Nepotism: the complex and unpleasant act of appointing relatives to government positions

Artwork by Ed Lustan

MANILA, Philippines – The desire to appoint relatives to government posts could be considered “unpleasant”.

This was underlined by Gerardo Eusebio, professor of political science at De La Salle University, when asked for his analysis on the openness of politicians seeking the presidency to appoint relatives to government posts.

He said that “it might be construed as distasteful to appoint close associates in government, especially in the executive department”.

On January 25, presidential aspirant Ferdinand Marcos Jr. told dzRH in an interview that if he won the May 9, 2022 election, he was open to appointing relatives to his cabinet as long as they were the best. in the field.

“If they are the best in their respective fields, yes. If he is the best and if he is ready to help and work, we will nominate him,” he said, stressing that he was also ready to nominate those in the opposition if they are the best. for work.

“I will not name them just because they are from my family or they are from my coalition. In fact, even if they are from the opposition, if they are ready to help, if they are the best in the business and if they are ready to take the job, we will accept them,” he said. he declares.

However, Maria Ela Atienza, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman, said that “legal or not”, an individual seeking to become president should not consider appointing a relative to government positions.

“It is a matter of ethics and character. The job of the president is to professionalize government institutions and procedures for the benefit of Filipinos, not to make public office a family affair,” she said. declared.

Atienza explained that even with the qualifier “as long as they are the best in their respective fields”, the willingness to appoint relatives to government offices is really concerning because it is always the president who will decide.

Graphics: Ed Lustan

Why concern?

The Philippines had seen how past presidents had pledged to appoint officials based on their credentials, but there were still cases where relatives were appointed to key government positions in which they had no previous experience. . here is a look back:

The wife of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled the Philippines from 1965 to 1986, Imelda, was appointed by her husband in 1975 governor of Metro Manila.

Metro Manila was created by Presidential Executive Order No. 824. The New York Times on February 24, 1976, said in a report that the “newly created governorate” had increased Imelda’s power and influence. She held this position until 1986.

The book “The Rise and Fall of Ferdinand Marcos” which was written by William Overholt says that Imelda, who was the First Lady of the Philippines, “presided over the Cabinet” in the President’s absence because “she was his wife “.

In 1978, Marcos appointed her Minister of Human Settlements. She also held this position until 1986. Overholt said she possessed the right to seize metropolitan properties without recourse.

Imee, the eldest of the Marcos children, was already 20 years old when she was appointed president of Kabataang Barangay by her father. However, this appointment was criticized since only young people between the ages of 15 and 18 were authorized to be elected to the youth body.

The Pambansang Katipunan ng Kabataang Barangay ng Pilipinas was established in 1975 by Presidential Decree 684 “to clearly define the role of youth” – in accordance with the principles of Marcos’ new society.

Imee held this post until 1986, but in 1977 Archimedes Trajano, a young activist from the Mapua Institute of Technology, challenged his leadership. The Bantayog ng mga Bayani said that Trajano was then kidnapped and tortured to death.

Years later, a Hawaii district court ruled that Trajano had indeed been beaten to death. He awarded $4.16 million to Trajano’s family in damages and additional attorneys’ fees based on the laws of the Philippines.

The cousin of Joseph Estrada, president of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, De Castro, revealed the impeachment complaint against Estrada in 2000, was appointed presidential assistant.

Estrada, however, denied knowing her following the 24 million peso textbook scam in 1999, which allegedly involved Estrada’s cousin.

ABS-CBN News reported in 2008 that in a Senate investigation, then-Education Secretary Andrew Gonzales said De Castro, a distant cousin of Estrada, “pressured him to approval of a 200 million peso textbook contract”.

Jose Miguel, husband of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, president of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, has been appointed special envoy for Filipino workers overseas.

The Official Gazette said Jose Miguel had “wholeheartedly accepted the appointment”, saying it was out of love and he would start working straight away.

However, in a BusinessWorld column, Oscar Lagman said it was only to boost Arroyo’s chances of winning the 2004 election. of the OFW, a high-vote segment, he said.

“She was president for almost two years and never during that time did she show any special concern for Filipino workers overseas,” he said.

Legal restrictions

Article 13 (2) of the 1987 Constitution stated: The spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree of the President may not, during his term of office, be appointed as:

  • Members of constitutional committees
  • Mediator
  • Secretaries
  • Undersecretaries
  • President or heads of bureaus or offices, including government-owned and controlled corporations and their subsidiaries

In 2016, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) reminded government officials to abide by civil service regulations regarding appointments, particularly those that prohibit nepotism.

The SCC said nepotism is a form of bribery or abuse of authority which violates Article IX(B), Section 2(2) of the Constitution which provides that “appointments in public office shall not be made only on the basis of merit and fitness to be determined, to the extent practicable, and, except for positions which are policy-determining, primarily confidential or highly technical, by competition.”

Graphics: Ed Lustan

Book V, Title I (A), Chapter 8, Section 59 of the Administrative Code of 1987 “prohibits nepotistic appointments or those made in favor of a relative of the appointing or recommending authority, or of the head of office or ex officio, or persons exercising immediate supervision over the appointee.

The word “relative” designates persons related to the third degree of consanguinity (relation by blood) or affinity (relation by marriage):

  • Spouse (1st degree)
  • Children (1st degree)
  • Siblings (2nd degree)
  • Nephew
  • Niece (3rd degree)
  • Uncle and aunt (3rd degree)

Article 79 of the Local Authorities Code of 1991 extends the prohibition to parents of the authority of appointment or recommendation to the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity:

  • First cousin or first cousin-in-law (4th degree)

CSC said the regulations cover all kinds of appointments, whether initial, promotional, transfer and re-employment, regardless of status, including casual and contract.

However, here are the exceptions:

  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
  • Scientific and Technical Personnel as provided by Republic Act No. 8439
  • Administrator (provincial/city/municipal)
  • Executive Assistant
  • Private secretary
  • Driver/Driver
  • Personal Security Detail of Government Officials
  • Staff of elected officials, department heads, cabinet members, chairpersons and members of commissions and councils with fixed terms

According to the CSC, because nepotism favors a few people, fairness in the hiring and promotion process in government is compromised: “It degrades the morale of serving public servants and prevents other people, perhaps more qualified, to be considered for a job. »


Atienza said Marcos had a “mistaken view of public service and accountability” when considering appointing relatives to government.

“It’s an indication that, like other traditional politicians, including his father, he prefers to surround himself with family members and allies who can be counted on for his personal loyalty rather than working for the good. public,” she said.

Over the past 50 years, Filipinos have always been vigilant about the “unpleasant” appointment of relatives in government.

The book “Political Scandal, Corruption, and Legitimacy in the Age of Social Media” even listed Estrada’s act of nepotism in naming government insiders as one of the Philippines’ controversies.

The impeachment complaint against Estrada revealed that he appointed a brother-in-law, Rufino F. Pimentel, as director of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

He said that Raul de Guzman, also his brother-in-law, was appointed as a member of the UP board of directors while a nephew-in-law was appointed presidential consultant on environment and water.

In 2014, the late President Benigno Aquino III appointed a distant relative, Emigdio Tanjuatco III, as chief of Clark Airport.

Graphics: Ed Lustan

However, Malacañang said that Tanjuatco is beyond the fourth degree of consanguinity: “He is already at the sixth degree. He is distant. The prohibition of the law is only up to the fourth degree of consanguinity.

In 2018, months after firing his girlfriend’s cousin, Honeylet Avanceña, for excessive foreign travel, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Melissa Avanceña Aradanas as Deputy Secretary General of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council. .

In 2020, she becomes the new Deputy Secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.


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