“The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”—1986 Constitution
The Constitution is very clear. Only a little common sense is needed to understand it. The State shall prohibit political dynasties to allow others (those who do not belong to political dynasties) to become public servants. The trouble is the framers added the phrase “as may be defined by law.”
The constitutional provision needs an implementing law. The other trouble is, laws are written and passed by members of Congress many of whom are themselves members of political dynasties. Decades after the passage of the Constitution, we still have no defining law banning political dynasties.
The Senate committee on electoral reforms, chaired by Sen. Koko Pimentel, a member of the Pimentel political clan of Mindanao, is pussyfooting around the definition of “political dynasty” even if the ordinary Filipino already knows what it is. We have many, too many, political dynasties around us at present. And like a locust plague, they are multiplying rapidly. In almost all provinces, cities and municipalities, as well as in the national arena, political dynasties are fielding family members as candidates in next year’s elections. It is as if the political families are in a hurry to put relatives in political positions before a law is passed banning them.
Even boxer and neophyte congressman Manny Pacquiao is already starting his own political dynasty. He is fielding his wife, Jinkee, as candidate for vice governor of his adopted province of Sarangani. Very soon, we may have Mommy D as nominee of a party-list group of senior citizens or of ballroom dancers.
People thought that Pacquiao, not being a traditional politician, would bring reforms to the House of Representatives, or at least be different from most of the congressmen(women) there who think only of themselves. Alas, they were mistaken.
Pacquiao learned very quickly all the bad habits of his peers. He is absent from Congress for long periods most of the time while training for his upcoming boxing bouts from which he earns millions of US dollars. Yet he continues to collect his salaries and allowances, including his pork barrel, although he is not working for them. Lowly government employees, who live a hand-to-mouth existence, are subjected to the “no work, no pay” policy, but highly paid members of Congress like Pacquiao, although multimillionaires (but who pay very little income taxes unlike Pacquiao), collect their salaries and allowances although they are absent.
Pacquiao has not passed a single legislation; neither has he participated in congressional debates, but he already is building his own political dynasty. Manny (rhymes with “money”) probably thinks that, by virtue of being a multi-millionaire, he has the right to start his own political dynasty although he has not yet proven that he bears the seeds of good public servants.
With many members of Congress—both senators and congressmen(women)—belonging to political dynasties, it is not likely that Congress will pass an enabling law to the constitutional provision. Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago—happily one of the few who don’t belong to political dynasties—has filed an anti-dynasty bill in the Senate but, as stated earlier, the committee on electoral reforms is nitpicking on it. And even if such a bill manages to squeak through, most likely it would be watered down by amendments and become toothless and worthless.
So what do we, the citizens, the “bosses” of our public servants, do to give meaning to the Constitution and to free ourselves from the clutches of long-entrenched political families? The Commission on Elections is cowardly shirking its duty. It claims it cannot implement the constitutional provision because there is no enabling law.
Yet the Comelec, as argued by businessman Luis Biraogo in a petition filed before the Supreme Court, “is vested with implied powers to make a definition of political dynasties and the ministerial duty to prohibit them.” A more courageous Comelec can do the above and let the politicians run to the Supreme Court, and leave the latter to settle the issue.
Biraogo argued that political dynasties are prohibited by the Constitution “because they are inherently bad.” Biraogo also asked the high tribunal to enforce the constitutional ban on political dynasties.
A more courageous Supreme Court can issue a decision banning political dynasties and let the politicians argue against it. But, alas, we have a Supreme Court and a Comelec that would rather run away and cover their balls than perform their duties.
So it is left to us ordinary citizens to enforce our Constitution. After all, we are the “bosses” of all the high and mighty in government. We should not vote for any member of political dynasties in next year’s polls and thereafter. Only when the political dynasties are wiped out will we achieve true freedom from the clutches of politicians.
For if we do not do anything to save ourselves, the Philippines will descend into the situation similar to the one that befell Medieval Europe when it was divided into fiefdoms ruled by royal families that enslaved their people and warred against one another, using the lives and blood of their people.
We already have the beginnings of it. Philippine provinces, cities and municipalities are now ruled by warlords and political dynasties and will likely remain so if we do not do something about it.
Like the Anti-Epal Movement, groups should form an Anti-Political Dynasty Movement around the country to educate the voters and persuade them to kick out members of political dynasties for the good of the nation.