Down South Succession in Positions: A Microcosm Habitus of Philippine Politics
In the Philippines, the first quarter of 2016 highlighted election campaigns where Filipinos are agog with all of the political hullabaloos surmising the whole country. Actively engaged are the Filipinos’ habitus or their cognitive structures to deal with the social world as structured by and structures the way they deal with the present day politics. Each has a different habitus, and it is based on the position one has within the larger Philippine social environment. Each as a citizen of a third world country marred by social issues like corruption, public insecurity, and drug-related crimes, among others. Habitus is affected by age, wealth, sex, physical appearance, occupation, and so on (Ritzer 2011). The parent who routinely instructs the child how to behave in accordance to a phenomenon is thus going about the business of reproducing the habitus (Elliot 2014).
Along with habitus is Bourdieu’s concept of Field,which describes the series of relationships between the positions in it, not interactions or social ties. A battlefield where the positions fight to improve by means of drawing upon various kinds of capital – symbolic,social, economic, and cultural.It is along this line that this paper will traverse, particularly on succession of political positions.
Down South of the Philippines, particularly, in the Province of Agusan del Norte, are candidates for positions whose family names have already been etched in local politics for decades by their seniors. This is not unique, though, since other parts of the country reflect similar
happenstance. No less than the incumbent president – Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III – of the Philippine Republic had reaped the good fortune his family name brought him, built by both his parents – Benigno S. Aquino, Sr. (a senator) and Corazon Cojuangco Aquino (a President).
Many national level positions are of no exemptions to this. A number of senators who hailed from their respective provinces catapulted to national positions via their family names. The same is true with most members in congress from all over the country. So, how does a public post become like an inheritance that it gets to be passed on from the seniors’ generation to their juniors despite having no political background even at the lowest post among the latter?
Bourdieu’s Symbolic Capital
Family name bears symbolic capital as honor and reputation (Ritzer and Ryan 2011).The candidates’ seniors have already capped into their family names the honor of being political leaders, for years. In local parlance, the family name “rings a bell.” The constituents have grown accustomed to the sound of the family name, which has become a byword in the locality. Come election time, the family name surfaces first when it comes to memory recall compared to those whose names just entered the political scene.
When Angel Amante (Maria Angelica RosedellMalbasAmante), then a 25-year old nurse with no previous political experience, was fielded by her father Edelmiro Atega Amante Sr. to run as governor in Agusan del Norte in 1995, she easily beat other political candidates.Edelmiro A. Amante Sr., at that time, served as then President Fidel V. Ramos’ executive secretary. He had been so involved in local politics for years, starting off at the barangay level to the national scene as then assemblyman. Since then, Angel Amante’s political career has never taken a leave. For twenty-one years now, Angel Amante has occupied the seats of provincial governor and representative to Agusan del Norte’s Second District, interchangeably, dependent on the terms’ exhausted limit (Adorador 2013).
After she won as first time governor, she got reelected to the same post for two more terms. When the limit was reached, her older brother, Erlpe John Amante took over. While her brother ran for governor, Angel ran as representative of the Second District of the province of Agusan del Norte, divided into two congressional districts, I and II. The latter has most of the municipalities of the province, except for one (Las Nieves) which is relegated to the First District, alongside the city of Butuan. The voters for governor are the same for the representative.This made the siblings switch positions from governor to representative and back, depending on the terms’ limit, with ease. The length of years in a post somehow established some kind of reputation that the constituents associate the succeeding candidates to the long-occupancy on the post by a family.
Bourdieu’s Social Capital
Social capital, for Bourdieu, the third distinct resource of the struggle for social positioning, results from network use of more or less institutionalised relationships of mutual acquaintance or recognition (Ritzer 2011).Edelmiro Amante, the patriarch, laid the groundwork for the family members to control the province when he first became congressman in the second district in 1987 (Nawal 2015). He held on to the post for 20 years, except in 2004 and 2010 when his daughter Angel Amante took over the post.Even the siblings’ cousin, Ferdinand M. Amante, Jr., expanded the Amantes’ areas of control when he won as Butuan City mayor in 2010. Hepresently runs for a third term reelection this year (Mascariñas 2013).
Ritzer (2011) expounded that social capital refers either to “the capacity of an individual to obtain valued material by virtue of social relationships and group memberships or to the capacity of a plurality of persons to enjoy the benefits of collective participation, trust in institutions, or commitment to established ways of doing things.”The first one describes social capital obtained via relations. At the provincial level, the Amantes of Agusan del Norte benefited from this type of capital as those other politicians in other provinces in the country.
