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‘Incoming Duterte Youth congressman’

The Commission on Elections has yet to proclaim the winners of the party list elections and his petition to substitute “resigned” nominees has yet to be decided on, Duterte Youth chairperson Ronald Cardema has already claimed he is an “incoming congressman” in the House of Representatives.

Cartoon by Mrk Suva/Kodao

Winalanghiyang halalan

Nagmamalinis at nagmamang-maangan ang Commission on Elections sa chorva nitong ang mga palyadong marker, SD card, vote counting machine at maging ang transparency server ang pangunahing dapat sisihin sa pinaka-palpak na automated elections nitong dekada.

Akala malamang nina Commissioner Rowena Guanzon na sa pamamagitan ng pagbabantang huwag nang bayaran ang mga supplier ng marker at SD card ay sa mga ito mababaling ang sisi sa mga kapalpakan noong Lunes.

Sa totoo lang, matagal nang palpak ang Comelec at kung sinuman ang nagdesisyong maaring kumandidato sa party list elections ang mga pekeng marhinalisado. (Sino-sino sila? Ito pa. At ito pa.) Walang kakibo-kibo ang mga opisyal ng Komisyon sa kawalanghiyaan ng mga nominado ng mga pekeng partylist. Kasabwat na silang malinaw nito sa panloloko sa taumbayan.

Wala ring halos narinig mula sa Comelec sa lantarang paglabag sa lahat ng panuntunan hinggil sa tamang paggasta sa eleksiyon, patalastas, paglalagay ng poster at maging sa mga sukat nito, pangunahin ng mga kandidato ng administrasyon. Bulag, bingi’t pipi sila o kasabwat na rin sila sa kawalanghiyaang naganap sa buong panahon ng kampanyahan at halalan.

Sa araw mismo ng halalan, hindi mabilang ang ulat ng vote-buying, pangangampanya sa mga presinto at iba pang porma ng dayaan. Sa Lanao del Sur, bugbugan at barilan pa rin ang uso. Maging ang pulisya at militar ay aktibo rin sa pangangampanya sa mga ayaw nilang manalo. Hindi rin kumikibo ang Comelec sa mga ito.

Paanong hindi iisiping kasabwat ang Comelec sa kawalanghiyaan sa halalan, samantalang hindi ito pumayag sa anumang panukala na ipakita nila ang source code ng automated election system. Hindi rin ito tumutugon sa rekwes ng Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) na silipin ang programang ito kung nagtutugma ba ang mga numero sa main server at sa transparency server. Ano ba talaga ang nangyari sa pitong oras na patay ang transparency server? Kung walang itinatago, bakit hindi ipakita sa PPCRV, Namfrel, Kontra-Daya at iba pang poll watchdog?

Tatanggapin na lamang ba ng taumbayan na walang kasalanan ang mga opisyal ng Comelec sa lahat ng ito? Kapag sinabi ba ng mga komisyoner na tayo’y bulag na magtiwala at sila na ang bahala ay ayos na ang lahat? Ano ang gagawin ng Comelec sa malinaw na paglabag sa paggasta ng karamihan ng mga nangungunang kandidato sa pagka-senador at party list?

Tama naman si Komisyuner Guanzon na kaduda-duda na ang resulta ng halalan noong Lunes. Pero hindi ba dapat ang unang hinala ay sa
sa mga walanghiyang politiko at sa Comelec mismo? #

Black propaganda ng PNP sa halalan

“Mali. Kasagsagan pa lang ng eleksiyon, gumagawa na sila ng black propaganda para wala nang bumoto sa partido namin.”–Teodora Tañola, Bayan Muna member.

Business League: Congress of the Elite

By Yvette Balita, Joshua Poe Cadano, Dana Eunise Cruz and Arjay Ivan Gorospe

(Part three of three)

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

[Read the second part here: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise]

While the Party-list System Act of 1995 aims to represent and enable marginalized and underrepresented sectors, multi-millionaires and billionaires remain to be the dominant members of the House of Representatives.

