POLITICS IN THE PHILIPPINES

POLITICS IN THE PHILIPPINES

Politics in the Philippines has traditionally been dominated by clans and political bosses and patronage and is characterized by law makers that make decisions based on fiscal incentives rather that beliefs and voters that make choices based on personality rather than reasoned policies. Under the traditional itang na loob system of patronage, or obligation earned through favors, voters expect money or jobs in return for their political support. In many cases politician’s performance was based on dole-outs not on programs or policies. Philippine concepts about debt repayment and kinship responsibilities plays a major role in how political networks are set up and run (See FILIPINO CHARACTER AND PERSONALITY: HIYA, AMOR PROPIO Under People).

Personalities are more important than parties in Philippine politics. Movie stars and other celebrities have enjoyed considerable success. In addition1, several prominent families play a disproportionate role in politics. The support of the military and the Catholic church are key to political survival and success in the Philippines. Promises are generally not kept. Arroyo, for example, pledged to bring cheap power to the poor as a campaign pledge and then doubled power rates after she was elected. She also promised not to run for a second time but changed her mind because she said God made her decide to run.

The Philippines is known for its rough-and-tumble political scene. Politicians are rountinely killed and sometimes they even do the do the killing themselves. Every now and then it seems the entire country is on the verge of collapse because of a coup attempt, People Power protest or impeachment effort. On the day-to-day level, politicians are unable to achieve many of their goals and carry out programs they proposed due to political opposition, mainly from the ruling elite. Arroyo and her cabinet said that political fighting and sniping exhausted and frustrated them deeply.

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the New York Times, “In the Philippines, politics is a blood sport. Here, politicians often behave like gladiators: To survive they have to entertain the spectators. The turmoil from the [Arroyo] scandal has once again brought Filipinos and their unique brand of rambunctious democracy to international attention, providing a sideshow to the more pressing problems. Filipinos are no longer surprised by election fraud. Thanks to the damage Ferdinand Marcos, the dictator, did to the democratic institutions that American-style democracy helped establish after World War II, and the prevalence of an almost feudal political structure, particularly in the provinces, Filipinos have come to accept election cheating as normal. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, New York Times, July 2, 2005]

Pollster Social Weather Station and Pulse Asia.

Development of Philippines Politics After the Marcos

In 1991 Philippine politics resembled nothing so much as the "good old days" of the pre-martial law period--wide-open, sometimes irresponsible, but undeniably free. Pre-martial law politics, however, essentially were a distraction from the nation's serious problems. The parties were completely nonideological. Therefore, politicians and office-holders switched parties whenever it seemed advantageous to do so. Almost all politicians were wealthy, and many were landlords with large holdings. They blocked moves for social reform; indeed, they seemed not to have even imagined that society required serious reform. Congress acquired a reputation for corruption that made the few honest members stand out. When Marcos closed down Congress in 1972, hardly anyone was disappointed except the members themselves. *

The February 1986 People's Power Revolution, also called the EDSA Revolution had restored all the prerequisites of democratic politics: freedom of speech and press, civil liberties, regularly scheduled elections for genuine legislatures, plebiscites, and ways to ensure honest ballot counting. But by 1991 the return to irrelevant politics had caused a sense of hopelessness to creep back into the nation that five years before had been riding the euphoric crest of a nonviolent democratic revolution. In 1986 it seemed that democracy would have one last chance to solve the Philippines' deep-rooted social and economic problems. Within five years, it began to seem to many observers that the net result of democracy was to put the country back where it had been before Marcos: a democratic political system disguising an oligarchic society. *

Powerful Families in Philippine Politics

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: “Philippine elections have long been dominated by politicians belonging to the same bloodlines. At least 250 political families have monopolized power across the country, although such dynasties are prohibited under the 1987 constitution. Congress — long controlled by members of powerful clans targeted by the constitutional ban — has failed to pass the law needed to define and enforce the provision. "Wherever you go, you see the names of these people since we were kids. It is still them," businessman Martin Tunac, 54, said after voting in Manila. "One of the bad things about political dynasties is they control everything, including business." [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, May 13, 2013 |=|]

“School counselor Evelyn Dioquino said that the proliferation of political dynasties was a cultural issue and other candidates stood little chance because clans "have money, so they are the only ones who can afford (to run). Of course, if you have no logistics, you can't run for office." Critics worry that a single family's stranglehold on different levels of government could stymie checks against abuses and corruption. A widely cited example is the 2009 massacre of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in an ambush blamed on rivalry between powerful clans in southern Maguindanao province. |=|

Ana Maria Tabunda from the independent pollster Pulse Asia said that dynasties restrict democracy, but added that past surveys by her organization have shown that most Filipinos are less concerned about the issue than with the benefits and patronage they can receive from particular candidates. Voters also often pick candidates with the most familiar surnames instead of those with the best records, she said. "It's name recall, like a brand. They go by that," she said. |=|

The American anthropologist Brian Fegan, writing in "An Anarchy of Families," a book published in the 1990s, told the New York Times that "the Filipino family is the most enduring political unit and the one into which, failing some wider principle of organization, all other units dissolve." Filipinos look at political continuity as merely the transfer of power among family members, Fegan said. Thus, they also look at political competition in terms of rivalry between families. "A family that has once contested an office, particularly if it has once won it, sets its eye on that office as its permanent right," Fegan said. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2005 \~/]

Political Family Dynasties in the Philippines

Politics in the Philippines has been dominated by powerful families for as long as anyone can remember. Aquino was the wife of a opposition leader. Arroyo was the daughter of a president. In 2004, Arroyo’s son and brother-in-law held Congressional seats and five relatives of Aquino were in Congress and one was a Senator. Even the Marcos family remains powerful and influential in Philippines politics, especially in northen Luzon. Many local positions and governments are dominated by clans and powerful and wealthy families.

