Study says ‘fat’ dynasties behind worsening poverty
For the Philippines to get a real shot at having an antidynasty law, Congress should ban “fat” political dynasties but allow “thin” political clans, the dean of Ateneo School of Government said on Thursday.
Fat political dynasties have more than two family members occupying government offices, according to Dean Ronald Mendoza.
On the other hand, thin political dynasties are content with having members succeed each other in office, he said.
Mendoza said Ateneo School of Government had conducted a study, that showed fat political dynasties were behind the worsening poverty in the poorest areas of the country.
The study was published in the Oxford Development Studies journal.
“The average effect of political clan leadership in the country is that while there is a fat political clan, poverty deepens,” Mendoza said at the Senate hearing on the antidynasty bill.
No enabling law
“We are slowly becoming less democratic overtime, particularly in the poorest areas of the country and if we don’t stop this, democracy will slowly die,” he said.
Mendoza spoke at the hearing called by Sen. Francis Pangilinan on the proposed antipolitical dynasty law. Pangilinan chairs the Senate committee on constitutional amendments and revision of codes and laws.
The 1987 Constitution bans political dynasties but Congress, which is dominated by political dynasts, has failed to pass an enabling law defining a political dynasty.
With the absence of an enabling law, political dynasties proliferated after the restoration of democracy in 1986.
“Seventy percent of governors in 2007 were dynastic. It is now 81 percent in 2016. For congressmen, 75 percent in 2007 were dynastic. By 2016, almost 78 percent of congressmen are dynastic,” Mendoza said.
He noted that among mayors, 58 percent were dynastic in 2007. “By 2016, a mere nine years later, almost 70 percent of them are dynastic.”
But some political dynasties are more voracious than others.
Mendoza said fat political dynasties were not content with having their members succeed each other in political office.
These clans are so powerful that they occupy up to more than 20 political positions in their provinces, all at the same time, he said.
“This concentration of political power really has a detrimental effect on governance. It’s not just two or three family members [holding different political offices at the same time] but 12 family members or 20 family members,” Mendoza said.
He said fat political dynasties could be found in provinces like Ilocos Sur, Bulacan, Batangas, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao.
“According to our data, the worst features are those with [fat dynasties]. It’s there that you can find the Ampatuan massacre, the kickbacks in road projects, black holes in terms of missing [internal revenue allotments], poverty,” Mendoza said.
He said it was not surprising that fat dynasties were found in the poorest areas.
“There are no checks and balance. Even if you are wrong, the public would have a very hard time to get you out of office. you are scaring your opponents, you are the richest there, or you control all the mayors,” he said.
“So, it is not a competitive environment anymore. If you have an election there, you’re just going through the motions, but it’s no longer democratic,” he added.
The study showed that thin political dynasties were not related to “most destructive patterns” of bad governance.
“The evidence actually shows the most destructive patterns are related to fat dynasties. Thin dynasties do not correlate to bad governance,” Mendoza said.
“It is clear in the data that dynasties can be found in poor areas while fat dynasties are in the poorest areas,” he said.
Mendoza suggested that the Senate allow dynasties to have their members succeed each other in political office but bar them from running for and securing different government posts all at the same time.
“I would consider allowing succeeding each other. In our evidence and data, the main failure does not lie with them. It’s with the fat dynasties or those who run and win at the same time,” he said.
He said those who succeed each other still had “delicadeza.” “They don’t want to get [elected] all at the same time because that would really look bad.”
Mendoza said this was also a “practical” compromise because “more than 50 percent” of the members of Congress were made up of “thin dynasty and nondynasty” members.
He added that thin dynasties might be prodded into agreeing to the proposal because voracious fat dynasties were taking over their posts and threatening their political survival.
Asked for comment, Pangilinan said Mendoza’s proposal to ban fat dynasties would be considered in coming up with the antidynasty law. “All we have to do is to define it by law.”
Pangilinan said it could follow the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) law, which states that SK officials should not be related “within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official or any elected regional, provincial, city, municipal or barangay official in the locality where he or she is seeking election.”
“I think two degrees is OK. That would include spouses, siblings, parents, children, grandparents and grandchildren in the prohibition. That seems like a reasonable definition,” Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara said.
Sen. JV Ejercito, who authored the antidynasty provision in the SK law, said he also supported the passage of an antidynasty law.