October 11, 2007
Among the most dominant frameworks in Philippine politics is the patron-client perspective, advanced in the 1960s by Carl Lande. It emphasizes the highly personalized, multifunctional social relations defined by dyadic bonds of reciprocity and mutual obligation between two individuals with different level of wealth and influence. The patron is expected, through the use his/her wealth and influence, to provide protection and material well being to the lower status client and his family who in return reciprocates by offering general support and assistance including personal service to the patron.1 The framework assumes a harmonious relationship between the patron and the client, an assumption highly criticized because it gives insufficient consideration of the inequality between them.
Closely related is faction or family/clan framework. It also recognizes the reciprocal exchange like the patron–client relation, but it focuses more on the organizational vehicle for political mobilization. Taking off from the Lande’s conclusion that political parties in the Philippines are devoid of significant differences, they argue that politics can be more characterize as competition among groupings/factions or family constellations. McCoy (1996) furthered this by insisting that it is more appropriate to understand local politics by looking at elite families. According to him, it is the interest and motivations of the elite that shapes the politics. While McCoy acknowledges the use of patron-client as strategy, he also pointed out that elite families likewise use violence and engage in rent seeking in order to maintain or gain dominance.
Earlier research works of the Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD) have utilized political clan as its framework. Guiterrez, et al (1992) ‘believes that clan remains politics remain the most decisive influence in shaping its nature and character’. The power relations and decision making continues to be ‘determined by the motions and dynamics of political clans. In the book ‘All in the Family’, it was found that about fifty-six percent of the winners in the 1988 local elections came from old political clans and their relatives while thirty-two were new contenders. In the succeeding study on the members of the House of Representatives, the situation was more elite domination with seventy-two percent belonging to political families (Gutierrez, 1994). The elected local positions seem to have more room for new comers.
Recognizing the role of coercion and violence is something McCoy shares with John Sidel (1997, 1999). Both scholars have noted the longevity and resiliency of local families, however Sidel do not attribute this only to the use of violence and coercive forms of control over the population but also the decisive role of state structures. He says these two factors facilitate the emergence and entrenchment of local bosses. Control of the state apparatus will allow their hold on coercive violence and provide opportunity to gain more economic resources. Sidel explains what he means by bosses/bossism.
“By ‘bosses’… refers to the predatory power brokers who achieve monopolistic control over both the coercive and economic resources within the territorial jurisdiction or bailiwicks. Bosses thus include para- statal mafias, small town mayors, provincial governors and even presidents. By ‘bossism’ .. alludes to that sophisticated system of brigandage and interlocking multi-tiered directorate of bosses whose control over the state apparatus facilitates their exploitation’s human and natural resources.”
The emergence of political machine comes from the eroding influence of patron-client relationship that has characterized Philippine politics for a long time. It is claimed that as consequence rapid urbanization, decreasing importance of land as the major source of surplus for the local elite, expansion of mass media, ritual kinship ties no longer key to defining political alliances, political machines are replacing family/clans. The ‘professional politicians will also be replacing landlords and traditional politicians who could only provide part of their time in politics (Machado, 1974).
Also common consensus among scholars is the strong-oligarchy, weak-state thesis. There is patrimonial plunder of the state resources. The oligarchy has a blurred sense of what are public goals from personal goals and so they utilized the state apparatus to advance their own personal interest. Hutchcroft (1998) detailed how booty capitalism under a patrimonial oligarchic state was undertaken in the banking sector. The state has given in to the pressure from powerful bankers, because in the first place the country has inherited weak state institutions from its colonial past. Advocates of the strong oligarchy, weak state argument, locate the ‘democratic deficit’ from the haphazardly organized local governments established during the American’s benevolent assimilation. The colonial goals of controlling the country permitted the local elite to invade the state resulting in a lesser ‘state autonomy’.
