IN 2007, political scientist Julio Tehankee wrote that the two houses of the Philippine Congress have practically been home for at least 160 families over the last century.

“These families have had two or more members who have served in Congress, and they account for nearly 424 of the 2,407 men and women who have been elected to the national legislature from 1907 to 2004,” Tehankee wrote in the article “And the clans play on.”

More than 20 years after the People Power Revolution that toppled a dictatorship in 1986, the clans persist in the Philippines. In fact, Tehankee observed:

“Political clans have been an enduring feature of Philippine politics. In the upcoming local and congressional contests, that will remain to be so. Majority of these families or clans, in fact, take their roots from local politics. Generally considered as a grouping within the elites of society, the political clan is basically composed of a family and its network of relations that actively pursues elective or appointive political office at the local and/or national level. In many cases, the clan has also managed to maintain power through generations.”

But how are clans built?

Jejomar Binay

IT’S ALL in the family for the Binays. Philippine Vice-President Jejomar Binay and three of his children are in government. Nancy is a senator, Mar-Len Abigail is a representative, and Junjun is a city mayor| HLURB Photo

PCIJ founding executive director Sheila S. Coronel explored this issue in 2007 and came up with a summary of seven factors upon which dynasties are built.

Money, machine, media and/or movies, marriage, murder and mayhem, myth, and mergers are the seven Ms, the required elements for a dynasty to endure.

1. MONEY

The families that endure and survive political upheaval are more likely to be those that have a sustainable economic base to finance their participation in electoral battles. Philippine elections are costly — a congressional campaign in 2004, according to campaign insiders, could have cost up to P30 million in Metro Manila. In rural areas, the price tag is much less: P10 million on average, although campaigns can be run for P3 million or less in smaller districts where the competition is not too intense.

The investment may be worth it, as the rates of return can be high, depending on how well congressional office is exploited. Historically, families have been able to use their positions to expand their landholdings or their business empires, using their preferential access to privileges from the state — loans, franchises, monopolies, tax exemptions, cheap foreign exchange, subsidies, etc. These privileges have made political families wealthy, in turn allowing them to assemble formidable election machines that guarantee victory at the polls. The most successful families are those able to establish business empires not solely dependent on government largesse. They must also be competent enough to run these businesses well, allowing their members to survive electoral defeat and political ignominy.

In Landlords and Capitalists, political scientist Temario Rivera found that 87 families controlled the top 120 manufacturing companies from 1964-1986. Sixteen of these families — about 20 percent of the total — were involved in politics. Most of them were members of the landowning elite that emerged during the 19th century, including the Aranetas, the Cojuangcos, the Jacintos, the Madrigals, and the Yulos. “Through government influence,” writes Rivera, “landed capitalists caused the diversion of state resources to traditional elite economic activities like sugar and coconut milling, limiting further industrial diversification.”

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FORMER FIRST LADY IMELDA R. MARCOS. More than 20 years after the EDSA People Power that toppled his husband's rule, the Marcoses are still in power | Photo by Lilen Uy

FORMER FIRST LADY IMELDA R. MARCOS. More than 20 years after the EDSA People Power that toppled his husband’s rule, the Marcoses are still in power | Photo by Lilen Uy

We are reposting this article originally titled “Brazilian investigative journalist beheaded” and first published on the website of the International Press Institute on May 21, 2015.

By Elena Pramesberger, IPI Contributor

VIENNA, May 21, 2015 – A Brazilian reporter who had been investigating a child prostitution ring was found decapitated in the south-eastern state of Minas Gerais on Monday.

The body of Evany José Metzker, 67, was discovered in the town of Padre Paraíso five days after he went missing. According to Opens external link in new windownews reports, the journalist’s body showed signs of physical violence and was found with his hands tied, while his head was discovered in a ditch 100 meters away. Several personal belongings, including various documents, his wallet and wedding ring were found nearby.

State police officials have reportedly established Metzker’s work as a possible motive for his murder, but have not ruled out other motives. Metzker was a well-known investigative journalist in the area and ran the blog “Coruja do Vale” (engl.: Owl of the Valley), which regularly reported cases of corruption and was often viewed as critical of the government and police. According to the local newspaper Estado de Minas, Metzker had recently been investigating a child prostitution gang that was allegedly active in Catuji, Minas Gerais.

