After deliberations—considered a “hard labor”—the consultative committee (Con-com) was unanimous in voting to adopt anti-political dynasty provisions for a Charter seen to replace the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.
Eighteen of the 20 members stood and voted in favor of the “self-executing provisions” that may yet wipe political dynasties off the face of Philippine politics.
Con-com member and De La Salle University professor Julio C. Teehankee told the BusinessMirror the committee “labored really hard to craft the provisions as to prevent any potential loopholes.”
“As much as possible, we don’t want the provision to be ambivalent or ambiguous,” Teehankee said, noting that they also wanted to have a clear definition of “political dynasty” so that it would not be subject to different interpretations.
He believes the anti-political dynasty provisions the committee adopted were “the best”
the country can have, given the current realities.
“After more than three decades, at least we already have something instead of none and, of course, we could have been more [strict], extending it [the ban] to the fourth degree, but we also need to take into consideration the other political realities,” he said without elaborating.
DURING an en banc session, the committee deliberated on its proposed anti-dynasty provisions, which included a subsection on a definition of a political dynasty.
In the proposed provisions, the Con-com said “a political dynasty exists when a family—whose members are related up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, whether such relations are legitimate, illegitimate, half or full blood—maintains or is capable of maintaining political control by succession or by simultaneously running for or holding elective positions.”
Under such definition, the Con-com adopted two more provisions. The first bars any second-degree relative of an incumbent official from running “for the same position in the immediately following election.” The second provision adopted prohibits second-degree relatives “from running simultaneously for more than one national and one regional or local position.”
The ban on succession means that an incumbent official’s spouse, children and children-in-law, brother and sisters and brothers- and sisters-in-law, parents and parents-in-law, and grandparents-in-law may no longer run to fill the post to be vacated by their relatives.
Under the prohibition on multiple positions, no two members of any dynasty as defined under the provisions may hold any two regional or local positions at the same time.
The committee also added a provision that empowers the future Congress to provide additional prohibitions.
Ali Pangalian Balindong, who belongs to a political dynasty in Lanao del Sur, voted in favor of the anti-dynasty provisions. “I come from a province that can claim to be the capital of political dynasties, and my family is no exemption. But after listening to the deliberations and to former Chief Justice [Reynato S.] Puno, I have decided to be part of history,” Balindong said. “I. therefore, support the banning of political dynasties in this country.”
CON-COM member and former Senate President Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. said it took the committee some time to come up with the definite proposed provisions.
We needed to be “very careful with the wording” so that the regulation and its exemptions would be clearly understood by the people, according to Pimentel.
He noted that the problem with the provision on anti-political dynasty under the 1987 Constitution was the way it was worded.
“The ban against political dynasties was mainly dependent on action by Congress in making a law and, therefore, Congress, you know, [has] the leeway, to pass or not to pass the law and this is where we are at, facing the situation up to today so [after more than 30 years] on to the present constitution, nothing has happened,” Pimentel said. “So it’s better [to] spell it out without need of any congressional action.”
He believes “the people would still be grateful” they were able to come up with something to address the “disturbing reality in Philippine politics.”
FOR Con-com member and lawyer Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, the committee had difficulty with the different scenarios that might arise once the provisions were implemented.
Ordinario said they had “to take all things into consideration since this is a constitution for the people and for the next years to come.”
“We are also cognitive of the fact [that] we cannot solve all the problems and we cannot also foresee that we are [addressing] the concerns because there are too many permutations possible,” she said. “But we hope with this, plus the forthcoming political reform agenda, political party system, the electoral reforms, all of these can contribute towards the real democratic field.”
IN his speech, Puno, the Con-com chairman, said he would rather put himself in harm’s way rather than to put the country’s democracy in harm’s way.
“I do not give a nanosecond thought to the possibility that in voting to prohibit political dynasties, we shall be incurring the ire of the gods in our political firmament whose fortunes may be compromised,” Puno said.
Puno also noted the enabling law to regulate political dynasties that will come from Congress “has been written in invisible ink.”
He also reminded fellow Con-com members that in drafting the Constitution, “we cannot be blinded by any fear, even the fear of the omnipotents in our politics.”
“With our vote today, they shall be omnipotent no more,” he said.
ACCORDING to a study by University of the Philippines Professor Rolando G. Simbulan, there are dynasties in 73 out of 81 provinces.
Another study submitted to the committee revealed there are at least 295 political families who control power in various regions. Metro Manila had the most number at 31, while regions with the most number of dynasties apart from National Capital Region are Central Luzon with 21, Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) with 20, Bicol region with 15, Western Visayas with 12, Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan) with 11 and Central Visayas with 10.
Another study by a unit of the Asian Institute of Management showed that 50 percent of positions for governor was contested by political dynasties.
For the House of Representatives, 43 seats were won by a political dynasty over another dynasty, while 71 seats were won by a dynasty over a non-dynasty.
The Con-com has also agreed in principle the president and vice president should be elected as a team.