From the above discussion, we observe two major segments of scholarship complementing each other. Most studies are elite-focused whose findings show enduring elite domination. The other prefers highlighting the weakness of the Philippine state which provide opportunity for predatory oligarch to continue of their patrimonial plunder. Elite-focused studies emphasize so much on role of political actors, especially the dominance the ruling elite holding influential positions while those sort of ‘statist’ stresses the weakness and misgivings of the Philippine state tracing it back to the weak institutions bequeathed from the Americans after independence. While these explanations are correct, an area left unattended, however, is explaining the successful entry of new actors mediated through regular elections. We indicated above that the other side of the coin is the twenty to thirty-five percent new entrants in politics. If traditional political families do fall from their position of advantage, the underlying analytic is under what conditions does it happen and how do new political actors become successful in wrestling power from them.
In studying how less-than-democratic elections could contribute to democratization both under an authoritarian regime and under a clientilistic electoral regime immediately after authoritarian regime's collapse, Franco5 argued that less-than-democratic elections under an authoritarian regime could contribute to democratization if it can create political space for democratic opposition to emerge against the authoritarian rule. Elections primarily called to give legitimacy to the power holders are transformed into political opportunities for the democratic opposition.
On the other hand less- than-democratic elections under a clientilistic electoral regime can further erode authoritarian obstacles to democratization when: one, regional (local) authoritarian elites are either divided or isolated from allies at the national level; two, the democratic opposition is united electorally; and three, there is pre-existing alternative outreach network that enhances political capacity of previously unrepresented groups during and between elections. In the background of her argument is the fact that collapse of authoritarian regimes at the national level does not necessarily mean democratization system-wide. There remains authoritarian enclaves at the provinces and municipalities that hamper conduct of competitive, meaning free and fair, elections at the local level. She cited examples of countries in Latin America and the Philippines where competitive national elections did not mean end of authoritarian practices system-wide. In these countries local elections are controlled by local bosses who among others, have no qualms of employing intimidation and violence.
Franco's main contribution in the literature of local politics is her identification of the conditions surrounding the collapse of regional authoritarian enclaves even under a clientilistic electoral regime. She, however assumed that the democratic opposition do not have links with another set the national elite, or at least linkage with a national personality. On the contrary it helps the candidate of the democratic opposition when he/she have linkage with national elite or personality. Secondly, although she noted the role played of the activist media in the case of the second congressional district in North Cotabato, Philippines in 1987 elections whose activist reporting prevented the local authoritarian elite to rigged the outcome of the elections, she failed to highlight the media's role. An activist media6 that regularly broadcast or publish developments/updates regarding an electoral contest not only provides information to grassroots supporters of the candidate from the democratic opposition so that these supporters can mobilize and troop to the canvassing area if need be, but more importantly an activist media makes the candidate of traditional political families to think twice before employing intimidation, violence and/or cheating in order to influence the election outcome.
While in this paper we validate the significance of the three conditions identified by Franco, the argument we want to pose is their presence is insufficient to cause the collapse of entrenched political families who most of the time employ authoritarian practices. As the following discussions will show show, it is likewise necessary for the candidate of democratic opposition to have linkages to a section of national elite, and second for media to have an activist role, instead of just delivering the news and information.
The Case of Governor Grace Padaca in Isabela, Philippines
The province of Isabela is located up the north of the Philippines. It is the second largest province in terms of land area bounded by Cagayan province in the north, provinces of Nueva Vizcaya and Quirino in the south, provinces of Ifugao, Mountain Province and Kalinga in the west and the Pacific Ocean in the east. The eastern part straddled by the Sierra Madre mountain range is rugged and thickly forested. A substantial portion remain unexplored hinterlands home to rich variety of fauna and flora, while others are government reservations. The province is criss-crossed by three river systems, namely, Cagayan river, Siffu river and Magat river, allowing it to host a big water dam providing electricity and irrigation of the low-lying plane areas.
It is primarily an agricultural province with an estimated population now of 1.4 million inhabitants. Isabela is dubbed the 'rice granary of the North' since it is one of top rice producing provinces. It was created by virtue of a Royal Decree issued on May 1, 1856 delineating its territory out of the provinces of Cagayan and Nueva Vizcaya. The creation of a separate province was to facilitate the work of missionaries in the evangelization of the Cagayan Valley Region. The province was named in honor of Queen Isabela II of Spain, which colonized the Philippines until 1898. It is now composed of 34 municipalities and 3 cities, with Ilagan City as its provincial capital.
