No Palace stand on anti-dynasty bill yet

MANILA, Philippines – What does the Philippine president who benefited from his family’s name think about a bill prohibiting political dynasties?

President Benigno Aquino III’s Spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda, said Malacañang does not yet have a position on the measure being debated in the Senate and House of Representatives.

“This is legislative discretion, whether they would like to tackle it or not. As far as we are concerned, we continue with the business of governance. It’s a matter for the legislature to discuss,” Lacierda said in a press briefing on Wednesday, October 24.

Lacierda said the Palace will not discuss the measure for now.

“It’s still premature for us to comment. Let it be discussed first. We elected the legislature to discuss on the wisdom of these bills so let them deliberate on it before we make any comment lest we be accused of saying that we are dictating upon the legislature.”

Political dynasties have become an issue in the 2013 midterm polls, with many clans vying for public positions. The President himself has two relatives running for the Senate: his cousin Bam Aquino and his aunt-in-law Margarita "Tingting" Cojuangco.

Vice President Jejomar Binay's daughter Nancy is also seeking a senatorial seat; his two other children are running for re-election as Makati mayor and representative. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's son Jack, who is on his last term as Cagayan congressman, is also running for the Senate.

‘Ban national, local dynasties’

On Tuesday, October 23, the Senate began hearing its version of the bill filed by Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago. Read her bill here

Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III and Panfilo Lacson have said the definition of political dynasties has to be more precise. 

“The bill does not cover national positions. We have to study this thoroughly,” Pimentel said. He is the chairperson of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms.

Lacson’s son, Jay, is running for vice governor of Cavite.

In the explanatory note on her bill, Santiago said that there is a need for a level playing field in the political arena.

“This extended family system, an otherwise beneficial concept when applied to the social aspects of human behavior, finds its pernicious effects in the political arena where public office becomes the exclusive domain of influential families and clans that are well-entrenched in Philippine politics. The monopoly of political power and public resources by such families affects the citizenry,” Santiago said.

The Philippine Constitution already bans political dynasties but Congress has yet to pass an enabling law.

In a Thought Leaders piece for Rappler, University of Santo Tomas Political Science Professor Edmund Tayao said the problem is more complex than legislation. He said the political system must be reformed to address political dynasties, which should be made an election issue.

“Let’s hear from the candidates what they have to say, what concrete position and plans they have when elected then let’s take it from there. Then we might finally put an end to what we have always been hating but just feeling exasperated about in our democracy,” Tayao said.

‘It’s not personal, it’s the propaganda’

In his press briefing, Lacierda also commented on the response of Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño to Aquino’s criticism of his survey numbers. Aquino questioned Casiño’s survey numbers in the context of a media interview where he was asked about the Philippines’ human rights record.

Casiño has said in reply that if he had parents like the Ninoy and Cory Aquino, he would also be as popular as the chief executive.

Lacierda said Aquino’s criticism was not personal but was directed at the propaganda of leftist groups. Casiño is a member of the progressive Makabayan Coalition.

“The President’s point was if your propaganda is really effective, then your survey numbers should be high. It’s not about your parents. It’s not about being personal. It’s about your propaganda.” Lacierda said.

Lacierda added that the lefist groups’ criticism of the conditional cash transfer program and government hospitals were not true. 

“The truth of the matter is people do not believe your propaganda.”

In a new statement, Casiño again responded, this time to Lacierda. The congressman said Aquino should not have dismissed the plight of human rights victims as propaganda. Casiño said the President should have been more sensitive, considering that his family was a victim of the Marcos regime. 

"It's nothing personal? Don't worry about me, I can shrug off the President's insults anytime. But to dismiss the plight of human rights victims and their families as mere propaganda IS personal, painful and dangerous." – Rappler.com