Friday, June 28, 2013

WANTED: ENABLERS of the Anti-Dynasty Law

Over my lifetime – a journey full of dreams, hopes, aspirations, and ambitions, I came across people I admired for their brilliance, wisdom, humility, honesty and integrity.   Many, like me, just had sufficient means to finish higher education.  The sacrifices of our parents could only go so far.

Yet, given the conditions at the time, I was so full of hope and so sure of my expectation that 
our country would have a brighter future because these great people would run it.  I thought then that there was “equal access to opportunities for public service.”

Along the way from my days in primary grades to high school, to my AFS (American Field Service) tenure in the U.S.A., and then to college, law and graduate school, the earthly presence of these God-sent exceptional people and yet absent and deprived from public service always made me wonder.  They all moved on to successful endeavors fathoming different but acceptable destinies from what they had dreamt and from what I expected.

I have a very humble and honest friend who was so brilliant that he was no. 3 in the Bar Exams.   He is from Tacloban City, Leyte.  When I visited him in Tacloban as I was attending the National Students’ League (NSL) national conference to receive the “National Student Leader of the Year” Award, I predicted that he would someday be running Leyte to benefit its citizens.  The rise of the Romualdez dynasty prevented that from happening.  Instead, he rose through the corporate ladder becoming the Corporate Counsel of one of the largest corporations in the Philippines.

Some of the smartest and most dedicated people I know hail from Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur and La union.  They would have been great for their respective provinces.  With the political dynasties well entrenched there, these people will never stand a chance.  Many of them have decided to leave the country and made other countries receive the benefits of their brains and skills.

I have friends in Muslim Mindanao.   One of them even became a powerful leader of a rebel group.  Educated, smart, dedicated, and obviously brave and daring, he could have served his Muslim brothers well.  Another brilliant Muslim leader decided to move to the U.S.A. to earn in dollars.  Given a choice, he would have preferred to stay and serve his people promoting Muslim-Christian peaceful co-existence.  Political dynasties in their areas will never give them a chance.

I can cite many more as I reminisce my life-long journey.  For now, I call them the AFSers; Enriquez/Balcruz/Ledesma San Beda boys; Manglapus CSMers and YCSP boys and girls; Fr. Blanco Sea Haus reformers; MFP Freedom Fighters; Student Rebels in the ‘70s; and People Power revolutionaries.

The vision, mission, and ambition of these people never turned into an obsession.  While for some, it ended in frustration; it was not considered a failure but what my father would call, “suspended success.”

There is always the Constitution to rely upon, and the next generation to fight for.   The prohibition of political dynasty and an enabling legislation that would cure the political ills of a reviving democracy give us hope.  

Through People’s Initiative and Referendum, we are actually using what former Supreme Court Justice Art Panganiban defines as,

“Ultimate weapon[s] of the people to negate government malfeasance and misfeasance.”

“The right of initiative belonged to the people, not to the government and its minions... Thus, the proposed change — the right reason — must originate from the will of the people themselves. Furthermore, the exercise of initiative must be at the appropriate or right time.”

After more than 25 years gone without Congressional action, the enabling law must now be passed through the exercise of initiative.  It is the appropriate or right time.

Reiterating what Justice Panganiban opined, “I believe in democracy — in our people’s natural right to determine our own destiny.
“I believe in the process of initiative as a democratic method of enabling our people to express their will and chart their history. Initiative is an alternative to bloody revolution, internal chaos and civil strife. It is an inherent right of the people — as basic as the right to elect, the right to self-determination and the right to individual liberties. I believe that Filipinos have the ability and the capacity to rise above themselves, to use this right of initiative wisely and maturely, and to choose what is best for themselves and their posterity.”

The Filipino people should be the ENABLERS themselves!  Equal access to opportunities for public service is a vision, mission, and ambition that every right-thinking Filipino should pursue.  

The Constitution and the State guarantee it.  Let us fight for it!

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I am joining the battle against political dynasties.  My barber and his friends and customers in the barbershop are joining me on this one.  I also expect relatives, friends, and other Filipinos who have shown concern with this issue both in the Philippines and abroad to be active in this endeavor.
The chosen battlefield is People’s Initiative.  Despite the mandate prohibiting political dynasties in the Philippine (CORY) Constitution, a law enabling it has not been passed.  Congress refuses to pass one. That’s more than 25 years gone by and wasted.
Taking into consideration the proposed definition of some supporters led by Senators Miriam Santiago, Panfilo Lacson, and Koko Pimentel, I would like the enabling law to define it this way:
“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, whether national or local, simultaneously with the incumbent elective official immediately after the term of office of the incumbent 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.”
A “spouse” refers to the legal and common-law wife or husband of the incumbent elective official.
The term “within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity” refers to the relatives of a person who may be the latter’s brother or sister, whether of full blood or half-blood, direct ascendant or direct descendant, whether legitimate, illegitimate or adopted, including their spouses.  It further refers to grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, first cousins, nephews and nieces, including their spouses, of the referred person.”
“The term ‘running for an elective office’ is deemed to commence upon the filing of the certificate of candidacy by a candidate with the COMELEC.

