Sat, Feb 25, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Single Philippine president seeks bride

The Guardian

Are you single, power-hungry, intrigued by a man of many monikers and able and willing to move to Manila? Then you may be in luck: The president of the Philippines is looking for love.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III — aka PNoy, aka Noynoy — is the nation’s first bachelor head of state, a point of both contention and curiosity in this family-oriented nation of 95 million. In a society ruled by family dynasties — among them the Arroyos, Cojuangcos and Aquinos — the president’s singledom has attracted the attention of the Philippine press.

Aquino has previously said he would probably remain single until the end of his presidential term in 2016, but this week he said he might rule better if he had a partner.

“Given the burdens of this office, if there were someone you could confide in, someone you could talk to, someone who would tell you: ‘You’re still doing OK,’ then of course that would be a key to your inspiration,” Aquino said. “I’ve been planning [marriage] for a long time, since college even, but I’ve just been unlucky.”

Aquino may not be the only one stressed by his singlehood analysts said. In a country that has long depended on the family as a substitute for a centralized government, a bachelor president could be disastrous for the dynasty.

“The importance of family does not just permeate Filipino politics, but is a general feature of Filipino society,” said economist Pablo Querubin of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, whose research has focused on political dynasties in the Philippines.

“Historically, Filipinos have relied on the family for most things — from insurance to roadworks program — because there has rarely been any centralized authority, even going back to colonial times. The family is powerful in part precisely because the state is so weak ... but it is a vicious circle, because the strength of these families [also] undermines the creation of a centralized state.”

Research carried out in the 1960s found that Philippine politics was dominated by just 200 families, a figure that researchers today say has not changed.

“Aquino belongs to the most prominent family in the Philippines today — in fact to the most powerful political family in the past half-century,” said Raymond “Mong” Palatino, a former civil society academic turned congressman who blogs about Philippine politics.

“His father is a democracy icon who came to power in 1983; his mother ruled in 1986; then Noynoy became congressman in 1988, senator in 2007 and now he is president. His uncle became a congressman, his aunt a governor and one of his rivals in the presidential elections was his own cousin.”

According to Querubin’s research, Aquino’s path to power is fairly typical. In 2007, for example, more than half those in office had had at least one previous family member in office.

Although Philippine law limits incumbents to three consecutive terms of three years each, families maintain their power through a loophole that allows relatives to run for the same office. In 1987, when the regulation was first implemented, “you started seeing wives running to keep their husbands’ seats, or sons running to keep their father’s seat,” Querubin said.

“That really showed the importance of family in politics as a way to circumvent these term limits and maintain the political and dynastic power of the family.”

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