One Philippine political analyst told the Washington Post, “Some dynasties have made positive contributions, but by and large the dynastic system in the Philippines has stunted the growth of real democracy. It is not representative of the broad majority in any place.” Efforts to reduce the hold on power of local families by establishing term limits has meant that families hand over power from one family member to another.

The system of family dynasties has its roots in U.S. colonial rule when initially voting rights were only granted to Filipinos with property and education, allowing the landed aristocracy to attain a monopoly of power in the provinces. The United States also put in place a Congressional system that allowed families to establish local fiefdoms rather than fostering competition through an electoral list system.

This trend is beginning to change in some places. Grace Padaca, a former radio commentator, was elected governor of Isabela Province in 2004. She moved into the mansion of the former governor, from the powerful Dy family, thought he had built for himself. Padaca won by nonstop campaigning and dedicated grassroots volunteer movement.

Filipino Clans, Celebrities Dominate Midterm Polls in 2013

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of Philippine political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots for congressional and local elections, which will gauge popular support for the president's anti-corruption drive and other reforms. [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, May 13, 2013 |=|]

“Among 33 senatorial candidates are two of Aquino's relatives, Binay's neophyte daughter, Estrada's son, a son of the sitting chamber president, a son of a late president, a spouse and children of former senators and there's a possibility that two pairs of siblings will be sitting in the me house. Currently, 15 senators have relatives serving in elective positions. The race for the House is even more of a family affair. Toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos' widow, the flamboyant 83-year-old Imelda, is expected to keep her seat as a representative for Ilocos Norte province, the husband's birthplace where the locals kept electing the Marcoses despite allegations of corruption and abuse during their long rule. Marcos' daughter, Imee is seeking re-election as governor and the son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., is already a senator. Boxing star and incumbent Rep. Manny Pacquiao is running unopposed and building a dynasty of his own: his brother Rogelio is running to represent his southern district and his wife Jinkee is vying to become vice-governor for Sarangani province. |=|

Palakasan System" in the Philippine Government

Iamthur.blogspot.jp reported: “How to get a job in the Philippine Government provided that there is a vacancy? First, you must be a Filipino citizen. Then, you should have a bachelor's degree related to the job, certification of eligibility from Civil Service Commission, experience related to the job, and other documents as the office/agency concerned may require. But in these days, there is a big problem. In a partisan system if they suspect you for not voting for a certain winning candidate, your chances to get hired even though you're qualified is lame. That's sad but true. [Source: iamthur.blogspot.jp ==]

“This scenario has been the headache for long a time. The recent official that being seated on certain position will going to terminate all people that being hired under the term of previous official. I can say this because, I already witnessed this when I visit our municipality. I've noticed that there are new faces working there, and old employees are replaced already. ==

“Nowadays in Philippines, it is very difficult to acquire a job in the government. Even though you have the qualities, abilities, and capabilities that match the criteria for a certain job you're applying for, sometimes it just not enough to get the job. That's because you don't have what they call a "backer", it's a certain people in the government with a high position or ranking that supposedly one of your relatives, friends or acquaintances. There are lots of people getting hired easily in the government even though they don't have what it takes for that certain position, but they made it possible because of their contacts(red tape) in the government. It is what you called the "Palakasan System" that run for so long. It's very unfair and disappointing to those honest and deserving Filipino job-seekers who aim to work for the government. ==

“The government now is full of corrupt people. I'm still hoping that someday this system will be changed. All corrupt must be washed out, and let the honest and dignified people work for their beloved county, who looks equally to all people under their good governance.” ==

Old-Style Politics in the Philippines Countryside

Philippine politics, along with other aspects of society, rely heavily on kinship and other personal relationships. To win a local election, one must assemble a coalition of families. To win a provincial election, the important families in each town must be drawn into a wider structure. To win a national election, the most prominent aristocratic clans from each region must temporarily come together. A family's power is not necessarily precisely correlated with wealth--numbers of followers matters more--but the middle class and the poor are sought mainly for the votes that they can deliver. Rarely will they be candidates themselves. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The suspension of elections during martial law seemed at first to herald a radical centralization of power in Manila, specifically in the Marcos and Romualdez clans, but traditional provincial oligarchs resurfaced when Aquino restored elections. To the dismay of her more idealistic followers, Aquino followed her brother's advice and concluded agreements with many former Marcos supporters who were probably going to win elections anyway. About 70 percent of the candidates elected to the House of Representatives in 1987 were scions of political dynasties. They included five relatives of Aquino: a brother, an uncle, a sister-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a cousin. Another brotherin -law was elected to the Senate. The newly elected Congress passed a bill prohibiting close relatives of government officials from becoming candidates, but it did not take effect until after the 1988 local elections. Many of the same prominent families who had dominated Philippine society from the Spanish colonial period returned to power. Commonly, the same two families vie for control of provinces. The specific reason for social and political bipolarity is not known, but it nourishes feuds between rival clans that are renewed generation after generation. *

Coercion is an alternative to buying votes. Because the population of the Philippines has multiplied by a factor of nine in the twentieth century, there is not enough land to go around. As a result, tenant-landlord relationships have become more businesslike and less personal, and some old elite families now rely on force to protect their interests. Article 18 of the constitution directs the dismantling of all "private armies," but it seemed unlikely that it could be enforced. *

