IN THE KNOW: Oligarchs and cronies
Political analysts define oligarchs as a small group of people who hold sway in a particular country.
“They wield not only economic power, but political power as well,” said Edmund Tayao, a political science professor at the University of Santo Tomas. “They have money to use to influence government policies.”
Several key industries, according to Tayao, are controlled by oligarchs, such as telecommunications, energy, mining and transport of goods.
For analyst Earl Parreño of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform, oligarchs are people who control a country by controlling both wealth and politics.
“Because of their wealth, oligarchs also control politicians. They control Congress, the executive and even the judiciary,” he said.
Today’s oligarchs have been oligarchs for a long time, carrying the same surnames: Aquinos, Cojuangcos, Aranetas and Lopezes, according to Parreño.
“New oligarchs include the Chinese businessmen like the Tans, Gokongweis and Sys,” he said. “The oligarchy is fluid. It really depends on who is in power.”
Parreño said only a small percentage of families controlled as much as 80 percent of the country’s wealth.
The late dictator Ferdinand Marcos blamed the oligarchs for the ills of the Old Society, the term he used to describe the Philippines before martial law.
Next to communists, the oligarchs were said to be the main enemies of martial law. This was because there was an urgent need for “the democratization of wealth,” Marcos said in his book, “The Democratic Revolution in the Philippines.”
Cronies take over
But in his book “Testament from a Prison Cell,” Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. said only one member of the oligarchy had been jailed (Eugenio Lopez Jr.) and that the properties of his own family (ABS-CBN, Meralco among others) were taken by Marcos, his family and his cronies.
Crony became the term used to refer to the new rich during martial law—those who, according to Aquino, were “plundering financing institutions to finance their corporate raiding and various takeover schemes.”
They were the ones “awarded timber, mining and oil concessions and vast tracts of rich government agricultural and urban lands,” and “lush government construction contracts” by Marcos.
After the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution, the properties of the Marcos cronies were sequestered. As of 2002, the value of sequestered companies and assets reached P223 billion. With a report from Minerva Generalao, Inquirer Research
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