A wedding photo of Ninoy Aquino and
Cory Aquino. Cory is deemed as a
democracy icon. She rose to power
after her husband's
assassination; serving as President of the
Philippines from 1986 to 1992. Her son
Noynoy is the incumbent President.
by Sigrid Salucop
“It’s not what you know but who you know,” a department head in one of Metro Manila’s city governments said when a friend asked him why a qualified applicant didn’t get the job. The padrino[i] system, a long-surviving “tradition” in Philippine society is just one of the many problems the Southeast Asian nation has.
With politicians now filing their candidacy for next year’s election, a Political Science graduate from the University of the Philippines in Diliman said sarcastically that the senatorial hopefuls are like the cast of Jersey Shore referring to a reality TV series that hit the airwaves in 2009 and much like Jersey Shore, the list of senatoriables included quite a few candidates that have a history of foolhardiness.
This kind of lineup of senatorial hopefuls is so common in the Philippine setting that it has already become natural and expected. What really counts above anything else in this country is name recall. Of course a bit of personal wealth stashed for the campaign period helps too.
Imelda Marcos and Joseph Estrada are classic examples –not that they can be classified as inane because they have done quite a bit for the Filipino people- possibly even more than what their critics have contributed. There are however other similarities according to Kate McGeown of the BBC.
Actor-turned-politician Joseph Estrada served as Mayor in
the city of San Juan for 17 years.
The two have been driven away from the presidential palace -Mrs. Marcos being the wife of deposed strongman Ferdinand Marcos and Estrada during his term as president. The two faced very lengthy trials as well yet they have made quite a comeback in Philippine politics.
The predominantly Christian nation has citizens who are very forgiving and these citizens tend to forget scandalous national issues
but blaming this on our culture will not solve anything. However, there is
still a need to address these problems and if one cannot solve them, it is
better to talk about them and get these problems out in the open so that others
could think of ways to somehow be rid of them.
A Family Affair
Now 75-years-old, the former actor and infamous playboy Joseph Estrada wants to be the mayor of the Philippine capital but this isn’t the end of the story or the beginning however one would prefer it because there are two Estradas running for office. A son of the former president is hoping to join his half brother in the senate.
|A family photo of the Marcoses taken in the 1960s.|
Marcos on the other hand has a son in the senate and a daughter who is a governor. It’s not just the Estradas or the Marcoses that made politics a family affair though –a number of other political families before them as well as their contemporaries are doing the same and have been doing so for decades making Philippine politics some sort of family business.
Political dynasties are quite apparent in the Philippine setting but this pseudo tradition is not confined in the tropical islands. India has its Gandhis for example while the United States has the Bushes and the Kennedys.
A cousin of President Benigno Aquino Bam Aquino who recently filed for his candidacy in the senate said in an interview that his family ties are a great help. One would argue that there are also a few good men who belong to political dynasties and these men should definitely not stay in the sidelines because who else will get the dirty job done? Another major concern is determining what kind of damage political dynasties have inflicted on the Philippines if such a practice inflict any damage at all.
The injury that this kind of system does to the country is already quite apparent but what is worrisome is the long term damage of not letting non-elite Filipinos to grow and develop leadership skills. Filipino political analyst Marites Vitug said in an interview that this system, “..stifles politics.”
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not have the power to stop anyone from running for office and this includes members of political families. Comelec Chairperson Sixto Brilliantes said they are just leaving it to the voters to put an end to political dysnasties.
A private citizen by the name of Louis Biraogo filed a petition for the Supreme Court to compel the Commission on Elections to outlaw the bids for office of individuals who are members of political dynasties. The 26-page petition cites Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
Louis Biraogo a resident of Biñan, Laguna also filed a petition versus the Philippine Truth Commission through the Supreme Court in 2010 and even went against the Supreme Court a year before regarding a case against Rep. Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong.
Vice President Jejomar Binay's son is the
Mayor of Makati -the country's financial
capital while his eldest daughter is
running for a senate seat.
