THROUGHOUT THE 24 years of elections in the Philippines’s 20 provinces with the most number of registered voters, family names on the ballots seem to keep repeating themselves, the same ones popping up over and over again. It’s a situation that goes against the equal access to opportunities for public service guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution. Then again, the Charter also talks about prohibiting political dynasties “as may be defined by law,” but just look where we are now.
Based on the list of candidates from the 1992 to 2013 elections from the Commission on Elections (Comelec), about 10,000 persons had repeatedly occupied 17,673 elective posts in six of the nation’s 20 vote-rich provinces. They have held positions of power from the local level to the halls of Congress simply by belonging to political clans that have continued to hold sway over communities large and small across the country for the last quarter of a century.
Various members of these political clans that litter Comelec’s list often take the same positions again and again. Members of a clan are also usually elected all at the same time for different posts. It is also not uncommon to see members of the same family fighting against each other in an electoral race.
A few members of these families have even found their way to a political career through barangay elections, or turned to barangay positions after failed local bids. This has been a common practice, despite barangay officials supposedly being non-partisan in nature. A number of them have also managed to install their members to national positions, including the highest one that enabled their family to wield power from within the Palace along the Pasig River.
PCIJ analyzed Comelec’s data on the list of candidates in six of the 20 vote-rich provinces from the 1992 elections. These six have a combined voters’ strength of 10.86 million or 20 percent of the latest count of total registered voters of 55.7 million.
The Comelec data showed at least 101 different family names that are each tied to at least eight electoral successes in the last eight elections, excluding the town council seats. These family names are shared and carried by as many as 1,159 elected officials.
The top 10 most recurring family names in the Comelec’s list of candidates, or those that have more than four members who won their electoral contests and have at least 17 electoral victories over the last eight elections, include the following:
• Durano, Garcia, Martinez, and Yapha in Cebu in central Visayas, which is home to five percent of the country’s voting population and has an economy trailing that of Metro Manila;
• Celeste, Espino, and Perez in Pangasinan in northern Luzon, which is the richest province in Ilocos region;
• Alvarez, Lacson, and Maranon in Negros Occidental in the newly created Negros Island region with the highly urbanized city of Bacolod as the center; and
• Bautista in Davao del Sur in the southeastern part of Mindanao.
Duranos top ’em all
Among the six provinces, the Duranos emerged as having the most electoral wins: 57 from the 1992 to 2013 polls. The Duranos were followed by the Lacson family with 25, the Bautistas and Perezes with 22, the Martinezes with 20; the Celestes and Maranons with 19; the Garcias with 18; and the Alvarezes, Espinos, and Yaphas with 17.
An average of seven Durano members has simultaneously won at the congressional and provincial elections as well as in Danao City and the towns of Samboan and Sogod.
In the 2013 elections, 10 Duranos won their electoral contests. Thus far, this is the highest number a political clan in Cebu has achieved in a single poll in the last two decades. Such number could be next to the record set by the Ampatuans of Mindanao who enjoyed at least 15 electoral victories in 2013 despite being implicated in the country’s worst electoral violence yet in 2009.
Danao City and the rest of Cebu’s fifth congressional district have remained the Durano’s family territory in which they have held onto their seats consistently for 24 years. The fifth district is home to 12 percent of Cebu’s voters. Danao City is a third-class city, but ranks sixth based on the number voters among Cebu’s 53 cities and municipalities.
Ramon ‘Nito’ Durano III and his sons Joseph Felix Mari or Ace and Ramon VI or Red have taken turns sitting in Congress since 1992. Ace is the incumbent congressman of Cebu’s 5th District, while Nito is currently serving as mayor of Danao City. The mayoral seat was previously held by Nito’s brother Jesus and nephew Ramon IV.
Nito’s other siblings and their children are also in politics, including Beatriz, Thaddeus, Ramon Jr., and Rose Marie. Rose Marie and Beatriz married into significant political clans in the northern and southern Cebu towns. Rose Marie’s husband, Celestino Sybico, hails from Balamban; Beatriz’s spouse Emerito Calderon is from Samboan. Vicente T. Pimentel Jr., brother-in-law of Nito’s wife, is also a politician from Carrascal, Surigao del Sur. The Duranos’ third-generation politicians who appeared frequently as well on Comelec’s list are Beatriz’s sons Raymond Joseph and Emerito Jr. Calderon; Lydia’s son Oscar D. Rodriguez Jr.; Thaddeus’s daughter Lissa Marie D. Streegan; Ramon Jr.’s son Ramon IV; Nito’s children Ace, Red, Thomas Mark, and Carmen Remedios D. Meca; Jesus’s son Ramon V; and Rose Marie’s son Jude Thaddeus Sybico. The Duranos are cousins to Cebu Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, who is also related to the Almendrases of Cebu.