Failure of People in the Philippines

Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves of Associated Press wrote: “The world watched in awe in 1986 as Filipinos, clutching rosaries and flowers, mounted a human barricade against tanks and troops and brought dictator Ferdinand Marcos down without a shot. What they did gave birth to the term "people power." Fifteen years later similar forces toppled President Joseph Estrada over alleged corruption, and even now, the nation's democracy remains fragile.” In the late 2000s, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faced impeachment proceedings over allegations of vote-rigging and corruption and declared a state of emergency to quashed a coup plot. She said the political opposition and extremists on both left and right were determined to bring down her elected government. [Source: Jim Gomez and Oliver Teves Associated Press, February 25, 2006 +^+]

“Has "people power" gotten out of hand in the island nation where it was born? Even its most prominent beneficiary, Corazon Aquino, who succeeded the ousted Marcos in 1986, thinks so. "I would still prefer that we do it through a constitutional process," she said recently when asked if she would join an uprising against Arroyo. "Things are different now, we have other options." Besides democracy, little has changed in this nation of 86 million. It remains mired in appalling poverty, rural backwardness, chronic inequality, long-running Marxist and Muslim insurgencies and chaotic politics. Imelda Marcos, the dictator's widow once reviled for the extravagance epitomized by her vast shoe collection, retains political clout and still shows up occasionally to work the Manila social circuit. +^+

“The images of "people power" are fading into history, but remain iconic: nuns kneeling in prayer in front of tanks, and unarmed civilians trying to push back military vehicles with their bare hands. Historian Maria Serena Diokno said the administrations of Aquino and Arroyo, both from wealthy landowning clans, faced the same accusations as their predecessors - human rights violations, massive corruption and failure to enforce effective land reform. +^+

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “If there is any consensus it is that the system has to go, says Manuel Quezon 3rd, a political analyst and historian. "The problem is, no one agrees what system to replace it with," Quezon said.Experts on politics and governance do agree, however, that the families and politicians who have a lock on government here have been the bane of Filipinos, thriving on so-called patronage politics that keeps democratic processes in a state of dysfunction. The result is a faulty electoral system, a low level of political awareness among the populace and a degree of corruption that has seriously damaged Philippine society and hobbled economic development. [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2005 \~/]

“All of these factors conspire to push the country near the edge of chaos in a kind of cyclical pattern that has decayed what was once among the region's most promising democracies. Worse, the few new and young leaders who emerge are frequently co-opted by traditional politicians. These new leaders then establish political dynasties themselves or fortify existing ones, perpetuating a vicious circle.” \~/

Why the Powerful Family and Patronage System Endure in the Philippines

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “The reality here is that the same old faces, the same old families and the same old interests continue to hold sway over the political life of this country. The Philippines, which once boasted an intelligentsia that was deemed the most sophisticated in Southeast Asia, is still going through what one Filipino columnist recently called "the most drawn out political adolescence in modern history." [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2005 \~/]

“Why do a few oligarchic families continue to dominate the political life of this former Spanish colony, in a pattern once familiar in many Latin-influenced countries? To put the question another way, why has the Philippines failed to produce a leader like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil, a figure who springs from the bottom up and who, for better or worse, ushers in new politics that, on the surface at least, promise a better life for the people? \~/

Clarita Carlos, an expert on governance and politics at the University of the Philippines, said she believed that Philippine politics merely facilitated the "circulation of elites, people who have mastered how to be economically and socially mobile by taking advantage of the limitations of the system." As a result, the Filipino political class "has become so inbred that they've become detached from the concerns of the majority," said Quezon, who is himself the grandson of a former president. \~/

“In a healthy political environment, Quezon said, the oligarchy would relinquish power to a new political class. "Sadly, this is something most Filipino oligarchs never did," he said.Steven Rood, the country representative here of The Asia Foundation and an expert on local governance, thinks it is not so much a question of why Philippine politics has the same faces but why the situation has not changed over many decades. "I would say that the basic fundamental reason is that the people who run the system are the ones benefiting enough from it that they're worried about change," Rood said. That has been the case for decades and, as Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation explained, "there's an enormous amount of historical continuity at play" in the present crisis. Rood traces this back to the period of Spanish colonization and the American colonization that followed it. \~/

"The two decades of Marcos blocked off a generation of young, emerging leaders," said Nereus Acosta, a 39-year-old congressman who teaches public policy at the Ateneo School of Government. After Marcos was toppled in 1986, the political families that he cultivated were replaced by new ones allied to the next regime, that of Corazón Aquino. As if that were not enough, the lines that at first separated Marcos and anti-Marcos politics became so blurred that it is not surprising today to find a former Marcos foe hobnobbing with the scions and friends of the former dictator. Switching sides thus became widespread. Filipino political parties had intermarried to such an extent that, today, it is difficult to know which party is allied with whom. "We're paying for this damage now," Acosta said. \~/

“Given this, Acosta said, it would be difficult for idealism to evolve. "You may have new guys coming out, yes, but unfortunately, wealth and power being so confined to a few, this new generation will have limitations," he said. There has never been a shortage of idealistic Filipinos who can provide the kind of strong leadership the country needs. "Believe me, there are many Filipinos who are competent," said Carlos, the political science professor. The problem is, officials said, once they are inside the system, they are easily compromised. \~/

Is the U.S. to Blame for the Philippines’s Political Failures

Steven Rood of The Asia Foundation told the International Herald Tribune that the Americans did not change the Filipino social structure. "They imposed a political system that allowed this social structure to gain political power," he said. "It's been the marriage of social position and political power ever since that produced essentially the same state that we have now." [Source: Carlos H. Conde, International Herald Tribune, July 16, 2005 \~/]