Holding an elective office’ is deemed to commence from the moment the public official takes his oath of office.”

Current prohibition regarding the appointment of spouses and relatives to certain positions in government goes as far as fourth civil degree, so this proposal is a more liberal provision.  Nepotism as provided for in Section 13, Article VII is also a constitutional mandate except that it is specifically defined.  

I am encouraging the drafting of the petition as soon as possible.  I also suggest that COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes or his designated assistant be consulted in finalizing the petition.  The petition must comply with the provisions of Section 5 © of Republic Act 6735.  The gathering of signatures should follow thereafter.


The passage of the enabling law would definitely result in undesirable consequences for political clans who have ruled certain jurisdictions for decades.

In general, it would finally affirm both the letter and spirit of the Constitutional prohibition on political dynasties in the Philippines.

More specifically, it would create some interesting political scenarios that give more meaning to the provision that The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service.”

Let me cite some examples:

  1. With the election of Bam Aquino as Senator for a term of six (6) years, first cousin Kris Aquino will not be able to run for any position in 2016.  So with cousin Len-Len Aquino Oreta who ran unopposed as Mayor in Malabon; uncle Henry Cojuangco who is a Congressman; and another cousin Kit who was elected Vice-Governor in Tarlac.
  2. With the election of Nancy Binay as Senator for a term of six (6) years, her father Vice President Jojo Binay will not be able to run for any position including the Presidency in 2016.  So with sister Congresswoman Abby Binay; and brother Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.  VP Jojo Binay can still run for President if Senator Nancy Binay resigns.  The mayor and congresswoman will be ineligible to run.
  3. Senator Bongbong Marcos is due for reelection in 2016.  So are Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Romualdez Marcos; Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos; Leyte Congressman Ferdinand Romualdez;  Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez; and Alfred’s councilor-wife Cristina.  The Anti-Dynasty Law would allow only ONE (1) of them to run.
  4. With the reelection of Senator Alan Cayetano for another 6-year term, current Senator Pia Cayetano will be disqualified from running for any position in 2016.  Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano will be disqualified likewise to run in 2016.
  5. Senator JV Ejercito Estrada also got elected for a new term of six (6) years.  This would disqualify former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and current Senator Jinggoy Estrada from running for any position in 2016.  So with San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez and Laguna Governor ER Ejercito.
  6. In Maguindanao, the Mangudadatu clan has Toto Mangudadatu as Governor;  his brother Dong as congressman; and another brother Toy as Autonomous Region Assemblyman.  The clan also boasts of four new mayors and a couple of vice mayors within its ranks.  The Anti-Dynasty law would prohibit all who are related to each other within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity except ONE.
These are just a few examples.  They should explain why the battle is no cakewalk or dance of the roses.  We expect these political overlords to protect and perpetuate their power and wealth, which they have enjoyed for generations.  So, they will fight this to the end – from petition to actual referendum or plebiscite.  They have succeeded in stopping it in Congress so far!

The People’s Initiative would be a good test.  This is one process that institutionalizes People Power through peaceful means and without the need for mass gathering.

Let us USE it! Or we LOSE it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

In GOD, Government, Google, Gates, and Grownups We Trust

My barber tells me that the revelation on the Surveillance Programs of the National Security Agency (NSA) also generated some debates in the barbershop.   He wonders what my take is.   
Should the government gather private information from social and communications networks for security purposes?  Should privacy be sacrificed to secure us from terrorists and criminals?
The so-called leaks provided by Edward Snowden to The Guardian and the Washington Post should not really surprise anybody especially in this digital age.   The fact that NSA would like to access data from Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Verizon and the like in order to check any abnormal, extra-ordinary, illegal, criminal or possibly terroristic activity is expected.   It is allowed for public safety or national security but subject to due process provided by law.
Snowden, for his revelations, has been described as a “whistleblower” by some media or news outlets.  This is probably because they were assuming that Snowden exposed some illegal activity of the government.   The documents that he leaked are supposed to be classified and top secret.
A “whistleblower” refers to an employee reporting about alleged dishonest or illegal activities occurring in a government agency, a public or private organization, or a company.
Are the NSA surveillance programs dishonest or illegal?  They appear to be authorized because they were being implemented with Congressional oversight and judicial approval.  In short, the three branches of the government are involved in accordance with the Patriot’s Act.
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) is suing so it disagrees to a certain extent.  But many do not consider Snowden a whistleblower.  In fact, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said, “Edward Snowden is a "traitor" who has "committed an act of war against the United States," in an exclusive interview with Newsmax.

