What happened to the impeachment complaint in the House of Representatives–aptly labeled a “killing” by the pro-impeachment alliance and the media–was inevitable, among other reasons because of the presence and dominance of political dynasties in that chamber.

The House reeks with the names of the wives, children, sons and daughters, sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, cousins, nephews and nieces of congressmen and senators long dead, but who live on in their kin and progeny. The Senate is no different, and neither is Malacanang, whose current resident is herself the daughter of a past president.

Over the last six decades since the country’s independence was formally restored, only a handful of new players in Philippine politics have in fact emerged to take their place in Congress. For the most Philippine political institutions remain in the control and management of practically the same names Filipinos have been familiar with for over half a century–if not others who, if they go by different names, are nevertheless related by blood or marriage to the same political families.

We know them all. They go by the such old names as Marcos and Macapagal, Osmena, Roxas, Magsaysay, and Aquino, as well as by the more recent Defensor, Angara, Remulla, and even Dilangalen.

The persistence of political dynasties reveals how seriously flawed Philippine democracy is, and validates the view that the state is no more than the executive committee of the ruling class. It is also testimony to a damaged electoral system run by money and patronage, which prevents the middle classes and even more certainly the poor from breaking the monopoly on power of the landlords and big businessmen who also control the economy.

Though they do not say so, and may not even be conscious of it, the dynasties are united by certain common goals and interests, the most basic being their commitment to the preservation of the political, economic and social systems that have assured their dominance, wealth and power in this country.

This commonality of interests was initially subdued, a mere undercurrent, in the House deliberations over the Arroyo impeachment complaint. After all it did seem that the members of Congress were divided along party lines rather than united by their common elite interests.

But that hope turned out to be futile, like the hope that integrity and national interest would compel more than a handful of members of the majority to cross party lines. Instead it was the critical numbers of pro-impeachment members of Congress who crossed over into the Arroyo camp because of Malacanang inducements.

On the day of the vote on whether the House membership would accept the Justice Committee report which dismissed the impeachment complaints, the commonality of elite interests thus assumed obvious dominance in the way the members of Congress voted–or did not vote.

An impeachment trial could have given Gloria Macapagal Arroyo her “day in court”. But even more critically, it would have given those in control of the political system a chance to dispel the widespread belief that the country’s political institutions are easily manipulated through bribery and backroom deals. They did not seize the opportunity, but the chance to further fatten their personal bank accounts.

By making sure no trial took place, the majority allies of Mrs. Arroyo in the House of Representatives, and their new-found collaborators, as well as Mrs. Arroyo herself, instead succeeded in doing two things: they prolonged the agony of the nation; and, as the Senate did in 2001, they brought the issue to the streets for the sovereign people to decide.

To these two signal achievements we must add a third. Once more, as in 2001, except that this time it is the aptly named Lower House that did it, Congress has demonstrated not only its own total bankruptcy, but also the utter futility of anyone’s relying on the so-called mechanisms for redress enshrined in the laws. The supposed implementers of these laws are to blame, not only because their own interests take precedence over public interests, but also because those interests are personal as well as dynastic.

Consider the case of Imee Marcos, who recently did an Arroyo by apologizing for her failure to even show up for the crucial September 6 vote.

Of the possibility that at least some of those who voted to throw the impeachment complaint out did so for money or favors there is ample indication. The Tuesday, September 6 vote screamed it to the rooftops.
Malacanang shouted the loudest when it boasted that it had released pork barrel funds to “selected” members of Congress the better for them to remember how to cast their votes. But it was silent on what other deals it made to assure that Mrs. Arroyo would not be impeached. Among those possible deals was almost certainly one with the Marcos family.

That those who had been loudly defending Mrs. Arroyo would kill the complaint was expected. What was not was the absence and abstention of the allegedly pro-impeachment members of the House.

These worthies–among them the six alleged allies of former President Joseph Estrada, but most outstandingly Imee Marcos–seem to have found some compelling cause to be absent, thus assuring the defeat of the pro-impeachment bloc. The rumor is that they were induced by millions of reasons from Malacanang–as well as by a probable deal between Mrs. Arroyo and Joseph Estrada, which could include the latter’s release from his Tanay, Rizal confinement– to betray the nation as well as the bloc to which for months they had loudly proclaimed they belonged.

In the case of Ms. Marcos who has so many billions a hundred million is small change, the rumor is that some arrangement allowing the burial of her father Ferdinand in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) is already in the works.

