The Duterte administration should first pass an anti-political dynasty law before tinkering with the 1987 Constitution, Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo said on Friday.
In an interview with CNN Philippines’ The Source, Robredo noted that it is time that the 1987 Constitution’s provision that reads “[t]he State should guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law” should come to fruition first or else political power will remain in the hands of the few even if the country makes a shift to a federal government.
Under federalism, independent regions each with the authority to manage their resources and craft their laws, including taxation, will be established but proponents are yet to agree on how to divide the country’s existing 17 regions.
“Before we talk about federalism, let’s address the political dynasties. The shift to federalism will mean danger rather than benefits to our people. You can just imagine, without an anti-political dynasty law and us having federal states, we could be reinforcing… these states could be a fiefdom [of the political clans as it is],” Robredo, a lawyer, said.
During the previous Congress, a proposed anti-political dynasty bill that prohibits two or more individuals who are related up to the second degree of consanguinity from holding or running for a national or local post in successive, simultaneous or overlapping terms reached the plenary.
One of its authors is Rep. Edgar Erice of Caloocan City who was able to deliver his sponsorship speech on the measure on the floor in the 16th Congress–the farthest that the bill reached.
At the time, it was Rep. Frednil Castro of Capiz, in his capacity as chairman of the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms, who defended Erice’s measure on the plenary floor.
The lawmakers who opposed the measure in the plenary debates included then-Deputy Speaker Sergio Apostol of Iloilo, Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas, Gus Tambunting of Parañaque City, Amado Bagatsing of Manila and Jonathan dela Cruz of Abakada party-list.
“Looking at the result of the 2016 elections, you could see that members of the political dynasties who won as governor, mayor or lawmaker increased,” Robredo said.
She also opposed a proposal made by Rep. Ching Veloso of Leyte–head of a sub-committee of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments—that seeks to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman.
“What is bothersome, Robredo added, ‘is the plan to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman because without it, we won’t have an independent body that would prosecute corruption cases and other abuses committed by public officials.”
She said that her opposition to the shift to a federal government is not about protecting her office since there was also a proposal to abolish the Office of the Vice President under federalism .
“It is not about my office. Regardless if my office is dissolved or remains, after six years, I won’t be occupying it anymore. The Constitution, however, will still be there,” Robredo noted.
President Rodrigo Duterte is not in favor of passing an anti-political dynasty law, saying it is tantamount to restricting the electorate’s right to suffrage.