As I See It

Don’t vote for members of political dynasties

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The bishops finally came out against political dynasties. About time, or is it too late? So many members of political dynasties are running in the senatorial and local elections in May in spite of a constitutional ban on them. In fact, they have been encouraged by the silence of our alleged leaders against them. How can these leaders speak out when they themselves are members of political dynasties?

Because of this silence, the political dynasties have been encouraged to expand. Even neophyte politicians are starting their own dynasties. Worst of all, even President Aquino, who sells himself as a reformist, is guilty of the sin. He has two relatives (one of them even has the President’s name and unabashedly tries his best to look like P-Noy’s father Ninoy) running for senator. Ironically, the present Constitution that bans political dynasties was drafted and ratified during the administration of P-Noy’s mother Cory. The President does not respect the Constitution of his own mother? The three leaders of the rival United Nationalist Coalition (UNA) ticket (Binay, Enrile, and Erap) are guilty of the same sin. All have children running in its senatorial ticket.

Can you beat that? All our top leaders, from the President down to the Vice President and the Senate President, are making a mockery of the Constitution that they have sworn to defend, uphold and implement. How can we respect and support them and their candidates when they do not respect and support our Constitution that gives them their power and positions?

Political dynasties are among the primary causes of corruption in the Philippines, along with the pork barrel (the Priority Development Assistance Fund) and the intelligence, discretionary and confidential funds of the various departments. Because a family member takes over when the term of the incumbent runs out, there is no check and balance to keep public officials honest.

Many of our provinces are ruled by warlords and political families. In one, two ex-convicts, one convicted of rape, both members of a political family, are running for local positions. Fortunately, the Commission on Elections ruled that they are disqualified from running. Still they have the temerity to run to the Supreme Court for succor.

Because of the political dynasties, the Philippines appears like medieval Europe when warlords ruled and oppressed their people. If we don’t stop them now, we will end up like the medieval fiefdoms racked by discontent, poverty and violence.

But what can we, the ordinary people, do when the senatorial slates are full of members of political dynasties, the Comelec didn’t have the guts to disqualify them, and the May elections are fast approaching? What can we do as citizens?

Plenty. Don’t vote for members of political dynasties, whether in the senatorial or local elections. Tell your relatives, friends and neighbors not to vote for them. Organize groups in your communities and help the bishops, priests and nuns to campaign against them. And vote for those who are not members of political dynasties.

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Many of the candidates are guilty of another sin: premature campaigning. The campaign period does not start until Feb. 12. The law prohibits campaigning before then. Yet the candidates have long been campaigning, both in person and in broadcast commercials.

They have been going around the country shaking hands with the people and delivering campaign speeches. We can see their commercials on TV. We can see their posters and tarpaulins in public places in spite of prohibitions on these materials.

Sadly, our “reformist” President is one of the violators. He has been going around the country and speaking on TV endorsing his candidates. It is the same thing with UNA. Its TV commercials are already being aired. All this campaigning is being done prematurely.

The Comelec spokesperson admitted in a press forum that indeed, what is being done is premature campaigning, a violation of its rule. But the Comelec itself has been very quiet about it. Why? Is it afraid of the President and the other officials and candidates? The Comelec is an independent body created by the Constitution precisely to curb the abuses of those in government. Its members are supposed to be appointed on the basis of their independence and character. What is happening to that independence and character? Can’t the Comelec at least issue a statement saying that the two parties and many of their candidates are guilty of premature campaigning and to please stop making a mockery of our Constitution and our laws?

It is left to us, the citizens, to force the candidates to obey our laws. Do not vote for candidates involved in premature campaigning even if you like some of them. They may look handsome and  simpatico  and may have shaken your hand and had his picture taken with you, but if they can’t obey our simple laws, they do not deserve our vote.

A happy note is that the Metro Manila Development Authority has been removing the illegal tarpaulins of candidates polluting our environment. But not the Comelec. Not a squeak from it on the “epal.” It should at least deputize community groups to remove the “epal.” That’s the only way we can make politicians follow the rules. Remember, once they are elected, we have to support them with our hard-earned taxes.

Another constitutional body that is not performing up to par is the Commission on Audit (COA). It is supposed to be the people’s watchdog. It is supposed to check the expenditures of government agencies to prevent wastage of and abuse in spending the people’s money. Alas, the present COA has not been able to do this.

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