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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mistaking Cities As Family Property

I chanced upon a politician last week acting defensively about the subject of political dynasties, saying that barring family members of a sitting official from running would be unconstitutional, depriving them of their right to run as a qualified citizen of this country.

On the surface, I agree.

If one has fulfilled the qualifications stipulated by law - which oftentimes just means you've reached a certain age and are a Filipino citizen or have lived a certain amount of time in a specific locality - then you most certainly are legally within your rights to run for any elective office. I used to bemoan why these requirements were so pitifully nominal, but then we've had a President or two that had sterling academic credentials and we know how those turned out.

I do have a question for the politican, though: Why do some city seals seem more like family crests?

Are cities privately owned now?
(Courtesy of

I am speaking from the perspective of someone who has lived in Metro Manila all my life (so I'm not sure if the same phenomenon occurs elsewhere in the country).

Why is it that on government forms, tax declarations, business permits and other "necessary" papers, do we find symbols that clearly remind us which political family is "running" the city? Some of them try to disguise their intent by saying something with mass appeal - for example, if my last name was Tan, I would say Tayo Ang Nauuna! (We Are First!) - as if they were busty cheerleaders in skin tight uniforms in short, short skirts.

But there seems to be a clear, if subliminal, message, by attaching "crests" with their family initial embedded in it, and that message is: when you see ___________ City, that equates to ___________ (insert family name of political family with practically all members in all posts).

The politician's defense has always been "but we were voted into office! No one forced them to write our names on the ballot!"

Again, on the surface, quite true, and I am also an advocate for voter education, that any hope for change has to come from us, with who we choose to place in elective posts.

But that defense is disingenious on at least two counts.

One, by constantly parading that equation Particular City = One Family Name on every legal document, business permit, road widening and waiting shed, you are conditioning the public into accepting you somehow "own" the city, and that the city owes your family some kind of "gratitude" for being so "selfless" and "giving".

Two, because of this never ending family advertisement, it discourages anyone without a similar family name from running and challenging the status quo, because every nook and cranny has been marked already with the family crest - which, of course, extends into a bureaucracy that is also subservient to the same family, mistakenly thinking they owe their job tenure to them - the same way a dog would mark his territory.

If a new legislator - not entrenched for decades and related to so many other political personages - gets elected, may I suggest filing a bill that would make it illegal to put up these 'family crests' on required, gvernment documentation (and most especially their faces on things like business permits) and to also make it similarly illegal to place their names and faces on public projects like the putting up of a public market or the lighting of a dark stretch of highway.

It's time to remind these politicians that they are in power to serve - it's not called public service for nothing - and not to perpetuate some idiotic myth that citizens owe their family a debt of gratitude and that we can repay that by voting their next of kin.

Seeing that delicadeza is murdered over and over in political circles, there doesn't seem to be any other recourse but to write this down in clear, legal language. (Watching these politicians say "there's no enabling law!" repeatedly to justify them going against a clear constitutional provision against political dynasties makes me sick.)

Will a real public servant rise up to this challenge?

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