MELBOURNE, Australia (MindaNews/11 August) — The main issue hindering the enactment of an anti-political dynasty law is the reality that as of the last reckoning at least 70% of Congress members belong to political dynasties.
The senator primarily responsible for this task is even quoted to have said that although anti-political dynasty bills have been filed in Congress, “all it got was lip service from members of Congress, many of whom did not want to touch the measure with a ten-foot pole for obvious self-preservation of family clan members who have occupied various elective posts in government.”
But the plain fact is the damaging effect of dynastic politicians is particularly well-established. No one doubts anymore that the unabated reign of this grim lot is the very life-source of graft and corruption in our political system. And every Filipino knows from personal experience that graft and corruption in government is the biggest bane to our country’s economic development.
However, the foremost damage caused by political dynasties was well-articulated by the eminent economist, Professor Ronald U. Mendoza from the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, in a scalding rebuttal a couple of weeks ago to Senator Nancy Binay’s preposterous claim that “a family of politicians is no different from a family of doctors”.
According to the good professor, “An Anti-Dynasty Law also opens much-needed breathing room to resuscitate meritocracy in the Philippines, since the evidence suggests that it is already dying at the hands of political dynasties.”
Pertinently, apart from the observation that dynastic politicians have all but obliterated meritocracy in governance, Professor Mendoza also highlights the need to enact an Anti-Political Dynasty law. Indeed, it has become utterly reprehensible that lawmakers continue to sit on this reform legislation.
I think our legislators fail to realize that the public’s demand is not only about the enactment of an “anti-political dynasty” law. Indeed, Filipinos are also clamouring for an “equal access guarantee” piece of legislation. It must be noted here that Section 26 of Article II primarily protects a political right, specifically─ every Filipino’s right to “equal access to opportunities for public service”.
Furthermore, our lawmakers ought to be reminded that equal access is a political right guaranteed by international law, particularly by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966).
Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. (2) Everyone has the right of equal access to public service in his country. (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.”
Article 25 of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that:
“Every citizen shall have the right and the opportunity, without any of the distinctions mentioned in article 2 and without unreasonable restrictions: 1. To take part in the conduct of public affairs, directly or through freely chosen representatives; 2. to vote and to be elected at genuine periodic elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret ballot, guaranteeing the free expression of the will of the electors; 3. To have access, on general terms of equality, to public service in his country.”
Clearly therefore, the campaign for the enactment of an Anti-Political Dynasty law is profoundly more than just about targeting a special caste of politicians. Indeed, the legislative agenda behind this advocacy can be understood as preserving and promoting a political right guaranteed in our Constitution and in international law for ALL Filipinos.
Hence, complaints by dynastic politicians that such a law infringes their right to run for and be voted to public office seem pathetically self-serving. Specially given that the Supreme Court has already ruled in the case of Quinto vs. COMELEC [G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010], that the right to seek public office, “by itself, is not entitled to constitutional protection.”
Theoretically, our lawmakers should be proud to cast a vote for an anti-political dynasty bill because to do so is simply about respecting a political or human right guaranteed by the Constitution and international law. In fact, they can all take the high road by claiming such a move is fundamentally championing real democracy in the Philippines.
The reality of course is more nuanced than this. Being bona fide members of political dynasties themselves, members of Congress and the Senate need to be cajoled further in enacting an Anti-Political Dynasty law.
President Aquino has declared the urgency of passing such a law before his term ends in his last State of the Nation Address. Malacañang has even released an official statement reiterating our Chief Executive’s directive. Even a COMELEC Commissioner has come out on a limb imploring legislators to enact the law without any further delay.
I am beginning to suspect that Filipinos filling up the streets is the spark our lawmakers need to finally pass the Anti-Political Dynasty law. Indeed, people shouting “Sobra na! Tama na!” could jolt them from their stupor. These words took down a dictatorship after all. (Atty. Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, LL.M is a practicing lawyer. He is the author of the book “Rethinking the Bangsamoro Perspective.” He conducts research on current issues in state-building, decentralization and constitutionalism.)