With 25 electoral wins, the Lacsons of Negros Occidental are next to the Duranos in the highest number of electoral victories over the last 24 years. Four incumbent officials belong to the Lacson clan, including Jose Carlos Lacson, Andrew Montelibano, Eugenio Jose Lacson, and Ernest Lacson Jr. They have been elected in the province’s third congressional district and in the local offices of San Carlos City and the town of Murcia. San Carlos City is a second-class city, whereas Murcia is a first-class municipality.
Bautistas, Perezes next
The Bautistas of Davao del Sur and Perezes of Pangasinan come next with 22 electoral victories each.
Five Bautistas occupy various posts in the second district of Davao del Sur, as well as the mayoral seat of Malita town. Malita, a first-class municipality, is now the capital of newly created province of Davao Occidental. The Bautistas were also present at the provincial level with two members of the clan both once elected as governor. One of the two was also elected as vice governor, the other as member of the provincial council.
Benjamin Bautista Sr. is the late clan patriarch. He was Malita mayor in the 1960s and served as Davao del Sur 2nd District representative from 1987 to 1998. His son Franklin took over his seat in Congress, occupying it from 1998 to 2001 and then from 2007 to 2013. Franklin also replaced Benjamin as Malita mayor from 1992 to 1998 and 2001 to 2007. Another of Benjamin’s sons, Claude, entered politics in 1995 and was elected as member of the provincial council. Claude replaced his brother as Malita mayor in 1998 and as congressman in 2001 and 2004. Claude became the second Bautista to be elected governor in 2013.
Meanwhile, the Comelec data yielded two Perez families in Pangasinan. One family includes brothers Amadeo Jr. and Eduardo; Amadeo’s son, Amadeo Gregorio IV and Jose Angelo; and nephew Antonino and niece Rosary Gracia P. del Val. These Perezes have actively participated in Urdaneta City’s local politics since 1992, serving in Pangasinan’s fifth congressional district and Urdaneta City’s mayoral office. Urdaneta, a second-class city, is third in most number of voters among Pangasinan’s 48 towns.
In 2010, Eduardo ran in the barangay elections when he lost his bid for a seat in the council. Two of Amadeo’s sons also began their political careers as barangay captains. Amadeo Gregorio IV was the president of the Association of Barangay Captains and Jose Angelo, head of Barangay Anonas. Amadeo Gregorio IV later replaced his father as mayor.
The second set of Perezes rules the town of San Manuel, a first-class municipality that has a voting population that is only a third of Urdaneta City’s. This family has as politicians Salvador and his three children Alain Jerico, Salvador Jr., and Sheila Marie; and Salvador’s nephew, Pancho Jr.
The family has remained unseated in the mayoral seat of San Manuel since 1992, except from 1998 to 2001. Salvador served as mayor from 1992 to 1998 and 2001 to 2010. His brother Pancho had taken a shot at being mayor in 1998, but lost in the polls. He is succeeded in 2010 by his son Alain Jerico, who held the vice mayoral seat from 2007 to 2010. Then Salvador also assumed his son’s vice mayoral seat from 2010 to present. Other members of the family were elected as councilors, including Salvador Jr. (2010 to 2013) and Sheila and Pancho Jr. (2013 to 2016.)
Martinezes, Celestes, Marañons
The Martinezes of Cebu, meanwhile, have had 20 electoral victories from 1992 to 2013. At least six Martinezes have been elected into office, representing Cebu’s 4th District from 1992 to 2007 and occupying the mayoral offices of Bogo City and the town of San Remigio from 2001 to present. Bogo city is a sixth-class city, whereas San Remigio is a third-class town.
Among the Martinezes is Celestino Jr. who served in Congress from 1992 to 1998 and as Bogo City mayor from 2007 to present. His wife Clavel took over his seat in Congress from 1998 to 2007, and their son Celestino III served as mayor of Bogo City from 2001 to 2007.
