Anti-political dynasty bills filed in 18th Congress

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Although the Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties, no law has been passed to enforce it. Critics said it's because many lawmakers themselves come from political dynasties. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 4) — Can the 18th Congress finally pass the elusive ban on political dynasties?

At least two senators have filed bills seeking to put an end to the reign of political clans in the country. Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo "Ping" Lacson filed Senate Bills No. 11 and 30, which are both titled "An Act Prohibiting the Establishment of Political Dynasties."

Under these proposed measures, an official's spouse or relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, should not be allowed to hold power in the same city or province, or run for the same position right after the incumbent's term. This covers the official's parents, children, siblings, grandparents, grandchildren, and in-laws – whether legitimate or illegitimate, full or half blood.

These relatives are also prohibited from running simultaneously in the same city or province. The ban does not cover barangay officials.

If an official is holding a national post, the relatives should be disqualified from running within the same province where the incumbent is a registered voter.

Once passed into law, all candidates for elective public office, except at the barangay level, will have to file a sworn statement with the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) that they do not have a "political dynasty relationship" with any incumbent official running in the same city or province.

Petitions against candidates found to be violating the law can be filed with the COMELEC until before the proclamation of election winners. The COMELEC will hear the petition and decide whether or not to disqualify a certain candidate. Under Drilon's bill, the COMELEC can process a candidate's disqualification motu proprio, or even without a request from any party.

Lacson's bill furthermore states that a violation to the anti-political dynasty law and the COMELEC's rules to implement it, are considered an election offense which is punishable with up to six years in jail, disqualification from public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.

Elusive law

Although the Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties, no law has been passed to enforce it, even after three decades. Critics said it's because many lawmakers themselves come from political dynasties.

Article II, Section 26 of the 1987 Constitution says, "The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law."

The Consultative Committee, the body tasked by President Rodrigo Duterte to review and propose changes to the Constitution, earlier endorsed an anti-political dynasty provision in its proposed federal charter. However, the House of Representatives which is filled with members of political families, dropped the political dynasty ban in the version it passed in December 2018. Malacañang at the time called on lawmakers to reconsider controversial measures, including its dropping of the political anti-dynasty ban, saying the draft charter could be rejected by the people.

Even the President's family has kept a tight grip on Davao City, which is now ruled by his daughter Sara Duterte as mayor, son Baste Duterte as vice mayor, and eldest child Paolo Duterte as first district representative. Paolo Duterte is also a possible contender for House Speaker. The President has said he is against political dynasties, "but we were forced." He said Davao City needs a "strong opposition" so voters can have an alternative to the Dutertes.

READ: Duterte urges Davao City officials to create 'strong opposition' amid political dynasty tag

Duterte also earlier threatened to resign should his eldest child insist on running for House Speaker, saying there are just too many members of their family in public office. He has been silent so far since Paolo Duterte announced Tuesday that he might run for Speaker.