- From the Humpty Dumpty New World Dictionary: scion (noun), a son or daughter, generally of a family that is well-off.
All you anti-dynasty mavens have it wrong. Y'all want to dump skilled people because they have the wrong name. You're are on a beeline to chaos and mediocrity.
Well, I don't believe that actually.
The new hero of the Anti-Cybercrime crowd is Senator TG Guingona, the only guy to vote against the Bill, to display independence and courage. A hero at last!
But wait a moment! Wait. Wait. Alas, he's another Dynasty guy! His father was Vice President under Gloria Arroyo. TG had all the advantages of family name and connection.
He, too, is tainted by family name. By privilege.
Cut him off? Force him out?
"Off with their heads!" demands the Queen of Puritan Values.
We Stipulate Your Honor . . .
|Angaras (Source: Inquirer)|
But there is also no question that many of the scions are highly qualified and would receive just about any job they applied for. Face it, a regular Jose would have a hard time getting to Harvard for a sterling law education. Or to London School of Economics. Or the Naval Academy. Or get a partnership in a law firm. So it is hard for a regular Jose to argue that he is better qualified.
These are not points requiring debate. There are factual advantages to being from a name family. Stipulated.
Let's for a moment hold America up as a successful pioneer of democracy. She became a productive giant, a nation of many ethnicities and religions bound harmoniously in tight-knit union committed to the Spirit America, and creating of wealth and happiness. Yes, you can condemn this American historical mistake or that, or this pushy international adventure or that, or this messy domestic episode or that, but if you look at the common measure of wealth and health for Americans, the nation has done well. The good far overwhelms the bad.
The U.S. does things very differently than the Philippines, and that is my point.
What are the core values that form Spirit America, this patriotic, well-principled ideal that hard work, creativity and candor can solve problems?
Let me draw two pictures for you. One American, the other Filipino.
- In one scene, we have a young man at his desk in a small office on the eight floor of a sizable corporation. He is well-dressed, about 35, fit and trim. He arrived at 7 a.m., slugged down a couple of cups of hot coffee, and is now crisply working his computer to speed-read the e-mails that came in overnight from overseas. He fires off some quick responses and categorizes the others for follow-up, A, B, or C depending on how quickly he has to attend to them. Next he will review the report for this morning's finance meeting, which he will lead on behalf of the senior executives in attendance. He relishes the opportunity to perform.
- In another scene, we have a middle-aged woman sitting at her desk in a large office on the ground floor of the Municipal Registrar's Office for a medium sized city. She arrived at her desk about 9:30, fresh from her shower and short commute in. She is well dressed but overweight. The three clerks were sitting about not doing much until she arrived. A young couple arrives to get their marriage certificate. She has them wait because she wants them to know she is important. She doesn't have that much to do, even though she is paid well and gets a little excess cash from the gratuities from the people she registers for this or that. She will take care of the couple soon, take care of some correspondence, and take a half-hour break at 10:30. She relishes going home in the evening to watch TV.
Okay, that is probably enough. You have the pictures, right? One is a highly motivated, upward-bound executive. The other is a complacent, well-pampered civic authority.
If these are opposite ends of a scale of productive performance, say scoring 1 for the registrar and 10 for the young exec, where would you place Philippine senators, as a body? And where would you put individual senators?
The entire Senate is closer to the registrar than the executive, right? Not working very hard. Not producing much in the way of meaningful output. Living fat and happy.
There is some variation among the individual senators, but most, also, do not cut a picture of a vibrant, hard-working executive.
Why is that?
And shouldn't we, as the "boss" of these people, expect something more?
It's Downright UnAmerican . . . er, UnFilipino. . .
Set that aside for a moment.
What is the essential value that make democracy work?
- Equal opportunity in the pursuit of a good life, liberty, and happiness.
Key words. Equal and opportunity.
Every individual is granted the same rights as every other individual. Neither race nor gender nor age nor religion nor FAMILY NAME shall be a basis for discrimination. The only basis for discrimination is ability to do the job.
A law that penalizes an individual for having the wrong name is unAmerican. And it ought to be unFilipino.
Ah, but you argue! The OPPORTUNITY is not equal. And I agree.
But I respond that we ought to fix that not by writing negative laws that discriminate and penalize, but by writing positive laws that open up government to new, talented, competitive blood.
The challenge before us is how to advance without going backward, how to progress without weakening the Philippine legislative capability by tossing out its best-trained people. The challenge is to make sure that: (a) the scions cut their ties to their parents and other influential forces, (b) non-scions get the same choice opportunities for schooling and jobs that the scions receive, and (c ) the Fifth Estate helps voters understand the difference between fame and competence.
The Positive Path: Make Sure Junior Is Independent
This is the near-term fix, the way to avoid throwing the national baby out with the idealistic bath water, where the water is represented by the notion that "dynasties are inherently bad". It requires putting public pressure on the well-qualified scions (or other relatives) to think for themselves.
- Demand an Oath of Public Trust for Relatives in Office. Make scions/relatives sign an oath that testifies that they will act independently, a clear statement of ethics when more than one family member holds elected office. Make sure they know they are being watched closely for independent acts. (This gives junior the justification to disagree with Dad; he is not being disloyal to Dad, he is being loyal to his job and oath.)
- Report on voting record and legislation penned, father and scion. These are good indicators of independence. The massive media here, the sensationalist entertainers, are not inclined to do this. But bloggers and investigative journalists are. Publicize the information.
We know that Sonny Angara is well aware of the need to separate from his father. He has stated this in public interviews. And the two came down very differently on the Cybercrime Law. Senior said it need not be amended. Junior said amendments would be acceptable. If he knows his future is tied to independence, and not papa's wishes, he'll act independently. It's called "growing up". And, for younger people where presidential doors have not slammed shut, it is called "ambition".
These scions are smart, wise enough and ambitious enough to display grown-up independence.
Don Quixote might be inclined to say "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." But his trusty sidekick Sancho Panza might wisely respond: "The apple can be carried far from where it falls."
The Positive Path: An Executive Development Program
This is the long-term fix. Pass a Leadership Development Act that does two things:
(1) Provide scholarships, top-college graduate school or law school enrollment endorsements, followed by challenging early-career jobs, for people tabbed as leadership-qualified based on undergraduate work. In other words, provide success paths for non-family members that are just as good as the family members get.
(2) Establish development and mentoring programs within agencies so that top caliber producers are recognized, energized, trained and promoted.
The best way to break the old nepotistic model is to construct a POSITIVE program to bring ambitious, competent people into government.
The Positive Path: The Fifth Estate
The problem in the Philippines is that families are "stars" and stars are held in high esteem by voters. Many local stars become mega-stars when they hit the national scene. The entertainment-based media feed into this starstruck setting. They don't do the dull, boring work of rooting out people who work out of the limelight doing good work. So there is ZERO discovery of new talent.
The families run the star system, essentially.
Pass a positive law that requires candidates present both a detailed resume and a detailed platform, documents that allow people to see what has been accomplished in the past and what is promised for the future. Like SALN's, this document should be publicly available on line.
The Fifth Estate, the electronic force of blogging and social networking, has shown itself capable of influencing massive media, and the public, if they have information available that allows them to write intelligently.
This force is growing steadily stronger and only a fool would mess with it.
The Fifth Estate. Checking and balancing.
Give them information. Intelligence is just a keystroke away.
Then we can encourage voters to make their choices in a better, more informed way.