FERDINAND Marcos recognized the power of money and amassed a world-class fortune during his presidency. [PCIJ photo]
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.”
There were later comers — among them the Duranos, Enriles, Puyats, Sarmientos, and Silverios — who ventured into manufacturing during the postwar period. Unlike their predecessors, they did not have a base in landholdings. Rivera says that because they had little capital to start with, these entrepreneurs established and expanded their firms after gaining access to government credit and licenses and government-administered foreign aid and loans. “This segment,” he writes, “showed the greatest reliance on state-generated resources in the establishment and maintenance of their firms.” These families were still in the legislature up to 2004, their ability to sustain their economic base allowing them to continue in public office, and their government posts in turn enabling their businesses to survive. In the 13th Congress, there was an Enrile in both Houses, and there was yet another Durano among Cebu’s representatives.
Ramon Durano, the warlord of Danao, received Japanese reparations assistance in the form of money and machinery to set up a cement company that became the core of his Danao industrial complex. This was his reward for delivering a large bloc of Central Visayan votes to Carlos P. Garcia, who was elected president in 1957. Garcia was then at loggerheads with the Osmeñas and needed an ally in vote-rich Cebu. Rep. Durano, who was related by marriage to Garcia, mobilized his daunting election machinery for the candidate. Through the years, while various Durano family members ran in elections, their enterprises benefited from government loans and subsidies.
“All the assets of the family’s domain — revenues, land, agricultural commodities, industries, power, and influence — were derived from success at the polls,” U.S. historian Michael Cullinane observes. “Similarly, much of the profits from their enterprises were invested in elections to guarantee the family’s continued dominance.”
The Duranos survive to this day because they have a monopoly of the politics and the economy of Danao. Their factories give employment and the clan provides protection for Danao’s lucrative cottage industry, the manufacture of illegal guns. The family controls several of the gun factories as well. By the early 1980s, however, the Danao industrial complex was in rapid decline. Still, the Duranos’ ability to deliver votes have made them invaluable allies of national politicians and ensured their survival. Today Ramon ‘Red’ Durano VI represents the fifth district of Cebu in the 13th House. The Duranos have had a seat in Congress since 1949.
Not all political families, however, are fabulously wealthy. Some are able to win elections by relying more on popularity, name recall, and political networks rather than money.
Elections require the mobilization of people and resources to ensure that votes are cast and counted in a candidate’s favor. A congressman’s political machine typically includes a network of lider at the village or barangay level, either the barangay captain, council member, or an influential person, such as a successful local entrepreneur or the head of a community organization. These lider in turn mobilize a network of campaigners for the candidate. The campaigners will put up posters and streamers and conduct house-to-house visits, reminding voters of the candidate’s good deeds. The lider may also get favors done for the villagers (such as help for a baptism or a burial), and if necessary, transport them to the places where they register and vote.
CANDIDATES like Pangasinan Rep. Jose de Venecia, who ran for the presidency in 1998, have to build a political machine to mobilize respurces for a campaign and deliver votes. [photo courtesy of Malaya]
The lider get paid for their work — often in cash, but also in kind. In some cases, the lider get regular monthly allowances from the congressional payroll and the funds that representatives are given for their district offices. Incumbents have the advantage, because they can use the resources of their office to bankroll the cost of maintaining a lider network. A candidate’s organization also needs to recruit pollwatchers (at least one per precinct) and ensure that they are briefed, transported to the polling centers, fed while they are there, and paid for their efforts. The organization needs to have paymasters — sometimes these are also the lider — who dispense money to voters, election watchers, and often, also the schoolteachers who man the polls.
The lider, in addition, provide the intelligence work necessary during the campaign, giving feedback on the strength of the other contenders and the dirty tricks these might use. Campaign insiders say that the most crucial date is the Saturday after the end of the official campaign period, which falls on a Friday (the polls take place on the second Monday of May). This is when lider are mobilized for “special operations,” which may involve offering sizeable sums to the voters in the areas where the rival candidate is strong so they would either not vote at all or else they would shift their votes to the higher bidder. Sometimes lider themselves are bought off by candidates who offer bigger rewards.
