This early, House leaders have already voiced skepticism about the feasibility of the groundbreaking anti-political dynasty bill, which debuted in the Congress’ plenary hall on Tuesday night after 12 years.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan and House Deputy Majority Leader Sherwin Tugna of Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption party-list expressed that sentiment when House Bill 3587 was finally sponsored by Rep. Fredenil Castro of Capiz in the plenary late Tuesday.
The anti-dynasty bill authored by Reps. Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna party-list, Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers party-list and Edgar Erice of Caloocan City prohibits two or more individuals related within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity from holding or running for a national or local post in successive, simultaneous or overlapping terms.
An official’s relatives in the first degree of consanguinity are his or her spouse and children, and in the second degree are his or her parents and siblings.
“There could be amendments. The way the bill is, it is not only about relationships [of those seeking elective posts]. It is also about elections since there are provisions that somebody who is a relative of an incumbent official cannot run for a [consecutive]number of elections. I don’t think that would be easy to implement,” Zamora, the executive secretary of former President Joseph Estrada, told a press conference.
Tugna admitted that members of political clans have a built-in advantage over the years because they have the authority to dispose of public funds, but clarified that giving equal opportunity to all persons who want to hold elective offices should be balanced with the right of a person to exercise his/her political right to vote and to be voted by the public.
“The definition of a political dynasty should be thoroughly debated. In a long line of cases decided by the Supreme Court, the government, through Congress, can only curtail the right to be voted upon and the freedom of the voters to choose who they want to vote for if it has been proven that the evil of unequal opportunities to public office and virtual monopoly of a particular family to a public position has resulted in deleterious effects to our country,” Tugna, also a lawyer, argued.
But for the solon who sponsored the bill, the measure does not curtail anybody from seeking or holding an elective office.
“It is regulatory in the sense that it does not prohibit anyone from running, being elected and holding a public office. It only limits the number of those who may run, be elected and hold public office from a political clan in a span of time. As such, other elective officers will be free for grabbing of the best and the brightest from disadvantaged families,” Castro, a member of the National Union Party allied with the Majority bloc in the House of Representatives, stressed in his sponsorship speech.
In a separate talk, Colmenares underscored that the time to push such a measure forward has come and there is no turning back.
“We want no exceptions. We will stick to the tenet of the bill. This is an uphill battle, but it doesn’t mean that it ends there. If the public supports it, Congress will be forced to do things that it does not want to do,” he argued.
Colmenares’ fellow author Erice agreed in a separate speech, saying that Congress is disrespecting the Constitution by being selective of the provisions to which it will adhere by only following and defending those which favor House members.
Article 2, Section 26 of the Philippine Constitution provides that the State should guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.
“Do we honor the Constitution only if it favors us? Do we fight for it if it is reflective of our interests? Is that our mandate? We must be mindful of the fact that this very Constitution is the reason why this august Chamber exists,” Erice pointed out.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that our family members would not be a cause of the poverty of our constituents and our country,” he added.