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Opinion

Why most dynasties oppose a Robredo presidency

THE CORNER ORACLE - Andrew J. Masigan - The Philippine Star

Dynasties monopolize political and economic power in both the local and national spheres. Is it unfair? Yes, because political dynasties enjoy untold advantages that common citizen have no access to. Have dynasties worked to the country’s advantage? No, statistics show that dynasties retard development in their respective constituencies. Despite their negative effects, however, dynasties remain well entrenched in our political system.

Political dynasties have grown both in number and in “fat.” Fat dynasties occur when more than one family member sits as governor, vice governor, mayor, vice mayor, congressman and councilor simultaneously.

Fat dynasties have become more the rule than the exemption in our political system today. In the Senate, 16 out of the 24 members belong to dynasties. Seventy percent of Congress belongs to political clans. Meanwhile, 73 out of 81 governors belong to dynasties, as do 53 percent of all mayors. Make no mistake, dynasties will continue to fatten and monopolize power unless there is an enabling law to stop them.

Political analyst Cleve Arguelles intimated to The STAR that dynasties generally operate to keep their respective clans in power across administrations. It doesn’t matter if there is a misalignment in political ideology between the dynasty and the sitting president. Neither is it important that their agendas clash. Dynasties are typically willing to compromise since theirs is a “family business” where the idea is to keep the enterprise going for as long as possible. For most, what matters is access to the president and exemption from persecution. The president holds both the power of the purse and the full force of the executive branch, after all.

This is why it is common for dynasties to switch allegiances every six years. While detestable, society accepts it to its peril. Beneath their patronizing words towards the president (whoever it may be) is unabashed opportunism. Dynasties exemplify political survivalism at its crudest. This may not be true for all, but certainly the majority.

An Oxford Development Study concluded that government units led by dynasties register higher poverty rates, lower human development indices and lower economic competitiveness compared to independently governed LGUs. This is because mechanisms for horizontal accountability (where one office checks and balances the other) are virtually non-existent. Dynasties override institutions and weaken them over time.

The study further states that the centralization of power to one clan leads to poor policy formation. This is because the preservation of power is the priority, even more important than social and economic development itself. Painful reforms and unpopular decisions are avoided as they erode political equity. Adoption of populist policies becomes the norm at the cost of stunted development.

Dynasties corner rent seeking industries on the back of their political and economic sway. It is common for local government officials to control power distribution, transportation franchises, water distribution, mining, infrastructure, construction and real estate development in their respective bailiwicks. Not only does this deprive the business community of a fair opportunity to compete, it also exacerbates income inequality.

Mind you, cornering rent seeking industries happens in both the national and local levels and the statistics validate its effect on income inequality. Pre-pandemic data show that only 40 families control 76 percent of the economy or roughly P13.7 trillion worth of economic output per year. Tax records further show that only 489 families have a net worth of P1.5 billion or more, many of them political families. A total of 250 families control the political affairs of the country.

In contrast, 58.4 million of our countrymen are made to live on a daily income of only P779 or less. The extent of income inequality in the Philippines is the most acute in ASEAN, as proven by our Gini coefficient of 41.58. We are also the 4th most crony-capitalist economy in the world.

The Marcoses and Dutertes are themselves dynasties. They are supported by the Arroyos, the Estradas and the Romualdezes, all of whom are dynasties too. And since the Marcos-Duterte UniTeam is leading in the polls, numerous dynasties across the archipelago have pledged their support for political survivalism.

Given the composition and background of the UniTeam, it is highly unlikely that the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill will see the light of day despite it being mandated by the 1987 Constitution. Thus, a vote for Marcos is a vote for political dynasties.

The antithesis of a dynasty is Leni Robredo. Robredo is the only member of her family serving in government today. She maintains a strong anti-political dynasty position with every intention of leveling the political playing field if elected. The specter of losing their economic and political advantages is the reason why entrenched dynasties are doing all they can to foil a Robredo presidency.

While in Congress, VP Leni was the vice chairman of the House committees on good governance and public accountability. There, she co-authored the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill, the Freedom of Information Act and supported the Anti Political Turncoat Law.

Participatory governance and transparency are at the core of VP Leni’s values. Robredo authored the Full Disclosure Policy Bill, which mandates all government agencies and their sub-units to disclose their budget and financial transactions without need for request.

She also authored the People Empowerment Bill, which seeks to allow more public participation in decision and policy-making; the Participatory Budget Process Bill, which seeks to increase participation in budget-related decisions in government; and the Tax Incentives Management and Transparency Act to promote transparency in the taxation process.

If elected, Robredo will do everything in her power to enact the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill and other transparency-related laws despite strong resistance from the legislature. Thus, a vote for Robredo is a vote against political dynasties.

Whether we want political dynasties to persist or desist is a personal choice. A vote for Marcos or Robredo will determine the fate of dynasties as we move forward.

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Email: [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook @Andrew J. Masigan and Twitter @aj_masigan

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