Political Dynasties: Are Leaders Born or Made?

By , on January 16, 2014


President Benigno Simeon Aquino III takes his oath before Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the Philippines 15th President during inaugural ceremony at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park in Manila Wednesday (June 30). Looking on are (from left) former president Fidel Ramos, former president Joseph Estrada, Presidential Sister Kris Aquino-Yap, Father Catalino Arevalo SJ (holding the Holy Bible), and Presidential Sister Pinky Aquino-Abellada (REY S. BANIQUET/OPS-NIB)
President Benigno Simeon Aquino III takes his oath before Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the Philippines 15th President during inaugural ceremony at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park in Manila Wednesday (June 30). Looking on are (from left) former president Fidel Ramos, former president Joseph Estrada, Presidential Sister Kris Aquino-Yap, Father Catalino Arevalo SJ (holding the Holy Bible), and Presidential Sister Pinky Aquino-Abellada (REY S. BANIQUET/OPS-NIB)

 

According to Wikipedia, “Politics in the Philippines has been under the control of a few notable families. It is normal for a politician’s son, wife, brother, or other kinsman, to run for the same or other government office. The term coined by Filipinos to describe this practice is “Political dynasty”, the equivalent of an oligarchy in political science.”

 

Some two years ago, former senate president Senator Juan Ponce said in an interview that dynasties have existed since politics was invented. He even mentioned the Kennedys and Roosevelts, arguing that political dynasties also exist outside the Philippines.

 

On a paper written by Ernesto and Pedro Dal Bo and John Snyder for the National Bureau of Economic Research, they wrote, “Political dynasties are present in other democracies as well, such as India, where the Gandhi dynasty has spanned three generations and produced four national leaders. The main concern with political dynasties as voiced in the popular press is that they are somehow un-democratic.”

 

Is there really an issue if politicians’ children follow their footsteps? If my future kid wants to be a writer, would it be deemed unacceptable? Is there really any difference?

 

The thing that might be quite arguable here is that when someone has the authority to rule over a piece of land—whether it be the humble barangay chairman or the provincial governor—authority means economic or financial power.

 

One may also argue and use the 1987 Philippine constitution to plead their case, saying that political dynasties are unconstitutional. According to Article II Section 26, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

 

Now, obviously, political dynasties exist despite the fact that it is grossly expressed in the constitution that it is prohibited. The Anti-Political Dynasty Law has been proposed several times but it never made it to the top.

 

In fact, according to political analyst Dante Simbulan (as cited by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism or PCIJ), “in a study of the elites of Philippine politics from 1946 to 1963 lists 169 prominent families. These families have produced 584 public officials, including seven Presidents, two Vice Presidents, 42 Senators, and 147 Representatives.”

 

According to the same source, back in the 12th Congress (1998-2001), 31% or 71 representatives have parents who are also holding political offices around the country. 25 reps have children elected into office, 22 reps have their spouses elected, 47 representatives have siblings who are also government officials, 60 reps have other relatives elected into government posts, 31 reps have in-laws who are in office, and 41 representatives have their “meemaw” (grandmother) and “pop-pop” (grandfather) in political offices as well.

 

This makes me wonder about the quality of leaders our country has today. If eye color and height can be passed on from parent to child as genes carried on to the next generation, can you also pass on your qualifications to become a leader? Is there such a thing as a ‘leadership gene?’

 

Infographic by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBN News Online
Infographic by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBN News Online

 

We have the Binays of Makati, the Ejercitos and Estradas of Metro Manila and Laguna, the Cayetanos of Pasig, the Mangudadatus and even the infamous clan of the Ampatuans of Maguindanao, and the Ecleos of Dinagat Island. These are just a few of the political dynasties that have held office for decades in certain parts of the country. In an infographic designed by Jojo Malig for ABS-CBN Online, the provinces with political dynasties are tagged with blue markers and I’m telling you, it’s teeming with blue markers in the way that divisoria is teeming with shoppers two days before Christmas day.

 

According to my research, there is no ‘leadership gene.’ Parents holding political office will not automatically have a politically-inclined son or daughter. It is not a trait genetically passed on from parents to offspring. So one cannot argue that leaders are born.

 

They can, however, be born to be made into a leader, which is the argument of nature versus nurture.

 

You may nurture your child to grow up in a way that instills political inclination in their minds, showing them the ropes, telling them how to lead governed by righteousness, justice, and genuine desire to serve the people.

 

But I’m guessing that’s not always the case. But—again—that issue perhaps need its own article. For now, I shall not digress.

 

For now, let it boil down to pure science—that leaders are not born, they are made. Then let the looming question stew—are parents making competent leaders?