Forget Anti-Dynasty Laws

Once again, JoeAm will swim upriver. 

  • From the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary: scion (noun), a son or daughter, generally of a family that is well-off.
All you anti-dynasty mavens have it wrong. Y’all want to dump skilled people because they have the wrong name. You’re are on a beeline to chaos and mediocrity.
Well, I don’t believe that actually.

You pretty much have mediocrity now, and chaos, too, as Senators Enrile and Trillanes teeter at the edge of fisticuffs, as Madam Miriam punches out her bombastic oratory, never predictable, always loud, and as important legislation like RH and FOI languish as Constitutionally challenged cybercrime laws are punched through causing nationwide apoplexy amongst those who like to speak freely.

TG Guingona

 But lets reflect on what we are doing here, eh? Not get caught up in rising tides or flowing rivers or currents of hot air. Let’s think about this before jumping on the “Down with Dynasties” bandwagon.

The new hero of the Anti-Cybercrime crowd is Senator TG Guingona, the only guy to vote against the Bill, to display independence and courage.  A hero at last!
But wait a moment! Wait. Wait. Alas, he’s another Dynasty guy! His father was Vice President under Gloria Arroyo. TG had all the advantages of family name and connection.
He, too, is tainted by family name. By privilege.
Cut him off? Force him out? 
“Off with their heads!” demands the Queen of Puritan Values.
We Stipulate Your Honor . . .

First of all, the stipulations. Yes, the scions have advantages. They are the favored children of generations upon generations. They have the best education possible. They got the good developmental jobs on the way up. A path to success was laid out for them when they were toddling around in diapers wiping their grubby hands on the upholstery. Many have street signs in Manila. Nevermind that the streets are over-populated, congested with diesel spewing machines, polluted with plastic and things unmentionable, and run-down. The American Embassy is on Roxas Boulevard. Quezon has a whole city.

Angaras (Source: Inquirer)

These offspring also have connections, and those connections, in a political scene,  can become ties that bind. They can be puppet strings to the weak-willed. Without question Marcos, Jr. and Enrile, Jr. and Estrada, Jr. and Arroyo, Jr and Angara, Jr. and Binay, Jrette are appendages of their parents. As in any good mafia family, the stern, dogmatic Godfather does not brook rebellion from within. Do you think Arroyo, Jr. would ever cross his Mama?

