Political Legacy or Dynasty?

By: Harvey S. Keh

Posted at Oct 12 2012 04:34 PM | Updated as of Oct 13 2012 01:40 AM

Much has been said about various family members of our government leaders throwing their hat in to politics all at the same time. People call it political dynasties while those who are members of these families call it their political legacy. For example, in the Zamboanga Peninsula, several members of the infamous Jalosjos family are running for various positions in the hopes of making the whole region their own political fiefdom. In Quezon City, several members of the Castelo clan are also running for public office which leads many to ask, are they the only ones who are skilled and competent enough to lead our government? Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with at most two members of the family running in a particular area if both are competent and have a sincere desire to serve our country but I believe that having five or more is certainly too much.

Banal family: Choosing to shun away from being a political dynasty

It is for this reason why I admire the family of one of our Kaya Natin! Champions, Cong. Bolet Banal of the 3rd district of Quezon City. Not many people know this but last year, the father of Cong. Banal who used to be a multi-awarded City Councilor and is currently the head of a national senior citizens party-list organization was dead set on running as a party-list representative. Given the scope of their party-list organization, the dad of Cong. Banal could’ve easily made it into Congress. However, Cong. Banal was very uncomfortable with the idea of having two of them running for public office thus, he decided to tell his father that if his dad really wants to be Congressman, he will choose not to run anymore and his dad can take his place in the 3rd district of Quezon City. After much discussions within their family, the family collectively decided that only one member of their family would run for public office and that it would be Cong. Banal seeking reelection in the 3rd district of Quezon City. The Banal family was able to take the honorable route and shun away from the temptation of building their own political dynasty within Congress. If they can do it, why can’t other political families do the same?

Defining political dynasty and political legacy

How do you define which is a political dynasty and which is a political legacy? I believe it is defined in the performance and leadership values of the leaders themselves. On one hand, a political dynasty for me would connote a family in various positions of power for a long period of time but they have constantly been involved in illegal activities and haven’t been able to deliver proper basic services that would help uplift the quality of life of their people. On the other hand, a legacy of public service in politics and governance would mean a family in power that has been able to transform the lives of its constituents and eventually leading them out of poverty. For example, the province of Isabela has been governed by several decades by the Dy family and up until now there are many members of their family running for public office. Now, looking at the quality of life of the people of Isabela, are the Dys a political dynasty or have they worked towards leaving a legacy of genuine public service for their people? Your guess is as good as mine.

Continuing the Aquino legacy of public service

The President’s cousin, Bam Aquino is a good friend of mine whom I have personally worked with several times in the last 12 years. Some quarters have criticized his decision to run for the Senate and have said that this is clearly another political dynasty in the making. Yet, if you look at Aquino’s accomplishments as a youth leader and social entrepreneur, one would realize that he is certainly much better than some of our current Senators who have been in position for several years but hasn’t done much to help solve many of our country’s social ills. Aquino graduated Class Valedictorian at the Ateneo de Manila University and soon after he was appointed as the youngest head of a national government agency when he became Chairman of the National Youth Commission (NYC) in 2001. During his stint at the NYC, he was instrumental in founding and institutionalizing the Search for the country’s Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations (TAYO), which is now the country’s premiere awards for youth organizations. After his stint at NYC, Aquino eventually founded Hapinoy, one of our country’s leading social enterprises which helps female micro-entrepreneurs secure better incomes for their families. Hapinoy has since helped thousands of families attain a better quality of life. As such, he was recently awarded as one of The Outstanding Young Men of the World by Jaycees International and was also awarded as Asian Social Entrepreneur of the Year by the World Economic Forum. He was able to accomplish all of these despite being only 35 years old. If he could do all of these when he wasn’t in government then I am sure that he can do so much more if he is given the chance to serve as one of our Senators. Moreover, his entry in the Senate would give young Filipinos someone who can champion their causes particularly in education and employment. Hopefully, the Filipino people will give him a chance to continue the Aquino legacy in public service.

Filipino people to decide

In the end, it is ultimately the Filipino people who will decide if they will deem certain families as simply political dynasties or families with a strong legacy of public service. What is important is that we go beyond the empty promises of many of our political leaders and look at their track record. In the past decades, we have seen ordinary Filipinos rising up to the challenges and unseating political dynasties as seen in Isabela when Grace Padaca defeated the Dy family in 2004 and 2007. This also happened in 2007 in Pampanga when Among Ed Panlilio defeated his well-entrenched rivals despite having very limited resources. The challenge is to sustain these gains and hopefully, make more Filipinos realize the power that they have in revolutionizing the landscape of Philippine politics.

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Harvey S. Keh is the Lead Convenor of the Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership and is also the Director for Youth Leadership and Social Entrepreneurship at the Ateneo de Manila University-School of Government.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.