29% of local posts now occupied by 'fat' political dynasties

MANILA, Philippines – Political dynasties now possess 29% of all local elected posts, growing by about 1% or 170 positions per election period since 1988, a study by the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) showed.

ASoG Dean Ronald Mendoza presented findings from a study looking into political dynasties, term limits, and development which showed an increasing trend in the number of local positions occupied by members of "fat" political dynasties or powerful clans. The study was done along with ASoG research associates Leonardo Jaminola and Jurel Yap. 

"Fat dynasties" – families whose members simultaneously hold elective posts – occupied 19% of all local elected positions in 1988. Since then, the number has grown across gubernatorial, vice gubernatorial, congressional, mayoral, vice mayoral, provincial board member, and councilor posts. 

Data showed that around 57% of governors were fat dynasties in 2004. This swelled to 80% after the 2019 midterm elections. The same was seen among congressmen where fat dynasties accounted for 48% in 2004 and 67% by 2019. (MAP: Major political families in PH after the 2019 elections)

The same trend follows in other local posts:

Vice governor
2004 - 54% were fat dynasties
2019 - 68% were fat dynasties

Mayor
2004 - 40%
2019 - 53%

Vice mayor
2004 - 28%
2019 - 39%

Provincial board member
2004 - 40%
2019 - 45%

Councilor
2004 - 21%
2019 - 23%

Why this matters: Mendoza said studies have shown a link between political dynasties and underdevelopment of local areas.

"Research suggests that more fat dynasties weaken checks-and-balances in our democracy, leading to bad governance, and consequently weaker development outcomes," he said.

Mendoza added data showed "fat dynasties" were also more prevalent in poorer provinces in the Philippines where there were poor business climates and low levels of development.

Data from the study showed among all the provinces in the country, Maguindanao had the highest percentage of fat dynasties at 51% of elected posts occupied by political clans with two or more family members in office.

This was followed by Pampanga (49%), Bulacan (45%), Davao Occidental (41%), Isabela (41%), and Sulu (40%).

What can be done: Mendoza reiterated an earlier proposal he and other experts had made to Congress: instead of banning dynasties altogether, it would be best to regulate them by prohibiting fat dynasties and allowing those who serve in succession or "thin dynasties."

"Our proposal for practical political viability of the law is simple: Bawal ang sabay-sabay pero puwede nang payagan ang sunod-sunod (Prohibit family members serving simultaneously in office but allow them to serve in succession)," Mendoza said.

Mendoza said the proposed compromise would help level the electoral playing field for all Filipinos.

"Give a chance to others. Our democracy is not a family business," he said.

Lawmakers have discussed proposed anti-dynasty measures for years but so far anti-dynasty provisions have only made it to Republic Act No. 10742  or the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) Reform Act. With majority of Congress members belonging to powerful clans, lawmakers have been hesitant to pass such a law despite a constitutional provision saying so. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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