For more than thirty years the province is under the administration of the Dy family. It started when the patriarch of the family, Faustino Dy Sr. was elected provincial governor in 1969. Immediately before that, he served first as Cauayan municipal mayor for four years. Since 1969 Faustino Dy Sr. went on to serve as governor until 1986 when the Marcos dictatorship was toppled. A known Marcos supporter he was briefly replaced by an Officer-in-Charge during the initial years of President Corazon Aquino who succeeded Marcos. At that time President Aquino tried to dismantle the control of traditional political families especially those identified with the dictatorship. But Faustino Dy Sr. soon was re-elected again in the 1987 local elections right after ratification of the new Philippine Constitution. Faustino Dy Sr. served until 1992 and later asked his son Benjamin Dy to replace him. In 1993 Faustino Dy Sr. died but his son Benjamin continued the hold of the family in the province. Benjamin served for nine straight years. He was forced to pass the governorship to his half-brother Faustino Dy Jr. in 2001 because he was no longer qualified to run for yet another term.
Faustino Dy Jr. himself is not a political neophyte when he ran for governor in 2001. He had represented the second district of the province in the House of Representatives for three terms or nine years. The other members of Dy clan also occupied, and are until now occupying other local positions. (larwan: Gov Faustino S. Dy, Jr. / www.lpp.gov.ph/
Thus practically members of Dy family are taking turns in controlling the provincial government. But seemingly not contented they are also actively expanding control by contesting other legislative and municipal mayor positions. The clan is so strong and influential that attempts to go against them have failed and usually after elections, the losing challengers are effectively neutralized.
2004 and 2007 Gubernatorial Elections
Grace Padaca got her revenge in 2004 elections when she and then incumbent governor Faustino Dy Jr. squared it off in the elections. In that year elections was for national positions (President,Vice President and Senators) as well as for local positions (legislative district representative, provincial governor, vice -governor, provincial board members, municipal/city mayors and vice mayors ; and municipal/city councilors). For the position of provincial governor Dy was seeking re-election while it was only Padaca who challenged him. According to Dy political operators the governor was confident that he will easily defeat Padaca since the lady does not have the machinery, money and influence14. Besides Faustino Dy Jr. believes that he performed well delivering on services that the people needed.
For Padaca she said she decided to run again in 2004 because the people clamored for change. Recalling her experience in the 2001 election she repeatedly indicated in her media interviews that the greatest pressure was when people told her to continue fighting because they are also fighting for her. In one media article she was quoted “ the people of Isabela were not given a chance to choose, instead we were just being made to perfunctorily write their names in the ballot to legitimize their positions. It came to a point that even a dog can win in an election for as long as it is supported by the Dy family, proof of their power'.
She was also encouraged by other local political and business elites in the province who tried to challenge the Dy's but were unsuccessful. What came easily handy advantage for Padaca's is her clean reputation as a broadcaster where 'she refused bribes from sources and returned their gifts even on Christmas16 and thus she was the candidate of sectors such as the peasants, middle class and the Church. Someone who can give the people an alternative. Lacking with the resources she tapped on these groups to assist in her campaign. Padaca then went on to win as governor with a margin more 44,292 votes over her rival.
This year 2007 she repeated her victory on her third-round bout with the Dy family. This time she defeated Benjamin Dy, the former governor who had occupied the post from 1992-2001. While her electoral margin in this election is lower relative to 2004, what are the conditions that allowed her to wrestle control of the province from the Dy? How did she sustain her victory?
The Local Elite
Isabela have at least six big political families but with the Dy as the most dominant. They are all traditionally active in local politics. While at some periods in history they become rivals, but nevertheless for the last three decades they somehow have manage to divide the positions among themselves. The Dys would get the governor and third district representative; the Albano's would be representing the first district, the Uys would get the second district and alternately the Miranda and Aggabao would represent the fourth district. Usually these families would align with one another depending on their own political interest. In 2004 election Faustino Dy Jr. was also supported by the Aggabao and Albano's clans while the Uy's and Miranda families supported Padaca.
