Group taps new kind of 'people power' to end political dynasties

Convinced that Filipino legislators have “neglected” the 1987 Constitution's mandate to pass a law defining political dynasties, a multisectoral group has launched a campaign to tap a new kind of “people power” to end the rule of a few families in the Philippines. The group Movement against Dynasties (MAD) has set out to gather over 5 million signatures as part of the process to push for a law banning political dynasties through a people's initiative. “If we will succeed in doing this, we will experience real change. We will accomplish something good for our country,” MAD chairman Quintin San Diego said at a forum at the University of the Philippines-Diliman on Tuesday afternoon. The group described itself as “an association composed of civic-minded individuals and professionals” that believes “in a government of laws rather than of men.” San Diego added that aside from soliciting signatures, his group wants to make ordinary Filipinos aware of the bad effects political dynasties have on the country. “They [political dynasties] have control of politics and the economy... Kung magkakamag-anak na ang nasa kapangyarihan, ano pa ang pagkakataon ng karaniwang tao na mahalal?” he said. A study by the Asian Institute of Management revealed that 68 percent of the Philippines' current lawmakers are members of political dynasties. The same study showed political dynasties are located in poor regions of the country. For the May 2013 midterm polls, 12 out of the 21 senatorial bets from the two biggest coalitions come from known political families. Some of these senatorial hopefuls said political dynasties are not always bad for the country. 'Tall order' San Diego, however, admitted that gathering 5 million signatures from all around the country is a “tall order.” He said that, as of now, his group has only managed to get around 100,000 signatures. “Hindi naman kami kilala. Wala naman kaming pera, but we have to at least try. Otherwise, wala nang pag-asa ang bansa,” he said. Under Republic Act 6735 or the Initiative and Referendum Act, a people's initiative must get support from 10 percent of all registered voters for it to be considered for a referendum. Under this law, this figure must include three percent of voters from each legislative district in the country. The MAD chairperson likewise said that his group's strategy is to target churches, since these areas are usually frequented by people. He added that MAD will also seek the opinion of other groups, such as the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines, in defining political dynasties. In its draft petition, MAD said a political dynasty exists “when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official, or a relative with the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official, hold or runs for an elective office simultaneously with the incumbent elective official.” 'Imperfect democracy' UP President Alfredo Pascual, for his part, expressed support for the effort to pass an enabling law against political dynasties. Pascual described the rule of a few families in the Philippines as “morally, economically and legally contentious.” “The success of the electoral exercise in our country has been tarnished by the reality that the names of candidates have been too familiar and repetitive. It seems like only a few names are interested in politics in our country,” he said in a separate speech. He added that Philippine democracy can only reach full maturity once the problem with political dynasties is addressed. “Our electoral system was designed to ensure a level playing field among candidates. Political dynasties are indications of our imperfect democracy,” he said. — DVM, GMA News

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