As I sat before my laptop during this cold windy midnight while watching the late night news on TV regarding the recently concluded US Presidential election with Democrat Barack Obama pitting against the Republican Mitt Romney, I can’t help myself to gaze upon the calendar and wonder whether the 2013 election we will be having here in the Philippines would be magnificent, clean, peaceful, and honest, too. Yes, the last day of registration for the 2013 election had passed already and the long queue that flocked to the different field offices of Commission on Election (COMELEC) nationwide no longer exists. Everybody is preparing for the May 13, 2013 election - the eventful day when Filipinos are going to play a game in the playing field where everyone is treated as equal, where there is neither rich nor poor, and where we would amazingly act as superhero with intergalactic superpowers for utilizing a super weapon --- our precious single vote --- when we go out in the playing field trusting that our sacred right and treasured privilege to govern and be governed shall make a difference in the lives of our people and shall chart the destiny of our beloved country.
I am pretty sure everybody is excited for this forthcoming election because it signifies hope and a new beginning towards the “straight path” of governance unwaveringly pursued by our Honorable President Benigno S. Aquino, Jr,. It cannot be denied, however, that along the feeling of excitement that comes with the 2013 election is the burning issue of political dynasty. Political dynasty can trace its roots from the Spanish era when public positions were given only to favored families, mestizos, and illustrados who have immense wealth and property which ultimately enabled them to muster the necessary machinery thereby monopolizing the democratic space especially in acquiring elective and appointive positions. It is indubitable from this historical account then that political dynasty has actually long embedded in our Philippine culture. The system of oligarchy which ultimately causes social decadence in the political arena and undermines the democracy we have long upheld as a nation has continued until the birth of the 1987 Constitution which primarily aims to restore the democracy and our freedom from the bondage of our colonial past. Article II, Section 26 of the fundamental law provides that:
“The state shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
However, despite the foregoing, the seemingly “politically dynasty-controlled” Congress has failed the nation to enact enabling law that will solidify the spirit and intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution. Of course, passing a law that prohibits political dynasty would unduly prejudice those belonging to politically dynasty-ruling elite for it shall eventually spoil the strong social, economic, and political base they already built from the time of the kingship of their political clan. The absence of enabling law prohibiting political dynasty undoubtedly results to inequity in the social, economic and political sphere for it hinders one with nothing but leadership capacity and genuine desire to serve to be voted and elected upon. This does not mean, however, that those who have been elected to public positions by virtue of the influence of ruling political dynasty have no leadership capacity and genuine desire to serve. What we mean when we speak of “political dynasty” is the “lack of opportunity” of the equally qualified people to have an access to public positions, which is triggered by the monopoly of the oligarchs enjoying the ample of resources acquired through the positions they have occupied since time immemorial.
The most recent attempt to pass a law prohibiting political dynasties is Senate Bill No. 2649, introduced by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago on January 24, 2011 during the 1st regular session of the 15th Congress. Other bills were also filed by then Senator Alfredo Lim in 2004 (SB-1317), Senator Panfilo Lacson in 2007 (SB-1468), and Rep. Teddy Casino (House Bill-2493) also in 2007. These attempts at leveling the playing field demonstrate people’s thirst for young blood, and new breed of statesman devoid of the vestiges of political progeny and traditional politicians.
"Political Dynasty" shall exist when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official or relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official within the same province or occupies the same office immediately after the term of office of the incumbent elective official. It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons who are spouses or are related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective public office within the same province, even if neither is so related to an incumbent elective official (Senate Bill 2649, 1st regular session of the 15th Congress).
It is a view that political dynasty predominantly exists among various local government units (LGU) in the country. It is in this context that the proposed Senate Bill No.1317 by then Senator Alfredo Lim, now a Mayor of Manila, deemed relevant. According to him, in its Explanatory Note, “the bill seeks to end the exercise and control of political power and authority in a political unit by two or more members of the same family related within the 3rd civil degree of (consanguinity or affinity either simultaneously or in succession. [Hence] under the proposed bill, a mayor who finishes his three (3) terms cannot be succeeded by his wife, child or any relative within the 3rd degree. Likewise, no relative of the mayor may run as congressman, vice mayor, councilor or even any barangay position in the same municipality or city for as long as he sits as mayor in that place. The rule applies with equal force to provincial levels and autonomous regions (last par. Explanatory Note, Senate Bill No.1317). This provision is truly helpful in eradicating political dynasty at the local level especially when the same will be harmonized with Section 9 of Senate Bill No. 1468 by Senator Panfilo Lacson which strengthens the effect of the violation of the anti-dynasty law, which reads:
“SECTION 9. Effect of Violation of Prohibition. -The COMELEC shall, upon the filing of a verified petition by any interested party, deny due course any certificate of candidacy filed in violation of this Act and the votes cast for the disqualified candidate, if any, shall not be counted nor shall such candidate be proclaimed nor be qualified to assume office.
Violation of this Act and the rules and regulations of the COMELEC issued to implement this Act shall also constitute an election offense punishable under the first and second paragraphs of Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code (Batas Pambansa BIg. 881)”
With all these efforts to end the oligarchic system of politics, one may ask himself or herself whether there could be a fruitful result afterwards. Well, for now, the answer lies not on the future passage of the Anti-Political Dynasty Law which has long been overdue because of the existing complicated issues appurtenant with it but on our hands as Filipino citizens when election time comes in. In the advent of the prevailing technological revolution amidst the May 2013 election, a just society bounded by new politics and people empowerment will no longer be a mystic dream because the power to change for the betterment of our society lies in the hands of our electorate. This country needs a just society where there is a free rein of social justice and new politics dismantling the patronage system that is based on personality, popularity, and influence rather than on issues and platforms of good governance. It is during this season of election that we will have the opportunity to level the playing field and debunk the growth of political dynasties as we travelled through the straight path of governance envisioned by our beloved President Aquino.