Sunday, October 07, 2007

Political Dynasty

It all started with an email from an old friend urging:
Send this to all Filipinos you know. Save our country.

"Virtual Reality" column of Tony Lopez
Tue, June 12, 2007 Issue of The Manila Times

Just how bad dynasties are to the economy and the country can be gleaned from the amount of taxpayers' money these people have access to. Take the Senate. There will be siblings - Pia and Alan Cayetano.

In addition,Alan's wife, Laarni, took his old congressional seat from Taguig. There will probably be a father-and-son senator - Nene Pimentel and Koko Pimentel.

The No.2 most popular senator, Chiz Escudero, has his father, Sonny, as congressman from Sorsogon, his son's old turf. Ed Angara is senator; his son and namesake is a congressman.

A senator draws P200 million in pork barrel; a congressman, P70 million. Therefore, Pia, Alan and Laarni will rake in P470 million a year, or P1.4 billion in three years. Nene and Koko will have P400 million between themselves yearly, or P1.3 billion in three years. Chiz and Sonny will enjoy P270 million per year, or P810 million in three years, just like the Angara father-and-son tandem.

How much does the average poor make a day? A third of the 85 million population, or 25.5 million of the people of this country make less than $1 a day, or P365 (or P17,155) a year.

According to Ping Lacson, the P200-million pork barrel of a senator is just a starting figure. If a senator sponsors a Cabinet department during the budget hearings and sessions, he/she is given access to P350 million in the line budget of that department. So P200 million plus P350 million, that's P550 million.

What do the Filipino people get in return for electing these people? Very little, if any.

In the last 100 years since Filipinos began electing their
representatives, the Philippines dege-nerated from being the No. 1 economy, trading and commercial power in Asia to No. 73 least compe-titive country in the world. Today,the Philippines is less free than it was a century ago. Did you know that the Philippines used to be Asia's industrial power?

As late as the 19th century, the Philippines was already one of
Asia's premier industrialized countries and was the center of culture and education. The country was producing iron-ore sheets, refined iron ore, liquor from molasses using then unheard-of boilers, fine textiles for export, and was using steam engines and steamships. It established the first bank in Asia, made the first typhoon forecast in Asia, and set up the
first European-style universities in Asia.

Manila had a street car system, just like San Francisco; and had a ferrocarril line from the city to Dagupan in the north and from Manila to Batangas and Bicol in the south. By 1895, Manila had an electric light system. The first conglo-merate were established by Filipino tycoons. What happened after that?

During the last 100 years, Japan became a military power and the world's No. 2 economic power next to the United States.

During the last 50 years, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and
Singapore became economic miracles. Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore became nation states (they used to be unknown islands while Filipinos were already conducting diplomatic relations with Europe and China). In fact, at one time, the Sultan of Sulu was a frequent visitor in China because he
liked it there. He stayed there for three months, but died of syphilis. The Chinese erected a monument in his honor.

In the last 30 years, the Philippines became the slowest growing
economy per capita in Asia, bar none. During that time, Congress produced 15,000 laws and law schools 30,000 lawyers, half of whom are active. So two lawyers for every one law. Yet, the Philippines has a very poor human rights and economic rights record.

We got our priorities wrong. We gave the people the power to vote even before the people and those they elect learned how to govern properly, or at the very least, prepare or educate themselves to have a modicum of competency and honesty.

These days, people kill people just to be able to serve the people.

People bribe people just to be able to serve the people. That is the meaning of a heated electoral contest. And of fraudulent elections.

Should our politicians be blamed for the nadir we have fallen into? I will say No if those families mentioned in the first part of this column will return their pork barrel and declare, "from now on, I will truly serve the people." C'mon, give the money to the 12-million school-age children who are out of school because of extreme poverty. You don't deserve so much money.

You didn't earn it.
My response:
In sending this to all Filipinos you know to save our country, please add my comments below:
“What do the Filipino people get in return for electing these people (dynasties)? Very little, if any” declares the "Virtual Reality" column of Tony Lopez. He starts by enumerating the current crop of families controlling the Philippine government and laments the decline from a century ago as number one economy (untrue – Japan was numero uno) to today’s sick man of Asia status.
All men are created equal? Nature favors biodiversity, not similarity (triplets are rare, one every 240 mega births; Malaysia even brags that they celebrate differences), so we should expect some individuals to be better than others, and some dumber. Those that excel become the elite. Tough, but empirical truth.
Since the time of Aristotle who gave the classical definition of oligarchy, it is government by a few, usually the rich, for their own advantage. It is compared with both aristocracy, which is defined as government by a few chosen for their virtue and ruling for the general good, and various forms of democracy, or rule by the people. The major distinction between oligarchy and democracy is that in the latter, the elites compete with each other, gaining power by winning public support. A dynasty is an oligarchy of a prominent and powerful family.
The formation of oligarchies within the various forms of democracy is the outcome of organic necessity, according to sociologist Robert Michels who first developed the theory of the Iron Law of Oligarchy. If laws are passed to control the dominion of the leaders, it is the laws which gradually weaken, and not the leaders.
Oligarchies can often become instruments of transformation, by insisting that monarchs or dictators share power. We can patiently wait for the inevitable change to happen (hoping for the change to be for the better) or leave the change to the next cycle of mass extinction to make a new start.
Reveling and nostalgia over past glories is unproductive. I know, I know, we cannot plan for the future without considering past history. There is a famous George Santayana quote: “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The quote is often mangled, only the second part mentioned, and the wording varies greatly. But that’s not the problem. The problem is that everyone seems to completely misinterpret Santayana’s warning and advice, to ends which are completely opposite from the original meaning.
The Philippines is young, emerging to join the independent and free societies barely a hundred years ago, after domination by Spain for four centuries. Yet even in those four hundred years, world history records narrate, most nations are ruled by hegemonies, family dynasties that inherit power from ancestors until conquered by another forceful leader who eventually establishes his own dynasty (Genghis, for example) and the cycle repeats (Hitler is an unusual exception – he did not live long enough).
It is also on record that the so-called free democratic societies a leader or group soon emerges that become the dominant force and ruler. In the Pinoy context, this is exemplified by a former Senate President’s railroading bluster, “What are we in power for?”
“During the last 50 years, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore became economic miracles.” Yes, but they did not carry the baggage of Pinoy: pride of being an Asian leading nation. Those cub Tigers had no other way except succeed or perish; we literally took the road to hell led by Filipinos.
“In the last 30 years … Congress produced 15,000 laws and law schools 30,000 lawyers, half of whom are active. So two lawyers for every one law. Yet, the Philippines has a very poor human rights and economic rights record.” (In American slang about screwing a light bulb, it takes two lawyers to do it). These poor individuals strived to become lawyers believing this is the avenue to political power. About a quarter of candidates pass the bar, the failures become law court clerks that specialize in collecting special fees “for the boys”.
But Lopez absolves the politicians for the present mess blaming instead the electorate for making injudicious choices. In conclusion, Mr Lopez proposes doling the pork money to the poor, a step that helps insure the mendicant mindset of that class in our society whom Dr. Jose Rizal tagged as indolent. And the dole-out process is called political patronage, a tool of dynasties.

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