Opinion: How to End Political Dynasties

Vice President Jejomar Binay (second from left) and Senator Nancy Binay (center) (Source: nancybinay.net)

In a civilized society, the citizenry relies on laws to govern human behavior and to protect them from abuse by those in power. The evils of economic monopolies are checked by the existence of anti-trust or restraint of trade laws.

Statutes and administrative regulations expressly prohibit the appointment by certain public officials of relatives either by affinity or by consanguinity within certain degrees, or nepotism. This prohibition seeks to prevent the concentration of power among relatives as well as to avoid conflicts of interest at the expense of public welfare. Cronyism as a practice between and among close friends both in government and business is frowned upon for similar reasons.

So it was not surprising when men and women appointed by then-revolutionary President Cory Aquino included in the new Constitution, as ratified by the Filipino people, a provision prohibiting political dynasties. Unfortunately, either by design (meaning, avoidance of responsibility) or through negligence, they left it to the legislature to define political dynasty. Of course, for 27 years after it was called upon to pass an enabling law, Congress has refused to do it. 

People’s Initiative is what former Supreme Court Chief Justice Art Panganiban defines as the ‘ultimate weapon of the people to negate government malfeasance and misfeasance …’

How hard is it to define terms like “political dynasty”? There are actually primary sources such as nepotism laws and even secondary ones that Black’s Law Dictionary to refers to.  The obvious reason for Congress’ inaction: Passing enabling legislation to ban dynasties would conflict with the interest of many of its members. They cannot afford to risk losing the built-in political and economic powers that they currently enjoy.

According to electoral records and a data analysis made by GMA News Research, there are many political families that have held on to a post either as congressman, mayor or governor for at least two decades, uninterrupted. The same research finds that “when their scions’ fresh terms end in 2016, at least 55 political families will have each controlled an elective post for 20 to 40 years straight.”

In one town in Ilocos Norte, one political clan will have governed it for 43 uninterrupted years by 2016.  

(L-R) Senator Jinggoy Estrada, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Senator JV Ejercito (Source: rappler.com)

GMA News Research also reports that at least nine political families will each have held a post for more than 30 years uninterrupted; and 45 other political clans will have similarly ruled for more than 20 years straight by 2016.  

This has to stop! The Cory Constitution is quite clear and states in no uncertain terms, “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” (Section 26 of Article II).

People’s Initiative

Since Congress cannot be expected to pass the enabling law, another Constitutional provision can be used to do it. Fortunately, the people can directly exercise legislative powers as provided under Sections 1 and 32, Article VI of the Philippine Constitution.  With 10 percent of the registered voters nationally (5.2M est.) including at least 3 percent (4,500 est.) per congressional district signing a petition, the enabling law could be passed.

A new law now allows overseas Filipinos to vote on plebiscites, referenda and initiatives.  So this campaign could unite Filipinos abroad and encourage them to register and participate actively. Their signatures can be counted toward the 10 percent requirement.

(L-R) Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos, Senator Bongbong Marcos, Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Romualdez Marcos and Irene Marcos Araneta (Source: icij.org)

People’s Initiative is what former Supreme Court Chief Justice Art Panganiban defines as the “ultimate weapon of the people to negate government malfeasance and misfeasance … a democratic method of enabling our people to express their will and chart their history. Initiative is an alternative to bloody revolution, internal chaos and civil strife. It is an inherent right of the people—as basic as the right to elect, the right to self-determination and the right to individual liberties.”                        

I consider it People Power without going to the streets, using the pen as a weapon. It could be a way for the sovereign people to take back some of the powers that they delegated to public officials and government agencies.


I suggest the following definition:

“Political dynasty shall exist when a person who is the spouse of an incumbent elective official or relative within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity of an incumbent elective official holds or runs for an elective office, whether national or local, simultaneously with the incumbent elective official immediately after the term of office of the incumbent official. It shall also be deemed to exist where two (2) or more persons who are spouses or are related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity run simultaneously for elective public office.”

