Another Aquino, another dynasty—militantsBy Leila B. Salaverria, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Militants on Monday denounced the entry of President Benigno Aquino’s cousin, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino, in the senatorial race as dynasty-building, while allies of Malacañang hailed Bam’s decision to run for the Senate as a political blessing.
The activist group, Anakbayan, voiced fears that having the President’s relative in the Senate would strengthen the Aquinos’ hold on power and that the Aquinos might use this to keep their control of the family’s Hacienda Luisita, a target for land reform.
Besides, said Anakbayan, one Aquino in government was already one too many.
“Is there no one else? The 2013 senatorial elections are turning out to be one big PH trapo Olympics with big political clans and families dominating the list of candidates,” it said in a statement.
The Aquinos and their in-laws, the Cojuangco clan of Tarlac province, have long been a power in Philippine politics.
The murdered opposition leader, Senator Benigno Aquino Jr., was a potential president until he was assassinated on his return from voluntary US exile in 1983.
His widow Corazon—a Cojuangco—eventually took power after the dictator Ferdinand Marcos was overthrown in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
An array of other Aquinos and Cojuangcos has also been elected to national and local posts, including former Senators Agapito (Butz) Aquino and Tessie Aquino-Oreta, former Tarlac Representative Peping Cojuangco and former Tarlac Governor Tingting Cojuangco.
Other families around the country have also held sway in national and local politics.
Anakbayan said Bam’s announcement of his foray into politics reflected the “KKK-driven, traditional, dynastic politics” that it said characterized the present administration.
KKK means “kaibigan, kaklase, kabarilan” (friends, classmates and shooting buddies), a term used by the President’s critics to refer to his supposed favorites who share his interests and enjoy favors from him.
“A bigger cause of worry is what seems to be a plan of the Aquino-Cojuangco clan to further dominate different branches of government to regain control of Luisita and protect family interests,” Anakbayan claimed.
It said what the country needed were candidates with clear political platforms and advocacies, and a real opposition party as well.
“The youth and the people are tired of the disgusting kamag-anak (family)-driven traditional politics,” it said.
Renato Reyes of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan—an alliance of left-leaning groups that include Anakbayan—said having a popular surname might be good for courting votes but that did not necessarily mean being a good public servant.
“A familiar name from an established political clan is no assurance of a pro-people platform,” Reyes said. “Quite the opposite, it may mean the perpetuation of traditional politics, of the same old policies and vested interests.”
He was referring to families which have been fixtures in Philippine politics, handing down elective posts from one generation to another.
On the LP short list
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the matter of Bam’s inclusion in the Liberal Party (LP) senatorial ticket should best be addressed by the party.
“These are all primarily LP matters … I will have to defer to (Budget) Secretary Butch Abad or (Transportation) Secretary Mar Roxas or the President,” Lacierda told a press briefing.
He said he was not aware that his boss had consented to Bam’s senatorial candidacy.
Interviewed Monday on Radyo Inquirer 990, Bam said he was already on the shortlist of the administration’s senatorial ticket.
“At this point, I think there are about 16 or 17 names who are being considered on the final list. I’m on the short list, so to speak,” he said. He did not say who were the others on the list.
Asked whether Bam’s statement that he had Mr. Aquino’s “blessing” amounted to a presidential endorsement, Lacierda said: “I haven’t spoken to the President so I would not be able to comment.”
But the President’s spokesperson vouched for Bam’s credentials.
“Certainly, he is fit to be (a senator). He has his educational background to prove that he is capable. He is an awardee and he is a very active civic leader. Certainly he would be a welcome addition to the Senate,” Lacierda said.
“But as to his discussions with the President, that is something I wasn’t aware of,” he added.
Abad, for his part, said: “What is important is that Bam gets the approval of the President to run for the Senate.”
He also said: “Some papers reported that Bam has secured that approval. That just needs to be verified. After that, the rest—his joining the LP and the administration coalition slate—will, I believe, not be a problem.
Same old contest
“Bam is young, intelligent, articulate, entrepreneurial and has good public exposure. He will be an asset to the LP and to the administration slate,” Abad said.
“We are certainly open if he’s interested,” Abad said.
Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño was critical of Bam’s entry into politics.
“This confirms our view that the senatorial elections will be a contest among the old names in politics,” said Casiño, who is aspiring to run for the Senate next year.
“Nothing has changed,” he said. “That’s why there is a need to bring in new constituencies in the Upper House and encourage candidates who may not have the same political pedigree as Bam but who are equally qualified and competent to be senators.” With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan and Inquirer Research