Luis Teodoro, the executive director of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, a political research institute in Manila, told the International Herald Tribune that the Americans had a hand in this predicament. They supported regimes led by powerful political families who, in turn, furthered American interests and helped suppress the nationalist politicians who tended to undermine them. "To a great extent, the United States is responsible for keeping these political dynasties in power," Teodoro said. Without U.S. support, he said by way of example, the regime of Ferdinand Marcos would not have lasted as long as it did and Marcos would not have been able to inflict the heavy damage on political institutions here that he is generally held responsible for. \~/

Carlos H. Conde wrote in the International Herald Tribune, “Marcos persecuted the oligarchs who went against him and befriended those who were willing to cooperate with his regime. While he used these families to prop up his regime and amass the wealth for which he would later be infamous, these families went on to exploit their ties with him, widening and strengthening their political bases and enriching themselves even more. Marcos, in turn, used these power bases, particularly in the provinces, to keep himself in the presidential palace. This resulted in a kind of political interregnum. Because the dictator, his wife, Imelda, and his closest cronies were the only kingmakers, they either corrupted young and idealistic politicians or made sure that those who could challenge them did not stand a chance. \~/

Philippine Mayor Killed at Manila Airport

Political violence is not confined to candidates running in elections that threaten the oligarchy status quo. It can strike sitting politicians—and innocent bystanders. In December 2013, Al Jazeera reported: “Gunmen have shot dead a town mayor and three other people at the airport in Manila, sending travellers fleeing for safety, authorities said. Ukol Talumpa, the mayor of the town of Labangan in Zamboanga del Sur province, was killed together with his wife, an 18-month-old baby and one other person, Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan reported from Manila on Friday. Four other people were wounded in the incident, airport manager Jose Honrado said. [Source: Al Jazeera, December 20, 2013]

“Honrado said that Talumpa was waiting for a ride with his family outside an airport terminal when the gunmen on a motorcycle shot him and others at close range. Airport security force chased the gunmen but they escaped on their vehicle in the heavy late-morning traffic outside the terminal, Honrado said. He added that the authorities did not know the identity of the attackers nor the motive for the attack "Government agencies are trying their best to determine the perpetrators and bring them to justice," the airport manager said. Talumpa, a member of the political opposition, won a hotly contested electoral contest for mayor of Labangan in last May's local elections. [Ibid]

Politicians in the Philippines

Personality and image count for a lot on Philippines politics. Presidential candidates have included high school drop out movie stars. In some cases they have had no public service experience before running for office. It is common in Philippine politics for movie stars, basketball players and comedians to be elected to public office. The two top vote getters in a 1992 Senate election were a former action-movie star and slapstick comedian. In the 1998 election, more than 100 candidates in national elections were former entertainers. Former police chief and Manila mayor Alfredo Lim was nicknamed "Dirty Harry" for having little respect for civil liberties.

According to everyculture.com: “Men of rank in the military also move into the political arena. Joseph Estrada, whose term as president is 1998–2004, entered the public eye as a popular film star. He then became the mayor of a large city and went on to become vice president in the Ramos administration. Previous presidents have had political or military backgrounds, with the exception of Corazon Aquino, the president from 1986 to 1992, who became politically active after her husband was assassinated. [Source: everyculture.com]

It is also not unusual for Philippines politicians to have a criminal record. The top politician on the island of Palawan, Edward Hagedorn. who has been greatly praised for his can do achievements, himself grew up as a petty criminal and became a gambling lord who was jailed for allegedly killing two policeman in a shootout and abandoned his wife and child to live with a showgirl he met at a bar. Using managment skills that he may have picked as a gangster he got roads paves, cracked down on illegal logging and fishing, and delivered on promises of bringing low-cost housing, clinics and garbage collection to remote villages. Hagedorn became so famous his life was made into a film staring future presidential candidate Edward Poe.

Ferdinand Marcos was accused of killing a man. President Joseph Estrada and popular politician and president candidate Edward Poe were popular actors. See History

Speaker Jose de Venecia: the Consumate Filipino Politician

Bong Austero wrote in his blog: “Speaker Jose de Venecia says he now wants to spend the last years of his life building his legacy to the Filipino people. The speaker is 70 years old. He is the longest-serving speaker of the House of Representatives. He could have been president of this country had it not been for the fact that someone more popular and more in touch with the common man was also running for the post in that particular election. He lost to Joseph Estrada, the actor. His running mate, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, however, won the vice presidency. Estrada would eventually get booted out of office, tried, and convicted for plunder. And as fate would have it, De Venecia’s running mate became President. [Source: bongaustero.blogspot.jp, October 22, 2007 /=\]

“For quite sometime, De Venecia’s political fortunes were in limbo. But he eventually bounced back from the pits and reclaimed his seat as speaker of the House of Representatives, proof of the man’s resilience and tenacity as a political animal. This is a man who has fought many battles; a man who speaks with the wisdom of not only the aged, but of someone who has been a constant fixture in the political scene in the last four or five decades. In another time and place, when someone of De Venecia’s stature and experience speaks of moral regeneration and of the urgency of reclaiming the country’s pride and honor, we should be compelled to sit up and listen. /=\

“Sadly, this does not seem to be the case today. It has become difficult to empathize with the man. Not only because in all his TV appearances last week the speaker came across as a forlorn figure, of someone betrayed and on the brink of defeat. There was no fire in his eyes and his rhetoric lacked conviction. This is sad because what De Venecia is saying is true. This country needs moral regeneration. But corruption has not only become systemic and widespread, brazen and so unspeakably scandalous. We also know theoretical solutions and intellectual discussions won’t be enough. What we need are drastic and more effective courses of action. /=\

