Political Dynasties and the Future of Philippine Democracy

What Future? What Democracy?


Before anything else, allow me to use the term “political dynasties” instead of political families as I believe that aside from the fact that it sounds more controversial and problematic, it is more straightforward and interesting, unless you disagree violently. I would like to share also my initial thoughts I believe would better place my assertions in its proper context. First, political dynasties is a fundamental reform issue, the total package of which includes, but not limited to (a) political party development, (b) freedom of information, and (c) finance and budgetary reform, among a dozen equally important issues that affect us socially, politically, economically, environmentally. Also, I try to avoid making distinctions between good or bad dynasties, unless I want to end up patronizing a lot of them. Rather I adapt the more accurate term used by Mendoza et al. in describing dynasties as either fat or thin dynasties. Like a rose that goes by other names and yet remains a rose, a dynasty is a dynasty whether it is fat or thin, good or bad, ugly or beautiful, black or white. I shall compare thin and fat dynasties later. In this paper, I would attempt to discuss in brief the following:

  • the history of political dynasties;
  • the rise, entrenchment, and expansion of political dynasties;
  • the problem with political dynasties; and
  • options in dealing with political dynasties.

From an advocate’s perspective, the fourth bulleted item, I believe, deserves attention. While we love intellectualizing the theoretical part, I hope readers will appreciate the portion where social action is badly needed. My basic assumption is that readers are alreadyy too familiar with this issue. Therefore, I’d like to offer them some take off points for action as take-away. I hope my assumption holds water. Although I have my own conclusions, I shall leave the task of imagining the future of Philippine democracy open for sharing and collective contribution.

The Roots of Philippine Political Dynasties

Scholars commonly trace the beginnings of political dynasties to as early as the pre-colonial times, in the days of the datu, of the maharlikas, our own version of royalty that predates the federal system of government, a system we copied poorly, if not wrongly, from the Americans. The small villages of yore were virtual kingdoms each ruled by a datu, whose reign and succession is guaranteed by his heirs—his family, his son, at least if he had one. The Spanish colonial times gave rise to the principalia, an emerging class that embodied the new form of local elite. The Spaniards relied on the clergy for the administration of the islands and never established a strong centralized State. Instead power was dispersed amongst various elite families in the provinces. These families had the right to hold land, vote, and serve in positions of local political power (Querubin, 2010).The principalia rose from playing puppets to Spanish authorities to become rulers later on. They evolved from being clerks and trusted servants of the Spanish power holders to become power-wielders themselves over time. From attendants of vast landholdings of the Spanish Crown, they became landlords (hacienderos) themselves. And so after four centuries, the principalia finally established its own foothold in the economic and political affairs of the state. They would become the new ruling class. The principalia, along with a handful of Chinese traders were to become the oligarchs of the time. They were the new maharlikas.The local principalia would further consolidate their power during the American colonial period. The Americans needed a partner and loyal ally in the local elite who controlled the lands and even forces that once fought against the Spaniards for them to “govern” the islands. As a concession, the Americans introduced elections (Querubin, 2010), the qualifications of which were quite steep only the local elite could satisfy, such as literacy and property, and rightly so because they were only the ones who could send their children to school. It should be noted that under President Taft, voting and electoral participation were limited to the propertied class, which at that time constituted less than one percent (1%) of the population (Tuason). Recall also that members of the propertied class were mostly descendants of the same local elites who gained concessions during the Spanish period. Fat Pol Icon B herescope.blogspot.com Predictably, in the elections that were held in 1901 and 1907, majority of those who emerged winners were mostly coming from the ranks of the local elite. So while education and suffrage were introduced, access and full exercise—meaning to elect and be elected—was not only limited but also exclusive to a certain class. This clearly contributed to the rise of family power, of the local elite. These elite families whose influence cut across business and politics would continue to receive special favors and concessions from the Americans that allowed them to expand their business and advanced their political ambitions.

