MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Elections come and go, but many political families in the Philippines manage to retain their strong hold over their respective areas.
The Philippines' top seat of power itself belongs to a political family. President Rodrigo Duterte hails from Davao City, where his children hold elective posts: Sara Duterte is mayor, Sebastian Duterte is vice mayor, and Paolo Duterte is the city's 1st district representative.
Rappler maps these major political families, starting with the senators, representatives, and governors, and their relatives who won in the 2019 polls.
In this story, we define a political family as a set of at least two politicians who are related to each other up to the 3rd degree of consanguinity (by blood) or affinity (by marriage) serving at the same time in a 3-year term, usually in one locality. This is to distinguish it from a political dynasty, or families who have served across several terms, even in various localities.
Excluded here are political clans whose members lost in 2019, or have one remaining family member in office after the polls, despite ruling a locality for a long time. The family links represented in the map were verified through various documents, news reports, and other official sources.
Click on or hover over the dots to know more about a politician from a political family. You may also zoom in or out of the map.
(This map will be updated when names of other relatives are thoroughly verified.)
Half of each chamber from political families
Based on 2019 official election results, there are at least 163 political families whose winning members include senators, House representatives, or governors.
Of this number, 88 are in Luzon, 29 in the Visayas, 44 in Mindanao, and two families in separate island groups: the Suansings in Luzon (Nueva Ecija) and Mindanao (Sultan Kudarat), and the Arroyos in Luzon (Pampanga) and the Visayas (Negros Occidental).
Two more families serve in different provinces, but in the same island group: the Amante-Matbas in Agusan del Norte and Tawi-Tawi, and the Mangudadatus in Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, all in Mindanao.
Among the regions, only the Cordillera Administrative Region seems to be less prone to family rule, with the provinces of Abra, Apayao, and Benguet having only one major political family each.
In Congress, 14 of 24 senators belong to a powerful clan, while in the House, 162 of 300 representatives do – indicating that about half of members come from political families.
Of the 14 senators, 5 are from Metro Manila: Senators Cynthia Villar (Las Piñas City), Nancy Binay (Makati City), Pia Cayetano (Taguig City), Senate President Vicente Sotto III (Quezon City), and Sherwin Gatchalian (Valenzuela City).
Seven senators are from Luzon: Imee Marcos (llocos Norte), Juan Edgardo Angara (Aurora), Joel Villanueva (Bulacan), Ralph Recto (Batangas), Panfilo Lacson, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Francis Tolentino (all from Cavite).
Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon and Manny Pacquiao of Sarangani represent Mindanao. As of the 2019 polls, no member of any political clan from the Visayas is in the Senate.
Meanwhile, of the 162 members of political families in the House of Representatives, 89 are from Luzon (including Metro Manila), 27 from the Visayas, and 46 from Mindanao.
Relatives serving together in Congress
At least 18 political families even have two or more members in Congress. Among them are the Dys of Isabela, the Suarezes of Quezon, and the Pacquiaos of Sarangani, with 3 lawmakers each coming from their families.
The Dys in the 18th Congress are all neophytes and cousins of each other. Ian Paul Dy replaced his father Napoleon in Isabela's 3rd district, while Faustino Michael Dy III (son of Faustino Jr) and Faustino Dy V (son of Faustino III) took the newly-created 5th and 6th districts, respectively.
The Pacquiao brothers also spread themselves out across 3 Congress seats: Manny Pacquiao in the Senate, Rogelio Pacquiao with a district seat for Sarangani, and Alberto Pacquiao with a party-list seat for OFW Family.
In Quezon, David Suarez and his mother Aleta Suarez won in the 2nd and 3rd districts, respectively. David's wife, Anna Villaraza Suarez, represents the Alona party-list organization.
Like Villaraza Suarez, 9 more party-list representatives hail from political families, from Ilocos Norte (Rudys Caesar Fariñas of Probinsyano Ako) down to Sulu (Shernee Tan of Kusug Tausug). (LOOK: Political dynasties use party list as backdoor to Congress)
Meanwhile, 6 married couples, like the Suarezes, are serving at the same time not just within the House, but also in the House and Senate:
Other cases in either or both Houses are parent-and-child tandems (with 6 pairs), siblings serving together (with 8* sets), and 3rd-degree links like cousins, aunts/uncles, or in-laws (with 9 sets).
At the local level, 60 of 81 governors are from political families. They have a combined 108 relatives holding lower local posts, such as vice governor, provincial board member, mayor, vice mayor, and councilor.
