What could wipe out political dynasties?

By Jesus F. Llanto, abs-cbnNews.com/ Newsbreak

Posted at Jun 01 2010 10:27 AM | Updated as of Jun 02 2010 12:34 AM

A quick scan of 2010 results shows it’s close association with President Arroyo, less campaign funds, and poor performance

MANILA, Philippines—The 2010 elections saw the fall of some of the well-entrenched political families at the local level, most of them because of their close association with the extremely unpopular President Arroyo.

A quick scan of the election results show that at least 5 political dynasties suffered huge defeats. They include 3 families whose members served in the Arroyo Cabinet for a considerable amount of time.

Political analysts told abs-cbnNews.com/Newsbreak that aside from voters’ dissatisfaction with administration allies, poor performance in their current terms and less funds in the homestretch of the campaign also set back these families’ bids.

Fathers and sons

The Arroyo connection was among the reasons cited by analysts for the defeat of the father-and-son bids of the Ermitas in Batangas, the Gonzalezes in Iloilo City, and the Defensors in Quezon City.

“They did not realize how poisonous the GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) connection was to them and did not distance themselves from the President,” said public administration professor Prospero de Vera Jr.

“They were at the forefront and are all out in defending President Arroyo,” added Ateneo de Manila political science professor Benito Lim.

Former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita failed to reclaim his old seat as congressman of Batangas’s first district. He lost to former customs commissioner Tomas Apacible.

Ermita had served as congressman from 1992 to 2001. After his 3 terms, his daughter, Eileen Ermita-Buhain, took over and served for 3 terms until 2010.

Ermita’s son, Erwin, suffered another defeat in the vice gubernatorial race in the province. It was the younger Ermita’s second defeat in the vice gubernatorial race against incumbent Mark Leviste. Erwin and Leviste first clashed in 2007.

“He [Eduardo Ermita] was quite a big political boss in Batangas, but he is always seen defending President Arroyo,” Lim said.

Former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. was defeated by Iloilo City vice mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog in the mayoralty race. Mabilog led Gonzalez by 15,000 votes.

The former justice chief’s son, incumbent Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., lost his re-election bid to outgoing Mayor Jerry Treñas in the congressional race. Treñas led him by around 24,000 votes.

The Gonzalezes have represented the lone district of Iloilo since 1995. The father completed 3 terms in 2004, and was succeeded by the younger Gonzalez. It would have been the son’s third and last term if he won this year.

In Quezon City, Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. failed in his re-election bid in the 3rd district. He was defeated by Jorge John Banal Jr. by 6,000 votes.

His son, former environment secretary and Presidential Management Staff chief Michael Defensor, lost  miserably to outgoing Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista in the mayoralty race.

The Defensors have represented the 3rd district since 1995. The younger Defensor served as congressman from 1995 to 2001. His younger sister, Ma. Theresa, took over from 2001 to 2004. The father succeeded the daughter in 2004 and was re-elected in 2007.

Michael acknowledged in 2007, when he lost in the senatorial race, that his association with President Arroyo became a baggage in the campaign. He had served as Arroyo’s spokesperson.

De Vera said that it was a difficult battle for Gonzalez and Defensor because they faced local officials who were more familiar with the daily concerns of the voters and what was happening at the grassroots.

“Local officials are the ones who have the capacity. They are the ones who can give employment to the people,” De Vera said.

Barbers out, Matugas in

In Surigao del Norte, the Barbers clan was wiped out by the Matugas family. The sons of the late Senator Robert Barbers were defeated by the kin of 1st district Rep. Francisco Matugas, who secured a second term by defeating Barbers’ party mate Constantino Navarro III.

Re-electionist Governor Robert Ace Barbers was defeated by the Sol Matugas, wife of Rep. Matugas in the gubernatorial race. His older brother, former governor Robert Lyndon Barbers, was defeated by Ernesto Matugas, brother of Francisco, in the mayoral race in Surigao City. (Robert Dean Barbers, general manager of Philippine Tourism Authority, again lost in his congressional bid in Makati’s 1st district).

The running mates of Ace and Lyndon also lost. Another party mate, Surigao City Mayor Alfonso Casurra, lost in the congressional race in the 2nd district.

