By MARY ANN “MANJA” BAYANG
Political dynasties are prohibited in the Philippines – but it is not punishable and it has become part of a Filipino culture. Political dynasties run the country – from the highest post to the lowest barangay council. Every election time, we hear the same names and see the same faces.
Section 26, Article II of the Philippine Constitution provides that “the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and PROHIBIT POLITICAL DYNASTIES as may be defined by law.” The thrust of this provision is to impose on the state the obligation of guaranteeing equal access to public office. As Commissioner Sarmiento aptly explained, “By including this provision, we widen the opportunities of competent, young and promising poor candidates to occupy important positions in the government. While it is true we have government officials who ascended to power despite accident of birth, they are exceptions to general rule. The economic standing of these officials would show that they come from powerful clans with vast economic fortunes.”
The constitution has been in effect for twenty years now but Philippine politics and government have always been monopolized by political dynasties who continue to perpetuate themselves in power.
Take for example the Aquino-Cojuangco clan which has no less than seven members in the 13th Congress namely: Agapito A. Aquino (2nd, Makati City), Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III (2nd, Tarlac), Jesli A. Lapus (3rd, Tarlac), Carlos O. Cojuangco (4th, Negros Occidental), Marcos O. Cojuangco (5th, Pangasinan), Victor R. Sumulong (Lone, Antipolo City) and Gilberto C. Teodoro, Jr. (1st, Tarlac).
The Arroyos – GMA in the presidency, her son Juan Miguel as Congressman and now another son “Dato” is running for Congressman of Camarines Sur.
The Magsaysays – Ramon Magsaysay whose cousin Enrique Garcia Jr. is the Governor of Bataan and another cousin, Vicente Magsaysay who is the Governor of Zambales and still another relative Ma. Milargros Magsaysay of the first district of Zambales. Two of his relatives, Albert Garcia and Antonio Diaz are congressmen.
Look at the family of deposed president Joseph Estrada. The wife, Loi and Jinggoy in the Senate, with another son, JV as mayor of San Juan, and a nephew, Emilio Ramon Ejercito, the mayor of Pagsanjan, Laguna.
The Defensors – Miriam in the Senate with Mike aspiring for a Senate seat, Matias Defensor, Jr. and Arthur Defensor who are both congressmen. The Marcoses – Imelda, Imee (Senate) and Bongbong (governor). The OsmeHa’s in the Visayas, the Singsons in the Ilocos and the list goes on and on.
Why do we have all these political dynasties – these few families monopolizing public offices and successfully perpetuating themselves in power despite the express prohibition in our constitution? Is there no rule of law in the Philippines?
Well there is a rule of law in the Philippines (or so I would like to believe). The problem is that the provision against establishment of political dynasties as provided in the Constitution is not self-executory. It needs an enabling law to put the spirit and objective of the provision into effect. It needs Congress to enact a law defining political dynasty and imposing penalties for any violations. Twenty years passed since the Constitution took effect yet Congress has not enacted any enabling law prohibiting political dynasties. With the upcoming elections, a lot of family members are joining their own political dynasties in the government. With members of Congress themselves belonging to political dynasties, and more winnables joining them after the May election, would you expect them to pass that law? #