01 Feb The few who control our country
Only a few families control our politics, government and country.
In fact, only 178 families control our political system, according to the 2014 study of Julio Teehankee, college dean at De La Salle University in Manila. Around 75 percent of the members of Congress and around 80 percent of the governors and mayors belong to political dynasties, according to the 2014 study of Ronald Mendoza, director of the Asian Institute of Management’s Policy Center.
These dynasties have captured Congress and the leaderships of local government units. They have become a “major obstacle” to progress in the rural areas. Too often, public funds and other resources intended to develop the rural areas get hijacked by corrupt local politicians and do not reach the people. As a result, the wealth and businesses of politicians often flourish, while their constituents remain poor.
One of the findings of the Mendoza study is that poverty is highest in areas controlled by political dynasties, with a few exceptions. Thus, even if many of these dynasties have been in power for decades, and their members simultaneously occupy positions of leadership in their areas, poverty in these areas remains high.
The same is true at the national level. Political dynasties have also become a “major obstacle” to national development and progress. Because the dynasts have captured Congress, they determine what laws to pass. They would not pass a law to abolish the pork barrel system because they and their relatives in the LGUs are the biggest beneficiaries of it. They would not pass the freedom of information or antidynasty bills because these are against their interests.
Political dynasties are a worsening problem. In the 1980s, it was unheard of for spouses or for a parent and his/her child to become the mayor and vice mayor of a town or city. Today, it is the trend—and it is increasing at an alarming rate. Perhaps at least 20 percent of our LGUs today have this notorious tandem of husband-wife and parent-child as governor-vice governor or mayor-vice mayor. If the 20 percent becomes 70 percent, ours will become a totally failed democracy; it will become a “familicracy,” a system where a few families control our political system, government and country.
In the 1970s, there was only one dictatorship in the country: the Marcos dictatorship. Today, we have many “small dictatorships” in the form of political dynasties.
In business or in any organization, leadership is paramount. The rise and fall of a nation, or a community, depends on the leadership. While a good president can do a lot, it is still the leadership of the representatives, governors and mayors that spells progress in the countryside.
The tragedy is that many of our leaders have become a big part of our problems.
Our tragedy is that, despite our Christianity, we have some of the most unchristian leaders. Our tragedy is that many, if not most, of our leaders do not truly love our people. They do not see God in their fellow Filipinos, though more than 80 percent of them are Christians, and despite the fact that one of the most fundamental teachings of Jesus Christ is: “Whatever you do to the least of your neighbors, you do to Me.”
If our next president will not consider the political dynasties and the pork barrel system as a big part of our problems, the situation in our country will get even worse. The dynasties will consolidate their political fiefdoms. The pork barrel system will continue to feed the dynasties. Public funds intended for the poor in rural areas will continue to be hijacked by corrupt politicians under the pork barrel system. Our GDP may continue to grow, but the growth will continue to be noninclusive.
What is needed in the countryside is leadership—sincere, competent and dedicated leadership in the LGUs.
What our country truly needs is a leader who clearly sees corruption as a problem and understands that the leaders who engage in it and the evil system that allows it are the bigger part of the equation; a leader who clearly sees that political dynasties are a big obstacle to our development and progress; a leader who clearly sees that the corruption in the pork barrel system is the most hideous of all, for the public funds are set aside by law for the people, and stealing them is stealing food, medicines, books, schools and roads from our people.
Jose Rizal talked of a “social cancer” in Philippine society during his time. But the Spanish colonizers, the major cause of this cancer, left the country more than a century ago. Yet the cancer has remained, and it is worsening.
A cancer is caused by a few bad cells that keep multiplying until they become the dominant cells in one’s body. That’s what is happening in our society today. The few bad leaders in our society are the major cause of our present-day social cancer. They are in control of our politics, Congress and LGUs. Their insatiable greed for wealth and power cause our people to suffer. They are destroying our society.
We must find a solution to our present-day social cancer. We must find a way to heal our nation.
Support the People’s Initiative for the Abolition of the Pork Barrel System. This will do away with the carcass that feeds political vultures.
Alex Lacson (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of the book “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do To Help Our Country.”