All in the family: Philippine dynasties tighten grip on power

If the son of former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos wins the May 9 presidential election, he is not going to be the one Marcos at the moment in energy — and can nearly definitely not be the final.

Elite households have lengthy dominated the poverty-ravaged nation, holding on to positions of energy for generations by allotting favors, shopping for votes or resorting to violence.

Analysts say the system has change into extra pervasive within the a long time since a preferred rebellion deposed Marcos and compelled the household into exile.

New dynasties have entrenched themselves in politics, smothering electoral competitors, stunting financial improvement and worsening inequality.

“Power begets power — the more they stay in power, the more they accumulate power, the more powerful they get,” mentioned Julio Teehankee, a professor at De La Salle University in Manila.

The archipelago has produced about 319 dynastic households, courting again to when the nation was a U.S. colony within the first half of the twentieth century, Teehankee mentioned.

Dozens have withered, however in 2019, members of a minimum of 234 such households received positions in mid-term elections, he mentioned.

They have flourished in a feudal and corrupt democracy the place events are weak, fragmented alongside clan traces and suffering from defections.

Power, nonetheless, is just not static. Families can win and lose it — and make a comeback.

After the fallen dictator died in 1989, the Marcoses returned to their conventional stronghold of Ilocos Norte and started tapping native loyalties to get elected to a succession of upper positions.

Supporters of Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand
Supporters of Philippine presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., the son of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, attend a marketing campaign rally in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte province on Monday. | AFP-JIJI

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., 64, is now on the verge of clinching the final word dynastic victory: the presidency.

The household additionally desires to make a clear sweep of the highest posts in its northern bastion.

Launching their campaigns within the provincial capital Laoag, Marcos candidates stood collectively in entrance of a “Team Marcos” signal as 1000’s of supporters cheered.

Marcos Jr.’s eldest son is a first-time candidate, searching for one in every of two congressional seats within the windswept province of corn and tobacco farms. A cousin is defending the opposite.

His nephew — the son of his sister Imee, a senator — is vying for re-election as governor, whereas a cousin’s widow is the incumbent vice-governor.

Marcos Jr. mentioned the household was not a dynasty, however his cousin Michael Marcos Keon, searching for a second time period as Laoag mayor, disagreed.

“This is all dynastic,” mentioned Keon, 67, who additionally served as governor after Marcos Jr. hit the three-term restrict — a tactic usually used to maintain positions within the household.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I weren’t a Marcos.”

‘Family is paramount’

The Marcoses’ stranglehold on energy in Ilocos Norte was “typical” of provinces throughout the nation, mentioned Ronald Mendoza, dean of Manila’s Ateneo School of Government.

And their affect is rising.

Eighty p.c of governors belong to “fat dynasties” — clans with two or extra members in energy on the identical time — in contrast with 57% in 2004, Mendoza mentioned.

Political households held 67% of seats within the House of Representatives, in contrast with 48% in 2004, and 53% of mayoral posts, up from 40%.

Michael Marcos Keon, a mayor and cousin of Ferdinand
Michael Marcos Keon, a mayor and cousin of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., presidential candidate and son of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, talking throughout an interview on Sunday on the metropolis corridor in Laoag, Ilocos Norte province, Philippines. | AFP-JIJI

Among the main candidates for the 12 Senate seats being contested, a minimum of three have already got a relative within the chamber.

Even the party-list system, which seeks to present residents from marginalized teams illustration in Congress, has been largely taken over by a handful of surnames.

As his daughter leads the race for the nation’s second-highest workplace, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned just lately he had “accomplished” his job.

“I have a daughter running for vice-president, a son for congressman and one other as mayor. I am fulfilled,” he mentioned.

More than 18,000 posts are being contested in subsequent month’s elections. At least 800 have just one candidate.

Mendoza mentioned the pandemic had made it much more doubtless that incumbents would win.

“You have more voters potentially vulnerable to vote-buying, more voters concerned about their continued access to social protection,” he mentioned.

Mendoza mentioned poverty tended to rise as dynasties fattened, particularly in provinces past the primary island of Luzon, the place “checks and balances” on governance are weaker.

While political dynasties exist in different international locations, analysts mentioned their prevalence within the Philippines was among the many highest on this planet.

Preparing the subsequent technology for politics was important to a clan’s survival, mentioned analyst Mark Thompson, likening dynasties to soccer golf equipment.

“If you’re the Barcelona or PSG … of Philippine politics, why not get the next generation trained up as well,” mentioned Thompson, director of the Southeast Asia Research Center on the City University of Hong Kong.

Efforts to scale back such households’ affect have come to nothing, regardless of the nation’s 1987 structure mandating that Congress ban them.

“You cannot expect a house full of dynasties to pass an anti-dynasty legislation — it’s like asking Dracula to guard the blood bank,” mentioned Teehankee.

Keon admitted the system was not democratic, and unlikely to vary.

“This is how politics is here,” Keon mentioned in his workplace, surrounded by images of the Marcos clan, together with the patriarch.

“Family is paramount.”

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