Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: August 2020
Wednesday, 26 August 2020 09:15

Duterte the reformer — why he must not fail

LONG before the mid-March lockdowns, this column warned against a looming pandemic. The first sentence of my January column reads: “We are facing one of the biggest threats in the world today: the possibility of the annihilation of our species, the human race, no less, and only one country, so far, has understood the magnitude of the impending disaster and has responded accordingly. This is the spread of coronavirus, the disease first detected in the central China city of Wuhan in December 2019.” (“The pandemic of 2020,” The Manila Times, Jan. 29, 2020.) I compared this to my blog of Aug. 11, 2014 on another outbreak, the Ebola virus, which razed countries in Central and West Africa. Then as now, there was no known cure or vaccine. There were no lockdowns then, resulting in world economic disruptions.

I wrote 13 other articles on Covid-19. I will now move on and instead dwell on the solutions to the multitude of problems confronting the Philippines today, running the gamut from this plague to the societal ills of widening poverty, injustice, corruption, impunity, economic dislocations and the overall contempt for the rule of law. All these are merely symptoms of failure of governance. I have always argued that no single president can solve these problems unless he or she recognizes that these are a festering cancer of misgovernance that must be surgically excised from the system itself. All presidents, this current one not exempted, always debut into power with good intentions and beautiful platforms of government; all eventually proving to be mere palliatives.

Inevitably, they are consumed by the very system that enticed them like a siren song to bid for power in the first place. I will not put the onus of blame only on President Duterte. The road to political hell is paved with good intentions. And in the general political dynamics, we the Filipino voters, who put these men in power, are complicit.

State of the presidency

In my past columns, I have outlined the Centrist Democrats (CD) framework for political reforms. In various permutations, all candidates for the highest office of the land always articulate similar morally correct and idealistic reform agenda, but once elected somehow manage to degrade the same into a menu of discarded pledges opting instead for the personally expedient.

At this late date, the most the Deegong’s government can do is to concentrate on the doables, as the president may no longer have the time, the energy nor the inclination to push for his original reform agenda of “Pagbabago” for the Philippines’ long-term emancipation. In a few more months, he will enter the twilight zone of his regime — his “lame duck hiatus” — when his power and influence wane and the political dynasts and the oligarchy, his political allies, opportunists all, then begin an exodus towards their next designated political Caesar. Such is the cycle of life and the dynamics of a dysfunctional governance system we inherited from America and subsequently modified.

We will allow future historians to render their verdict on the first four years of this presidency. With Covid-19 exposing the incompetence and vulnerability of the political leadership, the promised political reforms that will require Charter revisions may no longer be possible unless the President miraculously translates his blusters into real engagement. But gauging by his recent public appearances, he now projects weakness, an aura of invincibility gone. The cultivated persona of a charming, cursing promdi no longer has traction. His lingering autoimmune disease and chronic neuro-muscular disorder obviously taking its toll now requires his most trusted subaltern as a prop by his side. His alpha-male character that once dominated friends and foes, leaving his Cabinet squirming albeit arousing a certain sense of depraved accolade from the DDS — Diehard Duterte Supporters, propelling them to brandish their sieg heil of a Duterte fist bump. no longer comes across. He appears a pitiable broken man.

CD doables

To reiterate, four guiding CD principles were recommended to encapsulate his political reforms: adherence to the rule of law; creation of real political parties; establishing social market economy and federalism (TMT, Aug. 19, 2020, and CDP/CDPI philosophy www.cdpi.asia). But these require the revision of the 1987 Constitution. And the last four years were wasted waiting for his move.

But to emerge from the economic pit the country dug itself into as a consequence of inept government response to this eight-month pandemic, the imperative is for the government to reopen the economy safely yet vie for what this pandemic may have offered countries in Asia — a silver lining.

The world’s reaction to the emerging bully of a hegemon has been very negative. China finds itself the odd man out when Covid-19 came out of Wuhan to devastate the world, triggering a decoupling from China as the world’s manufacturing hub. American and Japanese companies are abandoning China in droves. Japan of late has started subsidizing 57 companies with billions of yen to relocate back to Japan. Telecom equipment makers, computers, electronic components, heavy construction equipment, auto parts and robotic components are now repositioning manufacturing sites in several Asian countries.

