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Test case to disqualify 3 'political dynasties' readied

Angela Casauay
Posted on 01/24/2013 9:33 PM  | Updated 01/25/2013 1:14 PM

FORUM. (From left) Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidate JC Delos Reyes, Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño, Lt Ashley Acedillo, UP-NCPAG Dean Edna E. A. Co, PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas, Atty Alex LacsonFORUM. (From left) Ang Kapatiran senatorial candidate JC Delos Reyes, Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño, Lt Ashley Acedillo, UP-NCPAG Dean Edna E. A. Co, PCIJ Executive Director Malou Mangahas, Atty Alex Lacson

MANILA, Philippines - A petition to disqualify candidates belonging to 3 political families is being readied.

Lawyer Alex Lacson said he will lead a "test case" before the Supreme Court that will seek the disqualification of the Pinedas of Pampanga, the Dutertes of Davao, and the Villafuertes of Camarines Sur from the 2013 elections.

Lacson spoke at a forum on political dynasties held at the University of the Philippines - National College of Public Administration and Governance on Thursday, January 24. Lacson was one of the Liberal Party's senatorial candidates in 2010.

Lacson said they will take the case straight to the High Court so that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can be compelled to "implement immediately" the disqualification of these families.

He said he chose the 3 families as test cases because they were "clear and obvious cases" of political dynasties.

"When I say clear, for example, you transferred [the position] to your spouse, your child, your sibling," Lacson said.

Lacson declined to name the individuals who will be included in the petition because he said he did not want "to pre-empt the case."

The Pinedas, the Dutertes and the Villafuertes are not members of the Liberal Party.

'As may be defined by law'

The 1987 Constitution expressly prohibits "political dynasties as may be defined by law." Several bills have been filed, but none of them progressed. Lacson said the absence of an implementing law allowed political dynasties to skirt the constitution.

Still, Lacson said there are "discoverable legal standards" for the executive department to implement the constitutional provision against political dynasties.

Although there is no implementing law, Lacson said there's an SC case that provides a definition for a political dynasty.

Lacson said there's one decision where Associate Justice Antonio Carpio defined political dynasties as "the phenomenon that concentrates political power and public resources within the control of a few families whose members alternately hold elective offices, deftly skirting term limits."

Lt. Ashley Acedillo, who was speaking for Sen Antonio Trillanes IV, cited an example in Siocon, Zamboanga, which shows how candidates have been finding ways around the Constitution.

"[In that province], the mayor is the wife, the vice mayor is the husband who used to be the mayor. The wife files an indefinite leave and she is replaced by the vice mayor husband, effectively circumventing the 3-term limit," he said.

The Constitution prohibits elected officials from serving beyond 3 consecutive terms for the same position.

Public clamor

In a Congress where almost 70% of its members are seeking re-election, lawmakers have so far failed to pass anti-political dynasty law. At the moment, there are 3 of these bills that are pending in Congress -- House Bill 3413, Senate Bill 2649 and House Bill 6660.

But Lacson said the petition will argue that the Commission on Elections, under its rule-making authority, can immediately enforce laws to disqualify candidates from political dynasties even without an implementing law.

"Note that the phrase is 'as may be defined by law' and not 'as may be defined by Congress.' Comelec's rules can be part of the law of the land. It doesn't necessarily mean that Congress will be the one to promulgate the rules," Lacson said.

Once filed, the petition can serve as a benchmark for other cases against political dynasties.

"What we want to see after this is filed in the Comelec is that it will encourage the political opponents of dynastic candidates to file similar petitions. So, what will happen is the Comelec will be swamped and it will be a people's fight in various areas," Lacson said.

Rappler, as UP-NCPAG's online news partner, liveblogged the event. Click here to read more. - Rappler.com


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