“The self-confessed leaker of top-secret documents detailing the National Security Agency's phone- and Internet-surveillance programs is a ‘deceitful and dishonest man’ who violated oaths he undertook to keep secret classified information about a program approved by all three branches of the government to protect Americans”, Bolton added.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey also commented on what Snowden did:  “Well, he's done two things. He's decided to ignore President Obama's I think very clear statement a couple days ago that you can't have both 100-percent privacy and 100-percent security, you've got to strike some kind of balance. Snowden decided no, you go for only privacy and don't consider security.
“The second thing he decided was that even though the president and the Congress and the courts, working very hard on a new system that they've set up in order to regulate these activities, that they are all three to be ignored and that he, Snowden, should be the decision-maker for the American people and a lot of other people as well as to where the line between security and privacy is drawn. And I think it is an extraordinarily terrible thing for him to have done.”
We, the people are the Governed who entrusted representatives in the Government to protect us, make laws, interpret the laws, and execute them for us.   For these tasks, we compensate them and give them our trust.  Of course, if they abuse the powers granted them, we have processes to stop the abuse – even to punish the abusers.
An employee of Booz Allen, a trusted government contractor, Snowden was given the necessary security clearances to access confidential information with the corresponding oath not to leak them.   Booz Allen already fired him for violating company policy and their trust.  For legal violations, due process will be followed which means extradition (he is currently in Hong Kong), investigation, and court trial.  He will get a fair trial.
Privacy is very important to us.  But we also know that absolute or complete privacy is impossible to have in a civilized and now digital world.  In order to enjoy national safety and security, we are expected to give up some privacy.  To obtain a cure for or prevent illness, we have to provide information to our doctor or the hospital.  To get the best legal defense, the defendant will have to provide his attorney all the information he needs.   Video cameras are installed in strategic places to monitor movements in department stores and other locations.
While we enjoy our freedom of speech, we expect listeners or readers not just to absorb them but they may share them with others as well.  If we join and /or use Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, Bing, Yahoo, Google, and other social media outlets, we voluntarily give information.   These are private entities that we trust to store data about our lives, what we say about others, and ourselves and about issues.  Verizon and other cable and communications network have to monitor our use of their facilities to bill us correctly.
Of course, we already provide so much information to the government.  We trust it more because the public officials hold positions of Public Trust.  For benefits received, we provide them with tax, social security, credit, and various types of required and/or voluntary information.
To be able to use efficient and effective search capabilities, we use Google, Bing, Yahoo and other engines.  In exchange, we give back data about our searchable selves.   GPS helps us provide directions or find locations but we have to provide information.  As we seek to find, we also expect to be found.
Government, Google, GPS, Grownups, Girl (Groom)
Obtaining the maximum benefits of Good Governance; utilizing effectively and efficiently Google, GPS, GoodReader and the like; expecting wise advice and counsel from Grownups such as Grandpas and Godfathers; and hoping to find the right Girl or Groom, you have to give and take data and information.   The amount of love that you give to an entity is always commensurate to the amount of information that you have on and take from that entity.
GOD, Golden Rule
Stretching it further even to the religious, you know that, in this material world, there is an Infinite Power monitoring your daily activities.  In some cases you feel targeted and challenged to face obstacles and crosses to carry.  By your actions, you will be judged.
To be safe and secure, you follow the Golden Rule:  Do Good and Avoid Evil.
This should be true as we suspect and expect some form of monitoring by the Government, Google, GPS and the like, and the Grownups.  Just “Do Good” by obeying the laws and “Avoid Evil” by not violating them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Enabling the Constitutional Prohibition on Political Dynasty

There is no doubt about it.  The CORY (1987) Constitution mandates that “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”  Section 26 of Article II says so.

The framers of the Constitution could have prevented subsequent headaches if they had defined “political dynasties” themselves or referred to some existing laws involving the granting of public responsibilities and corresponding powers to relatives by incumbents.  I named some in an earlier column: (1) the Constitutional provision under Section 13, Article VII prohibiting the appointment of “The spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree of the President” to certain positions in government; (2) the rule on nepotism under Administrative Code of 1987 which prohibits appointments in the national government made in favor of relatives within the third degree of consanguinity or affinity of either the appointing authority, recommending authority, chief of bureau or office, or persons exercising immediate supervision over the appointee; (3) the Local Government Code of 1991 which states that nepotism exists when an appointment is made within the fourth degree of consanguinity or affinity of the appointing or recommending authority; and (4) Philippine Jurisprudence defining relationships covered under Nepotism.

