Section 26, Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.” Even without this constitutional provision, most of us would probably agree that dynasties are inimical to our democracy and the common good. An Anarchy of Families, a 1994 collection of essays edited by Alfred McCoy (published by the Ateneo de Manila University Press), is now a classic which I would highly recommend as holiday reading (also re-reading) to anyone interested in Philippine history and politics. What may be the subject of debate, however, would be the degree of relationship and the extent of the disqualification in terms of space (geographical constituency) and time (simultaneously or succeedingly) that should be proscribed by anti-dynasty legislation.
The framers of the 1987 Constitution wisely left it to congress to define these terms, as the need may vary from time to time. Thus, understandably, in an online study published by the Ateneo School of Government (spearheaded by its Dean, Dr. Ronald Mendoza), “political dynasty” is simply members of the same family (identified by the same “family name”) holding elective office: “Thin dynasties” are those where the relatives succeed each other in office (sunod-sunod); while “fat dynasties” are those where members of the same family hold various elective offices simultaneously (sabay-sabay). Interestingly, the same study found that, at present, 80% of Governors, 68% of Vice-Governors, and 67% of Congressmen belong to “fat dynasties” (From Fat to Obese: Political Dynasties after the 2019 Midterm Elections, Ateneo School of Government Working Paper Series, September 2019).
It is a testimony to the difficulty of implementing the constitutional intent that, apart from the term limits existing under the present state of our legal system, the only “anti-dynasty” legislation so far has been the 2015 prohibition on the election or appointment as Sangguniang Kabataan official of one “related within the second civil degree (i.e., as spouse, offspring or sibling) 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 he or she seeks to be elected” (Sec. 10, RA 10742).
All this is not to demean the Family. Indeed, Section 12 of the same Article II of the 1987 Constitution provides: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution…”
Obviously, the important point about Family here is its being “autonomous”, i.e., “separate and distinct” from government (and from the total collective, from the State, from society as a whole). What the anti-dynasty policy of Section 26 seeks to prevent is the possibility of one or a few families (as in a monarchy or oligarchy) controlling government. Protecting the family pursuant to Section 12 means, on the other hand, public policies that strengthen the marriage bond, recognition of the primary right and duty of parents to raise and educate their children (as opposed to excessive interference by the State), etc.
Christmas is about the Incarnation: God becoming Man to redeem mankind. And it is fitting that the Sunday in the octave of Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (it is celebrated on December 30 when there is no Sunday between December 25 and January 1)—an invitation, as it were, to revisit Catholic doctrine on the Family. Here is an excerpt from the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“A man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family. This institution is prior to any recognition by public authority, which has an obligation to recognize it. It should be considered the normal reference point by which the different forms of family relationship are to be evaluated…. The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.” (CCC, No. 2202-2207)
St. Josemaria writes: “In order to draw close to God, we must take the right road, which is the Sacred Humanity of Christ” (Friends of God, No. 299).
God became man so that we could become His in Christ, by imitating Christ, and collaborating with Him in the work of Redemption; in the case of the vast majority of Christians who are laypeople, “by engaging in temporal affairs and by ordering them according to the plan of God” (Lumen Gentium, No. 31). Not the least of these “temporal affairs” is Family life. Indeed, the first human reality Jesus Christ sanctified was the Family.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of the Family, and Saint Joseph, her spouse, help us to grow in the likeness of Jesus, her Son, “perfect God and perfect Man”.
A blessed Christmas season and new year to everyone! (22.XII.2020)