Worldwide brands, Harley-Davidson, Nintendo, Panasonic, Apple, Sumitomo Heavy Industries, Citizen Watch, Sharp Electronics, etc. — a mind-boggling compendium of world brands — are now uprooting from China and moving to Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, India, Myanmar and Cambodia. None to the Philippines. We are under the radar simply due to our antediluvian anti-FDI — foreign direct investment — policies protected by our 1987 constitution.

Foreign direct investment

FDIs are needed to inject badly needed capital to develop businesses and to generate jobs. The Philippines has some of the best and talented people and workforce in Asia. Yet we export them to other countries simply because we don’t have work for them here at home — or if there are, the pay can’t compete with our neighbors’. Thus, we drain our country of its best assets.

All these because of the shortsightedness of our policies and the provisions of our Constitution. As propounded by the National Economic and Development Authority: We have “…restrictions on foreign ownership, inadequate public investment in infrastructure, and lack of transparency in procurement tenders [that] hinder foreign investment. The Philippines’ regulatory regime remains ambiguous in many sectors of the economy, and corruption is a significant problem. Large, family-owned conglomerates, including San Miguel [Corp.], Ayala [Corp.] and SM [Group], dominate the economic landscape, crowding out other smaller businesses.”

The Deegong and his administration need to comprehend that in order for the Filipino to survive and flourish post-Covid, we need to attract and capture FDIs, repair our statutory inadequacies, and act to mitigate them by providing solutions — perhaps through a constitutional amendment (ConAss), people’s initiative (PI) — short of constitutional revisions. If only by doing this he is able to lift the Filipino from the quagmire we are in, he may be forgiven his transgressions; his contempt for civilized behavior; his irreverence towards the men of the cloth, religion and God; his disdain for women; and his cavalier attitude towards human rights. He may even redeem his legacy, promised at the outset of his regime, and be remembered as a great president, beyond the grave.

Thus, this president cannot fail.

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 19 August 2020 11:26

Call for change: PH constitutional revisions

Last of 5 parts

THIS five-part series started with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s fight with the oligarchy by closing down the Lopez-owned ABS-CBN Corp.; then a brief review of the Philippine oligarchy; political dynasty as its vital appendage; and establishing real political parties to impede the growth of this twin evil. This last article provides recommendations toward the eradication not only of the oligarchy and the political dynasties but for the other ills plaguing Philippine society. This invariably needs the overhaul of the 1987 Constitution to dismantle the scaffolding upon which all these are braced. I draw heavily from the Centrist Democrats (CD) ideological perspective calling for systemic changes to the political, economic and cultural underpinnings of Philippine society. The Centrist Democratic Party (CDP), the Centrist Democratic Political Institute (CDPI), the Young Centrist Union (YCU) and allied CD sectors have for decades been advocating for this restructuring (please access www.cdpi.asia).

Similar changes could have set PRRD apart from Presidents Fidel V. Ramos’ and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s half-hearted drives to revise President Corazon Aquino’s 1987 Constitution. Duterte was propelled to the presidency partly on his campaign commitment to a set of political reforms, including establishing a federal system of government. It was assumed that the President would keep his word, ushering all these under his promise of “pagbabago.” But somewhere along the way he dropped the ball, degrading his agenda into mere motherhood statements — amounting to nothing! But he can still redeem himself in the last remaining two years to orientate this administration’s trajectory, focusing on what is really important — uprooting the causes of the country’s tribulations. The repercussions will result in long-term positive impact on the country’s future, cementing his legacy, if ever.

Nary a serious historian, political scientist and economist will deny the country’s decline from the end of World War 2. From a prominent position as second only to Japan economically, we have begun to lose our preeminence among the nations in our region after we gained independence and regained our sovereignty. Currently, states and countries like South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, etc. are much ahead of us in three categories: GDP, global trade (exports/imports) and per capita income. For this decline, the temptation to lay the blame on the Filipino character is strong but ultimately false.

PH and Duterte need a reset

Thus, it is but fitting at this point to review and examine the premises surrounding this regression, unfortunate consequences of historical blunders bequeathed to us from our political past. The logical start would be the post-Spanish ascendancy when a concept, alien to the Filipino political psyche, was transplanted to these shores under American guidance and carried on to the Commonwealth period. At this point I burrow into our CD documents (A Call for New Leadership… www.cdpi.asia).

