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As I See It
The two sides of political dynasties

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:44:00 12/16/2009

Filed Under: Inquirer Politics, Maguindanao Massacre, Family, Eleksyon 2010

The Maguindanao massacre and the Ampatuan clan have focused attention once more on political dynasties. The Ampatuan dynasty may be the worst example of the evils of political dynasties, but there are many more of them all over the Philippines. Almost all provinces are ruled with iron fists by clans, so much so that the Philippines resembles Medieval Europe where fiefdoms were ruled by dukes and counts and barons. This resulted in frequent wars between rival lords, in frequent abuses on the citizenry which, in turn, gave rise to stories such as that of Robin Hood. In Mindanao, Muslim datus are the equivalent of the medieval warlords.

But warlords are not limited to Muslim areas. There are also warlords in Christian areas. Some provinces were drenched with the blood of members of rival clans. I am sure more blood will be shed this election season. That would be the handiwork of political dynasties.

The 1987 Constitution bans political dynasties but the framers left it to Congress to pass the implementing law. But many of its members belong to political dynasties, thus no implementing law has been filed or even drafted, and even if one is filed, I don?t think it would get to first base.

The subject was discussed extensively at the Kapihan sa Manila last Monday where the two guests belong to political dynasties. They were Rep. Bongbong Marcos of the Marcos clan in Ilocos Norte and Gwen Pimentel of the Pimentel clan of Cagayan de Oro City. Both are running for senator in the Nacionalista Party ticket. In addition, Bongbong?s sister Imee is running for governor of Ilocos Norte, against a cousin, Michael Keon, the incumbent. Their mother, the unsinkable Imeldific, will be running for the congressional seat to be vacated by Bongbong. So if mother and son both win next year, there would be a Marcos in both houses of Congress.

On the other hand, Gwen, the daughter of Nene Pimentel, hopes to succeed the senator who is on his last term. Her brother, Koko, ran for senator in the opposition ticket in 2007 but was defeated by Migz Zubiri because of the votes from, where else, Maguindanao. Koko filed an election protest, and the latest report is that he is winning and may be proclaimed soon.

?Soon? is a relative term. Will he be proclaimed before the term ends?

If Koko wins and Gwen wins, there will be a brother and sister team in the Senate, which would not be unprecedented. There already is a brother-and-sister team in the Senate: Pia and Alan Peter Cayetano, children of the late Sen. Rene Cayetano. There used to be a mother-and-son team, too: Senators Loi Ejercito and Jinggoy Estrada. And there is a father-and-son team in both houses of Congress: Sen. Rodolfo Biazon and Rep. Ruffy Biazon. Since they are on their last terms, the father and son will change places in next year?s elections.

In the provinces, from Bataan to Biliran to Maguindanao to Sulu, family patriarchs, already governors of their provinces, had their children, wives, siblings, grandchildren, and in-laws elected as mayors, vice mayors, councilors, etc. When their terms expire, the family members change places.

The constitutional ban on political dynasties is a dead-letter law. Instead of decreasing, political dynasties are increasing. Not only in the provinces but also in the urban areas where the voters are supposed to be more intelligent, even in Metro Manila.

Being members of political dynasties, Bongbong and Gwen were asked to comment on the proliferation of dynasties, and as expected they see nothing wrong with them.

?It all depends on the voters,? said Marcos. ?If they don?t like the family, they can vote for the rival candidates. The fact that they keep voting for family members means that their performance records are good and the people are satisfied with them.?

Gwen agrees. Children of political families become attuned to public service, she said. They learn the ropes from their fathers and so no time is wasted in the learning process. Gwen herself is a lawyer and has been chief of staff in the Senate office of her father for so many years and so she is familiar with the workings of the upper house.

After hearing the two expound on many subjects, on the nation?s problems, how they would try to solve them, their advocacies, the bills they would file, I had second thoughts about banning political dynasties. It would be a pity if the two would be banned from running for the Senate because of the constitutional provision. They sound very intelligent, they know the problems and have solutions to them.

Bongbong, particularly, is burdened by the Marcos notoriety. Which is unfair really, because the Marcos children were not responsible for the excesses of their parents. They were still children when Ferdinand and Imelda were doing to the Philippines what the Ampatuans did to Maguindanao.

The young Marcos seemed so different from the older Marcos?in speech, thinking, and manners. He would be a much better senator than two incumbent senators from show biz who are members of the committee on silence and who have the temerity to run for reelection in the administration ticket.

Gwen, too, would make a good senator.

As for the brouhaha in the NP senatorial ticket, where militant party-list Representatives Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna) and Liza Maza (Gabriela), guest candidates in the Villar ticket, protested the coalition of the NP with the Marcos Kilusan Bagong Lipunan, a happy compromise has been reached. The NP-KBL coalition has been dissolved but Marcos will be a guest (not an official) candidate. Official candidates will campaign with the group; guest candidates will be in the ticket but will have to campaign separately.

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