"The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” Article II Section 26 of the Philippine Constitution
The First Baron Acton has uttered this famous line more than a century ago, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
And now, it is still resonating in our political landscape and many of our known politicians are trying to perpetuate their places in history as "benevolent politicians" who are trying to help the poor and to serve their constituents.
Once in power, though many want to have honest-to-goodness reforms, they try to recoup their financial losses during their electoral campaign by "milking the cow" and "repay friends and supporters" through government appointments. And in some way transform politics into a cottage family business, politely known as "Kapamilya, Inc."
Daddy Governor tells favorite Board Member Hijo to run his post as Daddy runs for Congress while Mommy runs for Mayor. Uncle Congressman will run for another term while Auntie Councilor runs for Provincial Board Member. Cousin Congressman wants to run for the Senate while Grand Old Lolo takes his chances on the Presidency.
The politicians who claim to be clean and morally upright are the same people who violate the laws they made. From posting unauthorized posters on non-designated areas to blatant electioneering. How much more if they are in power already? Stealing public money and just plain-old lame-duck incompetence in their term of office?
In this article, let us examine how politicians perpetuate themselves in power. Because in the world of politics there is no such thing as public service, its public serves. We serve our political masters and not public servants serving us.
Political dynasties that have lasted so long in local and national politics have gained wealth and power through the years of "public service." And of course with great wealth, they have a sustainable economic base to finance their numerous local and national electoral campaigns.
Aside from gaining wealth in the political hierarchy, many of these political dynasties have expanded their own businesses from real estate to various industries. Once you are in power, you have an edge over competitors courtesy of tax exemptions and government protection. Even the business of racketeering, smuggling, drug-dealing and kidnapping are not even spared in the political business.
Political scientist Temario Rivera, in his book "Landlords and Capitalists," claimed that 87 prominent families controlled the top 120 manufacturing companies in the country from 1964-1986. Sixteen of those are active in politics including members of the landowning elites like the Cojuangcos, Aranetas, Yulos and Madrigals.
The mobilization of people to ensure the victory of a candidate or a political family in their respective political positions is what ensures the longevity of a dynasty. Basically, machine politics involve a hierarchy of leaders that ensure the "loyalty" of the constituents. From the konsehals down to the barangay chairmen, loyalty is ensured either through benevolence to intimidation. Even the SK chairman position has now become an on-the-job training for future bureaucrats.
This system has now become a sustainable conduit for future local leaders. A particular campaign leader will mobilize people to set up posters and provide flyers to people showcasing the "accomplishments" of a particular candidate they are supporting. This network of campaign leaders ensure the loyalty of the voters.
Many of them are getting paid through allowances from congressional payroll and even taxpayers money. An incumbent politician usually gets the upper hand when it comes to electioneering like this. Sometimes prominent supporters are killed to make sure that the opponent's own network is sabotaged.
Pollmasters are also in the payroll to make sure that the votes are for his. While some politicians hire paymasters to literally buy voters going to the polling stations.
Paid men are also hired to spy on the voter support of opposing candidates. They also provide crucial intelligence to the candidate as to the community's need from classrooms down to basketball courts.
This setup is somewhat similar to the underground gambling network wherein there are hired hands who will do the dirty deed, paymasters to silence dissent and insiders to spy on opponents.
Celebrities are potential political dynasty makers because of their fame. And in recent years, celebrities have stolen the thunder out of political families. No wonder some of them married celebrities to take advantage of their spouses' star power. Just ask Ralph Recto and Mar Roxas.
In the past, hired sexy entertainers to captivate the voters. But why not marry a celebrity? It doesn't hurt if you are an iconic actor in the mold of Joseph Estrada. The late Fernando Poe Jr. would have won the presidency too. Some politicians reinvent themselves as celebrities in their own right by endorsing products in television. Famous legal commentator / television host, the late Rene Cayetano bequeath his star power to his children, Alan Peter and Pia now running for Senate seats.
Prominent celebrity dynasties are the Estradas and Revillas.
Marriages have become a political tool to consolidate power and expand one's political domain. In this case, marriages consolidate political networks and expand the reach of clans. Prominent political marriages include the Benigno Aquino Jr.-Corazon Cojuangco and Ferdinand Marcos-Imelda Romualdez marriages.
On the other hand, other marriages were made to pool economic assets together to improve their political chances. Real estate entrepreneur Manuel Villar married Cynthia Aguilar of Las Pinas. Using the Aguilar political machine, Villar took over the position held by Cynthia's father Filemon and in this setup, his businesses benefited from this political setup. Now, Villar is gunning for the presidency.
Mayhem and murder is one of the oldest trick in the book of politics. Even before Nicollo Machiavelli taught Renaissance Italy about statecraft and political machinations. An unwritten rule, politicians commit murder to eliminate their political opponents and even cold-calculated mass murder and massacre to silence opposition.
One current case is the infamous Maguindanao Massacre. Its more than just a gangland-style killing, its more than just the extermination of political opposition but making sure a political family survive and perpetuate its power.
Right now, many people are killed because of the heated political landscape or they are just poor people caught in the crossfire of clan wars. From murdering political supporters to assassinating prominent politicians, this black art is still being practiced by political dynasties until now.
Murder sometimes bring someone to power. Juanito Remulla's "Godfather"-like execution of notorious bandit Nardong Putik made him a political power overnight. This laid the groundwork of the powerful Remulla dynasty in Cavite.
Myths are transmitted because of some degree of truths and half-truths. This myths create a powerful legacy that are passed down to generations thereby creating an image of the politician as "rags-to-riches" or "defender of the oppressed" persona.
Ferdinand Marcos perpetuated his war heroism and the legendary Maharlika anti-Japanese guerilla. His false "war hero" myth helped him alot in his political career. As a matter of fact, most of his medals were awarded after the war.
Diosdado Macapagal and Ramon Magsaysay had their Horatio Alger-type tale transformed into myths wherein "a young upstart realizes his wildest dreams beyond their means." Macapagal cast himself as "the poor boy from Lubao" while Magsaysay projected himself as "the man of the people." Joseph Estrada followed their footsteps by perpetuating the myth of "Erap para sa mahihirap" because of his usual role in the movies as the defender of the poor and oppressed. His powerful charisma overshadowed his love for the good life, good food and drinks and the company of women. His larger-than-life prevailed over his wanton excesses in private life.
The myth of benevolence are rampant in the countryside as established political families give wads of cash during election season. And the ugly head behind this is the myth of ruthlessness wherein they made their own rules and maintain a sense of fear among the populace by encouraging political intimidation and murder. They want to project absolute power.
The projection of favorable media projection ensures the myth of a politician like the "sipag at tiyaga" myth of Manuel Villar. Everyday and wherever you are, people are constantly reminded of Villar's rise to power through "hardwork."
Politics is all about majority and when you are in majority, you are still bound to align with other factions. Political clans build alliances with other families and other influential politicians in an effort to serve their interests.
Being friends with the administration, serves the family well as it open to opportunities such as government funding, appointments to key government positions, and favorable treatment to family business interests. However, if you are on the wrong side of the fence you will expect losing valuable funds for local projects and being harassed by government regulators.