Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Grassroots Power and Political Dynasties

Marinduque is only one of many provinces in the Philippines that has been dominated by political families. The Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a non-profit group advocates more grassroots participation in politics and opines that these families belong to the country’s economic elite, some acting as rule makers or patrons of politicians, who conspire together to amass greater economic power.

Many members of the dynasties may have developed a sense of entitlement or ownership of certain public positions as is the case in Marinduque, and many people particularly those in the lower strata accept the arrangement, believing that there’s nothing the poor and downtrodden can do about it anyway. Yet, there are also those among them who realize that the continuing poverty is really the end result of political dynasties clinging on to power through election cheating and manipulation that further breed corruption.

It was President Ferdinand Marcos who, indeed, put the blame on the old political dynasties as one of the causes why our society was sick and why there was need for reform. He proceeded to dismantle the old oligarchs who held economic and political power - only to replace them with new ones and cronies, some of them persisting until today.

Julio Teehankee, a political science professor at De La Salle University in Manila, once remarked that "continuing clan dominance is a product of the seemingly immutable and unequal socio-economic structure, as well as the failure to develop a truly democratic electoral and party system." The system is a vicious cycle, he said, one that prevents the expansion of the base of aspirants and candidates for representation. This all amounts to a political system dominated by patronage, corruption, violence, and fraud, he said.

(Newly elected SK youth leaders taking their oath. Rejecting moneyed envelopes.)

But today’s young people have begun their move to unite and challenge the corrosive system that those before them, in helplessness, merely accepted as inevitable. It might have been inspired by the sustained electronic media calls for change and a new beginning, calls that fortunately seem sustained.

Or it could just be an awakening from that long deep sleep.

“Pera lang ang katapat ng mga taga-Marinduque”, was a popular quote attributed to a local politician who referred to the masa’s supposed penchant for money as the only basis for voting.

Yet, the recent barangay and sangguniang kabataan elections (2010) here appears to have disproved this. The recent elections appear to be a deliberate and resounding rejection of this notorious character attributed by the politician to the Marinduque electorate.

(Marinduque Congressman Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco swears into office the recently elected barangay captains, barangay offficers and Sangguniang Kabataan members in the municipality of Gasan. The same exercise was repeated in the other municipalities.)

I therefore take my hat off to the newly elected barangay captains and chairmen of the sangguniang kabataan in the barangay, municipal and provincial levels. They overpowered the political patronage and sponsored money-for-votes system that were very much present, and curtailed them for a fresh start towards ‘change and honor’ and a chance for real grassroots democracy to work.

(Barangay captains of Gasan proved their point and the same gesture was echoed in the four corners of the island-province)

(At the mass oath-taking. From left,Councilor Maggie Asuncion, Mayor Vicky Lao-Lim and Congressman Allan Velasco)

(Second termer, Mayor Lao-Lim expressing her full appreciation to the youth's support and promise of cooperation)

Susong Dalaga Hill

Susong Dalaga Hill
Susong Dalaga Hill from Bagtasan isthmus

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