The Rise and Expansion of Political Dynasties

In the post-war House of Representatives (1946 Congress), of the 98 congressmen elected, 61 or 62% came from families with elective position from 1907 to 1941. This proportion of dynastic share of congressional seats continues to this day, even higher according to the AIM study (Mendoza, et al, 2013). Yet the expansion of political dynasties may be traced back to the American colonial period when the principalia was able to consolidate their power and control over the political and economic affairs of the state. A casual look at the names of Philippine political leaders and administrators during and after the American period reveals that the same families that control business and politics are very much around, although some of their kin opted out of politics in favor of concentrating in business. The most enduring example of a family or clan that is able to withstand several political transitions yet maintain its formidable position in both politics and business is none other than the family of the incumbent president. The president’s clan has produced two presidents, five senators, a handful of congresspersons, and several governors. On the business side, the president’s relatives are still perched at the top of their respective industries. In terms of consolidated interests in business and politics, the Lopezes of media conglomerate ABS-CBN and power utility monopoly Meralco may have been a perfect example had the family decided to keep political power within and beyond their traditional turf in Western Visayas. The clan has produced a vice president in Fernando, although it was mostly a token position as he exercised less influence in the later part of the Marcos regime. During the Marcos years, political dynasties were dormant, deferring to the soon-to-be-consolidated and now-returning Marcos-Romualdez dynasty. The reason was simple: Marcos had most of the political dynasties under his clutches. The way to describe it today is a centralized dynasty, with President Marcos at the top. After Marcos’ ouster, and upon Corazon Aquino’s assumption into power, the once dormant political dynasties slowly wormed back themselves into power. And by the time the first Congress post-Edsa opened, the once sidelined political dynasties found themselves reunited in the halls of Congress and in provincial capitols nationwide. It was even estimated that in 1987, 80% of the members of the House of Representatives belong to political dynasties. The succeeding congresses saw a dismal reduction in the number of political dynasties occupying seats in the Lower House, which in the 15th Congress had a 67% share. This is according to a study by the AIM Policy Center. The 15th Congress has 234 regular members and 55 party-list representatives, or a total membership of 289. This means that 157 representatives in the 16th Congress belong to political dynasties. The AIM Policy Center is currently working on the results of the May 2013 elections. But some preliminary reports indicate almost similar shares of seats at around 70% in the 16th Congress, which translates into 164 dynastic members of the Lower House. While some political dynasties suffered setbacks in the May 2013 elections, notably the Jalosjoses (Philippine Star, May 14, 2013) in the Zamboanga region, the Singsons of Ilocos Sur were able to wrestle more power than in the previous election of 2010.

The Dynasty Family Tree 2013 ABS-CBN

Glaringly in the Senate, the Cayetano sibling act is now complimented by the entry of Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito, who shares the same father with Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Manila mayor and former president Joseph Estrada, whose wife Loi is a former senator herself and who shared three years of her term in the Senate with her son, Jinggoy. The Senate in the 16th Congress nearly had a father-and-son tandem had Jack Enrile made it, who would have shared three years of the remaining term of his father, former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. While Senator Nancy Binay does not have a relative in the Senate, she is on the spotlight for the simple reason that her father is Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose two other children themselves wield power in the country’s premier business capital, Makati City, where daughter Abigail is the first district representative and son Jejomar “Junjun” Binay is the city mayor. The examples tell us one thing: that after 1986, there was “massive democratization” of political dynasties. Overall, political dynasties prevailed (Philippine Star, May 18, 2013). Now, let me say a bit about the types of political dynasties (in Mendoza et al., 2013). Fat and Thin The thin dynasty mostly thrives on vertical succession. For example, Juan was elected congressman in 2007 and in 2010, his son Pedro replaced him, or if and when Juan is termed-out, Pedro would succeed him. The fat dynasty thrives on both vertical succession and horizontal expansion. For example, Juan was elected governor in 2007, and his three sons Carlos, Juan Jr., and Pedro also got elected into positions within the same province simultaneously in 2010. But there are more complex cases of fat dynasties wherein multiple family members occupy both local and national positions.