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Beheaded reporter

By Cong B. Corrales

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION advocates expressed concern over the delay of the submission of the committee report of the House Committee on Public Information to the House Secretary General, Wednesday (May 20) as this will “impact the already narrow window for the passage of the bill.”

“Our support and solidarity to the FOI authors in their desire to advance the bill to plenary remain. However, we express our concern over the delay of the submission because every delay impacts the already narrow window for passing the bill,” Right to Know, Right Now! (R2KRN) Coalition convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan told the PCIJ, Wednesday.

"If FOI is to advance within the timetable, it cannot be just one of the numerous priorities but must take the highest level of import," Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan. Photo taken during the Light Up for FOI candle-lighting rally in front of the House of Representatives in September, 2013 | PCIJ File Photo

“If FOI is to advance within the timetable, it cannot be just one of the numerous priorities but must take the highest level of import,” Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition convenor Nepomuceno Malaluan. Photo taken during the Light Up for FOI candle-lighting rally in front of the House of Representatives in September, 2013 | PCIJ File Photo

The PCIJ is a member organization of the R2KRN! Coalition.

While waiting for the supposed schedule of the submission of the committee report, Malaluan received word from the office of Rep. Jorge Almonte that they have decided to reset the submission of the committee report.

“It was originally scheduled to be submitted at 3:30pm, Wednesday (May 20), (but) there was anticipation that the BBL (Bangsamoro Basic Law) final vote would not be finished by that time and some of the FOI authors and the (House committee on public information) Chair (Jorge Almonte) are members of the Ad Hoc Committee of the BBL,” Malaluan said.

r2klogo

Had the FOI committee report been submitted as scheduled, Malaluan said, the campaign for the passage of the bill would have shifted from the committee level to the plenary process.

The FOI committee report consolidates 24 FOI bills including the one filed through Indirect Initiatives by the R2KRN coalition. The Committee on Public Information approved the consolidated version on November 24, 2014 and the Committee on Appropriations approved its appropriation provision on March 4, this year.

From the time the Technical Working Group (TWG) for the bill was constituted on November 26, 2013, it has taken nine meetings before the proposed consolidated bill was presented to the Committee on Public Information for deliberation.

“The postponement of the filing to give way to BBL, shows the importance of a measure being given the highest priority by the administration and by the leaders of Congress,” said Malaluan.

“If FOI is to advance within the timetable, it cannot be just one of the numerous priorities but must take the highest level of import.”

The FOI Bill has been in the legislative wringer for the past 28 years—since it was first filed in the 8th Congress.

THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION Act is on the cusp of passage into law, if only the House of Representatives will work with a little more speed and focus on the bill in the next nine months.

Should that happen, an FOI law might well be the best Christmas gift that the 16th Congress and the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III could offer the citizens.

In a statement issued today, May 12, the Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition of over 160 civil society organizations and leaders urged Congress to rush action on the FOI bill, and assure its passage into law by February 2016.

The Coalition said an FOI law could serve as “the perpetual pillar and legacy of the democracy that Filipinos claimed and restored under the leadership of Aquino’s late mother, Corazon ‘Cory’ Aquino.”

Next year, the nation will mark the 30th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolt.

Already 103 countries worldwide with combined population of 5.8 billion have adopted FOI and access to information laws, starting with Sweden in 1776 and ending with Mozambique in 2014.

Will the Philippines have its FOI law soon, much later, or never at all? That is the big challenge to President Aquino and the 16th Congress before they bow out of office in June 2016, the Coalition said.

Members of the Coalition have been campaigning for an FOI law over the last 14 years, or since the 12th Congress and three presidents ago.

To monitor the status of the FOI bill in the House and the Senate, according to its reasonable timetable, the Coalition has launched a project, “Congress Action on FOI Tracker.”

The FOI Tracker will provide the public with timely and regular updates on the status of the FOI Bill, including a periodic assessment of the lawmakers’ action on the passage of the bill, based on the substantive quality and integrity of their work, according to the Coalition’s timetable.

While the FOI law is well positioned for passage, it still teeters between birth and death, should the leaders and members of the House fail in their task, according to the Right to Know Coalition.

It said a few good things must happen for the FOI bill to become a fulfilled promise and solid legacy of the Aquino administration:

* The House Committee’s consolidated version of the bill must be sponsored in plenary, and interpellation and debate substantially started between now and June 11, when the second regular session adjourns sine die.

