Cartoon Anti-Political Dynasty Bill
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

Various groups, led by former Philippine Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., have petitioned the Supreme Court to order Congress to pass a pending anti-political dynasty bill, citing a constitutional provision prohibiting political dynasties.

Reacting to reports about the petitions, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the Supreme Court cannot force the House of Representatives to pass the anti-political dynasty bill.

Belmonte said, “The Supreme Court can’t compel us to do it. The Supreme Court can rule on the constitutionality of the issue, but cannot order a co-equal body of government which law to pass.”

In next year’s elections, Belmonte is seeking re-election as representative of the fourth district of Quezon City. His daughter Joy is also running for re-election as vice mayor of the city, while his nephew Kit is running as congressman of the city’s second district.

Many candidates running in the election next year are also members of prominent political families.

Party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna argued that the constitutional provision does not apply to the pending bill because while the Constitution prohibits political dynasties, it does not a set a timeline for its enforcement.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said that dynasties have existed since politics was invented. Dynastic politics is not unique to the Philippines, he added, citing the example of the Kennedys and the Bushes in the United States.

JV Ejercito, a son of former President Estrada, said that he and members of his family are being elected and reelected due to their good track record of public service. He challenges people, who believe they can perform better, to run against them in the elections.

It is apparent from the arguments that selfish interest is behind the reluctance to enforce the constitutional prohibition. The same leaders opposing the anti-dynasty move are quick to invoke the Constitution whenever it suits their interest, but would not touch the Charter with a 10-foot pole whenever it is to their disadvantage.

They could abide by the constitutional mandate — despite the lack of a timeline — if they want to do so. But they simply won’t do it.

On Ejercito’s argument that his family’s good track record of public service is the reason they always win in elections, we believe it is possible some well-meaning citizens could do a better job. But due to dynastic politics, these citizens are not given even half of a chance to show what they are capable of doing.

Studies showed that in many provinces like Maguindanao where political dynasties have been lording it over for many years now, progress is practically nil and many of the people are poor.

One objective of the communist New People’s Army (NPA) is to dismantle political dynasties. With the congressional leaders’ refusal to enforce the constitutional mandate, it seems that the NPA is an attractive option.

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