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Why the Philippines Remains a Poor Country—Part II


The “daily grind” for many poor Filipinos. Photo: fvdb.wordpress.com

s we noted in our previous editorial (LINK), we believe political dynasties have been holding the Philippines back, preventing it from developing the way neighbors like Singapore, Taiwan, and South Korea have.

The framers of the 1987 constitution included a provision that prohibited political dynasties. However, their big mistake was they left it to future legislatures to cobble together the enabling law that would allow the provision to actually take effect.

Well, thirty years have now passed, and there is still no enabling law. And one can easily understand why. How can anyone expect Filipino senators and congressmen to pass such a law when they themselves belong to political dynasties? It would be tantamount to shooting themselves in the foot.

And so the country’s progress has languished under the thumb of these oligarchs–the 200 or so rich and powerful families that have run the Philippines for generations.

Today however, an unprecedented opportunity presents itself. Finally, Filipinos might now have the chance to bring that long-discarded anti-dynasty provision to life.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s push for a shift to federalism will require nothing short of a constitutional amendment. Thus a 20-person Consultative Committee (Con-Com) has been created and tasked with proposing  the necessary changes or amendments to the constitution.

Former chief justice Renato Puno, who heads the Con-Com believes that a prohibition against political dynasties should be a prerequisite to any changes they will recommend.

Puno believes that federalism by its very nature will only strengthen political clans. And according to University of the Philippines Prof. Rolando Simbulan, today 73 of the 81 provinces in the country, are controlled by political clans. Puno therefore wants to see an anti-dynasty law in place prior to the shift to federalism.  

For Filipinos who want to see political dynasties gone, now is the time to act. They need to mobilize the masses and push hard to make it happen.

A multi-media campaign should begin immediately with high-profile endorsers taking to the airwaves and electronic media, extolling the benefits of an end to political clans.

If the movement can get the president, vice president, senators, congressmen, governors, mayors, as well popular celebrities to speak out on its behalf, the odds of success improve tremendously.

Let us not forget what happened in 1987. Then president Corazon Aquino’s tepid support got the provision to first base, where it languishes today, three decades after it was created. Understandably, she belonged to a very powerful political clan herself. And she was not about to kill the goose that for generations had laid golden eggs for her family.

Filipinos who truly want to see this happen cannot simply remain seated with their fingers crossed hoping that somehow Filipino politicians will vote it into law.

There is no groundswell of support for an anti-dynasty law at this time. That has to be created. Ordinary Filipinos have to be made to realize that it is in their best interest to end political dynasties. It is also in their children’s best interest; as well as their country’s best interest.

Only when a groundswell exists will politicians be forced to support it. At that point, legislators will realize that not supporting the mass movement will be the equivalent of political suicide.

So, those who want to see an end to the power of the clans have their work cut out for them. In six months the Con-Com will submit their recommendations to the president who will then send it to congress to be vote on. At that point, the clamor for an end to political dynasties must be loud and forceful, with the majority of Filipinos demanding change. Anything short of that and the country will likely see a repeat of 1987 … and political dynasties remaining in control for the foreseeable future.Published 4/10/2018

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