ABOUT THE PROJECT
For twenty years, the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) has built a reputation in promoting good governance and developing key institutions. The School’s programs have made significant contributions in advancing the discussion for policy reforms and innovative solutions that strengthen key democratic institutions like elections, political parties, legislature, bureaucracy, and accountability institutions.
In continuing pursuit of this vision, the School, through its public policy think tank, the Ateneo Policy Center, launched the Building Inclusive Democracy Program in 2017. The program serves as the broad platform of the School’s ongoing research projects and its efforts to spearhead factual and evidence-based discussion related to the political economy and democratic framework of the Philippines.
The program addresses emerging socio-political issues in the Philippine context by assessing how the balance between the role of the state, the economy, and civil society is struck in a challenged democracy. It also aims to strengthen and engage civil society and key democratic institutions, platforms, and governance initiatives that are able to foster the types of reforms and discussions necessary for a more effective, dynamic, and transparent democracy in the Philippines.
Research efforts in the portfolio were made possible through the continual support of the Ateneo University Research Council and the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung.
Trafficking in Persons Policies
One of the key areas of research in the development sector is the focus on the roots of inequality and how these hinder sustained reforms toward inclusive growth. In many developing and underdeveloped countries in the world, inequality in its various forms—economic, social and political—constitutes a major barrier to development.
Guided with the thesis that inclusive growth can only take place in a sustained manner if these fundamental inequalities are sufficiently addressed, the Ateneo Policy Center has identified three important pillars – promoting an inclusive economy, and inclusive society, as well as an inclusive democracy. A well-functioning democracy does not only afford citizens access to mechanisms that allow them to hold elected government officials accountable for their actions, but also provides citizens with the processes that would enable them to more closely align public policy with their needs. A well-functioning democracy, thus, leads to the emergence of a governing body responsive to the needs of its constituents and an empowered citizenry. Weaknesses in the democratic system, which often result in dramatic failures in governance, are obstacles to inclusive growth. Inequitable access to democratic processes and mechanisms produce government policies and initiatives that are inconsistent with the needs of the majority.
As the country continue to work making its democratic processes inclusive and holding leaders accountable, one of the challenges is the rise of elected officials with familial ties to present and past politicians signals a growing inequality in access to power and political influence. Such political inequality could represent a major barrier to sustained policy reforms and development as it could perpetuate social and economic divides.
The Ateneo Policy Center’s empirical research in this area is underpinned by the most extensive dataset on political dynasties and its socio-economic correlates in the Philippines. Among the findings, well over 70% of Congress is dynastic and dynasties are concentrated in Philippine provinces with the highest poverty and human deprivation. In certain provinces, specific political clans could create severe weaknesses in the checks and balances of government due to family members in various branches of local government. Political dynasties also tend to dominate the major political parties, comprising anywhere from 60-80% of each of the major parties. In the 2013 elections, political dynasties ran unopposed or against other political dynasties in the majority of Philippine provinces for key positions like Governor and Vice Governor. This has profound implications for democracy in the Philippines as the lack of genuine political parties remains a major challenge in the political sphere—new leaders are not generated based on merit and expertise; and candidates for elections are hardly providing voters with alternative choices.