Filipinos will go to polls in May to vote in the countries mid-term national elections. People will be voting for senators right down to municipal councilors.
And watching the campaign advertisements on TV… you hear very few new surnames names and many familiar ones.
Brothers, wives, uncles, children - Philippine politics is dominated by political dynasties. And even if one of them is very publicly deposed, they're not out of power for very long.
A rare excepetion is 37-year-old old Luis Marcaida, who is running for vice mayor of Puerto Princesa City.
He has been building his political career for years, starting as a leader in a youth federation called Sangguniang Kabataan.
“Until now I have not been into private life,” he says. “I have been an SK chairman for 10 years, barangay chairman for 5 years, from 2004-2007 and from 2007 until now I am a member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Puerto Princesa. Since that time I have been in public life.”
He doesn’t have relatives in politics and has no personal funds to pay for his campaign. And he’s up against the nephew of the incumbent mayor.
“There are advantages of being young,” Luis says confidently.
“During campaign period you can campaign for a longer period of time. You can introduce fresh ideas. And of course physically you’re strong. There are also qualifications for an individual to become a leader.”
“One of these is you have a heart to serve. Another is you have the true intention to serve and the last is your physical capacity to perform your functions.”
According to a recent survey conducted by the Asian Institute of Management in Manila, political dynasties reign in the Philippines. These dynasties have tight grip on power and continue to monopolize national and local positions.
With this trend, young people who do not have their families’ name, money, influence and power have little chance of entering politics.
“For now, he or she would not have a chance,” says Gerthie Mayo-Anda, lawyer and leader of the Palawan NGO Network.
“It sounds probably pessimistic but I am being pragmatic in the context of our traditional politics in the Philippines and Palawan. I think what needs to be done by him or her is to really build a constituency. That means that say I am 20 years old now and I want to run for governor or mayor for the next 12 years, I think you need to build a base.”
And that’s just what 39-year-old Edilberto Magpayo is doing. He’s banking on the network that he built while working in an environmental NGO.
“One thing I have learned in my NGO work is how to convince people to become part of what we call participatory governance and that we are all part of governance and development,” he says.
“We are guiding our communities that they have a role to play and not just the politicians. I will be a bridge to the communities in order for them to participate in development building.”
But he admits that running independently makes campaigning more difficult and costly.
“I am a newbie in politics but I serve with all my heart because that’s what I have learned from the NGO where I worked. Even if you have a small budget for projects, you give your heart to it and you make sure that these projects benefit small communities.”
But there are many young candidates who are hoping their family’s legacy will win them votes.
Mathew Mendoza wants to fulfill his long-held dream to be in politics like his grandfather who was the first governor of Palawan.
“When it comes to me, they would say, he’s is good, he has a good family background since his father, grandfather or uncle did well in politics. You get extra points if your family has done something good while they’re in politics.”
He wanted to enter politics right after college but it was cut short when he became a model and an actor.
“If I were not someone with a famous family name in the city, but I have reached this stage as an actor, I think people will still believe in me.”
“I think everyone has a chance if people see your perseverance, you’re taking care of your family’s name and legacy, you know how to deal with people, for sure you will get the chance,” Matthew adds.
However Lawyer Gerthie Mayo-Anda sees it differently. She argues political dynasties are bad for democracy.
“You want people from different sectors with different perspectives being able to engage with the local communities, with the voters,” she explains. “To me it’s a cause for concern if that trend becomes stronger in next few years.”
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