‘Patronage politics not an offshoot of PH culture, grew during US colonial period’
NAGA CITY, Philippines – Patronage politics is not necessarily an offshoot of Filipino culture and it is common in other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, according to an American professor visiting the Philippines to study patronage politics during the elections.
Paul D. Hutchcroft, American professor and director of the School of International, Political and Strategic Studies at the Australian National University, traced patronage politics in the country to its institutional formation during the American colonial period.
Hutchcroft was in the country from 1980-81 and author of the book “Booty Capitalism: The Politics of Banking in the Philippines” and essay entitled “The Arroyo Imbroglio in the Philippines” in the magazine Journal of Democracy.
“The patterns of patronage politics in the Philippines can be traced most of all to the American colonial regime which goes back to the early 20th century. National-level politicians dispense pork and patronage in order to get access to vote banks controlled by local politicians, and the local politicians in turn enjoy the use of resources that can help them get reelected to office,” he told the Philippine Daily Inquirer on May 12, when he arrived here to observe elections.
“I don’t think there is any sort of cultural propensity in the Philippines if we go back to the way that the Americans set up representational structures raided by patronage-hungry politicians,” Hutchcroft further explained.
He said patronage politics had components including vote buying, pork barrel, jobs for supporters after elections and network in which patronage flows.
Hutchcroft said in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, these components of patronage politics have always been present but have taken on different forms.
Comparing the Philippines to Malaysia, which had just held its national elections, Indonesia and Thailand, the American professor noted the difference that lay in the network in which patronage flowed.
Hutchcroft identifies four networks where patronage politics flows, serving as the framework of their study in the four Southeast Asian countries, as personal ties, brokerage relationship, large religious associations and political parties.
All four networks appear in the four countries they study with different focuses, according to Hutchcroft.
“In the Philippines it seemed patronage politics focuses on personal relations; in Indonesia on social-religious organizations; Malaysia—political parties; Thailand – brokerage ties,” revealed Hutchcroft.
He described the political parties in the Philippines as “notoriously weak’ it’s very candidate-centered party, where parties are not really important.”
Hutchcroft noted that in Indonesia, social-religious groups are influential while in Thailand, patronage politics is channeled through independent private groups brokering for politicians where campaign operators seek the highest bidder-politicians.
In Malaysia, he said, people would choose candidates based on the agenda of political parties with great consideration on the ethnicity of the electorates comprising of Malays, Chinese and Indians. “Patronage is fused to the state: the ruling coalition has access to state resources as it develops programs that essentially seek to bribe the voters.”
In Malaysia, where the ruling coalition has been in power for so long, there has been such a fusion of the party and state that it is hard to tell where the party ends and the state begins, according to Hutchcroft.
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