Political dynasties in the Philippines

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Political dynasties have long been present in the Philippine political structure. They are typically found in elite families that have established themselves in a province before moving on to the national government. Political dynasties, therefore, usually have a strong support base. Members of such dynasties are also not limited to the politics, as they can also be active in socio-economic spheres.

Political dynasties started emerging after the Philippine Revolution when the First Republic of the Philippines was established. Over the years, newer dynasties emerged as some of the initial ones became inactive. Majority of the positions in the Philippine government are currently held by members of political dynasties. Notable Philippine political dynasties include the Ampatuan, Aquino and Marcos families.

There has been a lot of debate regarding the effects of these dynasties on the socio-political and economical aspects of society. Although political dynasties are typically associated with higher levels of poverty and corruption,[1] there are no laws that restrict the presence of political dynasties in the Philippines.


Political dynasties refer to groups whose members are involved in politics. In the Philippines, political dynasties can be seen in families that have been part of the government for several generations. This can occur in two ways. One way is for members of a family to occupy a same certain government position in every term. If a politician's term is over and a relative of that politician gets elected for the same position, that family can be labelled as a political dynasty. The second way is for a number of family members to occupy government positions at the same time.[1] As of the moment, there are no legal documents or laws that officially define a political dynasty in the Philippines. There have been bills that attempt to define a political dynasty such as the Anti-Dynasty Bill.

Philippine Laws

The 1987 Constitution of the Philippines states in Article II Section 26, "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law."

Despite the provision in the Constitution, no law has been passed nor any action has been made regarding the prohibition of political dynasties. The nearest mention of political dynasties in Philippine law can be seen in Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, where Book I, Title Two, Chapter 1, Section 43 states the term limit of any local government official but does not include any limitations in terms of family relations:

(a) The term of office of all local elective officials elected after the effectivity of this Code shall be three (3) years, starting from noon of June 30, 1992 or such date as may be provided for by law, except that of elective Barangay officials: Provided, That all local officials first elected during the local elections immediately following the ratification of the 1987 Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.

(b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. (c) The term of office of Barangay officials and members of the Sangguniang kabataan shall be for three (3) years, which shall begin after the regular election of Barangay officials on the second Monday of May 1994.

Several bills have been filed in relation to the prohibition of political dynasties, and are currently pending to be approved by the Congress. Many have called for the Congress to pass the Anti-Dynasty Law, but this bill has been passed over by each Congress since 1987.

On January 24, 2011, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Bill 2649 which prohibits political dynasties from holding or running for elected local government positions. The bill disqualifies the following candidates from running for local government positions:

  • relatives of an incumbent elected official running for re-election up to the second degree of consanguinity, and are planning to run in the same province in the same election as the elected official
  • relatives of an incumbent elected official that holds a national position up to the second degree of consanguinity, and are planning to run in the province of origin of the elected official
  • persons that are not relatives of an elected official that are candidates to the same position in the same province in the same election but are related to each other up to the second degree of consanguinity.

The bill also prohibits relatives within the prohibited civil degree of relationship of an incumbent from succeeding to the incumbent’s position, except for the positions of Punong Barangay and Sangguniang Barangay.

Three bills were filed in the House of Representatives which are also in relation to the prohibition of political dynasties, which are similar in content to Senate Bill 2649:

  1. House Bill 172 filed on July 1, 2013 by representatives under the Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT, Anakpawis and Kabataan party lists.
  2. House Bill 837 filed on July 2, 2013 by Representative Erlinda Santiago of the 1-SAGIP party list.
  3. House Bill 2911 filed on September 18, 2013 by Representative Oscar Rodriguez from the 3rd district of Pampanga.

On December 16, 2013, the House of Representatives Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms agreed to replace the three House bills into a single bill filed as House Bill 3587.

Statistics of Philippine Political Dynasties

Due to the increasing number of political dynasties in the Philippines, majority of the positions in government are held by politicians that are members of political dynasties. In fact, in the years 1995-2007, an average of 31.3% of all congressmen and 23.1% of governors were replaced by relatives. In the 1995 elections, of the 83 congressmen elected on to their third term, 36 of them were replaced by a relative in the succeeding elections. The term "relative" here referring to anyone with a familial connection such as a wife, a son or daughter, a cousin, etc. In many of these cases, the people who would eventually go on to take their place had no previous political background or experience save their familial connection.[2]

In a study done in 2012 by economists Beja, Mendoza, Venida, and Yap, it was estimated that 40% of all provinces in the Philippines have a provincial governor and congressman that are related in some way.[2] Another 2014 study done by Querubin of the Department of Politics in New York University indicated that an estimate 50-70% of all politicians are involved or associated in a political dynasty within the Philippines, including local government units. In the same study, it was concluded that approximately 70% of all jurisdiction-based legislators in the current Congress are involved in a political dynasty, with 40% of them having ties to legislators who belonged to as far as 3 Congresses prior. It is also said that 77% of legislators between the ages of 26-40 are also dynastic, which indicates that the second and third generations of political dynasties in the Philippines have begun their political careers as well.[3]

