In a suburb once known for its tourist landmarks, pastoral fields, rice paddies and fishponds that would have made an excellent background to a priceless Amorsolo, lies a city now noted for spawning and perpetuating a rising political dynasty.
The wealth of the dynasty behind a community that developed into an asphalt and concrete cityscape of middle-class homes and housing subdivisions ranks among the country’s most prolific.
In terms of net worth, whether as one family, or collectively expanded through inter-marriages and extended relationships, radiating from an encephalitic bulbous head like octopian appendages, they are among the richest. Money after all, is a necessary factor of political dynasties.
Also, there is always a patriarchal Big Bang. Thereafter, every successor spawn, spouse, legitimate or not, cousin and cousin’s uncle are mere surrogates or facsimiles who perpetuate as the electorate stupidly surmises positions can be inherited or bequeathed through bloodlines and DNA.
Note. Congress is controlled by four families. The Executive branch, by two.
The inconvenient truth is that in the Philippines, money founds political power and influence. Riffraff reassert royalty through the cultural and economic subservience of subjects who deify them.
Analyze the inequity and recall ancient feudalism. The ruling families lie at the apex of the Philippine Gini coefficient, farthest from the teeming and toiling hoi polloi condemned at the bottom, there earning an honest peso mostly through work and weary wages rather than from vicarious equity income from investment holdings. Or patronage, and pork barrels.
Likely legitimately elected and, as Filipino sociology and culture would have it, enjoying toadying loyalty from their groveling constituencies, the metaphorical pyramid built from the masses upward like the ancient Egyptian burial tombs, this political paradigm founds our detrimental dependence on dynasties.
In the last elections challenging traditional patronage politics that operates through existing political structures, local government administrators, political operators, kingpins, and their private militia, was a phenomenal groundswell of dedicated idealistic volunteerism. 2022’s presidential choice was a virtual morality play. One adhered to the traditional autocratic structures of dynasties, local politics, and politicking. The other, essentially democratic where power resides with the people and not on its rulers.
Proudly principled, the latter did all the right things to revive a democracy lost to a plodding autocracy. Against the temptations to simply surrender to the gravitational pull of nagging despair, good people chose to be idealistic. They sought out a truly decent, competent, and caring person to not simply lead but more important, to inspire and draw out all that was good in the Filipino. Unfortunately, money, machinations, deceit, and dynasties unified.
In the aftermath of what felt like a bloodbath, allow us to analyze the underpinnings of a political dynasty. Let us start from its DNA from Philippine colonial culture on to modern-day curses inflicted through a damaged electoral system obvious in the last exercise where the canvass installed to the two highest offices what political dynasties had spawned.
All politics is local politics. Colonial communities had leaders cherry-picked by ruling feudal families who provided livelihood and controlled the local economy. In an agricultural setting, these were the landlords who provide whatever was needed for wealth creation first from agricultural inputs, seeds and fertilizers, access to markets and trading expertise, and later, as indirect contributions to workers, schooling, healthcare, and even spiritual support for those who toiled and tilled.
Discern the virtual pyramid’s trusses. Inequity was culturally programmed but well ingrained. Where feudalism and the political leader fused, there spawned the seminal dynasty the electorate enables, venerates, and then lazily depends on.
All politicians, whether administrators, or lawmakers, were viewed as benevolent and from there grew the leadership paradigm of an autocrat who provides for all the needs of the local community comprised of, not sovereign voters but lowly subjects. Our existing factional political party models are mere outcrops, dynasties, and coalitions absent fuzzy cerebral ideology.
Over centuries, the subservience deeply ingrained in our psyche remained predominant in 2022 when people picked between Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Leonor Robredo. A subservient electorate does not believe in itself. Perpetually dependent, they see themselves as followers or subjects of a ruler.
One had tactfully tapped into this ubiquitous Filipino utilitarian political model. Hence a campaign machinery run by local officials. The other offered the novel democratic ideal of a mature, intelligent, representative, and inspirational leader. Hence, a base of idealistic self-empowered volunteers.
At the end of the day, we are who we are, we reap what we sow, and we will pay the price for the government we spawn.
(Dean dela Paz is a former investment banker and a managing director of a New Jersey-based power company operating in the Philippines. He is the chairman of the board of a renewable energy company and is a retired Business Policy, Finance and Mathematics professor.)
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.