Signature drive on for anti-dynasty law

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08:53 PM November 3rd, 2012

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By: Jerome Aning, November 3rd, 2012 08:53 PM

MANILA, Philippines—A political party set to participate in next year’s elections on Saturday said it has started collecting signatures for a people’s initiative for a law that would prohibit political dynasties in government.

The Social Justice Society’s initiative, entitled “An Act Defining Political Dynasties that are Prohibited under Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution, and Providing Penalties for its Violation,” received the first signatures from the party’s members as well as students, teachers and other supporters in the academic sector.

“Those who say that there’s nothing wrong with political dynasties, that they are good public servants despite belonging to dynasties, are just greedy for political power. There many other Filipinos who have the same ideas and plans for good governance. Political dynasts should not be allowed to monopolize opportunity to serve the country,” SJS president Samson Alcantara told the INQUIRER in an interview.

“They close their eyes to the fact that there is a constitutional policy against dynasties. The greed for political must be moderated. Those who advocate social justice should practice it. Those who invoke the Constitution must not brazenly undermine the policies enshrined therein,” he added.

Alcantara, a lawyer who is running for Senate under SJS in the 2013 polls, said the initiative “will provide ample opportunity for those who are perceived to be members of political dynasties to air their side and convince the people that there is indeed nothing wrong with political dynasties.”

Another political group, the Kapatiran Party launched an initiative against political dynasties last April but has yet to collect signatures since the Commission on Elections has yet to promulgate rules on the “prescribed form” for an initiative for a national law.

Alcantara said that unlike Kapatiran, the SJS will not wait for the Comelec rules. He said the party would officially notify Comelec about the initiative upon gathering 100,000 or so signatures.

“They (Comelec commissioners) should do their duty and come out with the rules soon so we can comply,” the lawyer said, adding that he could not understand why the Comelec was taking a long time coming out with the “prescribed form.”

“An initiative for a national law or statute would take the form of our republic acts, which contain declarations of policy, definition of terms, penal provisions, etc. There should be no difficulty crafting the prescribed form?” he said.

The SJS leader deplored the Congress’ failure to pass an antidynasty law 25 years after the Constitution was approved.

“It is generally perceived that political dynasties in both the Senate and the House of Representatives have influenced and co-opted the Halls of Congress as their own private preserve to protect serve their familial interests, hence the failure to pass a law which defines political dynasties.” Alcantara said.

Compared to the Kapatiran initiative and the bills against political dynasties pending in the legislature that were filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casino, the SJS proposal is more restrictive because appointed officials are taken into consideration.

The SJS defines a political dynasty as “a family where more than one of its members, up to the third civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, occupy any elective or appointive position in the government equivalent to the rank of salary grade 25 or higher and intents to perpetuate itself through fielding one of its members to run for election to a public office.”

The Department of Budget and Management website lists elective and appointive officials with the salary grade of 25, earning in the range of P50,000 monthly. Among them are city and municipal councilors, municipal vice mayors, city department heads, provincial election officer, vocational school superintendent, district engineer, and those other ranks such as Director I, Collector of Customs V, Clerk of Court VI, Executive Assistant VI, Court Attorney VI, Professor II, State Counsel II, and Registrar of Deeds III.

Unlike the Kapatiran initiatives and the two bills which distinguish between national and local positions, the SJS initiative prohibits any member of political dynasty, including his spouse, from running for any elective position, including running to succeed an incumbent elective official who is a relative.

Under the Constitution and Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act of 1989, a people’s initiative for a national legislation must be signed by at least 10 percent of all registered voters and at least three percent in every legislative district.

Once the Comelec has verified the law, referendum on the proposal must be held with in 45-90 days.

In 2002, the SJS pushed for an antidynasty law from Congress via an indirect initiative, or filing a proposed law for Congress to deliberate on.

When Congress did not act on the proposal, SJS appealed to the Supreme Court to compel legislators to deliberate on the SJS bill. However, the Court said it could coerce Congress, a co-equal branch of the government, to legislate.

Alcantara said a suit pending before the Court that seeks to compel the Comelec to disqualify members of political dynasties might also suffer the same fate since the poll body is an independent constitutional body.

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