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Nepotism: The complex, distasteful act of naming relatives to gov’t posts

By: - Content Researcher Writer / @inquirerdotnet
/ 07:15 PM January 27, 2022

Artwork by Ed Lustan

MANILA, Philippines–The willingness to name relatives to government positions might be seen as “distasteful.”

This was stressed by Gerardo Eusebio, a political science professor of the De La Salle University, when asked for his analysis on the openness of politicians seeking the presidency to name relatives to government positions.

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He told INQUIRER.net that “it might be construed as distasteful to appoint relatives to the government, particularly in the executive department.”

Last Jan. 25, presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told dzRH in an interview that should he win the May 9, 2022 elections, he was open to appointing relatives to his Cabinet as long as they were the best in the field.

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READ: If elected, Marcos open to appointing relatives to Cabinet ‘if they are best in field’

“If they are the best in their respective fields, yes. If he is the best and he is ready to help and work, we will name him,” he said, stressing that he was likewise willing to appoint those from the opposition if they are the best for the work.

“I will not name them only because they are my relatives or they are from my coalition. In fact, even if they are from the opposition, if they are ready to help, they are the best in the field, and they are willing to take the work, we will accept them,” he said.

However, Maria Ela Atienza, a political science professor of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, told INQUIRER.net that “legal or not,” an individual seeking the presidency should not consider naming a relative to government posts.

“This is an ethics and character issue. The task of the President is to professionalize government institutions and procedures for the benefit of Filipinos, not make public service a family affair,” she said.

Atienza explained that even with the qualifier “as long as they are the best in their respective fields,” the willingness to appoint relatives to government offices is really concerning because it is still the President who will decide.

Graphic: Ed Lustan

Why concerning?

The Philippines had seen how past presidents committed themselves to naming officials based on credentials, but there were still instances when relatives were appointed to key government posts in which they had no previous background. Here’s an INQUIRER.net look back:

  • Imelda Marcos

The wife of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, Imelda, was named by her husband in 1975 as governor of Metropolitan Manila.

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Metropolitan Manila was established through Presidential Decree No. 824. The New York Times, on Feb. 24, 1976, said in a report that the “newly created governorship” has increased Imelda’s power and influence. She held this post until 1986.

RELATED STORY: Marcos’ martial law: Golden age for corruption, abuses

The book “The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand Marcos” that was written by William Overholt said Imelda, who was the Philippines’ first lady, “chaired the Cabinet” in the President’s absence because “she was his wife.”

In 1978, Marcos appointed her as Minister of Human Settlements. She likewise held this post until 1986. Overholt said she possessed the right to seize metropolitan properties without recourse.

  • Imee Marcos

Imee, the eldest of the Marcoses’ children, was already 20 when she was named by her father as the chairperson of the Kabataang Barangay. This appointment, however, was criticized since only youths aged 15 to 18 were allowed for election in the youth body.

The Pambansang Katipunan ng Kabataang Barangay ng Pilipinas was created in 1975 through Presidential Decree 684 “to clearly define the role of the youth”–consistent with the principles of Marcos’ New Society.

Imee held this post until 1986, but in 1977, Archimedes Trajano, a youth activist from the Mapua Institute of Technology, challenged her leadership. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani said Trajano was later kidnapped and tortured to death.

Years later, a district court in Hawaii said Trajano was indeed beaten to death. It awarded $4.16 million to the family of Trajano as damages and an additional lawyer’s fee based on the laws of the Philippines.

  • Cecilia de Castro

The cousin of Joseph Estrada, the President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, De Castro, the impeachment complaint against Estrada in 2000 revealed, was appointed as presidential assistant.

Estrada, however, denied knowing her in the wake of the P24 million textbook scam in 1999 allegedly involving Estrada’s cousin.

ABS-CBN News said in 2008 that in a Senate investigation, then Education Secretary Andrew Gonzales testified that De Castro, a distant cousin of Estrada, “lobbied him for the approval of a P200 million textbook contract.”

  • Jose Miguel Arroyo

Jose Miguel, the husband of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, was named as special envoy for overseas Filipino workers.

The Official Gazette said Jose Miguel has “wholeheartedly accepted the appointment,” saying that it was because of love and that he would start working right away.

