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Philippine Political Science Journal

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High-level political appointments in the

Philippines: patronage, emotion and
Aliya Sartbayeva Peleo
PhD Student, Department of Political Science, University of the
Published online: 29 May 2014.

To cite this article: Aliya Sartbayeva Peleo (2014) High-level political appointments in the
Philippines: patronage, emotion and democracy, Philippine Political Science Journal, 35:1, 121-124,
DOI: 10.1080/01154451.2014.907765

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Philippine Political Science Journal 121

lingering issue of democracy in the PRC. The negative conclusion he gave in this work
was due to the troubling picture of socio-economic classes, more specifically the middle
and capitalist classes who are in no position to push for democracy. The strength of the last
two works lies in the more realistic conclusions that they deduced from their examinations
of the two aspects of democracy.
In the last section that examined the PRCs integration into the global capitalist
system, Edmonds et al. described the policy implications of the PRCs rise as a powerful
entity in international trade. They argued that this might buttress the liberal policies of the
WTO, policies that are beneficial for the PRC. While their conclusion could be considered
as plausible, the next question that this review posits is that, due to the socialist trappings
of the PRC and the protectionist reactions cited by the authors, is the PRC prepared to
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abandon its explicitly declared ideology in favor of neo-liberalism, or will it reformulate

its export policies?
Wu and Storey, on the other hand, explained the implications of the PRCs economic rise
by looking into the current energy insecurities of the PRCs economy. This article, to some
extent deviated from the collection because it raised the question concerning the
sustainability of the PRCs economic transition. Last, Shi offered a more realistic
perspective regarding the impact of the PRCs economic transformation to its foreign policy,
concluding that antagonisms between the PRC and its neighbors are more likely to persist
instead of being eased by economic relations with these states. The authors conclusions are
well formulated and gave a more realistic view of the PRCs future role in the global stage;
that its transition to one form of capitalism is not an assurance that it will sit in a comfortable
position alongside the old-guards of neo-liberalism in the international arena.
The last article that tied the entire anthology together was by the editor who
appropriately left the topic of this work in the open by providing possible trajectories for
the PRCs economic transformation. The editor was successful in creating a cohesive
anthology of works that could serve as another important foundation for future
examinations of the political economy of the PRC as a self-proclaimed socialist market
economy. Moreover, this work could serve as an introduction to future studies on Chinas
role in East and Southeast Asian regions in terms of providing a look inside the domestic
political economy of this giant, its role in international affairs, and how domestic affairs
could influence their stance in certain issues (e.g., energy insecurity and territorial disputes
over potential energy sources). Overall, this anthology is a cohesive work that could guide
readers on the current status and direction of Chinas politico-economic affairs.

Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

Political Science Department, De La Salle University, Manila
q 2014, Anthony Lawrence A. Borja

High-level political appointments in the Philippines: patronage, emotion and

democracy, by Rupert Hodder, Singapore, Heidelberg, New York, Dordrecht, London,
Springer, 2014, 174 pp., ISBN 978-981-4560-05-4, eBook in PDF format

High-level Political Appointments in the Philippines re-examines the notion of patronage

politics in the Philippines. The primary contention in the book is that the practice of
122 Book Reviews

patronage has a developmental and stabilising effect on democratic institutions in the

