ConCom: What about political butterflies?
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - March 13, 2018 - 12:00am

Things are apparently getting serious with the Constitutional Commission (ConCom) led by former Chief Justice Reynato Puno when it tentatively agreed to include a self-executing provision regulating political dynasties in the proposed new constitution that they would present to President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte and Congress. This arrangement is to prohibit relatives within the second civil degree of consanguinity from running in the same elections or succeeding their relative. According to former De La Salle University College of Liberal Arts Dean Julio Teehankee, “If there is an incumbent national official, no relative up to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity shall be allowed to run for governor, mayor, or district representative.”

Now they’re talking! If there is any real political reforms that this nation needs it is not only a shift from the current unitary form of governance, but also to rid ourselves of political dynasties that ruled the nation and more often than not, taking the liberty of raiding the nation’s coffers as if the money is from their personal bank accounts! I’ll be the first to admit that there are good dynasties and there are bad ones. But it is the bad dynasties that rule a town, city or province and prevent potential leaders with no name to lead their locality.

I recall my friend Alex Lacson wrote an article about the few families that control the Philippines. Lacson quoted the 2014 study by Julio Teehankee that only 178 families control our political system. I heard that this figure has grown to 295. That study cited that 75 percent of Congress and 80 percent of Governors and Mayors belong to political dynasties, according to the study by Ronald Mendoza of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center, to the point that they have become a major obstacle to progress in the rural areas.

Ronald Mendoza’s study also pointed out that “poverty is highest in areas controlled by political dynasties, with a few exceptions.” If you recall what happened during the Maguindanao massacre when the Ampatuan political clan were held responsible for the killings… and when then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared Martial Law in Maguindanao, the Armed Forces of the Philippines captured many firearms, weapons and luxury vehicles and expensive houses… while most of the people living in Maguindanao remained dirt poor.

During the discussion on federalism, former Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. declared the 1987 Constitution as “The best constitution” of this country. Of course this is a biased opinion because he is subservient to the Aquino political dynasty, getting high positions for himself, while most Cebuanos could only be awed at what he has achieved as a lackey of the Aquinos. The 1987 Constitution had a proviso on anti-dynasty but relied on Congress to enact laws against political dynasties. Come now, will Congress enact laws that would make their kind extinct? That is how great the 1987 Constitution is.

Of course we know too well that the ConCom would still present to President Duterte and Congress its proposal for a new constitution. Now whether Congress would accept their proposal, which includes a self-executing provision regulating political dynasties, remains to be seen. This is where we need the support of all Filipinos for the Philippines, which is the oldest democracy in Asia, to finally become politically mature.

Finally, while the ConCom already voted to embrace a presidential federal form of governance, they have remained quiet regarding the fate of our political parties. In my book, a presidential/federal form of governance just like the USA is acceptable if we return to a two-party system. If the Philippine political system is considered dysfunctional, it is because we have a Presidential system of governance with a multi-party system, which is just right if we adopted a parliamentary form of governance. Then there is the question of the party-list system, which for me has been so mangled and bungled that it is better to do away with this stupidity that insults the intelligence of Filipino voters.

Lastly, the ConCom forgot to discuss one of the greatest political misfortunes of our time… political butterflies! I exhort the ConCom to also include a self-executing provision to limit or stop political butterflies from flying from one political party to the next. One such solution is when a politician bolts his political party a year before an election he must be prevented to run for a political position in his new political party. But it is still best to return to the two-party system and a proviso in the constitution should prevent political parties from accepting politicians jumping ship a year before elections. Thus doing so would be an unconstitutional act. I hope that the ConCom gives a serious discussion on this very important topic.

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Email: vsbobita@gmail.com

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