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On Political Dynasties in the Philippines

screenshot_3A politician, let’s say a mayor, could no longer run for re-election due to term limits, what would the honorable gentleman do? Turn his back on politics? Of course not! Power is so addicting. So many of those who experienced to be at the helm of either local or national politics (and enjoyed the benefits, including those “passed under the table”) would not just quit politics nor pass the torch to another person.

So, what would happen?

His wife would run for the position he previously held. Then that politician would run for another post –  as governor perhaps. Assuming both the politician and his wife win and luckily get re-elected until they reach their term limits, would it be the end? Would their thirst for power (and the so-called “benefits”) be finally satiated?

Not by a long shot!

They are just starting to build a  political dynasty.

The couple would ask their son or daughter (or a grandson – or a granddaughter – or an in-law) to run for the positions they would vacate. The shocking thing (and you might not believe it), there are times that siblings, or even husbands and wives, would not give way to the other and so member of the same family would slug it out in the political arena. Anyway, this article is not about family member squabbling in the political arena – this is about the political dynasty their families created.

Let’s continue then.

Let’s go back to the mother who just reached her term limit as mayor? Would she go back to being a full-time mother and wife. I think you know the answer.  She would run for the post vacated by the husband-politician. The husband would then aim for  a higher position  – run either as congressman or even senator. In case all family members win then for years that the power will change hands within the same family. The son (or daughter) is a mayor, the mother a governor and the father either as congressman or senator. When term limits are reached then they will just run for the position that a family member would vacate. Some siblings, and even in-laws, in the family are also occupying minor positions in the geographical units where they reside.

That’s political dynasty.

What’s my beef with political dynasties? Let me answer that question with the following questions:

“How (did they perform) are they performing  as leaders?”

“What is the current economic, social and political condition of the country?”

“Is the Philippines  marching towards progress with them holding the reins of government?”

Of course you know the answers to the questions aforementioned.

How many of the available positions in the Philippine government, local and national, are held by the same families who have been the gods and goddesses of Philippine politics since time immemorial? Most of them are offspring of the peninsulares who survived  America’s power grab at the turn of the 20th century. Eventually they stayed in the country and reaped the dividends for doing so. And it’s not only the politics that they dominate. With the enormous fortune they inherited from their Spanish parents/grandparents, they also control the country’s economy. That’s why  Filipinos would sometimes jokingly ask – “Did the Spanish rule really end?”

Only the pure-blooded Filipinos and foreign expatriates of Chinese origin who became wealthy when the Americans took their turn to colonize the Philippine had the financial resources to challenge the Spanish mestizos for political supremacy in the Philippines, especially after the American granted the Filipinos their independence after the World War 2 . Some of them succeeded and when they experienced how intoxicating power is, they themselves established their political dynasties.

It is no longer surprising to know that politicians occupying national positions have one, or two (I hope not all) family members and in-laws occupying seats in the local government.

You might ask – “When would having the same people from the same families passing the reins of leadership to each other in both the national and local governments after elections end?”

It might not!

Why?

It would require for a candidate to have sacks (if not truckloads) of money to win in an election in the Philippines.

You were probably born yesterday if you don’t understand what I mean.

Rare are real public servants getting elected in the Philippines. The ones in position, usually, are the rich and powerful – those who could buy votes. Politicians buy votes because most (I’m not saying all) Filipino voters sell their votes to the highest bidders.

Midterm election in the Philippines is on May, 2019.

Will the Filipinos sell their votes again?

Will the political dynasties continue their reign?

Only God knows!

PWEDE PO BANG MAGTANONG?

question

Sa paligid ay igala ang paningin
Mayroon bang nagbago sa bayan natin,
Asam na pag-unlad atin na bang narating,
Kapayapaang hangad atin bang angkin?

Tigilan na ang pagbulag-bulagan
Mata mo’y imulat sa katotohanan
Bayan nati’y lugmok sa kahirapan
‘Di makamit asam na kapayapaan

Ang tanong, “Sino ang dapat na sisihin?”
Sino ba ang hindi tumupad sa tungkulin?
Mga pinuno bang iniluklok natin,
O imaheng katitigan mo sa salamin?

Pinunong halal lang ba ang may tungkulin
Na paglingkuran ang inang-bayan natin?
Kung doon sa hapag mo’y walang pagkain
Sila nga lang ba ang dapat na sisihin?

Kaninong pinuno ka ba nasiyahan?
‘Di ba’t silang lahat ay iyong pinintasan?
Palaging may mali, palaging may kulang,
Kay hirap sundin ng iyong pamantayan.

Subalit kung ika’y aking tatanungin
May nagawa ka ba para sa bayan natin?
Sobra-sobra kung pinuno’y batikusin
Eh ikaw, “Ano ba ang kaya mong gawin?”

Para kasing kay talino mo’t kay galing
Eh ‘di sige mungkahi ko iyong sundin
Maging pinuno iyo kayang subukin
At problema ng bayan iyong lutasin

Kung hindi kaya aba’y manahimik ka!
H’wag ka nang makisawsaw sa pulitika!
Ang gawin mo sana’y maghanap-buhay ka
Ang itaguyod… sarili mo’t ang pamilya

Sa halip na pulitika ang atupagin
Buhay mo muna ang dapat na ayusin
Dahil kapag tagumpay… iyong narating
Maging ang bayan mo’y makikinabang din.