But there is also no question that many of the scions are highly qualified and would receive just about any job they applied for. Face it, a regular Jose would have a hard time getting to Harvard for a sterling law education. Or to London School of Economics. Or the Naval Academy. Or get a partnership in a law firm. So it is hard for a regular Jose to argue that he is better qualified.
These are not points requiring debate. There are factual advantages to being from a name family. Stipulated.
Drawing Pictures
Let’s for a moment hold America up as a successful pioneer of democracy. She became a productive giant, a nation of many ethnicities and religions bound harmoniously in tight-knit union committed to the Spirit America, and creating of wealth and happiness. Yes, you can condemn this American historical mistake or that, or this pushy international adventure or that, or this messy domestic episode or that, but if you look at the common measure of wealth and health for Americans, the nation has done well. The good far overwhelms the bad.
The U.S. does things very differently than the Philippines, and that is my point.
What are the core values that form Spirit America, this patriotic, well-principled ideal that hard work, creativity and candor can solve problems?
Let me draw two pictures for you. One American, the other Filipino.
  • In one scene, we have a young man at his desk in a small office on the eight floor of a sizable corporation. He is well-dressed, about 35, fit and trim. He arrived at 7 a.m., slugged down a couple of cups of hot coffee, and is now crisply working his computer to speed-read the e-mails that came in overnight from overseas. He fires off some quick responses and categorizes the others for follow-up, A, B, or C depending on how quickly he has to attend to them. Next he will review the report for this morning’s finance meeting, which he will lead on behalf of the senior executives in attendance. He relishes the opportunity to perform.
Mama Marcos
  • In another scene, we have a middle-aged woman sitting at her desk in a large office on the ground floor of the Municipal Registrar’s Office for a medium sized city. She arrived at her desk about 9:30, fresh from her shower and short commute in. She is well dressed but overweight. The three clerks were sitting about not doing much until she arrived. A young couple arrives to get their marriage certificate. She has them wait because she wants them to know she is important. She doesn’t have that much to do, even though she is paid well and gets a little excess cash from the gratuities from the people she registers for this or that. She will take care of the couple soon, take care of some correspondence, and take a half-hour break at 10:30. She relishes going home in the evening to watch TV.
Okay, that is probably enough. You have the pictures, right? One is a highly motivated, upward-bound executive. The other is a complacent, well-pampered civic authority.
If these are opposite ends of a scale of productive performance, say scoring 1 for the registrar and 10 for the young exec, where would you place Philippine senators, as a body? And where would you put individual senators?
The entire Senate is closer to the registrar than the executive, right? Not working very hard. Not producing much in the way of meaningful output. Living fat and happy.
There is some variation among the individual senators, but most, also, do not cut a picture of a vibrant, hard-working executive.
Why is that?
And shouldn’t we, as the “boss” of these people, expect something more?
It’s Downright UnAmerican . . . er, UnFilipino. . .
Set that aside for a moment.
What is the essential value that make democracy work?
  • Equal opportunity in the pursuit of a good life, liberty, and happiness.
Key words. Equal and opportunity.
Every individual is granted the same rights as every other individual. Neither race nor gender nor age nor religion nor FAMILY NAME shall be a basis for discrimination. The only basis for discrimination is ability to do the job.
A law that penalizes an individual for having the wrong name is unAmerican. And it ought to be unFilipino.
Ah, but you argue! The OPPORTUNITY is not equal. And I agree.
But I respond that we ought to fix that not by writing negative laws that discriminate and penalize, but by writing positive laws that open up government to new, talented, competitive blood.
The challenge before us is how to advance without going backward, how to progress without weakening the Philippine legislative capability by tossing out its best-trained people. The challenge is to make sure that: (a) the scions cut their ties to their parents and other influential forces, (b) non-scions get the same choice opportunities for schooling and jobs that the scions receive, and (c ) the Fifth Estate helps voters understand the difference between fame and competence.
The Positive Path:  Make Sure Junior Is Independent
This is the near-term fix, the way to avoid throwing the national baby out with the idealistic bath water, where the water is represented by the notion that “dynasties are inherently bad”.  It requires putting public pressure on the well-qualified scions (or other relatives) to think for themselves.
  • Demand an Oath of Public Trust for Relatives in Office. Make scions/relatives sign an oath that testifies that they will act independently, a clear statement of ethics when more than one family member holds elected office. Make sure they know they are being watched closely for independent acts. (This gives junior the justification to  disagree with Dad; he is not being disloyal to Dad, he is being loyal to his job and oath.) 
  • Report on voting record and legislation penned, father and scion. These are good indicators of independence. The massive media here, the sensationalist entertainers, are not inclined to do this. But bloggers and investigative journalists are. Publicize the information.
We know that Sonny Angara is well aware of the need to separate from his father. He has stated this in public interviews. And the two came down very differently on the Cybercrime Law. Senior said it need not be amended. Junior said amendments would be acceptable. If he knows his future is tied to independence, and not papa’s wishes, he’ll act independently. It’s called “growing up”. And, for younger people where presidential doors have not slammed shut, it is called “ambition”.
These scions are smart, wise enough and ambitious enough to display grown-up independence.
Don Quixote might be inclined to say “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza might wisely respond: “The apple can be carried far from where it falls.”
The Positive Path: An Executive Development Program
This is the long-term fix. Pass a Leadership Development Act that does two things:
(1) Provide scholarships, top-college graduate school or law school enrollment endorsements, followed by challenging early-career jobs, for people tabbed as leadership-qualified based on undergraduate work. In other words, provide success paths for non-family members that are just as good as the family members get.
(2) Establish development and mentoring programs within agencies so that top caliber producers are recognized, energized, trained and promoted.
The best way to break the old nepotistic model is to construct a POSITIVE program to bring ambitious, competent people into government.
The Positive Path: The Fifth Estate
The problem in the Philippines is that families are “stars” and stars are held in high esteem by voters.  Many local stars become mega-stars when they hit the national scene. The entertainment-based media feed into this starstruck setting. They don’t do the dull, boring work of rooting out people who work out of the limelight doing good work. So there is ZERO discovery of new talent.
The families run the star system, essentially.
Pass a positive law that requires candidates present both a detailed resume and a detailed platform, documents that allow people to see what has been accomplished in the past and what is promised for the future. Like SALN’s, this document should be publicly available on line.
The Fifth Estate, the electronic force of blogging and social networking, has shown itself capable of influencing massive media, and the public, if they have information available that allows them to write intelligently.
This force is growing steadily stronger and only a fool would mess with it.
The Fifth Estate.  Checking and balancing.
Give them information. Intelligence is just a keystroke away.
Then we can encourage voters to make  their choices in a better, more informed way. 
20 Responses to “Forget Anti-Dynasty Laws”
  1. brianitus says:

    Political power is almost god-like. Too much intelligence will push you out of the Garden of Eden. Even with enough information, it takes years to take an erring dynasty out. Voters, like shoppers on auto-pilot, are irrational. Change, change…Joe, do you think the Philippines would benefit from having a UAI study done among its citizens? Do the majority of voters really know what gov't is for?

