Regulate Political Dynasties

01.06.2016
Politics Society

The 1987 Constitution’s Article 2, Section 26 expressly states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to public service and prohibit political dynasty as may be defined by law.”

  1. Support the passage of the existing Anti-Political Dynasty Bill

  2. Assume Congress will not pass the bill, so attempt to mimic its effects through smaller, piecemeal reforms

 

Context 

The 1987 Constitution’s Article 2, Section 26 expressly states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to public service and prohibit political dynasty as may be defined by law.” Yet, 29 years later, we still do not have an enabling law to put the political dynasty prohibition into effect. Political science and economic development literature suggests that the phenomenon of political dynasties has the capacity over time to undermine political competition (and perhaps political accountability), weaken checks-and-balances in democracy, and derail political development of a state away from that of meritocratic bureaucracies.1 

There is a long history of attempts to pass such a law, though Congress has repeatedly failed to do so due to insufficient legislative support—no surprise given roughly 70% of the Philippine Congress are members of political dynasties. More shockingly still, it is not merely that political dynasties overwhelmingly dominate elected office, but that largely the same political families have historically dominated elected office. Following Julio Teehankee’s work, Jan Cruz and Ronald Mendoza cite that “the same 106 families (more or less) continuously served in the House of Representatives from the first national election in 1907 up to the post-People Power era, translating into an entire century of dominance in Congress.”2 This alone provides a picture of the staggering consolidation of the ruling elite in the Philippines and of the problems of monopoly of political power and of exclusion from political power that have shaped the Philippines since the American colonial period. 

Ronald Mendoza, et. al. have found that dynasties thrive alongside entrenched poverty, with the presence of a greater total number of political dynasties (and larger, or “fatter,” individual dynasties) correlating with more severe poverty.3 Studies on the direction of causality—poverty producing dynasties or dynasties producing poverty—are mixed and inconclusive;4 nevertheless, the AIM Policy Center’s February 2014 study notes that empirical evidence suggests “stronger evidence that poverty entrenches political dynasties, and less on the reverse argument.”5 Indeed, critics argue that political dynasties are a symptom of deeper socio-economic conditions, and thus that the legislation and solutions needed must target the root causes. Yet, as Jan Danelle A. Patindol writes, “changing socioeconomic structures does not necessarily lead to a reduction of dynastic politics. The new forms of clan politics that may arise from evolving structures of society and the economy justify a law separate from various pieces of legislation that cater to other social and economic problems.”6 

One of the overwhelming problems is the lack of non-dynastic candidates on offer to the electorate. AIM Policy Center’s tracking of the top candidates for the mayoral and gubernatorial elections of 2013 uncovered that:7 

  • Of the total available governorship positions, roughly 50% were contested by one political dynast against a rival dynast, while roughly 10% of those positions featured an uncontested political dynast. 
  • Therefore, even before casting votes, the elections were guaranteed to yield a new crop of majority political dynasts.
    • Add to this that nearly 25% of the total gubernatorial races resulted in a political dynast winning against a non-dynast for the post.
  • Of the mayoral race, between the uncontested political dynasts and dynasts running against rival dynasts, the elections were guaranteed to yield roughly 40% political dynasts to the available mayoral posts, even before any votes were cast.
  • Additionally, roughly 30% of the total mayoral positions races resulted in a political dynast winning against a non-dynast for the post. 

Indeed, the vote-buying study of Mendoza et al. concludes that there has been little change in terms of a stronger supply of non-dynast leaders, and that despite strong advocacy and information campaigns against political dynasties, the dynasties remain entrenched.8 The study also notes that, “the political parties are, in effect, dominated by political dynasties to the extent that these dynasties bring in resources and also control key political bastions they have occupied for protracted periods…the ‘fat’ dynasties (those with multiple members occupying positions at the same time in certain provinces) also bring control and influence over large parts of the local government infrastructure as well as control over considerable public resources,” in the form of pork barrel.9 Thus, “it is easy to see why political parties would choose to support political dynasties,” for “the prominence and influence of a political party in public affairs is directly proportional to their number of elected members.”10 The political dynasts are the parties’ safest bets in terms of electability. 

