How to ban dynasties

    1866

    ‘Congress should pass an anti-dynasty law that applies only to the President and Vice President, under which no relative to the second or maybe third degree of consanguinity may hold public office during the incumbency of the highest and second highest public officials of the land.’

    IT’S almost election time again, and so social media will soon be filled with chat groups and posts expressing strong opinions about so many issues of the day. Actually, it IS election time already and social media IS already filled with chat groups and posts expressing strong opinions on issues of the day!

    And because the coming election cycle will include the election for President, expect that in the run-up to the national polls two very critical – and linked – issues will surface: Charter Change and term limits.

    The Philippines, it seems, suffers from a six-year curse of the Cha-Cha virus. Symptoms of the affliction include arguing, in the name of the Filipino people, that the current government structure is ill-suited for the demands of tomorrow.

    We’ve been hearing that argument regularly every six years since 1998. Remember PIRMA?

    Recent Philippine political history tells me that all these Cha-Cha efforts happen near the end of a President’s term for a simple reason: the current occupant, soon a lame duck, or his cohorts, do not wish for the “good times” to end.

    But there is a clear reason why the Constitution placed a limit on a President’s term, set, after much debate, at six years, no more. A President who will serve only one term will be a President free from the need to keep his finger on the popularity pulse, and in turn will be free to do what has to be done, no matter how unpopular, for the greater good.

    Oftentimes public service requires doing things that are unpopular (like raising taxes on certain occasions) because it is what the situation (short or long term) calls for.

    A President, once he takes office, can therefore switch into “legacy mode,” thinking mainly (if not only) of what he would wish to be remembered by once he leaves office.

    I am thus of the opinion that term limits on a President is always a good idea. Whether it is one of six years, no more, or two four-year terms (as we had from 1935-1973 and as they have in America after Franklin Roosevelt) can be subject to discussion if not debate.

    The other critical and sensitive issue that arises during politicized moments like now is the issue of political dynasties. In the aftermath of the 1986 People Power revolution, the Constitutional Commission that drew up the 1987 Constitution saw it fit to declare the Philippines’ aversion to political dynasties. But it then left Congress to draw up the mechanics for the implementation of this ban, a task no Congress since 1987 has ever taken pains to complete. And why should they, when Congress can be likened to an “old boy’s club” of dynasties.

    Recently, the Speaker of the House opined that political families end up running members for various posts because of the term limits. An interestingly opinion, but a debatable point of view.

    But let’s face it: ours is a society proud of its family orientation. This is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because our families provide a social, psychological and even financial safety net that helps weather the worst of storms. But it is a curse when we put family above all else – especially above the law and the common good – and when our family-first orientation extends to the world of politics which then becomes nothing but a case of musical chairs between or within families.

    But I’ve got a practical compromise. Congress should pass an anti-dynasty law that applies only to the President and Vice President, under which no relative to the second or maybe third degree of consanguinity may hold public office during the incumbency of the highest and second highest public officials of the land.

    Maybe this time Congress will pass the law. And maybe it will make some aspirants for President and Vice President ponder whether being the only one in the family elected into public office is worth all the time, effort, money, and other opportunities lost by keeping other family members out.

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