Next with 19 electoral victories each are the Celestes of Pangasinan and Marañons of Negros Occidental.
Eight members of the Celeste family have served in Congress and in the local offices of the fourth-class city of Alaminos and the first-class municipality of Bolinao. Bolinao’s mayoral seat has been held consecutively by siblings Jesus, Alfonso, and Arnold since 1995. Jesus served from 1995 to 2001; Alfonso, from 2001 to 2010; and Arnold, from 2013 to 2016.
Jesus was elected in 2010 and 2013 as congressman in Pangasinan’s first district, replacing his brother Arthur, who held the same position from 2001 to 2010. In 2013, Arthur was elected mayor of Alaminos City. Another sibling George served as Bolinao councilor from 1998 to 2007 and 2010 to present. A cousin, also named George, is currently in his last term as councilor.
At the barangay level, another Celeste cousin Romeo was barangay captain of Barangay Germinal in Bolinao from 2010 to 2013. Arthur’s daughter Kazel was president of Sangguniang Kabataan Provincial Federation from 2007 to 2010.
The Marañons, for their part, dominated the politics of Negros Occidental’s second district and the third- class city of Sagay. Members of the clan were also elected four times as governor of the province.
In 1992, Joseph Marañon was elected mayor of Sagay City. He was re-elected in 1995 and 1998 before he secured the gubernatorial seat in 2001; he held to the provincial post for three terms. His brother Alfredo was congressman from 1995 to 2004, Sagay City mayor from 2007 to 2010, and governor from 2010 to 2013.
Alfredo III replaced his father Alfredo in Congress and served from 2004 to 2010. He also assumed the mayoral seat in 2010; he was elected for a second term in 2013. A nephew, Leo Rafael Cueva, took over as Negros Occidental 2nd District Representative in 2013.
Garcias, Yaphas, Alvarezes
Then there are the Garcias of Cebu, with 18 electoral victories. Leading the Garcia clan is patriarch Pablo Sr., who served as Cebu’s three-term governor from 1995 to 2004. He was also congressman in the province’s third district from 1987 to 1995 and in the second district from 2007 to 2013. His daughter Gwendolyn or Gwen succeeded him in the provincial capitol and completed her third consecutive three-year term in 2013. Gwendolyn then assumed the congressional seat her brother, Pablo John, held from 2007 to 2013 in the third district. Pablo Sr.’s other sons, Marlon and Nelson Gamaliel, took local posts in the towns of Barili and Dumanjug, where they served, respectively, as vice mayor and mayor. Winston, another of Pablo’s sons, was Cebu provincial board member from 1992 to 1995.
Last on the top 10 list of families with the most electoral wins are the Alvarezes, Espinos, and Yaphas, all of whom have 17 electoral victories each.
The Yaphas of Cebu rule the province’s third district and second-class town of Pinamungahan. The family consists of Antonio Jr., his wife Estrella, and children, Geraldine and Jeffrey. At present, however, only Antonio Jr. is in public office, serving as vice mayor of Toledo City.
In Negros Occidental are five elected Alvarezes, including Genaro Jr., his wife Mercedes, sons Genaro Rafael III and John Paul, and daughter-in-law Joyce. The family has simultaneously held electoral posts in the province’s sixth congressional district and the second-class town of Ilog. Genaro Jr. was provincial board member from 1992 to 1995. He served in Congress from 1995 to 2004 and 2007 to 2010. He then won the vice gubernatorial race in the 2010 elections. He was succeeded by his son Genaro Rafael III in Congress from 2004 to 2007, and by his wife from 2010 to present. Another son, John Paul, was Ilog’s mayor from 1998 to 2007 and from 2010 to 2013. John Paul’s wife Joyce took over the mayoral seat from 2007 to 2013.
In Pangasinan, the Espino name comes up frequently in the politics of the province’s second district and poor town of Bautista.
The political Espinos include siblings Amado Jr., Amadeo, and Jose. Amado Jr.’s sons, Amado III and Jumel Anthony, and Jose’s son Joseph. Nephews Armando and Joshua and niece Nerissa are also politicians. The family has remained firmly on the mayoral seat of Bautista town since 1995, the post occupied first by Jose and then Amado III. Amadeo took over the position later. –– PCIJ, May 2016
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