Democracy, a much revered and heavily Westernized concept, first took root in the virgin soil of Asia forcibly breaking the hymen of our political innocence within a short period of 50 years, when the same concept ironically took America more than 100 years to conceptualize and apply. The word doesn’t even appear in the 1776 United States Constitution. Yet this was the primary underpinning of our governance when we reacquired our sovereignty in 1946. But Ferdinand Marcos tore the concept to shreds during his martial law years. The EDSA Revolution in 1986 reestablished democracy but history’s verdict is still out whether what was restored was authentic or just a mirage — or even worth restoring at all.

But Democracy and its handmaiden, the untrammeled free market economy, married to our practices of traditional politics bore congenital deformities haunting us up to the present: “…hardening poverty, ongoing impunity, low competitiveness, weak rule of law, no real democratic participation of the citizens.” (CD documents www.cdpi.asia)

The political architecture handed down to us differed from that implemented in the US. Too much power was concentrated in the president and the executive branch dominating the legislature, subsequently distorting the principle of check and balance. The role of the president installed as the nation’s patron elevated the highest elective office in Philippine cultural tradition as the ultimate wellspring of patronage, thus impelling corruption in the bureaucracy and extending down to the local government units.

This unitary-presidential system imposed on us was arbitrary and experimental at best. America’s own was a federal government composed of autonomous states. Our centralized system concentrating decision-making process situates governance far away from the clientele, the Filipino people, alienating the populace, robbing them of their heritage as stakeholders.

All these iniquities complicate and characterize the Philippines as a weak state. It exposes the government’s inability to provide a modicum of security and maintain order although it has the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.

The state is also unable to put in place a minimum of social security and universal health care for the weak and disadvantaged; or prevent environmental degradation and emboldens the over-consumption of precious natural resources depriving the same for future generations.

Centrist framework for pagbabago

These societal ills that existed for generations is by no means unsolvable. And President Duterte understood the magnitude of his task. His campaign commitment of “pagbabago” encapsulated these in his reform agenda. Among the crucial items is the revision of the 1987 Constitution. The CD group submitted to him our own framework which he allowed to be presented to the Malacañang Press Corps in September 2017. This is an abridged version of the guiding principles.

The CD credo is centered on our core value of human dignity, guided by principles of Christian and Muslim social teachings. Political, economic and social order must be so logically designed that the dignity of each person is protected and promoted. An atmosphere of freedom is a prerequisite upon which human dignity is enhanced. Self-determination by everyone, an essential component, is the impetus for collective expression toward the development of a just society.

These guiding principles can best be implemented through the following ideals: 1) a strict adherence to the rule of law; 2) a representative democracy based on program-oriented political parties; 3) a decentralized state structure with regional autonomy and local self-government, leading towards federalism; and 4) a “social market economy” with a well-functioning open market, protected by a strong state. (CDP/CDPI philosophy www.cdpi.asia).

The pandemic

And then Covid-19 burst into the scene! All these societal anomalies and distortions surfaced with abandon, exposing the failures in governance. PRRD and his team, handicapped by a military mindset, is incompetent to handle the tragedy. An unsuspecting deer caught in the headlights. With death counts rising, they are merely coping. And the strategy is simply to await a vaccine mixed with a copious amount of bluster. The repercussions to the country’s economy and well-being are incalculable.

Our biological and economic survival naturally trumps everything. But putting constitutional revisions and reforms in the backburner could be shortsighted. They are key to the short- and long-term solutions to the distortions our country faces. Absent these reforms, he and his legacy would be exposed for what it is, in the words of Walden Bello, his harsh critic “…an incompetent, blundering regime that relies on the deployment of coercion for everything.”

Published in LML Polettiques
Editorial cartoon.
Published in News

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

Published in LML Polettiques
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 12:29


Editorial cartoon.
Published in News
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 12:20

‘PhilHealth might collapse in 2022’

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) might collapse in 2022 if collections do not improve, the agency’s senior vice president for actuarial services and risk management sector warned on Tuesday.

Nerissa Santiago bared that the agency’s reserve fund was almost depleted because of the huge payouts for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases.

