Politics and Media

Theory is: Philippine politics are made in a presidential, representative, and democratic republic, in which the president incorporates both the head of state and the head of a multi-party government. Legislative, executive and judicial branch are separated, sovereign and independent. Executive power is exercised by the government under the president’s lead. Legislative power is consigned to both the government and the two-chamber Congress: the Senate (the upper chamber) and the House of Representatives (the lower chamber). Judicial power is vested in the courts with the Supreme Court of the Philippines as the highest body. National elections are held every six year. So far, so good.

Reality is: Philippine politics is influenced by political dynasties, with many top-ranked candidates usually being either re-electionists or relatives of incumbent or former politicians.

Family affairs  

This showed a 2012 study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy, stating that political dynasties comprise 70% of jurisdiction-based legislators in the 15th Philippine Congress. It revealed patterns that provide food for thought: political dynasties tended to dominate the major political parties and, on average, were located in areas that are characterized by lower standards of living, lower human development, and higher levels of deprivation. Political dynasties tended to be wealthier than non-dynasties.  

An anti-political dynasty law had been drafted but was never enforced by the Congress – which was in the hands of said dynasties. In his final State of the Nation Address in 2015, Pres. Benigno Aquino III remarked that it is high time to have an anti-political dynasty law that would only allow two members of a family to hold office at the same time. The reaction came too late: In the 2016 elections, the Filipinos, frustrated with the slow pace of change and a small clique in power for years, voted for change and against the political elite, clientelism, corruption, and crime - and elected Rodrigo Duterte, who claimed to solve all those problems and who was perceived as the anti-establishment candidate. 

Rodrigo Duterte: truly anti-oligarchy? 

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself has expressly stated that he will be waging a war not only against illegal drugs but also against oligarchs whom he described as “monsters”.  But with regard to media, a business sector in which powerful families and companies have a strong standing - as the Media Ownership Monitor proves (link to teaser family ties) - he rather attacks media practioners than taking steps against oligarchs and market distortion. This became clear already on the eve of his assumption into office as President, when he gave a controversial interview in which he charged that journalists, who had been gunned down, had been most likely corrupt and thus had basically asked for it (Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 1, 2016). He remained unrepentant over the remark, despite receiving a deluge of criticisms for it, which came at a time when the Philippines continues to be one of the most dangerous places in the world for journalists.

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    VERA Files
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    Reporters without borders
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    BMZ