Anti-dynasty Or Anti-democracy?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano


I am not sure who started what, whether political dynasties co-opted Church leaders or Church dynasties nurtured political dynasties. I guess that the history of societies would give us the final clue on who began dynasties – the agents of God or the agents of the State.

Religious rivalries have often brought out different claims from the various competitors about which one organized itself ahead of the others, which holy book could be dated the oldest, and which is the most wise, or at least accurate. This kind of rivalry seems to indicate that dynastic tendencies appear first in the religious realm rather than the political. Tracing oneself to the oldest is not enough if there are broken threads in the leadership of that religion. Each competing religion would have to point to a continuity of leadership as that leadership has been the continuing representation of the divine.

Political systems, on the other hand, do not even try to trace their beginnings to the oldest. There is no point in doing so because the older forms of governance, or political control, would invariably be found in raw and superior force, in victory by violent means. Political systems would rather identify themselves either to great personalities or the most beneficial form of governance in the current times. Those who have little or no connection to the finer or the higher would usually find an Alpha male as the commander-in-chief, the winner of an enduring survival-of-the-fittest culture.

The most operative, or desired, term of political systems appears to be “democracy.” Even among the governments that are clearly to the right, or still lean on central authority, is the tendency to call themselves “democratic.” Most governments would like to present themselves as democratic because it means that they are their people’s choice. It is secondary that they might have grabbed power by force, or keep control that way. There are many dictatorships out there who call themselves a democracy.

Democracy – of the people. Dynasty – of the leadership. Yes, there is a natural opposition between the two attitudes and systems. Democracy in its purest would demand that the people decide, a bottom up process of authority. Dynasty, on the other hand, respects less a people’s choice and holds on to the principle of anointment – a top down process.

That the Catholic Church finally calls for an end to dynasties, and for the Leftist groups led by Bayan Muna praises the move, is nothing short of comic. The least democratic in the sense that their leaders, that of the Catholic Church and the Left, have little or no reference to popular elections but depend on the anointment of the highest leadership cannot be credible spokesperson for any anti-dynasty advocacy. It used to be that the same Church allowed itself to be represented by Jaime Cardinal Sin in the heady days of Edsa People Power, a representation that was considered great not so much because of democratic principles but by the force of personality. And the main Leftist force has a history of purges, of killing those who sounded and behaved less than obedient.

Democracy and dynasty have contrasting and often conflicting energies, the former encouraging the greater number to reach a majority choice which becomes official policy, and the latter trying to implement an efficient compliance from that same majority. It does not necessarily mean that democracies are better governments in terms of efficiency and accomplishment, but it means at all times that the principles of democracy look to the people as the root source of authority.

The choice of the Filipinos is democracy. There is a more fundamental insistence on freedom, but that freedom is often understood as democracy. For that freedom, Filipinos have fought Spain, America and Japan. For that freedom, Filipino rose against the Marcos dictatorship. And for keeping that freedom in the hands of democracy, Corazon Aquino became the most beloved of presidents and awarded the Mother of Democracy title.

There is no such freedom and democracy is theocracy, in communism. It does not make theocracy and communism wrong, or less effective. When these have great leaders, historical highlights are achieved. In human history, the most significant moments have been connected to the character and courage of great leaders who were not democratic. It is not my intent to pass judgment on what is superior though I prefer one over the other. What I want to do is point out the difference, and to point out that the Catholic Church and the Left should be the last institutions to talk against the very system which nourishes them.

The bane of Philippine democracy in trying to dismantle what many of its advocates believe to be political dynasties is that there is no democratic process than can do this in the time frame that they insist. Perhaps, it is because the supposed dynasties being criticized for being so are not real dynasties, just wannabee dynasties. Philippine democracy by intent and by form does contain safeguards against real dynasties – and that is called democratic elections. That is also why those who cheat and steal elections are tyrants and guilty of the highest treason. It is that very act which subverts democracy the worst, not a few political families who keep winning elections for a few generations.

Only honest elections with voters choosing wisely can bring in leaders and public officials who will do well by the people and be appreciated as such. Families with members winning popular elections are not dynasties, and the proof of this is simple history and current events. While there are some who survive up to the third generation, there are more who do not – by simple democratic elections.

The most serious challenge of proponents of an anti-dynasty law is to is how to do it without being anti-democracy. The principle of equal rights cannot be shoved aside because some towns or cities or provinces cannot find enough voters who will keep changing leaders by virtue of their family names.

But, then, why should they? What is the difference between voting in, and voting out, candidates on the basis of their family names? For a democracy, that becomes the height of stupidity.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.