Beyond elections, the lider are the conduit between the community and the congressman. They bring the needs of communities to the legislators’ attention, whether it is for a road, a basketball court, or scholarships for village children. Such patronage is important to keep the lider‘s loyalty; otherwise, they may shift to more generous patrons. Patronage is the oil that keeps the political machine going.
A politician often bequeaths his network of lider to his family members, whether it is a child, spouse, cousin, or other kin running for public office. In some areas, lider families are tied to the same political family for several generations, although that is changing. The multiparty system introduced after 1986, for one, destabilized the neat, two-party alignments of lider in the past. Moreover, as various studies have noted, the breakdown of patron-client relations has meant lider bound less by loyalty ties but by more material considerations. Relationships between politicians and their lider have become more transactional.
Still, political families benefit from the economies of scale. If a family is fielding candidates for several positions, then they can use the same lider and pollwatcher network for all family members. As far as investing resources in a campaign is concerned, there is a certain efficiency in having members of the same clan running for office, as long as they are not running against each other.
In terms of machine, big landowners have an advantage as they can mobilize the votes of their workers or tenants and use the hacienda organization of overseers for the campaign.
Others bring into their campaigns whatever organizational advantage they have, whether these are religious, business, school, fraternity, or civic (e.g. Rotary Clubs) affiliations that enable a candidate to tap into the resources of organized groups. The family, of course, is a built-in political machine, with the network of kin often proving to be committed campaigners and contributors.
In 1995, the PCIJ and the Institute for Popular Democracy published a study on jueteng in a Pangasinan town where the jueteng lord comes from a political family that has been at the helm of the town since 1945. The symbiotic relationship between illegal gambling and politics was made clear in the study. For one, the family’s campaign coffers have been enriched by jueteng funds. In addition, the grassroots-based jueteng structure is also a political machine.
As the study explains: “The gambling network, based on a hierarchical system of cabos (supervisors) and cobradores (collectors), does more than collect bets or deliver winnings. It is also an A-1 source of political intelligence and a ready-made machinery for election mobilization. In addition jueteng money contributes not just to campaign coffers but to a social welfare fund administered by the political family.”
In the 1995 local elections, for example, the jueteng operator in the Pangasinan town mobilized his gambling network to help his cousin, the mayor, run for reelection. “Through the jueteng network,” says the study, “the candidate was able to check on the implementation of backroom political deals between himself and his allies. He also used this machinery to monitor the shifting loyalties of barangay captains and ward leaders and to keep track of the vote-buying rates and schemes of his rivals.”
RAMON Revilla was not a great actor, but he won three terms in the Senate because of his popularity as an action-film star. [photo courtesy of Malaya]
3. MEDIA AND/OR MOVIES
This is a recent addition to the arsenal of weapons available for dynasty building. Since the 1990s, celebrity power has been able to eclipse clan power, at least in some areas. This has left many families scrambling for the glitter and glamour of media or showbiz if only to heighten their electoral appeal. In the past, politicians merely hired entertainers to draw in the crowds: Today the entertainers themselves are running for office, shaking the complacency of political families and forcing them to reinvent themselves to be more acceptable to a media-inundated and celebrity-crazed electorate.
In some instances, scions of political families have married celebrities. In 2002, Negros Occidental Rep. Julio ‘Jules’ Ledesma IV walked down the aisle with the stunning movie star Assunta de Rossi in a televised ceremony at his hacienda. Ledesma is a descendant of some of the wealthiest Negrense sugar-planter clans. He is also related to the Lopez family that owns ABS-CBN and is a nephew of former Negros Rep. Hortensia Starke.
Earlier, Batangas representative and now Senator Ralph Recto wed popular movie actress Vilma Santos in 1992, a marriage that helped catapult the third-generation legislator (his grandfather was the nationalist Senator Claro M. Recto and his father Rafael was a member of the Batasang Pambansa) to the Senate. Other celebrity marriages of political clans in the House include those of Negros Occidental Rep. Carlos Cojuangco, son of San Miguel Corp. chairman Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco, to the late actress Rio Diaz, and that of Antonio ‘Tonyboy’ Floirendo to former Miss Universe and TV host Margie Moran. There is also Senator Francis ‘Kiko’ Pangilinan, husband of megastar Sharon Cuneta, who is now gunning for reelection as an independent.