However, in a BusinessWorld column, Oscar Lagman said it was only to increase Arroyo’s chances of winning in the 2004 elections. “The public saw the appointment as another cheap shot at winning the goodwill” of OFWs, a vote-rich segment, he said.

“She had been president for almost two years and never during that period did she show special concern for the overseas Filipino workers,” he said.

Legal restrictions

Section 13 (2) of the 1987 Constitution said: The spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree of the President shall not during his tenure be appointed as:

  • Members of constitutional commissions
  • Ombudsman
  • Secretaries
  • Undersecretaries
  • Chair or heads of bureaus or offices, including government-owned and controlled corporations and their subsidiaries

In 2016, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) reminded government officials to observe civil service regulations regarding appointments, specifically those that prohibit nepotism.

The CSC said nepotism is a form of corruption or abuse of authority that violates Article IX (B), Section 2 (2) of the Constitution which provides that “Appointments in the civil service shall be made only according to merit and fitness to be determined, as far as practicable, and, except to positions which are policy-determining, primarily confidential, or highly technical, by competitive examination.”

Graphic: Ed Lustan

Book V, Title I (A), Chapter 8, Section 59 of the Administrative Code of 1987 “prohibits nepotic appointments or those made in favor of a relative of the appointing or recommending authority, or of the chief of bureau or office, or of the persons exercising immediate supervision over the appointee.”

The word “relative” refers to those related within the third degree of consanguinity (relationship by blood) or affinity (relationship by marriage):

  • Spouse (1st degree)
  • Children (1st degree)
  • Sibling (2nd degree)
  • Nephew
  • Niece (3rd degree)
  • Uncle and aunt (3rd degree)

Section 79 of the Local Government Code of 1991 extends the prohibition to the appointing or recommending authority’s relatives within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity:

  • First cousin or first cousin-in-law (4th degree)

The CSC said the regulations cover all kinds of appointments, whether original, promotional, transfer and reemployment, regardless of status, including casuals and contractual.

These, however, are the exemptions:

  • Teachers
  • Physicians
  • Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
  • Scientific and technology personnel as provided by Republic Act No. 8439
  • Administrator (Provincial/City/Municipal)
  • Executive Assistant
  • Private Secretary
  • Chauffeur/Driver
  • Personal security detail of government officials
  • Personal staff of elective officials, department heads, Cabinet officials, chairpersons and members of commissions and boards with fixed terms of office

According to CSC, because nepotism favors a few individuals, fairness in the hiring and promotion process in government is compromised: “This degrades the morale of incumbent civil servants and excludes other, possibly more qualified individuals from being considered for employment.”

Controversies

Atienza said Marcos has a “flawed view of public service and accountability” when he considered naming relatives to the government.

“It is an indication that like other traditional politicians, including his father, he prefers surrounding himself with family members and allies that may be counted on for their personal loyalties instead of working for the public good,” she said.

In the last 50 years, Filipinos have always been vigilant regarding the “distasteful” appointment of relatives to the government.

The book “Political Scandal, Corruption, and Legitimacy in the Age of Social Media” even listed Estrada’s act of nepotism by naming relatives to the government as one of the Philippines’ controversies.

The impeachment complaint against Estrada revealed that he named a brother-in-law, Rufino F. Pimentel, as director of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

It said, Raul de Guzman, also his brother-in-law, was named as a member of the Board of Regents of UP while a nephew-in-law was named as presidential consultant on environment and water.

In 2014, the late President Benigno Aquino III appointed a distant relative, Emigdio Tanjuatco III, as the Clark Airport chief.

Graphic: Ed Lustan

However, Malacañang said then that Tanjuatco is beyond the fourth degree of consanguinity: “He’s already in the sixth degree. He is distant. The law’s prohibition is only ‘till the fourth degree of consanguinity.”

In 2018, months after firing the cousin of his partner, Honeylet Avanceña, for excessive foreign trips, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Melissa Avanceña Aradanas as deputy secretary general of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.

READ: Duterte appoints Honeylet’s cousin to new gov’t post

In 2020, she became the new assistant secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.

READ: Duterte appoints Honeylet’s cousin to Human Settlements department

RELATED STORY: Marcos Jr. and SALNs: The importance of transparency

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TAGS: Appointments, Bongbong Marcos, Elections, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Imee Marcos, Imelda Marcos, INQFocus, Joseph Estrada, nepotism
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