IN DAVAO City, father and son are the candidates for mayor and vice-mayor, respectively. In Ilog, Negros Occidental, brothers are running for mayor and vice-mayor, respectively. In Camarines Sur, grandpa and grandson are contesting the governor’s office.
According to a 2011 Study by the Asian Institute of Management’s Policy Center, 77 percent of the young members (aged 40 and below) of the House of Representatives elected in 2010 belong to political dynasties (PDs). Next year’s midterm elections will showcase these vigorously flourishing clans.
How do PDs corrupt our society? Let me count the ways.
First, they corrupt our people. During election campaigns, their lieutenants will go house to house asking the head of the household if he is willing to become a “campaign leader.” If he agrees, his household will receive a weekly or monthly allowance until election day from the PD candidate. In exchange, the “campaign leader” is required to recruit at least 20 family leaders from his purok or barangay. He will promise each family leader an amount of money to be given on the eve of election day. At the appointed time, the “campaign leader” becomes a “corruption lieutenant” as he distributes the promised money from the PD candidate to the 20 family heads he had recruited.
PDs will argue that they are not the only ones playing the corruption game during elections. Agreed, but the truth is that they are the major players of the game in their localities.
Second, PDs corrupt our youth. During campaigns, they hire young females who are obliged to dress and dance provocatively to entertain the men. PDs also provide educational and financial assistance to high school and college youth, in exchange for loyalty and support during elections. Those with doubtful loyalties are removed from the program. On the ground, this practice has actually led some poor parents to fight and badmouth one another as they compete for educational assistance for their children.
Third, PDs corrupt our election officials and public school teachers in various innovative ways. Some are given cash outright. Some are bribed through free trips, whether to local destinations or overseas. In some cases, family members or relatives are appointed to public office or are coopted as candidates under the same political party.
Fourth, PDs corrupt our police officials. No mayor or governor or congressman will have a police chief in his area whose loyalty is questionable. A police chief with questionable loyalty will be reassigned somewhere. No wonder many of the abuses and illegal activities of political dynasties go unnoticed and unpunished, with government authorities looking the other way. The Ampatuans in Maguindanao are a clear example. For decades, there was no effort to dismantle the Ampatuans’ private army or to stop their illegal accumulation of wealth and weapons.
Fifth, PDs are the major reason for the proliferation of political warlords, private armies and political killings, especially in the provinces. All political warlords come from political dynasties, though not all PDs produce political warlords. All political warlords have private armies. It is only a question of how many armed men they maintain. According to a study by the Philippine National Police, during the 2010 elections 112 private armies were monitored, all of them belonging to political dynasties. If we can put a stop to PDs, we can most likely stop political warlordism. If we can stop political warlordism and their private armies, we can significantly lessen the political killings in the country.
Sixth, PDs disregard meritocracy. By sheer political clout alone, they get their family members and relatives appointed to government positions, whether at the national, regional or local level, even if others are more qualified.
Seventh, PDs are the primary reason why our local economies—provinces, cities and municipalities—remain poor and undeveloped. Studies show that the areas they control have more poverty and lower human development indices. Often, PDs no longer rack their brains or hire the best consultants on how to bring about progress and prosperity in their areas. They just do the “usual” infrastructure projects—like paving or cementing an old road—where they have “perfected” the commission system for their kickbacks. Growth in our local economies, if any, is not inclusive. Only the rich become richer, while the poor remain poor, if not become poorer.
As has been made obvious, political dynasties, with very few exceptions, are bad for our society.
It’s said that PDs do not “truly” want their areas developed fast enough, that they want to keep their constituents largely poor and ignorant, because this will allow them to continue winning elections and lording over their turf. In other words, keeping the status quo will allow them to perpetuate themselves in power.
If this is true, then these political dynasties—the bad ones, to be precise—are the enemy of the people. They are the major obstacle to our country’s progress and prosperity.
If this is true, then this fact must be presented to our people in black and white, in the clearest possible manner. According to the great Sun Tzu, who wrote the classic book “The Art of War,” one must fully know the enemy. If you do not know the enemy well enough, the enemy will keep on defeating you.
What must we do?
First, let’s not vote for candidates belonging to a political dynasty. If it is a good PD, let’s vote for only one candidate from that family.
Second, let’s do a personal campaign. Let’s convince family members, relatives, neighbors, officemates, and friends in our e-mail and Facebook groups not to vote for PD candidates, and to support those who are not.
Third, let’s join a group or movement opposing political dynasties.
In the Old Testament, God directed many leaders—David, Solomon, and Samuel, among others—to fight and defeat the enemies of their people. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ reminds us to fight greed all the time, and to defeat the ways of the greedy and the corrupt.
Clearly, God wants us to fight back as a people.
Alex Lacson is the author of “Faith in the Filipino: 12 Wonderful Things about the Filipino & our Country.” E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org