A Race for Power of Political Dynasties

Bobby M. Tuazon
Posted 26 Jan. 2022


The May 2022 elections will further entrench the country’s ruling political dynasties while the Filipino people will continue to be marginalized from exercising their democratic rights to governance. Once again, we will see familiar faces and the same political dynasties not only in Malacañang but also in Congress and the provinces.

In the Philippine Senate, of the 12 leading candidates – based on latest public surveys – 8 are members of political dynasties. Assuming that they will win, 3 of the 8 leading candidates represent 3 political families who will have 2 members each in the next Senate or 19th Congress: former Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, and former Public Works Secretary Mark Villar. The 3 will join incumbent Sens. Nancy S. Binay (daughter of Jejomar), Pia S. Cayetano (sister of Alan Peter), and Cynthia A. Villar (mother of Mark).

It should be noted that an overwhelming majority of the country’s 81 provinces are ruled by political families, with each province having at least two political families. The gubernatorial position in the 10 vote-rich provinces is contested by several long-time political families. They include: Marcos, Fariñas, Singson, Espino, Guico, Sy-Alvarado, Remulla, Villafuerte, Andaya, Garcia, Durano, Teves, Petilla, Cerilles, Unabia, Uy, Cagas, and Rama. Among the country’s local political families, the Singsons of the Ilocos Sur province who have Chinese lineage are considered the oldest with roots dating back to the 1830s. The Petillas of Leyte and Iloilo have the most number of intra-clan political families occupying posts not only in the provincial and city/municipal levels but also in Congress. They exemplify political clans who have expanded vertically and horizontally.

A study made in 2012 estimated that 40% of all provinces in the Philippines have a provincial governor and congressman that are related in some way. A separate 2014 study indicated that some 50%-70% of all politicians are involved or associated in a political dynasty within the Philippines, including local government units. The same study concluded that about 70% of all jurisdiction-based legislators in one Congress are involved in a political dynasty, with 40% of them having ties to legislators who belonged to as far as 3 Congresses prior.

Based on the 2019 mid-term election results, there are at least 163 political families whose winning members include senators, congressmen, or governors serving at the same time as relatives in other local positions. This shows how extensive vertically and horizontally political families have become at present times.

Of the total number of political families, 88 are in Luzon, 29 in the Visayas, 44 in Mindanao, and two families in separate island groups.

In Congress, 14 of 24 senators (60%) belong to powerful clans, while in the House, 162 (51%) of 300 representatives do – indicating that about half of members come from political families. Of the 14 senators, 5 are from Metro Manila: Senators Cynthia Villar (Las Piñas City), Nancy Binay (Makati City), Pia Cayetano (Taguig City), Senate President Vicente Sotto III (Quezon City), and Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela City). Outside those in the NCR, six senators are from Luzon: Imee Marcos (llocos Norte), Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora), Joel Villanueva (Bulacan), Ralph Recto (Batangas), Ramon Revilla Jr, and Francis Tolentino (all from Cavite). Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon and Manny Pacquiao of Sarangani represent Mindanao. As of the 2019 polls, no member of any political clan from the Visayas is in the Senate. Meanwhile, of the 162 members of political families in the House of Representatives, 89 are from Luzon (including Metro Manila), 27 from the Visayas, and 46 from Mindanao.

CenPEG’s own research in 2015 shows that there is a strong correlation between low Human Development Indices (HDI-income, health, and education) and a singularly dominant political family in a province. This correlation is strongest in small island provinces dominated by a single political family with only Batanes province as the exception. This negative outcome is further worsened when these small island provinces are geographically distant or have no easy access to established centers of trade and commerce such as big, urbanized cities.

In conclusion:

Elections in the Philipopines are not a level playing field; results are decided by political dynasties; a dynastic candidate has a bigger chance of winning compared to a non-dynastic candidates. Elections serve to perpetuate power held by political dynasties.  Elections also continue to be a race among political personalities and not on programs, issues and platforms. This is because of the weak political party system where political parties serve only as campaign machineries during elections
Short-term, doable reforms may include strengthening the political party system and enforcing the constitutional provision on the prohibition of political dynasties.


Facebook share button

Twitter share button

Latest posts
Back to top Back to top >>
Telefax +6329299526 email: cenpeg@cenpeg.org; cenpeg.info@gmail.com Copyright ©2005
Center for People Empowewrment in Governance (CenPEG), Philippines. All rights reserved