JOSEPH Estrada, shown here campaigning in 1998, won the presidency by a big margin. Riding on his movie-star fame, his wife and son were eventually elected to public office. [photo courtesy of Malaya]
Short of marrying celebrity, some politicians go into the media or the movies themselves.
Several host talk shows on radio or television. Ilocos Norte Rep. Imee Marcos once anchored an entertainment talk show on popular radio station DZBB. The fourth-generation legislator has also made cameo appearances on TV soaps and comedies, and is a fairly regular guest on talk shows, where she expounds not only on politics, but also on the talents of her ramp/commercial model son Borgy and the latest exploits of her mother Imelda. No doubt, she calculates that the showbiz glitz can help put the shine back on the tarnished Marcos name.
Lawyer Renato Cayetano, who died in 2003, was elected to the Senate in 1998 mainly because he hosted a popular radio and TV talk show where he dispensed free legal advice. Cayetano was not exactly a shining star of the legal profession. Far from it — he spent more time in coffeeshops than courtrooms, his skills honed in dealmaking rather than litigation. Yet his programs projected him as a skilled lawyer who helped ordinary folk. This media projection became the foundation of the Cayetano dynasty. Riding on his father’s media-manufactured reputation, Alan Peter Cayetano won a House seat representing Taguig-Pateros in 1998, 2001, and 2004. He is now running for the Senate. His younger brother Rene Carl was elected Muntinlupa councilor in 2001 and 2004, while older sister Pia, who replaced their father in the radio show “Compañero y Compañera,” won a six-year stint at the Senate in 2004.
Those who were already media or movie celebrities before entering politics have a decided advantage as far as name recall is concerned. They can then leverage this asset to ensure they and their kin hold on to public office. Thus, showbiz dynasties have emerged. These, however, have been more successful in their bids for national, rather than local or district, office. In part, this is because name recall is of paramount importance when vying for national positions, while money and machinery often matter more in local or district elections. The more successful showbiz clans, though, have been able to win both national and local posts.
The most prominent among them are the Ejercitos: Movie star Joseph Estrada was a long-time San Juan mayor before being elected to the Senate in 1987 and to the presidency in 1998. Soon after his ouster in 2001, his wife Luisa or ‘Loi’ won a Senate seat and his son (by another woman) Jose Victor or ‘JV’ became San Juan mayor. In 2004, eldest son (by Loi) Jose or ‘Jinggoy’ was also elected senator, resulting in the Senate’s first time to have a mother-and-son tandem.
There was a time that the Revillas were in the Senate and in local government in Cavite. Three-term senator Ramon Revilla’s son, the movie actor Ramon Jr. or ‘Bong,’ was elected Cavite vice governor in 1995 and governor in 1998. Bong replaced his father in the Upper House in 2004. Another son (the actor has more than 80 children with many wives), Edwin ‘Stryke’ Revilla, was on the Cavite provincial board from 1998 to 2004.
The senator’s son-in-law, Robert Jaworski, is a sports celebrity, a former basketball player and coach who was elected to the Senate in 1998 and 2001. Jaworski’s son Robert Jr. or ‘Dodot’ married Mikee Cojuangco, the daughter of former Tarlac Rep. Jose ‘Peping’ Cojuangco and former Tarlac Gov. Margarita ‘Tingting’ Cojuangco. Mikee, a former actress and champion equestrienne, was herself once a member of the Sangguniang Kabataan in Tarlac. Husband Dodot, became representative of Pasig City in Congress in 2004, but is said to be now eyeing the Pasig mayoralty.
Those who do not have direct access to media and celebrity make do with ensuring they get good media coverage. This is especially true for those who come from urbanized districts whose constituents are more thoroughly exposed to the media than those in the rural areas. This is also true for those whose ambitions go beyond their districts or beyond the House of Representatives, and so need national exposure via the media so they can vie for higher office.
Third-generation legislator Manuel Roxas II, a two-term Capiz representative who was President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s trade secretary, used clever TV advertising and maximum media visibility in preparation for his Senate run in 2004. Such exposure entails money as the cost of television advertising is prohibitive (in 2003, the top price for a 30-second placement on primetime TV was P130,000). In addition, politicians often give under-the-table payments for journalists in exchange for favorable coverage.
