We Filipinos pride ourselves with our close family ties.
It is because of “close family ties” that we find many “extended” families. In our culture, sending our ageing parents or grandparents to a “home” is unheard of. No matter how meagre the family income, we prefer to take care of them in our own homes. Not that I entirely agree with this system. In an ideal situation, adults should provide for their twilight years. But, heck, ideal situations are rare and the reality is that retirement pay is rarely enough to pay for the household utilities like electricity, water, phone… much less food, transportation and, the most financially draining aspect of being old, medicine and hospitalization. Hence, in many Filipino families, we find grandparents, aunts, uncles, grandaunts and granduncles. The “extension” can go as far as the owner of the house will allow or, sometimes, as far as the size of the house will allow.
The practice of many would-be married couples of choosing for their wedding sponsors the men and women of repute in their localities is another illustration of “close family ties”. The would-be husband or the would-be wife may not be related to the city mayor or the provincial governor—in fact, they may not even be personally acquainted at all—yet, the “big” people would be chosen not only to create an impressive wedding entourage but also in the hope of establishing a relation and monetize it as well. And that’s just the short-term goal. The long term goal is to create a political connection.
In Filipino culture, ninongs and ninangs hardly ever turn down the request of the inaanak, especially one “in need”. See, in politics, the term ‘family ties’ extends to another dimension. It does not only pertain to immediate family but to collateral relatives and relations by affinity as well. Even the kumpare and kumare are considered family. That is why one of the first official acts of most politicians is to appoint ‘family’ members to sensitive positions within their jurisdiction.
There are times when the distribution and allocation of political power among ‘family’ members is a political strategy. Once a ‘family’ member is able to successfully occupy a powerful political position, his family ‘assigns’ other ‘family’ members to other posts. It is a consolidation of power, so to speak. It is an assurance that every affair within the territorial jurisdiction shall be under the control of the family. It is, therefore, not unusual to find the spouse, siblings, parents or other relatives of a congressman running for mayor, vice mayor, governor, provincial board member, city councilor, etc. etc.
In other cases, politics is like the mafia. The fiefdom is divided among family members. Because each ‘family’ member is a potential political power by virtue of his name and family relation, the ‘family’ strives to assure his loyalty by awarding him with his own turf. It works both ways, then. The ‘family’ stays as a powerful unit by assuring the loyalty of all it members while the ‘family’ member gets his share of the pie. It is a matter of protecting ‘family’ interests.
In still another sense, politics is like war. In war, the conqueror shares the spoils of the war with those who supported him and financed his cause. In most cases, these are family members and close business associates. The kumpares and the kumares, the business partner, the silent partner, the ‘investors’. As with any war, economic opportunities are distibuted among the family and associates of the conqueror. Land, produce of the land, businesses… even titles and whatever power go with them.
In some cases, however, allocation of power is unnecessary. There are political posts that entail so much power and influence that businessmen and mobsters alike fawn on the ‘family’ members of those who occupy them. In short, these ‘family’ members suddenly find themselves as persons of considerable influence. Not because of anything they have accomplished but simply because they happen to share the same family name, or are related, close to, or acquainted with a politically powerful individual. There’s a saying that goes, Palay na lumalapit sa manok, hindi pa ba tutukain? This saying means a lot more than the female seductress and her potential lover. This saying is just as relevant with family members of politicians and the political/economic opportunities that are laid on their feet even without the asking. These are the opportunists—the persons who, by themselves, would be unable to become anything of consequence.
We go through this kind of hellhole with very administration. Look back at Philippine political history without rose-colored glasses. It is all there. We observe it in our own municipalities and cities; we observe it on the provincial and national levels. Some are more discreet, others not. But every administration has its own ‘family’ members who, in one way or another, share in the spoils of the political victory.