“It is difficult to empathize with De Venecia and his cause because despite the grand pronouncements, it is clear that the man is simply fighting for political survival. This is evident in the way De Venecia continues to hem and haw about where his political loyalties now reside. Despite thinly veiled threats about possible courses of actions that he might take if the current dispensation continues to marginalize him, we know that his main motivation is self-preservation. He wants to retire as speaker and this is only possible if he plays his cards right. It’s a political zarzuela. De Venecia is saying all the right things but unfortunately fails to buttress his rhetoric with the necessary actions indicative of moral courage. Thus, we can be forgiven for not trusting him at this point.” /=\

Political Parties in the Philippines

Political parties and leaders: 1) Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (Struggle of Filipino Democrats) or LDP [Edgardo Angara]; 2) Lakas ng EDSA-Christian Muslim Democrats or Lakas-CMD [Manuel "Mar" Roxas]; 3) Liberal Party or LP [Manuel Roxas]; 4) Nacionalista Party or NP [Manuel "Manny" Villar]; 4) Nationalist People's Coalition or NPC [Frisco San Juan]; 5) PDP-Laban [Aquilino Pimentel]; 6) People's Reform Party [Miriam Defensor Santiago]; 7) Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Force of the Philippine Masses) or PMP [Joseph Estrada]. The United Nationalist Alliance or [UNA] - PDP-Laban and PMP coalition for the 2013 election. Political pressure groups and leaders: Black and White Movement [Vicente Romano]; Kilosbayan [Jovito Salonga] [Source: CIA World Factbook]

Philippine political parties are essentially nonideological vehicles for personal and factional political ambition. Ruling party: The Liberal Party is the party of Benigno Aquino III, the current president of the Philippines. The Liberal Party, a democratic-elitist party founded in 1946, survived fourteen years of dormancy (1972 to 1986), largely through the staunch integrity of its central figure, Senate president Jovito Salonga, a survivor of the Plaza Miranda grenade attack of September 1971. In 1991 Salonga also was interested in the presidency, despite poor health and the fact that he is a Protestant in a largely Catholic country. Former President Macapagal-Arroyo is a member of the conservative Lakas-Christian Muslim Democratic Party (Lakas-CMD).

Political parties are not that strong in the Philippines. Rewriting the constitution to eliminate term limits and establishing a strong two-party system are the reforms that are discussed most often. Politicians move from party to party as the needs of their constituencies dictate because the political parties have no ideologies. [Source: everyculture.com]

Senate - percent of vote by party for 2013 election - UNA 26.94 percent, NP 15.3 percent, LP 11.32 percent, NPC 10.15 percent, LDP 5.38 percent, PDP-Laban 4.95 percent, others 9.72 percent, independents 16.24 percent; seats by party after 2013 election - UNA 5, NP 5, LP 4, Lakas 2, NPC 2, LDP 1, PDP-Laban 1, PRP 1, independents 3; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - LP 38.3 percent, NPC 17.4 percent, UNA 11.4 percent, NUP 8.7 percent, NP 8.5 percent, Lakas 5.3 percent, independents 6.0 percent, others 4.4 percent; seats by party - LP 110, NPC 43, NUP 24, NP 17, Lakas 14, UNA 8, independents 6, others 12; party-list 57 [Source: CIA World Factbook]

After the May 2004 election, Lakas controlled the largest faction in the House of Representatives (100 seats). Lakas-CMD has formed a governing coalition with the Liberal Party (32 seats). Others major parties in the House at that time were the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (47 seats), led by the business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco; Struggle for Democratic Filipinos (nine seats); Nationalista Party (six seats); Akbayan (three seats); Association of Philippine Electric Co-operatives (three seats); Bayan Muna (three seats); Power of the Filipino Masses (three seats); Aksyon Demokratiko, Promdi, and Reporma, which have formed an alliance (two seats); Philippine Democratic Party (two seats); and Philippines Democratic Socialist Party (two seats).

The Communists (NPA) split among the ranks.

Political Parties After the Ouster of Marcos

Political parties grew in profusion after the Marcos martiallaw regime (1972-81) was ended. There were 105 political parties registered in 1988. As in the pre-Marcos era, most legal political parties were coalitions, built around prominent individuals, which focused entirely on winning elections, not on what to do with the power achieved. There was little to distinguish one party from another ideologically, which was why many Filipinos regarded the political system as irrelevant. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The party system in the early 1990s closely resembled that of the premartial law years when the Nacionalista and Liberal parties alternated in power. Although they lacked coherent political programs, they generally championed conservative social positions and avoided taking any position that might divide the electorate. Each party tried to appeal to all regions, all ethnic groups, and all social classes and fostered national unity by never championing one group or region. Neither party had any way to enforce party discipline, so politicians switched capriciously back and forth. The parties were essentially pyramids of patronclient relationships stretching from the remotest villages to Manila. They existed to satisfy particular demands, not to promote general programs. Because nearly all senators and representatives were provincial aristocrats, the parties never tackled the fundamental national problem--the vastly inequitable distribution of land, power, and wealth. *

Ferdinand Marcos mastered that party system, then altered it by establishing an all-embracing ruling party to be the sole vehicle for those who wished to engage in political activity. He called it the New Society Movement (Kilusang Bagong Lipunan). The New Society Movement sought to extend Marcos's reach to far corners of the country. Bureaucrats at all levels were welladvised to join. The New Society Movement offered unlimited patronage. The party won 163 of 178 seats in the National Assembly in 1978 and easily won the 1980 local elections. In 1981 Marcos actually had to create his own opposition, because no one was willing to run against him. *