There have been instances where the party-list system had been used by the elite to further their business interests by taking advantage of national and local expenditures, as was the case in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

From the 15th to the 17th Congress, Christopher Co of Ako Bicol  (AKB) and Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. of Buhay party-list have consistently been part of the richest party-list representatives. The representatives have net worths of P104.4 million and P52.4 million respectively, according to their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017.

Other rich lawmakers from the past decade are Virgilio Lacson of Manila Teachers, Milagros Aquino-Magsaysay of Senior Citizen, Jesulito Manalo of Angkla, Michael Romero of 1-PACMAN, and Emmeline Aglipay-Villar of Diwa.

Conflict of interest?

Co, owner of Hi-Tone Construction and Development, has been in the top 10 list of richest party-list representatives from 2010 up to present. He is also the brother of Elizaldy Co, the head of the transnational group Sunwest Group of Companies, Tektone Global Technologies Foundation, commercial hub Embarcadero de Legazpi, and other construction firms, malls and resorts.

His net worth from 16th to 17th Congress surged by P8,731,517, and P8,008,565 from 15th to the 16th. He was investigated, along with other district representatives in 2014, due to conflicting business interests in the projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The House committee on good government and accountability then investigated the release of at least P10.2 billion of the P69.7-billion congressional insertions spent in the last months of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The DPWH expended the infrastructure funds to 1,074 projects despite having no revenues, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said during the hearing, adding that it is against the General Appropriations Act.

In the probe of the House committee, it turned out that the company of Co was among the top 10 contractors involved. The late Rep. Rodel Batocabe, his party mate, questioned the House committee probe to defend him.

Due to Ako Bicol’s business interests, members of the Confederation for the Unity, Recognition, and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), a member-organization of poll watchdog Kontra Daya, filed a disqualification case against the party-list group in 2010. In an ABS-CBN news report, Ako Bicol admitted being funded by the Delfin A. Co Foundation which shouldered the group’s development projects and scholarship programs.

The petitioners also traced that the employment provided to thousands of Bicolanos were from Co’s Tektone Foundation. “Both Elizaldy and Christopher are wealthy magnates in Bicol and the Philippines and they together, cannot represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors,” the petition says. In addition, the family of Co has close links to Arroyo.

In the same year, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) dismissed the petition against Ako Bicol since it had to uphold the will of the electorate after the party-list group obtained the most number of votes. But in 2012, Comelec disqualified Ako Bicol for the 16th Congress. Then Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes said that the group is a registered political party, not a marginalized people’s representative.

However, the Supreme Court released new parameters or guidelines for the party-list elections in 2013. It states that national parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector. As a result, Comelec allowed Ako Bicol to run.

Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. is another lawmaker who joins Co in the top 10 list of multi-millionaire party-list representatives from 2010 to present. His father, Bro. Mike Velarde, is preacher and owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation.

In 2010, Kontra Daya asked Comelec to investigate 40 party-list groups which do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Even if Velarde is one of those listed, he was still able to run under Buhay Party-list.

Re-electionists

Other partylist representatives in the top 10 list of millionaires in congress include Michael Romero, Jesulito Manalo, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, Virgilio Lacson, and Milagros Magsaysay. These candidates were all elected during the 16th congress and re-elected in the 17th congress.

