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FLEA MARKET OF IDEAS

The plague of fraternities

Together with the campaign to rid our country of political dynasties, we should equally campaign to rid our government of the plague of fraternities.

Political dynasties and fraternities are the two major causes of patronage politics in the Philippines. A dynasty or fraternity member who gets elected or appointed to a position of power is innately motivated to dispense public office, jobs, and contracts to a fellow member.

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Dynasties and fraternities are the major reasons Filipinos fail to attain a kind of government where appointments to crucial positions are based on merit. They are also the reasons why professionals who aspire to advance their careers based on qualifications leave public service and migrate to the private sector where the currency for promotion is merit and not
patronage politics.

Like political dynasties, fraternities inseminate the grounds of public service with seeds of corruption. They are prone to functioning like syndicates, with a private agenda to enhance the interest of their members, while mouthing national interest in public.

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Fraternity members who obtain positions merely because of their fraternity connection are like cancer cells that destroy the healthy fabric of professionalism in the government.

Every time there’s a change in administration, career officials who have been toiling for years to attain expertise in their public positions are greatly demoralized because the new powers-that-be and those close to them appoint fraternity “brods” as heads of agencies. It doesn’t matter that the appointed “brod” possesses inferior expertise and experience. It doesn’t matter that the whole bureaucracy is assaulted with the revolting reality that seniority, qualifications, and ethical service do not matter at all for career advancement.

The culture that is cultivated and which has become deeply ingrained in the minds of our civil servants is that “connection” trumps qualifications in government service. And the element of connection is at its finest when one is a member of the fraternity to which those in power also belong.

The pestilence of fraternities has blighted the corridors of power in the government from the martial law regime to the current administration. Ferdinand Marcos packed the Supreme Court and top positions in his administration, and awarded business monopolies, to his Upsilon Sigma Phi fraternity brothers.

In the succeeding administrations — of Corazon Aquino, Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III — senators, congressmen, and Cabinet secretaries who were “frat men” used their positions of influence to get their “brods” appointed to juicy posts. Members of fraternities like Sigma Rho, Alpha Phi Beta, Alpha Sigma, Aquila Legis, and Utopia were put in positions of power because they were “brods.” Even leadership positions in nonpolitical institutions like the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the University of the Philippines were ensnared through fraternity affiliation.

President Duterte has continued this highly repulsive practice by appointing members of his own fraternity, Lex Talionis, to important government posts. As early as last year, Lex Talionis members had cornered key posts at the Department of Justice, Bureau of Immigration, Securities and Exchange Commission, Insurance Commission, Social Security System, Anti-Money Laundering Council, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., National Tobacco Administration, and Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, among others.

Several of his fraternity brothers whom he appointed to key government posts have been embroiled in corruption scandals — like the two immigration commissioners who received P50 million in bribe money — thereby making a mockery of the President’s anticorruption campaign.

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If there’s a rule on nepotism that prohibits the appointment of relatives in government posts, there should be a corresponding rule that makes the appointment of fraternity brothers to positions crucial to the public interest a crime.

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TAGS: Flea Market of Idea, fraternities, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, patronage politics, political dynasties
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