Rewriting ‘history’ | Inquirer Opinion

Rewriting ‘history’

/ 09:44 PM November 21, 2013

For the first time in living memory, a bill seeking the abolition of political dynasties has cleared the first legislative hurdle: committee approval. The next hurdle is considerable: a debate on the floor, to be conducted mostly by disapproving political dynasts. Good luck with that.

The sponsors of the consolidated bill immediately, and justifiably, pointed to “history” being made, and in truth the unanimous vote in the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms is a real milestone. While antidynasty bills have been filed in both the Senate and the House since Congress was restored in 1987, not one had managed to escape the committee level. Wednesday’s committee vote was truly the first of its kind.


But unless we come to terms with the obstacles and constraints that work against passage of an antidynasty law, Wednesday’s outcome may also end up as the last of its kind. Here is a suggestion. To open our eyes and appreciate the odds against actual passage, let us rewrite the news stories about the committee vote to reflect actual political reality.

Let’s start with the Inquirer’s own report. One passage reads: “Committee chair Rep. Fredenil Castro said a battle had been won Wednesday but ‘it’s still a long way before they win the war.’”


That use of “they” is telling, but consider the following more realistic version: “Committee chair Rep. Fredenil Castro, the Capiz congressman who, after serving his first three terms in Congress generously permitted his wife Jane Tan Castro to run and serve for one term, to allow him to run for Congress again, said a battle had been won Wednesday, but ‘it’s a still a long way before they win the war.’”

Another newspaper reported: “‘The important thing is a lot of reforms have to be set in place and it shouldn’t just be in the budget. It should also include political dynasties. Let’s take a look again. We have been remiss in our obligation to implement this,’ Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora said.”

The new version will use the same extended quote, but end thus: “We have been remiss in our obligation to implement this,” said Minority Leader and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, whose son Francis is currently vice mayor of the same city he represents in Congress.

A report online read: “The real challenge lies during the second phase when the bill is tackled on the floor, said Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, one of the coauthors of the measures.”

A more realistic version would read: “The real challenge lies during the second phase when the bill is tackled on the floor, said Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares. Whether it will reach the floor, however, is a decision that will be made principally by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, whose daughter Joy is currently vice mayor of Quezon City, where the Batasan is located, and by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, who became the first congressman to represent the new district of Mandaluyong in 1995, when his father Neptali Gonzales was in the Senate.

“Colmenares also did not explain how his party-list group’s choice for president in 2010 would factor into the race for congressional support. That year, Bayan Muna and other members of the Makabayan bloc supported Sen. Manny Villar, whose extended family would fit most Filipinos’ definition of a political dynasty.”

One more example: A news story quoted ACT Rep.


Antonio Tinio, a coauthor of the consolidated bill: “When we first advocated for the abolition of PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund), eh pinagtatawanan kami rito (they laughed at us). No one took us seriously, suntok  [daw]  sa  buwan (they said it was like going for the moon). Now, because of the power of public mobilization, we’ve seen what that has achieved so far,” he said.

True, to a certain extent, but a news story more reflective of political reality would say more: “When we first advocated for the abolition of PDAF, they laughed at us,” Tinio said. He meant their quest was a long shot, but the laughter was also partly because the Makabayan bloc he belongs to has credibility issues on the PDAF. When bloc members had the chance, they made full use of the congressional pork barrel. “No one took us seriously, they said it was like going for the moon.”

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TAGS: ACT, antidynasty bills, Antonio Tinio, Neptali Gonzales II, Neri Colmenares, Philippine politics, political dynasty, pork barrel, Pork barrel abolition, pork barrel scam
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