In terms of party affiliation Faustino Dy Jr. was the president of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), a party founded by businessman very close to Marcos Mr. Danding Cojuangco. Mr. Cojuangco chairs the San Miguel Corporation which is the largest food conglomerate in the country. The Albano family are members of Lakas-Christian-Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD). Part of the alliance of Dy and Albano is the formal alliance between NPC and Lakas-CMD at the national level. Representative Edwin Uy of second district is also a member of Lakas-CMD but because the party alliance was just loose and more directed on the presidential contest, Uy opted to support Grace Padaca. Secondly the Uy's are rivals of the Dy's.
The Aggabao are rivals of the Miranda's in the fourth district. Aggabao is a also a member of NPC while Miranda was with the Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP). Aggabao supported Dy while Miranda went for Padaca. Thus the alignment the local political elites was such that Dy-Albano-Aggabao families on one side while Uy-Miranda on other side. Clearly while Dy is the only elite candidate for governor, not all the ruling political elites in Isabela province are behind his candidacy.
Because 2004 was also a presidential election alignment with national elite was all the more important. Through this alignments resources can be accessed and networks can be expanded. Dy as member of the NPC is supporting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo who was running her own full six year term. She has formed K4 coalition composed of half of NPC, Lakas-CMD, Liberal Party and PDSP. On the other hand Padaca was running under smaller Aksyon Demokratiko Party whose presidential standard bearer was former senator Raul Roco. Roco was at first leading in presidential survey but in the middle of his campaign it lost steam and strategy. He finished fourth among the five presidential candidates. But nonetheless the linkage of local candidates to national elites proved critical later on in the canvassing and proclamation of the winner.
It took more than a month before Grace Padaca was finally proclaimed as the winner in the 2004 elections. The Dy camp successfully delayed the canvassing of votes by filing a series of pre-proclamation cases that the Provincial Board of Canvassers have to give due course by setting a hearing and promulgating a decision. It was further delayed when Dy even appealed PBOC decisions to the Comelec en banc at the Central Office.
There were attempts to manipulate the election outcome. But the vigilance of Padaca's supporters who have taken turns in coming to the capitol compound where the canvassing is held prevented execution of any special operations by the Dy camp. Fortunately the local Comelec registrar brought home with him the certificate of canvass (CoC) which he was able to deliver to the provincial capitol.
Another attempt was when the canvassing was on-going in the provincial gymnasium at the capitol compound, there was also an attempt to effect a brownout. Again the perpetrators allegedly linked with the Dys committed a mistake by cutting-off electricity in the capitol building instead of the adjacent gymnasium.
When the canvassing process was getting delayed presidential candidate Raul Roco traveled to Isabela to give direct support to her partymate Grace Padaca. His visit provided additional national media attention on the case of Isabela which taking a long time to proclaim its governor. Finally after a long wait Grace Padaca was proclaimed winner in the electoral contest by June 15, 2004 when Comelec en banc dismissed the remaining issues raised by Dy. Our interviewees for this paper revealed that Roco before conceding to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the presidential contest have specifically asked the President to request Comelec to proclaim Padaca. Comelec is supposed to be independent from the President but informations like this are not surprising in the Philippines because its democratic institutions are generally weak.
Ironically the nine towns are in the area of the Albano's who shifted their support to Padaca when Dy substituted the candidacy of Faustino Dy Jr. with that of Benjamin Dy. Apparently Dy and Albano families had a unity pact where Tonypet Albano will not pursue running for governor but instead support the attempt of Faustino Jr. to reclaim his old post. But instead Benjamin Dy who ran. Feeling betrayed by the last-minute substitution, the Albano's then lend their political machinery to Padaca and campaigned for her.