In medieval times, marriages were used to consolidate kingdoms and expand empires. In the same way, political marriages consolidate political networks and expand the reach of clans. The marriage of Benigno Aquino Jr. and Corazon Cojuangco in 1954 united two of the most powerful political clans in Tarlac. That same year, Ilocos Sur Rep. Ferdinand Marcos wed Imelda Romualdez after a whirlwind 11-day courtship. It was considered a master political stroke for the ambitious Marcos, as the Romualdez clan was influential in Congress-Imelda’s cousin Daniel was then Speaker pro tempore and her uncle Norberto was once House Speaker. For a politician like Marcos — who had presidential ambitions and already had support from the Ilocano-speaking provinces of Northern Luzon — a Visayan bride, especially a looker like Imelda who came from a political clan in a part of the country where he had little influence, was an invaluable asset.
IMEE Marcos is the product of a marriage that united two political clans from different parts of the country. [photo by Ben Razon/PCIJ]
Families whose members marry astutely are able to pool various assets together to enhance their political chances. For example, real-estate entrepreneur Manuel Villar Jr. married into a political family, the Aguilars of Las Piñas, whose political experience and electoral machine helped him win a seat in the House in 1992. Using the Aguilar political machine, Villar took over the seat held by his father-in-law Filemon in the Eighth House. Villar’s businesses benefited from his political clout — several laws benefiting real-estate companies were passed in the House during his term and he also successfully weathered a congressional inquiry into government financing for his housing projects. When he reached his three-term limit, Villar, who was Speaker of the 11th House, made a bid for the Senate while his wife Cynthia took over the House seat once held by her father and her husband. Villar is now seeking a second term in the Senate.
The political career of Jose de Venecia Jr., who was House Speaker from 1992 to 1998 and again from 2001 to 2004, was also launched through marriage. His first wife was the daughter of Pangasinan political kingpin Eugenio Perez, who represented the province’s second district from 1928 to 1957 and was the powerful Speaker of the House from 1946 to 1953. With the help of the Perez machine, de Venecia succeeded in his first foray in politics in 1969, when he won a House seat representing his father-in-law’s district.
In the past, political families tended to marry into wealth (Sergio Osmeña Sr. married a wealthy Veloso from Cebu while Gerardo Roxas married into the sugar-planter Aranetas of Negros Occidental). Many political clans also tend to intermarry: The Aquino-Cojuangco and Marcos-Romualdez marriages are the classic examples.
Of late, however, some of the clans have married into celebrity (see above). This is because celebrities bring in the vote, and the appeal of a family name is enhanced by the glitter of showbiz.
JUANITO Remulla built his reputation as Cavite strongman by plotting the killing of the notorious bandit Nardong Putik in 1971. [photo by Alex Baluyut/PCIJ]
5. MURDER AND MAYHEM
Before last December’s slay of Abra Rep. Luis Bersamin Jr., there was the killing of Ilocos Sur Rep. Julio Nalundasan, who was murdered in his home, after dinner on the evening of September 20, 1935, as he was about to brush his teeth. The alleged assassin was the 18-year-old Ferdinand Marcos, then a University of the Philippines student, whose father Mariano had just lost to Nalundasan in the elections for the Commonwealth-era National Assembly. Mariano’s was a devastating defeat, made even more humiliating by Nalundasan’s decision to hold a victory parade that featured a coffin bearing his rival’s name.
Those were the days when political violence was rare, and the murder tainted the credibility of the freshly minted Commonwealth government. Marcos was tried and he lost his case in the trial and appeals courts. On final appeal at the Supreme Court, however, the young law student argued his case brilliantly. He was acquitted, not so much on the basis of the evidence but because Jose Laurel, the Supreme Court justice who penned the decision on his case, did not want such talent to go to waste. Marcos’s acquittal was as celebrated as the murder for which he was charged. Fourteen years after the assassination, he was elected congressman of Ilocos Norte, riding partly on the fame the murder case had brought him.
The importance of political violence in dynasty building is exemplified by the saga of the Singsons of Ilocos Sur, which shows how an upstart family can wrest control of a political and economic bailiwick through violence. In 1970, Luis ‘Chavit’ Singson allegedly killed his uncle, strongman Floro Crisologo, to become, up to now, the undisputed boss of Ilocos Sur.