* The period of interpellation is done, the bill is approved on second reading, amendments are finished, and the FOI bill is approved on third reading in the House between July 27, 2015 (when Congress starts its third regular session) and November 2015.

* The bicameral conference committee of the Senate and House has finalized a reconciled bill and its report is ratified in both chambers by December 2015.

* The Enrolled People’s FOI Bill must have been presented to the President for approval by January 2016.

* President Aquino signs the enrolled bill into law in February 2016, just in time for EDSA’s 30th anniversary.

By this timetable, the Right to Know Coalition said it will monitor and judge the action of the House, the Senate, and the President vis-à-vis the FOI bill, a major and popular advocacy of the Coalition’s 160-member organizations over the last 14 years.

Countries With FOI Laws

A broad range of organizations signed the Coalition statement, including the Makati Business Club, FOI Youth Initiative, National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace (NASSA) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, Philippine College of Physicians, Code-NGO, Public Services Labor Independent Confederation (PSLINK), Focus on the Global South-Philippines, Libertas, Transparency and Accountability Network, Center for Migrant Advocacy, Partido Manggagawa, Ang Kapatiran Party, Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), PAL Employees Union, Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA), Peace Women Partners Inc., STOP the War Coalition Philippines, Save Agrarian Reform Alliance, Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), Action for Economic Reforms (AER), Center for Community Journalism and Development (CCJD), Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP), and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

The eminent persons who also signed the Coalition statement include former House Deputy Speaker Lorenzo R. Tañada III; Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission and co-sponsor of the Right to Information provision; Prof. Edna E. A. Co of the UP Center for Integrative and Development Studies, Dr. Nicole Curato of the Centre for Deliberative Democracy & Global Governance, University of Canberra; Dr. Sylvia Estrada Claudio of the UP Department of Women and Development Studies; and Prof. Aileen San Pablo-Baviera of the UP Asian Center.

By Cong B. Corrales

A WEAK AND EFFETE Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will be like giving the Bangsamoro people “a house without a roof” or “plates without food.”

This was how peace advocates from Mindanao and Manila responded to recent statements by members of the House of Representatives that at least eight provisions in the BBL could be amended.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House of Representatives’ Ad Hoc Committee on the BBL, had earlier told reporters in several forums that his committee plans to scrap eight provisions of the BBL that are supposedly “unconstitutional.”

But Gani Abunda of the Friends of the Bangsamoro Movement in a public forum on Friday said such statements do not augur well for the BBL, citing “the spirit and principles of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB)” which the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed on March 27, 2014.

“We don’t think that a watered-down (BBL) will address the legitimate concerns of the Bangsamoro for peace,” said Abunda, who also represents the Initiatives for International Dialogue.

Congressman Rodriguez had earlier proposed to scrap some provisions of BBL’s Section 2 on the “Powers of Government ” authorizing the new Bangsamoro administration to have its own constitutional bodies.

Mary Ann Arnado, secretary general of the Mindanao Peace Caucus, disagrees.

She said that while the proposed BBL provides for the creation of its own constitutional bodies (i.e. Civil Service, Commission on Elections, Commission on Human Rights, Commission on Audit), these bodies would ultimately be under their respective mother commissions.

“These constitutional bodies, namely the Civil Service Commission, the auditing office, and the electoral office of the Bangsamoro will still be working together with the Comelec, the COA, and the Civil Service. So these are not really totally independent but these are offices that will be established in the Bangsamoro,” said Arnado.

The House of Representatives will commence deliberations on the BBL next Monday, May 11. To ensure that the discussions will be “compliant and reflective” of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, the peace advocates have called on Filipinos to join a Peace March-Rally on that day.

The march-rally will start from the Sandiganbayan compound on Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City and proceed to the gates of Batasan Pambansa Complex. “It is a symbolic march that will gather at least 8,000 peace advocates to ensure that the BBL that will be passed in the lower house of Congress will not be a watered-down version,” said Arnado.

“May 11 will be beyond just joining a big rally,” she said. “It will be a massive citizens’ action for the Bangsamoro. For those of us who have witnessed the cruelty of war in Mindanao, for the bakwit (evacuees) who perennially leave their homes just to avoid being caught in the crossfires and for all the innocent victims of this long-drawn war in Mindanao, May 11 is an opportunity for all of us to show our sturdy unity to achieve genuine peace.”

