ARTICLE II, section 26 of 1986 Philippine Constitution states that, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties may be defined by law.”
The clear intent of the framers of the Constitution is to prohibit political dynasties and it is the duty of our law-making bodies to define the same. Twenty-five years ago, after the framers of the 1987 Constitution included in it a provision prohibiting political dynasties, Congress since then never enacted a law defining the meaning of the term “political dynasty” and implementing the ordained ban on dynastic political families.
A few senators and congressmen tried but failed just like Teofisto Guingona Jr., a senator in the 8th Congress, who authored Bill No. 82 in 1987 which is the anti-dynasty bill.
“After one week, someone from the rules committee of the House of Representatives came to see me and explained that there were so many inter-relatives among the congressmen that it would be next to impossible to have it successfully approved in the House so they would have to just put it aside,” Guingona said.
The idea of political dynasty rooted during the period of Spanish control which was almost 300 years.
Economic and political power was restricted to small ‘mestizo’ elite known as the principalia. 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.
Now, Philippines has over 90 dynastic political families who are elected and repeatedly re-elected from fathers to mothers and to their sons and daughters. One of which is the Abalos family from Mandaluyong City. Benjamin Abalos, Sr., served as mayor and chairman of the Metro Manila Development Administration (MMDA) and chairman of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). He was then succeeded by his son Benjamin Abalos as city mayor, while another son Jonathan Abalos was city councilor, and brother Arsenio Abalos was barangay captain and later city councilor.
Another famous dynastic political family is the Cayetano family from Taguig. Rene Cayetano was a former senator. His son Alan Peter and daughter Pia are both senators and running for reelection. Daughter-in-law Ma. Laarni L. Cayetano is Taguig’s city mayor. Lino Cayetano is Fort Bonifacio Taguig’s barangay captain.
According to Ronald Mendoza, an Associate Professor of Economics, there are three conduits through which political clans can affect socio-economic outcomes in a perverse manner.
First, political dynasties can weigh down on the government’s response to social and economic issues if the clans’ pervasiveness thwarts the citizenry’s means to communicate their needs to the government.
Second, if the dynastic officials use the powers of their political positions for self-serving purposes, democratic institutions will necessarily be compromised.
Lastly, given the massive political machinery that political clans possess, they can effectively discourage political competition in elections, skewing the electoral results towards them which could bring sub-optimal policy choices and feeble socio-economic outcomes.
However, there exists a stand that sees political clans as not necessary detrimental to development. Mancur Olson, a professor of Economics in University of Maryland, College Park, built up the notion of “Roving Bandits vs. Stationary Bandits”.
The idea is that, leaders with relatively longer tenure in office will have the incentive to develop their respective jurisdictions, as they foresee the future benefits it will reap for them. On the other side, leaders who resemble the behavior of “Roving Bandits” do not have the incentive to perform well in an office or to invest for the future since they will leave the position soon enough.
In this manner, political dynasties can be likened to the Stationary Bandits.
As Senator Alan Peter Cayetano said in an interview, “It would be better to have a family of politicians in the government with a clean track record than a single government official who is so corrupt.”
The impact of political dynasties on development still remains rather ambiguous now in the Philippines. But at the end of the day, it is ultimately the Filipino people who will decide if they will deem certain families as simply “political dynasties” or “family with a legacy of public service.”