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Anti-political dynasty provision met with raised eyebrows in House panel

Solon says it's ‘anti-democratic’
/ 01:20 PM January 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Some members of a House committee deliberating on the proposed amendments to the 1987 Constitution raised their eyebrows at the provision prohibiting political dynasties in the country.

During the House committee on constitutional amendment’s meeting on Tuesday at the House of Representatives, lawmakers tackled the proposed amendments of the Constitutional Reform (CoRe) Movement and the Department of Interior and Local Government-Inter-agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform (DILG-IATF).

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Among these proposed amendments is a provision against political dynasty, which has long been a topic of conversation in the realm of Philippine politics and governance.

Some lawmakers, however, seem to not agree with the proposed amendment.

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‘Anti-democratic’

For Isabela Representative Antonio Albano, who serves as the vice chairperson of the House panel, the provision is “anti-democratic,” noting that some political families were not elected in the previous elections.

“This is anti-democratic because there are families elected democratically so I call them FED, families elected democratically,” Albano said during the hearing.

“But you see in the last elections and even in the other parts of the country, we see that other political parties elected democratically before, the people also got fed up so there are families ejected democratically,” he added as he reiterated that there is democracy and that it is the right of the people to choose their leaders.

Albano even went on to say that “it is democracy at risk here.”

The strengthening of political reforms is more important than limiting the democratic right of a person to run and be voted upon, the lawmaker added.

Following the panel’s meeting, Albano said that the Philippines is the only constitution that even has a limit on the number of terms.

“In the United States, we have senators that are elected for how many terms—for probably 30 to 40 years and they are still senators,” Albano told reporters.

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“But because we are in a different culture, and it warrants that our people want an anti-political dynasty provision, I am not softening my stand, but again reiterating there might be need to limit certain things and the definition of political dynasties has to be approved in the Congress,” he added.

Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, meanwhile, wanted to defer the discussions on the “contentious and controversial issue.”

“I strongly suggest that we defer this Section VII because we are curtailing already the right of the ordinary citizen to vote,” Pimentel said.

“Kung gusto nila, kung maganda naman ‘yung trabaho nung incumbent (If the incumbent performed well and the people wants to elect them)—it’s the right of the people to put in place who will be their congressman, their governors. It is one way of curtailing the freedom of the right to vote of the citizens,” he added.

House Committee on Constitutional Amendments chair and Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, however, assured that the provision will be further discussed.

“First, this will be explained to the members of Congress this coming Tuesday as a whole—they have invited all the congressmen and then the committee on constitutional amendments will again be able to discuss the anti-dynasty provisions,” Rodriguez told reporters.

Proposed anti-political dynasty provision

In a document provided by CoRe and the DILG-IATF, they stated that a political dynasty exists when “a family whose members are related as a spouse, and up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, whether such relations are legitimate, illegitimate, half, or full-blood, maintains or is capable of maintaining a political control by succession or by simultaneously running for or holding elective positions.”

Thus, CoRe and the DILG-IATF proposed that no person related to an incumbent elective official as a spouse, and within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity can run for the same position in the following election.

Further, they proposed that persons related as a spouse, and within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity cannot run simultaneously and hold office for Governor and Vice Governor, as well as Mayor and Vice Mayor, respectively.

“The democratic principle of check and balance between co-equal branches of government must be upheld at all times,” the proposal noted.

The 1987 Constitution states that the “State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

However, no law has been passed defining political dynasties.

Thus, the CoRe and DILG-IATF noted: “The proposed provision defines the political dynasty thereby rendering the same as self-executory rear use without the need for an enabling law from Congress.”

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