[X] "Agrobiodiversity and Monoculture Homogenization in Agri/Culture" (UP Forum, 2011). [X] "The Fight for Education as Dress Rehearsal" (UP Forum, 2011). [X] "Community Sterilization and the Cataclysm" (UP Forum, 2012). [X] "Pamana at Pagkalinga ng mga Inang Makabayan" (UP Forum, 2012). [X] "Beyond the Bark: Reexamining our Roots" (UP Forum, 2012). [X] "Enabling Law Disabling 'Small Dictatorships'" (UP Forum, 2013). [--] "Power Switch: Reconsidering Renewable Energy" (UP Forum, 2013). "Fortun, Forensics and the Yolanda Aftermath: Recovery, Storage, System Restore, Repeat" (UP Forum, 2014). "General Education at Globalisasyon: Isip, Salita at Gawa Para Kanino?" (UP Forum, 2014)
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Enabling Law Disabling ‘Small Dictatorships’
Notwithstanding Constitutional constraints, a select few clans have been keeping strongholds and strangleholds, governing local territories, and training family members to race for domination come national election time. The elite class customarily compete among themselves, like thugs protecting their respective turfs. However, the latter is cloak-and-dagger, underground and outlawed; while the former is suits-and-ties with guns-goons-and-gold and seemingly legal. But all is not what it seems.
‘As maybe defined by law’
Though political dynasties continue to enjoy the blessings of democracy as they can run for public office over and over again, they violate the Constitution. Article 2 Section 26 states: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” During the forum “Political Dynasties: A Challenge to Political Reform” last January 24 at the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance (NCPAG), Atty. Alex Lacson said that the provision does not state “as may be defined by Congress,” but “as may be defined by law”—thus, “the Commission on Election’s (Comelec) rules can be part of the law of the land” and it is not necessarily the Congress that shall promulgate the rule.
Lacson is the legal counsel of the Anti-Dynasty Movement (AndayaMo), which has “urged the Comelec to disqualify (Rodrigo) Duterte (of Davao); Miguel Luis Villafuerte and his grandfather Luis Villafuerte of Camarines Sur; Dennis Pineda, the son of Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda; and brothers Rexon and Sherwin Gatchalian of Valenzuela.”
Lacson said that there are sufficient legal grounds to ban political dynasties. As of press time, the Comelec has acted on AndayaMo’s petition. “It was raffled off to the Second Division of the Comelec chaired by Commissioner Elias Yusoph. The other member is Commissioner Grace Padaca. The other member is still unknown because two commissioners retired last February 2,” said Lacson in an interview with the UP Forum. “Hopefully, President Aquino will appoint two new commissioners by end of February.” He added that the respondents are expected to present their answers to the petition in a hearing on February 26. The said Comelec Division is yet to decide on the isyu.
Besides filing a petition, “proposing a law in Congress (to define political dynasties) through people’s initiative (PI)” is another possible legal action against political dynasties, said Lacson. “There is an existing and valid law on this,—RA 6735 (An Act Providing for a System on Initiative and Referendum). This law was upheld and affirmed by the Supreme Court (SC) in the case of Santiago vs. Comelec (1997). In fact, efforts are being undertaken at present.” Issuing a pastoral statement denouncing political dynasties, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) for instance, supports “initiatives by the lay faithful to pass an enabling law against political dynasties through PI.”
At the NCPAG forum, Lacson said that the Constitution is the layman’s—not the lawyer’s document, which means that, as instituted by the SC, the “plain and ordinary meaning of the words used must prevail.” Lacson Quoting from Black’s Law Legal Dictionary, Lacson defined political dynasties as “succession of rulers from the same family.” Another definition he mentioned was Justice Antonio Carpio’s: “the phenomenon that concentrates political power and public resources within the control of a few families alternately holding elective offices.”
Lacson said that during the deliberation of the 1986 Constitution, the original provision did not have the phrase “as may be defined by law.” This initial version of the provision would have been more explicit in prohibiting political dynasties. According to Lacson, the version won by one vote, but was later amended after Serafino Guingona’s motion, wherein “as may be defined by law” was appended. Lacson added that Blas Ople and Christian Monsod then opposed the anti-political dynasties provision. The two believed that “because of the EDSA (revolution), people have become mature” and that “we should not restrict the right of people to vote.” Lacson said that the provision against political dynasties is not a restriction but a regulation.
‘Clear and obvious’?
AndayaMo’s petition particularly seeks disqualification of local politicians—“six candidates from four dynastic families;” Lacson said that the petition aims for the “immediate implementation of the Constitutional prohibition against those ‘clear and obvious’ cases of political dynasties, those cases that fall within the definition of the term political dynasty as understood by the framers of the Constitution. These cases do not need any enabling law for them to be implemented immediately.” Lacson added that if AndayaMo gets “a favorable decision in this petition either from the Comelec or SC, the said decision will impact all those candidates who are similarly situated.”
“The dismissal by the SC of the two petitions has indeed created a negative perception among the public,” said Lacson. “We are prepared to elevate this matter to the SC should the Comelec decide negatively on our petition. At any rate, it is the SC which has the final say on this matter, considering especially that this involves a Constitutional issue.” In an article from gmanews.tv, Lacson said they (AndayaMo) “have nothing against the respondents but chose them ‘to test our legal theory using the legal grounds that we have discovered.’”
However, seemingly left unscathed by AndayaMo’s selective petition are the more obvious dynasties monopolizing political power at the national level—for instance, the flesh and blood of former presidents. In an Inquirer news article, Duterte decried the petition that “smacked of a double standard” and found it strange that AndayaMo spared the Estradas and the Angaras. He also questioned why President Benigno Aquino III was not included in the petition. In the same news article, Duterte pointed out the current senate run of the cousin and the aunt of Aquino, Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino and Tingting Cojuangco respectively; Duterte also cited that Aquino’s mother was president, and his father and grandfather became senators. With this political pedigree, the Aquino clan is ostensibly a dynast in the national level.
In another Inquirer news article, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, said that “a distinction should be made between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ political dynasties.Not all dynasties are bad; not all dynasties are good” and that “banning outright candidates with the ‘same family names’ should be studied.” Lacierda claimed that “Team Pinoy candidates have ‘proven themselves’ in public service and private sector, and it was up to the electorate to vet their qualifications.”
Lacson said that AndayaMo filed the petition against the aforementioned six individuals because “the Constitution does not make a distinction between good and bad political dynasties” and that “all political dynasties are prohibited under the Constitution.” He added that for as long as the rules and regulations are restricted on those ‘clear and obvious’ cases of political dynasties, those cases that fall within the meaning of political dynasties as understood by the framers of the Constitution, “It is my considered view that the Comelec has the power to promulgate them.”
“In 1986, the biggest problem of our country was the dictatorship. Today, the biggest problem of our country is the small dictatorships in the form of political dynasties who rule and control the cities, towns, provinces and congressional districts in the country,” said Lacson. However, it shall be noted that most politicians and bureaucrats have local bulwarks and provincial strongholds that serve as the foundation of their elaborate national rule. Remember former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s alleged electoral fraud partners-in-crime who have remained unpunished? Never forget that the Ampatuan clan’s notoriety alone tells a lot about how basic units of society as ‘small dictatorships’ are actually Frankenstein’s monsters of dictatorship on a grand scale.
 An article has been published in UP News 2013