Families in politics here to stay

Apr. 13, 2013

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg), in its Issue Analysis in October last year, said that over the past 100 years, political dynasty has been concentrating, expanding and consolidating. 

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Two local candidates from Region XI both agreed that there’s “nothing wrong” if family members run in the elective posts, even in the same area of jurisdiction, and at the same time.

James Gamao, current vice mayor of Panabo City seeking for reelection; and Luis Bonguyan, Davao City’s former Vice Mayor who’s running as representative for the First District, told journalists Friday that as long as the electorate vote for these family members and that they serve the people “truthfully and honestly,” it’s just alright.

Gamao’s sister is the current senior Board Member of Davao del Norte while his brother-in-law was the former Mayor of Panabo City.  On the other hand, Bonguyan’s son, John Louie, is currently councilor in the second district while his niece, Joan, is councilor of the first district.

Both were guests at the Kapehan sa PIA’s Candidates’ forum which focused on the “Families in Politics,” the second in a series after the “Women in Politics” weeks ago.

Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and son Paolo, as well as the Cagasas and Bautistas of Davao del Sur and the Del Rosarios of Davao del Norte who were also invited didn’t attend the forum.

According to Bonguyan, his son John Louie was his Chief of Staff during his last term.  “After working at my office for three years, he wanted to continue what I’ve been doing.  That’s why he ran for office,” he said.

In his first bid, John Louie was elected with the highest number of votes.  “Maybe it was also because of my track record,” the older Bonguyan said.

Taking his cue from Bonguyan, Gamado said, he will also train his son so that he could also seek an elective post, probably as councilor, when the older Gamado retires.  If he wins this upcoming election, this would be Gamado’s last term.

Political dynasty

The cases of Bonguyan and Gamado, which can be aptly called political dynasty, are not new in the arena of Philippine politics.

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg), in its Issue Analysis in October last year, said that over the past 100 years, political dynasty has been concentrating, expanding and consolidating.

“Traditionally, the turnover of elective positions by end-termers to their heirs-apparent –spouses, children, or other relatives– helps preserve the dynasties,” the Cenpeg said, adding that today, political dynasties have become “more blatant and active.”

Citing its study on the 15th Congress, Cenpeg said 15 of the 23 senators have relatives who are currently holding elective positions. And of the 15, 11 have relatives in the House of Representatives.  The same expansion, it noted, also holds true in the local government units, citing the Macapagal-Arroyos of Pampanga, the Ampatuans of Maguindanao, the Singsons of Ilocos, the Jalosjos of Zamboanga and the Revillas of Cavite.

It also cited its study on the May 2010 elections, the first ever automated elections in the country, which increased “even more” the number of political dynasties both in the national and local levels.

This despite the provision cited in the 1987 Philippine Constitution’s Article II Section 26, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Since 1987, most dominant political families succeeded in winning all elections for governors and congressional contests, according to a study by the United Nations Development Programme entitled “Chasing the Wind: Assessing Philippine Democracy” which was published in 2011.

“Membership in a political dynasty is a guarantee to its preservation. Whether in the national or local levels, membership provides a political clout to amass more wealth, hence, to secure an enduring political power,” the Cenpeg said.

The progressive bloc led by Bayan Muna in the Lower House has filed the Anti-Dynasty Bill (HB 3413) since 2001.  The party-list said such kind of legislation has not “ever” passed the Committee level.

Last February, the Supreme Court decided it will not compel the Congress to pass a law that will ban political dynasties, at it rejected the motions filed by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr.’s group and senatorial candidate Ricardo Penson.

But both Gamado and Bonguyan said that if ever the Anti-Dynasty Bill is passed, they will respect it.  (Marilou Aguirre-Tuburan/davaotoday.com)

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