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Local Officials, You Are Only Temporary Stewards of the Lands You Govern

nterior Secretary Mar Roxas got it exactly right when he told Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, “you don’t own Makati City.” Roxas was referring to the mayor’s initial refusal to accept the suspension order from the Office of the Ombudsman in connection the ongoing corruption investigation against the mayor. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima chimed in as well, pointing out that “No public official can treat any local government unit as his own kingdom and government office as a royal entitlement.”

While Roxas and de Lima were referring to a specific issue involving the Makati mayor, we believe those statements also touch the broader issue of the way Filipino public officials perceive their elected posts. Following in the footsteps of former president Ferdinand Marcos—the father of all corrupt public officials who refused to relinquish power, many public officials today treat political office.

Article X of the 1986 Philippine Constitution clearly states that “the term of office of elective local officials, except for barangay (village) officials, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.” However, wily local officials discovered a way to skirt the term-limit provision by having their spouses, sons or daughters run for a single term. That single term gives a term-limited local official the needed “break in service” that will allow them to run for another three terms in office. The process can be repeated ad-infinitum thus keeping province city or municipality in the hands of one family forever. This clearly violates the spirit of the term-limit law and must be stopped. From Jejomar Binay and family, or Rodrigo Duterte and family who’ve held on to the cities of Makati and Davao respectively, to the Ampatuan clan who control vast regions of Maguindano.

Until the country finally passes an Anti-dynasty law or any other law to address this problem, we suggest that language be added to the swearing-in ceremony of all local Stop local officials from making a mockery of the country's term- limits lawofficials stating that they recognize that their position is only temporary and that the city, municipality or province they were elected to manage is not a personal fiefdom of theirs or their family. And so they must recognize that they are only temporary stewards the lands they are about to govern.

This is by no means the final solution to the problem but a step in the right direction. Because what better time to remind local officials of the transitory nature of their office then at their swearing-in ceremony itself.

If you agree with us that this is a good “first step” that strengthens the term-limits provision as mandated by the Philippine Constitution, then sign our petition to add your voice to the clamor for a better tomorrow. Published 7/3/2015

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