contexts of developing societies. The author suggests that the informal network of
relationships is useful for the construction of formal organizations and democratic
patterns. The resulting institutionalisation of patronage may be observed in the context-
specific processes of binding groups, mobilising more egalitarian relationships, and
bringing practical and moral pressures to bear on those with authority and wealth to open
up channels and opportunities for those who are poor and powerless (3). Thus, the book
argues that the introduction of an American-style polity and bureaucracy of
democratisation, which views patronage as a negative aspect of developing society
(3), changes the behaviour of political actors towards more impersonal characteristics.
This, however, results in the rejection of the very qualities that make organizations
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effective, allow ideas to flourish, and bring fairness, compassion and stability (4) in
governing institutions in the Philippines.
Hodder shows incompatibility between the values that Filipinos place on
democratisation as a political value, on the one hand, and the importance that Filipinos
give to recognising their own societal context that essentially includes informal networks of
family and friends with patronage patterns of behaviour in politics, public governance and
business in the Philippines, on the other hand. Furthermore, the argument that informal
societal networks and loyalty established among people do not hinder much the
development of democratic processes, but are even responsible for generating democracy,
has been consistently developed in this book as well as in Hodders previously published
books on the Philippines Between Two Worlds (2002) and Emotional Bureaucracy
(2011). To write the current book, the author conducted extensive interviews with
Philippine civil servants and members of the legislature. His study is a contextual analysis
of high-level political appointments in the Philippines that have an influence on the
quality of government. The author argues that the motives, actions and context are
complex and dimensional and that the subject requires the approaches of phenomenology
or intentionality to understand the political context in the Philippines beyond the existing
frameworks of political thought and behaviour (2). The book consists of eight chapters.
Chapter One explains the notions of developed and developing worlds and the
development necessary to close the gap between the two, and introduces the notion of
patronage in developing countries, specifically in the Philippines (1 4). The author
introduces scepticism about the widely accepted modernisation notion that would
remove the centuries of the old world of patronage with its ecclesiastical, royal, and
noble courts and replace it with the modernity of the rule of law, impersonal process,
meritocracy, fairness, and equality as well as order . . . and prosperity that is the result of
development. This implies the overall doubt about the need for the donor community to
interfere in the nation-building and governance for the ungoverned spaces founded in
the ideals of Weberian bureaucracy if developed and developing worlds are to be made
safe and secure (1 2).
Chapters Two and Three provide a literature review on the persistence of patronage in
democracies in the developing and developed worlds, the notion of patronage, and
high-level appointments in the Philippines. Patronage is viewed as reciprocity between
the patron and client, which under particular conditions can be compatible and
associated with democratic processes. The compatibility with democracy is considered
within the contextual environment of systemic vulnerabilities, i.e. the socio-economic
dissatisfaction among clients may convince patrons to relinquish their own personal
interests in order to assure their own safety and to introduce public policies for distribution
of resources (5 12). This does not necessarily involve coercion, authoritarianism and
Philippine Political Science Journal 123

instrumentalism, but duties, expectations and sentiments that come from the sense of
trust and a desire to extend support (6 7). Chapter Three includes the literature review of
works of well-known experts on Philippine politics, such as Lande, Wurfel, Thompson,
Kierkvliet, Ileto, Hutchcroft, McCoy, Putzel, Rocamora, Sidel, Quimpo and others on the
notion of patronage in the context of the Philippine state and society (13 16). High-level
political appointments are often analysed as one of the elements of patron-clientelism,
neo-patrimonialism, cacique democracy, poorly institutionalised parties . . . , a predatory
regime . . . (15). Thus, the focus of discussion about political appointments has been on
the weakness in the design or operation of formal political organizations and democratic
process, or on the cultural context rather than a serviceable description of what in fact
happens in the process (16). To provide this description, the author interviewed some
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120 political appointees at levels of director, assistance secretary, undersecretary,