“We are expecting by 2021, we will be on the red already in terms of actuarial life. In 2021 we will run into deficit. There would be no more reserve fund by 2021. So, one year lang po ang ating actuarial life (our actuarial life will be one year),” she said during the Senate investigation on the alleged widespread corruption at the agency.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asked her to clarify: “Are you saying that [by] 2022, there’ll be no more PhilHeath?”

To which Santiago replied, “Ah, yes sir.”

She explained that the government subsidy for this year and in 2021 was P71 billion, but that the agency expects lower collection.

“We are limited by the law in terms of contribution rate and we expect decrease in terms of payors,” she said.

Santiago told Drilon that the government had the responsibility to keep PhilHealth afloat:
“We can only survive with additional subsidy coming from the government.”

She pointed out that PhilHealth expects about P90 billion operating loss this year.

“If the Covid pandemic persists until 2021 and no vaccine is discovered by 2021, we will incur about P147 billion in terms of operating loss,” she said.

Drilon noted that PhilHealth suffered a net operating loss of P3.5 billion in 2019. And for the first quarter of 2020 alone, the net operating loss was almost P2 billion.

Santiago said the agency’s actuarial life before the pandemic was more than 10 years.

“How long the system can last given its present state of financial condition? Because my
studies indicate that [PhilHealth] President [Ricardo] Morales admitted that Philhealth would be running a fund deficit in 2020. Is that correct?” Drilon asked.

Santiago replied that PhilHealth was on deficit “in terms of collections and benefit payouts.”

“We’re on deficit if we compare contributions versus the benefit payouts,” she said.
Malacañang gave assurances that the government was ready to provide funds to prevent PhilHealth from collapsing.

In a virtual press briefing, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. acknowledged that the survival of PhilHealth did not rest solely on its collections.

“As author of the Universal Health Care Law, we have never, even for one minute, considered that the survival of PhilHealth will be solely by reason of premiums,” he said.

“Alam po namin hindi makakamit ang libreng gamot at libreng pagamot kung premiums lang ang panggagalingan ng gagastusin ng Philhealth (We know that we could not provide free medicine and treatment if PhilHealth will only depend on premiums),” he added.

Roque said the government was aware of its responsibilities to support PhilHealth financially for the implementation of the Universal Health Care Law.

“Kung maubos po ang pera ng PhilHealth, gobyerno ang magbibigay ng pondo kaya nga po ang tawag diyan Universal Health Care, hindi medical insurance (If PhilHealth runs out of money, the government will provide funds because it’s called Universal Health Care, not medical insurance),” he said.
Published in News
Wednesday, 05 August 2020 08:43

Political dynasty handmaiden to oligarchy

Third of 5 parts

PRIOR to the arrival of Spain, the islands of the Philippines were composed of settlements and villages called barangay with no central government. The barangay, the autonomous component for basic governance, was headed by a datu with a few hundred kindred individuals composing a stable sociopolitical unit.

The 300 years of Spanish colonization, introduction of a bureaucracy and influx of the Catholic Church hierarchy evolved a semblance of centralized government eroding the preeminence of the datu — the equivalency of rajah, hari or lakan of the ruling class — on top of the social order.


The Spanish colonial regime eventually converted the polity into its instrument for governing the territory, collecting taxes, keeping the peace — now all in the name of the Spanish crown. The bond between social classes maharlika and maginoo (the nobles) to the freemen and slaves were balanced on the padrino or patronage system, primitively feudal but a perfectly working arrangement before its nature was transformed over the centuries by Spanish and later, by American influence.

It was the imposition of another system of governance piggy-backed on this traditional bond that began to alter the character of the rulers and the ruled. The Philippines was America’s first colony ever, and this baby step at colonization was a trial-and-error stage. For instance, America, whose people pride themselves with individual freedoms, injected “Western concepts” of democracy and republicanism, particularly the idea of representative government, bypassing the cultural, political practices and roles of the datu and maharlika.

American tutelage

The concept of a “Filipino aristocracy” never was subscribed to by the Spanish colonialists and nor by the Americans, effectively dismantling the concept. But the cultural imprint of centuries of clan interrelationship was indelible, where the clan heads/patriarchs/patrons were expected to perform their old traditional roles. Thus, they had to provide protection and even livelihood to their clansmen. The patrons therefore had to accumulate the wherewithal, wealth and political power to perform these obligations and tasks. And this, is a clan/family simply driven to preserve its prerogatives — its wealth and power — patronage politics at its barest.

