by Dennis V. Blanco, DPA*
With the 2019 midterm elections already over, the clamor for the swift passage of an anti-political dynasty law still persists. This is notwithstanding the fact that an anti-political dynasty bill has remained stagnant in the two Houses of Congress for almost a decade now since the late Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago filed the original bill in the First Regular Session of the Thirteenth Congress and refiled it in the First Regular Session of the Fifteenth Congress of the Republic of the Philippines on January 24, 2011. In the House of Representatives, it took nearly three decades before House Bill No. 3587, an anti-political dynasty bill, was finally sponsored by Representative Fredenil Castro before the plenary on May 6, 2014. Another House version of the anti-political dynasty bill is House Bill No. 911 sponsored by Representative Herminio Roque Jr. which was filed on July 4, 2016. The non-passage of an anti-political dynasty law is attributed to the fact that majority of the members of Congress belong to political dynasties.
More importantly, Article 2 Section 26 on the Declaration of Principles and State Policies of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that, “The state shall guarantee equal access to public service and prohibit political dynasty as may be defined by law”. While there is already a constitutional prohibition on political dynasty, it still lacks an enabling law as well as the implementing rules and regulations as to how a political dynasty may be defined, who shall be included and excluded in the definition of a political dynasty, and to what extent can political dynasty relationships be considered.
The absence of an implementing law and regulatory policies to restrict the occurrence of political dynasties enable political dynasties to occupy 77.5% of Congress. Political dynasties also dominate and pervade local government units, with 81.3% of governors, 81% of vice-governors, 68.8% of mayors, and 56.9% of vice-mayors all coming from political dynasties (Mendoza et al., 2016).
The most recent anti-political dynasty bill, Senate Bill No. 1765 otherwise known as the Anti-Political Dynasty Act of 2018, a consolidated bill introduced by Senator Francis Pangilinan (senate.gov.ph, n.d.) at the Second Regular Session of the Seventeenth Congress of the Philippines on March 21, 2018, is a welcome development and a breath of political fresh air in seeking the abolition of political dynasties in the Philippines when it describes how political dynasty relationships exist in two ways. Political dynasties exist when the spouse or any relative within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official, runs for public office to succeed or replace the incumbent, or runs for or holds any elective local office simultaneously with the incumbent within the same province, legislative districts, city or municipality, and within the same barangay or barangays within the same legislative district.
The relationship also exists if the incumbent is a national elective official, including incumbents in the party-list system, and the spouse or relatives within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity run for any position in the national level or in the local level as barangay captain, mayor, governor or district representative in any part of the country.
This proposed law is a consolidated bill which is very much different from Senate Bill No. 2649, the original bill filed by the late Senator Defensor Santiago in the First Regular Session of the Thirteenth Congress; in the original bill, prohibition only applies and covers within the same province or with any other previous anti-political dynasty bills or versions filed and authored in the Senate. The latest proposed law is different in three ways. First, it extended the application and coverage of the prohibition not only within the same city and/or province but within legislative districts, municipality, and within the same barangay or barangays within the same legislative district. Second, it expanded the coverage of the prohibition even up to the party-list organizations and representatives. Finally, it specifically mentioned the local elective posts which dynastic families are barred from running, i.e. from barangay captain, mayor, governor, or district representative in any part of the country.
Another similar attempt to operationalize the ban on political dynasties comes from Article V, Section 8 on Suffrage and Political Rights of the proposed Bayanihan Federal Constitution drafted by the Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution which states that:
(a) A political dynasty exists when a family whose members are related up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity, whether such relations are legitimate, illegitimate, half, or full blood, maintains or is capable of maintaining political control by succession or by simultaneously running for or holding elective positions.
(b) No person related to an incumbent elective official within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, as described above, can run for the same position in the immediately following election.
(c) Persons related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, as described above, are prohibited from running simultaneously for more than one national and one regional or local position. However, in the event that two or more members of the same family are running, the member who shall be allowed to be a candidate shall be determined by the drawing of lots.
(d) The Federal Congress may, by law, provide for additional prohibitions.
The anti-dynasty provisions contained in the Bayanihan Federal Constitution is basically the same with that of the proposed Anti-Political Dynasty Act of 2018 except that the former explicitly mentioned the possible occurrence of two or more members of the same family running and the mechanism in place to resolve such scenario through draw lots which the latter fails to anticipate. The recurrence of the same family members within the second degree of consanguinity vying for similar local and national posts such as what happened in the 2019 Makati mayoralty race in which the Binay siblings, Junjun and Abby, ran for the same posts and in the 2019 Iriga City mayoralty contest in which the Alfelor cousins, Emmanuel Jr. and Ronald Felix, fought each other for the mayoralty post is what the anti-dynasty provisions probably may correct and discourage in future elections.
In the end, these series of attempts to enact an anti-dynasty law and its provisions depends on both the two Houses of Congress. While there are serious efforts on the part of the Senate to pass the bill into law, the lower house is seemingly adamant and tentative in its legislative position in the passage of the anti-dynasty law. Perhaps, proof of this is that under House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Lower House passed until third reading its own version of a federal charter that removed the anti-dynasty provisions in the proposed Bayanihan Constitution. However, the result of the 2019 midterm elections seems to suggest that there are lessons learned, wherein some dynastic families succumbed and yielded to emerging new breed and new brand of leaders. These instances, though not sweeping, give hope that someday the domination of dynastic families in public service and political power will come to an end or at least be limited.
* Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of the Philippines Diliman
Consultative Committee to Review the 1987 Constitution. 2018. “Power to the People, Bayanihan Federalism, Power to the Regions: Draft Constitution for a Strong, Indissoluble Republic.” Available at https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/files/2018/07/INQ_Proposed-Draft_Constitution_Consultative-Committee_.pdf
Mendoza, Ronald U, Edsel L. Beja Jr., Victor S. Venida and David B. Yap. 2016. Political dynasties and poverty: Measurement and evidence of linkages in the Philippines”, Oxford Development Studies, 44 (2), 189-201. https://doi.org/10.1080/13600818.2016.1169264
Pangilinan, Francis. 2018. Senate Bill No. 1765 otherwise known as The Anti- Political Dynasty Act of 2018. 21 March. Available at: https://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2776724041!.pdf
Poe, Grace L. 2016. Senate Bill No. 1137 otherwise known as The Anti-Political Dynasty Act of 2016. 13 September. Available at https://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/2480321365!.pdf
Philippines. 2016. Republic Act No. 10742. An Act Establishig Reforms In The Sannguniang Kabataan Creating Enbling Mechanisms Fof Meaningful Youth Participation In Nation-Building, And for Other Purposes otherwise known as the “Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act of 2015. 15 January. Available at https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/2016/01/15/republic-act-no-10742/
Philippines. 1987. “The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines.” February 2. Available at https://www.officialgazette.gov.ph/constitutions/1987-constitution/
Santiago, Miriam D. 2011. Senate Bill No. 2649 otherwise known as The Anti-Political Dynasty Act. 24 January. Available at https://www.senate.gov.ph/lisdata/106169091!.pdf