Dynasties live on! (Democracy, too!)

Former President Joseph Estrada, now outgoing Manila mayor

(This article first appeared in Malaya Business Insight. )

The recent midterm elections brought a lot of surprises. For me, the biggest surprise was the fall of the “House of Erap.”

We all know that Erap lost Manila. His kin lost San Juan. His two sons lost the Senate. A nephew lost Laguna. We now all know that, but many of us never, ever thought we would live to see that happen.

There are many reasons why it did, from the plausible to the naughty. I told a friend that it might be possible that someone only wanted his dynasty to be the one left standing... and so helped make sure this happened. Erap himself said that “prinoject siya,” meaning someone plotted his downfall. Now, was he referring to the same someone as I was?

A second shocker was the fall of VP Binay. With two children running for mayor, who would have thought that neither would carry the VP on their coattails? In fact, I am intrigued that while Mayora Abby won big, her own voters seem to have dumped the “father” of Makati! How plausible is that?

Or did someone make a project out of the VP, too?

Of course, many hail the victory of the young Vico Sotto over the Eusebio dynasty. Was that youthful appeal? The Eat Bulaga Magic? The endorsement by PRRD? Or all of the above? Yup, both Vico and Congressman-elect Roman Romulo had their hands raised by the President himself.

So maybe the Eusebios were made a project, too?

These three examples set off many a FB post hailing the death of dynasties. I smiled. Dynasties are alive and well. It’s part of our DNA, we who would put FAMILY above everything else. Even above country and the rule of law, right? (Has a Filipino mother ever said “Guilty po ang anak ko?”). So if we ordinary mortals would put family first, why do we expect the political class to do otherwise?

Dynasties come and go. They usually start with a dynamic founder, oftentimes male, who then grows old (assuming he does not die first) and passes it on to wife or son or daughter and so on. But eventually the genes fail and an idiot emerges. Or someone far less worthy than the founder. That’s when the voters shift, usually to a competing dynasty. Which then goes through the same cycle.

One thing we should not forget is that it’s you and me as voters who provide the mandate to these dynasties. One day every three years, when we exercise our democratic right to vote. It’s you and me who choose which dynasty to “bless,” for whatever reason we use as a basis for that decision, and once in a while it’s also you and me who decide that it’s time to give the mandate to someone else.

So the family-first orientation which lies at the very core of every Filipino is what makes dynasties possible. And it is our democratic system (albeit flawed) that gives our dynasties the opportunity to live on.

Where democracy lives, political dynasties do too.

That’s Philippine political reality for you.

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