What’s Wrong with Political Dynasties?

In Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty (Profile Books, 2013), Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, offered some explanations on why nations fail in terms of attaining economic development. Nations fail because they don’t have the right political and economic institutions that facilitate and sustain growth and development. They maintain the view that democratic political and inclusive economic institutions are indispensible for sustained long-term development. Acemoglu and Robinson defined and made clear distinction of institutions as either inclusive or extractive. Inclusive institutions are those that allow and encourage participation of a broad segment of the population in both the process and outcomes of development. On the other hand, extractive institutions concentrate and perpetuate political and economic power and confine the benefits of production in the hands of the few, of the elite at the expense of the many, or the masses. North Korea, some sub-Saharan African states, and Russia before and shortly after the fall of the Soviet empire have such institutions (Tabbada). I even dare support the view, contentious as it may, that China exemplifies extractive institutions as the Central Communist Party remains the largest beneficiary of the country’s massive economic expansion, which I’m afraid may not be sustained as the expansion only serves to widen even more the gap between the rising number of millionaires and the hundreds of millions of the poor in rural villages. Political dynasties, generally understood as the concentration of political power in the hands of a family or clan, are an example of an extractive political institution. By concentrating and perpetuating power in families or clans, political dynasties prevent the emergence of broad-based political and economic institutions (Tabbada). In fact, political dynasties in the Philippines have become part of life, an ideology in itself even. Political dynasties take the place of political parties—the very political institutions entrusted with the task of setting the development agenda in legislature. Political dynasties may not be invincible, but they are unavoidable and anyone who entertains the temptation of getting into elective politics has to deal with them. There is no escaping them; they are everywhere—in the Senate, the House of Representatives, in the provincial, city, or municipal governments. Even in the barangays! But equally important to note is the presence of some of its members in key executive positions in the national government. But that would be another point. Cruz Dynasty

Dal Bo et al. (2009) investigate whether political power is self-perpetuating, that power begets power. Self-perpetuation is defined as a power-treatment effect, whereby holding political power increases the probability that one’s heirs attain political power in the future regardless of family characteristics (Dal Bo 2009) Focusing on the transmission of political power, they conclude that power, indeed, is self-perpetuating and that power augments the political capital that is transmitted within a family, creating an advantage ofa cumulative, rather than fixed, nature. The longer one’s tenure, the more likely one is to establish a political dynasty and that this relationship is causal (emphasis mine). On the other hand, Qurebin has done an exhaustive analysis on political dynasties in the Philippines. His analysis on dynastic persistence yields the following findings:

  • there is an evidence of self-perpetuation in power by political dynasties in the Philippines (in affirming Dal Bo)

o   the results of his research demonstrates that those who serve as congressmen or provincial governors are four times more likely to have a future relative in office than a candidate who run and lose o   this effect is not driven by unobserved characteristics of candidates and their families; rather, there is a causal effect from holding political power on the electoral success of future relatives. This is called incumbency advantage (also in Dal Bo).

  • in the Philippines, dynastic candidates are 22% more likely to win an election than individuals without any previous relatives in office. (Twenty-two percent may be minuscule, but compared to zero probability is significant).

o   the political system may create new powerful families because non-dynastic individuals who access office are more likely to create political dynasty of their own. o   the political system itself creates persistence.

  • societies that draw its leaders from a small set of families could end up with politicians of lower quality. I believe there is no need for me to elaborate this point.

