Constitution framer: Dismantle political dynasties before 'cha-cha'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 19) — One of the framers of the 1987 Constitution said a law against political dynasties should first be passed before Congress pushes for amendments to the charter.

"We are putting the cart before the horse," Ed Garcia, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Convention, told CNN Philippines on Thursday. "We have to prepare. Take the case of political dynasties. 80 percent of the members of Congress belong to political dynasties."

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

No laws on political dynasties have been passed since 1987, as critics said many lawmakers themselves come from them. Seven anti-political dynasty bills are pending in the 17th Congress, five in Senate and two in the House of Representatives.

Garcia is also skeptical that anti-political dynasty provisions will be in the amended charter especially since the House is pushing for charter change through constituent assembly (con-ass).

"How can you expect them if they become con-ass to actually abolish that?" he said. "I do not think it's the people who will benefit if there is a con-ass. It will be those who craft that bill or craft that Constitution. There will be no election. They will still continue in power because 90 of the congressmen right now are ending their terms."

In con-ass, three-fourths of Congress vote on revisions or amendments to the Constitution before the public votes on it in a plebiscite.

But House Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro told CNN Philippines on Thursday that safeguards can be put in place in the new Constitution to prevent political dynasties under a federal government.

"An anti-political dynasty law may be passed," he said. "If for example, we amend the Constitution and a provision on anti-political dynasty that is self-executing is embodied already in the Constitution, therefore there is nothing more left except to implement that."

An anti-political dynasty provision is among the major political reforms in PDP-Laban's proposed Constitution for a Federal Republic.

READ: Anti-political dynasty, other political reforms in proposed federal constitution

The provision under Article 9, Section 15 of the draft charter covers the President and all elected officials including members of the Federal Assembly and Senate, regional government, and local government units.