Twilight of the patriarchs
Despite the dispiriting results of the midterm elections that saw largely the same slew of traditional politicians, plunderers and incompetents retaking center stage, there are pockets of
hope that light up an otherwise bleak landscape.
Unofficial but decisive election returns have shown that in cities and towns all over the country, several political dynasties have crumbled, their decades-old monolithic rule shattered almost overnight by a raft of fresh young faces, some of them virtual unknowns.
Hardest hit was the Estrada-Ejercito clan, which fielded three generations of assorted kin to run at all levels of local and national elective positions. All but one of them were dealt a crushing defeat.
Ousted president Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s two sons, Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito, both lost the senatorial race. The Estradas also lost heavily in San Juan, their bailiwick, where the clan had dominated politics for the last 50 years. The city dumped Jinggoy’s daughter, mayoral candidate Janella Ejercito Estrada, and went for young Zamora scion, Francis.
Estrada’s daughter, Jerika Ejercito, failed in her bid for councilor in Manila, while his nephew, Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito, who ran for Laguna governor, is losing. And so is Gary Jason “Gary” Estrada, who vied for Cainta vice mayor.
In Manila, the former mayor lost his reelection bid to former ally Isko Moreno Domagoso, 44, whose campaign stressed his plucky example as a Tondo native who rose from garbage boy to movie star to vice mayor, and who had a better grasp of the ills of the country’s capital city.
The Eusebios of Pasig suffered a similar fate after 27 years of supremacy over the city’s politics; reelectionist Robert Eusebio lost his mayoral bid to 29-year-old Vico Sotto.
Elsewhere, other formidable political houses fell — from the Gordons and Magsaysays of Zambales to the Osmeñas of Cebu, the Javiers of Antique, the Zaragozas of Ilocos Sur, the Seares and Luna clans of Abra, the Jalosjos clan of Zamboanga del Norte and the Lobregats of Zamboanga City.
In Quezon City, former Ilocos warlord Bingbong Crisologo lost his mayoral bid to Gen X-er Joy Belmonte. In Makati, stalwart Jejomar Binay suffered a startling loss to Kid Peña for a seat in Congress.
Most gratifying is the gubernatorial win of former party list representative Kaka Bag-ao over a member of the Ecleos, who had ruled the Dinagat Islands since the 1980s.
“A dynasty can only last for so long,” said lawyer and former Ateneo School of Government dean Antonio La Viña. If there’s anything positive about the recent elections, La Viña added, it is knowing that “you can actually topple dynasties and giants.”
Political dynasties and entrenched family interests do remain the norm, and far from withering away, they will continue to dominate the food chain.
The Fariñas clan, the Singsons and the Marcoses still hold court in the Ilocos region, as do the Garcias, the Remullas, the Gatchalians, the Abalos family, the Aguilars and Villars, the Oretas, the Cayetanos and, of course, the Dutertes, in Cebu, Cavite, Valenzuela, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Malabon, Taguig and Davao, respectively.
But in many local places at least, it seems change through the ballot is in the offing. The entry of a new batch of young voters and the rise of younger candidates may yet signal the beginnings of a sea change in Philippine politics, beginning with the piecemeal banishment of the patriarchs and kingpins of the old order.
The exit of the old guard, such as the extraordinarily tenacious Juan Ponce Enrile, 95, who lost his senatorial bid, should come as a reminder that nothing lasts forever. All things come to an
end. One day you’re at the zenith, the next day the wheel has turned. It may take 6, 27, 50 years — but as surely as night wraps up the day, the curtain will fall on power.
Those lording it over at this time, triumphant and roaring drunk in the trough, would do well to remember how, in ancient Rome, victorious generals parading through the streets in their chariots always had a slave standing behind them, intoning into their ear throughout the pageant: “Remember, you are mortal.”
Yes, even the most politically exalted is mortal and cannot last forever. Well, nothing does. Everything is fleeting. Even power. Especially power.
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