People's initiative to end political dynasties?
MANILA, Philippines – If Congress can't pass a law banning political dynasties, then leave it to the people.
Sixto Brillantes Jr., chair of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), said people's initiative appears to be only way to craft a law that would prohibit members of the same clan from running for public office at the same time. And he said he will lead such a move when he retires.
"That's the only alternative," he told reporters on Thursday. "If the legislators do not want to pass a law, taumbayan na lang."
Brillantes added that if legislators really want to pass an anti-political dynasty law, they should have done so long ago because the Constitution requires it. At present, however, many lawmakers belong to prominent political families.
Laws are usually made by the Senate and House of Representatives. Another mode is putting a proposed law to a referendum to be conducted by the Commission on Elections.
Senate electoral reforms committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III acknowledged that a people's initiative can be conducted to pass a law banning dynasties, but said his committee will go on with its work of crafting a bill.
During a public hearing on the issue on Thursday, senators and resource persons agreed that political dynasties should be banned. They had differing views, however, on how to define it.
For Ricardo Penson, a senatorial candidate in the 2013 elections, a relative of any person in power must be prohibited from running for any position, whether in the same place as the incumbent or not.
"The only definition remaining is family, which is very clearly defined under our family law. Husband and wife, father and mother, children, and by affinity, the in laws," he said. "We will be basing it on that definition of what family is."
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III, however, said the place where a person is running and where his or her relative is in power must be considered.
He said that if an incumbent local official's relative runs and wins in another city or province, it wouldn't be a dynasty.
Under this definition, he said only national officials like the President would be prohibited from letting their relatives run for any position in any place.
"What you should watch out for is the element of control or heavy political influence," Osmeña told reporters.
Heart Dino, chairperson of the UP Student Council, proposed that relatives of elected officials should also be disqualified from being appointed to any position.
Pimentel said he will conduct more hearings on the issue, and expand it beyond Metro Manila.
"The committee will bring the hearing to a place where there is a known political dynasty," he said, adding that he would consult people who continue to vote for members of the same family.
Former Senator and Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. stressed the need for an anti-political dynasty law. He recently filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to compel Congress to pass a law prohibiting dynasties.
"There is a guarantee by the Constitution. It is therefore our duty as soon as possible to have it defined and mandated," he said.