Dynastic and Personality Politics Dominate the Philippines

Analysts say the country is struggling to move on from its culture of dynastic and personality politics.


Minggu, 18 Okt 2015 23:00 WIB

Political banners and stickers of candidates hang in a hut in the Philippines as the country embarks

Political banners and stickers of candidates hang in a hut in the Philippines as the country embarks into the campaign season for elections next year. Political dynasties and famous personalities stil

In the Philippines the campaign for the 2016 elections has kicked off, but not everyone is convinced the vote will rejuvenate the government. 

Senator Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos, Jr., son of the former dictator, is running for vice-president, while famous boxer Manny Pacquiao is vying for the senate.

Analysts say the country is struggling to move on from its culture of dynastic and personality politics. 

Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos report from Manila and Palawan.

Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr., known here as ‘Bongbong’ has just declared his intention to run for vice president. He wants to continue his father’s legacy.

The senator is the only son of his namesake Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines for 20 years until he was toppled in the 1986 People Power revolution.

Ironically, Bongbong is also hoping to lead another revolution. 

“With your help and the country’s, I will lead a revolution in the hearts, minds and actions, toward meaningful change,” he declared at a recent rally, “I will bring back the respect of the world to the Philippines.”

Ferdinand Marcos senior was an autocratic ruler who imposed martial law to clamp down on opposition and prolong his term. 

His wife Imelda – a famous symbol of excess – is known for her prized shoe collection. 

The immense wealth amassed by the Marcos family amounted to almost 10 billion dollars and included paintings, jewellery, real estate and off shore bank accounts.

But Bongbong denies his family was corrupt – a word he uses instead to describe the current government. 

“Where do the funds of our government officials go? Where have the taxes gone? Graft and corruption is so rampant inside and outside of the government,” he told the crowd at the political gathering, “It’s not even surprising now that someone from government asks for a bribe.”

Despite the claims of corruption, none of the Marcos family is in jail. Instead they hold public positions. Imelda is currently a congresswoman, while Bongbong’s sister is a governor.

Political observer Bimbo Fernandez says it’s possible he could win the vice presidency in the election next May.

“Why Bongbong? He is a Marcos. When you say Marcos, it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth because of his father. But Bongbong is not his father and Bongbong, time and time again has proven that he can speak his mind,” argues Fernandez. 

Historian and retired University of the Philippines professor Oscar Evangelista says a Marcos running for vice-president or president is inevitable.

“It is still so strongly family oriented. His mother Imelda is even frustrated that he is not running for president,” says Evangelista, “It goes back to the age old pattern of family dynasties and family loyalty.”

Other candidates are also from political families. Presidential hopeful Mar Roxas is from a very wealthy family and is the son of a former president.

Opposition candidate Jejomar Binay is the current vice-president, who together with his son is facing corruption charges over a government-funded building project.

Civil society activist and lawyer Gerthie Anda says these clannish elites are bad news.

“If you talk about the same people from the same family running the affairs of government, it’s like a business,” she says, “And that for me prevents us from achieving a dynamic form of governance.”

But not everyone running is from the political elite.  Showbiz personality Grace Poe is leading the presidential race. 

And famous boxer Manny Paccquiao is also hoping for a senate seat. Pacquiao is currently a congressman for Saranggani province. Critics say he was only elected because of his boxing success and is often been absent from congress, but he denies the claims.

“If we talk about laws, is there a law that has not been passed to help our countrymen out of poverty? Although I’m not seen often enough in congress, I’m always in my district and I have done so much,” he says. 

Pacquiao grew up poor but as a global boxing champion has become a multimillionaire.

While the boxer is expected to garner some votes, activists like Gergie Anda say that personality and dynastic politics block young, capable leaders.

“I think the young people here stand a chance but they are not running for public office because they do not see the opportunity,” says Anda, “They see corruption, they see political patronage, they see traditional politics, the ugly heads and ugly hands of all these bad values lurk.”

Analysts say it’s time new faces emerged, but as long as political dynasties reign, the old will dominate the new.


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