The Philippine Constitution under Article II; Declaration of Principles and State Policies, Section 26 states that:
“The state shall guarantee equal access of opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
The Philippine Congress since the ratification of the 1987 Philippine Constitution has failed to pass a law defining and penalizing dynastic politicians. The late Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago has been very vocal about this constitutional provision to prohibit political dynasty which led her to file two versions of the Anti-Political Dynasty Bill in the 16th Congress: Senate Bill No. 55 was filed last 2013 of July and the second version was Senate Bill No. 158, filed in September of the same year, which aims to expand the prohibition up to the national government level. However, none of these were given importance and priority. The late Senator Santiago believed and stressed out that the Congress would continue to refuse the bill as they are from the families of political dynasty.
According to Jose N. Noledo, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission during the plenary session explained the danger of political dynasties, “it is constructed social maladies that have limited if not obstructed the opportunities of young, talented but poor candidates to climb the political ladder.” He said that political dynasty will spawn graft and corruption as political positions are the object of family inheritance. A study conducted by the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) reveals that 29% of all the local posts are under a political dynasty which grows about 1% or 170 positions every election period since 1988.
Now with that insight, let us take a quick peek of the Political Dynasties in Negros Oriental;
The Political families that once governed the province were the Macias, Perdices, and Teves clan, but the seating Governor is currently Roel Degamo with his Vice-Governor, Dr. Macias. The wife of Governor Roel Degamo, Janice Degamo is also the Municipal Mayor in the town of Pamplona. The Teveses on the other hand, up to now still dominate some parts of Negros Oriental politically like Bayawan City and the Municipality of Valencia. The representatives in the third district of Negros Oriental, from the 8th to 18th Congress are all from the Teves family namely: Margarito Teves (1998-2001), Pryde Teves (2007-2016), and Arnulfo Teves Jr. (2016-2022). On the upcoming 2022 Elections, incumbent Bayawan City Mayor Pryde Teves seeks a gubernatorial seat; however Rep. Arnulfo Teves Jr. is seeking another three-year term as the third district representative.
The City of Canlaon used to be dominated by the Bautistas but was dethroned by the new dynasty of the Clerigos and Cardenas. The current City Mayor is Jose Chubasco Cardenas and his relative, Corrbari Cardenas is a City Councilor. The incumbent Vice-Mayor is Jimmy Clerigo, who is also the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlungsod. The barangay captain of Brgy. Mabigo in Canlaon City is Joel Clerigo, also the brother of Vice-Mayor Jimmy Clerigo. Additionally, Dominique Clerigo is a City Councilor and a member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod together with her cousin Mark Iolo Clerigo, the Sanguniang Kabataan Federation President.
In Guihulngan City, politics was once controlled by Macaluas and the Paras but was defeated and replaced by the Reyes clan. Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes is the incumbent City Mayor with his father, Ernesto Reyes as the Vice-Mayor. The mayor has brothers who also served in the local positions: Filomino Reyes, who is serving his third term (2013- 2022) as a City Councilor, and Jake Reyes, 1st district board member in the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The daughter of the Mayor - Eunica Reyes is also a City Councilor who replaced Jessica Villarmente when she resigned from her position in 2020. For the upcoming 2022 elections, Carlo Jorge Joan Reyes will be running for vice-gubernatorial seat for the province of Negros Oriental. Alternately, Filomino Reyes will be seeking for a mayoral seat with his niece, Eunica Reyes as the running vice-mayor. On the other hand, Jake Reyes seeks for reelection as a Board Member in the 1st District, and their father Ernesto Reyes will be running for City Councilor.
The Dionaldos of the “Little Big Town” of Jimalalud has been replaced by Tuandas. The incumbent mayor is Reynaldo V. Tuanda and during the 2019 elections her daughter, Hazel Tuanda-Billones ran as Vice-Mayor but was defeated by Dante Zamora. On 2022 elections, the three Tuandas are again running for office: Reynaldo Tuanda seeks vice-mayoral seat, Hazel Tuanda will be running for mayoral seat, and Reynaldo Tuanda Jr. as Municipal Councilor.
The Baldados in Manjuyod left the municipal local positions but Petit Baldado moved up to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as a Board Member in the second district; the same with the Yaps in Bindoy where Valente Yap is one of the board members in the first district; the dynasty of Camero and Laguda of Lalibertad has been demolished but replaced by a new dynasty of Limkaichongs as their incumbent Mayor is Emmanuel Limkaichong-Iway with his Vice-Mayor, Lawrence Limkaichong and the 1st District Representative in Congress is Jocelyn Limkaichong; the Ibar-Teves Family of Tanjay has stepped down in power; while the Dela Cruz Family of Amlan has been defeated utterly.
Political dynasty is so prevalent in Philippine Politics.
We cannot stop this kind of practice if Congress will not pass a law defining political dynasty as the provision in the Constitution is not self-executory thus, it requires an enabling law, though Republic Act No. 10742 or the SK Reform Law, Section 10. Qualifications, clearly states that “must not be related within the second civil degree of consanguinity or affinity to any incumbent elected national official, or to any incumbent elected regional, provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official, in the locality where she/he seeks to be elected;” The said law is only applicable to the SK level and not to the other government elective positions. The new SK Reform Law proves that we can actually give teeth to the constitution through legislation— still a victory to the people yet Congress has a lot of things to be done to genuinely guarantee equal opportunities for all the Filipinos.
If we examine our attempt to identify political dynasty in Negros Oriental, bridging the relationship between the economy and politics, we could come up to a common conclusion that those who control politics, control the economy. There are some decisions and policies made more generous to their respective businesses, properties, and assets. According to the Ateneo School of Government (ASoG) in their study about political dynasty, it shows that this practice weakens the checks-and-balances in our democracy. The problem is also rooted to the voters’ behavior because the way we elect is not based on platforms, ideologies, principles or track records, but rather on personalities, political and economic domination, and our debt of gratitude to a certain family who attended a special occasion of ours like wedding, burial, birthday parties, etc.
However, to take into account, some political dynasties are also good leaders but as long as the prohibition is in our fundamental law, one must obey and follow it, for the Constitution has always and will always be supreme. After all, the decision should be coming from the votes of the Filipino people as this is the true essence of democracy. Our votes navigate a better and greater Philippines. This coming 2022 elections, are we electing the same family name who’s been giving us generous and great familiar services or are we up to electing new leaders who might offer a different brand of leadership?