CHICAGO – If the Philippine corridors of power are populated by relatives of the ones in power either by blood or affinity, it is not surprising.
History tells us that pre-colonial Philippines was ruled by royalties and nobilities, like lakans, datus and warriors. The matter of succession to the top position of power was interrupted only by the arrivals of Spaniards and Americans.
The obsession of overstaying leaders to perpetuate themselves in power is the principal cause of the ongoing wars in Libya, Syria and other countries. But despite the lessons learned from the experiences of these countries, the Philippine Congress still refuses to accept the grim reality that political dynasty is the main reason most Filipinos are wallowing in abject poverty.
Right after the Filipino people toppled Marcos for overstaying in Malacanang for two decades, the revolutionary government headed by Cory Aquino took the initiative to nip political dynasty in the bud when it approved the 1987 Constitution that bans families from monopolizing power.
But the problem is that Section 26 of Article. II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution is merely directory, not mandatory. It says, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
This policy contradicts Section 13 of the same article (II), that says, “The State recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building and shall promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being. It shall inculcate in the youth patriotism and nationalism, and encourage their involvement in public and civic affairs.”
How can the youth be encouraged to get involved in public and civic affairs if only the children of the overstaying politicians are given the chance to get elected into office?
The framers of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, while crafting the state policy against political dynasty, were apparently thinking as politicians, instead of thinking of the people’s welfare. Had they thought of the best interests of the people, they would not have given Congress the option to “define” anti-political dynasty and instead made the constitutional provision on the matter self-executory.
Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice (Liberal Party) told former Senator and former DILG Secretary Joey D. Lina over DZMM 630 radio program, “Sagot Ko Yan!,” monitored live in Chicago, Illinois from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. last Aug. 30, that his bill, HR 3587, an anti-political dynasty measure, is on life support.
Erice said although the anti-political dynasty measure has been introduced in every Congress during the last 27 years, it never saw the light of day.
When asked by Lina if anti-political dynasty “ay malapit sa sikmura ng mga tao” (close to the stomach of the people) that would necessitate them to discuss the matter, Eric responded, “very much so.”
Erice said, “Siyam sa sampung pinakamahirap na probinsiya ay pinamumunuan ng mga politikong kinakasangkutan sa dynasty o mga ka-alyado ng dynasty. Bukod sa hindi mabilis ang pag-unlad ng bayan, lalong yumayaman ang political dynasty.” (Nine out of 10 of the poorest provinces are headed by dynasties or allied with them. Aside from the slow pace of development in these places, only members of the political dynasty are getting richer.)
Many cities and towns are also headed by political dynasty. It starts from the lowly barangay, a training ground of the children of the mayors to run for higher office. And it goes all the way up to vice mayor, mayor and other elective positions occupied by the father, the mother, sister, brother, in-laws, etc. Not only does the dynasty control the levers of power, it also monopolizes private enterprises.
Although Erice’s bill was approved by the House committee on suffrage, Erice said, 180 of the 291 congressmen are members of political dynasties. He is not optimistic that the 180 congressmen will vote in favor of his bill when it goes for a plenary action.
Even party-list representatives are now infected by the dynasty plague.
Erice told Lina that his bill would not allow an elected politician to let his children, siblings, parents or second degree of consanguinity and affinity, including in-laws, parents of in-laws and children of in-laws to run for office.
At present, Vice President Binay has a daughter, who is a senator; another daughter, who is a representative; a son, who is a mayor; and a wife, who was a former mayor. The Marcos family has a senator, a representative and a governor.
There are two senators, who are siblings, one half-brothers out of the 24 senators. There are governors, whose wives are either mayor or members of the city or municipal or provincial boards. In the case of Davao City (Mayor Duterte), when the father (Rodrigo) was termed out as mayor, he ran as vice mayor, and her daughter ran for mayor. When he ran again for mayor, his son was his running mate.
In Camarines Sur in the last election, the grandfather ran against his grandson, who won as governor. Even Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., who is pushing for the passage of the anti-dynasty bill, is having credibility issue because his only daughter, Joy Belmonte, is the incumbent vice mayor of Quezon City, while his nephew, Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, is a representative of Quezon City’s 6th district.
Erice is willing to compromise: Allow two relatives in the governor’s office to run successively or simultaneously. Kailangan lang maumpisahan. (We just need to break the ice.) I hope there will be a sunset provision that will end such practice.
“It’s better than nothing because peoples’ initiatives and referendums need higher threshold requirements: 3 percent vote of the electorate and 10 percent vote of the entire electorate, that is hard to meet,” Erice said.