Richest Party-list Representatives of the 17th Congress

Name Partylist Networth Business Association Business-related bills forwarded
1) Michael Romero 1-PACMAN, 7,291,000,000.00 Globalport 900 Inc. GlobalPort Batang Pier (PBL team) 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Position Harbour Center Port Terminal Inc. Mikro-Tech Capital Inc. Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc. R-II Holdings, Inc. MIC Holdings Corp. R-II Builders, Inc. enactment of House Bill (HB) 159 seeking to strengthen the right of government to expropriate lands for socialized housing
2) Emmeline Aglipay-Villar DIWA 1,407,459,436.00 Vista Land and Lifescapes Authored HB 04805, also known as An act mandating the Department of Agriculture to promote urban agricultural development in the country’s metropolitan areas, to address food security, and providing funds therefor
3) Virgilio Lacson Manila Teachers 791,690,847.37 Manila Teachers’ Savings and Loan Association He authored several bills on banking and finance including HB 08453, An Act instituting reforms in real property valuation and assessment in the philippines, reorganizing the bureau of local government finance, and appropriating funds therefor
4) Jesulito Manalo ANGKLA 118,639,794.00 He is one of the founders of Manalo and Perez Law Offices.  
5) Christopher Co AKO Bicol; 15th – 17th 104,440,082.50   CEO of Sunwest Group of Companies  
6) Milagros Magsaysay Senior Citizen 95,100,000.00 She is related to Ramon Magsaysay, the 7th President of the Philippines. She is also the grandmother of Miguel Corleon Magsaysay, a councilor in San Juan, La Union.    
7) Enrico Pineda 1 PACMAN 85,5000,000.00 Manny Pacquiao’s business manager; team manager of Pacquiao’s PBA team Mahindra Enforcer. He authored HB04054 which seeks to provide tax incentives to individuals and corporations giving donations, contributions, and grants to filipino athletes who have won medals in the summer olympic games
8) Michaelina Antonio AGBIAG 80,350,815.22 Her husband was the Partylist’s former Representative  
9) Aniceto Bertiz III ACTS OFW, 17th Congress 54,265,000.00 Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc. He was involved in a heated discussion  with Eman Villanueva, a leader of OFWs in Hong Kong, after the latter brought up Bertiz’ recruitment agency.  He also authored HB 01302, an act establishing a special social security for migrant workers, which amends section 37-a of republic act no. 8042, on the compulsory insurance coverage by private insurers for agency hired workers.
10) Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. BUHAY 52,387,126.78 Son of Bro. Mike Velarde, the owner of Amvel Land Development Corporation. The other nominees of their party-list include William Irwin Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports. A resolution directing the committee on revision of laws to index the fines under the revised penal code to adjust to present level of inflationary rates

Controversies

The Priority Development Assistance Fund scam, also called the PDAF scam or the pork barrel scam exposed large sums allegedly misused by several members of the Congress and Senate.

Based on the 2013 annual audit report of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos released and posted on the Commission on Audit website, the following partylist representatives released part of the PDAF and Disbursement Acceleration Program allocations to alleged bogus foundations and suppliers:

Partylist RepresentativePartylistAmount
Daryl Grace AbayonAangat TayoP 44.8 million
Salvador Cabaluna IIII-CareP 37.5 million
Michael Angelo RiveraI-CareP 27.5 million
Mariano PiamonteA-TeacherP 20 million
Maximo RodriguezAbante Mindanao Inc.P 15.5 million
Raymond Democrito MendozaTUCPP 14 million
Abigail FerriolKalingaP 11.35 million
Angelo PalmonesAghamP 10 million
Ranulfo CanonigoKakusaP 10 million
Manuel AgyaoKalingaP 5.5 million
Sharon GarinAAMBIS OwaP 5 million
Mark Aeron SambarPL-PBAP 5 million
Neil Benedict MontejoAn-WarayP 5 millon
Homer Mercado1-UtakP 4.5 million
Isidro LicoAting KoopP 3 million
Ponciano PayuyoApecP 2 million

Indeed, there is evidence to prove that the party-list system has been hijacked by the rich and powerful. The Party-list System Act of 1995 which is supposed to make the House of Representatives truly representative has made it cruelly repressive. #

Party-list groups: Family Enterprise

(Part two of three)

By Enrico Berdos, Michelle Co, Ara Eugenio, Aimee Lontok, Edelino Mercene, Jr. and Angela Ng

[Read the first part here: Party-list (Mis)Representatives]

Political dynasties have secured their place in the House of Representatives in the last three administrations, occupying close to 55 percent of congressional seats.

