Friday, September 12, 2008


The Price Democracy has to Pay?

If there are people who are greatly affected by these familial empires, it would be those people living in the countryside who are victims of grinding poverty that has resulted from centuries-old feudalism. Being that, one would be urged to find do these dynasties remain resilient for decades, sometimes for generation, even in democratic societies? Why do these people continue on securing these families’ cleave to political power. (Of course, we shall not eliminate other reasons why they consistently reap votes sufficient to retain them in position.) Why do they seem to want their leaders to members of famous families and clans? To supplant hard and fast answers may be quite difficult but a study of the source of political power as well as the nature of power struggle in the Philippines may be a little of help.

Political power is the basic force on the political process and in structuring the society. It is both a compensation and a determinant in the distribution of wealth and prestige in the stratification system. And in a democratic country as ours, political power is generally a result of the popular will expressed through the ballot.[1] In a democracy, power is vested in the masses who in turn, delegate this power to those whom they elect to represent them in the government. Election is a procedure by which members of communities and/or organizations choose persons to hold an office’ (Nohlen, 1984). It is a technique of rendering authority and/or creating representative bodies. As said, election is an implement of democracy. Ideally, elections here in the Philippines, especially after we gained freedom in 1986, are purposed to legitimize the government and perpetuate elite rule. As placed by Conrado de Quiros, a known journalist and a victim of the Martial rule noted that elections are supposed to be the “equilibrating” mechanism, although their ability to equilibrate society under the combined weight of mass restiveness and competing claims to power by various power blocs would diminish in time.” Unfortunately however, this high regard for elections have suffered due to the existence of political dynasties in the country today.

It must be remembered that democracy was diminished during the 14-year Marcos dictatorship. In fact, the Philippines have to undergo a tedious process to recuperate if not to exhume itself from the graveyard of democracy. Thus, when democracy was regained, Filipinos were seen to greatly treasure such acquired freedom. Unfortunately, however, the existence of political dynasties shows otherwise. In fact, the power of one the incidents of democracy, which is election, seem to have been not been appreciated and cherished as it should be.

Democratic government, as former US President Abraham Lincoln in his famous Gettysburg Address refers to, is “A government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Democratic government of course, by this definition, is a representative government. One which is attained through a democratic election wherein all qualified citizens participate, with each having one vote, to elect their representatives to their government (of the people) who will run the government (by the people) for the general welfare (for the people). Of course, this presupposes that the representative shall be chosen via a free, honest, fair and peaceful election by the people who has an unbridled freedom to give their mandate. Ideally, of course, there is a requirement that the people’s choice of their representative at election should not be limited by wealth, power and influence.

Given those, can we now question the mandate of the electorate in choosing their representatives through familial affiliations? The unfortunate consequence therefore is that political dynasties, as a dominant feature of Philippine politics, have placed in grave doubt and peril representative democracy. And thus, political institutions will only have a veneer of democracy as long as political dynasties are not dismantled. The very essence and purpose of democracy—representative government—would be thwarted. Public officials would not truly represent the vox populi, but only the vox familiae.