Ms. Marcos alleges that she flew to Singapore on the day of the vote because her vote would not have made any difference. What she doesn’t say is that if her vote would not have made any difference she could have voted anyway. But it seems that her not voting was the condition for the grant of some Malacanang reward.
Whatever largesse Ms. Marcos and company will be getting from Malacanang the country will soon know. Whatever it is, however, Ms. Marcos missed a chance to redeem her family’s bad name, which now not even a hundred Marcoses buried in the Libingan ng Mga Bayani can salvage.

It doesn’t help the Marcos name any either that Ms. Marcos not only failed to vote, but is now regarded as being all along part of a conspiracy to help assure Mrs. Arroyo’s victory, even as she was able to sit in the meetings and discussions of the pro-impeachment groups as Malacanang’s fifth column.

It now seems that Oliver Lozano, a Marcos lawyer, deliberately filed–on the instructions of his clients, of course–the flawed impeachment complaint first to assure that it would be shot down and no other complaint addressed, because of the constitutional prohibition against Congress’ entertaining more than one impeachment complaint each year.

Rumor their reasons may be, but the behavior of Marcos and company by itself has once more demonstrated the bankruptcy of the process that, under the law, should have afforded the nation some sense of what really happened to its votes in 2004. As things now stand the crisis and the agony continue, the unresolved issue being Mrs. Arroyo’s legitimacy and right to govern a country where 80 percent of the population would prefer to be governed by someone else.

Who that someone else should be has been a major point of debate for months and has helped keep Mrs. Arroyo in Malacanang. The Constitution of course says that if Mrs. Arroyo resigned or was incapable of discharging the duties of the Presidency, her vice president would assume the post.

But it is not the clarity of the Constitution at issue, but Noli de Castro’s fitness for the post. It is not only his fabled incoherence as far as governance is concerned that has fueled those doubts, nor the suspicions alone that he himself might have been involved in electoral fraud. There is the even more crucial concern over whether replacing Mrs. Arroyo with de Castro would really be a solution to the perennial crisis of the flawed political system.

As Vice President in 2001 Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was the supposed solution to the crisis of 2000-2001, but turned out to be nothing of the sort. Mrs. Arroyo has in fact turned out to be part of the same Philippine problem that has haunted this country for decades: its fatally flawed elite leadership whose vices of corruption, incompetence and dishonesty far outweigh its virtues .

Filipinos had hoped then that despite their doubts over Mrs. Arroyo’s capacities and principles, she would govern not only competently and transparently, but also with the country’s interests rather than the usual familial, class and foreign interests in mind. Mrs. Arroyo, it was also hoped, would abandon traditional politics and nurture the new.

Her failure to address the most pressing Philippine problems, the runaway corruption that has characterized her watch, as well as her singular focus on the elections of 2004, were the key and interconnected issues that created a situation of constant crisis, and which have led to the present one. The twin allegations that her husband and son have been taking jueteng pay-offs in the manner of former President Joseph Estrada, and that Mrs. Arroyo cheated in the last elections as supposedly proven by the infamous “Garci tapes” are in truth merely the most recent expressions of the same crisis.

The present crisis is thus only a continuation, although the lowest point, of a crisis that Mrs. Arroyo’s brand of governance and politics has made inevitable. What is obvious is that the crisis, though created and fed by the corruption and incompetence of the Arroyo government and the fraudulent elections over which it presided in 2004, is the result of a system as bankrupt and as flawed as its beneficiaries and protectors.

The corruption of the political and electoral system, due principally to the dominance of the political dynasties that have monopolized power in this country for six decades, has made Philippine elections no more than a farce, even as the centers of power in this country, Malacanang and Congress, have been exposed as nothing more than centers of dynastic greed and incompetence.

The consequence is paralysis and despair among the vast majority Filipinos who know that the only thing that can ease their suffering and halt the decay of their country and society is radical, meaningful change. But they see little or no chance of that in a political system ruled by the same handful of families that has been steadily driving the country into perdition for over six decades.

(Unpublished commentary)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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  1. Joseph Mussomeli once said , July 22,2005 ‘ON LOYALTY …

    ‘it requires loyalty. Loyalty to principles and institutions and not just to individuals and family. For as long as loyalty to people and family is the highest good, the Philippines can never truly become a mature democracy.’

  2. RP Politics: Family Affair

    Genealogy, Politics and History
    Published in Cebu Daily News on June 2003

    In 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines an independent and sovereign state and became this nation’s first president.

    A century plus three years later, his cousin, Gloria M. Arroyo, rose to the same position when Joseph Ejercito Estrada was toppled from power through the event known as People Power II. As it happened, Erap, too, was Gloria’s relative. In fact, in a complicated and Byzantine manner, almost all of our former leaders were related to one another, in one way or the other. Allow me to extrapolate.

    Emilio Aguinaldo’s sister’s grandson was Cesar E.A. Virata, the first and only Prime Minster of the Republic of the Philippines.