Pro-Government Parties After Marcos

In 1978 the imprisoned former senators Benigno Aquino and Lorenzo Tañada organized a political party named Lakas ng Bayan (Strength of the Nation; also known by its abbreviated form, LABAN, meaning fight). LABAN won 40 percent of the Manila vote in parliamentary elections that year but was not given a single seat in Marcos's New Society Movement-dominated parliament. After Aquino went into exile in the United States, his wife's brother, former Congressman Jose Cojuangco, managed LABAN. Cojuangco forged an alliance with the Pilipino Democratic Party (PDP), a regional party with strength in the Visayas and Mindanao, that had been organized by Aquilino Pimentel, the mayor of Cagayan de Oro City. The unified party was thereafter known as PDP-LABAN, and it--along with UNIDO conducted Corazon Aquino's presidential campaign against Marcos. [Source: Library of Congress *]

In its early years, PDP-LABAN espoused a strongly nationalist position on economic matters and United States base rights, aspiring to "democratize power and socialize wealth." Later, after Aquino became president, its rhetorical socialism evaporated. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, PDP-LABAN had the distinct advantage of patronage. Aquino named Pimentel her first minister of local government, then summarily dismissed every governor and mayor in the Philippines. Pimentel replaced them with officers in charge known personally to him, thereby creating an instant pyramid of allies throughout the country. Some, but not all, of these officers in charge won election on their own in the January 1988 local elections. *

PDP-LABAN was not immune from the problems that generally plagued Philippine political parties. What mainly kept the party together was the need to keep Aquino in power for her full sixyear term. In June 1988 the party was reorganized as the Struggle of Filipino Democrats (Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino). Speaker of the House Ramon Mitra was its first president, but he resigned the presidency of the party in 1989 in favor of Neptali Gonzales. *

In 1990 Aquino announced the formation of a movement called Kabisig (Arm-in-Arm), conceived as a nongovernmental organization to revive the spirit of People's Power and get around an obstinate bureaucracy and a conservative Congress. By 1991 its resemblance to a nascent political party worried the more traditional leadership, particularly Mitra. Part of Aquino's governing style was to maintain a stance of being "above politics." Although she endorsed political candidates, she refused to form a political party of her own, relying instead on her personal probity, spirituality, and simple living to maintain popular support. *

Opposition Parties After Marcos

The New Society Movement fell apart when Marcos fled the country. A former National Assembly speaker, Nicanor Yniguez, tried to "reorganize" it, but others scrambled to start new parties with new names. Blas Ople, Marcos's minister of labor, formed the Nationalist Party of the Philippines (Partido Nationalista ng Pilipinas) in March 1986. Enrile sought political refuge in a revival of the country's oldest party, the Nacionalista Party, first formed in 1907. Enrile used the rusty Nacionalista machinery and an ethnic network of Ilocanos to campaign for a no vote on the Constitution, and when that failed, for his election to the Senate. Lengthy negotiations with mistrustful political "allies" such as Ople and Laurel delayed the formal reestablishment of the Nacionalista Party until May 1989. Enrile also experimented with a short-lived Grand Alliance for Democracy with Francisco "Kit" Tatad, the erstwhile minister of information for Marcos, and the popular movie-star senator, Joseph Estrada. In 1991 Enrile remained a very powerful political figure, with landholdings all over the Philippines and a clandestine network of dissident military officers. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Vice President Laurel had few supporters in the military but long-term experience in political organizing. From his family base in Batangas Province, Laurel had cautiously distanced himself from Marcos in the early 1980s, then moved into open opposition under the banner of a loose alliance named the United Nationalist Democratic Organization (UNIDO). Eventually, the UNIDO became Laurel's personal party. Aquino used the party's organization in February 1986, although her alliance with Laurel was never more than tactical. UNIDO might have endured had Aquino's allies granted Laurel more patronage when local governments were reorganized. As it was, Laurel could reward his supporters only with positions in the foreign service, and even there the opportunities were severely limited. The party soon fell by the wayside. Laurel and Enrile formed the United Nationalist Alliance, also called the Union for National Action, in 1988. The United Nationalist Alliance proposed a contradictory assortment of ideas including switching from a presidential to a parliamentary form of government, legalizing the Communist Party of the Philippines, and extending the United States bases treaty. By 1991 Laurel had abandoned these ad hoc creations and gone back to the revived Nacionalista Party, in a tentative alliance with Enrile. *

In 1991 a new opposition party, the Filipino Party (Partido Pilipino), was organized as a vehicle for the presidential campaign of Aquino's estranged cousin Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco. Despite the political baggage of a long association with Marcos, Cojuangco had the resources to assemble a powerful coalition of clans. *

In September 1986 the revolutionary left, stung by its shortsighted boycott of the February election, formed a legal political party to contest the congressional elections. The Partido ng Bayan (Party of the Nation) allied with other leftleaning groups in an Alliance for New Politics that fielded 7 candidates for the Senate and 103 for the House of Representatives, but it gained absolutely nothing from this exercise. The communists quickly dropped out of the electoral arena and reverted to guerrilla warfare. As of 1991, no Philippine party actively engaged in politics espoused a radical agenda.