In Cavite, the only way Juanito Remulla could exercise political hegemony over banditry and assorted criminality was by keeping a private army. Remulla began his political career under the tutelage of Senator Justiniano Montano, the Cavite strongman whose 35-year rule was marked by violence and the coddling of smuggling and other syndicates that proliferated in the province. In 1969, Remulla parted ways with Montano, and two years later, when he was a Constitutional Convention delegate, he made his mark in the gangster-style execution of the notorious bandit Leonardo Manecio, known as Nardong Putik.
“At that time, there were two governments in Cavite, one run by the Montanos, the other by Nardong Putik,” Remulla said in a 1994 interview. “Everyone paid taxes to Nardo, even Coca-Cola delivery trucks. So we decided to get Nardong Putik, but we could not do it ourselves. I did not want it to look like my men were involved. So I agreed with the National Bureau of Investigation chief to send some men over to be our cover.”
One early morning in 1971, Remulla sent a vanload of his men to wait in ambush on Nardong Putik, who, they were told, was leaving the home of a girlfriend in Kawit town. The van cut into the path of Nardo’s red Impala, and Remulla’s men sprayed the gangster with bullets. Remulla remained at home, directing operations through a two-way radio.
The killing made Remulla a power to reckon with in Cavite. Elected to the provincial board in 1972, he became vice governor the same year, after the governor was suspended. When the new governor, Dominador Camerino, died suddenly in 1979, Remulla took over the post, which he kept until 1986. During that period, he laid the ground for the industrialization of Cavite, a process that was marred by killings, threats, and intimidation of workers and farmers by the governor and his men. He was reelected in 1988, and again in 1992 and 1995. His political machine was so formidable it ensured that his allies monopolized Cavite’s seats in Congress in the post-Marcos period. In 2001, Remulla’s son, erstwhile television reporter Gilbert, then only 31, became congressman. Gilbert was reelected in 2004, and sat in the Lower House with older brother Jesus Crispin, who was elected as representative of Cavite’s 3rd district. In Cavite itself, another Remulla son — his junior, Juanito Victor, or ‘Jonvic’ — was elected vice governor.
Violence is rooted in the political and economic geography of a political territory. Some clans had to resort to violence to assert and maintain their control. In other places, though, violence was not a requisite for political domination.
Again, Ferdinand Marcos comes to mind, if only because he was so adept at the tactics of establishing political hegemony. Marcos built his career by projecting himself as a World War II hero who formed Maharlika, a 9,200-strong band of anti-Japanese guerrillas that staged daring raids and sabotage operations in northern Luzon. The young Ferdinand was supposedly such a daredevil operator that he got 32 medals for his valiant efforts during the war. In 1947, as war hero, he was appointed to the Philippine Veterans Commission to lobby in the U.S. for better benefits for war veterans. In 1949, he ran for Congress in Ilocos Sur, again projecting his wartime heroism to heighten his electoral appeal. The emptiness of all his claims was exposed only in the 1980s: The war medals were fake and Maharlika never really existed.
UNLIKE other presidents, Manuel Roxas did not leave to his heirs the legacy of an enduring myth. [photo courtesy of the Lopez Museum]
Marcos, therefore, shows both the heights — and the limits — of mythmaking. A potent myth can sustain a political family for several generations, but only as long as the family attempts to live up to some part of that myth. Up to the last, even when he was very weak from lupus and undergoing dialysis, Marcos tried to project the myth of potency and invincibility, of the big, powerful man who would lead his country to greatness. The myth ended with his fall, but endures in many parts of the Ilocos region. In Ilocos Norte, the Marcos name is revered, and a Marcos has never lost an election there even after 1986. For all her showbiz flair, Imee Marcos would not have been elected representative of Ilocos Norte in 1998 and 2001 if she were not her father’s daughter.
In contrast, Diosdado Macapagal propagated the myth not of wartime heroism but of his humble origins. He cast himself as the “poor boy from Lubao” when he ran for Congress and the presidency. As his commissioned biography, released during the 1965 campaign against Marcos said, Macapagal’s “is the story of a little man, born in a hovel, who has battled with the biggest vested interests in the Philippines in his drive to bring honesty and integrity to government.”
