Can the oligarchy and political dynasty be obliterated? Rappler

Can the oligarchy and political dynasty be obliterated? Featured

Fourth of 5 parts

THE oligarchy is a multifaceted class, and the term is by no means neutral. Political science practitioners and political economists oftentimes differ in their definition and clarity of interpretation. I have adopted the contemporary definition as used by ordinary citizens, which in most cases is colored by their politics and heavily weighted by their acuities and biases. It can be vituperative and, at times, benign or even uplifting. Some popular definitions describe the nature of the oligarchy as a power structure that allows members to accumulate economic and political clout, influencing governance directly or indirectly and distorting functions and policies for their benefit to the exclusion of the rest of society. This complex power structure invariably is a composite of privately owned and controlled multiple large businesses involving allies or adjuncts in elective and appointive positions in government manning captive regulatory agencies. The latter describes aptly the special class of mostly elective officials, the political dynasts capable of passing on their political clout and entitlements to family members over generations.

I have often maintained that individual families or personages composing the oligarchy, which in contemporary parlance are also interchangeable with “Filipino family business elite” are not all enemies of the President. I cited some members of the Filipino business elite going back to the American and Spanish regimes. “These people are the risk-takers, with long-term views, pioneers in industries that need big capital and managerial talents — where government is incompetent to tread into.” (“The Philippine oligarchy, The Manila Times, July 29, 2020.) What is unconscionable are those of the same elite that suck the bone marrow of the Filipino, using their wealth to corrupt public office holders. At this level, a macabre partnership is forged between the financiers and bankrollers with those who seek political power using the tools of democracy and republicanism — the legitimizing process of elections and general suffrage. This synergy between the business elite and the elected government officials are the systemic twin evils hovering over our democratic space — anchored by traditional political practices. At this point, the lines are blurred as to how economic and political power are exploited and utilized. The biggest myth being propagated is the singular notion that there are good and moral oligarchs and political dynasts. There are none! A fine distinction has to be drawn at this point. True, there are “good and bad” businesspeople, as there are “good and bad” politicians. But the very concept of the oligarchy and the political dynasty as power structures embedded in the body politic safeguarded by our laws is abhorrent. This unwanted offspring borne out of an incubus of an anomalous forced marriage of the Filipino culture, with that of 300 years of Spanish influence, and 100 years of American impositions of their distorted ideals of democracy and republicanism, underlined by the untrammeled practices of the free market economy, must be aborted. (“The Philippine oligarchy,” TMT, July 29, 2020.)

A case for structural reform

For decades, laws upon laws were enacted allowing the proliferation of these twin evils that preserve political and economic power among and within their families. This in turn breeds and nurtures a culture of impunity, corruption and criminality. The absurdity of it all is that the purveyors of these laws are the miscreants themselves in all levels of government, particularly the lawmaking bodies — the two Houses of Congress.

A case in point is the proscription on political dynasties in the 1987 Constitution. Its Article II, Section 28 states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” No law was ever passed by Congress to enforce the same in the past three decades. The reason for this is simple — 80 percent of both Houses are composed of members of political dynasties.

What underpins the systemic ills of this country is basically our anomalous political structure, from whence emanates policies and laws that either redound to the benefit of the people or to their perdition. Among the legacies handed down by American colonial tutelage is the two-party system, basic building blocks for a truly functioning democracy — if we want it. Filipino politicians, however, have been abusing this concept since. Today, we have close to 169 political parties accredited by the Commission on Elections.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, an opposition stalwart, has this to say on President Duterte’s claim that he has dismantled the oligarchy when ABS-CBN Corp. was closed effectively, decoupling it from the Lopez family: “Dismantling oligarchy’ means fewer dynasties, stronger parties…[this] can only be brought about by structural reform and an overhaul of existing laws that allowed oligarchy to persist.”

The good senator understood too well the symbiosis between the oligarchy and the political dynasty. Both need to be obliterated, but the political dynasts have priority. His solution, similar to that of the Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), is to push for the passage of an anti-political dynasty law and the political party reform act.

Political parties

Let me quote verbatim my take on the precepts of CDP written as a blog in 2012 as part of our recruitment pamphlet.

“Political parties are key actors in a democracy. They serve as a linking and leading mechanism in politics being a means of mobilization of the masses as well as the socialization of leaders. They also function as a source of political identity — next to religion, political parties should be how citizens are identified or the point of reference. Furthermore, political parties are a channel of control. Without political parties, citizens are not represented in governing institutions, cannot control power, and participate in decision-making. Thus — in the long term — they cannot prevent the abuse of power.

Political parties are the backbone of democracy in modern societies. They are organizations that aggregate the interests and resources behind policies. They gain power and authority by engaging in elections.

Political parties are supposed to be the channels of communication between policy makers and citizens. They should also take an active role in informing and educating the country’s citizens about politics so they could make informed choices. They should have a fair, democratic and reasonable process of selecting candidates for different public positions.

Political parties are crucial in turning the tide of public opinion, in the creation of laws and in public administration at all levels. They offer the population their plans to implement these changes.

A party must write a unique platform or vision of governance with a set of principles and strategies. This vision defines the ideological identity of that party; and members are expected to go by these principles and strategies as political parties offer the direction of government. Voters must be given a choice as to who must govern them based on what candidates and their parties stand for.

It is therefore important for political parties to be owned and controlled by their members.”

And not by the oligarchs, not by the political dynasties and not even by the political clan of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Next week: Call for change — constitutional revisions

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Read 251 times Last modified on Wednesday, 12 August 2020 12:38
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