Transform dynasty into legacy
The congressional hearing on whether to revise our Constitution evoked a finger-pointing debate on political dynasties. Instead of tinkering with the Charter, Congress, according to framer Christian Monsod, should first focus on its mandate to define dynasties under Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution, “The State shall … prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” The change proponents responded that the framers could not define the nature, extent, and geographical and generational limits of dynasts. So, they simply passed the burden to Congress.
DYNASTIES HAVE NOT BEEN DEFINED for the simple reason that the presidency and Congress have always been dominated by dynasties. Our electorate placed them there with the full knowledge of their lineage and pedigree. Take a look at our presidents who were bound by this prohibition since the Charter took effect in 1987. All were dynastic except Fidel V. Ramos.
Cory Aquino, under whose direction the current Charter was chiseled, had several close kin in Congress, like senators Butz Aquino, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, and Bam Aquino, and representatives Peping Cojuangco and Hermie Aquino; and of course, her son, Benigno III, who became president by riding on the popular surge after her death. The two sons of Joseph Estrada, Jinggoy and JV, gloried his popularity to become senators of the realm. Like her father Diosdado, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became a vice president prior to being elected president while her son, Mikey, was chosen representative in her bailiwick in Pampanga. And so it was also for Rodrigo Duterte who, together with his children Sara, Paolo, and Baste, controlled the political arena in Davao City. Vice President Sara is a real president in waiting.
Ferdinand Marcos Sr. has the distinction of serving the longest (over two decades) as our president. His son, Ferdinand Jr., captured the presidency with a record-breaking 31 million votes, constituting over 50 percent of the total votes cast. His dynasts include charismatic Speaker Martin G. Romualdez, his young son Rep. Ferdinand Alexander “Sandro” Marcos III, and his persuasive sister, Sen. Imee Marcos. All of them are potential successors.
ASIDE FROM THE PRESIDENCY, Congress is also littered with dynasties. Take a look at the Villars, Cayetanos, Binays, Gatchalians, etc. No one can say they are evil per se; in fact, most are talented and well-intentioned.
Even more pervasive are the dynasties in our neighboring countries. While theoretically neutral in politics, no one has been chosen prime minister without the direct or indirect blessing of the king of Thailand. It is a crime to speak ill of him. While largely a ceremonial head, the emperor of Japan, like the Thai king, is venerated with God-like reverence. In Malaysia, the sultans are constitutional monarchs of its nine states, with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong as the federal head of state performing diplomatic and military functions.
In business, the founders and heads of our various conglomerates leave their vast fortunes to their children and heirs. Though many times uneducated but endowed with intrepid entrepreneurship, they nonetheless send their children to the best schools here and abroad, so they could worthily continue their legacy. The country’s oldest conglomerate, Ayala Corporation, owes its success mainly to properly training and educating the heirs in corporate leadership and governance. While some businessmen can be accused of unmitigated greed and brutishness, the conglomerate leaders I know are, by and large, patriotic, honest, fair, and philanthropic.
DYNASTIES ARE ALSO AT THE HEART OF MOST SUCCESSFUL PROFESSIONALS. Physicians and lawyers want their children to take over their professional practice, clinics, and offices. Even among ordinary citizens, the elders want their heirs to absorb and follow their native ways and folksy wisdom. I dreamt of down-streaming my legacy as a chief justice to my heirs. To my disappointment, however, none of them is a lawyer. So, I formed the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity to perpetuate my legacy and philosophy.
Dynasts—in politics, in business, in the professions, and among ordinary folks—are here to stay. It is in the historical genes of our people, as it is in many parts of the world. Given this reality, I think that instead of debating endlessly, we should learn to live with and transform dynasty into legacy. The forebears should be encouraged to lead by example, to inculcate in the next gen the culture of excellence, integrity, prudence, and humility, and to prepare them not only for the here and now but also for the hereafter and forever. They will be remembered for what they leave behind. History will judge them by their legacy.
Equally important, our populace must learn to demand and expect the dynasts to devote their full time, talent, and resources to abolish extreme poverty, tame inflation, protect our sovereignty, safeguard liberty, and nurture prosperity under the rule of law.
Impossible to transform dynasty into legacy? I dare say that abolishing dynasties is even more impossible.
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