    The Virata family, through marriage, is connected with the Acu a family. One Acu a married a scion of the Roxas family. The product of this marriage was former President Manuel A. Roxas, whose son Gerry Roxas was a former Senator and whose grandson, Mar Roxas III is currently DTI secretary.

    Also, due to his dalliance with Juanita McIlvain, former Miss Universe Margarita “Margie” Moran Floirendo just happens to be President Roxas’ granddaughter.

    “President Manuel Roxas’s wife, Trinidad de Leon, was the daughter of former Senator Ceferino de Leon. Sen. De Leon’s brother, Jose, Married Do a Narcisa “Sisang” Buencamino, one of the most successful movie magnates in her time. Narcisa’s first cousin’s son was Philip Buencamino, who married Nene Quezon, daughter of President Manuel Luis Quezon.

    Further, another scion of the Roxas family was Margarita Roxas, whose marriage to Antonio de Ayala produced Trinidad de Ayala. Trinidad later married Jacobo Zobel and started the legendary Zobel De Ayala family.


    Some of the minor branches of the Zobel de Ayala family married into the other aristocratic families of Manila. The Aranetas, Ayalas, Elizaldes, Prietos, and more. Through the Roxas family’s connection with the Aranetas, former Tourism Secretary and beauty queen Gemma Cruz-Araneta is also related to Pres. Roxas.

    It must also be remembered that Gemma Cruz’s paternal great-grandmother was Doña Maria Rizal, the sister of our national hero, Jose P. Rizal.

    Gemma Cruz’s mother, Carmen, remarried Mr. Angel Nakpil, the nephew of Julio Nakpil, composer of the Philippine National Anthem, who in turn was the husband of Gregoria De Jesus, the “Muse of the Katipunan.”

    Gregoria de Jesus was also the widow of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio. Similarly, two of Gemma’s first cousins, Paz and Maria Cruz Banaad, married Bienvenido and Roberto Laurel, respectively, relatives of former Vice-President Salvador “Doy” Laurel, son of President Jose P. Laurel.

    Two branches of the Araneta family further married presidential daughters; the first one being Juan Miguel Arroyo, whose second cousins are Aranetas.

    He married then Ms. Gloria M. Macapagal, daughter of President Diosdado Macapagal. Of course, GMA is now the country’s Chief Executive. The second to marry a presidential daughter was Greggy Araneta who married Irene Romualdez Marcos, the youngest child of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and Imelda Romualdez. The Araneta-Marcos marriage further stretches our already complicated family connections.

    Ferdinand Marcos’ grandfather’s sister, Crispina Marcos, married Hilario Valdez. Their daughter, Angela Valdez, married Ambassador Narciso Ramos, father of Fidel V. Ramos, also a President of the Republic. Narciso Ramos, after becoming a widower, married Alfonsita Lucero, whose father’s maternal family, the Birondos of Argao, Cebu, married into the Almendras family of Cebu and Davao.


    Alfonsita’s fourth cousin, William Birondo, married Kukit Tecala, whose uncle, Pedro Tecala Sr., married Sofrina Almendras. Two of Sofrina’s siblings married into political families. Her brother, Paulo Almendras, married Elisea, Durano, the daughter of Demetrio Durano and progenitor of the Durano family that has ruled Danao and Sogod, Cebu for many years.

    A son of Paulo was former Senator Alejandro Almendras, whose marriage to a Bendigo of Davao City connected them to the ruling families of Davao: the Banggoys, Palma Gils, Lizadas, Nograleses and others. Senator Almendras’ brother, Josefino, married Rosita Dimataga, the sister of Leonila Dimataga, who in turn was the wife of President Carlos P. Garcia.

    One of Sofronia’s sisters was married to an Osmeña, thus linking them to the family of President Sergio Osmeña. Most of President Osmeña’s male descendants have become senator, governor, mayor, Representative, and councilor at various points in time and his family remains the premier political dynasty of Cebu.

    “President Osmeña’s half-sister was Doña Modesta Singson-Gaisano, the matriarch of the affluent Gaisano family of Cebu City.”

    Imelda Romualdez’s marriage to Marcos also brought in many famous personalities.

    Her own niece, Marean Romualdez, daughter of her brother Gov. Alfredo Romualdez, married Thomas Pompidou, the grandson of the French President Georges Pompidou.

    Imelda’s first cousin, Senator Danieling Romualdez, married Pacita Gueco of Tarlac. In an ironic twist of fate, Pacita Gueco happened to be the first cousin of the late Sentor Benigno Aquino Jr.

