The stranglehold of political families on many Philippine provinces may soon be broken after the consultative committee (Con-com) tasked to review the 1987 Constitution to disallow relatives of elective officials up to the second degree of consanguinity and affinity to succeed them.
The “regulated ban” covers parents, siblings, grandparents, children and grandchildren (whether legitimate, illegitimate, legitimated, adopted or step). Step relatives, such as step parents and step brothers and sisters, and stepchildren are also prohibited, as they are considered the same as blood relationship.
An incumbent official’s spouse, parents-in-law and brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, grandparents-in-law, spouses of the politician’s siblings and their spouses are also not allowed as they are covered by the second-degree ban by affinity.
Because of the complexity of the issue, the committee also deferred voting on whether relatives of incumbent officials up to second degree of consanguinity and affinity will be allowed to simultaneously run or hold multiple positions.
Former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, chairman of the Con-com, said there should be a self-executing provision on political dynasties in the Constitution.
“If we don’t make this self-executing, it would be a problem. We have seen this problem for almost 32 years, and Congress has not given a solution on this, so this is our chance to finally give this problem a final solution,” Puno said.
Asked if he sees Congress supporting the regulated ban, Puno said: “It’s not a matter of confidence. We will do what we think is right. It’s up to our countrymen.”
In a separate interview, Puno said he expects the regulated ban on political families to spur economic growth, noting that areas considered a stronghold by political families are mired in poverty.
The former Chief Justice also told the BusinessMirror that he will propose to the committee on Tuesday to grant Congress the power to enact laws that will extend the regulated ban up to the third or fourth degree of consanguinity and affinity.
“I will propose that the second- degree ban would just be the starting point since we cannot make full steps [immediately],” Puno said, noting that it would be hard to implement a fourth-degree ban right away.
Arthur N. Aguilar, chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Reforms and Fiscal Administration, said he sees “profound economic benefits” in the medium term and long term when regions are freed up from traditional political dynasties.
“It’s about time we give our regions and provinces some fresh blood,” Aguilar said, noting that this would be good to the economy as this will pave the way for talented and young public servants to join the government.
“It will result in, I think, a better environment, where new businesses can come up in regions and in areas where it is controlled by a political dynasty,” he said.
Lawyer Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic Reforms and Fiscal Administration, agreed with Aguilar that regulating political dynasties would be beneficial to the economy.
“Political power and economic power very often come together, especially in the local scene, so if we destroy political dynasties, the tendency is we will be able to separate this so that control of the operations of government will not be too controlled or strictly kept in the hands of the few,” Ubalde-Ordinario said.
“In that way, politicians also cannot put up policies within their local governance units that would prevent competition. That will open up the economy so that more people will be interested to invest,” she added.
Last week the committee-of-the whole reached a consensus on a second-degree ban following review of various expert research and studies on political dynasties in the Philippines.
Ronald U. Mendoza, dean of the School of Government of Ateneo De Manila University, said the political dynasty regulation will strengthen political parties since more young leaders will have a chance to run for office and work together.
Mendoza also said “it’s politically more feasible” to impose a regulated ban rather than a total ban.
Asked whether Congress and the President would back the initiative, he said: “Some of them will likely fight it—and this is where we need the leadership of the President.”
“If he really wants to bring genuine change and better governance, then he should use political capital and public support on this key reform,” Mendoza added.
Political analyst Ramon C. Casiple said the second-degree ban would be acceptable even to the political elite and is also a feature of the Sangguniang Kabataan law.
Casiple also noted that the move to regulate political dynasties will also “equalize the political playing field and ensure democratic access to public service.”
“Con-com has been open to political reforms so far,” said Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political and Electoral Reform. “But its recommendations would still be submitted to the President who will recommend to Congress. The Con-com is in a position to push for reform.”
According to the study of Professor Rolando G. Simbulan of University of the Philippines, there are political dynasties in 73 out of 81 provinces in the country.
Puno and former Budget Secretary Salvador Enriquez Jr. led the study, which found out there are at least 295 political families who control power in various regions, a study submitted to the committee showed.
Metro Manila had the most number at 31, while regions with the most number of political dynasties apart from National Capital Region are Central Luzon with 21; Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon), 20, Bicol region, 15; Western Visayas, 12; Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan), 11; and Central Visayas, 10.
The Asian Institute of Management Policy Center Study also found that 50 percent of positions for governor was contested by political dynasties, while in another 11 percent, members of the dynasties had no opponent in the 2013 elections.
For the House of Representatives, 43 seats were won by a member of a dynasty over another dynasty, while 71 seats were won by a dynasty over a non-dynasty.
The Con-com has also agreed in principle last week that the president and vice president will be elected as a team. On February 27 the committee voted 11-7 in favor of the federal-presidential form of government, citing familiarity with the system.
The federal-presidential system adopts the current setup of national government with three branches, particularly Executive, Legislative and Judiciary.
However, in a federal setup, the country will have federal states with their own systems of government. This is also the same system being followed in the United States.