Unlike Macapagal, who was of peasant stock, Ramon Magsaysay was middle class. Yet he, too, projected himself as the champion of the poor. Even the most ardent communists of that time were convinced of his genuine concern for landless peasants, but Magsaysay also cleverly used the media to project himself and his programs, thereby restoring the faith of the disadvantaged in government. Today his presidency is remembered as a golden age, and both myth and memory have served his family well. Since the 1960s, various Magsaysays were elected to Congress largely because of the myth of Ramon Magsaysay.
Also enduring is the myth of “Erap para sa mahirap,” which was largely responsible for making Estrada president. Although his lifestyle was one of bacchanalian excess, Estrada’s movies had projected him as a man of the masses, and voters initially remained clueless about the dissonance between his private life and his public image. But even after his excesses had been exposed, the Estrada myth remained compelling to many poor Filipinos. His wife and sons are woefully charisma-challenged and they had not been publicly projected as protectors of the poor, but they have won elections because they are seen as Estrada’s political surrogates.
In comparison, Manuel Roxas, who was the first postwar president, left no such enduring myth. While the Roxas family remains strong in their native Capiz, they are bereft of a narrative that voters throughout the country could relate with. This is the reason why, in preparation for the 2004 senatorial race, President Roxas’s grandson, Manuel II, resorted to television commercials portraying him as “Mr. Palengke,” the man who ensures honest trading in public markets.
Many political families thrive on myths of potency and generosity (even if they use mostly government resources, rather than their own, for patronage). In Samar, representatives throw wads of cash during town dances, a very public display of their benevolence. Elsewhere, they give big donations to town fiestas, basketball tournaments, and the like. One reason why pork barrel funds are important to legislators is they help propagate the myth of munificence.
The selective use of violence, too, can be said to be part of mythmaking. The killings instill fear, obedience, and respect. They project a patriarch’s or a family’s power. The message they send is: This clan has muscle and those who trifle with them do so at their own peril.
The media, of course, are an important arena for the manufacture and dissemination of myth.
Increasingly, voters make their choices based on the images they see on television. This is where news anchors have the edge. On television, they look intelligent, credible, and authoritative, even when they are merely reading from a text written by others. It is the projection that is important, and it is for this reason that Loren Legarda and Noli de Castro topped the senatorial races in 1998 and 2001, respectively.
Manuel Villar made the leap from the House to the Senate in part because of his positive media projection during Estrada’s impeachment in 2000. It was Villar as House Speaker who hurriedly announced that the President had been impeached and then banged the gavel to close the session and forestall any opposition. It was a singular TV moment, replayed over and over again by the major networks. It also projected Villar (up till then his campaign pitch was “sipag at tiyaga” or hard work and patience, a tagline that he is now recycling) as a principled legislator worthy of a Senate seat.
DANDING Cojuangco, shown here campaigning in the 1960s, is adept at building political alliances. [photo courtesy of the Lopez Museum]
7. MERGERS (ALLIANCES)
Politics, as the cliché goes, is addition. Political families build alliances with other clans and influential politicians in their native regions as well as with those elsewhere who wield power nationally. Being allied with the administration in power serves a family well: It opens the doors to fund releases from the national government, appointments for kin and supporters to various juicy government posts, and favorable treatment for various family business interests. Being opposed to the administration, meanwhile, can mean being starved of funds for local projects and being vulnerable to harassment by government regulators.
Political families who support the winning presidential candidate can expect to be rewarded after the elections. The presidential system is one of spoils: The president can appoint his or her choices to more than 6,000 positions in the bureaucracy. Traditionally these are given out to political supporters. Being a presidential ally also means access to government loans, contracts, and other benefits. This is why political families pool their resources to support presidential candidates. Political parties as discussed earlier are the organizational manifestation of clan alliances.
Three-term Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Antonio Cerilles, for example, supported Estrada’s 1998 presidential bid. As reward, he was appointed secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), while his wife Aurora took over his Congress seat. As DENR secretary, Cerilles facilitated the approval of the environmental clearance certificate of the family-owned rubber-processing plant.
