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.

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