People’s action up vs political dynasties
Two political parties on Monday called for the holding of a people’s initiative to end political dynasties in the country, with one party warning it would go to the Supreme Court if the authorities dragged their feet.
Ang Kapatiran and Social Justice Society (SJS) parties said a people’s initiative for the adoption of a law prohibiting political dynasties should start now.
A people’s initiative is a constitutional method by which citizens may propose amendments to the Constitution or to a law. It needs the backing of 10 or 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, depending on whether the target of the amendment is a law or the Constitution.
The 1987 Constitution prohibits political dynasties but Congress has yet to pass an enabling law to implement this.
Supreme Court option
Norman Cabrera, Ang Kapatiran secretary general, said his group had already prepared a people’s initiative to ban political dynasties but it could not start gathering signatures because the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has yet to prescribe the proper form of such a petition.
He warned that Ang Kapatiran would seek redress from the Supreme Court if the Comelec dragged its feet.
“Although we already have a draft petition, we cannot begin the signature campaign until the Comelec prescribes its form,” Cabrera said in an interview.
“We cannot start gathering signatures because we might then be stopped with technicalities at the middle or at the end of the signature campaign because, certainly, many groups will be against this,” he added.
Cabrera said Ang Kapatiran wrote the Comelec legal department as early as April but the Comelec said it had yet to prescribe the proper form of such an initiative.
He said Ang Kapatiran wrote Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. last month to follow up the matter but he has yet to reply.
“We are now contemplating filing a case in the Supreme Court for it to compel the Comelec to act,” he said.
Cabrera said that if the people’s initiative to enact a law banning political dynasties was passed, similar initiatives could be launched to pass a Freedom of Information Act or a law imposing a gun ban.
The SJS, while welcoming Brillantes’ recent announcement about his plan to lead a people’s initiative against political dynasties when his term at Comelec ends in March 2015, said it had already begun preparations for an initiative.
SJS president Samson Alcantara said his party had 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.
The SJS, founded in 2001, is a group of lawyers that previously gained attention by pushing for the closure of the Pandacan oil depot in Manila.
Ang Kapatiran, accredited as a national political party in May 2004, aims to promote what it calls “the politics of virtue.” It fielded senatorial candidates in 2007 but none of them won. In 2010, it fielded John Carlos “JC” de los Reyes in the presidential race but he lost.
Both De los Reyes and Alcantara are running for the Senate in next year’s midterm elections. Ang Kapatiran and SJS hope to make the public debate on political dynasties a campaign issue while collecting signatures for their initiatives.
Need to act
De los Reyes said in an online interview that Ang Kapatiran was still waiting for Comelec’s go-signal on the prescribed form for a people’s initiative against dynasties.
“We have a petition sent six months ago that will get the ball rolling as soon as possible. In their reply letter, they (Comelec) made a commitment to work on it,” De los Reyes said.
De los Reyes said that if the initiative were conducted in 2015—when Brillantes shall have retired—then the plebiscite for it might be held in 2016, meaning political dynasties would still be allowed to field candidates in next year’s and in the 2016 elections.
“[Brillantes’] retirement is his private matter,” De los Reyes said. “What we are asking is [a matter] of public interest. They are mandated under the law to come up with a prescribed form. We won’t start without it as we want our initiative to be fail-safe. We don’t want our efforts to go down the drain because of technicalities.”