Catholic Church and Politics in the Philippines

During the Spanish colonial period, the Catholic Church was extensively involved in colonial administration, especially in rural areas. With the advent of United States control, the Catholic Church relinquished its great estates. Church and state officially were separated, although the church, counting more than 80 percent of the population as members, continued to have influence when it wanted to exert it. For much of the Marcos administration, the official church, led by archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jaime Sin, adopted a stance of "critical collaboration." This meant that although Sin did not flatly condemn Marcos, he reserved the right to criticize. Below the cardinal, the church was split between conservative and progressive elements, and some priests joined the communistdominated National Democratic Front through a group named Christians for National Liberation. Cardinal Sin was instrumental in the downfall of Marcos. He brokered the critical, if temporary, reconciliation between Aquino and Laurel and warned the Marcoses that vote fraud was "unforgivable." In radio broadcasts, he urged Manileños to come into the streets to help the forces led by Enrile and Ramos when they mutinied in February 1986. The church, therefore, could legitimately claim to be part of the revolutionary coalition. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Aquino is a deeply religious woman who has opened cabinet meetings with prayers and sought spiritual guidance in troubled times. Although there were reports that the Vatican in late 1986 had instructed Cardinal Sin to reduce his involvement in politics, Aquino continued to depend on him. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines issued a pastoral letter urging people to vote yes in the 1987 constitutional plebiscite. In March 1987, Sin announced that he was bowing out of politics, but two months later he broadcast his support for ten Aquino-backed candidates for the Senate and recommended that voters shun candidates of the left. In 1990 Sin defined his attitude toward the government as one of "critical solidarity." *

The church was very pleased with provisions of the 1987 Constitution that ban abortion and restore a limited role for religion in public education. The Constitution is essentially silent on the matter of family planning. The church used its very substantial influence to hinder government family-planning programs. Despite the fact that the population grew by 100,000 people per month in the late 1980s, Cardinal Sin believed that the Marcos government had gone too far in promoting contraception. He urged Aquino to "repeal, or at least revise" government family-planning programs. In August 1988, the bishops conference denounced contraception as "dehumanizing and ethically objectionable." For churchmen, this was an issue not to be taken lightly. One bishop called for the church to "protect our people from the contraceptive onslaught" and the bishops conference labelled rapid population growth a "nonproblem." In 1989 the United States Department of Commerce projected the Philippine population at 130 million by the year 2020--in a country the size of California. *

Catholic Leaders and Politics in the Philippines

The Catholic church is one of the strongest institutions in the Philippines and major player in Philippine politics. Support of the Catholic church, and the military, are key to political survival and success in the Philippines. The Catholic is very involved in fighting poverty and in some cases some of its members have been involved in supporting poor tenant farmers in their battles against their rich landlords.

Priests and bishops and other religious leaders are powerful figures in the Philippines. Local priest and ministers are so highly respected that requests from them take on the power of mandates. A family considers having a son or daughter with a religious career as a high honor. Personal friendships with priests, ministers, and nuns are prized. Clerics take an active role in the secular world. An example is Brother Andrew Gonzales, the current secretary of DECS. [Source: everyculture.com]

The Catholic Church and, to a lesser extent, the Protestant churches engaged in a variety of community welfare efforts. These efforts went beyond giving relief and involved attempts to alter the economic position of the poor. Increasingly in the 1970s, these attempts led the armed forces of President Marcos to suspect that church agencies were aiding the communist guerrillas. In spite of reconciliation efforts, the estrangement between the churches and Marcos grew; it culminated in the call by Cardinal Jaime Sin for the people to go to the streets to block efforts of Marcos to remain in office after the questionable election of 1986. The resulting nonviolent uprising was known variously as People's Power and as the EDSA Revolution. [Source: Library of Congress, 1991 *]

The good feeling that initially existed between the church and the government of President Aquino lasted only a short time after her inauguration. Deep-seated divisions over the need for revolutionary changes again led to tension between the government and some elements in the churches. *

Catholics fall into three general groups: conservatives who are suspicious of social action and hold that Christian love could best be expressed through existing structures; moderates, probably the largest group, in favor of social action but inclined to cooperate with government programs; and progressives, who do not trust the government programs, are critical both of Philippine business and of American influence, and feel that drastic change is needed. In the past, progressives were especially disturbed at atrocities accompanying the use of vigilantes. They denied that they were communists, but some of their leaders supported communist fronts, and a few priests actually joined armed guerrilla bands. There appeared to be more progressives among religious-order priests than among diocesan priests. *

Cardinal Sin

Cardinal Jaime L. Sin was the top Catholic figure in the Philippines for decades until his death in 2005. Arguably one of the most powerful men in the Philippines and one of the most powerful Catholic clerics in the world, he was mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II. The son of Chinese immigrants, Cardinal Sin is well-known for his sense of humor, his name and his jokes about his name. When asked what his chances are of becoming the Pope, he says, "First of all, my name is bad." He often greets guest to his residence with "Welcome to the House of Sin" and is notorious for his bawdy comments.

Hrvoje Hranjski of Associated Press wrote: Cardinal Sin “shaped the role of the church during the country's darkest hours after dictator Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law starting in 1972 by championing the cause of civil advocacy, human rights and freedoms. Sin's action mirrored that of his strong backer, Pope John Paul II, who himself challenged communist rulers in Eastern Europe. Three years after Benigno Aquino Sr., a senator opposing Marcos, was gunned down on the Manila airport tarmac in 1983, Sin persuaded Aquino's widow, Corazon, to run for president. When massive election cheating by Marcos was exposed, Sin went on Catholic-run Radio Veritas in February 1986 to summon millions of people to support military defectors and the Aquino-led opposition. Marcos fled and Aquino, a deeply religious woman, was sworn in as president. Democracy was restored, but the country remained chaotic. [Source: Hrvoje Hranjski, Associated Press, January 3, 2013 <<<]

Cardinal Sin influence goes back to the Marcos era. Once when he sitting between Marcos and his wife Imelda in the back seat of the presidential limousine, Marcos asked him why he was so quiet. "Because," he said, "I feel like I am being crucified between two thieves." Marcos reportedly thought comment was funny but Imelda wouldn't speak to the cardinal for three months after that.

