Groups press for people’s initiative against political dynasties
MANILA, Philippines—Two political parties said Saturday the people’s initiative for the adoption of a national law prohibiting political dynasties should start now rather than wait for the retirement of Commission on Elections Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. in 2015.
The Social Justice Society, while welcoming Brillantes’ announcement at the Senate of his plan to lead a people’s initiative against political dynasties when he finishes his term in March 2015, said it has begun preparations for an initiative.
SJS president and lawyer Samson Alcantara said the party has already started gathering signatures for the initiative from its supporters in the education sector.
“We have already commenced our signature gathering and we aim to finish in one year. But we are willing to follow his [Brillantes’] lead. The journey to the end of the tunnel starts with one first step. The SJS can prepare the way,” Alcantara told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a telephone interview.
Kapatiran president John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes said his group was waiting for Comelec’s go-signal for a prescribed form for Kapatiran’s separate initiative drive.
“We had a petition, sent six months ago, before the Comelec law department for his [Brillantes’] office to approve the form [of the initiative proposal] that will get the ball rolling as soon as possible. In their reply letter, they committed to work on it,” De los Reyes told the Inquirer in an online interview.
De los Reyes said that if the initiative was conducted in 2015, then the plebiscite for it might be held in 2016, which would allow the practice of political dynasties to continue until then.
“[Brillantes’] retirement is his private matter. What we are asking is of public interest. It is a matter of substantive right that they give what we are asking. They are mandated under the law to come up with prescribed form. We won’t start without it as we want our initiative to be as fail-safe. We don’t want our efforts for our people to go down the drain on technicalities,” he said.
For his part, Alcantara said he believed that the proposed anti-dynasty law initiative they have opened for signatures would be eventually approved by Comelec as the correct form.
“The form of our proposal is very simple. It’s very much like an ordinary law. They [Comelec] will have to approve it. They will have to verify signatures and certify if it complied with the requirement that three percent of registered voters in every congressional district signed it,” Alcantara said.
Unlike Kapatiran, Alcantara said, SJS would not wait for the prescribed form from Comelec, adding, “If we wait for it, then we can never start.”
The Comelec, as required by Republic Act No. 6735 or the Initiative or Referendum Act of 1989, has come up with prescribed forms for initiatives in the past but only for initiatives to amend the Constitution and initiatives for local laws.
Both De los Reyes and Alcantara are running for the Senate in next year’s mid-term elections. Kapatiran and SJS hope to make the ongoing public debate against political dynasties a campaign issue, and at the same time collect signatures for their initiatives.
De los Reyes warned that unless an anti-dynasty law is passed, the “privatization” of the governments in the hands of few political families would continue.
Both the Kapatiran and SJS proposals would prohibit persons from succeeding relatives in elective office. Both proposals do not distinguish between national and local elective positions.
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