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As the saga of Pork Barrel Scam continues and unearthed unimaginable acts of government officials being trusted by the peoples trust and confidence, circles of questions evolve if political dynasty contributed to this drama of corruption.

But what is political dynasty? Why do some organizations and peoples advocates oppose to this notion?

Political dynasty is commonly known as the repeated election and re-election of close relatives with the same surnames to offices in the local and national governments. Teehankee (2007) from The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) stated that the emergence and persistence of political dynasty stem from the highly unequal socioeconomic structure of Philippine society and the failure of the country to develop a truly democratic electoral and party system.

The occurrence of political dynasties was believed to have been first recorded in the pre-Magellanic period. In the book of Renato
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Constantino, The Making of a Filipino, it was pointed out that communities at this time were already accustomed to an early form of government and politics. The pre-colonial society had the datu, raja, and maharlika as rulers and stewards of tribal communities. According to Constantino, their strong familial bonds espoused the development of the leadership and social prestige of this ruling class. The datu, raja and maharlika class served as archetypal models for the formation of political parties in the Philippines.

During the Spanish colonial period, the term principalia was introduced. The principalia embodied the new kind of local elite. To Constantino, the principalia was composed of the wealthy landowners, many of whom were descendants of the early datus and maharlikas. This time, the former datu has been entrusted with fiscal and administrative duties and become adjuncts of Spanish power. From mere administrators of socially-owned land during the pre-Magellanic period, they now become formal owners of the land that together with the mestizos, illustrados, mestizo-sangley, creole and Chines mestizos, constituted the local oligarchs of the country.

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The third period was highlighted by the introduction of education and suffrage by the United States that catapulted the elites. The elites capitalized on education to acquire new knowledge and information in order for them to achieve a new mechanism, as French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called as cultural capital.

As the unequal socio-economic continues to exists and intensify, the rise of families to establish their reign in the political system of the Philippines carries on to intensify. In the study conducted by Center for People Empowerment in Government in the 2010 elections, there were one hundred seventy eight (178) dominant political dynasties. Out of the 178, one hundred (100) or fifty six percent (56%) came from the old elites and seventy eight (78) or forty four (44%) were new elites from EDSA 1 (1986) and the 1987 post-Marcos elections. In the House of Representatives there were one hundred fifteen (115) families and sixty three (23) in the Senate.

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Almost all barangays, municipalities, cities, provinces and national positions in the political system in the Philippines are composed of political dynasty.

In the National Level, there is the Macapagal-Arroyos, where the highest position in the hierarchy of ranks in the Philippine governance was handled by the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and now the Representative of the 2nd District of Pampanga. Her father the late Diosdado Macapagal was also a former President and even the grandfather of her husband, Jose Ma. Arroyo was a Senator (19191925). One of her sons, Juan Miguel Macapagal-Arroyo was also elected as Representative Ang Galing Pinoy Partylist and 2nd District of Pampanga (2004-2010). Her second son, Diosdado Macapagal-Arroyo, was elected Representative of the 2nd District of Camarines Sur and 1st District of Camarines Sur.

In San Juan City, the Ejercito family is the dominant political clan. Joseph Ejercito Estrada, the present Mayor of the City of Manila was elected President of the Philippines (1998-2001), Vice-President of the Philippines (1992-1998), Senator (1987-1992) and Mayor of San Juan
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(1969-1986). His wife, Luisita Pimentel-Ejercito (Loi Ejercito Estrada), was elected Senator (2001-2007) and became the First Lady of the Philippines (1998-2001). Two of his sons are currently members of the Senate of the Philippines, Jose P. Ejercito (Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada), Senate President pro tempore, Senator and Mayor of San Juan (19922001), and Joseph Victor Ejercito, half-brother of Jinggoy Estrada, Senator, Congressman-Lone District of San Juan City and Mayor of San Juan City (2001-2010).

But the most popular of all is the reign of the Romualdez-Marcos family; and their political occupancy left unforgettable marks in the history of the Philippines. Ferdinand Marcos, elected President of the Philippines from 1965 to 1986 and ruled the country placing it under Martial Law in 1972. His wife, Imelda Romualdez-Marcos, Philippine First Lady became the Minister of Human Settlements and Governor of Metro Manila during the Martial Law and currently a Representative of Ilocos Norte. Imee Romualdez-Marcos, daughter of Ferdinand Marcos, is now the Governor of Ilocos Norte and was formerly the Representative of the 2nd Legislative District of Ilocos Norte. And his son, Ferdinand Romualdez-Marcos, Jr., Senator of the 15th Congress.
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The Province of Aklan is not spared from the rise of families creating their own dynasty in politics. The most well-known of which is the Miraflores family holding the highest seat in the Province of Aklan and the Municipality of Ibajay. Florencio T. Miraflores, now the Governor of Province of Aklan, was the former Representative of the Lone District of Aklan from 2004 to 2013, his wife, Ma. Lourdes Lulu Martin-Miraflores, is now in her second term as Mayor of the Municipality of Ibajay. And their son, Jose Enrique Jo-En M. Miraflores, is the Senior Member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the province.

