Political dynasties must go

"The President must start in his own backyard."

Sen. Franklin Drilon is right: President Rodrigo Duterte should do away with political dynasties as the key step in getting rid of the oligarchy that uses economic power to take control of the political system.

Why? Because political dynasties “have made our national and local offices extensions of their household.”

“We must review the whole structure, because the structure may in fact or make oligarchy easy to achieve…The lack of an anti-dynasty system or provision in our system allows oligarchy to continue,” Drilon pointed out.

“They wield power for their own benefit. It has gone so bad that these dynasties now hold simultaneous national and local positions... Oligarchy is bad for our governance and, therefore, as a policy, yes, we should adopt policies to prevent or dismantle these oligarchies. But, let’s make sure that the oligarchs are not substituted by cronies,” he explained.

Duterte must start in his own backyard. He has established his own political dynasty. His daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio now serves as Davao City mayor while her brother Sebastian “Baste” Duterte is the vice mayor. Meanwhile, another son, Paolo Duterte, represents the 1st District of Davao City and is also a Deputy Speaker in the House of Representatives.

The Duterte family dynasty traces its origins to the time when his father Vicente served as governor of the then-unified province of Davao. The son eventually served in Davao City—as mayor and representative for one term—for 22 long, long years.

Here’s what the 1987 Constitution’s Declaration of Principles and State Policies in Article II explicitly provides: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” But by leaving the matter of prohibiting political dynasties to members of the legislature, many of whom come from established political families, the framers of the 1987 Constitution doomed the enterprise to epic failure.

The problem is that the members of Congress who are themselves part of political dynasties do not want to lose the power and influence they wield over their constituencies.

With political power, these entrenched politicians also wield economic power as they are able to accumulate wealth over time, whether through legitimate means or through corruption.

Former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno is also among those who want Congress to pass an anti-dynasty law. “There are no ifs or buts, the 1987 Constitution prohibits political dynasties. Unfortunately, the Constitution gave Congress the power to enact laws in order to implement this constitutional prohibition in 1987,” he said.

“Instead of eliminating the dynasties, Congress has allowed them to flourish and to multiply. They are now reigning supreme in all our provinces, cities and municipalities. Their number must have broken a Guinness world record,” he added.

It's not just Drilon and Puno who do not members of the same families to dominate public office for years on end.

I recall that in 2018, leaders of premier schools of government and development management had expressed support for the ban on political dynasties.

Among these were the Ateneo School of Government, University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Government, AIM Stephen Zuellig Graduate School of Development Management, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance. These institutions do serious research on political and economic issues.

They agreed with the stand of 13 lawmakers who had signed the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people's participation's report banning political dynasties.

The senators, they said, "have broken an over 25-year-old impasse on a key reform by supporting political dynasty regulation...This is a reform that the 1987 Constitution called for our leaders to pass into a law in order to prevent the monopoly of political power."

The Senate bill aimed to prohibit immediate and extended relatives from running for public office to succeed or replace or simultaneously seek a post as an incumbent relative in the same area, among others.

The Church also frowns on political dynasties. Manila Archdiocese Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, wants to give others the chance to serve in public office. During the campaign for the 2019 midterm polls, he said: “Do not vote for those who belong to political dynasties. Political dynasties thrive because we vote for them...Let us take time to know the candidates. Certain criteria can be used to shift the good from the worthless or the trapos (traditional politicians). As voters, let us show the politicians that we are better than them. We have better sense than them, we are more discerning. Let us show them that we know how to choose.”

In the same vein, we ask now: Has the Philippines ran out of qualified and competent public officials that the same families who have been lording it over at the national and local levels for many years now want to continue to dominate the country's political system in the years to come?

We note with dismay that efforts in the past to prohibit political dynasties as provided in the 1987 Constitution have led to nowhere as the very same people from dominant political families in the legislature thumbed down every bill to this effect.

We need to move closer to a level playing field in Philippine politics and governance. It's something long overdue.

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Political dynasties , Sen. Franklin Drilon , President Rodrigo Duterte
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