The same scenarios transpire at the municipality level. The lone municipality – Las Nieves – in the first district of Agusan del Norte, paired with Butuan City, has an incumbent mayor, Leny Rosales, who was born and grew up in Bohol. She won the 2013 mayoralty race as a successor to her husband whose term already reached its limit. During her husband’s terms as mayor, she worked at the municipal post office. She has no previous political post held, even at the barangay level. Her husband, Reinario Rosales, also rose to mayoralty post as successor to his step-brother mayor, Cristito Rosales.
Individual and collective action alike are enabled and constrained by the resources that actors can leverage within and between levels of social structure. The concept of social capital captures something that most sociologists consider an elemental truth—that the resources embedded in social structures facilitate individual and collective action, and generate flows of benefits for persons, groups, and communities (Ritzer 2011).
Bourdieu’s Economic Capital
Economic capital is not only ownership of the means of production, but all forms of material wealth (Ritzer 2011). Those who are incumbent officials are privileged enough to be the channels, if not the end, of the financial support accorded by the national administrative candidates. The president himself gets to piggyback the campaignof, and openly endorses his political allies within his political party while using government resources during his official activities around the country. Amante and Rosales reelectionists are in this boat.
To realize big-crowd political rallies or even simple caravan in 81 provinces in scattered islands in the country entail large budget that incumbent candidates can rely from their active national political machinery (institutional) and from their politician seniors (personal) who have already secured needed budget for reelections from years of sitting in the posts bequeathed upon them.
Bourdieu’s Cultural Capital
Cultural capital can be objectified in books, paintings, works of art, or technical artefacts; incorporated in skills, competencies, and forms of knowledge; and institutionalised in titles, such as honorable governor, honorable congressman or congresswoman, honorable mayor, among others. Bourdieu’s concept of cultural capital directs our attention to the means whereby social inequalities are generated through the classifying power of taste as expressed in the consumption of culture. Possession of specific forms of cultural capital is used to maintain social dominance over those who do not possess them (Elliot 2014).
The senior politicians’ institutionalized titles give their successor children the edge over newcomers. Their children will be introduced as the kid of honorable so and so. And they get the so called “special treatment,” which is very much a part of the Filipino hospitality. In a municipality in the second district of Agusan del Norte, Cabadbaran City, are three candidates for the mayoralty post. All of them are closely related to the Amantes, two women and a man. The first two women are the ex-wife Judy Amante of Representative Erlpe Amante and his rumored girlfriend, Katrina Mortola. The third candidate is the Amante family’s lawyer, Atty. Tolentino (Jimenez-David 2015; Nawal 2015; Serrano 2015).
Cultural capital explains the ability of the political family’s seniors to transmit their privileged status to their children, a process Bourdieu referred to as “social and cultural reproduction.” This is not only to the intergenerational reproduction of family status but also to the reproduction of larger systems of social inequality and of systems of cultural hierarchy (Ritzer 2011).
The accumulation of symbolic, social, economic and cultural capital does not permit egalitarianism in this respect, even though it may pay lip service to the principle: Privilege is misrecognised as merit, and cultural heredity determines the survival of the most fitting. The interrelated capitals combined definitely propelled the families of Amante and Rosales in their respective localities, helping shape the voters’ habitus in the field of politics.
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The Amante Family in the Government of Agusan del Norte
Second District Governor TERM in YEARS **
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. * Consuelo V. Calo 1978 – 1984
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. Jose T. Gonzalez 1984 –1987
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. Eduardo Rama, Sr. 1987–1992
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. *** Eduardo Rama, Sr. 1992 –1995
Eduardo Rama, Sr. Angel M. Amante 1995 – 1998
Roan Libarios Angel M. Amante 1998 –2001
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. Angel M. Amante 2001 – 2004
Angel M. Amante Erlpe John M. Amante 2004 – 2007
Edelmiro Amante, Sr. Erlpe John M. Amante 2007 – 2010
Angel M. Amante Erlpe John M. Amante 2010 – 2013
Erlpe John M. Amante Angel M. Amante 2013 – 2016
* as Assemblyman
** starts and ends June 30
*** served as Executive Secretary to President Fidel V. Ramos