Meanwhile, Querubin’s study on term limits yields the following conclusions:

  • term limits do not effectively increase the turnover of incumbent families in Congress and provincial governorships in the Philippines

o   term limits may change “stance” in Congress in terms of social policies legislation, but unlikely to change the fundamental interests represented in the democratic system

  • eg. father anti-RH, successor son pro-RH
    • term limits does not affect in any sense the fundamental sources of political power of dynasties which include control over land, employment, and violence in their respective provinces (3Gs of election; clientilism, patronalistic)

In echoing Acemoglu, Johnson, and Robinson, 2005, and Acemoglu and Robinson 2008, Querubin concludes that “reforms that do not alter the underlying distribution of political power will not succeed in substantively changing the political equilibrium because incumbents will adapt and remain powerful under the new set of institutions.” In a related paper, Querubin (2011) adds that “while term limits may allow quality politicians to remain in office for a longer period of time, it may also exacerbate the dynastic nature of Philippine politics by providing incentives for incumbents to bring additional members of their family to power and thus control several offices simultaneously.” This is the case with the Cayetanos and the Estradas, and at some point, the Zubiris. Again, you know these politicians.

Confronting Political Dynasties

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” Sounds neat, but not really. This provision is non-self executory in the first place and therefore requires an enabling law to take effect. Unfortunately, the task of defining political dynasties as provided for by that provision in the Constitution is essentially left to Congress, which is a lair of political dynasties. The Congress is therefore a wrong place and a wrong choice for legislating a law defining political dynasties. It is wishful thinking to expect Congress to legislate its own extinction! And this explains why after 27 years, Congress has failed to enact an anti-dynasty law, and the simple and obvious reason is that such a law would go against the interest of a majority of its members. It must be noted that several bills that sought to define political dynasties have been filed in both houses of Congress since 1987. In the first post-Edsa Congress, the Senate under then Senate President Neptali Gonzalez in fact passed Senate Bill No. 84, a bill that sought to ban political dynasties. Unlike the Senate, however, the Lower House under then Speaker Ramon Mitra Jr. either did not or would not pass a counterpart measure. However, in what many in the political reform movement saw as a sign of hope in Congress, the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reform of the Lower House unanimously approved the consolidated anti-dynasty bill in November last year.[1] So far, that was the farthest step the Lower House has reached if only to show to the public that at least the Committee is “serious” in its business of passing contentious measures. So let’s give credit where it’s due, and if it’s due. But to understand and appreciate better the issue of political dynasty and why is there a need for a law to define it, let us revisit the basic understanding and definitions of political dynasties. Basically, in the context of numerous attempts to define a state policy on political dynasties, some proposals were arrived at. More recently, Senate Bill No. 2649 authored by Senator Miriam Santiago defines political dynasty as existing when: “(a) a person who is a spouse of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official. It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons are spouses or related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent public official. Dimagiba Dynasty (thepinoysite.wordpress.com) Edited

