Opinion

Parents, Children, and Siblings: Family Reunions at the Senate

How's that Anti-Dynasty Bill coming along?
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For years, the Anti-Political Dynasty bill has been so elusive, and for reasons, which a lot of critics point out, we already know.

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

We can surmise from the wording that political dynasties are prohibited, but the terms of the word "dynasty" remain vague. Thirty years on and there still hasn't been a law to enforce the statute or even define what a dynasty is. The universally agreed upon definition, in layman's terms, however, is: elected politicians who come from the same kin.

On the local level, provinces and cities are practically governed by the same families, only differing in generation. They have become endemic, in a way, and it's been that way for years, even decades. In a statement back in 2020, Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Lawrence Fortun said that 70 percent of Lower House members already come from dynasties. With this year's Senate race, we're seeing dynasties emerge in the Upper House, as well.

This is what the current Pulse Asia polls are telling us about the next Senate:

  • Raffy Tulfo
  • Antique Rep. Loren Legarda
  • Robin Padilla
  • Taguig City-Pateros Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano
  • Sorsogon Gov. Francisco "Chiz" Escudero
  • Sen. Sherwin "Win" Gatchalian
  • Sen. Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri
  • Public Works and Highways Sec. Mark Villar
  • Former Sen. JV Estrada Ejercito
  • Former Vice President Jojo Binay
  • Sen. Risa Hontiveros
  • Former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada

If the candidates on this list end up winning, then we might see quite the family reunions this year.

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We'll be having a pair of siblings and a pair of parent-child tandems in the same hall. Alan Peter Cayetano will be seeing his sister Pia Cayetano, while the Estrada brothers make their comeback. Meanwhile, Mark Villar will be joining his mother Cynthia Villar, while Jojo Binay might sit next to his daughter, Nancy Binay.

Imagine the dinner conversations, right?

Raffy Tulfo and Robin Padilla will each be first-time senators, while Legarda, Escudero, Gatchalian, Zubiri, and Hontiveros are all seasoned lawmakers. Rounding out the rest of our possible Senate scenario until 2025 are Sen. Sonny Angara, Sen. Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, Sen. Christopher "Bong" Go, Sen. Lito Lapid, Sen. Imee Marcos, Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III, Sen. Grace Poe, Sen. Bong Revilla, and Sen. Francis Tolentino.

Will the Anti-Dynasty Bill ever be enacted into law? Chances are slim, if we look back at previous attempts. Earlier in President Rodrigo Duterte's term, his Consultative Committee was set to review and propose some much-needed changes to the Constitution. Part of what the body endorsed at the time was an anti-political dynasty provision in a supposed federal charter. A version of the bill was filed in the House of Representatives, but was ultimately discarded in December 2018.

In the Senate, the latest to sponsor such measures were Senators Franklin Drilon and Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who filed Senate Bills No. 11 and 30 in the 18th Congress. Aptly called "An Act Prohibiting the Establishment of Political Dynasties," Lacson's bill states that if an official is holding a national position, relatives will automatically be disqualified from running within the same province where a certain incumbent is a registered voter.

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Furthermore, Lacson's bill says that violating it would mean an election offense based on the Commission on Elections' rules to implement said law.

In the small, small chance that the bill ever makes it past the first and second reading (which might not happen in this lifetime, really), tandems like the possible scenarios we discussed will be no more. What's certain now, however, is that political dynasties are constantly finding new ways to push the limits of the "undefinition" of Constitutional terms on the subject. 

Dynasties in the 2022 elections are as prevalent as they've ever been, but it's become so systematized to the point of being the norm. Of course, there's so much more to untangle in our national consciousness and our politics, and dynasties are only a tiny fraction of what we have to address in our electoral system.

The idea of all of us (well, some of the much more qualified ones) having equal opportunities in public service has become foreign in the face of all these scions. Perhaps the real lesson in all of this is that politics, in the end, have always been—and might always be—a family business.

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About The Author
Bryle B. Suralta
Assistant Section Editor
Bryle B. Suralta is the assistant section editor of Esquire Philippines.
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