Michelle O'Donnell wrote in the New York Times, “Cardinal Jaime L. Sin, the powerful Roman Catholic archbishop of Manila, used his influence to champion the rights of the poor and rally the widespread popular resistance that brought down the presidencies of Ferdinand E. Marcos and Joseph Estrada Cardinal Sin led the nearly 40 million Catholics in the Philippines for almost three decades, through political upheaval that brought martial law, repressive dictatorship and democratic rule. A round-faced, bespectacled man, he was known for his sense of humor that included poking fun of his own name. But it was through his withering and unwavering public criticism of the Marcos regime in the 1980's that Cardinal Sin became an international figure. [Source: Michelle O'Donnell, New York Times, June 21, 2005 +++]

“At a time when reform-minded clergy in other developing countries were targets of assassination, Cardinal Sin tirelessly used his pulpit first as bishop, then archbishop, to attack Mr. Marcos' martial law, corruption and policies that oppressed the poor. Yet unlike Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a contemporary who also worked to empower the poor and was fatally shot as he delivered a homily in 1980, Cardinal Sin seemed insulated from personal harm. "If you compare him to Romero, he spoke out as much as Romero did," said the Rev. Paul L. Locatelli, the president of Santa Clara University. "He saw justice as making sure that the poor had a voice." But he was not witho Under the cardinal's tenure, the church was shaken by accusations of sexual misconduct by some of its priests, according to The Associated Press. Two years ago, Catholic bishops apologized for grave cases of sexual misconduct by priests and pledged to act on complaints. +++

During his long career, the cardinal was not without his critics. He staunchly opposed artificial means of birth control, which some critics said left the country overpopulated and mired in poverty. Under the cardinal's tenure, the church was shaken by accusations of sexual misconduct by some of its priests, according to The Associated Press. Two years ago, Catholic bishops apologized for grave cases of sexual misconduct by priests and pledged to act on complaints. +++

See Religion

Protests and Demonstrations in the Philippines

Describing a Manila protest against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2006, Nicola Menzie of CBS wrote: “Riot police used water cannons and truncheons to break up a rally by more than 1,500 protesters as they demanded President Arroyo be removed from office. The protesters appeared emboldened by the success of similar protests in Thailand that led to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's resignation from office. The demonstrators reported several injuries as a result of police using wooden sticks, fiberglass shields and water cannon spray in order to force them away from a bridge leading to the presidential palace. Rallies have been banned in the area, which has been the scene of recent clashes between police and demonstrators. Leftist groups have vowed to continue protests and are calling for Arroyo's ouster over corruption and vote-rigging allegations. [Source: Nicola Menzie, CBS, April 6, 2006]

The next day, Fight Back! News reported: “Riot police in the Philippines attacked and broke up a demonstration by human rights activists marching near an international parliamentarians' conference. The protesters were gathering at the Malate Church in Manila en route to the Philippine International Convention Center. The police injured various people, including Catholic priests from the organization Promotion for Church People’s Response (PCPR). Baton-wielding police charged into the protesters near the conference site for the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) assembly where about 1,400 lawmakers from 145 countries were meeting. Human rights activists led by several priests and nuns marched on the conference to protest widespread human rights violations in the Philippines under the Arroyo government, including a number of recent killings of political activists. [Source: Fight Back! News, April 12, 2005]

Filipinos Grow Disillusioned with People Power Protests

The Philippine middle-class, instrumental in the overthrow of presidents Marcos and Estrada, is fed up with political turbulence and wants stability, political analysts say. In 2005, Alan Sipress wrote in the Washington Post, “Jennifer Santos's eyes gleamed as she recalled her days as a young housewife staring down government tanks ordered to the streets by longtime dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For the better part of a week in 1986, she and tens of thousands of other Filipinos, carrying flowers and rosary beads, camped along the capital's gritty Edsa Boulevard until Marcos fell. She remembered with less enthusiasm returning to the boulevard four years ago when another graft-tainted leader, Joseph Estrada, left office after a single night of protests. "By the next morning," Santos recounted, "I was in Starbucks drinking coffee, and we had a new president." [Source: Alan Sipress, Washington Post, July 10, 2005 ^/^]

“Now, that president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is facing a crescendo of calls to step down due to allegations she cheated in national elections last year. But like the vast majority of other Edsa veterans, Santos, 44, is not very interested in joining the few protesters on the streets. "I got tired. It happens over and over again," Santos said. "Our political system never changes." Across Manila, disappointment in Arroyo is surpassed only by a weary recognition that the Philippines' celebrated protest movement known as "people power" has run its course, and that no new political savior is at hand to rally the masses. ^/^

“Only several thousand flag-waving demonstrators joined the main anti-Arroyo rally in Manila's business district. Local office workers appeared almost oblivious to the event. The six-lane Edsa Boulevard was clogged with traffic. Not a protester was in sight and the adjacent plaza at the heroic People Power monument was empty. ^/^

“Luzviminda A. Santos, 52, a compact woman with intense brown eyes and shoulder-length black hair streaked with gray, was invited by several friends to join a small anti-Arroyo demonstration Saturday morning outside the local Santo Domingo church. She told them she would try to make it, but instead stayed home drinking coffee and watching the dizzying political developments on television. "I said to myself, 'What for?' " Four years ago, Santos said, she was among the first to reach Edsa Boulevard and demand Estrada's ouster. But this time there was little idealism, and the ascension of Arroyo, a product of the wealthy landed classes, was an immediate letdown. "Everyone is fatigued now with people power. It can't snowball to people power again," she said. But now, she said her family is less interested in the current political showdown than the basketball game Sunday between the country's two premier universities. She predicted the Manila sports coliseum would attract more people this weekend than any demonstration. "Are there people in Edsa now?" she asked. "Is anything happening now? I don't even care." ^/^

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated June 2015

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