America introduced alien institutions like the three co-equal branches of a government, further complicating traditional governance. Yet, what was structurally imposed was a far cry from the American system itself. Instead of a federal structure, suitable to diverse clans proliferating in the islands, a unitary system of government headed by a president was instituted. But the most glaring defect of the presidential system is that this became the embryo upon which patronage politics was centralized, nurtured and dispensed from.

When we claimed full sovereignty from America after the Commonwealth period, the traditional patronage system was structurally ingrained as a systemic anomaly buttressed by the Constitution of 1935. Thus, was bequeathed to our Philippine presidents the role of the top patron reaching its apex during the Marcos years. Marcos elevated patronage politics, practiced to perfection during the martial law years where “crony capitalism” came into our political lexicon. To hold on to power, patrons and padrino could dip their dirty fingers into the public coffers — thus a new sub-species of the oligarchy appeared in the glossary, “kleptocracy.”

And in our presidential system, where the president, the most powerful position in government is elected at large, is expected to provide the resources for an expensive election campaign. This opens an aperture for the oligarchy and the moneyed elite, which was coming into its own, to influence the outcome. And we can only speculate at the quid pro quo this capture of political power entails.

And this goes down to all levels of elective positions. Today, political patronage has become more pervasive fomenting corruption. Our electoral processes for instance are the overarching environment upon which political patronage incubates. Paradoxically, democracy cannot exist without elections; except that in our culture, we managed to debauch the same.

With the constitutionally mandated term limits of elective officials, the desire for continuity in office easily morphs into a deviant model of “public service as a private business,” becoming a strong impetus toward the perpetuation of this power base — thus the need for the patron/clan head to pass this on to wife, husband, children, or relatives. This assures the family control over its portion of the local government unit, seeding public elective or appointive positions of power with blood kin. Thus, the flowering of “political dynasties” (“Presidential system, patronage politics and political dynasties,” The Manila Times, March 28, 2018).

Oligarchy, political dynasty intertwine

In the Philippine setting, the oligarchy as defined refers to some large private multi-businesses whose wealth could be traced back to the Spanish colonizers. Some sources of wealth are gifted to families from Catholic friar lands for their services to the crown. Growing over time, this wealth is passed on to next generations. Many of these businesses started as monopolies continuing to the present time. But many indubitably grew out of sheer hard work by founders, gifted with talent and the ability to convert opportunities into wealth creation. But to exist, survive and flourish over time, they needed to acquire and possess political power to protect their economic clout. In the present context, political power is acquired through a legitimizing process of elections — handed down by our American mentors under the umbrella of democracy and all its appurtenances. And the political dynasties have this as their singular expertise.

This marriage of interests between the oligarchy and political dynasty blurs the line between economic and political power accumulation, resulting in several phenomena with grievous consequences. First, encroaching directly into the political mainstream, political parties are either created or captured. Cases in point: The Nationalist People’s Coalition, or NPC, founded in 1992 by Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., now under successor Ramon Ang, has three senators and two dozen congressmen and countless local government executives. The National Unity Party, or NUP, chaired and funded by Enrique Razon Jr. has about 50 legislators. Former senator and billionaire Manny Villar has captured the Nacionalista Party, or NP. His wife Cynthia is a sitting senator, son Mark, Public Works secretary under Duterte, and daughter Camille, a member of Congress.

The second phenomenon is the travesty of the party-list system. Originally a political innovation patterned after European party lists to give broader voice to the “non-political” sector of society — the farmers, fisherfolk, labor, peasant, etc. — the purpose of which was to democratize the lower house of Congress which had been co-opted by the oligarchy and the political dynasties. What was meant to allow one-fifth of the lower house greater democratic representation was instead perverted by the oligarchy and the political dynasts by installing family members as party-list representatives. Today, the party list has become an adjunct to the twin evils of Philippine politics — the oligarchy and the political dynasties.

Politics in the Philippines as a family business is thriving. Even the President, catapulted to power under a populist resurgence has created his own. Daughter Sara is mayor, son Sebastian is her vice mayor and another son, Paolo, is a congressman. All come from one city, Davao.

Next: Can the oligarchy and the political dynasty be obliterated?

Published in LML Polettiques