Anti-political dynasty bill sees support in Senate

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

SOME senators urged the need for Congress to allow a constructive debate over the proposed anti-dynasty bills authored by Senators Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada and Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Ejercito who came from a known political dynasty in the country is the author of Senate Bill 1906, or the Anti-political Dynasty bill.

He said this is the right time to open all chances to other Filipinos who are qualified to serve the country and the Filipino people.

The senator further said that the anti-political dynasty bill enables people with good qualifications to have a chance of becoming government leaders and public servants for the country and our people.

"Our population has already reached a hundred million. This is the right time to give other people a chance to serve our country. I personally believe that power should not be controlled by a few families. We should start thinking of reforming the present system of our government," Ejercito said.

Ejercito is the son of former President and the incumbent Mayor of Manila, Joseph Ejercito Estrada. His half-brother is Senator Jose Jinggoy Estrada and some of his relatives include: Laguna Governor ER Ejercito, Quezon Board Member Gary Estrada and San Juan City 2nd District Councilor Janella Ejercito Estrada, (daughter of Senator Jinggoy Estrada).

Senate President Franklin Drilon, for his part, threw his support for the passage of the anti-dynasty bill and urged his colleagues in both chambers to allow for a constructive debate among lawmakers.

"It's time to end the long wait. I encourage our colleagues to give the bill a chance. Let us provide an avenue that will allow for a constructive debate on this very important issue which would bring positive changes in our political system," said Drilon.

The Senate leader made the statement following the hearing held by the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people's participation, which took place a week after the House version of the anti-political dynasty bill was sponsored before the plenary – the first time in 27 years.

Drilon said he believes that the passage of the anti-political dynasty law is a tool to reform the current political system in the country.

"Naniniwala po tayo na malaki ang magagawa ng anti-political dynasty law sa sistema ng pulitika sa bansa. Nagsimula po tayo sa Senado nang tinanggal natin ang pork barrel. Wala na po ang pork barrel dahil pinakinggan natin ang taumbayan, at muli ay atin silang papakinggan," said Drilon, in a radio interview

(I believe the anti-political dynasty law will significantly change the political system in the country. We have already done it with the pork barrel. The Senate heard and acted on the people's clamor to abolish the pork barrel and we shall do it again.)

"Tayo po personally ay lubos na sumusuporta sa panukalang batas na ito tungkol sa anti-political dynasty. Wala naman akong tatay o nanay o kapatid o kung anuman na nasa politika. Kahit kapitan sa barangay po wala po akong kamag-anak sa pulitika," said Drilon.

(Personally, I am supporting the anti-political dynasty bill. I have no family members – not a mother, father or a sibling in Philippine politics, not even in the barangay level.)

"Sa panibagong usapin sa anti-dynasty bill, atin pong dinggin at pag-aaralan nang mabuti kung ano ang kagustuhan talaga ng taumbayan. Atin pong tingnan ang pulso ng taumbayan," he added.

(In dealing with the anti-dynasty bill, the Filipino people can be assured that we shall seek out their will, their choice regarding this matter.)

The Senate chief likewise believes that the prevailing time and conditions "are ripe for the government to institute a law that has been demanded by the Constitution from the very start of the Fifth Republic."

"Given the administration's reformist stance, we enjoy a supportive political climate, so every opportunity that has been unavailable in previous years is now upon us lawmakers to act on," said Drilon.

Ejercito's proposal, Senate Bill 1906, seeks to guarantee equal access and opportunity to public office and service by prohibiting political dynasties.

Under his bill, no spouse or relative within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official seeking re-election shall be allowed to hold or run for any position in the same province in the same election.

The same relatives of an incumbent elective national official shall also be disqualified from running in the same province where the latter is a registered voter.

Candidates, including their spouses, who are related to one another within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity shall also be disqualified from holding or running for any local elective office in the same province in the same election.

Ejercito's bill will also not allow people related to an incumbent official within the prohibited degree from succeeding to the position of the latter.

Senator Santiago who authored Senate Bill no. 1580 (Anti-political dynasty bill) said if this bill will be given a chance in this country, "it will open a great opportunity for other people."

"It would be best for the legislative process to ensure that the bills are at least reported out to the plenary session, considering their wide implications on our political system," Santiago said.

Santiago lamented that because of the fact this bill will affect many legislators and their families, the anti-dynasty she said is not moving at all. The lady senator also challenged her colleagues to act on this bill and to set aside their own political and personal gain for the good of the country.

"Para naman magkaroon ng pagkakataun ang bansa na makapag produce ng mga excellent leaders," Santiago said.

Senator Francis Escudero said he would not block the anti-dynasty bill because he came from that situation since his father, the late Salvador Escudero, was a congressman in the same district (Sorsogon) where he also served as member of the House of Representatives.

Escudero said he will definitely vote in favor of anti-dynasty bill but the version must be very clear as he admitted that right now it is very confusing.

He said so many politicians were not even aware that some of their relatives are also running for a political position in the provinces.

"If that will be the case, sino ang ma di-disqualify. What if you are not aware that a certain relative is also running for a position in the government. What will happen?. There must be a safeguards against those kind of situations?" Escudero asked.

Earlier, Senators Aquilino Pimentel III, Vicente Sotto III, Grace Poe, and Ejercito sought the help of resource persons from anti-political dynasty coalitions such as the Anti-Dynasty Movement (Andaya Mo), political parties, and other election watchdogs.

The resource persons accepted Section 5 of SB 1906, which seeks to prohibit a spouse or any person related to an incumbent elective official "within the 2nd degree of consanguinity or affinity" to run for any elective office in the same province in the same election.

The said group also wished that the committee also consider "overlapping jurisdiction," or having national and local candidates running in an election at the same time.

"Relatives of national officials or candidates should not be allowed to run for key local positions like governor, district representative, or mayor anywhere else in the country," Eirene Jhone Aguila of Andaya Mo was quoted as saying. (Camille P. Balagtas/Sunnex)

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