By Lucia Edna P. de Guzman

Senate takes another crack at anti-political dynasty bill

Posted on February 02, 2017

HEARINGS on the anti-political dynasty bill has again started in the Senate, a measure that is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution but has consistently been met with opposition from legislators.

“Thirty years since the enactment of the constitution, and we have not yet implemented an explicit constitutional provision,” said Senator Leila M. de Lima, chair of the Senate committee on electoral reforms during yesterday’s committee hearing.

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution provides that the state “shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

“The Supreme Court has ruled that that particular provision which is found in the declaration of state policy is not self-executing, that it requires an enabling law,” Ms. De Lima explained. “The constitution provides for the proscription; to me it’s an explicit prohibition, a ban, an explicit constitutional ban, only that it requires a law to define.”

The hearing yesterday, which was attended by representatives from political parties, academe, and think tanks, developed a consensus that the familial relationship to define a political dynasty is limited to family members of up to the 2nd degree of consanguinity or affinity.

“We have come up with a consensus of up to 2nd degree of consanguinity or affinity,” the Senator told reporters after the hearing. “Some suggested that the limit should be extended up to the third degree or fourth degree, but that would be a hard sell to many members of Congress.”

She added that approximately two-thirds of the outgoing members of the House of Representatives come from political dynasties.

Asked if she believes that the measure can finally be passed during the 17th Congress, Ms. De Lima said that it has to be passed because it’s still in the Constitution.

“Let’s respect and follow what is written in the Constitution,” she said. “The Constitution hasn’t been amended yet, the provision is still there.”

Separate anti-political dynasty bills were filed by Senators Panfilo M. Lacson, Franklin M. Drilon, Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, Grace L. Poe and Loren B. Legarda.

Sought for comment, University of Santo Tomas political science professor Edmund S. Tayao cited two reasons for the prevalence of political dynasties in the Philippines: small constituencies, and the electoral and political party system.

“Our local government units are so small, and the smaller the constituency the easier for it to be dominated by political families,” Mr. Tayao said in a phone interview. “If you limit it to 4th degree consanguinity, no one would be able to run because in the provinces, for example, almost everyone are related to each other. And normally the ones who are able to study are also the ones who are well-to-do and therefore the ones inclined to run for office and are related to political families.”

“On the other hand, if you limit it to first and second degree consanguinity, you also have to configure how the in-laws would be considered part of the so-called degree of consanguinity. It’s difficult to operationalize an anti-political dynasty law.”

“Because our electoral system promotes personality politics, you are not able to develop real political parties, and because of that the main mechanism on getting elected would depend on one individual’s power, which is why one would go to political families and political dynasties,” Mr. Tayao explained.

Further, even if the measure is passed into law, there would still be problems with implementing it.

“The implementing rules and regulations (IRR) would still be with the Commission on Elections (Comelec),” Mr. Tayao said, noting that provisions in the IRR written by the Comelec for party-list systems are still being contested today.

Ramon C. Casiple, executive director of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, asked on whether or not the consensus on the consanguinity limit would give the bill a better chance to be passed into law, he simply said via text message: “it would still be difficult on all counts.”

Previous attempts in coming up with an anti-dynasty law failed.

In 2015, members of the House of Representatives who opposed the passing of an anti-dynasty bill threatened to walk out when the measure was opened for second reading in the plenary.

In 2012, a bill authored by the late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was shelved due to possible effects on those who have already filed their certificates of candidacy for the 2013 elections.