Finally, someone in government is pushing for the enactment of the anti-political dynasty bill. The fact that Pres. Aquino got the most resounding ovation on his endorsement of the measure only shows that there is a clamour for its enactment.
Still, despite the endorsement, the passage of the anti-political dynasty bill seems highly improbable, if not totally impossible. No less than Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. admitted the measure still faces an uphill battle.
Since 1987, many have been calling for the passage of the anti-political dynasty measure to enable Article II Section 26 of the Philippine Constitution which states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
But the call remains futile. And this is not surprising. In fact, the most logical stand for the members of congress is to oppose the measure. Who would support it when majority of its members will be adversely affected? And it’s not even a simple majority. A 2014 study conducted by Dean Julio Teehankee of De La Salle University shows 178 family dynasties rule 73 of 80 provinces. Another 2014 study conducted by Ronald Mendoza of the Institute of Management Policy Center shows 75% of the members of congress and 80% of governors and mayors belong to political dynasties. You see the dilemma— the measure is against their interest. Thus, our own congress is the protector of political dynasties.
Those who oppose the anti-dynasty measure argue that it is not only impractical; it also goes against the constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity for those who would want to be in political office. Oppositors say the determination of those who people want to put in office remains in the hands of the voters anyway.
The opposition to anti-political dynasty measure can be traced back to the very same group, which crafted the 1987 Constitution. In fact, no less than Atty. Christian Monsod, a member of the Constitutional Commission, said, by including a provision on anti-political dynasty, “we are underestimating our people in their right to choose; we are trying to put a pre-screening mechanism so that public office is not after all accessible to all because we are going to prohibit or exclude certain people from running for public office.”
Political dynasty undermines citizens’ right to be represented. To quote Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, political dynasty “finds its pernicious effect in the political arena where public office becomes the exclusive domain of the influential families and clans that are well entrench in Philippine politics. The monopoly of political power and public resources by such families affects the citizenry at the local and national levels.”
A dynastic system promotes familial interests rather that those of the constituents. With political dynasty, the nation’s wealth is concentrated only on the privileged few. It likewise opens more opportunities for abuses and corruption as political dynasty promotes lack of transparency and accountability in governance.
Unfortunately, despite the negative implications of political dynasty, pending bills have not been given much needed attention. In almost three decades since the 1987 Constitution was enacted, only one anti-political dynasty bill made it first base to the House of Representatives. This refers to the bill, which allows only one member of the family to run for election. It was approved by the committee on suffrage under Capiz Representative Fredenil Castro and reached the House plenary April of last year. A month after, the committee immediately came out with another version to replace the original bill, one that allows two members of a family, instead of one, to run in an election.
But as expected, the substitute bill was met with opposition by the members of the house. Speaker Belmonte then created a small committee headed by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora to draft another version. As to what happened after that, we have not heard from Zamora or Gonzales.
Meanwhile, in the senate, three bills on anti-dynasty are pending before the committee on electoral reforms: two filed by Sen. Miriam Santiago and one by Sen. JV Ejercito. And while its committee chair, Sen. Koko Pimentel, has promised to start the ball rolling on deliberations, there is not much optimism that the bill will pass the upper house considering the lack of time with the coming of the budget season and the campaign for the 2016 elections, not to mention of course, that dynasty runs in the senate as well.
It’s good that Pres. Aquino made a pronouncement on the need to pass political dynasty into law. Pres. Aquino’s jab at this measure only shows there is at least a little hope for discussion.
But let us not set our hopes too high, the battle is difficult with our enemies on guard and in power. And with warlordism still rampant in the provinces all across the country, dismantling of political dynasties becomes even more difficult unless all Filipinos unite. The challenge is then ours… are we going to allow political dynasties to continue to pervade and dehumanize the power of the electorate?
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