In our discussion so far on the Philippines we have seen how the political system was captured by an oligarchy whose consolidation was greatly facilitated by the way the US set up their colony. Marcos tried to break the oligarchy, but he failed and indeed if anything, as Benedict Anderson pointed out, the oligarchy surfaced after 1986 even more powerful than ever.
The clearest manifestation of the oligarchy in the Philippines and how it impacts politics is the existence of political dynasties. Now you’d be right in noting that every country in the world has political dynasties. The US has the Bush dynasty, the Kennedy dynasty, Colombia has the López family, the Lleras family and the grandfather of the current president of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, was president between 1938 and 1942. Winston Churchill’s son was even a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party in Britain.
But the extent to political dynasties in the Philippines is off the chart compared to any other country in the world. 60% of congress-people elected in 2007 had a previous relative who were also in congress. To give some sense of how high this is, the analogous figure in the US was 7%. In roughly half of the 80 provinces of the Philippines the governor is related to one of the congress-people.
This family run government is not a new thing in the Philippines and it dates all the way back to the US creation of democracy. In the first elections the US organized, to be eligible to run you had to come from a set of elite families recognized by the Americans, called the principalia. This was one of the ways in which the oligarchs had a huge head start and incumbent advantage became the way of life in the Philippines. This has led to very long-run family advantages. For instance, in the province of Leyte, a member of the Veloso family has been either a congress-person or the governor since 1916.
How is it that these families perpetuate themselves in... [continues]
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