Senatorial candidates who participated in the First Inquirer Senate Forum on Wednesday vowed not to oppose an antidynasty bill should the measure be considered in the next Congress.
Former Senators Ramon Magsaysay Jr. and Ernesto Maceda expressed a willingness to sponsor a bill that would ban relatives from occupying various government positions at the same time.
Magsaysay said all he needed was a clear signal from President Aquino, like a move certifying the bill as urgent, and he would be ready with his draft.
Reelectionist Sen. Francis Escudero, whose congressman father died a few months ago, said he would inhibit himself during committee hearings and plenary debates if only to allay fears that he might help craft a “self-serving” measure.
Escudero’s mother, Evelina, herself is running for representative in Sorsogon’s first district.
“But expect me to vote. There might not be enough senators to do so if there are too many colleagues related to each other and who would then inhibit themselves,” he told reporters at the sidelines of the forum on “How does the Senate really work” at the University of the Philippines Film Center in Diliman.
Reelectionist Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, however, warned fellow candidates that a discussion of the bill would not be easy.
“Obstacles” abound, he said. Like, until what degree of relationship or consanguinity should a run for office by a second family member be prohibited? Or which government offices would be covered by the law? Would the bill only prohibit relatives running for elective posts? What about appointive positions? Or even those in the judiciary?
Pimentel, whose sister Gwen lost in the 2010 senatorial election and whose father Aquilino Jr. had three Senate terms in the post-Edsa Congress, said the antidynasty bill was among the potential pet measures he studied after he was belatedly sworn in as senator in August 2011.
Article 2, Section 26, of the Constitution prohibits political dynasties. Trouble is, the Charter needs an enabling law for the policy to be observed.
“I ran out of time on this bill,” Pimentel said. “But if I would be lucky enough to get reelected, I would be ready to file a model bill, whether Malacañang certifies it as urgent or not. The more important thing is to be able to explain to other lawmakers and the people why this measure is necessary.”
As it is, there is doubt whether Congress could come up with an antidynasty bill at all.
For example, the so-called “three kings” of the United Nationalist Alliance all have children running for senator—Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter Nancy, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s son Jack and former President Joseph Estrada’s son Jose Victor, or JV. JV’s elder brother Jinggoy is on his second term that expires in 2016.
In the administration’s Team PNoy slate, reelectionist Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano rejoins sister Pia in the chamber if he wins. President Aquino’s cousin Bam Aquino and aunt Tingting Cojuangco are in the senatorial race.
Magsaysay, who has an in-law also running for senator, recalled that there had been attempts to file an antidynasty bill in the past but all never gained traction.
“This means a certification by Malacañang has become necessary. If the leader has political will to remove political dynasties, maybe we can give him a window period of six years? I don’t know. But more important right now is to start dealing with the culture that is tended toward dynasties,” he explained.
Let voter decide
Magsaysay also suggested that the government subject the antidynasty bill to a referendum if only to measure its public acceptability.
Escudero, however, said that an antidynasty bill might not be necessary if only voters refuse to establish these in their communities.
“With or without a law, if people don’t want a dynasty, they would simply not vote for those who would tend to build one. If one does not really prefer a politician ruling with his sibling, spouse, child and cousin, the voter has the freedom not to vote for them,” he said in an ambush interview.
“That is the way a voter shows his sentiment on the dynasty issue,” Escudero added.
Maceda said the antidynasty bill should limit to only one person per family the occupants of national positions ranging from President, Vice President, senator and congressman.
This limitation should also apply to governors and mayors, he added.
“I don’t think it should go as low as councilor or barangay councilman (kagawad),” said Maceda, who has a son occupying a city council seat in Manila.
Loren stands out
Among the forum participants, only Sen. Loren Legarda stood out for her consistency, according to Angela Sebastian, chairperson of the UP College of Mass Communication Student Council.
“I wanted to hear concrete plans of action, but most of the candidates gave motherhood statements,” said Sebastian, who asked about legislation in the education sector.
“Of them, Senator Legarda was the one who was really firm in her stand and advocacy, and that’s what she incorporated in all her answers,” she added.
Wearing a red shirt bearing the face of his daughter Kristel, Christopher Tejada said he was inspired by Sen. Alan Cayetano, who stressed the need for state universities to be self-sufficient and provide free education to all Filipinos.
Education as a right
“The death of my daughter gave all struggling students and their families a face, so we are pushing for education as a right,” said Tejada.—With a report from Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research