    Of couse, the Aquinos themselves have allied with many political families, and a scion of the Aquino clan was Senator Eva Estrada Kalaw, one of the Philippines’ very first female senators.


    Ninoy’s marriage to the heiress Corazon Cojuanco also allied his family to another political dynasty. Corazon Aquino, after her husband’s heroic death in 1983, later became the country’s first female Chief Executive. Her maternal family, the Sumulongs, have also produced several lawmakers. The Cojuangco family, on the other hand, owns one of the oldest-existing haciendas in the country today, and the Cojuangcos control many of the country’s business enterprises.

    Cory’s niece, equestrienne Mikee Cojuangco, married Dodot Jaworski, son of basketball legend and Sen. Robert Jaworski. Senator Jaworski, on the other hand, married Susan Bautista Revilla, daughter of Sen. Ramon Revilla Sr., whose son Bong Revilla was a former governor. This connection, no doubt, extends this family tree to most of the country’s movie personalities.

    Clearly, this Byzantine illustration of family connection is proof of the intricacies of Philippine politics. In this short presentation we have already linked no less than 12 of our 14 Presidents, one Prime Minister, one former Miss Universe, several senators and many other personalities, political or otherwise. We have even connected our “Philippine Family Tree” to a former French President! Imagine what further research into the other family trees could reveal?

    Philippine politics, undoubtedly, is a family affair.


  3. I guess you have just effectively expounded another evil of political dynasties.It certainly encourages the retention of the old establishment, where money and power is synonymous. It’s an endless cycle, where the sons and daughters just became the old self of their fathers and mothers in the august halls of congress.

  4. Just want to make some correction on your articles – RP Politics: Family Affair

    The Virata family, through marriage, is connected with the Acuna family. Rosario Acuna married Gerardo Roxas. The product of this marriage was the former President Manuel A. Roxas. His son Gerry Roxas, married to Judy Araneta, was a former Senator. Their son, Mar Araneta Roxas III, is formerly DTI secretary and now a Senator.

    Through the Roxas family’s connection with the Aranetas, former Tourism Secretary and beauty queen, Gemma Cruz-Araneta is also related to Pres. Roxas.
    Let me elaborate, Gemma’s husband Antonio Sebastian Araneta’s grandmother, Carmen Roxas Zaragosa, was the daughter of Rosa Roxas a relatives of Pres. Manuel Roxas.

    Two branches of the Araneta family further married presidential children; the first one was Greggy Araneta married to Irene Romualdez Marcos, the youngest child of Ferdinand Edralin Marcos and Imelda Romualdez. Greggy was the grandson of Gregorio Soriano Araneta,and Carmen Roxas Zaragosa. Gregorio’s served his country and people under three regimes. He was a delegate to the Malolos Republic, and was the first Secretary of Justice of the Philippine Republic.

    The second to marry was Liza Araneta, great grandaughter of business tycoon, J Amado Araneta. She married Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, the only son of Pres. Marcos and Imelda Marcos.

    Juan Miguel Arroyo, a second cousins of the Aranetas,
    married Ms. Gloria M. Macapagal, daughter of President Diosdado Macapagal and now the president herself.

  5. your article is interesting. but i’d like to make this correction.

    senator alejandro “landring” almendras did NOT marry a bendigo. it was matea almendras, sister of paulo almendras and therefore landring’s aunt, who got married to amancio bendigo (after her first marriage to nestor ralota).

    matea almendras was the grandmother of governor (former representative) douglas ralota cagas of davao del sur. the current representative of davao del sur is marc douglas cagas, son of douglas cagas and like me, a great-grandchild on matea almendras. we come from the salud almendras ralota-cagas branch of the family.

    matea almendras was also the grandmother of bebet bendigo, who married representative prospero nograles of davao city. they, in turn, come from from the amancio almendras bendigo, jr. branch of the family.

    the newer generations are likewise entering politics at the lower level. contrary to the opinion of major tom, they are not necessarily crooks. but i’d like to think that with each new generation that dares to follow the footsteps of our politician-predecessors, come new hope for our country.

    -from atty. riafe cagas of davao del sur, non-politician

  6. Dear Prof. Luis V. Teodoro,

    Respondent is a volunteer of the Access to Justice for the Poor Project of the Supreme Court wherein he is forming nor gathering volunteer paralegals that will assist voluntarily the GOVERNMENT in all aspects in uncovering the truth of every national concerns that our nation is involved/suffering in. May this comment be uploaded to all those who wants to join forces or lay their efforts for a worthy and noble cause. I remain.
    From: Jun

  7. we need a bloody revolution. it is an essential part in the development for a country to mature and understand and appreciate the meaning of freedom and equality for all. As the French would say Egalite, Liberte, Fraternite.

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