HomeCommentaryOne nepotist falls but dynasts thrive

One nepotist falls but dynasts thrive

Is a nepotist different from a dynast?

The Ombudsman has sacked Jo Mark Libre, Commissioner on Higher Education, for nepotism. A 2020 appointee of President Rody Duterte, Libre was found guilty of employing kinsmen directly under his government supervision.

Libre committed other allegations. The Civil Service Commission deemed him liable for grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, fabrication of official documents, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. He supposedly padded reimbursements for a 2016 workshop in Singapore while a state university official was in Davao del Norte.

During last year’s hearing on the Commission on Higher Education’s 2024 budget, lawmakers complained about Libre’s faults as overseer of 24 state universities and colleges. They claimed that he imposed guest speakers in meetings of State Universities and Colleges governing boards, and then made them pay the honoraria, hotel, and travel expenses.

The 1987 Revised Administrative Code (E.O. 292), Book V, Section 59, forbids nepotism. Most governments criminalize it.

Nepotism gives preferential treatment to relatives in government hiring and placement, elbowing out the deserving. It can lead to unfairness in the workplace, and cause tension and conflict with co-workers.

Nepotism often breeds cronyism; friends and family undermine meritocracy. Worse is corruption; relatives are granted contracts in exchange for kickbacks.

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The 1987 Constitution specifically forbids family members of the President, Vice President, Senate President, and House Speaker from government contracting. It also repeats the provisions of the 1960 Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Dynasts are multiple nepotists – yet get away with it. And there are so many.

Every elected official is entitled to one confidential employee, almost always a kinsman. Since relatives occupy various national and local positions, they employ as many confidants from their family.

In an unending rigadoon, the confidants switch positions with the electees in the next balloting. Dynasticism makes a mockery of the illegality of nepotism under the Constitution and laws.

Dynasts conceal family members’ grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, fabrication of official documents, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. That makes possible their plunder of multibillion-peso flood control and other public works funds. Also, monopoly of provincial and city ports. And control of construction, hardware, and fuel supply.

Dynast shamelessly diverts roads, water supply, and sewerage to their hilltop or seaside resorts. They do this with ease using congressional, provincial, and municipal funds.

The contest among dynasts in the 1990s was to be the first to filch P200 million in ill-gotten wealth. In the 2000s it became the first to amass P2 billion. Today it’s tens of billions.

Dynast stash their loot in secret overseas accounts. They’re able to kill news stories when exposed – like in the Panama Papers on offshore deposits, and Pandora Papers on financial secrets of thousands of politicians in 91 countries.

Only in extreme cases are dynasts’ assets exposed and confiscated. Recently the wealth of Rep. Arnolfo Teves was frozen when declared a terrorist for the multiple murders of Negros Oriental governor Roel Degamo and nine constituents in 2023. The P1.15-billion cash and real property of Maguindanao’s Ampatuan clan were seized after their 2009 massacre of 58 journalists and kinswomen of a political foe.

The 1987 Constitution also forbids political dynasties.

Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies, Section 26 states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Thirty-six years since ratification of the Constitution, Congress has passed no such law. Equal access to opportunities for public service does not exist.

Two studies by Ateneo de Manila School of Government Dean Ronald U. Mendoza, Ph.D., proved this:

• “Seventy-five percent of district representatives, 85 percent of governors, and 66.67 percent of mayors could be considered as dynastic; that political dynasties tend to dominate the major political parties, and that candidates from political dynasties register larger winning ratios compared to non-dynastic candidates.” (“Political Dynasties in the Philippine Congress”)

• “Political dynasties are linked to weak political competition, poor accountability, concentration of political power, and perpetuation of patron-client relations and traditional politics. Under these conditions, political dynasties contribute to sustaining poverty in a country.” (“Political Dynasties and Poverty: Resolving the Chicken or Egg Question”)

Dynasties are clearly unfair. Spouses and offspring simultaneously or successively occupy national and local positions. Same with siblings, half-siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Out of 24 senators, two are brother and sister, two are step-brothers, and two are mother and son.

Bills to define and limit dynasties to the second degree of consanguinity and affinity never saw the light of day. Present moves to amend the Constitution can delete the anti-dynasty provision. Dynasts can extend their tenures and lift term limits.

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS News.

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