Lawmakers water down anti-dynasty bill

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 07 2014 02:45 AM | Updated as of Mar 07 2014 10:45 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Congressmen-proponents of the ban on political dynasties are watering down their proposal to get it approved by the House of Representatives even before the chamber could start floor debates on it.

“We are eyeing a compromise that would be acceptable to our colleagues so that the bill will have a fighting chance, a better prospect of approval,” Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, one of the measure’s authors, told a news forum yesterday.

He said the bill, as endorsed by the committee on suffrage and electoral reform, would adversely affect at least 150 or more than half of the 289 House members.

“That is because the proposed dynasty ban covers the spouse, children, sisters and brothers, and grandchildren of an incumbent elective official, whether national or local. With at least 150 House members affected, we are facing a difficult battle,” he said.

He said while the bill has been in the list of measures the House is ready to open floor debates on for two weeks now, plenary consideration has not started.

He added that the chamber’s leadership is apparently trying to avoid divisive discussions on an admittedly controversial measure.

Erice revealed that the watered-down version would limit the proposed dynasty ban’s coverage by allowing “two members of a political family to occupy elective posts at the same time.”

“We will have to define those terms, who are the two family members allowed to be elected and who are the relatives banned from seeking elective office,” he said.

He cited the Binays as an example.

Erice, a member of the ruling Liberal Party, said there are four Binays presently occupying elective positions: Vice President Jejomar Binay, Sen. Nancy Binay, Rep. Abigail Binay, and Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

“Under the present version of the bill, only one of them would be allowed to run. The planned compromise version would allow two,” he said.

He said Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, another author of the anti-political dynasty bill, seemed agreeable to the compromise version when he discussed it with him.

He said the other authors from the Makabayan bloc of militant party-list representatives would have to agree or the bill might be headed for the graveyard.

Erice has asked his party’s titular head, President Aquino, to certify the measure as urgent to expedite its approval. However, Aquino has not positively responded to his request.

There is no Aquino political dynasty. The President’s senator-cousin, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, is not covered by the present version of the anti-dynasty bill in the House.

Erice said their proposal seeks to enforce the provision of the Constitution banning political dynasties.

“It is the constitutional duty of Congress to enact a law defining and prohibiting the establishment of political dynasties in accordance with the intent of Section 26, Article 2 of the 1987 Constitution,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. has expressed elation over the approval of the anti-dynasty bill by the suffrage and electoral reform committee.

“We have advanced to a point where we have never advanced before. I think that is already a positive achievement,” he said.

“I think we ought to be very happy that it has passed the committee. It has never done that in 15 years. Remember that it is provided for in the Constitution of 1987, and that’s a long time ago. I’m in favor of it,” he said.

However, he predicted that the measure would have a hard time getting plenary approval.

“I believe it will experience rough sailing. Even I, at my level, cannot predict how it will go,” he said.