Monday, June 24, 2013

HOW CAN THE IDEA OF PUBLIC REASON HELP IN DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM OF POLITICAL DYNASTY IN THE PHILIPPINES?

By Manuel Lomboy Jr.


The Problem of Political Dynasties

Political dynasties continue to reign in the Philippine political landscape, especially in isolated and far-off provinces, despite anti-dynasty initiatives of civil society, a study by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center has found.

Ronaldo Mendoza, executive director of the AIM Policy Center and leader of a research team that looked into reigning political clans with a tight control of elective positions in local governments nationwide, said political dynasties continue to monopolize political power in many local governments like provinces, municipalities and cities nationwide, and categorized current reigning political clans as “fat” or “thin” dynasties.

Despite the Maguindanao massacre that was condemned here and abroad, the Ampatuan family continues to reign in Maguindanao, topping the list of the “fat” dynasties in the country. Mendoza said “fat” dynasties are political families that have several members holding elective positions in a certain local government for three years.

A “thin” dynasty is a political clan that only has two members – like a father and son – swapping certain positions, as when a mayor-father, at the end of his maximum three terms, lets his son, who may also have reached his three-year term either as vice mayor, councilor, provincial governor or vice governor, running for each other’s position, he added.

A fat dynasty monopolizing power is an undesirable situation, he pointed out, as checks and balances among elected officials in a certain local government are difficult if they are all from one family. In Maguindanao, the “fat” Ampatuan dynasty held eight out of the 37 mayoralty posts in the province’s 37 municipalities, Mendoza said.

Other provinces with a big number of fat dynasties include Apayao province, Dinagat Islands, Siquijor and Sulu. Mendoza said in their study, which looked into dynasties that took and kept power in the 2007 and 2010 elections, there were more fat dynasties in the political landscape in the 2010 elections.

Mendoza presented the 2012 study results yesterday in a forum attended by academe and civil society that tackled the issue of political dynasties at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas Center, Pasig.
Dubbed “Building an Inclusive Democracy,” the forum featured the AIM Policy Center study led by Mendoza, as well as academics from the University of the Philippines - National College of Public Administration, De La Salle University, and Ateneo de Manila University who are among the most dedicated scholars on dynasties, politics, and elections in the country.

Mendoza, however, said the Philippines was not alone in having the problem of political dynasty. “We’re not the only ones with this particular phenomenon,” he said. “Let’s not beat ourselves up because of it.” [Political dynasties reign in Philippines — A study by Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 9, 2013 - 12:00am]

Applying the Idea of Public Reason

John Rawls’s political philosophy focuses on the idea of public reason. It asserts some basic moral insight such as that our laws and political institutions and structures must be justifiable to each of ever one by referring to some common point of view despite one’s differences and disagreements.

Public reason is not only a standard which people measures laws and political institutions and structure, but public reason is a set of guidelines to regulate the behaviour of legislators, judges, and ordinary members in a society. Thus, it is a form of deliberative democracy by which people support those fundamental laws, political institutions and structures that they sincerely believe can be justified by appeal to political values that others could reasonably accept.

Public reason entails a moral duty of civility that requires us to explain to one another how important political positions are justifiable by reference to a reasonable political conception of justice, and to refrain from supporting positions when we believe they can only be justified by appeal to a religious doctrine, or some other comprehensive doctrine that we cannot reasonably expect everyone to endorse (Quong, 2011).
               
The idea of public reason requires people to abandon some practices in politics which reasonable people disagree, e.g. political dynasty, and other political issues. Not all people agreed with political dynasty due to its disadvantages. Although political dynasty has advantages, however, it was outweighed by its disadvantages.
               
Its disadvantages ruin the idea of public reason because having this system— political dynasty— is the tendency of harboring power. The thirst for dominion will ruin not just the government but its people. Fame and popularity of the family will surely find them a good place in the government office.

The executive secretary of the CBCP- Episcopal Commission on Youth, Fr. Conegundo Garganta, is disappointed with the political dynasty in the Philippines. According to Him, almost two decades that government officials coming from same families are in the position however there are no sign of progress.

It is very miserable to realize that in every election the candidates are coming from same family. There are many good people who are capable of leading the country; however, people tend to choose those who are known, those who have names, those whose names have brought influence not on deeds. Are those candidates the only ones who have the ability? Why is it that Filipino people tend to consider those candidates, whose names and families are not known, nuance candidates?

It leaves a narrow road for those able and gifted leaders whose clan has never been heard of. They will not be able to exercise their freedom and equality with other candidates for they will only be considered as nuances in the election.

On the other hand, the voters’ silent crime has suddenly been manifested by such political malpractice. It has become superficial that they are out to criticize these candidates to show their frustration of the kind of miserable leadership these politicians are out to display. The voters must criticize the candidates if these candidates were really are worthy to have the position. In accordance with the duty if civility, people ought to act towards changes in our political institutions and behaviour so that our most important political issues are decided by appeal to conception of justice that reflect only the shared political values implicit in the culture of constitutional democracy.

What is then the people’s basis in electing leaders? Is it about how noble the family where the candidate came from? Or voting basing on how people deliberately choose those who are capable in leading towards justice? For John Rawls, public reason is not one political value among others. It envelops all the different elements that make up the ideal of a constitutional democracy, for it governs the political relation in which we ought to stand to one another as citizens. It means therefore, that we ought not to vote those candidates whose interest is personal such as fame and money. But vote those candidates capable of democracy and not oligarchy.

Public reason involves more than just the idea that the principles of political association should be an object of public knowledge. Its concern is the very basis of our collectively binding decisions. We honour public reason when we bring our own reason into accord with the reason of others, espousing a common point of view for settling the terms of our political life. The conception of justice by which we live is then a conception we endorse, not for the different reasons we may each discover, and not simply for reasons we happen to share, but instead for reasons that count for us because we can affirm them together. This spirit of reciprocity is the foundation of a democratic society.