secretary and their equivalents (16 23).
Chapter Four discusses the complex dimensionality of high-level political
appointments in the Philippines. The author suggests that in order to understand the
political actors motivation behind the appointments, it is critical to admit the complex
dimensionality and contradictions of the human condition rather than fit it to the existing
explanatory models (29). Based on the interviews, the author identifies considerations
other than trust which are as significant for political appointments (30 39). The example
is if the candidate can manage the interests of party factions and other groups (such as
non-governmental organisations, church, and business) (31 32), or if the candidate is a
technocratic professional with experience, knowledge and ability (32 34).
Chapter Five continues the discussion by adding the notion of competitiveness as a
dimensional quality of relationships, where candidates might pursue other agendas by
using official endorsement, engineering support or engineering resistance based on
interests beyond this particular appointment (81). Thus, some loyalties may need to be
better maintained; however, some may be weakened in order to achieve other prioritised
personal, family, professional or other institutional objectives (49 80).
Chapter Six analyses friction, which is constructed by the dimensionality and
competitiveness of this complex patronage-based network of relationships. This friction is
moderated by novel organisations or institutional arrangements that are ready-made
blueprints set out in the constitution (83). In chapters Six and Seven, the author describes
and reviews the work of the search committee (83 98), the Commission on Appointments
(89 107), and the merit system (109 123) related to high-level appointments in the
Philippines. Furthermore, the author argues that the complex network of relationships
among political actors where patronage, being an important dimension, can be used as
the means to cultivate programmatic policies (123 128). Patronage would promote the
formalisation and institutionalisation of the complex network of relationships, loyalties
and ideological convictions that are more familiar to the Weberian-style bureaucracy.
Additionally, the universities and ombudsman play a key role for the formalisation of
patronage. Particularly of importance are the links managed with the University of the
Philippines, De La Salle, and Ateneo, which are the political arenas where relationships
are made and in some cases translated into advocacies for political beliefs, policies, or
politicians (129). The Ombudsman, on the other hand, as the most powerful anti-
corruption agency that usually investigates allegations with vigour or dismiss(es) an
allegation or let(s) cases sit without resolution, is a powerful instrument of patronage
that is formalised and institutionalised (131 132).
Thus, patronage as explored through high-level appointments is not a mere invasion
of the modern by the traditional or a combination of backward traditional society and
124 Book Reviews

modern Weberian bureaucracy, but a complex network of social relationships, where it is

extraordinarily difficult to disentangle a narrow political understanding of deals made
and debts repaid from relationships that are either affective . . . or professional
(141). The dimensional complexities of high-level appointments with subtle competi-
tiveness, formalised symbolic merits and programmatic policies, in which patronage is a
key, help to explain the emergence of democracy or democratic-like patterns of
behaviour in the Philippines (142 143).
The limitation of the book with its social constructivist approach of contextualisation
is a surprising and probably unintended implication of the importance of conserving and
glorifying the tradition of patronage, particularly if it might hinder the more
programmatic utilitarian greater good for a greater number initiatives. However,
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contextualisation using multidisciplinary perspectives is still central for developing a

theoretical base for a Philippine school of political thought as opposed to the
Westernised rationality for understanding the countrys political history and socio-
political reality. Considering the authors background in Development and Human
Geography, the qualitative discursive approach of analysing the interviews used in the
book is atypical compared to previous studies on the topic. In the past, patronage was
studied using more institutional approaches underlying its unacceptability for the
modern democratic system. This book, which provides an alternative perspective, is
recommended to individuals interested in Philippine politics and governance, as well as
anyone interested in the notions of patronage and issues associated with high-level

Hodder, Rupert. 2002. Between Two Worlds: Society, Politics and Business in the Philippines.
London and New York: Routledge Curzon.
Hodder, Rupert. 2011. Emotional Bureaucracy. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers.

Aliya Sartbayeva Peleo

PhD Student, Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines-Diliman
q 2014, Aliya Sartbayeva Peleo

Why nations fail: the origins of power, prosperity and poverty, by Daron Acemoglu
and James A. Robinson, London, Profile Books Ltd., 2012, 463 pp., ISBN-10:
1846684307/ ISBN-13: 978-1846684302

Why Nations Fail is an accessible book. Its 463 pages are balanced by flowing storytelling
and clear argumentation. The political scientist and economist combination of Daron
Acemoglu and James Robinson (2013) avoids the denseness that usually characterizes
grand treatises despite the richness of details presented in the book. In 15 chapters, they
manage two things: one, to downplay previous theories of development, and two, to
highlight what they claim to be the real determinant of poverty and prosperity of nations.
The books main thesis is that while economic institutions are critical for determining
whether a country is poor or prosperous, it is politics and political institutions that