Data from online news website Rappler and election watchdog Kontra-Daya show that 31 percent (18 out of 58) of party-list seats were occupied by members of political dynasties in 2015. A study by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center concluded that political dynasties occupied 25 percent of party-list seats (14 out of 56) in the 16th Congress. Meanwhile, out of 65 party-list seats in the 17th Congress, 22 were occupied by political dynasties, accounting for 33 percent.

According to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies, “a family that has successfully retained political power through maintaining control over at least one elective position over successive generations” can be placed in such a category. A political dynasty is established when a family member occupy different political positions simultaneously, or when a government official and his relative/s occupy an electoral position over the years.

In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that national and regional parties “do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector.”This made it easier for members of political dynasties to run as partylist representatives.

Big fish

Having several relatives in power allows political dynasties to exert control and distribute development in their political turfs.

Some party-list representatives belong to political clans whose relatives occupy several government positions in a province. For instance, Sharon Garin has served as representative of Ang Asosasyon Sang Mangunguma Nga Bisaya-Owa Mangunguma (AAMBIS-OWA) since the 15th Congress. Among her relatives in politics are her brother Rep. Richard Garin (1st District, Iloilo), sister Christine Garin (Iloilo vice-governor), mother Nimfa Garin (San Joaquin, Iloilo mayor), father Oscar Garin (Guimbal, Iloilo mayor), sister-in-law Janette Garin (former Health Secretary and former Rep. of the 1st District of Iloilo).

Similarly, Shernee Abubakar Tan, incumbent party-list representative of Kusug-Tausug, is a member of the Tan family of Sulu. She is the youngest daughter of former Sulu governor Abdusakur M. Tan and sister of incumbent Sulu governor Abdusakur Tan II and Maimbung Mayor Samier Tan. Her mother, Hadja Nurunisah Abubakar-Tan, is vice governor of Sulu.

In the case of Democratic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA) Rep. Emmeline Aglipay-Villar who has been in Congress since 2010, her link to a political dynasty is through her marriage to Mark Villar, current Public Works Secretary. This makes her a part of the Aguilar-Villar political clan of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa.

But despite the influence that these personalities wield, they know they cannot hold their political positions forever. They find a way to transfer it to their other relatives such as their children or siblings when their terms end.

Rigodon

The act of switching government posts among two politicians is known in the Philippines as political rigodon, named after a formal Spanish dance where two people exchange positions until the music stops.

Switching places as party-list representatives occur across first and second generation relatives, such as among siblings, among couples and among parents and children. Sometimes, the switch also involves siblings-in-law or children-in-law.

Party-list representatives are replaced by their relatives because an outgoing representative plans to run for a position in his or her province’s local government or because he or she has reached the three-term limit in Congress.

Nicanor Briones was Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (Agap) party-list representative for the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016). In 2016, he attempted to run as governor of Batangas but lost. His daughter Kathleen Briones tried to replace his place as party-list representative but was unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, Maximo Rodriguez, Jr., Abante Mindanao (ABAMIN) party-list representative of the 15th and 16th Congress (2010-2016) and current ABAMIN president, replaced his brother Rufus Rodriguez as Cagayan de Oro’s (CDO) 2nd district representative in 2016.

Rufus Rodriguez tried to run as CDO mayor in 2016 as he reached the three-term congressional limit, but lost to Oscar Cruz.

Maximo Rodriguez, Jr.’s wife, Mary Grace Rodriguez, is also currently running as a party-list representative for ABAMIN in the coming elections.

You Against Corruption and Poverty (YACAP) Rep. Benhur Lopez, Jr. replaced his sister Carol Jayne Lopez, who served during the 15th and 16th Congress.

Some political families also send two or more representatives to sector-oriented and regional/national-based party-list groups which means that they can replace outgoing relatives with other members of the family.