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the Makabayan coalition also came up with their own version. And very much like the Santiago bill, it shares the same prescribed limitations and never saw the light of day in the 15th Congress. Outside of Congress, several advocacy groups and political parties have come up with their own proposals, notably the Kapatiran Party and the Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM). In a sharp contrast to the bills pending in Congress before (and also now), the versions of Kapatiran Party that gained support from numerous civil society groups covered national positions. Additionally, Senate Bill No. 412 filed by Senator Sergio Osmeña III during the first regular session of the Thirteenth Congress in 2004 also covered national positions. Take note that both the Santiago and Makabayan bills conveniently left out the national positions. The decision to include national elective positions is brought about by commonly shared realization that consolidation of power takes place not only at the local, provincial level but also at the national level. In fact, national elective officials had a hand in the perpetuation of political dynasties by dispensing undue favors to relatives occupying top local positions and more significantly, by their refusal to enact an enabling law to prohibit political dynasties as provided for in the Constitution. To illustrate the effect of the legislated Kapatiran Party bill, for example, Senator Alan Cayetano would have been prevented from seeking reelection while his sister is incumbent. If the law were in effect, it would have prevented the senator’s brother’s candidacy for congressman and his sister’s candidacy as mayor of Taguig City. Unfortunately, all the Cayetanos who ran in 2013 got elected, except for the eldest sister, Pia who is serving her remaining three years in the Senate. One anty-dynasty bill version is that of the Movement Against Dynasties or MAD, which allows only one family member to run across the Philippines, including the post of a barangay councilor. But the consolidated bill now pending in the Lower House is no farther than the Makabayan version, which sets limits only to relatives within the second degree by blood or affinity, within the same province. Again, all of the versions that I have just enumerated are mostly offered for legislative action. Just last week, Rep. Edgar Erice of Caloocan, who is vice chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, wrote to President Aquino, asking him to certify the anti-political dynasty bill as urgent to be included in the priority legislative agenda. Just to reiterate, the bill has successfully hurdled the committee level and is now up for deliberation on the floor. But the day after Rep. Erice wrote the letter, President Aquino in an interview announced that the anti-political dynasty bill is not a priority measure. This spells death of the bill. Mr. Aquino’s declaration runs counter to his image, if not the public’s high regard and perception of him, as a reformist president. But to many in the reform movement, especially those in the anti-political dynasty advocacy, the president’s message is an affirmation of his unwillingness to forego the most lethal agents of patronage. In fact, I would even hazard a proposition that the passage of the bill at the committee level was part of the strategy to (a) deflect some issues (away from Congress in particular for poor performance and the administration in general for its perceived serial incompetence at handling potentially damaging issues), and (b) to show that Congress does its job in disposing bills that have been pending for the longest time after several rounds of refiling. That act must have earned brownie points for the Committee in particular and the Lower House in general, but not from the ranks of the civil society organizations who knew all too well about Congress’ failure to pass painful but necessary reform measures. Consider this: in 2013, Congress (both Senate and Lower House) only passed a singular landmark legislation, the RH Bill. The FOI, another landmark legislative piece, was bludgeoned in the Lower House before the very eyes of former Rep. Erin Tañada, its chief guardian angel. Seen from a passive perspective, the Committee passage could very well pass as an improvement over previous congresses’ inability to articulate the sentiments of the people. In the same breadth, it enforces its notoriety for delaying measures that would adversely affect the “welfare” of its members, one of which is the party-list reform law. Very quickly, the move to reform the party-list system seeks to clarify the confusions arising from the influx and “non-regulation” of the so-called sectoral representatives who are in no way part or who, in any sense, do not belong to the “marginalized sectors.” But the confusion stems from the insistence of some quarters in enforcing a non-existing exclusive provision that allows only representatives of underrepresented sectors, a.k.a. marginalized sectors, such as fishermen, farmers, women, and the minority and indigenous communities. The party-list system, admittedly, is for building competitive parties but the problem is that the government, from one administration to the next, is not, could not, and will never be honest enough to admit it. There lies the problem. Hence, the Supreme Court upheld Comelec for allowing the so-called ‘questionable, non-marginalized’ party-list groups from participating in the party-list contest on the basis of the existing law. And the SC’s advise to the parties that haled the Comelec to the highest court? Amend the law first. That message was in part directed at Congress, but from the time the SC ruled and the furor over the “bastardization” of the party-list system died down, nothing is heard of from Batasan Hills.[2]