In order to analyze patterns of political dynasties within the 15th Congress, categories were formed according to the number of familial ties each politician had to politicians belonging to previous Congresses:

Category 1: Those with ties to the 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th Congress as well as at least one family member elected into a local government unit between the years 2001 and 2010

Category 2: Those with familial connections to at least one person belonging to the 12th, 13th, or 14th Congress

Category 3: Those who share kinship with at least one person belonging to the 12th, 13th, or 14th dynasty, or at least one relative with a local government unit (LGU) position from the 2001, 2004, or 2007 elections

Category 4: Those with at least one relation in the 12th, 13th, or 14th Congress or holding a local government unit (LGU) position in the elections in between 2001 and 2010

In a population of 229 legislators in the 15th Congress, 155 of them are classified as belonging to the fourth category. Of those 155, 144 of them also belong to the third category. 84 of the 144 belong in the second category, and of the 84, 10 belong to the first category.[3]

Critical Reception

Various writers wrote articles that analyze and critique politicians that fall under the domain of a political dynasty. Often, these articles hold these said persons and families in a critical light.[4] Although political dynasties have already been present in the Philippines for a significant period of time, the public has only recently started clamoring for a change in system.[5] The public support for the bill against political dynasties has steadily increased because the president, while part of a dynasty himself, fully supports the passage of the Anti-Dynasty Bill.[6] In a provincial scale, political dynasties are often held in higher regard- contrasted with dynasties that oversee a wider public, where reception is mostly negative. A study that used empirical data correlated political dynasty presence with socio-economic development. This study stated that "this partial correlation coefficient finds a positive relationship between poverty incidence and the proportion of political dynasties in each province." Although the study found a correlation, this does not determine whether it is a causal relationship since poverty is multifaceted.[7]



One of the notable influences of political dynasties is a political "Carnegie Effect", named after Andrew Carnegie. The "Carnegie Effect" is based on Carnegie’s decision to give all his wealth to non-family members, where he argues that his son might have less incentive of working hard if he were to be assured of his father’s wealth.[8] This can also be attributed to dynastic politicians. According to an empirical survey, dynastic politicians have a significant advantage from the start of their career. They have a statistically higher probability to win elections as compared to non-dynastic politicians. Dynastic politicians also have generally lower educational attainment which is inversely related to their rank in their political dynasties.[9] There are also claims regarding economic inequalities arising from political dynasties. This is allegedly due to political dynasties having economic power along with their political power while a relative is in office.[10] Another negative effect of political dynasties is that it may restrict significant change to the system of the government unit, since dynasties would rather stick to tried and true methods of governing rather than try to effect change. Also, dynasties prevent new candidates from occupying new seats of power; leading to less new ideas and platforms to work with.


Political dynasties also have extra incentive to develop their own jurisdictions. Based on the notion of "Roving Bandits vs. Stationary Bandits", dynastic politicians are more likely to pursue developments since they expect to be in office for longer. Unlike non-dynastic politicians who have less incentive to develop due to their limited term, political dynasties can gain benefits either directly or indirectly through their relatives.[11] Political dynasties are also responsible for the increase in women’s political participation in politics. Female politicians hailing from political dynasties can easily get into politics due to their connections.[11] Political dynasties have the advantage of continuity. The more control the family has over the government unit, the more members of the family can occupy positions of power. Political dynasties can use this continuity by promoting and enacting laws and ordinances that are long term in nature; with only a slim chance of other candidates outside of the dynasty interfering with the plans.

"Notable Philippine" Political Dynasties


The Ampatuan family has exercised political crowd control over the Maguindanao region since 2001, with several of its members holding positions in government. The family’s patriarch, Andal Ampatuan Sr., was elected Governor of Maguindanao in 2001. His sons, Andal Ampatuan Jr. and Zaldy Ampatuan, were the former mayor of Datu Unsay and former Governor of ARMM respectively.[12] 80 members of the Ampatuan clan ran for governmental positions during the 2013 elections.[13] The Ampatuans' rise to power is attributed to support received from former President Gloria Arroyo.[14] As a result of their connection, the Ampatuans won Arroyo a large majority of votes from Maguindanao during the 2004 Presidential elections. The Arroyo administration’s issuance of Executive Order 546 then allowed the Ampatuans to form their own private army, also known as civilian volunteer organizations.[15]

Despite their prominence in Maguindanao, the Ampatuans were generally unheard of outside of the region until the infamous 2009 Maguindanao Massacre. They are considered the main suspects behind the massacre that killed 57 people. The victims had been on their way to file the candidacy of Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu for the 2010 elections when they were stopped by an armed convoy. They were later abducted and murdered; some victims were also reported to have been raped.[16][17] After the discovery of the mass graves, President Arroyo declared martial law in Maguindanao.[18] 198 people, including Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Andal Ampatuan, Jr., were charged with murder.[19] Charges against some of the suspects have been dropped in the years since. Andal Ampatuan Sr., suspected to be the mastermind behind the massacre, died on July 17, 2015.[20] The trial remains ongoing today.


