Dynastic rules

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Familiar by now is the notable fall of some political dynasties that any extended comment risks being superficial.

Superficial because given the nearness of the events an appreciation on the political ramifications of the relationship between the fall of political dynasties and politics in this country needs time and further evidence.

Yet comment we must, if only to have some sort of contemporary journalistic account, unashamedly done hurriedly, on a turn of events involving Filipino political fiefdoms, which should slowly alter the political landscape.

Of the number of political dynasties which fell in Monday’s ballot, the spectacular fall of the Estrada-Ejercito political family was the most media noteworthy event.

As I write this, after decades of hovering over the Filipino political imaginary, the aging patriarch, Joseph “Erap” Estrada, conceded defeat in Manila, a granddaughter was dumped in the city of San Juan — the clan’s acknowledge seat of power — and two sons were floundering in the Senate races.

If our political landscape is some sort of medieval, feudal political TV mini-series, the House of Estrada had collapsed, unceremoniously done in by their betrayals of their own allies finally catching up on them.

Betrayal was indeed the political backstory of Erap’s fall in Manila. Mayor-elect Isko Moreno ran together with Estrada in a previous election on the promise he, Moreno, will inherit Manila. Estrada reneged on that promise.

Betrayal was also the backstory in the disaster in Estrada’s real seat of power, San Juan. For decades, the Zamora clan had been the unseen hand, the consigliore, of Estrada’s political imagery until a falling out a few years back. Monday’s ballot made the Zamoras political overlords in that small corner of the world which had made Estrada into a president.

In other notable stories of political dynasties falling, the fate of the Eusebio clan in Pasig City was more unceremonious than the Estrada clan. The Eusebios were roundly booted out, not by betrayal, but by a progressive opponent, who not only had the razzle and dazzle of celebrityhood written all over him but also the wits to put the Eusebio brand of public service or lack of it into question.

If anything, public service in Metro Manila — which meant garbage collection, traffic management and ease in dealing with City Hall — still largely determines whether a political clan has full grip of localized power.

Other powerful clans in the metropolis escaped the fate of the Estradas and the Eusebios precisely because the public service given by these clans were adequate or, in some cases, more than adequate.

Another significant detail in the Estrada and Eusebio saga was the fact that both clans were backed by the supposedly influential Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP), the regional party set up by Mr. Duterte’s powerful daughter, Sara. Other political personalities in Metro Manila backed by Hugpong were also drummed up by entrenched incumbents.

Hugpong’s limited success in the metropolis indicated it was still politically raw, misreading the undertones of local Metro Manila politics.

Speaking of Hugpong’s rawness, a miscalculation in Davao del Norte in Mindanao, which also involved a powerful political clan, considerably damaged its new-found prestige with other political blocs.

In the battle royale between the Hugpong-backed Floirendo-Del Rosario dynasty, former House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and his allies in the PDP-Laban decisively won victories.
In the aftermath of his victory, Alvarez, who had no love lost for either the Floirendo-Del Rosario combine or Hugpong, said he would want to take back the House Speaker’s seat from where he had been rudely unseated last year by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, with the pronounced aid of Sara Duterte.

Alvarez’s victory and intentions on the House speakership, by all indications, have rankled somewhat administration circles, particularly the Duterte inner circle.

Nevertheless, Alvarez is still a staunch Duterte ally and whatever developments involving him will be interesting in the days ahead, with intense speculation on how the Duterte inner circle will eventually respond and deal with Alvarez’s renewed political vigor.

Aside from Metro Manila and Davao del Norte, other parts of the country also had their fair share of interesting changes in the fortunes of local political dynasties.

In the Dinagat Islands, grassroots lawyer Kaka Bag-ao finally asserted her political dominance over the dominant Ecleo clan, winning the governorship by a wide margin.

In Cebu province, the Durano clan of Danao City was rudely shaken when an ally of the Garcia clan won Cebu’s fifth district Congress seat, held by a Durano for the past 70 years. The Duranos are relatives of Mr. Duterte.

All these are only a few examples of the fates and fortunes of Filipino political dynasties last election, all interesting by themselves.

But these are not enough for us to conclude political dynasties have lost their clouts or are on their way out. A cursory examination of election results still shows large portions of the country are still under the sway and influence of political dynasties.

Premature it may be to say the fall of some dynasties is the beginning of the end of all political dynasties, nevertheless there is still value in taking note of the falls.

With political dynasties increasingly proving old strengths, of using poverty and dole outs, cannot guarantee political survival in a country trying very hard to modernize its politics, perhaps there is still hope political dynasties eventually become nothing but useless appendages in the political system.

Email: nevqjr@yahoo.com.ph

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