In contrast, Juanito Remulla lost his bid for the Cavite governorship in 1995 because he was politically on the wrong side of the tracks. Remulla had supported Ramon Mitra’s presidential run in 1992 and put his electoral machine to work against the candidacy of Fidel Ramos. Early in the campaign, the lone mayor in Cavite who supported Ramos was gunned down.
Ramos did not forget this and ensured that the money and manpower of the Lakas party machine would be ready to do battle against Remulla in 1995. In addition, the early deployment of the military in Cavite neutralized the incumbent’s capacity for violence. Moreover, government-sequestered tabloids printed unflattering reports on the governor. Sure enough, Remulla lost to the lackluster EpimacoVelasco. He regained the post only in 1998, when he joined the Estrada bandwagon.
Among contemporary politicians, Danding Cojuangco is among the most adept at building alliances. Since founding the Nationalist People’s Coalition as a vehicle for his presidency, Cojuangco has nurtured and consolidated the NPC. Seeing the devastating impact of family feuds on the Cojuangco family fortunes, his branch of the family has also reached a rapprochement with his cousin Cory Aquino’s branch. In 2001, they did not field candidates against each other. Instead Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III held on to his post as representative of the second district, while the NPC got Tarlac’s two other seats: Danding’s nephew Gilbert Teodoro for the first district and Noynoy’s uncle Jesli A. Lapus for the third.
“It’s a policy of my Uncle Danding,” said Teodoro. “He has seen what happens to other families, when there’s too many of them struggling over a small pie. His rule is you’re the one in your area, as long as you do your job, nobody will bother you.”
Cojuangco’s contribution to dynasty building is conflict avoidance within the clan. He did this by conceding the second district of Tarlac to his cousins. He also got out of the Cojuangco tribal ground and carved out new districts for his sons: the fifth district of Pangasinan for Marcos or ‘Mark,’ and the fourth district of Negros Occidental for Carlos or ‘Charlie.’
Not all political families can do this, of course. Cojuangco succeeded only because of the geographical spread of his formidable business interests. He runs the Northern Cement Corp. in Pangasinan and owns at least 3,000 hectares of land in Negros Occidental. Rather than dissipating resources in a debilitating family feud, he simply expanded his political influence so there would be enough to go around.
Other families are also geographically spread out. In the 12th House, the Sandoval father and son represented Palawan and Malabon-Navotas, respectively, because their fishing interests were in both areas. The Almendras family was originally from Cebu (where they intermarried with the Duranos) but migrated to Davao, so they had a base in both areas, which helped Alejandro Almendras’s bid for the pre-martial law Senate, where he served seven terms. The multibillionaire Sarmientos who own the agribusiness giant Vitarich were natives of Bulacan but set up engineering and logging companies in Mindanao in the 1950s. They have represented both Bulacan and Davao del Norte in Congress. Then there are the Arroyos, who in the 13th House had presidential son Juan Miguel ‘Mikey’ as Pampanga’s 3rd-district representative and presidential brother-in-law Ignacio ‘Iggy’ representing the fifth district of Negros Occidental.
But none of these families can match the business and political reach of Danding Cojuangco. By 2001, Danding controlled all but one of the five districts of Negros Occidental and four of the six districts of Pangasinan, which was Ramos country in the 1990s. He did this by bankrolling the candidacies of his allies so they could outspend their rivals and by dispensing largesse in their districts. The NPC had 55 seats in the 12th House, many of them held by some of the oldest political clans who also collaborated with Marcos like the Escuderos, Fuentebellas, Duranos, Espinosas, Imperials, and Josons.
Cojuangco’s ability to cobble together a redoubtable political network attests to his dealmaking skills, considering that he was forced into exile with Marcos in 1986 and was a political pariah until his return to the Philippines in 1989. NPC members almost always vote as a bloc because of the patronage debts they owe Cojuangco.
Cojuangco has used the NPC to enter into a coalition with the ruling party briefly in 1992 and for a longer period from 2001 to 2004, even when he supported the losing presidential candidate both times. This has enabled him to wangle concessions from the presidents and the governments then in power by promising to deliver a bloc of votes for bills that presidents wanted passed. Together with his influence in the courts and the bureaucracy, Cojuangco’s clout in Congress has enabled him to regain and retain control of the biggest chunks of his business empire that were taken over in 1986. The NPC remains part of the ruling coalition.