Monday, April 30, 2007

War of the Clans

Patrick I. Patiño
Political & Electoral Team
Institute fro Popular Democracy

2007 Congressional Elections

It is a public notion that district members of the House of Representatives are suppose to represent their constituents. But such notion remains an idea as there is a growing perception that congresspersons represent their political clan. How would you imagine if the incoming 14th Congress shall have a significant number of legislators related to each other by blood? How would you imagine if members of the same family are slugging each other for the same seat in the upcoming congressional elections? How would you imagine members of a political family and their relatives are vying for various elective posts on May 14, 2007?

The House of Representatives has 218 legislative district seats. But even with 6 newly-created legislative districts, it seems that the congressional seats up for grabs in the May 14 elections are not enough for the aspiring and come-backing members of political clans to accommodate them. Congress is not only strengthening traditional political dynasties but also rapidly producing more political dynasties rather than legislating laws and resolutions.

While there are 125 re-electionist congresspersons, there will be 87 vacant seats in the present House of Representatives. Eight seats were vacated due to deaths and appointments of incumbent representatives to the executive department, while 79 members have either completed their three-consecutive terms limit or decided not to seek reelection. The power, porks and perks of being a congressperson are too intoxicating that the seats can only be maintained through family members or relatives. Among the 87, sixty-two of them have family members or relatives as replacements, while five have anointed trusted allies as bench warmers. This is one manifestation of the country's weak political party system.

Let us look at the changing of the guards within the family:

10 representatives are to be replaced by their parents (2 mothers; 8 fathers)
13 by their children (11 sons; 1 daughter; 1 grandson)
16 by their espouses (15 wives and 1 husband)
14 by their siblings (13 brothers and 1 sister)
2 by their nephews
2 by their in-laws

But it does not mean political vacation for the 38 out-going representatives as they seek another elective positions. It is not difficult to understand why most out-going representatives seek elective office not lower than governor because the power, porks and perks of a provincial executive is almost the same as congressperson and importantly preserves or expands the family's political base. Most out-going representatives cum mayoral candidates are running in cities or highly urbanized areas, which are the logical political bases to maintain if they decide to make a comeback in the next election.

5 are senatoriables
20 are competing for governors
11 are mayoral candidates
2 for vice-governors
1 for vice-mayor

Local elections in a number of areas is a family affair with two to three members as candidates. But there is an increasing number of family members and relatives joining the electoral fray. To the extent that family members are vying for the same position in one or different electoral jurisdiction. Among the political clans having a congressional candidate and not less than four other members vying for various elective posts are the Singsons of Ilocos Sur; the Ortegas of La Union, the Dys of Isabela, the Josons of Nueva Ecija, the Romualdezes of Leyte; the Tupases of Iloilo; Maranons of Negros Occidental; the Osmenas of Cebu, Teveses of Negros Oriental; the Dimaporos of Lanao del Norte; the Akbars of Basilan; and the Ampatuans of Maguindanao

Among the political clans having more than one congressional candidates are the Singsons of Ilocos Sur; the Bagatsings and Lopezes of Manila; the Gatchalians of Valenzuela; the Ortegas of La Union (with one as party-list nominee); Josons of Nueva Ecija; Remullas of Cavite; the Defensors (Quezon City and Iloilo); the Garcias of Cebu; Jalosjos-Carreon of Zamboanga del Norte; Dimaporo of Lanao del Norte; and Emanos of Misamis Oriental. Imagine if all of these tandems win their races, then another bloc may be formed in the Lower House – the “family duets” club. Much worse, this would further solidify the defense wall against the advocacy to reform the pork barrel allocations of congressmen.

Here are cases for “only in the Philippines” - members of the clan getting at each other's throat for the same congressional seat. Expect an intense rivalries within the Tupa-Suplico clan of Iloilo where Enrique Suplico, a former Army Colonel and younger brother of outgoing Rep. Rolex Suplico is running against his nephew Neil Tupas Jr., the son of reelectionist Governor Neil Tupas for the post in the 5th District of Iloilo. In the first district of Negro Oriental, the post is contested by Olive Paras and Jerome Para, wife and brother of out-going Rep. Jacinto Paras. Also in Negros Oriental, Henry Teves is slugging it out against his uncle Edgar Teves in the 3rd district. It is a father and son contest in the lone district of Camiguin between the older and outgoing Governor Pedro Romualdo against son, former Mayor Epigenio Romualdo.

More than half of the district seats in the House of Representatives are contested by 117 candidates with family members and relatives running for various elective posts. The data culled from the IPD Political Map Data Center shows that, aside from the congressional candidate, he/she has family members and relatives running for:

Senator - 14
Governor - 55
Vice Governor- 12
Representative- 30
Mayor - 47
Councilor - 13
Board Member- 4

There are 125 reelectionist district representatives who could use to their advantage their incumbency (but with difficulty for opposition congresspersons who have been denied their pork barrels the last two years). On the other hand, there are other 104 congressional entrants who could boost their previous political investments by having been in various government posts or having support from people in key government posts.

Out-going councilors - 15
Former congresspersons - 9
Out-going/Former Governors - 23
Out-going/Former Vice-Governors- 8
Out-going Board Members - 8
Out-going/Former Mayors - 17
Former Military and Police Officials- 9
Official in the Burucracy - 9
Comelec Commissioner - 1
Children/Sibling of Top Government Officials-10

What lies ahead of the 14th Congress? If majority of the composition of the House of Representatives will be representing their political family together with other members of the family and relatives posted in various local elective posts, then we can highly expect another administration partisan Lower House and whose positions on policy and national issues will be dependent on family dispositions and locally parochial interests.

Quo Vadis reforms?

April 30, 2007

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