MORE AND MORE political dynasties are getting “fat,” and more and more dynasties that are already fat are getting even fatter.
This in sum is one of the major findings of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center in its latest study on the proliferation of political dynasties in the Philippines.
A fat dynasty, said the Center’s Executive Director, Professor Ronald Mendoza, is one that has been able to expand across several elective positions simultaneously. For example, a political family may have at any one time a member in Congress, in the provincial capitol, in the municipal halls, and in the town councils.
Dynasties had earlier been marked by the occupancy by a specific political family of a particular elective position over a succession of terms.
Mendoza however said that based on their study, political families have learned the advantage of having multiple family members in several elective positions at the same time.
“It seems in recent years there has been an expansion of this fatness,” Mendoza said during the presentation of the study to the public at the Discovery Suites in Pasig on Thursday. “There are more dynasties seeking to be fat, and there are more dynasties seeking to be fatter.”
“We have seen family names like the Ampatuans in Maguindanao, the Fuas in Siquijor, and the Singsons in Ilocos, and the Ecleos in the Dinagat islands,” Mendoza told the PCIJ. “These are some of the fatter dynasties in our data set.”
Mendoza also noted an alarming trend that showed a correlation between the existence of fat dynasties and poverty. A previous AIM Policy Center Study attempted to establish this correlation, but Mendoza said it was only now that the evidence was clearer.
“One of the things we are seeing in terms of evidence is the more poverty you have, the more fat dynasties you tend to have,” Mendoza said.
View portions of the interview with Professor Mendoza below:
Another interesting finding in the study is the correlation between the presence of media organizations in an area and their effect on the political dynasties.
In particular, Mendoza said it appeared that the more AM radio stations there were in a province, the less fat the dynasty tends to be. On the other hand, the more AM radio stations there are, the more positions in the province are occupied by members of other dynasties.
Now that may seem a bit confusing, but Mendoza explains it this way – it appears that the media may be leveling the playing field in dynastic areas, meaning dynasties are less fat because there is more competition for elective positions. On the other hand, Mendoza says this also shows that the sectors that are taking advantage of this level playing field are not ordinary people, but other rival dynasties. Thus, more political families are stepping up to the plate to compete for positions.
“Hindi sila maka expand it seems, according to the results we are seeing,” Mendoza said of dynasties. “Media is leveling the playing field by providing information.”
Watch Mendoza’s interview and a portion of the presentation below:
Professor Julio Teehankee of the De La Salle University noted how influential the country’s political families have been throughout history, to the effect that “political clans, and not political parties are really the building blocks of Philippine politics.”
Teehankee cited several studies, including that of Dr. Temario Rivera, that showed that up to 94 percent of the provinces in the Philippines have political clans or dynasties.
Of the estimated 178 political families here, Teehankee said that 56 percent come from what he called “the old elite,” with the remaining 44 percent as newer political families.
All in all, each province in the Philippines has a total of 2.31 political families. The region with the greatest number of political families is Central Luzon, or Region 3, with 24 political clans. The Calabarzon region follows with 18 political clans.
One of the obvious impacts of the prevalence of these political clans is the primacy of patronage politics both on the local and national level. Teehankee noted that in dealing with local governments infiltrated with political clans, the national government has been centralizing the distribution of patronage rather than centralizing the development of governance institutions.