The Barbers family has been in power since 1992, when their father was elected as representative of the province. When he won in the 1998 senatorial race, Ace took over the congressional seat and served for 3 terms until 2007. Lyndon, meanwhile, served as governor from 2001 to 2007.

“The Barbers started to weaken in 2007,” said De Vera. “Their strength weakened due to their close association with the President and the ruling coalition.” The Barbers are known stalwarts of Lakas-CMD before they jumped to the Nacionalista Party this election.

Jalosjoses expand turf

In the Zamboanga Peninsula, the fall of a political clan in Zamboanga Sibugay heralded the expansion of another family from the neighboring Zamboanga del Norte.

The Hofers, who belong to the Lakas-Kampi-CMD, lost their grip on Zamboanga Sibugay after 3 family members lost in the local races. The patriarch, outgoing Governor George Hofer, lost in his mayoral bid in the capital town of Ipil against incumbent Mayor Eldwin Alibutdan.

The 2 other members of the Hofer clan lost to members of the Jalosjos clan from Zamboanga del Norte. Rep. Dulce Ann Hofer, daughter of George, lost in the gubernatorial race against Rommel Jalosjos, son of former Zamboanga del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos.

Her brother, George “Jet” Hofer II, was defeated by another son of Romeo, Romeo Masupil Jalosjos, in the congressional race of Sibugay’s 2nd district.

De Vera said the Hofers were defeated probably because they could not match the financial resources of the Jalosjoses, who wield economic power in Zamboanga del Norte. The Jalosjoses have big businesses in Zamboanga del Norte, among them the Dakak Beach Resort, one of the main tourist spots in the province.

The Hofers have been in power even before the province was carved out of Zamboanga del Sur in 2001. The patriarch served as mayor of Titay town from 1992 to 1998 and congressman of the then 3rd district of Zamboanga del Sur from 1998 to 2001 (before the district was converted into a separate province).

Governor Hofer was among those who pushed for the separation of Sibugay from Zamboanga del Sur.

The victory of the Jalosjoses in Sibugay expanded the family’s influence in the region that is composed of 3 provinces and an independent city, Zamboanga City.

Three members of the family won in their respective races in Zamboanga del Norte: Board Member Seth Frederick Jalosjos, son of former Rep. Romeo Jalosjos who won in the congressional race in the 1st district; re-electionist Rep. Cesar Jalosjos, Romeo's brother, in the 3rd district; and Dapitan City Mayor Dominador Jalosjos, another brother of Romeo, who was re-elected.

The Jalosjoses were able to penetrate Sibugay local politics by aligning themselves with other political figures in the area. They are party mates of Mayor Alibutdan, the Olegarios, and former vice governor and outgoing Rep. Belma Cabilao, whose son Jonathan Yambao won as congressman of the 1st district.

Campaign funds, track record

Analysts said that the dynasties that survived in the recent elections were those that were able to localize themselves and build an economic base.

“Other dynasties are more established because they have businesses and they have ties with national government,” said Lim.

“They are those who set up economic activities and generate jobs for the people in their locality,” De Vera said.

Resources for the campaign and the politician’s track record, they added, could explain why some political dynasties fell.

De Vera said the local candidates received lesser campaign funds from their parties and national candidates compared to previous elections.

“It was a bit dry,” De Vera said. “Local candidates had to fund themselves and they were already scraping the bottom of their campaign chests during the last week of the campaign. That was the most crucial point because that was the time to buy votes.”

Political families that had more resources, he said, enjoyed a huge advantage over those who had limited resources and who had to rely from campaign donations.

De Vera added that some families also failed to adjust with the new automation system and still used the old strategies of campaigning and vote buying. “They still used the traditional method of vote buying even if it is now harder to monitor if the voters actually deliver votes for them.”

Lim, meanwhile, said that the clans’ track record in governance also affected the outcome of the election at the local level.

“At the local level, it is easier to know if you have a good track record because people know that by the jobs created by the politicians and by the schools and roads they built,” Lim said. “If there is corruption, it is also easier for the people to evaluate.” —with research assistance from Rachelle Ann Gutierrez, Nico Arboleda, Maritoni Molina and Riziel Cabreros