The Last Option

Having related to you the difficulty in passing meaningful reform measures, I must say that I share the frustrations long nurtured by those in the reform movement, a frustration that leads many of us to question not only our strategy but our very own relevance as well as our intentions. Yet the passage of RA 6735, or the Initiative and Referendum Act, provides a new starting point to what I would consider the last resort: the people’s initiative. Many of you may not have heard about Sigaw ng Bayan, a signature campaign led by lawyer Raul Lambino in 1997 to draw people’s support in amending the Constitution through direct initiative. While it did not succeed, it was instrumental in the passage of the Initiative and Referendum Act, which now provides guidance in the conduct of a people’s initiative. But here’s the caveat: even noted constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas opines that the law does not provide sufficient cover to conduct people’s initiative to amend the Constitution (PDI, February 17, 2013). However, this observation is misconstrued, grossly misunderstood if not deliberately misused by some people, among them church leaders and political dynasties themselves, to advance their theory that any people’s initiative is doomed to fail in the absence of an enabling law, which to them is the bone of contention. However, the Initiative Law provides sufficient cover for a people’s initiative to pass a national legislation, in this case, the passage of a law that will finally define what constitutes political dynasties. In fact, the Comelec upon the prodding of civil society groups and the Kapatiran Party has issued resolutions in support of, together prescribing an official form to be used, in the conduct of a people’s initiative to pass a national legislation. However, the success of a people’s initiative is not and should not be rested in the Initiative and Referendum Law itself. To say that the initiative is a difficult undertaking is an understatement. The provision of the law, many would say, is designed to discourage the conduct of a people’s initiative. Here’s why:

  1. RA 6735, requires that petitioner(s) gather at least three percent (3%) of signatures of all registered voters per congressional district, from all districts of the country; and
  2. petitioners should be able to muster at least 12% of signatures of all registered voters nationally, based on the total registration of the last election conducted.

The requirements appear pretty much reasonable and even easy but when you go to the bailiwicks of political dynasties, then you begin to question the logic of the law. Compounding to the presence of political dynasties are areas with high incidence of election related violence (ERV) and high crime rate. Immediately, and without bias to my homeland Mindanao, you think of Maguindanao, Basilan, and even North Cotabato right now as I speak here. Other areas include Isabela, Ilocos Sur, and Abra in Northern Luzon and Masbate in the Bicol Region. Perhaps you may ask: Why insist on the last and most difficult option? When I asked fellow advocates from the People’s Initiative Coalition, their answer is very clear: it’s doable, it’s possible, and it’s the right thing to do. I believe that is all it takes. The issue of political dynasty is more than an issue of legality, of constitutionality. It is an issue of sustainability of leadership, of equal political rights, the profession and practice of which must be guaranteed in an inclusive environment and level playing field that is unimpeded, unhindered by any group, especially by small narrow interest groups of political dynasties that exclude the great majority of the population in the process and outcomes of any developmental undertaking. Even if we pass the political party strengthening law, which I believe is another sensible legislation that Congress should enact, there is no guarantee that our political institutions will function in the manner that we envision them. For one thing, we still elect persons to elective positions and not parties and rightly so because our system demands it. The political party system may help forward party agenda, but may not remain viable for as long as political dynasties maintain their stronghold and the sources of their powers largely unchecked. Simply put, the strengthening of political parties does not automatically cause the corollary weakening of political dynasties, which for the longest time substituted the former in their function and dysfunction, which is that of dispenser of patronage. Nor, the passage of an anti-dynasty law through people’s initiative strengthens political parties automatically. No, these two issues should at least compliment each other. The renewed and strengthened political parties may work in a system that elects party to a legislature, such as a parliamentary system, which I believe is fairly and excellently presented by my favorite reform advocate and institutionalist, if I may, Ka Pepe Abueva. But it may not realize its full potential under a system dominated by extractive institutions. On the other hand, the FOI law may not be enough to correct the excesses of our leaders, many of them from the ranks of political dynasties. Even the abolishment of the PDAF—if it were abolished at all—is not enough to ensure a transparent and accountable government. In fact, the SC’s ruling on the PDAF only formalizes our switching back to the old system of dispensing pork, as exemplified by the discovery and eventual expose of one senator’s allocation of his TROed pork barrel funds to the coffers of a city whose mayor happens to be the senator’s father. What a coincidence! Or, shall we call it a perfect crime? The old system of patronage is such that pork is not legislated mainly because it’s “discretionary.” In the language of the Batasan habitués, it’s called “tapik sa balikat.” And with the fate of the mysterious Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) hanging in the balance, the old system of dispensing pork might as well take its place. Hence the need for vigilance. The point here is that all the reform initiatives must not count out the fundamental issue of political dynasties. Now we come down to the hard question: What is the future like for Philippine democracy? Or, is there a future of Philippine democracy at all? One thing is for sure: there would always be future and there would always be democracy. The more fundamental questions then would be: What kind of future and what kind of democracy await the Filipinos in the next, say, 20 years. There are no easy answers and any attempt to paint an image of that future is contingent on and influenced by the decisions we make today. The hope for inclusive institutions is rested not so much on extraordinary circumstances but more on our ability to decide on the kind of future and the kind of democracy we want to live under, if we live long enough to enjoy it. Mae Comelec

