Political positions as family heirlooms
The election season is truly heating up, not only on the national scene, but more so in the provinces and cities, the fiefdoms of local political families. These families have, for decades, arrogated to themselves political power as if it is their entitlement at birth. Many local government units have been run by members of the same family, or a family related to them by marriage through decades. Consequently, some localities become synonymous with the political families that have exercised control over their constituents.
For starters, we can enumerate the following: the Dutertes of Davao City (from the patriarch Rodrigo to his daughter Sara, then now possibly to one of his sons, Baste); the Duranos, Osmeñas of Cebu; the Cagas family of Davao del Sur; the Romualdezes of Leyte; the Dimaporos of Lanao del Norte; the Marcoses and Singsons of the Ilocos provinces, among a long list of other political families. (Space does not allow us to list them all). And who has not heard of the once powerful Ampatuan family of Maguindanao? At the height of their family’s power, almost all children of the late Andal Sr. held local chief executive positions. But the Ampatuan family fell from grace after the gruesome massacre of journalists and other civilians in Barangay Salman, Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on Nov. 23, 2009.
Members of the same family not only want to control local government units; but they also desire to be part of a much bigger and more powerful national political unit, like the Senate.
In the roster of senatorial candidates for this year’s elections, we have two sons of former president Joseph Estrada, (Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito); one brother of an incumbent senator (Alan Peter Cayetano, sibling of Sen. Pia Cayetano); one son of Sen. Cynthia Villar (Mark, the former public works secretary); former vice president Jojo Binay, father of Senator Nancy. If all these senatorial hopefuls get lucky, the Philippines will become the only country in the world with siblings, mother and son, father and daughter as members of the second most powerful branch of government—the legislative.
Lest we forget, presidential daughter Sara is running for the second highest position in the country. If lucky stars are on her side this coming May, she will be the first presidential daughter to become vice president, a position that is figuratively a whisper away from the presidency.
Perhaps this entitlement of “passing on” the privilege of being elected into public office is enabled by an election law that allows for substitution of candidates after the filing of candidacies is declared closed. Among those allowed to substitute are members of the family of those who withdrew their candidacies as long as they have the same surname, or members of the same political party. Which brings us to the question why such a law was passed in the first place. But based on our political history, legislators have always filed laws favoring their own kind; they never legislated against themselves or the social class they represent.
Once elected to government positions, politicians tend to hold proprietary “rights” over the political structure and the areas they control as chief executives. They immediately declare “ownership” of government property, even of the people belonging to key institutions, like the police and the military. For instance, President Duterte is widely known for referring to the members of the police force and the military as “my policemen” and “my soldiers.”
Many politicians do not see anything wrong with this selfish desire to perpetuate themselves by passing their political power on to their sons and daughters, and other members of their family. Entrenching themselves in the consciousness of their constituents for a long time will ensure their “continuity” as the local franchise holders of political power. In doing this, politicians believe they are leaving behind a “legacy.” For them, these are heirlooms of their family, along with the wealth and other perks they have wrested from government coffers while in power.
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