For the 2007 election Padaca ran under the Liberal Party (LP) headed by ex Senate President Franklin Drilon. LP was the declared by Comelec as the dominant opposition party, allowing it to receive the 6th copy of the certificates of canvass from the Comelec. During the delays in the canvassing and proclamation, the LP held a press conference in Manila urging Comelec to dismiss the petition to declare failure of elections in district one. Drilon chided the compliant because the same election returns (CoCs) that were petitioned for exclusion in the canvassing are the ones used by Comelec in proclaiming Rodolfo Albano Jr. as the duly elected representative. The LP then asked “ while the election returns were valid in so far as Congressmen Albano and the vice governor are concerned, it became questionable when it came to Governor Padaca?”
On June 28, 2007 Padaca was finally proclaimed winner. She received 235,128 votes while Dy got 220,121 votes or a lead of 17,007 votes.
The United Opposition
A second condition necessary in the collapse of traditional political clans is that democratic opposition should be united electorally. In this case there is unity within the ranks of the broad democratic opposition. For the first time in four decades that a United Opposition emerged in Isabela, all rallying behind the candidacy of Grace Padaca. The democratic opposition was not limited to organized left and progressive groups but instead a mix of some local elite and businessmen, progressive party-list, religious sector and sectoral formations. Thus Congressmen Edwin Uy of Lakas-CMD; Pempe Miranda of the Partido ng Masang Pilipino and Akbayan, Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis were part of the United Opposition.
Sectoral groups were the peasants belonging to the Danggayan Ti Mannalon Dagiti Isabela or DAGAMI ( a peasant federation); youth volunteers and students, the Catholic Church as well as Protestant denominations have also lend support to her candidacy. DAGAMI is said to be strong in the forested area of the province and is organizationally present in more than half of the 37 towns and cities of the province. In terms of mobilizing capacity it was observed that DAGAMI can mobilized as much as two thousand farmers, clearly showing a strong organization.
To the businessmen the continuing reign of the Dy's would further deprived them of economic opportunities. Most of the businesses in the province are either controlled by the Dy family or their allies. For example the distribution of San Miguel products from beer to soft drinks, poultry and even dairy products in the entire region are in the hands of the Dy. They are also involved in local hotels and inns (Dy owns the Isabela Hotel), aside from control of the trucking services that brings out from Isabela thousand tons of rice and corn to Manila and Bulacan. Mr. Danding Cojuangco in had an ingenuous of way of keeping loyalty of local political families from the provinces by giving them franchise of the distribution of San Miguel products in their local territories.
The masses were obviously for Padaca. The peasants were complaining of rampant land grabbing during the reign of Gov. Faustino Dy when he introduced contract growing of cassava to be supplied to San Miguel Corporation chaired by Danding Cojuangco. According to documents, the targeted area is as much as 220,000 of land to be cultivated with cassava. Affected towns were Mallig, Quezon, Quirino, San Mariano, Benito Soliven, etc. who are traditionally areas with rice and corn. The actual area did not even reach a thousand hectares since the project failed to take-off with resistance of the farmers until Dy lost in the election and replaced in the provincial capitol.
Other issues like continued logging while there is a logging ban in the whole Cagayan Valley Region were raised against Dy. Also his approval of mining was likewise disapproved by the people and the Bishop of Ilagan Diocese. On top of it all is the unabated jueteng in province despite the serious campaign from the Church to get rid of the illegal numbers game.
Because of the broad support she is getting from organized peasant and other sectors one issue raised against Padaca is the support given to her by the New Peoples Army (NPA) the armed group of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Her opponent Faustino Dy Jr. in one media television interview, reasoned out that 'what happened was, this Ms. Padaca is from the media and she is being used by the NPA. She is the candidate of the NPA and of the church”. Padaca denied she is being used by the NPA. In fact she said that she berated the NPA and CPP during the canvassing in 2001 when they express support for her, deploring the cheating that was done by the Dy's when throughout the campaign CPP-NPA were very silent. They did not support her in the campaign.
