One of the funniest cartoons ever drawn depicted the white South African president Pieter Botha (a lonely white dot at the edge of the drawing) telling thousands of black dots who practically occupy the entire drawing, “You are under arrest.”
Seeing that cartoon, I knew with reasonable certitude that Nelson Mandela and his followers would win. Apartheid was history.
Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad is in the same hole as the Afrikaner president in his current struggle to persuade this nation of 100 million that the appointment of 11 members of his family to choice positions in the Aquino administration is “not nepotism.” Everyone is against him. Even language itself says he’s wrong. It’s nepotism, pure and simple.
The appointment of Abad’s relatives all over the government map is indubitably nepotism, in much the same way that the DAP payoffs to the senators in the Corona impeachment trial were indubitably bribes.
Abnormal , unethical and grotesque
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda can rationalize the issue to death. It will not change the reality, that it’s abnormal, unethical and grotesque for one family to monopolize so many key positions in the government.
The more Lacierda talks, the bigger the hole becomes.
“Their surnames,” says Lacierda, “should not be a basis for saying they have too much power. I think their performance in government should be a gauge as to whether they are an asset to the country and to the government.” How on earth can he win his case this way?
Then there’s Abad’s reply to Bishop Bacani’s call for him to resign out of delicadeza: “What delicadedza are we talking about?” he asked. The very fact that he asked means he has no ounce of delicadeza in his body.
Finally, there’s President Aquino weird contribution to the defensive effort, his admonition to Bishop Bacani: “Judge not, lest you be judged.”
I can already see on the horizon hundreds of thousands rising to judge Abad, Aquino and the Administration.
It’s raining Abads in government
Why does the idea of Abads raining on the government sound so repellent ?
Basically because it is the antithesis of our democratic ideal of building a truly egalitarian society, where there is opportunity for all.
The very history of democratic civilization is the story of the fight against nepotism.
The war against nepotism was principally led by America in the 18th century, starting with the abolition of English inheritance practices. The trend continued in the nineteenth century, with the creation of a federal civil service based on merit and efficiency rather than on family connections.
This tradition of meritocracy was carried to our shores by the American conquest of 1898. And we’ve followed this tradition since.
If the Abad nepotism is allowed to stand and persist, it would mean the reversion of this country to hereditary rule. It would herald the defeat of the principles of freedom, meritocracy and equal opportunity, which were the ideals for which our people fought in our national revolution.
Since President Aquino is fighting so staunchly for the Abads, we must ask him: Did generations of our people fight for independence only to yield their precious birthright to the Abad family?
It’s true, of course, that not all nepotism is as execrable as this. In business, especially in family businesses, there is a long tradition of hereditary succession. In the professions, in certain occupations and other callings, it’s quite natural for children to follow in the career choices of their parents. And they are helped along the way.
Up to a point, nepotism can contribute to a stable and working social order.
But in government service, nepotism is a grave disorder, the equivalent of rape.
The Ph rule on nepotism
Nepotism, simply defined, is the allocation and distribution of appointments in the government on the basis of kinship,
It is the sibling of patronage, which is the disbursement of the discretionary favors of government in exchange for political support and to favored groups.
The current Philippine rule on Nepotism is covered by Section 9, Rule XIII of the 1998 Memorandum Circular No. 40 of the Civil Service Commission, which states that “No appointment in the national, provincial, city or municipal governments or any branch or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned and/or -controlled corporations with original charters shall be made in favor of relative or the appointing or recommending authority, or of the chief of the bureau or office or of the person exercising immediate supervision over the appointee.”
The memorandum also provides that “unless otherwise provided by law, the word relative and the members of the family referred to are those related within the third degree either of consanguinity or of affinity.”
Abad is not alone
United Nationalist Alliance secretary general and Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco deserves much credit for bringing the nepotism issue to public light.
Thanks to him, the nation has learned that Abad is not alone in milking high office for the appointment of relatives to choice positions in the government.
Aside from Abad, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje has nine declared relatives in government—two sisters; two brothers-in-law; a sister-in-law; two nieces; and two nephews.
Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla has seven declared relatives, while Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. declared five relatives each.
The extent of nepotism in the Aquino administration betrays how poorly it has been organized, and why it has been plagued by incompetence. Many of the favored appointees do not have the backgrounds and skillsets for purposive and dedicated public service.
The controversy instructs us why nepotism is more harmful than patronage. Patronage, at least, seeks the expansion of political support for and the effectiveness of the appointing power.
In contrast, nepotism is entirely selfish; it seeks mainly to advance a family’s interest.
By weakening meritocracy and diminishing efficiency, nepotism costs the nation plenty.
The only efficient thing Abad can point to is the efficiency with which his Department of Budget and Management has abetted the looting of the public treasury. Not surprisingly, some DBM top officials are among those charged by the Ombudsman in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Abad should follow once he is shamed enough.