BY MAY this year, four of Makati Mayor Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay’s seven-member household (in-laws, grandchildren, and helpers excluded) would have joined the family’s business in Makati: politics. The latest addition would be Mar-Len Abigail or Abby, a 31-year-old lawyer, who is eyeing the congressional seat in the city’s second district.
And so we have come full circle. If you remember, we started the local governments series in January by focusing on good local governance. This month, we go back to best practices, although this time around we do so only in part, and we focus on some local officials who have been touted as “faces of change.”
CEBU CITY — This bustling metropolis in central Philippines used to be the heart of Osmeña country, the home of a political clan that at one time even managed to wield power from within Malacañang. But in the last two decades, a new family has been gaining considerable political ground in Cebu province. For the past few years, it has also been widely perceived to have Malacañang’s ear. This May, three of its members are seeking public office, and many are betting all three will win their respective electoral contests.
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.
FOR SOME 160 families, the two Houses of the Philippine Congress have practically been home for 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.
LET’S say it one more time: Yes, the 1987 Constitution has a provision that says the State shall prohibit political dynasties. But that will happen only when Congress finally crafts and passes the implementing law that will also define what a political dynasty is. Hold your breath over that one and you may just end up in the emergency ward.
ACCORDING TO the latest reports, the Bersamins of Abra are among 10 political families in the province supposedly under close watch by the Philippine National Police for maintaining private armies. But by many accounts, the Bersamins — whose most prominent member, Congressman Luis Jr., was gunned down last December — were mainly “fence-sitters” who maintained links with the two main groups battling over Abra.
I AM a warlord’s daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, relative, and friend. On my bloodline I blame the deaths of hundreds of men in Abra. But I am powerless to undo what members of my clan have wrought.
Many times I have cursed my forefathers for the tragedy of living in a place that is beautiful but awash in blood, that has nothing to offer but devastation, depression, and death. Even I cannot bear living in the land ruled by kith and kin, in the province built by years of my family members’ struggles to overpower each other.