Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
Restated, the Constitution entrusted to Congress the duty to enact a law defining “political dynasties” and prohibiting them from monopolizing public office.
That provision has been around for 33 years, and Congress has only paid lip service to the constitutional mandate. For almost 33 years now, Congress has not enacted any such law.
When he first ran for the Senate in 2013, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara promised to enact a law against political dynasties. Upon his election, and like many traditional politicians caught in the intoxicating world of high office, Angara reneged on his promise.
The reason for the congressional inaction is obvious. Political dynasties control Congress and they refuse to see their source of power and wealth legislated out of existence.
Political dynasties are the bane of Philippine politics. Once in power, Filipino politicians make public office a family business by perpetuating their spouses and children in power.
Some of today’s political dynasties entrenched in power include the Abalos family of Mandaluyong, the Belmontes of Quezon City, the Cayetanos of Taguig and the Chipecos of Laguna — and that’s just to name a few.
The intention of the 1987 Constitution to rid the electoral landscape of political dynasties is laudable, but it only took one simple phrase — “as may be defined by law” — to make that intention an illusion, a 33-year-old impossible dream.
It was certainly foolish for the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the unelected body that drafted the 1987 Constitution, to entrust the task of defining and prohibiting political dynasties to Congress. Expecting Congress to ban political dynasties is like expecting meat lovers to patronize vegetarian restaurants.
At present, Congress wants to amend the Constitution, particularly its provisions on the national economy; the national patrimony; industries attended with a very high degree of public interest such as real estate, telecommunications, mass media and advertising; educational institutions; and the practice of the professions.
If it gets its way, Congress will add the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” to the above-enumerated provisions. As pointed out in recent commentaries in this newspaper, that move will inevitably make Congress superior to the two other branches of the government, and to the Charter itself.
Politicians backing Charter change are urging the people to trust Congress because the proposed Charter amendments will only focus on economic concerns, and will have nothing to do with extending the terms of incumbent government officials.
Trust Congress? Good heavens! There are many reasons why the people should not trust Congress.
One need only look at the list of moronic bills and clumsily crafted laws identified with Congress.
Many incumbent politicians do not even have the delicadeza to inhibit themselves from participating in last year’s ABS-CBN franchise issue, considering that they and their families have business ties with the network!
Regardless of what the highly politicized Senate Electoral Tribunal says, Senator Grace Poe remains in the shadow of doubt regarding her citizenship, while Senator Aquilino Pimentel III is obviously in his third consecutive term in the Senate in defiance of the Constitution he has taken an oath to defend.
Senator Joel Villanueva remains in the Senate despite an order of the Ombudsman disqualifying him from public office issued in 2016. Another senator’s haphazard exculpation in a criminal case for malversation remains contestable as far as legal experts are concerned.
Last year, Representative Alan Peter Cayetano refused to honor his promise to step down from the speakership of the House and yield it to Representative Lord Allan Velasco. Cayetano ended up unceremoniously ousted from the post!
Actually, the best reason not to trust Congress is its 33-year-old inexcusable refusal to obey the directive of the Constitution for Congress to enact a law defining and prohibiting political dynasties.
If Congress can renege on its constitutional duty with impunity, expect it to renege on its political promises.
The fact that remains is that some things, like banning political dynasties and amending the Constitution, simply cannot be entrusted to Congress.