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De Lima, too, admits govt helplessness vs political dynasties

More than 70 members of the influential Ampatuan clan in Mindanao would be able to run in the May 2013 elections simply because of the absence of a law banning political dynasties in government, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday.   In a chance interview, De Lima said the government is helpless in stopping political dynasties from dominating elections without an enabling law.   Article II, Section 26 of the Constitution states that "[t]he State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law."   However, a law defining what a political dynasty is is needed to enable the particular provision of the Constitution.   "It boils down again on the issue of dynasty,” De Lima said. “In the absence of the law, it seems there is nothing we can do."   Several petitions have earlier been filed urging the Supreme Court to compel Congress to pass an enabling law against political dynasties and order the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to ban political clans for the meantime.   Last October 25, former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr. led a group of petitioners in asking the high court to compel Congress to finally craft an enabling law to address the matter.   "The clear intent of the framers of the Constitution is to prohibit political dynasties and it is the duty of Congress to define the same. Congress is given the discretion in defining political dynasty but not the discretion on when to enact the same," the petitioners said.   Another petitioner, Louis "Barok" Biraogo, shared the same sentiment, saying the "spirit" and "intent" of the particular provision of the Constitution, instead of its letters, should prevail even without the backing of a law defining what a political dynasty is.   Biraogo said the list of candidates for national and local government posts in the upcoming May 2013 elections "is the best testament to the mockery Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution has been subjected to in the hands of political dynasties."   Dynasties   Among the so-called political dynasties he cited in his petition was the clan of President Benigno Aquino III, whose cousin Benigno Aquino IV and aunt former Tarlac Gov. Margarita are both running for senator.   Biraogo also cited the clan of Vice President Jejomar Binay, whose son, incumbent Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay, is running for re-election, and daughters, Abigail and Nancy, are running for congresswoman and senator, respectively.   Other families he cited are those of former President Joseph Estrada, Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Sen. Alan and Pia Cayetano, Sen. Manuel Villar, Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao, the Jalosjos in Zamboanga provinces, the Dutertes in Davao, and the Plazas in Agusan.   Up to the voters   De Lima said that in the absence of a law against political dynasties, it would be up to the voters to scrutinize the best candidates for public office.   She also said she cannot blame different sectors calling for the creation of an enabling law against political dynasties.   "Matagal nang nasa Konstitusiyon iyan. Matagal nang hinihintay ang batas na iyan pero walang nangyayari," she said.   The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism earlier reported that at least 72 candidates are running for the 2013 elections carrying the surname or middle name of Ampatuan.   Of that number, 39 are reportedly running under the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) while nine are under President Aquino's Liberal Party.   Prominent members of the Ampatuan clan currently stand accused for multiple counts of murder, in connection with the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre in Barangay Salman in Ampatuan town, in which 57 people were killed while one was missing.    Thirty-two of the victims are media workers who were supposed to cover the filing of candidacy for then-gubernatorial candidate Esmael Mangudadatu. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News