Why we have patronage politics (Part 1)

Politics in the Philippines is generally described as patronage politics. It is not politics based upon issues and platforms but rather in personalities of the candidates.

Those who rely only on their Americanized education have a hard time understanding why this is so. There is no satisfactory answer to the above question in our educational system because the English language starts its question with what, how, when, where, and the why is at the last or even omitted. This is the pattern of the thousands and thousands of theses and research papers conducted and published. I have not yet encountered a research paper that asks the question “Why”.


In the Sugboanon Bisayan language the first question is “Why (Ngano)” followed by what, how, etc. The flow of thought is opposite to that taught in our English language schools.

The main references for my analysis are the works of “Struggle for Identity” by Justice Jainal Rasul, Sr. (2003)” and “The Filipino Clergy” by Horacio de la Costa, S.J. and John Schumacher, S.J.” (Loyola Papers 12; 1980).

I hope I can help the candidates and the voters understand why we are in the present situation.

Harness the Forces

When I studied engineering we had a subject known as “Engineering Orientation”. In that subject we were taught that it is not good policy to go against nature. What an engineer should do is to harness the forces of nature so that it can be guided to become assets beneficial to mankind.

For example, “Water seeks its own level”; the higher the level or elevation of the water, the greater will be the potential or kinetic energy. It is not economical to fight against this natural law but it will be beneficial if you can harness this natural law.

In like manner, we already know that our politics is “Patronage politics” and it will be disastrous for a candidate to try to fight against it. It would be beneficial to the candidate to harness the forces in “Patronage politics”. The objective of a candidate is to win. If you have altruistic or benevolent motives, you can carry it out after winning.


There two aspects in patronage, the benefactor and the beneficiary. The patron is the benefactor. He is viewed as the one who gives or confers benefits. The beneficiary is the recipient of the help and benefits. Within this relationship a kind of loyalty will result in the side of the beneficiary.

In our election it is always viewed that the candidate is the benefactor and the voters are the beneficiaries. It is a natural consequence in the way our campaign is conducted. The candidates will promise to bring benefits to the people.

The voters are brainwashed to believe that they will be the beneficiaries and naturally they will react. They will try to figure out who among the candidates are the best benefactors or patrons.

In previous elections we ask the people “What are the desired personas or traits of a good candidate they are interested in.”  The survey was conducted with a margin of error of ± 3%.

The results were as follows: 1.) Matinabangon (helpful) = 85%; 2.) Maayo og batasan (good character) = 77%; 3.) Adunay kabangkaagan (educated) = 62%; 4.) Adunay plataporma (has platform) = 61%; 5.) Tim-os/Ligdong (honest) = 50%; 6.) Maayo mosulti (good speaker) = 31%; 7.) Mohatag kanako og panabang/kwarta (will give me financial aid) = 30%; 8.) Makahatag og industriya sa Bohol (provide industry in Bohol) = 17%. 9.) Sakop sa akong partido (member of my political party) = 8.8%; 10.) Akong kabanay o paryente (my kinsman) = 8.1%; 11.) Gipaluyohan sa kadagkoan sa nasod (supported by national figures) = 4.9%; 12.) Uban pa (others) = 1.9%

It is very clear that the “Patron-Beneficiary” relationship of matinabangon (85%) and maayo og batasan (77%) are very high on the consciousness of the voters.

The issue of “honesty” is only 50% in the voters’ priority and being a kinsman is very low at 8.1%. I am not sure whether this includes the issue of being a “true blooded Boholano.”

In any case the issue of being a relative/ kinsman, and the like at 8.1% is a very far cry from the perception of being “helpful” (85%) and “good personality trait” (77%).

Good strategy

A good businessman will not sell items in which nobody will buy. He will go bankrupt if he will do it.

A good politician should cater to the needs and wants of the voters in order to win. All candidates want to win. The problem is how to convince the voters to vote for you. (Next issue we will answer the “Why”)

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