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As it was more than a hundred years ago, during the American occupation, Philippine politics is still dominated by a handful of elite families. Due to weakness of our state institutions, political elites were able to take advantage and use their power to serve their own interests. The four post-Martial Law presidencies have all been haunted and the same time played important roles in the promulgation of elite politics that didn‟t help improve the political maturity of the Philippines. This is most glaring in the past administration of former President Gloria Arroyo, wherein she willingly cooperates with the political elites in an effort to preserve her presidency. Families like the Singsons, Duranos and the controversial Ampatuans were a familiar sight during the leadership of Arroyo. The provincial base of powers of these elites ensured that Arroyo‟s presidency would be assured and sustained despite her unpopularity and the overwhelming call for her resignation. Even our current president, Noynoy Aquino, is a glaring representation of how elites have ruled over our country. Benigno Aquino III comes from a long line of elite families from both his maternal and paternal side. Both of parents where part of a political elite family that have been ruling over our country since the American period. His father Benigno Aquino Jr. was a former Senator whose assassination became one of the reasons for the People Power Revolution. His paternal grandfather was also a Senator during the American period and was one of the politicians that collaborated with the Japanese government during their invasion. Her mother on the other hand was the late former president Corazon Cojuangco Aquino and was part of the prominent and one of the most powerful political families in the Philippines, the Cojuangco clan that up until now still rules much of the province of Tarlac. If you‟re going to look at the politicians that rule over the Philippines over a hundred years ago, you will see the same familiar names that rule over our country now. The Osmenas, Roxas, Cojuangcos, and the Aquinos are just few of the family names that exist in the list of powerful and top politicians of the Philippines one hundred years ago and are still prominent in the Philippines current politics. Ruling over their respective territories with a combination of popularity, charm, wealth, and use of violence, these families were able to keep off rival politicians and sometimes even the national government from wresting power from their respective families. Their unprecedented rule over their territories meant that they were free to wield their political power without contestation to their advantage. These political families were able to privatize state operated industries with the use of legitimate political power they have acquired. Doing so weakens the state and further strengthens their rule of their particular territories. In tracing the emergence of the political elites in the Philippines it is best to look at Benedict Anderson‟s Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams1. In that book, Anderson said that elite families originated from the mestizos or the offsprings of Sangleys2 and local Filipino women. The mestizos at first were marginalized until they gained economic power from the Sangleys during the British invasion of Manila on 1762. “They might, however, have remained a marginal and stigmatized group, had it not been for the services of British imperialism. When Madrid joined in the Seven Years‟ War, London responded, inter alia, by
in a pre-television age. It was with Emilio Aguinaldo that the Philippines were able to achieve independence from the Spaniards. The inclusion of the Filipinos in the National Congress proved to be the perfect opportunity for these elite for they have already gathered significant wealth during Spanish colonial period but was denied of any political power. Ilocano. It was during the American period that the elite families would garner significant economic wealth and political power with the United States of America evicting the Spaniards away from the Philippines and giving the Filipinos a seat in the National Congress. who. Into the vacuum created by the expulsions came the mestizos. and further immigration was legally barred for almost a century. Michael Cullinane refers to the resultant system as "colonial democracy". but soon began to change side and/or surrender to the Americans. According to. later American). They might all speak the elite. After gaining economic wealth. they have now begun procedures on how they can consolidate power. Soon.” On 1834. a term originally used in Spain and Latin America. The local Sangleys. According to him “Their provincial fiefdoms were also protected by the country‟s immense linguistic diversity. Early on. Pampango. provincial aristocrats like Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña. According to Clarence Henderson in his online journal Pearl of the Orient Sea. insouciantly left these humble allies to the vengeful mercies of their erstwhile oppressors. “From the beginning. rallied to the invaders. the Philippines were open up for international trade which the mestizo took advantage and started developing the agriculture of the provinces of the Philippines with