Analysts: Dynasts to complicate federalism drive

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By Arjay L. Balinbin

THE switch to a federal system is still possible but dynasts will resist the inclusion of an anti-dynasty provision in the federal constitution, according to analysts.

“Political clans will most likely reject very specific provisions that will negatively affect their own power and succession plans,” Natividad Cristina J. Gruet of the University of Asia and the Pacific-School of Law and Governance said in a phone message on Saturday when sought for comment.

Julio C. Teehankee, a member of the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution, said at a forum on April 5 that “a federal shift is still possible, but the electoral calculus of 2019 and 2022 will make the passage of a ban on political dynasties…impossible.”

He noted that there are at least 317 political families that dominate both national and local politics, with 70% of local government officials becoming dynastic by 2040.

Ms. Gruet said, “The public support for federalism will most likely depend on whether President Duterte will spend his political capital strongly promoting the final draft, assuming it includes an anti-political dynasty provision.”

“However, local politico mobilization will also be equally integral to positive perception and acceptance. This is where the anti-political dynasty provision will be crucial.”

Last March, Mr. Duterte said that he was in a hurry to strike a deal with Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Chairman Nur Misuari. They both agreed to create a panel composed of five MNLF members and five from the government to discuss federalism.

Also sought for comment, Ateneo Policy Center senior research fellow Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco said via e-mail on April 14: “RBH (Resolution of Both Houses) No. 15 is clear proof that dynastic politicians will not hesitate to hijack the federalism agenda to perpetuate themselves in their positions of power. And can we really expect things to change in a federal system with political dynasties lording it over the regions?”

He added: “I deeply believe that for a federal system to work in the Philippines, it must also feature a self-executing constitutional mechanism regulating political dynasties. One example of this kind of federal structure is the Bayanihan Federalism draft constitution made by President Rodrigo Duterte’s Consultative Committee on constitutional reform.”

“[G]iven that by and large voters have no deep and overt aversion against voting for dynastic candidates, does this mean they will be open to accepting a federal structure without a self-executing constitutional provision regulating political dynasties? Indeed, [this] query points to a very relevant subject for a survey poll.”

Mr. Yusingco also noted that the reign of dynastic politicians “has led to the enculturation of a myopic and parochial local governance mindset, very clearly demonstrated by incumbent local politicos who can only be bothered by short-term projects that have an immediate and perceptible impact (i.e. basketball courts and waiting sheds).”

Also in an interview on April 5, lawyer and historian Michael O. Mastura said: “The anti-dynasty debate is a deviation from the main agenda which is the shift to federalism. Anyway, we will see how it works differently in a federal set-up.”

Citing the RBH No. 15 authored by House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 21 other legislators, he said: “The least controversial it is, the more federal we go; because if you start with a dynasty debate, then you will already have an opposition.”

He said the dynasty debate is necessary but it has to be understood “within the context of the structural levels of federalism.”

“You see, it is a federal set-up with layers of structures. So right then and there, this dynasty can still be avoided or in some cases can be tolerated because there is no way to legislate that. Can you legislate an anti-dynasty? No, I don’t think so,” Mr. Mastura explained.

For his part, Mr. Yusingco said: “I also recognize that other federalism proponents may not have the same view as mine. And it is a pity that whether a self-executing provision regulating political dynasties is indispensable in a federal constitution has not been directly debated upon by federalism advocates.”

For that reason, he said, it would be “very difficult” to say at this point whether the public will accept a federal constitution without an anti-dynasty provision.

Political history assistant professor Marlon B. Lopez of the Mindanao State University-Tawi-Tawi College of Technology and Oceanography said via chat on Saturday: “It is vital that we discuss first who wields the power that will be devolved. The matter is not about whether the public will accept it or not but who will debate about it.”

“Dynasties exist and thrive. People became accustomed to it. Dynasties were present even before the Spaniards came but in a very different setting. Back then, one’s ability should be proven. Today, a surname is the ticket to power,” he said, adding that a “genuine” anti-political dynasty law can never be expected “so long as our leaders come from few families.”

“We can never start a debate on dynasty because of the people who will debate about it….” Mr. Lopez also said.