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Nepotism OK if kept within the family

Critics raise KKK as a problem with Cabinet appointments. I myself have no problem with it.

KKK in Philippine politics means “kamaganak, kaibigan, kabarkada” or something similar depending on which president is being accused of being guilty of it. In short, it’s a criticism of a president who appoints his relatives and friends to government positions.

Nepotism is the formal word for it. It’s nothing new in the world of politics. The ancient Romans appointed family and friends to positions of power. US President John F. Kennedy drew flak from critics when he appointed his younger brother Robert attorney general.

President Kennedy, in his usual playfulness with the press, even joked about it: “I can’t see that it’s wrong to give him a little experience before he goes out to practice law.”

My own joke about nepotism is that it’s tolerable as long as it’s kept within the family.

In the Philippines, nepotism is practiced widely. Some of it is justified by those who do it for purposes of confidentiality of records or information.

At the Supreme Court, for example, a justice is allowed to hire a family member in a sensitive position, like confidential assistant, to handle delicate information in the office.

Other public officials abuse it, though, by appointing relatives even when there is a conflict of interest. This includes hiring the services of companies owned or run by relatives.

I myself have no violent objection when it comes to appointing friends or former associates.

This is because my main criteria are competence and integrity. That should be the measure of any public official’s performance. If he or she can deliver what the job demands, then it doesn’t matter if the person is KKK. As long as the office holder can do the job well and he or she isn’t a crook, then it’s OK.

I’ve never written a column against KKK because I think it’s a non-issue. An appointee’s stay in office must be judged solely on whether he or she can deliver the goods.

KKK is an issue for some critics. But the same KKK critics don’t always play fair.

President Aquino has been criticized for his own KKK, as was his mother, President Cory Aquino. In fact, I think the initials KKK, in the context we’re discussing them, were coined during Mrs. Aquino’s time.

PNoy received much flak for his appointment of, for example, Rico Puno (DILG) and Virginia Torres (LTO) because they were his co-gun enthusiasts. (Unfortunately for Mr. Aquino, those particular appointees didn’t exactly shine in their jobs.)

Now, President-elect Rodrigo Duterte is also being excoriated for appointing his friends, classmates, and associates to Cabinet posts. His admirers rationalize: It’s only natural that he would appoint people he knows and trusts.

No quarrel with me there. But, I’ve noticed, some of these same Duterte fans were Mr. Aquino’s severest critics for hiring KKK.

That isn’t playing fair. The key to credible criticism is first, reason, and second but equally important, fairness. You can’t pillory someone for some fault and then ignore the same when the guilty party is someone you like or idolize.

But anyway, back to nepotism. I’m not particularly bothered by it as long as the appointees are able to negate the criticism by putting in first-rate performances in their jobs. We will see in the coming months how Mr. Duterte’s appointees perform in their jobs.