Alternative Outreach Network
Isabela has years experience of community organizing most of which were made through programs of the local Catholic Church, the protestant denominations as well and the development non-government organizations which implemented various kinds of economic and social programs. Part of the Church evangelization is the formation Basic Christian Communities (BCC) where youth and adult alike though in reality it is primarily the youth, were thought of catechism. In general the BCC is Isabela were more conservative compared to those in new diocese in Mindanao where the work of BCC highly influenced by liberation theology. Nonetheless the BCC made contributions in developing lay leaders. Protestant churches had their own parish organizing. Depending on the sect they belong they formed organizations for the children, youth and adults. Similar with the Catholics the formations of the Protestants was primarily to facilitate church related activities and programs and in the process develop leadership among the lay people. These experiences in organizing made easier mobilization of the parishioners aimed at protecting and safeguarding peoples right to vote.
How did the Church help Padaca? The Church has dissuaded PPCRV from openly campaigning for Padaca since PPCRV should remain non-partisan but their presence in the precincts and during the canvassing prevented the resorting to tactics of electoral fraud. Secondly, the Diocese of Ilagan opted not to endorse a candidate but Bishop Utleg issued a pastoral letter advising the flock on how they will choose the candidate to vote for governor. In the pastoral letter the Church told the people not to vote for candidates who are involved in land grabbing, who are supportive of mining and those suspected of protecting jueteng lords. Although it didn't directly endorse Grace Padaca the fact that is enumerated the very issues raised against Faustino Dy Jr. it served as an indirect endorsement.
Non-government organizations have organized peoples organizations in the communities for specific issue-based advocacies, most notable of which is the struggle for agrarian reform and rural development in the province. The DAGAMI peasant federation for example increased awareness of the people on economic and social issues in many town of the province that it was easy to mobilized them in electoral advocacies. There were also a number of women and indigenous peoples federations. But in addition to these sectoral organization the party-list groups which supported Padaca like Akbayan, Bayan Muna, AnakPawis and Gabriela have their respective provincial and municipal chapters that continuously recruit new members in their respective areas. These local chapters of the party-list groups also formed the backbone of their own campaign machineries during elections.
The case of Grace Padaca in Isabela in 2004 and 2007 reflects the crucial role of an activist media. Activist meaning media practitioners not limited to their 'traditional role of being mere observer and reporter of events but of a activist role of watchdog and participant in the electoral process'.
The Dy versus Padaca is a classic David versus Goliath fight. The former considered as the Goliath being the new patriarch of the Dy political clan who has behind his back more than three decades of political control in the province. Not to mention the physical and financial resources at his disposal. The latter is regarded David because of her disadvantages in resources, machinery and influence with ruling national elite. It is no wonder then that their fight captured broad local and national media attention.
In both 2004 and 2007 elections Isabela local politics generated greater media focus. The major dailies like the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Philippine Star almost have daily news articles updating on the developments in the Isabela electoral contest. News magazines like Newsbreak and web-based Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism also came up with several interesting articles on the Dy-Padaca fight. Recently this year the Philippine Daily Inquirer had it in its editorial, Proclaiming Grace.22 The local broadcast media kept the people informed of the progress in the electoral contest.
The visit of then presidential candidate Raul Roco during the stand-off in the canvassing of votes at the provincial gymnasium in 2004 boosted the media attention on Padaca's fight of Goliath. With newsmen accompanying Roco the new spread to a broader public and made people throughout the country aware of the issue. The same is true in 2007 when the Liberal Party held a press conference complaining of the delay in Padaca's proclamation.
So much media attention did not come without repercussions though. On the eve of election day in 2004 Bombo Radio was ordered closed down by Comelec. It was then Commissioners Rufino Javier and Virgilio Garcillano23 who signed the closure order alleging that the radio station is engage in partisan campaigning. Actually it was the third time Bombo Radio was closed down that year ostensibly because it failed to get a business permit in Cauayan City where Dy's brother Ceasar was the city mayor.
Of course Padaca being a 14-year broadcaster herself might have the support of her former colleagues. Beyond that however is the feat of wrestling local control from an enduring and well-entrenched political dynasty.