In the Philippines, political dynasties are as common as flu. If you’ve been living in the same city or province for the last 30 years, you’ve probably seen the same surname on project posters and billboards. The same surname for mayors, baranggay captains, congressmen and even the kagawads. We call it political dynasty but it’s actually just oligarchy in disguise.
What is oligarchy, you ask? It’s a form of government where in the power effectively rests in the hands of a very few people. These people can be royalty, wealthy or has military ties. In most cases, a nation under oligarchy is controlled by a few prominent families who would typically pass their torches to the next generation of power, leaving the control of the land in their name for a very long time.
The Abads of Batanes, who have served terms since 1965, The Marcoses of Ilocos, and the Aquino-Cojuangcos of Tarlac are one of the biggest political clans in the country today. Some say that this culture of political dynasties started with the Marcoses and their cronies but the truth is, we’ve been exposed to this even before the Spanish invasion. As a nation, we practically grew up with political dynasties and that’s why it seems so normal to us. Before the Spaniards came, early Filipinos already established a political system. They had datus, rajahs and maharlikas who were the rulers and administratorsof the land– with the datu holding the highest power. They also pass their thrones to their heirs like monarchy.
In a book by Renato Constantino entitled “The First Filipino”, he explained that when the Spanish occupied the country, they introduced a term called “principalia”. The Spanish officials assigned the former datu as principalia and entrusted him with administrative duties as an appendage to the Spanish government. Pretty soon, the principalia of every province/town got replaced with meztisos, llustrados, mestizo-sangley, creole, and Chinese mestizos who passed over their positions to whoever is next in line, bearing their surnames.It became worse during the American occupation were the first democratic elections were held. Families with lands and other properties are the only ones allowed to vote and run for office which was by that time, only 1% of the population. It led to the rise of elite power since they catapulted to national positions in the government and have been ruling their towns and provinces up until now.
And look where it got us? Political dynasty in the Philippines caused massive poverty because only the rich and powerful get richer and the peasants stay as peasants. They made illegal landowning possible and hacking up all of the town’s resources for personal gain. They took control of our mining, logging and tobacco industries. They made so much money handing over lands to real estate companies. They have so many links to banks and other financial institutions that allows them to commit more fraud. These families have complete economical power over this country and we’re not even getting a single benefit from it. If we had, we’d be as rich as the Cojuangcos ,the Lopez’s and the Ayalas right now.They’re not running a country, they’re running a business.
Last year, the Anti-political Dynasty Bill was once again proposed to the House of Representatives which has been pending for 27 years. The proposed law seeks to prohibit relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity to hold or run for both national and local office in “successive, simultaneous, or overlapping terms.” However, it has not been fully implemented because of lack of an enabling law. Last May 6, the bill has finally reached the plenary of the House of Representative. If this becomes a law, the Philippines may have a chance of reclaiming its Tiger nickname in South East Asia and probably lift the masses up from poverty—for real.
Unfortunately, the palace already stated that it is not their priority right now. Well, of course it’s not! The President himself is a product of political dynasty from both sides of his family and 2016 elections are coming up fast. Now is not the time to be making enemies.