Growth: PH's only way out of dynasty trap
MANILA -- Ever wondered why political dynasties are entrenched in the Philippines?
A new study provides the answer: poverty. The more severe poverty is in a certain province or town, the more political dynasties there are, according to a research authored by experts from the Asian Institute of Management.
The study concluded that the only way out of the dynasty trap is economic growth.
In their research titled “Political Dynasties and Poverty: Evidence from the Philippines,” authors Ronald U. Mendoza and David B. Yap said the severity of poverty strengthens the foothold of existing political dynasties and even expands their turf.
“These findings suggest that increased income poverty does not induce political dynasties to emerge but it contributes to the expansion of the largest and strongest political dynasties. Given that the poor are most vulnerable to political patronage and manipulation as well as practically to sell their votes, a worsening, if not unchanging, poverty would be beneficial to political dynasties,” the study noted.
“Since the largest political dynasties would, in most situations, be the families that have cultivated the most extensive networks of patronage, accumulated the most political and financial capital, and have the access to the largest political machineries, they would also be in the best position to take advantage of vulnerable economically disadvantaged voters,” it added.
The authors said their findings are based on provincial-level data of income, the share of total positions occupied by “dynastic politicians,” the share of the largest “dynastic clan” as regards total positions, and an indicator of dynastic concentration inspired by the industrial concentration literature.
Mendoza’s and Yap’s study examined politics in three areas—Maguindanao, Ilocos Sur and the Dinagat Islands. Data showed that there are 12 “political dynasties” in Maguindanao and Ilocos Sur; there are two on the Dinagat Islands.
After the 2010 polls, the Ampatuans of Maguindanao were the ruling clan, and occupied 16 out of 54 elective positions. The Singsons were the ruling clan in Ilocos Sur, occupying seven of 32 elective positions. The Ecleos, meanwhile, were the ruling clan on the Dinagat Islands, occupying eight of the 10 elective positions.
“We argued that patron-client relationships are the recourse of the poor and these, in turn, reinforce the self-perpetuation of political dynasties. In fact, the evidence suggests that areas with more poor people tend to have many political dynasties,” the authors said.
“Yet, we also found evidence that political dynasties may not necessarily be affecting poverty. That is, political dynasties neither reduce nor increase poverty. We argued that this pattern is an indication that the non-dynasties [i.e., the benchmark against which dynasties are compared] may not be presenting themselves as viable alternatives to political dynasties,” they added.
With this, Mendoza and Yap concluded that the only way to remove dynasties, or at least weaken their foothold in the areas they occupy, is economic growth. The authors added that the government must come up with comprehensive poverty-reduction and social-protection programs that can lift millions from poverty.
The study said these programs would make growth inclusive and have more meaning for the poor,especially in the countryside. This will make residents in a particular area less dependent on patronage politics.
“In addition, political reforms will be critical in helping families and communities break out of the dynasty-poverty trap. Alternative political candidates will need the support of political parties to convey their message of reform and non-traditional politics, built on empowerment, participation and accountability against patron-client relationships that thrive on poverty and inequality. Once elected, the same leaders will also need genuine political parties behind them in order to deliver on these reforms, if they are to win hearts and minds on lasting reform,” the study said.
Data from the National Statistical Coordination Board showed that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and Regions 12 and 8 were considered the poorest regions in the Philippines in the first semester of 2012.
The top 10 poorest provinces are Lanao del Sur, with a poverty incidence of 68.9 percent; Apayao, 59.8 percent; Eastern Samar, 59.4 percent; Maguindanao, 57.8 percent; and Zamboanga del Norte, 50.3 percent.
The other poor provinces are Davao Oriental, with a poverty incidence of 48 percent; Ifugao, 47.5 percent; Sarangani, 46.5 percent; Negros Oriental, 45.3 percent; and Masbate, 44.2 percent.