Philippine Political Framework
As it was more than a hundred years ago, during the American occupation, Philippine politics is still dominated by a handful of elite families. Due to weakness of our state institutions, political elites were able to take advantage and use their power to serve their own interests. The four post-Martial Law presidencies have all been haunted and the same time played important roles in the promulgation of elite politics that didn’t help improve the political maturity of the Philippines. This is most glaring in the past administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, wherein she willingly cooperates with the political elites in an effort to preserve her presidency. Families like the Singsons, Duranos and the controversial Ampatuans were a familiar sight during the leadership of Arroyo. The provincial base of powers of these elites ensured that Arroyo’s presidency would be assured and sustained despite her unpopularity and the overwhelming call for her resignation. Even our current president, Noynoy Aquino, is a glaring representation of how elites have ruled over our country. Benigno Aquino III comes from a long line of elite families from both his maternal and paternal side. Both of parents where part of a political elite family that have been ruling over our country since the American period. His father Benigno Aquino Jr. was a former Senator whose assassination became one of the reasons for the People Power Revolution. His paternal grandfather was also a Senator during the American period and was one of the politicians that collaborated with the Japanese government during their invasion. Her mother on the other hand was the late former president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and was part of the prominent and one of the most powerful political families in the Philippines, the Cojuangco clan that up until now still rules much of the province of Tarlac.
If you’re going to look at the politicians that rule over the Philippines over a hundred years ago, you will see the same familiar names that rule over our country now. The Osmenas, Roxas, Cojuangcos, and the Aquinos are just few of the family names that exist in the list of powerful and top politicians of the Philippines one hundred years ago and are still prominent in the Philippines current politics. Ruling over their respective territories with a combination of popularity, charm, wealth, and use of violence, these families were able to keep off rival politicians and sometimes even the national government from wresting power from their respective families. Their unprecedented rule over their territories meant that they were free to wield their political power without contestation to their advantage. These political families were able to privatize state operated industries with the use of legitimate political power they have acquired. Doing so weakens the state and further strengthens their rule of their particular territories.
In tracing the emergence of the political elites in the Philippines it is best to look at Benedict Anderson’s Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams. In that book, Anderson said that elite families originated from the mestizos or the offsprings of Sangleys and local Filipino women. The mestizos at first were marginalized until they gained economic power from the Sangleys during the British invasion of Manila on 1762. “They might, however, have remained a marginal and stigmatized group, had it not been for the services of British imperialism. When Madrid joined in the Seven Years’ War, London responded, inter alia, by occupying Manila in1762 and holding it for the next two years. The local Sangleys, frequent victims of Iberian extortion and contempt, rallied to the invaders, who, when they retired, insouciantly left these humble allies to the vengeful mercies of their erstwhile oppressors. Most were then expelled from the Philippines, and further immigration was legally...