By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines - Four senators, who are scions of political families, have strongly expressed their intent to inhibit themselves from the passage of the Anti-Political Dynasty Act that would ban any spouse or relative of an incumbent elective official to run for any elected office.
The senators signed the committee report on the Anti-Political Dynasty Act, but admitted plans to hold it back.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, the bill’s principal sponsor, re-filed the measure just before Congress went into recess last Oct. 14.
The measure is recommended for approval without amendment before the Senate plenary. If passed into law, the measure will be effective in the May 10, 2010 elections.
Sen. Francis Escudero, who bolted last Wednesday from the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) in his fight against so-called traditional and party politics, signed the report as chairman of the Senate Committee on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws.
He vowed to “sponsor” the measure even if there was “potential conflict of interest” on his part.
Escudero’s father is Salvador Escudero III, a congressman from Sorsogon who was a member of the Marcos cabinet. The senator’s great grandfather, Salvador Sr., and grandfather, Salvador Jr., were also politicians of their time in Casiguran, Sorsogon.
Aside from Escudero, Senators Benigno Simeon Aquino III, Rodolfo Biazon, Loren Legarda, Manuel Roxas II, Jamby Madrigal, Richard Gordon, Lito Lapid, Joker Arroyo and Francis Pangilinan signed the report as committee members.
Sen. Pia Cayetano, also a member of the committee, did not sign the report, notably because her brother, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano is also a member of the Senate.
Their father, the late Rene Cayetano, was a senator. Sen. Alan’s wife, Lani, is incumbent congresswoman of Taguig.
Ex-officio members Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. also signed the report.
Although they signed the measure, Lapid, Zubiri, and Estrada separately noted that they “may have to inhibit due to possible conflict of interest,” while Arroyo signed with “serious reservation.”
Aquino, who has been banking on the political influence of his parents, the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and late President Corazon Aquino, in his presidential bid, said he would interpellate on the measure.
Lapid’s son, Mark, is also a former Pampanga governor. The senator is reportedly mulling to leave the Senate and return to Pampanga where he intends to run again for governor next year.
On the other hand, Jinggoy is a member of a political empire founded by his father, former President Joseph Estrada who has declared his bid to run anew for the presidency.
Ex-president Estrada’s wife, Dr. Loi Ejercito, recently retired from politics but without first being elected as senator while the former president was still in jail on plunder charges.
Apart from Jinggoy and Loi, one of the ex-president’s sons with another woman, Juan Victor (JV) Ejercito, is mayor of San Juan.
Zubiri is a scion of Bukidnon Gov. Jose Ma. Zubiri Jr. His brother, Jose Ma, Zubiri II and the governor’s nephew Ignacio Zubiri are also involved in local politics in the province.
In Malacañang, President Arroyo is seen as the best example of what political dynasty is. Presidential sons Dato and Juan Miguel Arroyo are representatives of Camarines Sur and Pampanga, respectively. The president’s brother-in-law, Ignacio Arroyo, is a representative of Negros while Rep. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, another sibling of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, has been accredited recently as a representative of Kasangga party-list group.
Voters’ right to choose leaders
However, the passage of the measure may again be derailed because Congress is in recess until Nov. 8 and will resume session from Nov. 9 to 20.
Congress will have a break again from Nov. 21 to Nov. 30, presumably to allow candidates to file their certificates of candidacy.
During the resumption of session between Dec. 1 to Dec. 18, the lawmakers hands will be full with the continuation of deliberations on the 2010 General Appropriations Act set to be passed before Christmas break on Dec. 19.
By January 2010, candidates for national and local posts are expected to be busy with their respective campaigns.
Before Lacson, the anti-dynasty bill was first advocated by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago who has expressed disappointment over Congress’ dilly-dallying with the passage of the measure in past Congresses.
In his explanatory note for Senate Bill 1468, Lacson lamented that Congress failed to pass the law since its first filing during the 8th Congress because most lawmakers come from “well-entrenched political clans.”
Under the measure, political dynasty refers to the concentration, consolidation or perpetuation of political power by persons related to one another.
“Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts to introduce an anti-political dynasty law (as early as the 8th Congress) to effect electoral reforms and level the political landscape, Congress failed to pass such a law,” Lacson said.
He added that the inaction can be attributed to the fact that many members of Congress came from well-entrenched political clans.
“Over the years, they have successfully argued for the so-called electorate’s right to choose their elected leaders using the oft-repeated principle that sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them,” the senator said.