"Some have been good, some have been bad."
Rodrigo Duterte, former mayor of the country’s largest city by area, now president of the entire country, defended what many decry about our political praxis—the proliferation of dynasties.
The present confused and confusing Constitution in Article II says that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
It gives no specific proscriptive definition, and leaves it to the legislature to elaborate on and define the Constitutional intent. The present fundamental law is replete with the phrase “as may be defined by law” in so many sections and articles.
Naturally, despite “heroic” or perhaps theatrical attempts by previous legislators in both houses to prohibit by law political dynasties, nothing came out of the efforts, despite the passage of almost 32 years.
And among the dynasties that exist in the country, not necessarily the longest-reigning, is that of the Davao City Dutertes, the patriarch of which is the president.
In his very frank remarks, the President asked politicians to challenge their rule, and in truth, others in the past have challenged him: the late Speaker Prospero Nograles whose son Karlo is now in the cabinet of Duterte; and Ben de Guzman who ran for a second term only to be trounced by a returning Rodrigo.
It has been the Davao electorate which made its decision in several elections felt in favor of the Duterte dynasty. And this principle of election is what makes the concept of continuation in power legitimate.
To be sure, there are good and bad dynasties. Some create and continue the process of meaningful change; some upon the other hand perpetuate their dynasties mainly for personal or family profit and privilege.
Visit the provinces and cities where dynasties rule, and even without ascertaining statistical facts like income levels, employment rates, poverty indicia, you would know which dynasties thrive because of effective leadership, and which continue to rule due to guns, goons and gold.
Davao City is certainly the prime example of how the continuation of a dynasty in power can be beneficial to the inhabitants. Of recent note, we have the province of Bataan, since the fall of Marcos controlled by the Garcia family, descendants of the late Gov. Tet Garcia. From a sleepy “where is that?” province so near yet so far from Manila, Bataan has progressed tremendously since.
Upon the other hand, the progress of the two Agusan provinces under its dynasties, the Amantes contra the Plazas, has been excruciatingly slow, and poverty is still grinding. After all, the people allow their votes to be bought, and they get a sloppy bargain one after the other.
How should dynasties be controlled, their perpetuation limited?
The confusion lies in the Constitution itself.
Fashioned by its appointed framers initially for a parliamentary form of government, it decided by a majority of one vote to switch to a presidential form, and in the haste to “return to constitutional normalcy” from the initial “freedom but one-woman rule” of Cory Aquino, the framers failed to review their earlier provisions to synchronize them with a presidential form.
If we had reverted to the two-party system in a presidential form, we would not have the number and kind of dynasties that now dot the entire archipelago.
Political parties would choose in conventions or directorates who should carry the banner of their party in a two-way fight. And in free societies where accountability to a great extent is measured and exposed, bad dynasties would sunder, while good dynasties would be acclaimed by their political parties.
Political parties are composed of concerned citizens, politically-inclined community leaders, whether elected or aspiring, who would by the force of competitive ambitions, challenge the continuity of the non-performing while surrendering to the inevitability of continuity by the efficient and effective.
So if we want to limit the reach and length of dynastic power, we should take the first step: revise the present Constitution and if we want to continue under a presidential form, re-instate the two-party system.
Then the Dutertes of Davao will likely run as candidates of one party, and their competitors will troop to the other party, and let the electorate decide. That is as democratic as democratic can be, but with an orderly system, instead of the confused and confusing set-up where political parties exist only to mask personalistic or family leadership, or as flags of convenience for the ambitions of one or many.
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If former DFA secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Hong Kong to attend a board meeting of the Indonesian Salim group which he among others represent in our country, why in heaven’s name did he have to use his blue “diplomatic” passport? Why not his regular brown passport as all of us mortals possess?
He did inform the DFA that he was going to use his blue passport, as required, but since Hong Kong accepts Filipinos visa-free, the DFA did not have to pre-inform the place of travel destination as would have been necessary to accord their former secretary the courtesies of the port and hassle-free entry.
Clearly, Mr. Del Rosario wanted to make a scene, following what happened to former Ombudsman Conchita Morales-Carpio earlier in Hong Kong. But Mrs. Carpio was traveling on an ordinary passport, knowing full well that Hong Kong was a visa-free destination, and as such, she also likely forgot to recall that the former crown colony was now part and parcel of China.
Upon his return, the conspiratorial Mr. Del Rosario next donated half a million Philippine pesos from his Indonesian-sourced compensation for the benefit of the 22 Mindoro fishermen. And he sent the check to the DFA, which as its former secretary, he knew was not the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
For heaven’s sake, cut off the theatrics. Be a sober “nationalist” if such is your pretension or proclivity. Shallow performances such as these do not suit you or your stature.