Political Dynasties And The People’s Opportunity For Participation

By Jackson M. Henry —-

“A law each day keeps the tyrants away”, once said Klaus Van Buren, a vigilant political analyst who raised the consciousness of American voters who were indoctrinated by cults of political personalities. The cults vote to keep certain families in succession for top political jobs. Keeping a succession of rulers in the same family lines is referred to as a dynasty. The Russians call them, Oligarchs.

European history is dominated by dynasties. The notable ones include the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs and the Romanovs. Korea was ruled by the Joseon dynasty from 1392 to 1910 or over 500 years. Palauan students have studied the Song, Han, Tang and Ming dynasties who held the peacock throne in China for thousands of years. Persia and ancient Egypt had their own shares of dynasties as well. Today, one of the largest dynasties left is the Royal House of Saud which reigns over Saudi Arabia.

It was not until the 19th century when the governed realized that, amassing wealth, political power and territories by certain family lines, should not be taken for granted. US President Lincoln’s Gettysburg address; “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”, epitomizes the sentiment of the governed.

The people’s desire to participate and share political power is unstoppable. The recent Arab spring is a case in point. Syria’s raging war is about dethroning the dynasty created by Assad. Even a radical analyst opined that the Kennedy assassinations are strong messages that a Kennedy dynasty will not be tolerated in a free and democratic America.

Closer to Palau, Philippines has been struggling to end political dynasties since 1987. This month, Senate Bill 2649, introduced by Senator Defensor Santiago, intends to quash political dynasties in the Philippines one and for all. However, according to Joe Magadandang, “its an uphill struggle because the voters themselves are their own worst enemies. They vote for the same families over and over again”.

Dante Simbulan, a Filipino Political Scientist, discovered that from 1946 to 1963 alone, only a few prominent families have produced 584 politicians, including 7 Presidents, 2 Vice Presidents, 42 Senators and 147 Representatives, not to mention the various department heads, Barangay captains, mayors and provincial power brokers. Some of the notable household names include the Cujangcos, Lopezes, Marcoses, Osmenas and now the Aquinos. Despite the Philippines Constitution, Section II, Article 26, which reads, “The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and to prohibit political dynasties as defined by law”, the same families still occupy top posts in the country.

Philippines Oligarchy traces its roots to Spanish colonial rulers and their “mestizo stock”.  Simbulan opines that corruption, nepotism, and kleptocracy in the Philippines take their roots in political dynasties.

Given that Palau’s population is dismal and talents are scare, it is inevitable and unavoidable that political dynasties gravitate to our government. However, it is an issue that we voters must be ever vigilant of every time we face the ballot box. Palau should allow equal access to opportunities for public services to all Palauans. So for the Palauan families who seek to create their own political dynasties here (no offense to anyone), please be aware of the havoc it can wreak, as have seen in the Philippines. Power should be shared with all qualified Palauans for the sake of the nation, not just for a few families. As the saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life”.


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