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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Political Dynasties and the Philippines

Is there evil in political dynasties? Well it really depends. I think if only these politicians will really serve the people and make the life for every body better then who cares if there are dynasties but the thing is the Filipino people keep on expecting for a better life and only a few can stand up against these dynasties and assert change. Our people deserves better service... after all this country is not a country of a few but the home to more than 85 million Filipinos and many of them languishing in poverty. (See list of Political Dynasties and other info here)

I would like to share an article which is forwarded to me by a friend entitled "Evil of Dynasties" from "Virtual Reality" column of Tony Lopez.

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 $365 (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 degenerated 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 taxi fleet, the first airline, the first modern newspapers, the first conglomerate 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.

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