Level the playing field in elections, impose harsher penalties on officials

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Keeping business, sports and almost every human activity free of undue restraint or unfair advantage is the ideal. A level playing field makes the exercise interesting and worth joining as no one wants a rigged outcome.  Without fairness, there’s no point to any competition.  That’s why US professional sports leagues have rules to keep all teams in their franchises competitive.  And that’s why US businesses are governed by an antitrust law.

A law regulating political dynasties should provide voters and citizens such fairness and balance.  And that should cover: a) pre-election access to public office; b) adherence not only to the letter but also the spirit of election laws; c) transparency during one’s term of office; and d) proper accountability of actions after one’s term. These points need to be properly covered by any antidynasty law.

Undue advantage favors incumbents, especially if they come from entrenched political families. And it seems that voters don’t mind returning these names to power in election after election. But now that the dynasty epidemic has reached the Senate, adverse reactions are being triggered—especially since the Constitution itself speaks against the practice and has mandated that Congress pass a law for this purpose (this is yet to be done by the congressmen and senators).

The proliferation of US monopolies gave birth to the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to ensure a level playing field in US business. An antidynasty law hopes to achieve a similar effect in Philippine politics, where an improvement in the morality, ethics and costs of public office will be an automatic companion effect.

Laws can be passed.  But they can also be controverted. The best way to ensure there will be no dynasties is for the heads of political families to possess the delicadeza of former President Ramon Magsaysay, who banned all relatives from running for public office while he was president.

But perhaps another way is to build into an antidynasty law provisions on how much assets can increase during one’s term in office. Also, more teeth can be added if public officials are subjected, as a matter of course, to lifestyle checks and financial audits, and those who improperly file statements of assets, liabilities and net worth and commit crimes while in office are meted out harsher jail terms.

—JOSE OSIAS,

jzosias@gmail.com

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