Separately, 40* governors are related to incumbent House representatives. Two governors are kin, too, of senators.
Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Marcos Manotoc replaced his mother Imee Marcos, who was elected senator in 2019. His uncle, Eugenio Angelo Marcos Barba, is the province's 2nd district representative, while another uncle, Michael Marcos Keon, won as Laoag City mayor. His aunt, Cecile Araneta Marcos, is Ilocos Norte's vice governor. The Marcoses have held the Ilocos Norte governorship since 1998, from Ferdinand Marcos Jr (3 terms) to Michael Keon (1 term) to Imee Marcos (3 terms).
The patriarch of the Zubiris, Jose Maria Zubiri Jr, sits as Bukidnon governor. His sons are Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and 3rd district congressman Manuel Zubiri.
There are even 14 governors and vice governors from the same family, 7 of whom are parent-child pairs, 3 are siblings, and 4 are related to the 3rd degree.
Meanwhile, two governors are married and at the helm of different provinces: Sultan Kudarat Governor Suharto Mangudadatu and Maguindanao Governor Mariam Mangudadatu.
In Ilocos Sur, one can find the most number of politicians in power from just one blood. Based on Rappler's count, the Singson family won 14 positions in the 2019 race, from representative to governor down to provincial board member and councilor.
The Dy family of Isabela, the Ortega family of La Union, and the Matugas family of Surigao del Norte have 9 members each winning local posts in 2019. The Bautista family of Davao Occidental, a province created only in 2013, has 7 winners in the 2019 polls, led by Governor Claude Bautista.
The bigger the province in terms of population, the more political families emerge. The top 20 most vote-rich provinces in the country (including independent cities within them) have a combined 67 families.
In the top 3 vote-rich provinces of Cebu, Cavite, and Pangasinan, for instance, 17 families dominate.
Cavite has at least two members from the families of Revilla (2nd district), Advincula (3rd district), Barzaga (4th district), Loyola (5th district), Ferrer (6th district), Remulla (7th district, including the governor's seat), and Tolentino (8th district).
Pangasinan’s political giants – Espino (2nd district), Celeste (1st district), and Primicias-Agabas (6th district) – preserved their seats in their respective districts, while the Guico family defeated the Espino patriarch for the 5th district House seat.
Prominent clans in Cebu also stood strong in their bailiwicks, like the families Garcia (3rd district), Gullas (1st district), Caminero (2nd district), and Calderon (7th district). Meanwhile, the families Frasco (5th district) and Ouano (6th district) won House seats as well as other local posts in 2019.
Influence, power of families
Political families enjoy a great deal of influence in their respective localities. With them in power, checks and balances in governance tend to decrease, said election lawyer Rona Caritos of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente).
This is evident, she added, when they seek support for their policies, programs, or political agenda.
"For example, in a local government, the mayor is the father while the son or daughter is the vice mayor. The vice mayor is the one heading the local legislative council and primarily approves local ordinances, which the mayor will implement. If a mayor would like an ordinance to be in place, he can just talk directly to his son or daughter about this ordinance," explained Caritos.
"The probability of this ordinance being passed is higher compared to a situation wherein the two positions have occupants who are not related to each other," she added.
However, Caritos argued, their political power remains strong "as long as there is a dominant titular head at the helm of the family."
"Once this titular head is gone or is not that influential anymore...these family relations are not that reliable," she said, citing the case of the Estrada family, whose members lost in all positions they vied for in 2019, as well as that of the Binays in Makati City, where ex-vice president Jejomar Binay lost in his congressional bid while his two children battled it out in a 6-way race for mayor.
With the defeat of some political families in 2019, Caritos is hopeful that it would plant the seeds of electoral reforms, especially concerning families and dynasties in politics.
Caritos proposed, among others, the strengthening political parties, and changing the electoral system from the current first-past-the-post contests to proportional representation.
She also stressed the need to harness and harvest potential new blood from the reformed Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) or youth council. "There is a need to introduce in the public consciousness young bloods coming from the new SK and other new blood coming from the non-traditional political parties." – Rappler.com
* Editor's Note: In an earlier version of this story, we mistakenly included Stephen James Tan and Sharee Ann Tan of Samar in the list of siblings serving together in the House of Representatives. We have corrected this. We have also updated the number of governors related to representatives, on account of the vacant seat for Southern Leyte's lone district, pending special elections there after it was split into two congressional districts.
Michael Bueza is a researcher and data curator under Rappler's Research Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.