Incumbents
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - May 11, 2019 - 12:00am

The political class will always be with us – for better or for worse.

About 500 candidates for elective posts are unchallenged. One vote and the uncontested candidate wins.

The pre-poll surveys tell us that in most areas, the incumbents are leading their challengers. In the race for Senate seats, it is probable that old or returning senators will take nine of the 12 seats at stake. That means the political clans will further entrench themselves in the forthcoming elections.

Even in areas where the rival candidates are political rookies, those coming from deeply entrenched political clans are indicated as holding the edge. In Pasig City, for instance, pre-poll surveys indicate the newbie will probably lose to the political clan that controlled this locality for decades.

For many reasons, political clans are deeply entrenched in the localities they control. The most important reason is that they are consistently available for their constituents. They have forged strong bonds with those who never tire of voting them into office. The phenomenon of political clans is as much sociological as it is political economic.

Those who challenge the political clans very often materialize on the political terrain only sporadically. They come out during electoral seasons and disappear afterward.

By contrast, clans that have made holding elective office a family business, or an heirloom, are at work day in and day out cultivating their networks of support and finding new alliances to forge. They are patrons as much as they are rulers, enablers as much as they are bosses. They are a class of professional politicians difficult to dislodge.

Those who think political clans – “dynasties” they prefer to call them – are a curse on our democratic politics have preferred to legislate them out of existence. That is the way of the indolent.

The anti-dynasty advocates have succeeded in imposing term limits by law. But that merely encouraged more members of the political clans to join the game to replace patriarchs forced from seeking a fourth term. Political clans easily circumvented term limit provisions, proving their resiliency.

The 1987 Constitution issues an impossible demand for political “dynasties” to be banned by law. That has run into all sorts of semantic problems for the anti-dynasty advocates.  Voters, after all, freely elect members of a political clan.

Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP), the electoral behemoth assembled by Mayor Sara Duterte, stitches together nearly every local political party there is. These are groupings that, nearly by definition, are controlled by the resident ruling political clan.

Critics might say that HnP helps consolidate the “dynasties.” There is really a very thin line between what is cynical and what is utterly practical.

Taguig

The Comelec, this week, junked the complaint filed against Alan Peter Cayetano. Alan and his wife Lani are contesting the congressional seats in the two districts of Taguig City.

The complaint was weakly premised. It collapsed domicile and residence into a single thing. The electoral authorities threw out the complaint.

In addition to the husband-and-wife tandem, Pia Cayetano is seeking a Senate seat. Lino Cayetano is seeking to replace his sister-in-law as mayor of this progressive city. Lani had run into term limits.

Should election results bear out the tracking polls, all four Cayetanos will win the elective posts they respectively seek. If they sweep the elections, it will not be because of guns, goons and gold. It will be out of the free choice of voters in their respective constituencies.

There are many reasons for the voters of Taguig to be happy with the Cayetanos. During their period at the helm of the city, the local economy progressed impressively.

Taguig City instituted very competitive tax rates. For manufacturers, for instance, the city’s tax rate is 72% lower than Makati’s and 81% lower than Quezon City’s. Small retailers are taxed 1.5% compared to 2% in Quezon City, 2.8% in Pasig and 3.5% in Pasay.

Taguig set up a “business one-stop shop” to improve the ease of doing business in the locality. The city bet correctly that by lowering tax rates, it could actually grow revenues. As businesses flocked to the Taguig side of the boundary with Makati, incomes rose and opportunities multiplied.

As local government revenues increased, Taguig expanded its social services. Philhealth coverage expanded by 400%. Its barangay health centers are among the best anywhere. The city provides free hospitalization for indigent patients and heavily discounted fees for all other residents. The city’s hospitals are equipped with state-of-the-art facilities, ready to accept patients around the clock.

As the once backwater municipality blossoms into a premier business hub, it has quickly modernized governance. The city now invests heavily in the education of its citizens, providing generous scholarships to its young residents. Its public school teachers have been well rewarded, a key element in ensuring high-quality education is made available.

If there is such a thing as “forward-looking dynasts” delivering quality public service, look to Taguig. The rule by a political clan does not necessarily translate into corruption and underdevelopment. On the contrary, Taguig provides a classroom for other political clans to learn from in order to develop their own localities.

To be sure, there are numerous localities where plundering political clans may be blamed for misery and backwardness. There are also an increasing number of localities where progressive “dynasts” have brought positive change for their people. In the latter, the voters happily support the dominant political clans for the continuity and progress they made possible.

Boosted by Taguig’s achievement, Alan Cayetano is actively seeking leadership of the next Congress.

2019 MIDTERM ELECTIONS
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