Filipinos need to break the stranglehold of political dynasties | Inquirer Opinion

Filipinos need to break the stranglehold of political dynasties

/ 04:05 AM November 16, 2022

Before my retirement, my work visits to several Asian countries in the 2000s gave me the rare opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of their socioeconomic, cultural, and political situations. This resulted from my interactions with all kinds of rights holders and duty bearers.

We are at par with our now-rich neighbors in educational attainment, intellectual capacity, innovations, etc. We are deeply religious like most of them, although we worship a different Supreme Being. In my travels, I then wondered why our country was far behind Singapore, Malaysia, etc. And yet we were better off than them in the past. I was also aware our poorer neighbors were fast catching up with us. For example, Vietnam, which was ravaged by a vicious war for years, was in full throttle. It’s obvious from the ’70s onwards, our country has retrogressed from one administration to another, except for a while after 2010.


Of course, debt of gratitude, crab mentality, not-invented-here syndrome, “gaya-gaya,” etc. obstruct our march toward progress and prosperity. And our governance lapses, foremost of which is graft and corruption, have prevented us from moving forward. One time, I overheard at a lounge in the Heathrow Airport that corrupt Philippine government officials laundered their stolen money abroad. Their counterparts in other Asian countries invested theirs in their respective countries. So corrupt government officials in other Asian countries were unwittingly helping their economies grow.

The Catholic Church forgives sins, no matter how mortal, once confessed to a clergy member. This practice allows politicians to commit sins time and time again. And all kinds of Christians attribute their personal and professional successes to God directly or via the intercessions of saints or pastors or evangelists. This belief encourages Christians to donate sums of money to their respective churches, which have become super rich. Religious orders must calibrate their tenets and practices in these troubled times.


Political dynasties have ruled many of our provinces for a long time. Most of today’s mayors, governors, congressmen, et al. have merely replaced their forebears. For them, an election is merely a formality. Over the years, they have perfected the formula for making themselves electoral winners, come hell or high water. Debts of gratitude to them by their constituents have been repaid by votes. They have positioned their sons and daughters as their prospective successors at a young age. No wonder it has been easy for them to have their children get elected as governors, mayors, congressional representatives, etc.

Today, the sad reality is the cards are stacked in favor of political dynasties. In other words, they will continue to run roughshod over their fiefdoms, so to speak, for a long time. There is nothing on the horizon to suggest longtime supporters will reconsider. Their debts of gratitude, for which they have repaid with their votes, keep on piling up.

It’s been our fate to shield our neighbors from the onslaughts of monster typhoons that hit our landmass first. Whatever little progress we achieve here and there is negated by monster typhoons; and today, by the horrifying COVID-19 pandemic. Nongovernmental organizations have eased the suffering of the poor, especially in times of crises. But they can only do so much, which is to mitigate the negative effects of adversities for the poor to survive. They create the preconditions for them to thrive, but it is the lookout of governments to make them thrive.

For now, it looks like the only way to derail political dynasties from perpetuating their rule is to plead with their descendants booked for succession. With many of them with sterling education and a putative deep understanding of the world’s realities, they might respond to a call for patriotism, if not kindness of heart. If this still fails, unless there is a reboot from heaven, we will remain in the stranglehold of political dynasties until the end of time.

Nono Felix, [email protected]

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