Iloilo, another province in the island of Panay is dominated by one family. In the First District of the Province of Iloilo, which is composed of the Municipalities of Guimbal, Miagao, Oton, Tigbauan, San Joaquin, Igbaras and Tugbungan, the dominating family is the Garin family. The first member of this family who joined politics was Oscar Garin, Sr. as Representative during the 9th, 10th and 12th Congress. Ninfa S. Garin became the Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of San Joaquin, Iloilo. Oscar Richard S. Garin, Jr. was then the Vice-Governor of the Province of Iloilo and then became the Representative of the 1st District during
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the 16th Congress. Janette L. Garin became a Representative during the 15th Congress and Sharon S. Garin also a Representative, representing AAMBIS-OWA Party-list in the 15th Congress. Christine S. Garin was also the Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Guimbal, Iloilo.

Nowadays, the most influential family in Mindanao, and considered as the most petrifying clan is the Ampatuans by virtue of the Maguindanao Massacre. The Ampatuans belong to an old and powerful Moro clan who drove away the Spaniards and fought during Worl War II. Datu Andal Ampatuan, Sr. was the one who first make a mark in politics after the People Power Revolution in 1986 when he was appointed as officer-in-charge of Shariff Aguak by then President Corazon Aquino. Then he was elected as Governor of Maguindanao. Before the 2013 elections and during their captivity as major suspects in the Maguindanao Massacre, his sons were also in politics. Datu Andal Ampatuan , Jr. was the Mayor of Datu Unsay, Maguindanao. His son-inlaw Datu Akmad Ampatuan was the Mayor of Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Zaldy Ampatuan is the youngest ever governor of Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). And Anwar Ampatuan is the Mayor of Sharif Aguak. The Ampatuans portray how
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the desire to stick to power can erase all logical reasoning a person has in order to make a heinous crime of killing 57 people just to safeguard that no outsiders can enter their reign in Maguindanao.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution provides the following provision, The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.As the provision of the Constitution needs an enabling law the Congress needs to pass a law in order to impose the prohibition. But how can Congress do such act when majority of its members come from families composing political dynasties?

In a CenPEG study on familial membership in public offices (19072004), that is, from the 1st Philippine Assembly to the present Congress of the two House, it was found out that 160 families have been continuously serving in each house with two or more family members. In the 1946 Congress, out of the 98 congressmen elected, 61 came from families with members in elective positions from 1907 to 1941. With this number it is impossible for an enabling law to be passed.

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Political leaders play a very vital role in the governance of the Philippine State. As guardians of the government they have the responsibility and accountability to the people whom the power of their government emanates. But with the existence and continuous intensification of political dynasties there exists an imbalance of representation among the people in the governance.

It could not be denied that only those who are rich can become powerful. Entering into politics nowadays becomes more expensive and only those who can afford can be voted. It could be seen in the pattern and backgrounds of the families involved in political dynasties that they belong to powerful and wealthy families. The unequal socio-economic status that we have in the Philippines has created this imbalance in our governance and those who have potential and capacity to govern were not given the chance to serve because of the high price one has to spend in order to join the game of politics.

However, having families in the political system can be advantageous because the good governance implemented by a predecessor can be continued by his successors. The members of the
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family have the same good ideology that they tend to carry on among their descendants.

But in the process, good things sometime turn sour when lured by evil. No matter how noble the previously elected members of the family, even only one of its members gives in to the snares of evil, it will go down to the bottom line if not stop in the earliest possible time.

These families always reasoned out that the electorates were the ones who have chosen them to be in the position and stay in the position or replaced them with another member of their family. But can we really blame the electorate? Majority of the electorates are members of the urban poor who rely on the work given by these powerful families mostly in their haciendas, farms, factories and other businesses. These electorates have no choice but to support also the one who supports them.

It can be perceived that there is no possibility of an enabling to execute the provision of Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution when the people will not move on their own for change. Election is a
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way we can impose this change. Voting wisely and discerning the true intention and purpose of every candidate can make a change in the system of government we have which is controlled by political dynasties. The desire of these families to stay on power has already disrupted the government of the people. Graft and corruption has been rampant and millions of pesos were lost in the government because a few takes control of the government. The Pork Barrel Scam has been an eye opener to all of us that government funds owned by the Filipino people can easily be contained in few families as long as they are in power.

Lives has also been sacrificed in order for a few to continue be in power. In the Maguindanao Massacre, many died for a lawless purpose as to Ampatuans be retained in power. This is a classic example of how power can consume the moral values of a person and forget to respect the value of another. It was a horrifying incident as a consequence of the desire to maintain a dynasty of one family in politics.

It is evident that the purpose of the Constitution to give everyone equal opportunity to public service is in the blue. It will take a long
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process and it will take a lot of willpower to have the said provision be implemented. But people can make change, as what have been exhibited in EDSA I and II, to make a difference we should be united and be vibrant in keeping our voice be heard. The clamour for change should be heard not only in our hearts but also be manifested by those who are in power not deserving to be in their position. Nevertheless, political dynasty will continue and expand its horizon if people of the Philippines where the government power emanates will not put an end to it. -O-

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