During the 2016 national elections, two of Kalinga party-list representative nominees, Kristen Michelle Ferriol and Arturo Ferriol failed to win seats alongside incumbent representative Abigail Ferriol-Pascual.

A family enterprise

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) Secretary-General Renato Reyes Jr., warned that political dynasties have an unfair advantage against other groups during the campaign period. “Bibitbitin na nila ‘yung mayor, governor, congressman – tapos party-list. So… Isang buhos na lang iyan. Tapos most likely, doon lang sila sa region nila kukuha ng boto, or in many cases nga namimili ng boto.”

“‘Pag nakita mo na kasi sila – silang magkakapamilya, that’s not a real party-list group, that’s a family enterprise,” Reyes said.

Anti-Dynasty Law: Failed Attempts

The Senate and the House of Representatives dropped the Anti-dynasty Bill in 2015, describing it as a “mere showpiece” and a “toothless measure” that strengthens instead of removes political dynasties.

House Bill No. 3587, which was up for second reading at the time, proposed that two members of a political dynasty be allowed to run for politics, while the Congress pushed for a third member to be allowed to run in the national and local polls simultaneously.

“There will be no Anti-dynasty Law. There’s no more time to consider and approve it,” former Senate President Franklin Drilon told ABS-CBN News Channel at the time. “Besides, many in Congress are against it. There’s strong opposition to it. That’s the reality of our politics.”

With research interests along the lines of legislative dynamics, executive-legislative relations, electoral politics, institutional reform and political economy, UP Diliman Political Science Assistant Professor Alicor Panao said that political dynasties are mere symptoms of a larger political dysfunction. “Our rules, electoral laws, push people to establish dynasties. When your legislator legislates, no one in his right mind would sign his own death warrant.”

Party-list groups are now used as a backdoor for candidates to perpetuate themselves in power, Panao added. The law only allows a three-term limit, and when a candidate reaches his outterm, this could be passed down to other members of the family.

Panao said such actions do not reflect on greediness, but mainly because of how the institution permits the continuation of making these families relevant to society. “If you’re out-termed, you’re toppled, it would be difficult to get back into the scene; there is a difficulty in name-recall, and such candidate will be out of circulation.” #

ANNEX

This table lists down all members of political dynasties in the party-list system who served during the 15th to 17th Congress (2010-2017):

