Category Archives: Political dynasties

Special treatment for Bam and Sonny

In a commentary entitled “Anti-dynasty as irony”, lawyer Oscar Franklin Tan extols the personal virtues of senatorial candidates Bam Aquino and Sonny Angara, and rues media reports that “increasingly cast Bam as the President’s cousin instead of a social entrepreneur and youth leader, or Sonny as Ed Angara’s son instead of a veteran lawmaker.”

Regardless of their accomplishments, is it not what they are?

Tan says “the stereotyping has become so ironic that were their surnames less storied, we would uniformly tout Bam and Sonny as the fresh young faces to watch in the next Senate.”

If not for their “storied” surnames, would they have a chance at winning in Monday’s elections?

Bam and Sonny not the only talented candidates – there are many more who are more talented and more accomplished than they, whose chances of winning basically depends on divine intervention because they have “surnames less storied” than “Aquino” or “Angara”.

Tan claims that the Constitution outlaws political dynasties, never mind the plain language of Article II (Declaration of Principles and State Policies), Section 26 : “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” He argues that “the key words are ‘equal access’ and the true goal is to one day see the talented son of a farmer or a fisherman credibly seek public office alongside an equally talented Aquino or Angara.”

The “key words” of “equal access” cannot be separated from the prohibition against political dynasties. They go together. As I emphasized in a newspaper article,

“the context and object sought to be accomplished by the Constitution is clear: the state guarantee of equal access to opportunities for public service and prohibition of political dynasties are not merely general principles but self-executing provisions… x-x-x … the Constitution prohibits political dynasties; it does not delegate this matter to Congress. Congress’ failure or refusal to define what political dynasties are does not invalidate nor indefinitely suspend the Constitution’s express prohibition of the same; to say otherwise will make this state guarantee useless.”

It is clear that Tan is endorsing the candidacies of Bam and Sonny. Since he is a lawyer, it appears that he wants to give his endorsement a logical and legal character. But if you strip away all the flowery words you will see that what he really wants to say is that while Bam and Sonny are dynasts, they are “good” dynasts – so they should be exempted from the campaign against political dynasties.

And so the entire article can be summarized in five words: “The end justifies the means”.

Not all the time, and certainly not in this instance.

Tan says he teaches constitutional law. Looks like he forgot about one provision of the Philippine Constitution: the Equal Protection Clause (Article III, Section 1) which essentially provides that “no person or class of persons shall be deprived of the same protection of laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in the same place and in like circumstances.”

And so the guaranty of the equal protection of the laws is not violated by a legislation based on a reasonable classification; the equal protection clause, does not preclude classification of individuals who may be accorded different treatment under the law as long as the classification is reasonable and not arbitrary.

Are Bam and Sonny, along with any other “good” dynasts, entitled to different treatment? Is classifying them as “good” dynasts reasonable and not arbitrary?

Laws are supposed to apply to all – especially the Philippine Constitution which clearly prohibits all political dynasties without distinction.

Just to be clear, this post is not a campaign against the candidacies of Bam and Sonny. It is about leveling the playing field, which is what the Equal Protection Clause is about.

A lawyer teaching Constitutional Law who conveniently forgets about the Equal Protection Clause – how ironic.