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

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — The elusive ban on political dynasties may finally be enforced once the country shifts to a federal form of government.

An anti-political dynasty provision is among the major political reforms in PDP-Laban's proposed Constitution for a Federal Republic, a copy of which was obtained by CNN Philippines on Monday.

"It is proposed that relatives of incumbent politicians up to the 2nd degree of affinity or consanguinity shall be prohibited from running for public office in the territorial jurisdiction where the incumbent was elected," the executive summary of the "PDP Laban Model of PH Federalism" stated.

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.

Related: Proposed charter for federal PH weakens Senate, eyes prime minister

Although the 1987 Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties, no law has been passed governing such, even after three decades. Critics said it's because many lawmakers themselves come from political dynasties.

Anti-political dynasty bills are pending in the 17th Congress, five in Senate and two in the House of Representatives.

While there is yet to be a clear-cut definition of the term "political dynasty," a pending Senate bill defines it as the "concentration, consolidation or perpetuation of public office and political power by persons related to each other."

"In order to democratize political power, we propose to make the anti-dynasty provision in the Constitution self-executing," PDP-Laban said.

This addresses concerns that a federal system could empower abusive political dynasties as regional governments would have more autonomy.

The PDP-Laban's proposal states the creation of 11 regional governments, which will have legislative powers over basic services such as social welfare and development, tourism, regional development planning, and franchises, among others.

Under the draft proposal, regional governments would also have control over 60 percent of its revenue, unlike in the current setup where 83 percent of revenue is controlled by the national government and only 17 percent is allocated to local governments.

A 2015 study by the Asia Institute of Management Policy Center showed there are strong links between the existence of dynasties and poverty. It found that the fattest dynasties – or those with the most number of family members in office – are concentrated in the poorest parts of the country.

Controlling the expansion of dynasties is "a good first step," but much more needs to be done, said Ateneo School of Government Dean Ronald Mendoza.

"(We need to build) a more inclusive development trajectory for the country because we see that when there are more poor people there will always be the tendency for traditional politics," he said.

Government-funded political parties

The PDP-Laban's proposal further seeks to strengthen political parties.

In the draft, the parliament shall provide state subsidy to registered political parties, "on the basis of their electoral performance in the previous election."

"This is to reduce or all together eliminate the influence of big business and drug and gambling lords in our politicians," the proposal read.

In turn, political parties shall publicly account for the use of these funds, subject to audit by the government.

The draft charter also bans the switching of political parties, one year after the adoption of the constitution.

"No elective public official may change his political party affiliation during his term of office and no candidate for any elective public office may change his political party affiliation within one year immediately preceding or following an election," Article 9, Section 13 of the draft constitution stated.

An elected official who violates this provision shall lose his position and be barred from public office.

Mendoza, however, said the reforms being pushed for by advocates of federalism are not to be treated like a silver bullet.

"What really needs to happen is they need to all click together to produce the better outcome," he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte's allies in Congress are proposing a constitutional assembly shortly after both houses resume session on January 15. The assembly will introduce changes in the Constitution to give way to a federal form of government - a major platform of the Duterte administration.