Anarchy of clans

By Artchil B. Fernandez

Philippines maybe in the 21st century and appears modern but its political atmosphere resembles that of Sengoku Period (1573 – 1603) of feudal Japan. Like medieval Japan, political clans virtually dominate the political landscape. Recent political developments saw the growing power and dominance of political clans in the political life of the country.

The election of Bongbong Marcos (BBM) to the presidency is the ultimate manifestation of the gaining strength of political clans and their greater prominence in national life. A dynastic cartel was formed by the Marcoses, Arroyos, Dutertes and the Estradas and won in the 2022 election. This cartel of political clans threatens to rule the country in the years to come.

Ascendancy of political clans in Philippine politics prompted the late Benedict Anderson to call the country a “cacique democracy.” In Anderson’s concept, cacique democracy is a combination of popular electoral and feudal power where political clans are key players. The “caciques” or native feudal lords or political dynasties dotted the political scene welding warlord-like power similar to what Japan was in the Sengoku Period. At the local level, these clans fight for power and supremacy in electoral battles often tainted with blood and carnage.

BBM is not even a year in office, but a series of violent killings has begun. Former and current local chief executives are the target of guns-for-hire. Killed so far were former Dolores, Quezon mayor Danilo Amat; Lamitan City, Basilan mayor Rose Furigay; former Lobo, Batangas vice mayor Romeo Sulit; former Dipaculao, Aurora vice mayor Narciso Amansec; former Calbiga, Samar vice mayor Miguel Abaigar Jr.; and Aparri, Cagayan Vice Mayor Rommel Alameda.  Some local officials like Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong Jr. and Mayor Ohto Montawal of Datu Montawal town, Maguindanao del Sur province are lucky to survive murder attempts.

The brutal assassination of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo early this month is the latest incident in the long saga of warring political clans in the Philippines slugging it out for supremacy. In a daylight attack at his residence, six armed men barged in while Gov. Degamo was holding a consultation meeting with his constituents and opened fire. Aside from the governor, eight others died and 17 were injured in 41 seconds of mayhem.

Four suspects, all former military men were arrested by the police while a fifth suspect died fighting the arresting authorities. The police said the four suspects executed a judicial confession and named a certain “Congressman Teves” as the master mind who ordered the assassination of Gov. Degamo.  There are two current members of Congress with a Teves surname – Rep. Arnolfo “Arnie” Teves Jr. (Negros Oriental, Third District and Rep. Jose “Bong” Joson Teves Jr. of the Talino at Galing ng Pinoy (TGP) Party-list. The Teves clan is a longtime rival of Gov. Degamo in Negros Oriental politics. In the clash between the two families, Gov. Degamo always emerged victorious.  Running for the fourth time as governor, Degamo clinched victory over Pryde Henry Teves, a former congressman and brother of Arnie Teves in a controversial and highly contested election. Initially, Pryde Henry Teves won the 2022 race but it was overturned few months after his installation when the Supreme Court granted Degamo’s petition for mandamus and ordered the Comelec to resolve Degamo’s petition against a certain Ruel Degamo.

Degamo asked the Comelec to declare Ruel Degamo a nuisance candidate which it did and transferred his votes to Governor Degamo. In the final count, Governor Degamo won over Pryde Henry Teves (331,726 – 301,319). Pryde Henry Teves was forced to step down and turn over the governor’s office to Degamo last October 2022. Five months later Gov. Degamo was dead.

Immediately after the murder of Gov. Degamo, Cong. Arnie Teves issued a statement denying he had a hand in the assassination. He and his brother he claimed are not the immediate beneficiaries of Degamo’s death, so why have him killed?

The Teves family may not be the immediate beneficiary of Degamo’s death but his elimination will ensure the dominance of the clan in Negros Oriental politics in the years to come with no strong rival in the horizon. The murder of Degamo is a strategic windfall to the political fortune of the Teves clan. Cong. Arnie Teves is now in the United States and refused to come home to face the allegations against him.

Clash of political clans is always bloody. The worst so far happened during the “rule” of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). The Ampatuan-Mangudadatu collision resulted to the gruesome slaughter of 59 people among them 34 journalists. GMA owed her victory in Maguindanao to the Ampatuans who delivered the votes. In gratitude she allowed the Amputuan clan to rule with impunity until the massacre happened.

The current wave of killings of local chief executives is emblematic of the anarchy of clans under the rule of MAD (Marcoses-Arroyos-Dutertes) + E (Estrada). GMA after all is the chief architect of the cartel of dynasties now ruling the country.

BBM’s presidency has consolidated cacique democracy and strengthened the role of political clans in national life. The MAD+E cartel needs the support of local political clans to maintain its hold on power.  It was these political clans who delivered the crucial votes to MAD+E in 2022.  The dynastic cartel is therefore their hostage.

The anarchy of clans will only become worse under BBM who is dependent on them for his political survival as well as the future of the ruling dynastic cartel. It is indeed tragic that in the 21st century Philippine politics is still feudal and medieval.


Happy Birthday Hans Miguel de Leon, BS in Business Administration & Accountancy, Virata School of Business, UP – Diliman.