Philippine political dynasties: Boon or bane?
MAPping the Future

Philippine political dynasties: Boon or bane?

/ 02:01 AM February 19, 2024

For decades now, the Philippines has been, no doubt, under dynastic governance.

Political dynasties have dominated the country’s political milieu in most of its regions since the 1960s.

Ateneo de Manila University Dean Ronald Mendoza defines political dynasty as a situation wherein members of the same family are occupying elected positions, either in sequence for the same position, or simultaneously across different positions.


“Political Dynasties in the Philippine Congress,” a recent study of Dean Mendoza et al, finds that “75 percent of district representatives, 85 percent of governors, and 66.67 percent of mayors could be considered as dynastic; that political dynasties tend to dominate the major political parties; and that candidates from political dynasties register larger winning ratios compared to nondynastic candidates.” The figures cited came from their analysis of the 16th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines, as well as other local government officials elected in 2013.


The same study cites that “The prevalence of political dynasties could be viewed as an indication of increasing political inequality that, in turn, signals a deterioration of socio-economic outcome.”

In addition, it states that “The concentration of political power within the hands of political dynasties creates barriers to entry that could prevent the best and the brightest from serving in government.”

Another study, “Political Dynasties and Poverty: Resolving the “Chicken or the Egg” Question,” also by Dean Mendoza et al, tried to answer the question: which came first, political dynasty or poverty?

Its findings are striking: “Poverty entrenches political dynasties; … There is less evidence that political dynasties bring about poverty.”

The same study distinguishes “fat,” or stronger dynasty, or “thin,” or weaker dynasty.

The study concludes: “The fat dynasty destroys democratic checks and balances; it also breeds unfairness, meaning “resources are directed to the dynasty’s bailiwick cities and towns where more relatives are in power.”


Dean Mendoza sums it up, “The fatter the dynasty, the poorer the community.”

Poverty incidence

While the Philippines has sustained moderate economic growth in the past decades, its poverty level has remained high relative to its neighbors in Asia (41 percent of total population in the 1980s to 22.4 percent in the first half of 2023).

Worse, per Social Weather Station, close to 50 percent of Filipinos rate themselves as poor, while another 30 percent or so rate themselves as close to being poor.

In 2021, among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries, the Philippines ranked third in poverty level at 18.1 percent, next only to Laos, which came in second, at 18.3 percent and Myanmar, first, at 24.8 percent. Meanwhile, the poverty levels of the rest of Asean are below 10 percent.

Steven Radelet, author of “The Great Surge,” wrote, referring to extreme poverty, “Then, a dramatic turn began in the early 1990s. For the first time in world history, the total number of people living in extreme poverty began to fall, and it fell fast.”

The book added, “The biggest force behind the decline in poverty is clear: China.”

The book further states, “In 1981 there were 838 million Chinese living in extreme poverty—fully 84 percent of its population. By 2011, the number of extreme poor in China had dropped to 84 million, and the share had plummeted to just 6 percent.”

Clearly, the Philippines’ continued high rate of poverty can be considered failure in governance by its leaders, mostly coming from political dynasties.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution prohibits political dynasties as contained in Article II, Section 26: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Thirty six long years has passed since the Constitution was ratified; yet our Congress, obviously dominated by political dynasties, has failed to pass legislation against political dynasties.

The task of legislating against political dynasties is daunting, given that both the Senate and the House of Representatives are dominated by political dynasties.

Isn’t it about time that the Senate and the House of Representatives are made to account for failing the Filipino people? INQ

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This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and not the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or MAP. The author is a life member of the MAP. He is the chair of OmniPay. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected].

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