  2. ah, brianitus, how are those noodles today?Interesting last question. Many think government is for free money every election, the price of a vote.I think the the majority have a vague idea about what government is for, but it doesn't touch their lives, so why worry. I have this idea that the internet is like a core of popular knowledge, a force, that reaches journalists, who write in their newspapers or broadcast on two dreadfully boring television stations, information that reaches a lot of people. I don't know what share of the poor populace watches "TV Patrol" so I don't know the real reach of any kind of "intentional message" pushing out from the center toward the bamboo huts. A message like "don't vote for any Marcos, Sotto, or Arroyo."But I do know that if one does not try to push out a message, then zero will receive it.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Independent dynast is an oxymoron. Family first. Independence is just for show. The dynasties stand in the way of attaining the common good. The fact that there are dynasties only means business is thriving. Of course, one can argue in regard to public opinion that there are "good" sensitive and there are "bad" thick-faced dynasts who rule with impunity. DocB

  4. Anonymous says:

    You got it wrong on Guingona. His dad does not hold elective position so there no dynasty. Political dynasty exists when multiple members of one family hold simultaneous two or more elective posts in local, regional and national level.Johnny Lin

  5. That seems like an artificial to me, like saying that when Dad retires, he no longer has influence on the family. To me the illicit nature of the dynasty is not just when people are in office, but the influence before and after, too. Like, Junior gets the inside track to the best education and the inside track on the voting machine, whether Dad is still in office, or in the Cabinet. I'm saying open those doors for others.

  6. Well, people have a difference in the definition of dynasty (see Johnny's comment below and my response). I view President Aquino as being from a dynasty, and he is a sensitive person who rules with good ambitions and a bit of impunity, too. He is different from Villar and Binay, in my book. Just as (I suspect) young Angara is different than his father, or any Marcos. My point is view people as individuals. And do a better job of opening up the government elected job market to outsiders.

  7. brianitus says:

    Oh, I had Lucky Me instant noodles today. My favorite is just too far away.The issues that matter are the ones pushed more often, the ones that see the light. Another thing is once those issues are seen, would the people care? To simply say that we shouldn't vote or we should vote for an Aquino, Marcos, Arroyo, Roxas, Angara, Enrile, (insert dynastic family name here) is just plain lazy thinking capitalizing on top-of-mind feelings. For most people, it's easy to remember an old name to put on the ballot. The MSG got to me today, so I'll throw in this odd question on using the family brand:If Noynoy had the same skill sets but different family name, or god forbid, an Arroyo family name, would he have won the presidency running on a platform of anti-corruption or would he have just languished in the senate as a wannabe? Would he have even made it to the senate at all? In case Mikey and Dato read this, maybe they can answer that one. I'm betting they don't have presidential ambitions. Hehehe. Peace.

  8. Anonymous says:

    In that case the dad is influential but dynasty is non existent until other members of his family hold simultaneous posts. Even in private corporations, only when few members of one family hold powerful posts at the same time that dynasty is mentioned. When one succeeds another family member the phrase usually used is " inherited the position"Johnny Lin

  9. Edgar Lores says:

    1. Firstly, skepticism is always beneficial, re-examination a necessity.2. The above comments (Brianitus & JoeAm) identify the two main drivers for politics: power and money.3. Keep in mind the gold standard as enunciated by Abe: a government of the people, by the people and for the people.4. With these in mind, let us examine the proposals.5. Near-term fix: Oath and Report on Voting Record5.1. The proof of the Oath will be in the Voting Record.5.2. At best, the scion will be sincere in his Oath. At worst, he will cynically manipulate his votes to reflect a sterling voting record.5.3. Outcome: public interest may or may not be served; the drivers of power and money are retained.6. Long-term fix: Executive Development Program6.1 This is a powerful proposal. The possible fly in the ointment is that the emergent leaders may not have the money to fund candidacy and enter politics. The program needs to address this issue.6.2 Outcome: public interest is better served by trained leaders; the drivers of power and money are still operative.6.3 Why not go the whole hog and propose a Confucian meritocracy? Train not only political leaders but the whole of the civil service. Do away with wasteful direct elections. Let emergent leaders at all levels, with the possible exception of town councilors, be appointed by an objective computer system on the primary basis of merit points garnered. Secondary criteria could be regional and age attributes.6.4 Meritocracy Outcome: Public interest is served. As the entire political structure is professionalized (just like the Judiciary) money no longer becomes a driver when public servants are amply remunerated and at the same time monitored by SALNs and performance feedback; the appointive power resides in the computer; the executive and legislative powers are no longer side-tracked by the need to extend or exchange favors.7. The Fifth Estate7.1 Agree this emergent force is a democratic tool of great consequence, and should not be repressed.7.2 In a meritocracy this estate would “wither away” and netizens can laze away on their favorite sites of gaming, study, entertainment and social interaction.