It is no surprise that political dynast candidates are more successful electorally, given the enormous advantages that accrue to their families’ incumbency. These benefits, which have a compounding exclusionary potential in elections as the dynasties get fatter over time, are the clearest counter-argument to the claim that the anti-dynasty bill disqualifies competent, honest candidates from political families and is thus antidemocratic. The exclusionary effect the bill would have against political families is far smaller than the exclusionary effect currently experienced by non-political dynasts and candidates from poorer backgrounds. Indeed, this is exactly the conclusion that the framers of the 1987 Constitution reached in their deliberations on the inclusion of Article 2, Section 26.11

With the Supreme Court having thrown out the possibility of the citizens forcing the anti-political dynasty bill into passage from without, and the tremendous disincentives to Congress to pass the bill from within, how can we hope to escape this impasse? Though it will not be as effective, forceful, clear, or prohibitive as passing legislation would be, we must now look for ways to mimic the bill’s would-be effects through piecemeal reforms and extra-legislative actions. As we do this, we must maintain renewed, focused pressure upon the legislature to pass the bill. 

Policy proposal 

The following proposal can be mobilized from outside the levers of power, through existing NGO and citizens’ channels. 

  • Support the passage of the existing Anti-Political Dynasty Bill
    • Continue to enlist the power and influence of the executive to popularize the campaign for its passage and maintain the spotlight on it
  • Dilute the bill to encourage its passage: introduce staged implementation that seeks to have the bill take full effect in 10 years’ time
  • Mobilize a coalition of non-dynast elected officials (particularly those from humbler upbringings) at all levels of government that unite behind this bill but will also serve other related goals:
    • Make visible a minority bloc within government that is pushing for more representative, competitive elections from within
    • Explicitly encourage non-dynasts to contest elections at all levels, helping to address the ‘supply side’ of the political dynasty problem by creating a more welcoming environment and support network to lend informal guidance and insight
    • Concentrate the already wide public support for the political dynasty prohibition into specific ancillary support for the politicians who support the bill
    • Collaborate with the grassroots groups already advocating against political dynasties during elections by bringing to them more high-profile attention. This will also afford these groups greater security, especially in areas known for election-related violence
  • Given the pivotal role that the ‘supply-side’ problem plays in the current political landscape, advocacies cannot merely campaign for the citizenry to support non-dynasts but must also support the fielding of increased and improved non-dynast candidates to contest the elections and help to level the advantages of incumbency
  • New political parties must be incentivized to take on the responsibility of grooming and supporting non-dynast candidates, because dynasties already dominate more established parties
    • Advocacies and NGOs should crowd-source small and large donations to maintain a fund dedicated to helping non-political and non-dynasts ‘campaign, particularly those who meet socio-economic criteria of need and particularly those running in provinces containing the ‘fattest’ political dynasties
    • They should then give over this fund to the newer parties and party-list parties that operate in these provinces, showing them that there is public support for breaking down the dominance of dynasties, despite the dynasties’ continued electoral wins
  • Separate “name recall” from true popularity through increased information, particularly addressed to those with more restricted access to information
    • Concentrate an information campaign in support of non-dynast and non-political candidates on radio and tabloid channels

FOOTNOTES

1

Jan Frederick P. Cruz and Ronald U. Mendoza, “Does Dynastic Prohibition Improve Democracy?” RSN-PCC Working Paper 15-010, August 2015, http://ssrn.com/abstract=2640571

2

Ibid.

3

Ronald U. Mendoza, David B. Yap II, and Jan Fredrick Cruz, “And why Congress should pass an anti-dynasty law,” GMA News, August 10, 2015, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/532105/opinion/and-why-congress-should-pass-an-anti-dynasty-law

4

Ibid.

5

Tristan A. Canare, Mario Antonio G. Lopez, Ronald U. Mendoza, and David Barua Yap II, “The 2013 Philippine Mid-Term Election: An Empirical Analysis of Dynasties, Vote Buying and the Correlates of Senate Votes,” AIM Working Paper Series, February 2014, p. 7.

6

Jan Danelle A. Patindol, “Amicus Curiae: 28 years and still hoping for the Anti-Political Dynasty Law,” ACCRALAW, August 19, 2015, http://www.accralaw.com/publications/28-years-and-still-hoping-anti-political-dynasty-law

7

Ronald U. Mendoza, David B. Yap II, and Jan Fredrick Cruz, “And why Congress should pass an anti-dynasty law,” GMA News, August 10, 2015, http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/532105/opinion/and-why-congress-should-pass-an-anti-dynasty-law

8

Tristan A. Canare, Mario Antonio G. Lopez, Ronald U. Mendoza, and David Barua Yap II, “The 2013 Philippine Mid-Term Election: An Empirical Analysis of Dynasties, Vote Buying and the Correlates of Senate Votes,” AIM Working Paper Series, February 2014, p. 26.

9

Ibid., 14.

10

Ibid.

11

“Why the Philippines needs an anti-dynasty law,” ABS-CBNnews.com, August 21, 2015, http://news.abs-cbn.com/nation/08/20/15/why-philippines-needs-anti-dynasty-law

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