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    Posted April 22, 2013 by

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    Political dynasties mushroom in Phl

    WHAT’S wrong with a political dynasty? What strict and precise definition does it hold? What are its implications on public service? Will Congress provide teeth to Article 2, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution prohibiting political dynasties after the May 13 polls?
    These questions remain unanswered as senators took a respite from deliberating on a bill seeking to ban members of the same family from being in public office together, and while the Supreme Court has yet to decide on a petition asking to order the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties in the coming national and local polls.
    Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution states: “The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
    Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago defines a dynasty as a situation when an incumbent official’s spouse or his or her second-degree relatives hold or seek office together, or when a spouse or relative succeeds him or her.
    In Senate Bill 2649 (Anti-Political Dynasty Act), Santiago said dynasties also happen when spouses or relatives run for or hold public office together even if they are not related to an incumbent official.
    “To give force and effect to this provision, the playing field of the political arena should be leveled and opened to persons who are equally qualified to aspire on even terms with those from ruling politically dominant families,” Santiago said in her bill.
    “The socio-economic and political inequities prevalent in Philippine society limit public office to members of ruling families. In many instances, voters, for convenience and out of cultural mindset, look up to these ruling families as dispensers of favors and thus elect relatives of these politically dominant families,” she added.
    Meanwhile, independent senatorial candidate Ricardo Penson is campaigning nationwide to inform the people about the ills and effects of political dynasties. He said they’re destroying the democratic principle of representation in Congress.
    Penson said that if elected he would work to pass a law prohibiting political dynasties, adding that he had a signed a “contract with the Filipino people” that once he becomes senator he would resign if he failed to enact a law prohibiting political dynasties from government.
    The definition, however, is limited to the local level. What about in the national sphere?
    “The bill does not cover national positions,” Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, chair of the Senate electoral reforms committee, said after a public hearing held recently.
    For Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the definition should cover national positions.
    Lacson, whose term as member of the Upper House had already ended, disclosed that his son is running for governor in Cavite province. He said that if his son decides to run again in 2016, he would retire from politics.
    At the hearing, cause-oriented groups had differing opinions on the measure.
    Atty. Louie Guia of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections stressed the need to end the Philippines’ clannish and feudal politics.
    “More often than not, the purpose of that is to maintain the family’s hold not only on political power but also the economic resources of the province. These are very real situations that need to be addressed by an anti-dynasty law,” he said.
    However, Eric Alvia of the National Movement for Free Elections believes political dynasties are not necessarily bad.
    He said voters should be given the choice to elect members of the same family or not.
    “I think putting restrictions on families because they are related might also be detrimental,” Alvia explained. “What if that person is really competent? You’re already excluding that individual from public office.”
    But Guia pointed out that the issue is not about a candidate’s competence or ability to deliver services.
    “Anybody who has control over the resources can deliver services. It’s about the concentration of political power to a few families,” he said.
    Pimentel has scheduled more committee hearings on the bill. Although he does not think it will be passed before the 2013 elections, he said he wants to fine-tune the bill for re-filing in succeeding Congresses.
    Observers believe that political dynasties will certainly dominate the country’s electoral system as veteran politicians continue expanding their turfs for the May 2013 polls.
    “Definitely alarming today is the entrenchment of the system of political dynasties on a higher and more blatant scale, making the fair representation of the large majority of Filipinos even more elusive,” CenPeg said.
    Cenpeg also noted the “conditions to form ‘more of the same’ are more encouraging than ever under the administration of P-Noy, himself a benefactor of this culture of political patronage.”
    At the Supreme Court, Louis Biraogo lamented in his petition how dynasties still dominate the country’s political landscape, adding that the current batch of candidates for 2013 was the “best testament to that political and constitutional mockery.”
    “The refusal of the government, the Congress in particular, to fulfill the constitutional prohibition against political dynasties has been a continuing insult to the Filipino people. Something must be done about this anomaly,” Biraogo said.
    He added: “If the political branches of the government will not act on this baneful problem, then the citizenry must act and seek appropriate judicial relief from the court of last resort pursuant to the principle of ubi jus ibiremedium—where there is a right, there is a remedy.”
    He said political dynasties have long dominated Philippine politics. Patronage politics became the rule in the polls,” he said, adding that “one who did not belong to a political dynasty had no chance of winning against a member of a politically powerful and influential family.
    Under this system, he said, public power remained in the hands of the political dynasties. It also meant that the interests of the political dynasties prevailed over the national interest,” he said.
    “Whether or not political dynasties are evil per se is no longer debatable from a constitutional perspective. Sec. 26, Art. II of the 1987 Constitution prohibits political dynasties, period. Thus, whether a political dynasty is reform-oriented, or is known for public service, does not really matter. Political dynasties are prohibited by the fundamental law of the land,” Biraogo argued.
    “Evidently, the prohibition against political dynasties is the means by which the guarantee of equal access to opportunities for public power is to be fulfilled,” he said.
    Biraogo mentioned candidates in the forthcoming election who belong to political dynasties: senatorial aspirants Bam Aquino and Margarita Cojuangco, cousin and aunt of President Aquino; the children of Vice President Jejomar Binay—Nancy, Abigail and Erwin—who are running for senator, congressman and Makati City mayor, respectively; and the family of former President and Manila mayoral bet Joseph Estrada, who has seven relatives running for various positions this year.
    The petitioner also cited the Magsaysays, Cayetanos, Villars, Angaras, Revillas, Belmontes, Pacquiaos and Jalosjoses, whose members currently occupy government posts or are running for other positions this year.
    Biraogo contended that while Congress has not yet passed a law defining the term “political dynasties,” the Comelec is vested with implied powers to make a definition and the “ministerial duty” to prohibit dynasties.
    “Twenty-five years has been too long a waiting period. Another 25 years will be too much to bear. It is time to put an end to the continuing insult visited upon the Filipino people by the inexcusable and adamant refusal of the Congress to enact legislation for the full enjoyment by the people of a guaranteed state policy,” Biraogo said.
    As the May 2013 polls draw near, will Congress crush political dynasties to pieces?
    Only the lawmakers with political dynasties have the final answer!
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