The issue of political dynasties is inextricably linked to other reform issues in good governance and ethical leadership. Political dynasties are deeply rooted in the Philippine’s personalistic, clientilistic and rent-seeking style of politics which has been in place for centuries. The principalia that rose during the Spanish colonial times further consolidated their power during the American period. The Philippine Congress being a haven of members of political dynasties has for nearly 27 years failed to pass a measure that once and for all would enforce the Constitutional provision on political dynasties for the simple reason that it would not go against the interest of the majority of its members, which is close to 70%. Political dynasties are part of extractive institutions that capture and concentrate power within the hands of the small group of families and therefore exclude the vast majority of the population from participating in the meaningful process and from benefitting from the outcomes in development. Political dynasties persist because our system allows it to persist. Our extractive institutions are perfect locus of political dynasties that enjoy incumbency advantage and therefore perpetuate themselves in power. Measures such as term limits were introduced in the 1987 Constitution in anticipating perpetuation and the formation of political dynasties but such measures are regressive and proved to be ineffective as they only allow more members of the incumbent’s family to capture more elective posts in their areas, hence expanding and creating more dynasties. The measures in place do not or will never address persistence of political dynasties. The only option left in dealing with political dynasties lies in the passage of an enabling law that defines and prohibits political dynasties and it can only be done via a people’s initiative. Congress is not expected to legislate against the interests of the majority of its members, 70% of whom belong to political dynasties. While there exists sufficient legal cover for the conduct of a people’s initiative, the actual task of carrying it out is overwhelmingly difficult if not impossible such that petitioners are required to produce verified signatures of at least three percent (3%) of all registered voters in every district in all districts nationwide, and another verified signatures of 12% of all registered voters nationally.


Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2012. Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. New York: Random House.

Acemoglu, D. and J.Robinson. 2006. Economic Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bernas, Joaquin in PDI, February 17, 2013.

CENPEG Issue Analysis, Policy Study, Publication and Advocacy. No. 08 S. 2012

Dal Bo, Ernestro, Dal Bo Pedro, and Snyder, Jason. Political Dynasties in Review of Economic Studies (2009) 76, 115–142.

HB 3413, Fifteenth Congress of the Philippines, First Regular Session.

Mendoza et al, “Political Dynasties and Poverty: Chicken or the Egg” (2013). Makati City: Asian Institute of Management.

Querubin, Pablo. Political Reform and Elite Persistence: Term Limits and Political Dynasties in the Philippines, Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, October, 2011.

Querubin, Pablo (2010) “Family and Politics: Dynastic Persistence in the Philippines”, mimeo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Simbulan, Dante (2005). The Modern Principalia, Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press.

The Senate, Thirteenth Congress. First Regular Session. Senate Bill No. 412.

Tabbada, Jose. Unpublished Research Proposal.

The Philippine Star, May 14, 2013.

Tuazon, Bobby M (2010). Six Centuries of Political Dynasties: Why the Philippines Will Forever be Ruled by Political Clans? Quezon City: Center for People Empowerment in Governance.




[1] I was part of the TWG at the last minute, which merely performed the ministerial act of approving the draft of the consolidated bill now pending in the Lower House.

[2] I used to work on two bills in 2011, the Party List Reform Act and the Political Party Development Bill, and I found out that the party-list solons themselves are equally split over proposals for reforming the system.