The power of reform coalitions in the Philippines

Support from a powerful and determined head of government is only part of the reform story; coalitions that include elements of government, the legislature, and civil society are important in achieving and implementing reforms.

This is the key finding of DLP-commissioned research into two major reforms introduced in the Philippines in 2012. A new law significantly raised 'Sin' taxes on cigarettes and alcohol, strengthening government finances and healthcare. And the re-registration of voters in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has improved the quality of elections, governance and conflict resolution in the southern Philippines.

The study draws on participatory 'action research' and more than 20 interviews. It finds that, even in a context where presidential powers and prerogatives are especially strong, the efforts of diverse and flexible reform coalitions were crucial in helping President Aquino overcome resistance to the changes. The coalitions have also played a crucial role in making sure the reforms were implemented.

The coalitions' success suggests lessons for economic and governance reform in other countries, particularly where competition for elected office is closely linked to the entrenched interests of business and industry.

Researcher: John T. Sidel (LSE)