyful thing getting that the Anti-Dynasty Bill passed for the first time ever, even if only at the committee level in Congress. The timing is also perfect.
Because it’s been revealed that for many things, including the seeming bottleneck of relief operations—no rescue operations there, let’s be clear – in Tacloban, political dynasty is a critical part of governance and “public service” as it happens in this country. It is also what informs the corruption that ascertains continued poverty for the poor, more wealth for the already wealthy. Power for the already powerful.
That is not just a systemic dysfunction that can be changed by having decent, honest, incorruptible people—families —in government. This country has proven time and again, that it is risky business, if not an altogether dangerous thing. The Aquinos, the Marcoses, the Ampatuans —all dynasties. Dynasties, full stop.
Patronage as basic evil
At the heart of the discussions about the fight against the pork barrel is patronage politics. It is patronage after all that makes sure that certain laws are passed, and many others ignored. It is patronage politics that allows for taxpayer’s money to become pawns for the power-play between the Executive and the Judiciary, Malacañang and the Congress and Senate. Patronage politics explains to us why the money released to Congressmen and Senators differ from each other; those amounts prove that patronage politics does exist, and is a fundamental part of governance as we know it.
Declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the pork barrel funds are now in the hands of the President—a scary thing in itself. After all, if what is important to this president are allies, and if his tendency is to use this money to get Congressmen and Senators on his side, or get his priority legislation passed, then we just gave him more money to play with.
Now if the belief in alliances is what has made for dysfunctional system, imagine what the dynasty has made of governance.
All in the blood
Here, it is not just about kampihan, as it is about blood relations. Political blood means a name that can win elections; political blood means one family reigning over cities and towns, if not whole provinces. I’ve lived in Mandaluyong most my life and there’s really only been one family reigning over this city. Sometimes the name would change from Abalos to Gonzales, but no one is fooled by it; from the barangay level, it is clear which names are allied with the all-powerful Mandaluyong dynasty, and those names just win election after election.
But probably the more notorious—because more controversial—dynasty is that of the Binays of Makati, who have held the mayoralty post for years on end. Now Vice President, Jejomar has a daughter each in the Lower and Upper Houses, as his son keeps the mayor’s seat hot for the next family member or close ally. Nancy, who is now Senator, was an unknown when her bid for the Senate was announced; she was attacked for running for office with only her name and no credentials nor experience. She won anyway.
So did Bam Aquino, who is nothing but social entrepreneur and whose work as youth leader remains questionable. The daring to have run for the Senate, and not even go through the local government posts, just reeked of arrogance. Only those with blood relations to the President would dare.
The shamelessness is clear, isn’t it? And it need not have anything to do with whether these are families that we trust, or people who are not corrupt. To even imagine running for office, knowing full well that you are using only your name to win that position, already speaks of a kind of corruption after all. It also comes with delusion: “we” are the ones who can run this city, or province . . . or country.
Anyone who thinks these families winning election after election is the voice of the people is absolutely misinformed, and I’m talking to you, Senator Nancy. It is not the voice of the people when the people are left with only names to choose from, when they are miseducated and undereducated (on purpose, by the way) about how to vote and who to vote for beyond those familiar names.
We pay with our blood, too
There is no justice in a country where power (and taxpayers’ money!) can be concentrated within one family, one name, no matter who they are. Because we’ve also proven that more often than not, this means more harm than good.
The extreme version of this is the Ampatuan Dynasty of Maguindanao, a name now equated across the world with the massacre that happened on November 23 2009. The families of the victims of this 58-person massacre, including 32 journalists and media workers, are on their fourth year of waiting for justice.
Primary suspects Unsay Ampatuan, Andal Ampatuan Sr., and Zaldy Ampatuan have been in jail, yes. And hearings began on January 5, 2010, yes. But a conviction seems far-off. This is for a crime that has made the Philippines the most dangerous place for journalists. This is for a crime that had one Andal Ampatuan Jr. leading 192 others to intercept and kill with impunity the convoy of political rival Esmael Mangundadatu —all 58 people who were part of it, no matter their innocence.
This is a crime borne of the Ampatuan Dynasty, and yet the dynasty continues to wield power in Maguindanao. Sixteen members of the Ampatuan clan won in the 2010 elections; 80 members of the clan were running for various posts in 2013, and while some of them lost, one too many of them won still.
That is not the voice of a people who are given the capacity to choose, who are freely and safely shading those names on a ballot. That is about a lack of political will to change things; it is about the lack of an anti-dynasty bill that has given birth to this travesty. Worse, it is the lack of an anti-dynasty bill that allowed for that fateful day in November 23 2009 to happen.
Unchecked and uncontrolled, the members of a political dynasty can do whatever they want: stay in positions of power, or go higher than they’re used to; build a private army; spend taxpayer’s money, lay claim to a whole town or city. One has to think: where is the justice in that?