Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dynastic Politics in the Philippines (Part 1 of Many)

One of the biggest problems in the Philippines, in my opinion, is that the country is run by a few families who dominate the country's politics. These families are intermarried with each other and with the major business families and thus also control the economy, which is run under a corporatist philosophy (aka 'crony capitalism'). I'll start out by just discussing Cebu, where I live, but most other areas seem to be organized similarly, and the structure rolls up to the national scene.

In the preceding post, I mentioned Tommy Osmena, a congressman who twice before has been mayor of Cebu City, and is currently running again. He'll make a good starting point.

I live just off Juana Osmena Street (named for Tommy's grandmother), which runs next to and parallel to Osmena Boulevard, the most important street in the city, which runs through Fuente Osmena, the central point in the city (named for a fountain located there that was built by the Osmena Water Company).

Tommy's grandfather, Sergio, was the last president of the Philippine Commonwealth, prior to independence (if you've ever seen pictures of MacArthur wading ashore after the first landings here, the short guy next to him is Sergio Osmena). He was a founder of the Nacionalista Party, which dominated Philippine politics in the early years, was governor of Cebu, a senator, then VP under Manual Quezon. When Quezon died during World War II, Osmena succeeded to the presidency. Two of Sergio's sons, Sergio Jr. and John Henry, also served in the Philippine senate, and Sergio Jr. was a candidate for president (he lost to Marcos in 1969). A third son, Emilio, is a former governor of Cebu, who also served as chief economic advisor to President Fidel Ramos.

Sergio III, Tommy's older brother, is currently a senator, ran for vice-president in the last election, and is expected to be a presidential candidate next time. He's also married to a Lopez, about which family I'll tell you more on another occasion, but for now I'll just mention that they're very rich and they own some of the country's biggest media properties.

Tommy was term-limited out of the mayor's office in the last election and was replaced by Mike Rama. Rama is, by Philippine standards, only lightly connected. His grandfather was a senator, and when he first joined the city council, he took over the seat previously held by his uncle.

The current governor of Cebu province is Gwen Garcia. She took over the office when the previous governor, Pablo Garcia, was term-limited out. Pablo is her father. Gwen is now term-limited, and the leading candidate to replace her is her brother, Pablo John (PJ's opponent is Hilario Davide III, whose father is a former chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court).

PJ is currently in congress. When the father left the governorship, he took over another congressional seat (When he left congress to become governor in 1995, his seat was taken by John Osmena).. Now that PJ is running for governor, Gwen is running for his seat (so effectively, they're just trading offices).

One of their brothers, Nelson, is mayor of Dumanjug, a mid-sized city in central Cebu; another, Marlon, is vice-mayor of Barili, another mid-sized city, and seeking the mayor's job in the current election. Two other brothers hold appointed government positions.

I mentioned that Tommy Osmena had been mayor twice before. The first time he was term-limited out, he was replaced by Alvin Garcia. I can't find much info about him, but I assume he's related to the other Garcias.

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