NGO challenges the lords of Pampanga

Posted at 04/25/2013 8:58 PM | Updated as of 04/25/2013 11:44 PM

SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga—The good news about the elections in Central Luzon is that only a tiny fraction of candidates running for public office in the May 13 elections comes from political families.

The bad news is that Pampanga has the highest number of candidates for various positions who hail from those dynasties, and that is in the region’s congressional and gubernatorial races where their members have chosen to slug it out.

These were the findings of a research conducted by Central Luzon TV 36. The research showed a total of 3,745 candidates running for public office, only 116 of them coming from political families.

The research shows that 39 of the 116, or about one-third, are running in Pampanga, the highest among provinces in the region. Central Luzon or Region 3 is composed of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales.

This is why Pampanga has been the focus of civil society groups, which are intensifying their campaign against certain provincial elites, since the Supreme Court dismissed several petitions against political dynasties.

In Pampanga, the Anti-Dynasty Movement, more popularly known as Andaya Mo, has waged a campaign to end the rule of the Pineda family. Matriarch Lilia Pineda, the current governor, is running for re-election with her son Dennis, Lubao town mayor from 2004 to 2010, as vice governor.

Youngest daughter Mylene Pineda Cayabcayab is also running for reelection as mayor in Lubao, while Dennis' wife, Yolanda, is also running for a second term as mayor of Sta. Rita. Both Mylene and Yolanda are running unopposed.

-- Photo by CLTV 36

Andaya Mo now has a pending petition before the Commission on Elections to ban political families like the Pinedas from running. The disqualification case was filed in February after the high court issued its decision that same month.

Andaya Mo’s campaign posters carry images of dinosaurs--with Poly as the young dinosaur, Dyna as the father, and Nasty, the grandfather—symbolizing the rule of political families since the “Stone Age”.

Negosyo na ang politika (Politics is now a business),” said actress Mae Paner, also known as “Juana Change,” a member of Andaya Mo.

-- Photo by CLTV 36

Hindi ba, ang kaban ng bayan eh kontrolado mo lalo na ‘pag ang namumuno ay nasa iisang pamilya lamang. Biro mo, ang mag-a-approve, mag-i-implement [ay] nasa iisang pamilya?” (Don’t they have complete control of public coffers since they belong to one clan? Imagine, the approving and implementing authorities belong to the same clan?),” she added.

But the Pinedas are unfazed. “Kahit itabi nila sa mukha ko (stickers), at the end of the day Kapampangan pa rin ang mag-dedesisyon” (Even if they post those stickers next to my posters, at the end of the day the people of Pampanga are the ones to decide),” Lilia Pineda said.

-- Photo by CLTV 36

The Pinedas have been in power since the 1990s, when Lilia was elected as Lubao mayor and then as provincial board member. She is the wife of alleged jueteng lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda, known to be a supporter of former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Families rule

Andaya Mo said 76 per cent of elective positions in the country are occupied by members of political clans.

A study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center also showed that Central Luzon ranks third in the country, in terms of dynastic proportion and accession of family members elected to public office. In 2010, eight out of 10 elected officials in the region belonged to clans.

The CLTV research found that over 30 per cent of those running for Congress belong to clans. Data also show that members of political families tend to aim for higher positions.

Rise of clans

In the Philippines, political dynasties are formed through the election of multiple family members, who end up using their public position for private gain, amassing fortunes and forming private armies. These assure the clan of its stay in power.

The Philippine Constitution states “the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” For it to be enforced, Congress needs to pass an enabling law. But for 26 years, Congress has failed to pass any such measure.

Social Science professor Arnold Bucud said it would take a lot of political will to have such a law.

“You’re like facing a wall. Wala kang inaasahan hangga’t hindi magbabago ‘yung mga taong nakapuwesto sa Kongreso. Bakit? Kasi sila-sila mismong guilty sa pagiging dynasty” (You can’t expect any changes unless the people who are in Congress will change for the better. They themselves are guilty),” he said.

Political analyst Earl Parreño said political clans exist due to the lack of a functioning party system.

“Sa ibang bansa, ang political parties ang nag-decide sa programs. Political parties ang nagdi-direct kung saan patutungo ang isang munisipyo o saan patutungo ang isang bansa. Sa atin dito, families. Bakit? Wala naman kasing matino, walang matatag na political party system” (In other countries, political parties decide which programs [to implement]. Political parties are the ones who direct where a certain municipality or a country as a whole is headed to. In our country, families rule. Why? That’s because our political party system is weak),” he said.

For Andaya Mo, the fate of the country rests on the will of the people: “If we do not vote for them, they will not win.”

(CLTV 36 is the first and only regional television station in Central Luzon, and is a partner of VERA Files in its Vote 2013 Project. VERA Files is put out by senior journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for true.)