The Aquinos are a political family that originated from Tarlac. The dynasty began with Servillano Aquino, a general during the Philippine Revolution and delegate of the Malolos Congress. His son, Benigno "Igno" Aquino, Sr., was a Speaker in the House of Representatives during the Second Philippine Republic. He was charged and arrested for collaborating with the Japanese during World War II. Nowadays, the Aquinos are oftentimes viewed as opponents of the Marcos family, mainly due to the actions of Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. A former Governor of Tarlac who has his critical views against the Marcoses resulting to a family-political feud. However, he was convicted for murder and possession of firearms. He was also charged for collaborating with the Moro secessionist in Malaysia and held responsible for leading a communist insurgency in which leads to various of massacres. He was imprisoned and was sentenced to death but was pardoned and exiled to the US by President Ferdinand Marcos for his recovery after suffering from heart attack. On August 21, 1983, few days upon his recovery and decision to run for presidency, he returned to the Philippines. Upon leaving the plane, Ninoy was assinated on the tarmac in the Manila International Airport. An estimated two million Filipinos attended his funeral procession. After his death, his wife, Corazon Aquino, became more active in politics. She was a key figure during the People Power Revolution. Cory later became the first female President of the Philippines after beating Ferdinand Marcos in the snap elections. However, this is brought up oligarchy and democracy. Her death on 2009 garnered widespread public support reminiscent of her husband’s; this support is one of the major reasons why her son, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, won the 2010 presidential elections. Other active politicians from the Aquino family include Paolo Benigno "Bam" Aquino, the youngest ever Senator in the 16th Philippine Congress.


The Estrada political dynasty began with Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada, who began as a successful film actor. The popularity Estrada gained from acting would prove to be valuable when he pursued a career in politics. He served as the Mayor of San Juan from 1969-1986, Senator from 1987-1992, and Vice President from 1992-1998. He later succeeded Fidel to be the 13th President of the Philippines. During his term, Estrada's wife and First Lady, Loi Estrada, served as Senator. Allegations of corruption under his administration led to an impeachment trial, which was discontinued after the court voted against opening an envelope possibly containing incriminating evidence. This resulted in the four day long Second People Power Revolution.[21] His resignation from presidency was declared soon afterwards. Despite this, the absolute pardon given by former President Arroyo allowed Estrada to run for and eventually became the Mayor of Manila in 2013.[22]

Many other members of the Estrada dynasty are still active in politics, particularly in San Juan. Among these are his sons, Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito, who both served as Mayor of San Juan. JV's mother, Guia Gomez, is the current Mayor.[23] Jinggoy Estrada himself has been a member of the Senate since 2004. He is currently under trial for his alleged involvement in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam.[24]


The Marcoses are one of the most well-known political dynasties in the Philippines. The dynasty started with Mariano Marcos, a lawyer from Ilocos Norte who was a member of the House of Representatives back in 1925. Ilocos remains to be the Marcoses’ political stronghold today.

The dynasty was at its most prominent during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, son of Mariano Marcos. Ferdinand is one of the most controversial figures in Philippine history, due his declaration of martial law and the numerous human rights violations associated with his rule. Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial law to suppress the widespread of communism and civil strife. Marcos family members also held several governmental positions during this period.[25] Though they were exiled as a result of the People Power Revolution, the Marcos family has since regained power and is currently active in Philippine politics. Imelda Marcos, wife of Ferdinand and former first lady, is currently a district representative of the second district of Ilocos Norte. Marcos’ daughter, Imee Marcos, is a governor of Ilocos Norte. His son, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr., is currently a senator running for the vice presidency in the upcoming 2016 national elections.[26]


The Roxas political dynasty started with Manuel Roxas, the fifth President of the Philippines. Before being President, he served as the Governor of Capiz (now named Roxas City). As a descendant of Antonia Róxas y Ureta, he is also related to the Zobel de Ayalas, a prominent business family. His son, Gerardo Roxas, served as a representative of the First District of Capiz and Senator. His grandson, Mar Roxas, was a former Senator and Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary. He lost the Vice Presidency in 2010, and lost the Presidency in 2016 elections.


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