The Problem with Political Dynasties

Community Opinion & Analysis Apr 12, 2019 at 2:43 pm
Ninoy Aquino

Ninoy Aquino

A popular Western idiom states, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” But the idiom forgets that it’s not the same tree that sprouts from the apple. While Justin Trudeau and Noynoy Aquino bear the same last name as their infamous parents, the legacies of the progeny differ significantly from the original.

By José Victor ‘Jayvee’ Salameña

As a children’s TV show once remarked, “nepotism is alive and well”. And with the return of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III in the news cycle, breaking his media silence to garner support for the Philippine opposition’s Senate slate, as well as the political scandal unfolding around Justin Trudeau, it is worth looking into the mixed successes of Presidents and Prime Ministers who are the progeny of an earlier leader.

Noynoy Aquino

Noynoy Aquino

While his father Ninoy was considered a serious intellectual thinker, and who was an accomplished journalist, writer and politician, his son Noynoy Aquino did not garner the same reputation of intelligence as his father. Noynoy’s presidency was marred by the constant criticism of inaction and poor responses, from the Manila Hostage Crisis of 2010, to SAF 44, Yolanda and Dengvaxia debacle. So prevalent was the perception of him as a lazy President that the term “Noynoying” temporarily entered slang lexicon as a verb used to connote doing nothing.

Unlike Noynoy, Justin Trudeau was seen very much to be just like his infamous father, and his party and campaign affirming that Justin is continuing the tradition and legacy of his father, with Justin proclaiming that “Canada is back” in his victory speech, and him repeating his father’s defiant line of “Just watch me”, and Canada once again catching the “Trudeaumania” of the 1960s. However, Justin Trudeau’s perception has taken serious damage in the last few weeks, as Canada and the world has watched the SNC-Lavalin Affair unfold.

Pierre and Justin Trudeau

Pierre and Justin Trudeau

The prevalence of political dynasties in the Philippines and around the world should not be a surprise to those who know and understand political history. For much of human history, political leadership was concentrated and passed around inside a family unit, whether the leadership be kings, chieftans, or “datus”. And even modern society has still not removed the allure of political dynasties. The British people and many Europeans still glamorize their Royal Families. The American Republic in recent years has centered around the Bushes and the Clintons.

The Philippines continues to be littered with political dynasties, despite political dynasties being supposedly prohibited under the 1987 Constitution, and even with anti-dynasty laws being implemented. Yet nothing seems to stop the ongoing continuation of dynasties in political life.

But for those who continue to vote for politicians whose fathers and mothers were once leaders, the experience of the Aquinos and the Trudeaus, as well as the Macapagals and Bushes, shows that, while as the old idiom says, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” it should be added that the apple doesn’t become the same tree that it fell from. They may share the same last name, but they won’t be the same leader.