OLD AND new voters alike won't be surprised with the list of candidates in this year's elections, as most are familiar names from well-entrenched political dynasties.

Family members running for government positions have been considered a norm in Philippine politics despite constitutional prohibition. Article II Sec. 26 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service , and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Part of heritage

But political dynasties—known to dominate local and national elections—have been part of Philippine culture and history since the Spanish era wherein Spanish colonial masters gave favored mestizo or Illustrado families land and the right to vote. Elite familes also had control over local power to an extent.

In the Philippines, political dynasties hold at least 68 percent or 115 seats in the present Congress, both in the Senate and Houe of Representatives, according to a study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.

Two of the country’s major political parties—Nacionalista and Lakas Kampi CMD—are also dominated by descendants of past political powers.

The study showed that based on statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, legislators belonging to political dynasties are richer, with an average net worth of P52 million, than those not belonging to dynasties who have had an average net worth of P42 million.

The following families have strongholds in Philippine politics:

The Aquinos

The well-known Aquino clan’s involvement in politics can be traced back to General Servillano Aquino, a revolutionary leader who joined the Katipunan when the Philippine Revolution broke out in 1896.

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Members of the Aquino family, who hail from Tarlac province, have held several key positions in the local and national government, such as former senators Benigno Aquino, Sr., and Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., former president Corazon Aquino and President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

The Cojuangcos

Close to the Aquino clan are the Cojuangcos of Tarlac, whose first generation came to the Philippines in 1861 from China. They are well-known land owners who acquired the Hacienda Luisita,  a 6,435-hectare sugar plantation estate, in 1957.

Several members of the Cojuangco clan were: Jose Cojuangco, Sr., the former representative of the first district of Tarlac, and Marcos Cojuangco, the current representative of the 5th district of Pangasinan.

Eduardo Cojuangco, Jr., who ran for the 1992 presidential election but lost, is the chairperson of the San Miguel Corp. which has an estimated net worth of $1.3 billion.

The Marcoses

The Marcos political family, on the other hand, is notorious in Philippine history. Former president Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under Martial Law in 1972 and stole billions from the national treasury.

Their involvement in politics can be traced back to when his father, Mariano Marcos, was appointed representative of the 2nd district of Ilocos Norte in 1925. The Marcos clan held government positions in Ilocos Norte through the years.

The Marcos family was worth an estimated $35 billion in the 1970s at the peak of their power.

Politicians from the Marcos family, such as former first lady Imelda Marcos, son Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., and daughter Imee Marcos still occupy positions in the government today.

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The Singsons

Politics in Ilocos Sur, meanwhile, has been dominated by the Singson clan since Jose Singson became the Vigan mayor in 1968.

Since then, majority of Jose Singson’s descendants have occupied positions in the government, such as incumbent Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson.

Other family members who assumed government positions were former Ilocos Sur governor Evaristo Singson, and Ilocos Sur 1st District Rep. Ronald Singson.

The Binays

The Binay clan rose to power when Jejomar Binay became the mayor of Makati in 1986. He is now the vice president of the Philippines.

Since then, the Binays have established their stronghold in Makati.

Former Makati mayor Elenita Binay and Makati mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay, Jr. succeeded the senior Binay after his term. Nancy Binay, daughter of Jejormar, is vying a seat in the senate this upcoming election.

The Macapagal-Arroyos

Hailing from Pampanga, this clan rose to power when patriarch Diasdado Macapagal became the president in 1957. His daughter, the controversial Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, also became president for nine years and is now a Pampanga representative.

At present, the Macapagal-Arroyos remain to be a strong political force in Camarines Sur, Negros Occidental, and Pampanga.

Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, and the late Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, Jr. were all elected to the 15th Congress. ANDRE ARNOLD T. SANTIAGO

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