A “spouse” refers to the legal and common-law wife or husband of the incumbent elective official.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu and his brother, Congressman Zajid "Dong" Mangudadatu (Source: Minda News)

“Within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity” refers to the relatives of a person who may be the latter’s brother or sister, whether of full blood or half-blood, direct ascendant or direct descendant, whether legitimate, illegitimate or adopted, including their spouses. It further refers to grandparents, grandchildren, uncles and aunts, first cousins, nephews and nieces, including their spouses, of the referred person.”

“Running for an elective office” is deemed to commence upon the filing of the certificate of candidacy by a candidate with the COMELEC. 

“Holding an elective office” is deemed to commence from the moment the public official takes his oath of office.

Current prohibition regarding the appointment of spouses and relatives to certain positions in government goes as far as fourth civil degree, so this proposal is a more liberal provision.  Nepotism as provided for in Section 13, Article VII is also a constitutional mandate except that it is specifically defined.  

Senator Bam Aquino and Kris Aquino (Sources: official photo of Senator Bam Aquino and mb.com.ph)

This battle against political dynasty is what I consider fighting a good fight.   If won before 2016, it could result in some undesirable consequences for many prominent political families. Let me cite some examples:

  1. With the election of Bam Aquino as senator for a term of six (6) years, first cousin Kris Aquino will not be able to run for any position in 2016. So with cousin Len-Len Aquino Oreta, who ran unopposed as mayor in Malabon; uncle Henry Cojuangco, who is a congressman; and another cousin Kit, who was elected vice-governor in Tarlac.
  2. With the election of Nancy Binay as senator for a term of six (6) years, her father vice president Jojo Binay will not be able to run for any position including the presidency in 2016.  So with sister Congresswoman Abby Binay; and brother Makati Mayor Junjun Binay. VP Jojo Binay can still run for president if Senator Nancy Binay resigns. The mayor and congresswoman will be ineligible to run.
  3. Senator Bongbong Marcos is due for reelection in 2016. So are Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imelda Romualdez Marcos; Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos; Leyte Congressman Ferdinand Romualdez;  Tacloban Mayor Alfred Romualdez; and Alfred’s councilor-wife Cristina. The Anti-Dynasty Law would allow only ONE (1) of them to run.
  4. With the reelection of Senator Alan Cayetano for another six-year term, current Senator Pia Cayetano will be disqualified from running for any position in 2016.  Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano will likewise be disqualified to run in 2016.
  5. Senator JV Ejercito Estrada also got elected for a new term of six (6) years. This would disqualify former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada and current Senator Jinggoy Estrada from running for any position in 2016. So with San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez and Laguna Governor ER Ejercito.
  6. In Maguindanao, the Mangudadatu clan has Toto Mangudadatu as governor; his brother Dong as congressman; and another brother Toy as Autonomous Region assemblyman. The clan also boasts four new mayors and a couple of vice mayors within its ranks. The Anti-Dynasty law would prohibit all who are related to each other within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity except ONE. 

Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Pia Cayetano (Source: yahoo.com)

Of course, the data analysis of GMA News Research as described above would drastically change.

All these possible shocking changes should explain why the battle is no cakewalk or dance of the roses.  We expect these political overlords to protect and perpetuate their power and wealth, which they have enjoyed for generations.  So, they will fight this to the end—from petition to actual referendum or plebiscite.  They have succeeded in stopping it in Congress so far. 

But we have the “ultimate weapon.”  The required investment is minimal but the rewards are great and the return is extremely high.  

Let us USE it!


Benjamin G. Maynigo

Benjamin G. Maynigo

Benjamin G. Maynigo is an international and cyber lawyer with an LL.B and LL.M; an educator with an M.A. in Human Resource Development; an IT CEO with M.B.A. background; community and trade association leader; lecturer/speaker/writer; political strategist; technology pioneer.