CEBU CITY—They may have differing definitions of what constitutes a political dynasty.
But the eight senatorial candidates who joined the Cebu leg of the Inquirer Senate Forum on Friday agreed on one thing at least: the need to level the playing field by bringing down the exorbitant cost of political ads.
Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna), who is running as an independent, said he had authored several antidynasty bills, none of which got anywhere in Congress because of opposition from lawmakers belonging to the big political families.
Going by his own definition of what a political dynasty is, Casiño said the wife, children, parents and siblings—or second-degree relatives—should not be allowed to run for a post being vacated by an outgoing elective official.
Not just Angaras
“There are other families who have young and budding politicians and not just Angara alone,” Casiño said, pointedly referring to Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, who was at the forum.
Angara, a candidate of the administration’s Team PNoy stood up, walked to the front of the stage and, smiling, said Casiño’s definition of political dynasty did not apply to him because his father, outgoing Sen. Edgardo Angara, was retiring in June. He then returned to his seat.
The elder Angara, who has to bow out because of term limits, is the longest-serving senator in the post-Edsa legislature, having served 24 years in the chamber. This means that after serving two consecutive terms, he would take a mandatory one-term break and run again. Now that he has apparently decided to retire, his son, if he wins, will ensure there will continue to be an Angara in the Senate.
“Everyone must be given an equal opportunity to serve,” Sonny Angara told the capacity crowd at the Cebu Cultural Center.
But voters should not elect him because of his family name but because of his track record, he said.
Angara and Casiño were among the eight senatorial candidates who showed up for the third and final session of the Inquirer Senate Forum that focused on the issue of political dynasties.
The six others were former Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri of the United Nationalist Alliance, Bro. Eddie Villanueva of Bangon Pilipinas, Rizalito David of the Kapatiran Party, Mary Grace Poe of Team PNoy, Samson Alcantara of the Social Justice Society and independent candidate Ricardo Penson.
Constitution is clear
According to Alcantara, there is no need to define what a political dynasty is because the Constitution is clear that “political dynasties are prohibited,” whether they are good or bad.
A political dynasty is not like cholesterol “where there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol,” bacteria “where there is good bacteria and bad bacteria.”
David and Penson agreed that the Constitution has already sufficiently defined what a political dynasty is.
The constitutional provision against dynasties has not been implemented because the electorate keeps voting the wrong officials into office, said Penson.
An antidynasty law is long overdue, he said.
“If they had any sense of decency, they (scions of politicians) would not run anymore. The definition in the Constitution is very clear,” said David.
He said his party has been conducting a signature campaign in the church parishes for a people’s initiative calling for a referendum that would allow the people themselves to enact the law against political dynasties.
Kapatiran is confident that it can get the required 5.2 million signatures so that he can see an antidynasty law in two years, said David.
Poe said emerging political leaders who are not members of political families, are discouraged from running for elective posts because they don’t have the financial capability to run a campaign.
She cited the prohibitive cost of radio and TV ads where a one-minute, 20-second ad costs as much as P1.2 million.
Poe said she agreed with the Commission on Elections’ move to impose airtime limits on political advertisements on TV and radio because it, in effect, levels the playing field.
Like Poe, Villanueva said candidates were saddled with high airtime rates for political ads.
He said he had to pay P500,000 for a 30-second television ad. But when elected into office, a senator is paid only about P100,000 a month, he said.
But with regard to the political dynasty issue, Villanueva reiterated his earlier stand that no one should be discriminated against for serving the country through government service because of his or her family name, for as long as they are competent and of good moral standing.
Zubiri said there are scions of political clans who have excelled and even exceeded the performance of their parents and grandparents.
He cited former Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, the Liberal Party’s candidate for the 5th district of Cebu, who belongs to the Durano clan, and Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia, who is running for governor under One Cebu, which is allied with UNA.
Zubiri described Durano as mabait (a good person) and “napakadesente (really decent). Garcia, he said, “was better than his father,” Cebu Rep. Pablo Garcia. Reports from Charisse Ursal, Jason Baguia Bernadeth Rosales and Connie E. Fernandez