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Philippines

 
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Philippines

The Return of Old-Style Politics in the 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.

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 (see Migration , ch. 2). 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.

Data as of June 1991

Philippines - TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Government and Politics

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