As the 18th Congress opens, at least 20 political families in the House of Representatives will be sitting together as husbands and wives; parents and children; siblings; cousins; uncles; aunts and in-laws.
The political families who will occupy the most number of seats in the lower chamber are the Suarezes of Quezon and the Dys of Isabela. They have 3 seats each.
Dr. Ronald Mendoza, dean of the Ateneo de Manila School of Government, said having relatives sitting together in Congress may lead to the “rapid erosion” of independence and credibility of Congress.
He said it also deprives other “promising leaders” of representation and a voice in Congress.
“So many groups, so many parts of our country want their voice to be heard, and you just took away one slot for that voice to be heard,” Mendoza said.
The Suarez congressmen are Aleta, David and Anna Marie. Aleta Suarez (3rd district, Quezon) is the mother of David Suarez (2nd district, Quezon). David is the husband of Anna Marie Villaraza-Suarez (ALONA party-list).
Aleta’s husband, Danilo Suarez, who was a Quezon congressman in the 17th Congress, is now the governor of Quezon.
The Dy congressmen are Faustino Michael Dy III (5th district, Isabela), Ian Paul Laguatan Dy (3rd district, Isabela) and Faustino “Inno” Dy V (6th district, Isabela). They are first cousins.
POLITICS AS FAMILY BUSINESSES
Mendoza, who has researched political dynasties in the Philippines, said concentrating power among political families is “very contrary to democracy and meritocracy.”
He said this results in having leaders that come from a small group of political families who tend to use available resources to field more of their relatives in elected and appointed government positions.
“Many Filipinos already know some politicians made this a family business,” Mendoza said.
Political Science professor Julio Teehankee of the De La Salle University described political families who simultaneously hold elected and appointed positions in the government as “fat dynasties.”
“That’s tantamount to political monopoly. The problem here is the elite capture. You cannot expect those who benefit from the same system to enact a law or policy that will affect their own interests,” Tehankee said.
There are 5 husband-and-wife tandems in the House of Representatives. They are led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano (1st district, Taguig-Pateros) and wife Lani (2nd district, Taguig-Pateros).
The others are Majority Floor Leader Martin Romualdez (1st district, Leyte) and wife, Yedda (Tingog Sinirangan party-list); Rep. Florencio Gabriel Noel (An Waray party-list) and wife, Josephine Veronique (lone district of Malabon); Rep. Rashidin Matba (lone district of Tawi-Tawi) and wife, Angelica (2nd district, Agusan del Norte), and Rep. Horacio Suansing, Jr. (2nd district, Sultan Kudarat) and wife, Estrelita (1st district, Nueva Ecija).
CONGRESSIONAL PARENTS AND CHILDREN
Parent-child tandems in the House are Rep. Rodolfo Albano (LPGMA party-list) and son, Antonio (1st district, Isabela); Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo (2nd district, Lanao del Norte) and son, Mohamad Khalid (1st district, Lanao del Norte), and Rep. Elisa Kho (2nd district, Masbate) and son, Wilton (3rd district, Masbate).
Sibling partners include 2 brothers of Sen. Manny Pacquiao. They are Rep. Rogelio Pacquiao (lone district of Sarangani) and Rep. Alberto Pacquiao (OFW party-list). The Farinas congressmen are siblings Rudys Caesar (PROBINSYANO AKO party-list) and Ria Christina (1st district, Ilocos Norte).
The other sibling congressmen are Rep. Samier Tan (1st district, Sulu) and sister, Shernee Tan (Kusug Tausug party-list) and Rep. Alfonso Umali, Jr. (2nd district, Mindoro) and sister, Victoria Umali (A Teacher party-list).
CONGRESSIONAL COUSINS, AUNTS, UNCLES, IN-LAWS
The Arroyos occupy 2 seats. Rep. Lourdes Arroyo-Lesaca (5th district, Negros Occidental) is the aunt of Rep. Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo (2nd district, Pampanga). The Singsons of Ilocos Sur also have 2 congressmen. They are Rep. Jose Singson, Jr. (Probinsyano Ako party-list) and his niece, Kristine Singson (2nd district, Ilocos Sur).
Congressmen who are cousins are Christopher De Venecia (4th district, Pangasinan) and Edward Maceda (4th district, Manila). De Venecia’s mother, former Rep. Gina de Venecia, and Maceda’s mother, film producer Ichu Vera-Perez Maceda, are sisters. Rep. Ansaruddin Abdul Malik Adiong (1st district, Lanao del Sur) and Yasser Balindong (2nd district, Lanao del Sur) are also first cousins. Adiong’s mother, Bae Sorya Alonto-Adiong, is the sister of Balindong’s mother, Jamila Alonto-Balindong. Rep. Jericho Nograles (PBA party-list), son of former Speaker Prospero Nograles, is the first cousin of Rep. Fidel Nograles (2nd district, Rizal).
Embattled former Health Secretary Janette Garin (1st district, Iloilo) has also won a congressional seat along with her sister-in-law, Sharon Garin (AAMBIS-OWA partylist).
GREED FOR POWER
These family ties may or may not result in uniform voting on legislative bills and controversial measures as there have been times when political families clash on positions, Mendoza said.
“Once family members have tasted power, they may actually contest the patriarch or matriarch,” he added.
Still, Tehankee said, these political families are not expected to vote against their own interests to prolong their stay in power.
Mendoza warned against continued practice of filling up congressional seats with lawmakers who are related by blood or by law.
“If they do not moderate their greed for political power, and they field more and more relatives in that body, in such a way, basically in your face, in all our faces, basically husband and wife of 2 districts, intermarriages that are even making more powerful political families, it will be destructive,” Mendoza said.
RELATIVES IN THE SENATE
These ties extend to the Senate too. There are 12 senators who have sitting relatives in the House of Representatives.
Aside from Sen. Pacquiao, there are several other senators with siblings in the lower chamber. They are Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., whose brother is Rep. Strike Revilla (2nd district, Cavite); Sen. Francis Tolentino, whose brother is Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino (8th district, Cavite); Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, whose brother is Rep. Wes Gatchalian (1st district, Valenzuela City), Sen. Miguel Zubiri, whose brother is Rep. Manuel Zubiri (3rd district, Bukidnon) and Sen. Pia Cayetano, whose brother is Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano.
Sen. Ralph Recto’s wife, actress and incumbent congresswoman Vilma Santos (6th district, Batangas) was reelected.
Sen. Joel Villanueva’s father, Rep. Eduardo Villanueva, is CIBAC party-list representative while Sen. Cynthia Villar’s daughter, Rep. Camille Villar, is the lone representative of Las Pinas City.
Those who have cousins in the House are Sen. Sonny Angara, whose cousin is Rep. Rommel Angara (lone district of Aurora), and Sen. Imee Marcos, whose cousins are Rep. Eugenio Angelo M. Barba (2nd district, Ilocos Norte) and Rep. Martin Romualdez (1st district, Leyte).
Meanwhile, Sen. Nancy Binay’s brother-in-law, Rep. Luis Jose Campos Jr. is the representative of the second district of Makati.