Issue of July 15, 2018
     
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Why an anti-dynasty law will not work in the Philippines

When the 1987 Philippine Constitution was crafted, it was deemed necessary to include an anti-dynasty provision to prevent the perpetuation of political and economic powers in the hands of limited families. Thus Section 26, Article II of the Declaration of State Policies affirms that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

It had been 30 years since and to this day, the aspiration of the said provision has yet to be attained. Both in national and local elective positions, we see the same names and the same faces running our government. What went wrong?

The problem with the anti-dynasty provision in the 1987 Constitution is that it is not self-executing. It needs an enabling law to enforce its mandate. The prohibition against political dynasty is so vague that even the basic meaning of what constitutes “dynasty” is not defined. Without any meaning, the provision is an empty rhetoric that cannot be implemented just like a song that cannot be sung because it has no tune.

The function of passing an enabling law belongs to the legislative department of the government. However, can we expect our honorable senators and congressmen to do it, considering that they will be the most adversely affected if there is one? Will they enact a law that will be contrary to their self-preservation and self-interest?

Most of our current leaders are second generation politicians who were, probably, only in their infancy when the 1987 Constitution was enacted. The families of Marcos, Aquino, Angara, Pimentel, Binay, Singson and a slew of other politicians have all perpetuated the continuity of their political careers through their wives, sons and daughters. These young blood belonging to the same families now hold the reign of power. They will not easily abdicate their positions. For them, it is a way of life. It is their birthright. Politics have become ingrained in their DNA that no matter how long it takes, there will always be one or two of their members running the government. With this trend, we cannot expect that an enabling law to enforce the anti-dynasty provision will be enacted. Maybe soon, though ironically, not in our lifetime.

Even if an enabling law is passed, it may not be as extensive as how we envision it to be. Try to look at the draft that is being proposed. The sponsors of the bill are debating to limit the definition of dynasty to the third degree of consanguinity and affinity. This simply means that the disqualification of candidates are only up to nephews and nieces who are related by blood (consanguinity) or by marriage (affinity) to the incumbent official. We all know how extended Filipino families are, that fourth, fifth and sixth cousins are called “pinsan” or the more intimate “insan,” without any distinction. That is how close we are.

In other cultures, a limitation within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity might work to prevent a dynastic rule. But not in ours. In a clannish society where every old men or women in the community is endearingly addressed “uncle,” “auntie,” “manong,” “manang,” “tatang,” “nanang,” an anti-dynasty law must go farther than that. Farther until the tie that binds the relationship is finally sifted.

Then, there is also the problem about the electorate. They tend to vote for familiar names. Thus, families who have entrenched into power for so long will not easily lose it – with or without an anti-dynasty law. Filipinos are not yet attuned with, and, remain uncertain to a situation where non-familiar names will run the government. For them, it will be a new experience.

While an anti-dynasty law will be a noble idea and a welcome relief to our feudalistic system of government, it might not work at this point. It remains an antithesis to what a Filipino leader must be.

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