Reading Between (and Beyond) the Lines of Espinosa and Dayan

ronnie-dayan-kerwin-espinosaWhen finally the long arms of the law caught up with them, Kerwin Espinosa, a big-time drug lord from Eastern Visayas, and Ronnie Dayan, Senator De Lima’s driver-lover,  were made to appear in the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively. The upper and lower chambers of the Philippine Congress are currently conducting congressional inquiries related to the government campaign against illegal drugs.

Both Espinosa and Dayan are believed to be holding vital information about the illegal drug trade in the Philippines thus they are regarded as key witnesses in the congressional inquiries. Their eventual capture and appearance in the Congress hearings were considered as welcome developments.

Espinosa testified in the Senate on November 23, 2016 and Dayan in the House of representatives the day after. Both of them opened  the proverbial “can of worms.” Many of the things they said may already be common knowledge but hearing them directly making the confirmations was demoralizing, to say the least.

Espinosa, who probably was still smarting over his misfortunes and still trying to cope with the tragic death of his father, named policemen and high ranking PNP officers involved in the illegal drug trade. He provided shocking narratives of how the police in his areas of operation in the Visayas turned a blind eye on his illegal activities in exchange for millions of protection money from him. In addition, he divulged that even the policemen themselves were peddling drugs. But what may be considered as his biggest revelation was Senator De Lima receiving drug money from him.

But while Espinosa was visibly irate for those accused of murdering his father while in prison were also present in the hearing, Dayan was seemingly the opposite. He appeared to be relaxed and was in good spirits. Contributing to that was perhaps the fact that humor was interspersed in the manner that the hearing in the House of Representatives was carried out.

There were two key points made by Dayan in his testimony. Firstly, he confirmed that he was indeed, Senator De Lima’s lover and that they had an affair for 7 years. Lastly, he admitted receiving money from Espinosa in behalf of the senator.

Now, what do we make out of the testimonies made by Espinosa and Dayan?  What’s there between (and beyond) the lines of the depositions they delivered?

Reaction to the secrets Kerwin and Ronnie revealed differ. Not surprising anymore is the fact that opinions and views expressed by both the ordinary citizens and their leaders depended on which side of the political fence they are standing.

The so-called “yellow brigade,” members and supporters of the Liberal party and their allies who are perceived to be anti-Duterte and would understandably oppose the programs and advocacies of the incumbent President, came to the rescue of the beleaguered lady-senator.

On the other hand, the ones championing the drive of the government to eradicate the country’s drug problems, find more reasons to grill and subject to unwarranted ridicule the human rights advocate turned senator.

Dayan corroborated Espinosa’s claim that Sen. Delima accepted drug money. That’s the cake. The icing was his full disclosure of their affair that has been circulating in the rumor mill for the past years.

The gossip-hungry nation seemed to have forgotten about the cake and feasted merrily on the icing. The icing was so sweet that it even appeared to have gotten the better of the lawmakers who were conducting the hearing. During the said hearing, the members of the House of Representatives focused so much on the details of the love affair between the lady-senator and her former security aide-driver.

The real issue is how true is it that the former Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights and Justice Secretary accepted drug money. Serious accusations indeed. That is what really matters and should be the main focus of the inquiry.

As to her culpabilities emanating from her past romantic affairs with Dayan (and a certain Warren Cristobal) is up to the members of the Senate Ethics Committee and the Supreme Court. If found guilty of wrongdoings she could be kicked out from the Senate and might be disbarred on account of immorality. She could even go to jail if adultery can be charged against her.

Those supporting Senator De Lima were quick to bring attention to the inconsistencies in the affidavits executed by Espinosa and Dayan. They mentioned in particular the conflicting dates as to when Espinosa gave Dayan the supposed drug money.

Do inconsistencies in the dates and time in the affidavits of Espinosa and Dayan make  their testimony false?  When two persons met and they cannot identify the exact time and date they did so does it mean that they did not actually meet?

While the dates may be conflicting, both men acknowledged that money changed hands…that Espinosa gave Dayan a certain amount and Dayan confirmed that he received it…and that the money landed in Senator De Lima’s coffers.

Experts believe that Espinosa and Dayan are holding their cards close to their chests. They have not divulged everything they ought to say for reasons only them know. But as it is, their testimonies have confirmed that drug syndicates have already infiltrated the different branches of the government and the ranks of the Philippine National Police. They have, indeed, corrupted the government officials and police officers.

Espinosa’s testimony in particular have left the following questions mercifully begging for answers.

Why did it take this long before the government addressed the illegal drug trade? What have the governments in the past done to curb  the problem?

If any of past governments would claim they have done something then they have to explain why the number of drug-dependent Filipinos have reached more than 3 million and why the number of drug traders increased by the thousands  .

The more perplexing question is, “How come that drug dealers could continue with their drug trade even if they were behind bars?” Senator De Lima has a lot of explaining to do. She really need to explain why right under her nose, as Secretary of Justice who’s in charge of Bureau of Corrections,   the drug trade flourish in the country’s penitentiary. The senator also needs to disprove the claims made by convicted drug lords that she received money from them.

Conflicting may be are the details in the testimonies of Espinosa, Kerwin and the high-profile inmates in the national penitentiary  but what those accusers are saying are too difficult to ignore.

Another question is, “How deep has the drug syndicates penetrated the country’s police force and the different branches of the government? How many police officers, judges, senators, congressmen and local and national officials are protectors of drug syndicates?

General Dela Rosa, the head of the Philippine National Police,  cried in exasperation upon realizing during that Senate inquiry how much credibility his organization have lost.

Espinosa’s revelations  have shown how complicated the drug problem in the Philippines is and how full is President Duterte’s plate.

If only the government’s drive against drugs be viewed using not only the lens of extra judicial killing.

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