Philippine politics is primarily dominated by dynasties. But the 2019 midterm elections seem to have enlarged the problem, challenging the boundaries of legality and morality.
It makes us really wonder about the state of democracy in the Philippines. It makes us admire even more candidates like public health advocate Dr. Willie Ong and broadcast journalist Jiggy Manicad who are perceived as “quixotic” because they are tossing their hats into the political arena despite their slim chances of winning. I emphasize “slim” because if we vote for them, we might reduce their odds against winning.
Come 2019, it is up to the electorate to decide whether to continue tolerating the families whose only motive in running for election is consolidation of their political, and even economic, power – or bring their political fiefdoms to an end.
Dynastic politics is among my pet peeves. Here’s a list of some political dynasties, in alphabetical order, with data culled from news reports.
ABCs of political families
Binay. The melodramatic sibling rivalry, with accusations and counter-accusations, may be entertaining to some but is nauseating to many of us. Incumbent Makati Mayor Abby Binay is seeking reelection. She is being challenged by her younger brother, ex-mayor Junjun Binay. Abby justifies her bid, saying she is protecting the city from councilors who had connived with Jun Jun in shady deals and contracts. Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections has ruled that Junjun may run for public office unless there is a final conviction on the pending graft cases the Ombudsman has filed against him. For her part, big sister, Sen. Nancy Binay, is unhappy that her father, former vice president Jojo Binay, is supporting Abby. But the feud between Abby and Junjun guarantees a Binay will still be Makati mayor.
Cayetano. Recently resigned Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is running for a congressional seat, in the first district of Taguig; his wife, incumbent Mayor Lani, will run for Congress in the second district. Last I heard, the couple live in the same house. Alan says, however, he’s staying at the Cayetano ancestral house in the first district while his wife lives in their house in the second district. He justifies his running for the first district when their residence is in the second district as “legal and moral.” An editorial in the Philippine Daily Inquirer says it is likely “the couple will actually live in the same house but offer the legal fiction of separate legal residences merely to comply with the law – but how can this arrangement even possibly be called moral?” Alan’s brother Lino is, meanwhile, running for mayor, a post Lani will vacate. His sister Pia, an incumbent representative, will run for senator.
Duterte. Not too long ago, President Duterte repeatedly insisted that he was against political dynasties. In next year’s elections, his daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte, is running for reelection; his youngest son, Sebastian wants to be vice mayor; his eldest son, Paolo, the former vice mayor, is gunning for a seat in Congress. The president’s rather lame reason his children are running for public office: “Ayaw ko ng dynasty, but we are forced. Pumunta kayo sa tao, tanungin mo ang mga tao.”
Ejercito. Former president Joseph Estrada is seeking a third term as mayor of Manila. His daughter Jerika is eyeing a seat in Manila’s city council. His two sons are both running for the Senate: half-brothers JV Ejercito, an incumbent senator, and Jinggoy Estrada, former senator out-on-bail in a plunder case. Estrada cannot talk either of his sons out of running. But at least he is assured that there will be an Ejercito in the Senate. Jinggoy’s daughter, Janella, is running for mayor of San Juan City.
Marcos. Former first lady Imelda R. Marcos is a gubernatorial candidate in Ilocos Norte, a position currently held by daughter Imee, who is now a senatorial candidate. Imee’s son, Matthew Manotoc, is the running mate of his grandma. Imelda’s only son, Bongbong Marcos, is still embroiled in a electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. He was previously governor of Ilocos Norte and then senator before his run for the vice presidency in 2016.
De Venecia. Former Pangasinan representative Gina de Venecia is the first nominee of Inang Mahal party-list group. Her son, Christopher, is Pangasinan fourth district representative (formerly held by Gina) seeking reelection in 2019.
Fariñas. Ilocos Norte representative Rudy Fariñas, son of former House majority leader Rodolfo Fariñas, is the first nominee of Probinsyano Ako, another party-list group. His sister, Ilocos Norte first district board member Ria Cristina, seeks to replace her father Rodolfo as representative, while his brother, Rodolfo Christian III, is vying for provincial board member.
Pacquiao. Senator Manny Pacquiao’s brother, Sarangani Rep. Roel Pacquiao, is up for reelection, while another brother, Bobby, is nominee of the party-list group OFW Family. Sister-in-law Lorelei is candidate for vice mayor of General Santos City.
Revilla. Former senator Bong Revilla, still detained at the Philippine National Police custodial center in Camp Crame, is running for the Senate. His wife Lani is up for reelection as Bacoor city mayor; son Jolo is also seeking reelection as Cavite vice governor.
Bong’s brother Strike, former Bacoor mayor and the incumbent representative of Cavite’s second district, is running for another term.
Romualdez. Husband and wife Martin and Yedda Romualdez are both gunning for seats in the House of Representatives in 2019.
Martin, nephew of Imelda Marcos, seeks to take over Leyte’s first district congressional seat from wife Yedda, who is now the first nominee of the party-list Tingog Sinirangan.
Sotto. Incumbent Quezon City Councilor Gian Sotto is running for vice mayor in 2019. His sister Ciara, actress and singer, is the second nominee of the Luntian Pilipinas party-list group. Both are children of Senate President Vicente Sotto III.
Villar. Senator Cynthia Villar is up for reelection, daughter Camille is running for the lone congressional seat of Las Piñas, and sister-in-law Imelda Aguilar is seeking reelection as mayor of Las Piñas.
Enough of political dynasties. Let us hope the electorate will make true democracy work. Diversity in backgrounds helps ensure that the needs of the diverse population are addressed. Let us give those brave souls who dare run without help from a family network already steeped in politics a chance. They are fresh faces with fresh ideas. Give them the opportunity to make a political imprint.