Malilong: Catching butterflies in the City Council

The Other Side

THE Cebu City Council’s committee on laws has endorsed the ordinance proposed by Councilor Renato Osmeña Jr. punishing political butterflies.

“Absent any law to this effect notwithstanding, this legislative body must take the cudgels for political reforms by taking one bold step to at least discourage turncoatism by imposing administrative sanctions for its commission,” the committee reported. In other words, if Congress will not do it, the City Council will.

We had an anti-turncoatism provision in the 1972 Constitution, but for some reason, it was removed in the 1986 version, the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago noted in the explanatory note of her proposed Anti-Political Turncoatism Act of 2007.

Defensor’s bill, which was filed in the 14th Congress, prohibited an elective public officer from changing party affiliation during his term of office as well as a candidate for public office within one year before or after an election.

The penalty was stiff. If the turncoat was an elected official, he was deemed to have forfeited his office; if he was only a candidate, he was disqualified from running for any elective position in the next two successive elections immediately following his switch of party colors.

The bill did not pass, however, suffering the same fate that befell a previous bill filed in the 13th Congress by five senators led by the late Edgardo Angara. Known as the Political Party Development Act of 2007, the bill sought to promote party loyalty and discipline by granting financial subsidies to political parties and punishing those who change party affiliation with forfeiture of office, disqualification from running for any elective position in the election immediately following the act of turncoatism and prohibition from being appointed to any public office for three years after the end of his term.

In the present (17th) Congress, there is a similar bill pending in the House of Representatives. The unnumbered bill already passed scrutiny by the House committee on suffrage and political reforms. The committee chairman, party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna, said in early November last year that he was confident the bill would be approved by the House on second and third reading when they resumed session on Nov. 12.

It will be approved because it is a pet bill of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, he said then. But then he added, “with the blessing of the President.”I do not know if President Duterte has given his blessing. What I do know is that there is no law punishing political butterflies until now.

Osmeña wants to the correct that deficiency even if only at the local level. But his proposed ordinance does not punish the turncoat with forfeiture or disqualification, only a ban from holding a committee chairmanship or membership probably because the City Council does not have the authority to fire its members.

Without doubt, Osmeña is well-intentioned but does he realize the implications of his proposed ordinance? When the new Council is constituted on June 30, there will only be seven Barug members, including himself, versus the eleven of the BOPK. To correct this lopsided configuration and allow Vice Mayor Michael Rama to break the tie, Barug needs at least two political butterflies. How easy will it be to recruit them if Osmeña’s proposal is passed?


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