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Dynasty ban coming to life after 31 years

THE State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” – Section 26, Article II, Declaration of Principles and State Policies, Philippine Constitution.

The concept of political dynasties goes back many years in the country’s history. As the power of the Spanish-born aristocracy declined after the Philippine Revolution of 1896, surviving members of the landholding elite together with the rising merchant elite rose to fill in the vacuum. New families emerged to become the new political dynasties in Philippine society.

The framers of our present Constitution of 1987 sought to curb this continuing dominance of certain families when it included in the list of state policies a ban on political dynasties so as to give every capable citizen an opportunity to join the public service.

But they neglected to define the extent of the ban, leaving that to Congress. In all the Congresses since 1987 – 31 years ago – not one enacted a law defining the extent of the ban, how far it reaches out in the family tree, how many terms are involved, etc. In the absence of these defining details, the ban has remained unimplemented.

With the new Duterte administration, there is today a strong move to revise or amend the 1987 Constitution, principally to carry out the President’s desire to set up a federal system of government that he hopes will give Mindanao and other outlying parts of the country greater opportunities to develop and progress. The President appointed a Constitutional Commission (Com-Com) to propose some of these changes, to be presented to the Constitutional Assembly (Con-Ass) composed of the members of Congress.

Last week, this Constitutional Commission discussed one aspect of the change it envisions. It voted to regulate, but not to ban political dynasties. It voted to limit the ban to the second degree of consanguinity or affinity. Thus a father and a son may not run for office in the same election; theirs would be a first-degree relationship. Brothers are related to the second degree; the proposed ban thus covers them. But cousins may run in the same election; they are four degrees apart.

President Duterte himself does not think political dynasties are bad per se, according to presidential spokesman Harry Roque but he is ready to defer to the wisdom of the Constitutional Commission. It is still a long way from any final decision on this issue but it is good that after 31 long years, this long-neglected constitutional ban and declaration of state policy will finally come to life in the coming Constitution.

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