After yesterday’s hoopla at the Commission on Elections and seeing the senatorial lineups of the Liberal Party and the United People’s Coalition, we can safely say that both parties have no respect at all for our Constitution. Why? Because they are mocking the constitutional provision against political dynasties.
Look at their candidates, many of whom are members of political dynasties. In the UNA ticket, there are Rep. Juan Ponce Enrile Jr., son of Senate President JPE, one of UNA’s Big 3, and Rep. JV Ejercito, son of former President Joseph Estrada, another of the Big 3. JV is reportedly changing his surname from Ejercito to Estrada to capitalize on his father’s popularity. Talk of opportunism. If elected, he will join his brother Jinggoy in the Senate who, some years ago, also joined his mother Loi in the Senate. UNA also tried to persuade a daughter of Vice President Jejomar Binay, the first or third of the Holy Trinity, to also run for the Senate, but she had the good sense not to.
Joey de Venecia, son of former Speaker Jose de Venecia, pulled out at the last minute, allegedly because he ranked very low in the surveys. His reason for backing out was that he had to attend to his business first.
There is also Rep. Mitos Magsaysay of the Magsaysay clan of Zambales. Not to be outdone, LP also has a Magsaysay—former Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.
In fact, LP has more members of political dynasties as candidates. There are Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, husband of Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano and brother of Sen. Pia Cayetano; Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, son of outgoing Sen. Edgardo Angara; and former Rep. Cynthia Villar, wife of outgoing Sen. Manny Villar. I am sure Grace Poe Llamanzares was chosen because she is the daughter of the great FPJ, and I am also sure that LP would bandy about the name Poe during the campaign.
Then there’s Sen. Koko Pimentel, son of former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
President Aquino, whose battle cry is “reforms,” has not, alas, reformed himself. He has fielded two relatives as senatorial candidates, on both sides of the fence pa: his aunt Tingting Cojuangco in the UNA ticket and his cousin Bam Aquino (is the middle letter of his first name A or U?) in the LP ticket.
This last is the perfect example of an opportunist. Coming from nowhere, he wants to be a senator just because he is an Aquino. And he does everything to ape his great departed uncle, Ninoy Aquino. His hairdo imitates that of Ninoy, he wears the same thick horn-rimmed eyeglasses that Ninoy wore, and he dresses like him. And he will use the name Paolo Benigno Aquino IV. Waaah!
Other senators started in the lower ranks of the government—mayor, governor, congressman—to learn the ropes. Ninoy himself started as mayor of his hometown of Concepcion, Tarlac. Not Bam. He wants to be senator right away. What qualification does he have other than being the namesake of Ninoy and a cousin of the incumbent President? He has not even served as barangay captain.
You would think that being the President, P-Noy would be the first to respect the Constitution. Obviously, he doesn’t. He is on the way to making his own political dynasty. P-Noy’s sister Kris has already signified that she, too, will enter politics. If cousin Bam can run for senator, why can’t she?
Other political dynasties are also active in the provinces. For example, in Mindanao, relatives of ex-representative and convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos are lording it over the three Zamboanga provinces. In Davao, there are the Dutertes, and in Agusan, the Plazas. The same is true in many other provinces.
The issue of political dynasties was also the hot topic at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday. The guests were ex-representative Rodolfo Plaza, UNA spokesperson JV Bautista, election lawyer Romy Macalintal, and Hans Leo Cacdac, administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
Bautista defended the UNA ticket by saying that in spite of the constitutional provision there is still no enabling law to prohibit political dynasties. True, but if you respect the Constitution you would obey it even if there is no enabling law. And as personalities who want to be hailed as leaders of the country, shouldn’t the leaders of parties like UNA and LP set the example in respecting the Constitution? How can there be an enabling law when almost all legislators are members of political dynasties? Even the party-list groups, from which we expect better behavior, have their own political dynasties. Many of the nominees are usually the father, mother, son, daughter, etc., of government officials. And although they have no districts, party-list representatives insist on also collecting pork barrel. Where do they spend P70 million a year of the people’s money?
Plaza said that while he is a member of a political dynasty, he is fighting his family in Agusan. He also said that unlike other congressmen, he gets only 10 percent, no more, of any project’s contract price.
Macalintal said that the pork barrel is not in the Constitution and that the work of legislators is to enact laws, not initiate and supervise public works projects. Macalintal also said the Supreme Court justices who are boycotting the tribunal’s Monday flag ceremony to spite Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are violating the law and their own strict orders to judges, schools, and other government employees to attend such ceremonies.
Low-ranking government employees are chastised and punished for being absent from flag ceremonies, but here are the highest-ranking justices themselves, who gave the ruling, boycotting their own flag ceremony, Macalintal said. The justices can be impeached for that behavior, he added.