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An antidynasty law via people’s initiative

/ 05:06 AM November 12, 2018

We’ve been waiting in vain for Congress to pass an antidynasty law for the past 30 years. What we’ve failed to realize is that we, the Filipino people, have the power to pass such a law ourselves.

The 1987 Constitution declares a policy prohibiting political dynasties with these words: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

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The constitutional policy against dynasties clearly needs a law to flesh out its implementation. But all these years, we’ve had the wrong impression that only Congress can pass the needed law.

In 1989, Congress passed a “people’s initiative” law (Republic Act No. 6735) with the primary intention of providing a procedure for the Filipino people to directly initiate constitutional amendments.

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The law did not only provide for one kind of people’s initiative, however. It provided for three kinds: (1) for people to directly initiate constitutional amendments; (2) for people to directly initiate the passage of national laws, and (3) for people to directly initiate the passage of provincial, city, municipal and barangay ordinances.

In 1997, the Supreme Court declared in the case of Santiago vs Comelec that the first kind of people’s initiative — for people to directly initiate constitutional amendments — is fatally defective and therefore useless. But the two other kinds of people’s initiative were not declared defective.

Hence, people can directly initiate the passage of national laws, as well as provincial, city, municipal and barangay ordinances. In other words, people can exercise the powers of Congress and the various Sanggunian without the need to get elected as legislators.

For people to initiate the passage of a national legislation, the draft law must be signed by at least 10 percent of our country’s total voters, and at least 3 percent of every legislative district’s voters. (For ordinances, the 10-percent voters’ support applies to a province, city or municipality, and the 3 percent to the smaller local government units under each of them.)

After the Commission on Elections verifies the signatures to be genuine, it will schedule a referendum. If approved by a majority of our country’s voters, a proposed national law becomes a full-fledged law equal to laws passed by Congress.

Through a people’s initiative, we can therefore pass an antidynasty law that will put an end to the barnacle-like infestation of dynasties in our key public posts.

Sure, it will be difficult to obtain the multiple vote requirements in a people’s initiative and referendum, but the other option has proven to be impossible. Waiting for our dynasty-dominated Congress to pass an antidynasty law is like waiting for all Bilibid convicts to suddenly become saints.

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The possibilities are endless if we successfully pass an antidynasty law through people’s initiative. We can next pass a freedom of information law, an anti-epal law prohibiting politicians from putting their names on public work projects, and a fool-proof antipork barrel law.

There was a previous people’s initiative campaign to pass antipork barrel and antidynasty laws led by Cebu church leaders, but the effort fizzled out years ago. Civil society must revive these efforts with a coalition of existing national organizations of churches, professionals, retirees, cooperatives, students and others.

Change will not come by our constant griping. Change will come if we take action via a people’s initiative, which will render our politicians irrelevant. This is the only way out of our political rot.

To capture public imagination on the awesome powers of a people’s initiative, we can start with laws that will punish the sins of politicians that have angered us for so long. Let us pass laws imposing life imprisonment on the following: politicians who use wang-wang to exempt themselves from traffic, politicians who refuse to use public transportation and public toilets five times a week, and politicians who sing or dance in election rallies.

Comments to [email protected]

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TAGS: 1987 Constitution, antidynasty law, Flea Market of Ideas, Joel Ruiz Butuyan, political dynasties, Supreme Court
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