Numbers Don’t Lie

When does a political family become a political dynasty? A political dynasty is established in two instances. First, when an elected government official is succeeded by a member of his household up to the first degree of consanguinity or affinity. Second, when several members of a family occupy various positions in government simultaneously.
There are 250 political families who control the country, 56% of whom come from old political elites like the Osmeñas, Roxases and Magsaysays and 44% emerged after the 1986 Edsa Revolution.
In the Senate, 16 out of the 24 members belong to political dynasties as are 70% of the members of Congress. An audit of their statements of assets and liabilities reveal that lawmakers who belong to political dynasties increase their net worth by an average of 39% after every term while those who do not belong to dynastic families increase their wealth by less than 10%.
Among local governments, 73 out of 80 provinces are controlled by political dynasties. Statistics show that the average incidence of poverty in provinces controlled by political dynasties is a staggering 29.15% while those not under dynastic control stands at only 18.91%. Abject poverty is at 2.31% in dynastic bailiwicks and only 1.96% in non dynastic localities.
The numbers suggest that political dynasties exacerbate the incidences of poverty rather than improve them. This assertion is further supported by the inherent consequences of political dynasties as described below.
On Governance
: When members of the same family occupy multiple positions within a city or municipality, most are likely to consolidate power in a pseudo monarchial manner. In such a setup, the preservation of power becomes the priority, even more important than social and economic development itself. Painful reforms and unpopular but necessary decisions are avoided as they erode political equity. Adoption of populist policies become the norm at the cost of stunted development.
Political dynasties are more likely to utilize their budgets doling out scholarships, funeral aid and basketball courts rather than investing in social development programs, economic initiatives and infrastructure.
These dynastic families are easily recognized — they operate in areas where “tarpaulin politics” is prevalent. Politicians who grab credit by posting their names and faces on every corner via tarpaulin banners is a tell tale sign of a poorly managed dynastic territory.
On Fair Elections: It is just as easy for a dynasty’s family member to win an election as it is difficult for new talent to penetrate.
Within the disposal of dynasties are formidable political machines, funds and the many advantages of being the incumbent. The playing field is skewed to the dynasty’s favor. This unfair advantage dissuades aspiring public servants from throwing their hat in the proverbial ring. In effect, it decrease the level of political participation among the populace. Dynasties monopolize power by depriving others from a fair opportunity to serve.
This is why we have 21-year-old scions becoming mayors and governors while the man with a doctorate degree in public governance is edged out. Political dynasties cause a brain drain of talent among elected officials.
On Competence: Capabilities, values and work ethic rarely improve from generation to generation, especially within powerful families enjoying comfort and positions of influence. More often than not, the second generation simply emulates the habits of the first. New ideas are stifled due to inbreeding of management practices while bad habits are magnified. That said, it can be argued that the quality of governance deteriorates over time in dynastic bailiwicks.
On Generation of Wealth: By virtue of their elected positions, political dynasties are able to wield influence, consolidate economic resources and use their political machineries to take advantage of business opportunities. These opportunities may come in the form of lucrative government contracts or power brokering deals. Whether over or under the table, political dynasties enjoy an undue advantage in generating wealth.
On Check and Balance: Most developed nations like South Korea have two sets of elite — the political elite composed of high level civil servants and technocrats and the economic elite composed of captains of industries and business owners. Their interests are never made to intersect as doing so causes conflicts of interests. These nations have strong institutions capable of disciplining one or the other should their actions go against national interest.
In the Philippines, the political and economic elite are one and the same (most of the time). This is why policies and decisions are often laced with self-interest.
On Economic Inequality: Political dynasties are of the elite class, if not by stature then by virtue of their net worth. Their continued persistence in our political system strengthens the sway of the elite over the poor. The disenfranchised continue to be the subjects while the elite consolidate their supremacy.
Culture of Dependence: The concentration of political and economic power among a few families benefits a minute segment of society while leaving out the greater majority. It institutionalizes economic inequalities and perpetuates a culture of dependency between the elite and the poor. It comes as no surprise that the provinces with the most established political dynasties are also poorest.
Article II, Sec. 26 of the 1987 Constitution is very clear in its intent. It says, “the state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
In theory, the constitution prohibits political dynasties. However, it still lacks an enabling law that defines what a dynasty is and its repercussions.
Congress has had the duty to enact an enabling anti-dynasty law since 1987 but failed to do so for self-serving reasons. There have been 32 attempts but not one has passed the committee level of the House.
The public has waited 31 years for an enabling law, an unreasonable time to wait. Legislators, past and present, have conspired to betray the Constitution for self-interest.
After 31 years, political dynasties have entrenched themselves deeply in our political system. As a result, our institutions have become weaker, reforms are slow to implement, corruption is rife, incompetence is tolerated and partisan politics is the name of the game in the halls of power.
As citizens, there is not much we can do but resist political dynasties. The power is still in our hands, as voters. Resist the dynasties and vote for the aspiring, qualified candidate. Its about time we change our cast of leaders. Its about time we infuse new talent.
Andrew J. Masigan is an economist.