Or they could have used Black’s Law Dictionary, which is the authority in definitions and is used in legal briefs and court opinions; and has been used even as a secondary legal authority in an abundance of U.S. Supreme Court cases.  The dictionary defines political dynasty as a "succession of rulers from the same line or family."

Instead, they left it to the Philippine legislature at its convenience to define what is considered “political dynasty”.  The rationale behind prohibiting political dynasty and nepotism is not just to guarantee equal opportunities for public service but also to avoid conflict of interest in the exercise of one’s public duty.  Ironically, by relegating the responsibility and power to the legislature, the framers should have known that, for many legislators, doing it would be in “conflict with their interest”.  That’s the reason, over a quarter of a century later, Congress found it convenient NOT to do anything!

COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes was fully aware of the situation.  He suggested that an enabling law be passed independent of Congress by using the People’s Initiative.

I also suggested this in an earlier column.  The CORY Constitution provides that the Filipino people may directly pass new laws, repeal and amend them.  In fact, they can also directly amend the Constitution. These reserved powers are provided for under Sections 1 and 32, Article VI of the Philippine Constitution with respect to Legislative Powers, People’s Initiative and Referendum. The Initiative and Referendum Act (R.A. 6735) and the Local Government Code are the implementing laws with respect to National and Local Initiative and Referendum, and Recall of Local Officials.

Republic Act 6735, specifically provides:

“Sec.  4. Who may exercise. — The power of initiative and referendum may be exercised by all registered voters of the country, autonomous regions, provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays.

Sec.  5. Requirements. — (a) To exercise the power of initiative or referendum, at least ten per centum (10%) of the total number of the registered voters, of which every legislative district is represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters thereof, shall sign a petition for the purpose and register the same with the Commission.

(b) A petition for an initiative on the 1987 Constitution must have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the registered voters therein. Initiative on the Constitution may be exercised only after five (5) years from the ratification of the 1987 Constitution and only once every five (5) years thereafter. chan robles virtual law library
(c) The petition shall state the following: 
c.1. contents or text of the proposed law sought to be enacted, approved or rejected, amended or repealed, as the case may be; 
c.2. the proposition; 
c.3. the reason or reasons therefor; 
c.4. that it is not one of the exceptions provided herein; chan robles virtual c.5. signatures of the petitioners or registered voters; and 
c.6. an abstract or summary in not more than one hundred (100) words which shall be legibly written or printed at the top of every page of the petition.”

It is not difficult to write the petition.  To exercise the power of initiative, you need the signatures of only 10% of the total number of registered voters nationwide provided that at least 3% of the registered voters in every legislative district are represented therein.

Based on last elections’ data, there are about 52 million registered voters.  So, about 5.2 million signatures or petitioners would be needed to pass the law.  Jamby Madrigal obtained 5,409,440.  Yet, she was only No. 20 in the Senatorial elections.  But it would have been a winning number in seeking to disqualify a lot of political dynasties via People’s Initiative.

The average number of registered voters in each legislative district is 150,000.  So, the required 3% as signatories should average about 4,500.  That should not be hard to get.  In the last elections, Imelda Marcos won overwhelmingly in her district in Ilocos Norte.  But her two opponents still obtained a total of 12,868 votes – more than twice the required 3%.  In Taguig, while Lino Cayetano won with 55.84% of the votes, the opposition obtained 26,238 or 44.16% of the votes.  Again this is a lot more than the required 3% with plenty to contribute to the 10% total.  This is true in places where the political dynasties rule. It is truer in places where they do not.  To pass a law as mandated by the CORY Constitution is not really as hard as it sounds especially if we have the cooperation of the COMELEC led by Chairman Sixto Brilliantes and the employees who have the duty to assist.

Passing the anti-dynasty law could mean that in 2016 there would be only ONE or NO Aquino, Cojuangco, Marcos, Romualdez, Revilla, Ejercito-Estrada, Cayetano, Mangudadatu, Binay, Angara, Mercado, Pacquiao, and many other local political overlords running or occupying an office.

It could mean opportunities for some overseas Filipinos who wish to serve to go back and offer their acquired skills and technologies to their home country.  It could also mean more Filipinos like that taxi driver who succeeded in winning a congressional seat.

This is one cause wherein I think Filipinos abroad could make a difference.  The new law on Overseas Absentee Voting allows us to vote on Plebiscites, Referenda, and Initiatives.  Of course, it is about time that we use our influence over our relatives and friends in the Philippines to sign and solicit verifiable signatures for this anti-dynasty petition.