POLITICS the Philippines should, like as any part of the world, be about leadership. Not a family affair.
Philippines is enjoying the privilege of being democratic. We have all the rights which a citizen deserves to have and that includes the right of holding a public office.
An existing provision in the constitution states that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law” (Art II, section 26).
The first thought guarantees equal opportunity but the proceeding idea eliminates the absolute freedom especially to those who belong to the same clan. This provision clearly shows that political dynasties are prohibited.
Political dynasties, according to, Alan F. Paguia, a law professor at the Ateneo Law School, may be understood in two ways. It may either be a succession of government officials in the same line or family, or an influential family in government which continues in existence for considerable time.
Whichever understanding we take, it still involves people who came from the same clan passing one public office from one generation to another.
The ascendancy of political dynasties rooted many years ago, back to the Spanish and American colonization.
According to Filipino journalist Nestor Mata, the emergence of dynastic political families may very well be traced to Spanish colonial times when favored families or the “ilustrados” were given responsibilities as “Gobernadorcillos” and “Alcaldes” and wielded great influence in their towns and cities.
A study of Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) traced the emergence of political dynasties in the Philippines to the introduction by the Americans of electoral politics in the early 20th century.
This introduction to electoral politics happened after the Philippine-American War where the American colonial authorities took the “ilustrados” under their wing.
In the first elections the US organized, to be eligible to run you had to come from a set of elite families recognized by the Americans, called the principalia. This system paved way for the oligarchs to have a big start and incumbent advantage.
Since then, these families enjoyed ruling the country until the late President Corazon Aquino took over in 1987 and implemented Charter change.
It was during this time when a new constitution was framed and Art II, section 26 became a very important provision.
This provision has been called for enactment but the 1987 Philippine Constitution framers haven’t clarified the last five words of the provision, “as maybe defined by law”.
Many attempts to carry out the corrective constitutional provision have been done since 1987 to present but these tries kept on failing because majority of our senators, representatives, governors, vice governors, provincial and city mayors and councilors are successors of political clans and making any efforts to amend the provision is a suicide.
And because the vagueness and ambiguity of this constitutional provision isn’t settled until now, more and more people from the same political clans continue to do the business, as usual.
A study conducted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center (AIMPC) shows that seven out of every 15 legislators are members of families that are considered political dynasties and 115 legislators (68 percent of Congress) belong to the Dynasty 3 category or those with relatives who were legislators since the 12th Congress until the 15th Congress or local officials elected in 2001 or currently occupying elective posts, not to mention the additional dynastic people who are running for office in the 2013 mid-term elections.
Over the years, politics in the Philippines became more of a family affair. This ‘affair’ became very unfair to Filipinos because this took away the chance of other brilliant people to run for public office precisely because dynastic families control the political parties and the whole system. This, too, became a manifestation that the people in authority, the people we look up to, are the ones who are violating the fundamental law of the land.
This ill in the system became very hard to cure because this has been the way of life for Filipinos. All of the political families exist because of the exaggeration of being a family-oriented nation where people tend to put family above all things even if has the tendency of injuring the public.
Political dynasties may be inevitable but at the end of the day, the decision is still ours to make. We all have the choices.
Sunday Essays are essays by students of Ateneo de Davao University for their journalism class.