Political dynasties na naman ang debatehan because relatives of incumbents and end-termers filed certificates of candidacies. It is unpopular these days not to be against political dynasties so I will be unpopular. Dynasties are not the issue, voters are.
The Constitution prohibits but does not define dynasties. So here we are today arguing over something forbidden. But we don’t know exactly what it is. We have to define dynasty first. And in such a way that it does not curtail the constitutional right of all qualified citizens to run for elective office and the constitutional right of all qualified voters to elect the candidate of their choice.
It would be ironic if we passed an anti-dynasty law that is the flip-side of hereditary monarchy laws. That is, instead of disqualifying people from leadership because they do not belong to a bloodline we disqualify them because they belong to a bloodline. How can that be called progress? That’s no more a sign of progress than a cannibal dressing up for dinner is.
Below is the anti-dynasty bill introduced by Sen. Miriam Santiago. I chose it because it reflects the anti-dynasty mentality and not because I am picking on her.
“AN ACT TO PROHIBIT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF POLITICAL DYNASTIES “
SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy. – It is hereby declared the policy of the State to guarantee equal access and opportunity to public office and public service. Towards this end, it is likewise declared the policy of the State to prohibit political dynasties as defined in Section 3 of this Act.
SECTION 3. Definition of Terms. -The following terms, as used in this Act, shall mean:
(a) “Political Dynasty” – shall exist when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official or relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies the same office immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official. It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons who are spouses or are related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective public office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent elective official.
Sec 4. Persons Covered; Prohibited Candidates. – No spouse, or person related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity whether legitimate or illegitimate, to an incumbent elective official seeking reelection shall be allowed to hold or run for any elective office in the same province in the same election. In case the constituency of the incumbent elective official is national in character, the above relatives shall be disqualified from running only within the same province where the former is a registered voter.
In case where none of the candidates is related to an incumbent elective official within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, but are related to one another within the said prohibited degree, they, including their spouses, shall be disqualified from holding or running for any local elective office within the same province in the same election.
In all cases, no person within the prohibited civil degree of relationship to the incumbent
shall immediately succeed to the position of the latter: Provided, however, that this section shall not apply to Punong Barangays or members of the Sangguniang Barangay”
So Miriam’s bill disqualifies some candidates so we can have more candidates. That’s the essence of anti-dynasty thinking. Tama ba ang logic na yan?
Okay, political dynasties are like business monopolies. They limit the number of players thus consumers are deprived of a wider variety of choices. Free markets are good because they invite more participants, inspire innovation, and foster competition.
We applied that free-market philosophy to politics. We turned elections into consumer wars hoping that only the best would dominate the market. Unfortunately, like consumer goods, the product that dominates is not always necessarily the best because, more often than not, organization and marketing, not product superiority, spell the difference between first and also ran. But that’s the free market, the engine of capitalism. There are no free markets where there is no democracy and vice-versa.
Let’s go back to the problem of political dynasties. The quick solution is to define them along the lines anti-dynasty advocates draw. From there we can credit dynasties with all sorts of ill intentions and unfair advantages to justify an undemocratic solution to a perceived problem. Now we can eliminate a whole class of people from participating in the political marketplace because of their bloodline and feel good about ourselves too. We can likewise pat ourselves on the back for doing for voters what they won’t do for themselves.
There are families that I would rather not see in politics but there are also families I cannot get enough of. And I do find myself asking why others keep voting for families I can’t stand. I’m sure they do the same thing. But that’s democracy. It’s beautiful and ugly at the same time. It leaves choices to majorities who I think are stupid when I’m in the minority and who think likewise of me when I’m with the majority. But the solution to stupidity is not more stupidity.
The solution lies in the realization that political power lies in one’s hands. It does not lie in some law that will do your work for you. If you don’t take time to assess a candidate before giving him your vote, if you are naive enough to fall for bullshit promises and easily swayed by political ads, if you are cheap enough to exchange your vote for a few pesos, then you deserve what you get. Because political dynasties do not create themselves. Voters create political dynasties.
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).