the help on capital coming from the British and the Americans. the mestizos soon desired political power but lack the knowledge on how to do it.” In here the Americans had inadequately created a national oligarchy that would continually shape the political events in the Philippines. frequent victims of Iberian extortion and contempt. The elites use the lands they bought to increase their economic wealth and more importantly to create landlord-tenant relationship with the locals and ensuring these people‟s support during the election. In this way competition in any given electoral district was effectively limited. Now educated and learned in the means of politics. many mestizos have begun to send their sons in Europe to study and be educated. with local patronage politics gradually seeping up to the national level legislature and the President's cabinet (Henderson)5. The elites were able to ensure victory and a sit in the National Congress by utilizing the Spanish Order appropriated haciendas that they have bought and added to the lands that they already own. Cebuano. Sr. but the independence was short lived as the Americans have come to occupy the Philippines. when they retired. Most of the elites have at first supported Aguinaldo in his resistance against the new colonizers. Most were then expelled from the Philippines. who took over much of local trade (Anderson 7)3. extended their power. „national‟ language (Spanish. They soon become the illustrados and later started to call themselves as Filipinos.” .occupying Manila in1762 and holding it for the next two years. but equally applicable in the Hispanic-influenced Philippines. Ilongo. the domestic political process was dominated by powerful clans in the provinces. but they also spoke variously Tagalog. and a dozen other tongues. They have been referred to as caciques. the diversity of Language per region in the Philippines also protected and helped the formulation of the base power structures of the elites in their particular territories. to a handful of rival local caciques (Anderson 11)4.
The only person who was able to harm the elites in the history of politics of the Philippines was former president and Dictator Ferdinand Marcos. A person that could lead the Philippines and its people to political maturity and at the same time hold back the elites that would prevent the political epiphany. Using a strengthened national army both politically and a means to support his need for violence. Benedict.htm>. a single privatized National Constabulary. Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams. efforts in changing this are almost a near possibility. Marcos was able to destroy the bases of power of the elites that he thought would have the power to challenge his Dictatorship. the creation and drafting of reform laws that might act negatively against the stability of the elites is not happening. A term they use back then to describe a person with pure Chinese ancestry. Benedict." Pearl of the Orient Sea (2000): n. Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams. Next would be the suspension of power of these elites that would ensure that they could not fight back when they are being dealt with. a pocket or rotten country. a client Supreme Court. First would be the establishment of a stronger army that could support the state‟s actions against the political elites. Web. 1 2 Anderson. With much of our government filled with politicians coming from elite families.With Philippine politics still dominated by a few elite families. in place of personal armies.apmforum. I believe the solution lies with using the same methods that was used by Ferdinand Marcos. In looking for a solution with the Philippines current elite dominated politics. and flunkies( Anderson 20)6. The problem with what Marcos did was he replaced all the elite families he destroyed with himself as “Master Cacique” or “Master Warlord. a personal Army. Despite the failure of Ferdinand Marcos in his leadership of the Philippines. <http://www. it can‟t be denied that he was the only person that was able to destroy the elite based politics in the Philippines.” “Don Ferdinand can be seen as the Master Cacique or Master Warlord. pag. hit men. he was able to eliminate his enemies. "Philippine Politics and Corruption: A Sociopolitical Digression . instead of pliable local judges. This solution would all boil down to person that would be able to wield absolute powers without abusing it like Marcos did in his administration. Benedict. in that he pushed the destructive logic of the old order to its natural conclusion. In place of dozens of privatized „security guards‟. The reason that Marcos failed was because he tried to insert himself as the new singular elite and therefore lost the support of the people that eventually oust him from power. 4 Ibid 5 Henderson. Clarence.” After the People Power revolution that had unseated Marcos from the presidency. managed by cronies. . It means trader 3 Anderson.com/columns/orientseas22. Corazon Aquino took over and restored the traditional elites of our country into power. Marcos‟ authoritarian rule backed up with a strong military support was the perfect solution in halting the sources of powers of the elite. Cacique Democracy in the Philippines: Origins and Dreams. 6 . instead of a myriad pocket and rotten boroughs.