It is so uplifting to interview independent candidates because they have fresh and sensible ideas to solve the nation’s myriad problems, unlike the trapo of the two main political coalitions who mouth clichés and motherhood statements. Three such independent candidates were the guests at last Monday’s Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel: Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement and JC de los Reyes of the Kapatiran Party, senatorial candidates both, and Steve Salonga, independent candidate for governor of Rizal.
The first question was about the political dynasties rapidly spreading like a malignant cancer in the land. Almost all the senatorial candidates of Team PNoy and UNA (United Nationalist Coalition) are members of political dynasties. Almost all provinces have political dynasties.
All three panelists said something should be done to stamp out political dynasties, which are banned by the Constitution but which are multiplying like parasitic weeds in the flower garden. Villanueva and De los Reyes said that if elected to the Senate, they would push for the passage of a law implementing the constitutional ban.
Villanueva said there must first be a definition of “political dynasty”. A journalist asked why that would be necessary considering that the dictionary provides the definition. Villanueva said Congress may have a different definition.
Can Congress change the literal meaning of a word defined by the dictionary to suit its own ends?
The Constitutional Convention made a big mistake in leaving it to Congress to enact an enabling law, knowing that many members of Congress are members of political dynasties, another journalist said. It should have made the constitutional ban self-implementing.
Steve Salonga, a lawyer like his father, former Sen. Jovito Salonga, volunteered that the Con-Con delegates could not agree on the provision. The clause giving Congress the authority to enact the enabling law was inserted as a compromise so the provision could be passed, he said.
He added that political dynasties are worse in the provinces. Almost every province, city and town now have political dynasties that have the citizens in a stranglehold. The worst is in the Zamboanga peninsula, where the Jalosjos clan headed by convicted child rapist Romeo Jalosjos is spreading from its bailiwick to the neighboring provinces and municipalities.
Citing his home province of Rizal, Salonga said the Ynares clan has had the province in its clutches for 20 years now. He said he decided to run for governor against an Ynares clan member to give the people of Rizal a choice. Although he admitted that it is an uphill battle, he hopes that the Rizalenos, after 20 years of the Ynareses, now realize that the clan has not brought progress to the province and its people and that they should have a change of leadership.
Salonga is a member of his father’s party, the Liberal Party, but he is not the official candidate of the LP in Rizal. The province has been declared a free zone.
Kapatiran’s De los Reyes said his party and other groups are collecting signatures for a people’s initiative to make the constitutional ban on political dynasties a reality. He is confident that they will have enough signatures after the elections. He emphasized that his party’s platform is definitely against political dynasties, pork barrel, and a constitutional change, and for gun control.
Admitting that he himself is a member of a political dynasty (his mother is a sister of former Sen. Dick Gordon of Zambales), De los Reyes is nevertheless against political dynasties after seeing what they are doing to the nation.
Wouldn’t it be easier and simpler to amend the Constitution to make the ban on political dynasties self-implementing? he was asked.
He replied: Amending the Constitution now with the present trapo in power is risky, even by a Con-Con. These politicians and their clan members and allies may become delegates to the convention and we never know what they will do. They may totally remove the ban on dynasties. They may remove term limits. They may remove limits to the salaries of members of Congress and the Cabinet. They may move to shift to a parliamentary system of government, which will be infinitely worse than the present presidential system even with its flaws.
Under a parliamentary system, it is the head of Parliament, the equivalent of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, who will be the Chief Executive controlling the whole government, not a President. The head of Parliament will not be elected by the people but by the members of Parliament themselves, the equivalent of the present House members, and you know what that means. Instead of buying the votes of citizens, candidates to the chairmanship of Parliament will buy the votes of MPs. And you can imagine the price of each vote and the corruption that will result.
Some of the heads of Parliament in Japan and Korea have been convicted of corruption and imprisoned. I fear that the Philippines will not be far behind if we shift to a parliamentary system.
On the pork barrel system, De los Reyes said it should be abolished as it is a big cause and source of corruption. Almost half of the budgets of public projects go to private pockets.
Villanueva said it can be continued provided line item budgeting for projects is implemented.
Salonga said that with line item budgeting, there will be no more pork barrel. He said pork barrel has lump-sum appropriations for each senator and representative, who will decide how the money will be spent. That’s where the corruption comes in. The system should be abolished.