  10. Edgar Lores says:

    Tend to agree with Johnny's definition, but would refine it to say "simultaneous or consecutive".Point in case would be Binay's wife running for mayor immediately after Binay's term, that is while Binay was still in office.JoeAm's definition would disallow other family members from running for office – ever.

  11. Edgar, thanks for your through dissection of the issue. Actually, long ago when Arroyo was looking at a constitutional re-write, I opined that democracy and the Philippines do not really fit very well because: (1) poverty and ignorance do not make for good voting choices, and (2) the powerful people have a lock on the electoral machine. I proposed a "corporate" form of government, with a CEO and an appointed board requiring shareholder (voter) endorsement. Meritocracy. Exactly. The public's vote would be rather like a shareholder's. Passive until the leaders prove they cannot excel in running the corporation, then throw the bums out. Your 7.2 holds true as long as things are going well.

  12. brianitus, Lucky Me, eh? You are a noodleholic.If Aquino had a different name and the same capabilities, he would not have been elected president. He was elected specifically because of the aura surrounding his parents. He is a case of when family ties worked for the benefit of the Philippines (in my opinion, not yours, heh).

  13. We are talking about different subjects. Mine are not rules for who can be in political office, like you are Johnny are talking about. You view "dynasty" as a specific political animal, operative only when two family members are in office at the same time. I was using it to define the whole of the family influence. I'll use a different term when I figure out what it should be.My definition is not to be applied to exclude anybody. Indeed, I think family name is irrelevant. Family influence is, and that goes way past being in the same governmental unit. We are all subject to outside forces. Family members have one that is very clear and noticeable. Dad is sitting right over there. Lobbyists have rules. Family should have rules, too (oath, ethics). But you should not bar anybody from running for office based on name.

  14. Yes, your definition is clear. And the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary accepts for publication your definition of "dynasty". I'll find a different term. "Family lobby" or something. Something that defines the whole of the advantage that family members have in a society that trades favors so actively. The educational advantage, the job connections, the political backing, the lobbying. A rule for the Senate barring two family members will not really break this advantage down. It is a rather weak response to a pernicious problem, actually. The correction has to be more substantial than that. Like an Executive Development program to get new blood in.

  15. brianitus says:

    Edgar, in light of the EDA proposal/ Confucian Meritocracy idea, would we stand to benefit from a return to a two-party system? Throw in a shift to a federal-parliamentary gov't…Joe, I'll hold my opinion on who benefited the most until 2016. 😀

  16. Edgar Lores says:

    Brianitus,Sorry not familiar with the EDA proposal. The Meritocracy system I have in mind does not include a political party system, neither presidential nor parliamentary. Some ideas:1. Graduating high school students in all provinces will undergo IQ and aptitude tests.2. Qualified students will be granted scholarships to at least two special government schools specifically set up for public administration. Think PMA.3. The curriculum will comprise all subjects necessary to enlightened governing: history, psychology, sociology, ethics, economics, law, computers, leadership, etc. It will emphasize more the science rather than art of governing. Graduates will be more social engineers than bachelors of arts.4. Students will have field trips to towns and provinces to familiarize themselves with local conditions and problems.5. After graduation they will be assigned as town mayors according to their regional origins, although this is not necessary; then provincial governors. 6. The proposal for meritocracy system will be thrown to the people to decide in a referendum. Discussions and debates will be held to refine the system.7. A preparatory period of at least 8 years will be required to train the first batch of administrators. A transitional period of another 4 years to replace local government officialdom. The first batch of governors may be promoted to form the new legislature. The new legislature may elect the Chief Executive from within its ranks as in a parliamentary system. Cabinet members will be appointed by the Chief Executive from the ranks.Anyway, something like that. So the competition will be based on the schools not on political parties.

  17. brianitus says:

    Oops, I meant EDP. As in Executive Development Program.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Precisely. Political dynasties will not thrive in a meritiocracy. The middle name of a political dynasty is status quo. When I do get to vote next year my choices would be limited to lesser evil or greater evil and that is not much of a choice, is it?DocB

  19. And the status quo is rooted in insecurity. I've asked Angry Maude to deal with one aspect of this, the authoritarian twist in Philippine libel laws. That's for tomorrow's blog.

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