Get real
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 11 May 2012


Only two days before Election Day.  We go to the polls to cast our vote for 12 senators, two representatives (one per legislative district, one party-list), a mayor, a vice mayor, and councilors (6 to 12, depending on the municipality/city). In a province, we also vote for a governor, a vice governor, and provincial board members. Namfrel says the minimum number of positions to be voted on is 28 (in Metro Manila) and the maximum is 42 (in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao).

We are, in effect, collectively “hiring” these public servants. Once “hired,” they are not easy to fire, which makes it even more important that we be careful in our selection.

The conventional hiring process requires a job description and qualifications for the job, against which all candidates can and must be measured.  Their qualifications, or lack, can be determined from their vitae, from interviews with them, from character references, etc.

Now the question:  Has the Reader undertaken the kind of careful hiring process for our public servants that businesses conventionally apply when hiring their personnel?  Or is she going to vote in a lackadaisical fashion? Or, perhaps, not even voting?

If the answer is yes to either of the latter two, and if the justification offered is that “it won’t make a difference anyway” or “they’re all the same corrupt lot,” or other words to that effect, let me remind the Reader of French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville’s observation: In a democracy, we get the government we deserve.

The Reader does not want to bother with her own selection criteria to measure the candidates?  No problem.  Go to the website of the Movement for Good Governance (Disclosure: I am the titular head, Nene Guevara is the prime mover), and there she will find the MGG Scorecard, the first of its kind in Philippine politics, using local and international governance benchmarks, and finalized with the assistance of the Personnel Management Association of the Philippines.

All ready to use, complete with guide questions with respect to the three leadership criteria provided:  Effectiveness, Empowerment, and Ethics.  And while the MGG gives equal weight to the three, the Reader is free to impose her own weights, as well as add or subtract (hopefully not too much) from the criterion indicators themselves—as long as she applies these across the board.

In a couple of forums, mock elections (only for the 12 senator positions) were held prior to the panel discussions on the criteria and how they were applied.  And then mock elections were held again after the discussions.  There were significant changes in voter selections—both in AB groups and CDE groups—as a result of the application of the criteria.  There were changes in rankings; some candidates who were in the original 12 disappeared; others who were not in the original 12 came in.  And the participants felt that the use of the Scorecard was a great help that neutralized the effects of the political gimmickry and campaign jingles that bombard us all.  At least, the “looks good, is good; looks bad, is bad” measure, which is a common mistake in hiring (and in voting), had to be discarded.

In my case, the evaluation process was speeded up because I automatically eliminated from consideration any member of a political dynasty. I discarded my original and much too broad definition (see my column of 6 October 2012) that anyone who had the same surname as, or was related to, an incumbent public official was a member of a political dynasty (and was not to be voted for).  Now the relationship has to be fraternal or paternal—brother, sister, mother, father, grandparent, son, daughter (I get confused with “degrees”). Using that definition removes 14 out of the 33 senatorial candidates from consideration.

Does that turn the Scorecard on its head?  Not at all.  When the Scorecard was applied to the 14, most of them failed in either the Empowerment or the Ethics criteria (the two who didn’t fail: Hagedorn and Gordon).

The case against political dynasties, after all, is very strong.  First is the constitutional issue.  Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties.  That Congress, as it provides, has not as yet defined what a political dynasty is by law shouldn’t matter to us voters.  We should just use our own definition.

Second are the political issues—dynasties have made a mockery of the constitutional provision on term limits; dynasties and political warlordism go hand in hand (dynasts are the modern-day feudal lords).

And finally, there are the socioeconomic aspects: The empirical evidence clearly shows a significant relationship between political dynasties and lower per capita incomes, higher incidence of poverty, and lower human development indices (specifically, lower primary elementary completion rates) in their areas. If that isn’t disempowering and marginalizing, I don’t know what is.

Not to mention that members of political dynasties in Congress are wealthier (as evidenced by their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth) than their nondynast colleagues —which makes sense, because think of all the government resources that the combined efforts of dynasties can command. Dynasties do not go hand in hand with protecting public resources, reducing corruption, or complying with laws—which form part of the Ethics criteria in the MGG scorecard.

Final (gratuitous) advice to voters: Evaluate carefully the candidates; do not vote for members of political dynasties.