Die nasty

If there is one thing good that the 50 handpicked members of Cory’s Constitutional Commission did, it would be Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Charter which states thus: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

To those who say that the framers of our organic act should have gone further and defined in the Constitution itself what a political dynasty is, I would reply that a Constitution should be a broad framework for the establishment of a republican and democratic government and should not delve into details. For indeed, our fundamental law is already one of the most verbose in the world, and mercifully the authors thereof have some restraint.

So there it stands that our Constitutional parents have left it to Congress to decide what a political dynasty is. But therein lies the rub, to paraphrase Shakespeare, as Congress is chock full of members coming from political dynasties. It’s like asking the fox to guard the hen house, as political pundits love to point out, not without basis.

Some lawmakers have tried, to their credit. I know for a fact that the late former Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, during his brief stint in the Senate (2004 to 2007, after which he ran and was reelected as Manila Mayor, as a result of which he had to resign his Senate seat) filed a Senate Bill giving the term a restrictive meaning. As expected, it came to naught. Then my former friend Koko Pimentel also made his bid, without much success. Even the redoubtable Miriam Defensor Santiago did not go far with her version. This just goes to show that, when it comes to their own interests, even fierce political rivals will close ranks to protect themselves.

Some would argue, however, that political dynasties are not bad in themselves, even saying that, well, in the case of elective offices, the members of dynasties are subject to the will of the electorate anyway. And to be fair, some dynasties have served the country well: The Laurels and the Arroyos are prime examples. The members of their respective families have shown remarkable self-control when it comes to wielding power, never abusing its use. Sad that the Laurels have disappeared from the political landscape, their last hope for elective office — Arsenic Laurel — losing miserably for Congress in their own bailiwick of Tanauan, Batangas last 2010. And the Arroyos now can hardly be called a dynasty, since their only remaining officeholder is former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (herself the daughter of a former President, Diosdado), who was recently demoted by the reemerging Marcos-Romualdez dynasty. Which spurred a strong protest from Vice President, Sara Duterte, herself a member of a newly-minted dynasty.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope as Congress, in a display of honoring the Constitutional injunction in favor of a level political laying field, included in the so-called Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law (Republic Act 10742) a proviso that proscribes the appointment of anyone to the SK who is closer than the second degree of consanguinity from any elective or appointed official in the same local government unit. This ends the practice of mayors and governors appointing sons and daughters to the SK. Thank heavens for small victories!

On the whole, however, it will take a lot of effort, and an overwhelming sense of patriotism (something that some politicians will never acquire in several lifetimes) to successfully pass — in both Houses — a law that will prevent wives from succeeding their husbands, children from succeeding their parents, members of one nuclear family holding multiple posts simultaneously, or the many permutations of a dynastic set-up that this country has been heir to since the Malolos Republic.

Any bill that attempts to do so will just suffer a nasty death in the Legislature.

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