Anti-dynasty group gets flak from pols, Comelec
MANILA - A group seeking to disqualify some political dynasties in the mid-term election found itself at the receiving end of criticism from their respondents as well as members of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The group of concerned citizens, represented by lawyer Alex Lacson, is seeking to disqualify Camarines Sur gubernatorial candidates Luis Villafuerte and his grandson Miguel, Pampanga vice-gubernatorial candidate Dennis Pineda, Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian and his brother, Congressman Rex Gatchalian; and Davao Vice-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for being dynasties banned by the Constitution.
All of the respondents have filed their comments before Comelec except for Luis Miguel Villafuerte. Luis Villafuerte represented himself in the hearing.
Comelec 2nd division chairman Elias Yusoph asked Lacson why he singled out the respondents. Lacson said they chose these respondents to test their legal theory: that they fit the definition of dynasty in the Philippine Constitution.
He said this is the first time they are filing a disqualification case against dynasties as it is only now that they discovered legal grounds.
The Comelec's 2nd division is now led by Commissioner Elias Yusoph, with Commissioner Grace Padaca as member.
Lacson argued that under the Constitution, Comelec has power to enforce election laws and has jurisdiction over all disqualification cases.
Asked about the Supreme Court's stand on political dynasties, Lacson said the SC already ruled that the prohibition against dynasties needs an enabling law from Congress.
Yusoph himself pointed this out. "It's not a self executory provision,” he said.
Villafuerte defends dynasty
Villafuerte, an incumbent congressman, said there are 5 grounds why the petition should be dismissed including lack of jurisdiction by the Comelec and the need for an enabling law for the Constitution’s anti-dynasty provision.
Villafuerte said the petitioner's argument that the SC can reverse itself is preposterous. He warned that Comelec may usurp congressional power if it considers this disqualification case.
The congressman explained that dynasties are complex, technical concepts that are discussed when an anti-dynasty bill is filed in Congress. For example, there is contention over its coverage of only local or including national positions.
Villafuerte also noted there is a pending bill in the Senate that limits the prohibition to local positions. There are also questions on the level of affinity and consanguinity it will cover, and if it covers families spread out in different provinces.
The congressman noted that he is at war with his own family in the coming elections.
"What does family mean? My grandson and I are fighting each other where only one will remain? Where is the dynasty?" he asked.
Villafuerte noted that in Pampanga, only Dennis Pineda was impleaded but not his mom, Governor Lilia Pineda.
Padaca rebutted Villafuerte and said that the conflict within the Villafuerte clan is unique. She said most dynasties do not fight.
Padaca asked Villafuerte if his constituents have asked him to file anti-dynasty bills. The lawmaker said his constituents understand his explanations against anti-dynasty legislation.
Villafuerte said that whenever an anti dynasty bill is filed, lawmakers are bogged down by matters of definition.
The lawyers for the other respondents adopted the position of Villafuerte.
Lacson said they only want the implementation of the minimum limitation of dynasties as stated in the Constitution.
He also accepted Villafuerte's challenge for a people's initiative.
The Comelec gave all parties 5 days to submit their memoranda. Villafuerte waived his right to this and said he wants the case submitted for resolution.
Comelec said that with or without the memoranda, the case is already submitted for resolution.
Ambushed by reporters afterwards, Padaca refused to define dynasty saying this will be in their ruling.
He said her brother, who is running for governor of Isabela, has not gotten favorable treatment. She said she is just one vote in the commission and noted she will decide based on the merits.
Padaca told the public not to invite her to anti-dynasty forums, saying that she's no longer an advocate since being appointed to Comelec.
Meanwhile, former Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said there are problems with the Lacson petition against dynasties.
“Difficult to justify the basis for that petition. Wrong strategy,” he said in his Twitter account.
Larrazabal said the infighting among the Villafuertes is not unique, saying many clans go against each other in the elections.
He said the anti-dynasty petition also risks a constitutional violation. "There are a lot of candidates who may fall under this description. If so, there's violation of equal protection if we disqualify only some,” he said.