‘From fat to obese: Political dynasties' expanding

Almost a third of all local elected positions in the 2019 midterm polls were won by candidates belonging to “fat dynasties” made up of several family members holding elective positions simultaneously, a study by the Ateneo School of Government showed.

‘From fat to obese: Political dynasties' expanding

Despite a provision in the 1987 Constitution prohibiting political dynasties, and in the absence of an anti-dynasty law, fat political dynasties have “expanded dramatically” over more than three decades now, said AsoG Dean Ronald Mendoza and research associates Leonardo Jaminola and Jurel Yap in their recent study entitled “From Fat to Obese: Political Dynasties after the 2019 Midterm Elections.”

“Clearly, political clans have found a way around term limits, by fielding more family members in power—giving rise to more fat political dynasties. The recently concluded 2019 midterm elections demonstrate the staying power of dynastic incumbents... For these dynasties, their extended—and for their clans, expanded‚stay in office affords them more control over the domestic economy, which in turn fuels their continued expansion and staying power,” the study said.

All in the family

Over the past 10 elections, the percentage of fat dynasties has increased from 19 percent of all local elected officials in 1988 to 29 percent this year, growing at about 1 percent or 170 positions per election.

A majority of 80 percent or four in five governors and 67.90 percent of vice-governors elected in this year’s polls belong to fat political dynasties. At the House of Representatives, 67 percent of the elected lawmakers are also members of political clans.

“Governors are more likely to have relatives occupying elected positions during the same period compared to other elected officials. This makes sense as the governorship is the top post at the local level, and running a provincial-wide campaign necessitates large resources and extensive connections—advantages that often only fat dynasties tend to dominate,” the study said.

At least 53 percent of mayors and 39 percent of vice mayors who won in the 2019 polls also belong to fat political dynasties.

Fat dynasties, poor provinces

The 15-page study said political dynasties are linked to greater poverty, especially outside Luzon.

“Empirical evidence suggests that dynasties have an adverse effect on governance, and hence also development. It hints that the less developed economic, social, and political institutions in provinces away from the capital allow dynasties to retain political power without promoting desirable development outcomes.”

The top 20 provinces ranked according to fat dynasty share were: Maguindanao (50.54 percent of local posts), Pampanga (49.18 percent), Bulacan (45.28 percent), Davao Occidental (40.98 percent), Isabela (40.96 percent), Sulu (40.20 percent), Lanao del Sur (39.84 percent), Nueva Ecija (39.60 percent), Pangasinan (39.17 percent), Ilocos Norte (37.30 percent), Batangas (36.49 percent), Siquijor (36.23 percent), Eastern Samar (35.92 percent), Cavite (35.74 percent), Catanduanes (35.54 percent), Basilan (35.17 percent), La Union (34.86 percent), Negros Oriental (34.55 percent), Cebu (34.33 percent) and Abra (33.10 percent).

Manila Standard compared the list to the latest poverty incidence data of the Philippine Statistics Authority released in April.

The two data sets showed that of the 20 provinces with the most number of elected local officials belonging to fat political dynasties, eight belong to the 20 poorest provinces, namely Lanao Del Sur (1st poorest), Basilan (2nd), Sulu (5th), Maguindanao (7th), Eastern Samar (8th), Abra (13th), Davao Occidental (16th) and Negros Oriental (19th).

Reform options

According to the study, the imposition of term limits has not altered the dynastic nature of politics in the country.

“In fact, term limits may have, to some extent, aggravated the proliferation of dynasties by providing incentives for incumbents to use their relatives as a ‘survival strategy’ when their term comes to an end,” the study showed.

“However, it was the absence of ancillary reforms—like the dynasty regulation and political party reforms—that opened the floodgates for dynasties to dominate. Imposing term limits was never conceptualized as a stand-alone reform.”

To increase electoral competition and enhance checks and balances, the researchers suggested that government must regulate political dynasties, strengthen political parties, and introduce electoral reforms.

‘The Problem Lies With The People’

For President Rodrigo Duterte, whose own family has held political power in Davao City for over 20 years now, political dynasties continue to exist because voters keep on choosing the same politicians.

Duterte, who won the presidency in 2016, was succeeded by his daughter, Sara, as mayor of Davao City.

“I am really embarrassed because people keep on repeating that phrase about dynasty. It is true – it is bad if only one family rules for so many years. But the problem lies with the people,” the President said in a speech in June.

In March last year, during last year’s grand assembly of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines attended by municipal mayors, the chief executive said he supports the anti-political dynasty bill, but he has yet to certify this as urgent.

“I am for it. The problem is—will it pass? In our country, after you finish your term, they would ask for your son to run, or your wife.”

Anti-dynasty bill is unfair

For Senate President Vicente Sotto III, passing an anti-dynasty bill is unfair and discriminatory.

“An anti-political dynasty bill is unfair to legitimate family members. A wife or anyone in the second degree of consanguinity may not run for public office, but mistresses and their relatives may?” he said in an interview last year.

Senator Ralph Recto, whose wife Vilma is the representative of the lone district of Lipa in Batangas, acknowledged that it will be difficult to stop political dynasties.

Senator Cynthia Villar, for her part, said that her family is a “good dynasty” but vowed to abide by the law in an anti-dynasty measure is passed.

“We always follow the law and we adjust to the law. Nothing personal,” she said.

House Speaker Alan Cayetano, who ran and won as congressman of the first district of Taguig while his wife secured the position of representative of the second district, said he would rather have a political dynasty that serves the people.

“We’d rather be called a dynasty, but one that delivers good public service..As long as the people were able to freely make the choice themselves, that means that they were not forced. There were no guns, goons, and gold. It’s a democracy,” Cayetano said.

Topics: 2019 midterm polls , Ateneo School of Government , Leonardo Jaminola , Jurel Yap
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.
AdvertisementSpeaker GMA