[Opinion] New faces or forgeries of the old

It has become prominent today that kin of incumbent officials enter the May 2013 electoral battlefield.

In Iloilo City alone, familiar names like Treñas, Zulueta, Dela Llana, Ganzon, Espinosa, Gonzalez, Malabor, Tupas or Baronda are listed for selection as candidates in the upcoming elections. These names have become semi-permanent in local politics in the last 10 years or more. Even individuals sharing the family name of Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog occupy posts in his administration.

There is nothing wrong with family members occupying strategic posts in government. Some of them say they have “good intentions” and a “genuine heart to serve the public”.

In political science, however, the turn-over or substitution from a family member to the next kin is the process of ensuring continuity in the position of power. This is best described as nepotism, a concept considered as the minefield of political dynasty.

During his lecture at the Iloilo Media Institute, Jigger Latoza of the University of San Agustin provided a deeper scrutiny of political dynasties in the Philippines – its roots and impact on society and our way of life.

Allow me to liberally cite the findings shared by Jigger Latoza on the issue. There are about 250 political dynasties (families) that have dominated Philippine politics at the national and local levels and they have monopolized political power in the past 30 years or more, according to the Center for People Empowerment in Governance at University of the Philippines-Diliman (CENPEG, 2007).

It is not surprising to learn that “each of the country’s 80 provinces has political dynasties competing with each other for national and local elective posts”. In Iloilo province, we have the Tupases, Garins, Maloneses and Birons. The Navas of Guimaras cannot be far behind.

There are also 178 dominant political dynasties in the country, excluding those from the remote areas. Out of these dominant dynasties, 100 or 56 percent are old elites like the Osmeña, Dimaporo and Dy families while the 78 or 44 percent are new elites that entered the picture between EDSA-1 and the post Marcos-era elections like the Biazons and Cayetano.

In the post-2010 elections, 68 percent of the seats in the Lower House are held by members of political dynasties. In the Upper House, on the other hand, there is a higher dominance of political dynasties at 80 percent of the 23 seats.

One member of a political family puts a cultural context to the political dynasty concept by explaining that in the Philippines there is a cultural dimension to nepotism and its scope is not limited to one’s political position. He explained that it is a time-honored practice in the family wherein senior family members encourage the new generation to continue the noble vocation that they have started. For instance, medical practitioners are persuasive in encouraging their children to follow their footsteps by sharing to them their “trade secret”. The same customary practice is prominent in the field of law and jurisprudence, he shared.

But, the handing over of “trade secrets” more often delivers irreversible impact to our government institutions, to our people and to society. This is mostly the case especially if those chosen to carry on the torch are incompetent.

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