By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star
Speaking at the 5th Filipino Entrepreneurship Summit at the World Trade Center in Pasay City, Santiago called members of political dynasties “stationary bandits,” “gluttons for power and privilege,” “the equivalent of Mafia crime families” and “monopolies and combinations in restraint of opportunities for others.”
“Some dynasties have ruled for eight years, some for 20 years, and some for the incredible period of 30 years. They have carved out a monopoly for themselves, as if only their families are qualified for public office. Some are even running for the Senate,” she said, urging the public not to vote for them in the coming elections.
Santiago said the proliferation of political dynasties is a result of the 13 years of deliberate inaction by legislators on anti-political dynasty bills.
In the Senate alone, Santiago said 80 percent or 18 of the current 23 senators are members of political families, while in the party-list system, 91 percent or 52 seats are held by millionaires and multimillionaires.
Of the country’s 80 provinces, 94 percent or 73 have political dynasties, she added.
While the Constitution prohibits political dynasties, Santiago said Congress has failed to pass an implementing law.
“The Constitution is written in stone. And yet Congress deliberately and willfully refuses to pass a law. Each member of Congress took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Why are we rewarding instead of punishing them?” she said.
But as she delivered a litany on political dynasties, Santiago spared former Las Piñas Rep. Cynthia Villar from her attacks.
She said Villar, who is seeking a Senate seat, is different from the other candidates because her breed also comes from successful female entrepreneurs.
Villar’s husband Manuel is on his last term as senator while her son Mark is the congressman of Las Piñas.
Family of public servants
For his part, presidential cousin and Team PNoy senatorial candidate Bam Aquino yesterday said the Aquinos are not trying to build a political dynasty.
“We are a family with a history of public service. I don’t think we are a family that protected a territory or business interest,” he said in a television interview.
He said President Aquino did not recruit him into Team PNoy but that the administration coalition’s selection committee endorsed him to be part of its senatorial slate.
He said the selection process took four months – from June to September last year. “I didn’t know until September that I was chosen to be part of the ticket,” he said.
He admitted though that he, his family and his supporters once met with the President to seek his support for his senatorial candidacy.
“He asked me if I was serious and told me that life in public service is difficult. I told him I’m serious,” he recalled.
Aquino said he believes that his slow rise in surveys is due more to his track record as a community worker and a supporter of small entrepreneurs than to his surname.
“What about Nancy Binay (a United Nationalist Alliance senatorial candidate), who, for most of her adult life, has worked as an assistant to her father or mother and who is doing well in surveys?” he was asked.
“I think that’s due to name recall,” he shot back.
He said voters should examine the track record and qualifications of candidates instead of their names.
He admitted to having so far spent “obviously, millions” for his senatorial candidacy, and these came from his family, friends and contributors.
He said his cousin and presidential sister Kris Aquino is “helping out” in his campaign.
Meanwhile, Santiago also emphasized the need for the Philippines to achieve gender equality in the coming May elections.
Six out of 12 senators should be female and in 2016, the country should have a female president, to correct 15 years of male presidents, Santiago said.
Santiago said that gender equality dictates that government positions should be divided equally between men and women. – With Jess Diaz