Meanwhile, in an emailed statement, Thursday, Oxfam said lawmakers could be in “strategic position to put an end to the vicious cycle of poverty and conflict” in Mindanao by opening that part of the country to “sound public investments.”

“Oxfam agrees with the statement of the Citizens’ Peace Council early this week that the block grant can help the region catch up with the rest of the country since it is critical for the operations of the Bangsamoro government,” Oxfam said.

The vaunted growth of the national economy, it noted, has not helped in easing the dire conditions of communities in the Muslim Mindanao region.

In a 2012 report, t representative Gani Abunda he Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said the concentration of poor people in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has remained high, “ranging between 42 percent and 47 percent” in 2006, 2009, and 2012.

Of the 17 regions in the country, ARMM has always had the highest incidence of poverty, the PSA report added.

“As we wait for the outcome of the deliberations of the BBL,’ Oxfam said, “let us be reminded that the draft law can open an opportunity to promote inclusive growth and development, and address the persisting problems of poverty and inequality besetting Muslim Mindanao.” - PCIJ, May 2015

By Ferdinandh Cabrera
Contributor

TAMONTAKA, Awang Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao — While gunfire and bombs rained on residents of Datu Unsay and Datu Saudi Ampatuan in this province, about 60 young Mindanaons gathered here recently for a peace assembly.

Amid the staccato wailing of war fifty kilometers away, the youth of the strife-torn island crafted art and songs at a peace-building workshop last March 29.

That same day, the conflict killed at least 30 persons, including a few soldiers and three ranking members of the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).

Since the launch of military offensive in February, an estimated 125,300 persons from 15 municipalities of Maguindanao have fled their homes, displaced by the conflict.

But the workshop for the youth offered a contrast in tone and imagery. The sessions focused on enhancing art expression, singing, and leadership skills, and bonding among the participants.

Macmod Sadam, a resident of Malingao, Shariff Saydona Mustapha town, whose family members were among those who rushed to the evacuation centers, could only reflect on their tragic fate.

“How could they move on?” he asked. “Life inside the temporary camp is so hard, I was there and I can feel how they felt now.”

Macmod is grateful for the opportunity to join the three-day youth assembly. There, youth community leaders were encouraged to express their feelings about the situation, and discern their role in fostering peace in their communities.

“(What) I painted expressed how I desire to achieve peace, but when it will happen?” Macmod said. “I hope the government will heed the long-desired Bangsamoro governance,” affirming his support for the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law.

Florely Araquil from Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat province, spoke about the conditions of her Muslim friends who live in Maguindanao.

While her family lives quite a distance away from the clash, she said, “we are deeply concerned about their studies.” The conflict, she noted, meant only that “they can’t go to schools.”

Florely also lamented that clan wars or rido have also affected relations between the youth from rival families. She said her former school maters have ceased to be friends because their families have been dragged into clan wars.

Alsudairy Sarip from Wato-Balindong in Lanao del Sur said he was glad that the workshop gave the participants a chance to interact with other tribes. “We now have the chance to understand each other’s culture better. That way, we’d know how to respond to and respect the different traditions and norms of every tribe in Mindanao,” Sarip said.

The peace-building youth assembly was attended by 60 youth members were members of the Iranun, Maguindanaon, Maranaw, Ilocano, Ilonggo, and Teduray communities from the province of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Sultan Kudarat, North Cotabato, and Cotabato City.

The workshop featured sessions for the participants to acknowledge the differences in culture, norms, and religion of the different tribes, and how the situation in Mindanao has roots in sectarian conflict, cultural differences, and land disputes.

Among other outputs, the workshop yielded paintings, literary pieces, and a song titled “Bakit Ba” that the participants themselves produced.

In future, Macmod says he wishes to see a peaceful and progressive Mindanao, without military operations, without bakwits. - With reporting by Joyce Toledo, USM Devcom Intern

Text and photos by Cong B. Corrales

A SEA OF RED banners, pennants, shirts, and streamers engulfed Liwasang Bonifacio yet again on May Day 2015.

The site of countless protest rallies against dictatorship, corruption, and violations of people’s rights, Liwasang Bonifacio on Saturday played host to workers from the militant unions of the Kilusang Mayo Uno.

By all indications unflinching, unbending in demeanor and resolve they called out the Aquino government for its failure to increase wages, provide jobs, end the country’s labor export policy, and curb “corporate greed” and corruption. - PCIJ, May 2015