‘Anti-democratic’ to ban dynasties, say lawmakers from political clans

Mara Cepeda

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‘Anti-democratic’ to ban dynasties, say lawmakers from political clans
'This is very anti-democratic because there are families elected democratically,' argues Isabela 1st District Representative Tonypet Albano

MANILA, Philippines – Two congressmen who belong to political dynasties opposed the proposal to include in the Constitution the prohibition on relatives within the second degree of consanguinity to run in the same elections.  

As the House committee on constitutional amendments reopened its hearings on charter change on Tuesday, January 28, Isabela 1st District Representative Antonio “Tonypet” Albano said it is “anti-democratic” to include anti-dynasty provisions in the Constitution. 

“This is very anti-democratic because there are families elected democratically,” said Albano, whose older brother Rodolfo “Rodito” Albano III is currently governor of Isabela.  

Their father, the late Rodolfo “Rudy” Albano Jr, was also serving as LPG Marketers Association Inc in the 18th Congress when he died in November 2019.

“The strengthening of political reforms and educating people is more important than limiting the democratic right of a person to run and be voted upon, whether he is a spouse, a son, a brother, or a sister,” added the younger Albano. (READ: [OPINION] Political dynasties: Impossibility of democracy) 

The House panel was discussing the list of proposed amendments by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Federalism and Constitutional Reform, composed of 11 member-agencies under President Rodrigo Duterte’s government.

One proposed amendment is to bar spouses or relatives within the second civil degree of consanguinity of an incumbent official to run for the same position in the succeeding elections.  

Persons that fall under the same relations would also not be allowed to simultaneously hold positions for governor and vice governor as well as mayor and vice mayor.

Albano was against this, arguing that the proposed prohibition “curtails” the right of the people to vote.

“Kung magkagalit yong magkapatid, mag-ama (If the siblings or the father and son are not in good terms)…don’t we give that right to the people for them to decide which is the better brother or which is the better father or son? That again strikes [as] anti-democratic,” the Isabela representative said.

His sentiments were echoed by Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur 2nd District Representative Johnny Pimentel, whose brother Alexander Pimentel is currently provincial governor. 

“We are curtailing already the right of the ordinary citizen to vote! Kung maganda naman ’yong trabaho no’ng incumbent…it’s the right of the people to vote, to put in place who would be their congressman, their governor,” the Surigao del Sur congressman said. 

He suggested that the House committee on constitutional amendments defer finalizing the anti-political dynasty provision as it is “a very contentious and very controversial issue.”

At least 163 political families currently have members who won as senators, House representatives, and governors during the 2019 elections. (READ: MAP: Major political families in PH after the 2019 elections)

The President himself is part of a political dynasty, as 3 of his children won seats in Davao City during the 2019 elections: Mayor Sara Duterte, Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte, and Davao City 1st District Representative Paolo Duterte.

Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution prohibits political dynasties, but there is supposedly no law to implement this provision. However, Rappler columnist Emil Marañon III, an election lawyer, argues that Republic Act No. 10742 or the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Act already defines what a political dynasty is, and can be the basis for implementing the constitutional ban. (READ ALSO: [OPINION] Practical questions on the Sangguniang Kabataan law’s anti-dynasty provision)

There have been repeated attempts in Congress to finally pass the anti-political dynasty bill over the years, but the measure has so far failed to hurdle the Senate and the House, where scions of political clans are repeatedly elected into office. 

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, Agusan del Norte 1st District Representative Lawrence Fortun, and 1-Sagip Representative Rodante Marcoleta have filed their own versions of the anti-dynasty bill, but the measures are pending with committees.

Several experts and political scientists have suggested that Congress just prohibit “fat dynasties” or families with two or more members in power all at the same time and allowing those who serve in succession. – Rappler.com

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at mara.cepeda@rappler.com or tweet @maracepeda.