Political dynasties

>> Monday, October 29, 2012

Alfred P. Dizon

Admitting it is powerless to stop political families from running in the next elections, the Commission on Elections said they are leaving it to voters to put an end to political dynasties.

Elections in this BananaRepublichave always been family affairs and this had been the case for decades.   

Though political dynasties are prohibited under the Constitution, in the absence of any law banning such, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body could not prohibit or control them.

So over the years, in northern Luzon, we had theDys of Isabela, Enriles of Cagayan, Angaras of Aurora, Marcoses of Ilocos Norte, Singsons of Ilocos Sur, Ortegas of La Union among others.

In the Cordillera, the same politicians or members of their families have been elected through decades like the Buluts of Apayao, and the Valeras of Abra.

In Baguio City, Mayor Mauricio Domogan and Rep, Vergara have always maintained or exchanged their posts except when former mayors Braulio Yaranon and Peter Rey Bautista took over as mayor for a term each.

But then you could not call them a dynasty since no member of their family held political office except Vergara whose daughter Gladys became city councilor years ago. 

There have been wannabees who tried to take over the top posts held by the tandem pundits call “Batman and Robin” in the summer capital, but lost every time. In the city council, it had been the same family names dominating the roster every election except for a few exceptions.
In Benguet, while incumbent Gov. Nestor Fongwan has filed for his re-election as governor under the National Unity Party, his son Nestor Jr. (“Bubot”) is challenging incumbent Mayor Gregorio Abalos of the Liberal Party in the capital town of La Trinidad.

In the history of the perennially clannish Benguet politics, never before had a father and a son ran at the same time. 

Fongwan is still at the height of his political career from La Trinidad mayor to governor, while the younger Fongwan is running against incumbent mayor Abalos.          Clans have dominated Benguet politics for quite a period of time. 

Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan who has filed his certificate of candidacy andhis relatives have also been involved in the province's political arena.

Cosalan is being pitted against incumbent Vice-Gov. Cresencio Pacalso of NUP.

Other huge family names in Benguet include the Dangwas, whose incumbent board member Nelson Dangwa (LP).

For years, Samuel Dangwa, Nelson’s father had been congressman losing every now and then to Rep. Cosalan, a lawyer who earlier held post as chairman of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

The huge Molintas clan, cousins of the Cosalans, is also a big name in Benguet politics like human rights lawyer Rocky Molintas who had held post as governor a few years back.  

In Mountain Province, after the late lawyer Alfredo Lam-en got tired of being congressman, the late former Rep. Victor Dominguez and his wife had always occupied the top post in as Lower House representatives except when lawyer Roy Pilando took over.

Now, his nephew, Jupiter Dominguez, former mayor of Sabangan town (United Nationalist Alliance) is running for Congress pitted against incumbent Rep. Maximo Dalog of the LP and former  undersecretary for the  Department of  Public Works and Highways   Roy Manao  of the  Laban ng  Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP).
 Meanwhile, Gov. Leonard Mayaen is facing Harry Dominguez (NPC), a kin of the late congressman and engineer Arnold Pilando, brother of Roy, the former congressman for the gubernatorial post.
In Ifugao, it had been a merry-go-round for the top posts so we had Dulinayan, Cappleman and others like lawyer Solomon Chungalao who became congressman but lost to Teddy Baguilat last election. Now it will be a return bout. Incumbent Gov. Eugene Balitang, who is seeking re-election, is also the man to watch.   

In Kalinga, it had been prominent politicians and their families over the years. 

It is the same in the rest of the country where local government units have been controlled by families, clans or their minions.

Some people have been complaining this should be stopped. But then, the situation is, whenever elections come around, it is the powerful and the moneyed who get elected to office.

There may have been “good” political dynasties in terms of local governance, but others have become monsters if the Ampatuans in Maguindanao are any indication.

The Ampatuans have been accused of killing political opponents over the years. But the incident wherein they slaughtered journalists, lawyers and the wife of now Gov. Mangudadatu did them in and contributed to their downfall. Now they are in jail awaiting sentencing.  

Now, Brilliantes is saying there is nothing the Comelec can do as there is no enabling law that prohibits political dynasties.  He said Comelec needs the law to take action, and at this time they can only administer what the law provides.

He said the Comelec would notify the Supreme Court (SC) if they are told to testify on the case seeking a ban against political dynasty.

A certain Louis Biraogo filed a petition as a taxpayer, asking the SC to compel the Comelec to outlaw political dynasties in his 26-page petition for mandamus, citing Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The Constitution provides that “the State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”

Brillantes said voters, particularly those advocating against political dynasties, should take the initiative against the issue. “People’s initiative is the best move so that it would not pass Congress because they (lawmakers) will not do something that will directly affect them. For me, that is the real solution.”

The Constitution provides that amendments to the law can be done through a petition of at least 12 percent of the total number of registered voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three percent of the registered voters.

This as the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation has started deliberations on the proposed bill that would define and outlaw political dynasties in the country.

While the bill is not expected to be approved in the 15th Congress, Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III said the conduct of committee hearings now and the possible release of the recommendations by the committee could provide the next Congress with a starting point for deliberations on the issue if such is revived.

Pimentel said the bill only covers politics in local and national level so such a law would cover the elected members of the barangay up to the House of Representatives.

Apart from lack of time, Pimentel admitted getting the bill approved in this Congress would be difficult since the elections are coming up and there are several political clans that would be affected by such a measure.
There is only one bill that was filed in the Senate to eliminate political dynasties, Senate Bill 2649 filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago last year.
The 1987 Constitution says that equal access to public service must be guaranteed and political dynasties are prohibited “as may be defined by law.”

“To give force and effect to this provision, the playing field of the political arena should be leveled and opened to persons who are equally qualified to aspire on even terms with those from ruling politically dominant families,” Santiago said in her bill.

“The socio-economic and political inequities prevalent in Philippine society limit public office to members of ruling families. In many instances, voters, for convenience and out of cultural mindset, look up to these ruling families as dispensers of favors and thus elect relatives of these politically dominant families,” she added.


Anonymous July 26, 2017 at 4:48 AM  

Correction to the statement that the late Congressman Alfredo Lam-en "got tired" of being congressman after which the late Congressman Dominguez took over. Lam-en did not get tired, he actually lost twice to Dominguez in past elections. Maybe Lam-en got tired trying for a comeback that s why he quit running. However his son Binky Lam-en was successful in becoming a vice-governor of the province.

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