Doing The Shuffle
While there is a term limit to hold public office in accordance to the fundamental laws of the land, what political families in the Philippines do is a reshuffling of family members i.e. former-senator-father runs for congress replacing his son, the son on the other hand runs for mayor while his sister bids for a senate seat –making a mockery of the constitution.
In an opinion piece written for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Prof. Solita Monsod said that one idea to get rid of these dynasties is for Filipinos to not vote for candidates whose last name is the same as or is related to a public official. Monsod also added that there should be no exceptions.
In the last paragraph of her piece, the professor wrote, “There may be collateral damage, but the benefits to the country far outweigh the costs. And the message will be unmistakable.”
Competence And Its Invisible Transfer
Despite the insistence of Filipinos that the Philippines is a vibrant democracy, the political dynasties are a good example that the country is still feudal at its core.
There are a few exceptions of course and one of them is the late Interior Secretary Jess Robredo. Robredo, who died in a plane crash, rose up the ranks because he was hardworking and competent. Public mourning for Robredo was widespread which then led some of his supporters to urge Robredo’s widow to run for office. While his widow's bid for a seat in the Lower House is something that many Robredo fans are quite happy about, one can see how inconsistent Filipinos are with their stand on political dynasties.
German political analyst Hans Zeiler who has seen the campaign frenzy in the country too many times said during his interview with the Diliman Diary, “The widespread ignorance of the Filipino majority is one of the many predicaments the Philippines has. When a Philippine associate translated the comments of voters to me while watching a parade of politicians waving to their supporters, I realized that appearance and name recall, in many instances, take in votes more than capability or knowledge and this I have seen and confirmed later on in my years this country.”
|Senate Minority Floor Leader Alan Peter Cayetano |
and his sister, Sen. Pia Cayetano.
“It is very sad,” Zeiler said. “The Philippines has so much potential but you cannot blame those who no longer believe things will ever change because only the powerful and the rich have the capability to run for higher office and they do this with much bravado and utter shamelessness. Being the son or daughter of an incumbent public official by no means transfers the legacy of a good leader. It does not give you the right to run for office because your father before you did a good job while serving in the senate or congress or whatever public office. This does not mean that you should be entitled to the same thing. A person’s mental capacity is not the same as one’s father or mother, you can either be better or a cheap imitation of your parents,” he added.
When asked about his opinion on popularity being one of the major reasons candidates are elected to public office, the 54-year-old Zeiler said, “You may have name recall and the means to fund a campaign but most of these candidates do not have the capability to hold public office. They seem to do this for prestige, power, and influence and once elected, the people get nothing in return but the people say, maybe, hopefully, there will be public service. A modern, educated, and stable country like Germany would never let itself come to such a low point and make a disgrace out of the country. It halts political forwardness.”
Asako, Y., Iida, T., Matsubayashi, T., & Ueda, M. (2012). Dynastic politicians: Theory and evidence from Japan. Waseda University Organization for Japan-US Studies Working Paper No. 201201.
Coronel, S. (2007). The seven Ms of dynasty building. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Retrieved from the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism Web site.
Cruz, N. (2009, January 14). Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from Inquirer: http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20090114-183180/The-strange-story-of-Louis-Biraogo
Dal Bo, E., Dal Bo, P. & Snyder, J. (2009). Political dynasties. Review of Economic Studies 76(1):115-142. Retrieved from Review of Economic Studies Web site.
GMA News Online. (2007, June 29). 75% sa bagong Kongreso mula sa political dynasty
Hutchcroft, P., & Rocamora, J. (2003). Strong demands and weak institutions: The origins and evolution of democratic deficit in the Philippines. Journal of East Asian Studies 3.
Jaymalin, M. (2012, October 22). Comelec: Only voters can stop political dynasties . Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines.
McCoy, A. (1994). An anarchy of families: State and family in the Philippines. (Ed.). Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University Press.
McGeown, K. (2012, October 23). BBC News. Retrieved October 23, 2012, from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19994432
Monsod, S. (2012, October 5). Voters must stop the political dynasties. Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines.
Philippine Star. (2009). Do you agree that Filipinos have short memories?
Teehankee, J. (2007). And the clans play on. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Retrieved from Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism Web site.
The Presidential Museum and Library