Political
Clan
Province/ City Party-list Represen-
tative
Party-listCongressional
Term
AbayonSamarDaryl
Grace
Abayon
Aangat
Tayo (AT)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
AbayonSamarHarlin Neil Abayon Jr.Aangat Tayo
(AT)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Antonio Patricio
Antonio
Agbiag!
Timpuyo
Ilocano Inc.
(Agbiag)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Antonio Michaelina “Michelle” AntonioAgbiag! Timpuyo Ilocano Inc. (Agbiag)17th Congress
(2016-2019)
AtienzaManilaJose “Lito” Atienza, Jr.BUHAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Batocabe Rodel
Batocabe (+)
AKO BICOL15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
BelmonteQuezon
City
Ricardo
Belmonte
Serbisyo sa
Bayan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Chavez Cecilia
Chavez
Butil Farmers
Party (BUTIL)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Herrera-Dy BernadetteHerrera-DyBagong
Henerasyon
(BH)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Robert
Raymund
Estrella
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
EstrellaPangasi-
nan
Conrado M. Estrella IIIABONO16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
GarinIloiloSharon
Garin
AAMBIS-OWA15th Congress
(2010-2019)
Gatcha-lianValenzue-laWeslie
Gatchalian
Alay Buhay16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Haresco TeodoricoHaresco Jr.Kasangga sa
Kaunlaran Inc. (ANG KASANGGA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Haresco Jose
Ciceron
Lorenzo
Harenzo
Kasangga sa Kaunlaran Inc.
(ANG
KASANGGA)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
HatamanBasilanSitti
Turabin
-Hataman
AMIN16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Benhur
Lopez Jr.
You Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Lopez Carol Jayne LopezYou Against
Corruption and Poverty
(YACAP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
Macapa-
gal
-Arroyo
Pampa-
nga
Juan
Miguel
MacapagalArroyo
Ang Galing
Pinoy (AGP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
Magsay-
say
NationalEulogio
Magsaysay
AVE15th Congress
(2010-2013)
6th Congress
(2013-2016)
Magsay-
say
NationalMilagros
Aquino-
Magsaysay
Senior Citizens17th Congress
(2016-2019)
MendozaCotabatoRaymond
DemocritoMendoza
Trade Union Congress of the
Philippines
(TUCP)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Victoria
Noel
AN WARAY16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Noel Florencio NoelAN WARAY15th Congress
(2010-2013)
OrtegaLa UnionFrancisco
Emmanuel Ortega III
ABONO15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pangani-
ban
Pangasi-
nan
Jose
Pangani-
ban Jr.
Ang National
Coalition of
Indigenous
Peoples
Action Na!
Inc.
(ANAC-IP)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
Pizarro Catalina
Leonen
-Pizarro
Arts,
Business and
Science
(ABS)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
RodriguezCagayan
de Oro
Maximo
Rodriguez Jr.
Abante
Mindanao
(ABAMIN)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
16th Congress
(2013-2016)
SuarezQuezon
Province
Anne Marie Villeza
-Suarez
ALONA16th Congress
(2013-2016)
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
TanSuluShernee
Abubakar
Tan
KUSUG-
TAUSUG
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Lorna
Velasco
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
(AMA)
15th Congress
(2010-2013)
VelascoMarindu-
que
Trisha
Nicole
Velasco
-Catera
Ang Mata’y
Alagaan
17th Congress
(2016-2019)
VillarLas Piñas,Muntinlu-
pa
Emmeline
Aglipay
-Villar
Democra-
tic Independent Workers Association Inc. (DIWA)
15th Congress (2010-2013)
16th Congress (2013-2016)17th Congress (2016-2019)



Party-list (Mis)Representatives

By Kiana Cardeno, Nica Rhiana Hanopol, JM Casino, Ferdin Sanchez

(Part one of three)

The House of Representatives (HOR) is hardly representative.

In not so many words, a non-representative HOR is the reason for the enactment of the Party-list System Act in 1995 and the first party-list election held three years after. No less than the framers of the 1987 Constitution saw the need to establish a party-list system to ensure representation of the marginalized and underrepresented.

While its 2001 decision helped define what is meant by marginalized and underrepresented, the Supreme Court practically reversed itself 12 years later. On April 5, 2013, the highest court of the land decided that party-list groups do not need to represent any marginalized or underrepresented sector.

“In effect, anyone actually by that decision can join the party-list,” said Alicor Panao, a researcher on party-list systems and a political science professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

From two dominant parties in the 1950s, Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party, Republic Act (RA) 7941, or the Party-list System Act, sought to provide the broadest possible representation for the Filipino people, most especially the poor and marginalized.

Over the last decade, the trends of proportionality in the House of Representatives have favored regional and workers groups, holding the most number of seats.

At present, more than 40 of active party-lists are now seated in Congress supposedly on behalf of laborers, peasants, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.

Many of those claiming to represent these marginalized sectors do not belong to these sectors and are members of well-entrenched political dynasties and special interest groups. Some have been implicated in corruption investigations while others have been known to promote special business interests. They are among the 59 party-list representatives occupying seats in Congress today.

Contradicting Actions

Some party-list representatives have been exhibiting contradicting platforms and have backgrounds that oppose what their party supposedly stands for.

1-PACMAN, a party geared toward supporting “marginalized nationals,” is represented by Michael Romero, who is a high-profile industrialist with a net worth of P7.2 billion, according to his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017. He is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of several corporations such as Mikro-tech Capital, Inc, Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc., 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corp., Manila North Harbour Port, Inc., and GlobalPort 900 Inc. An author and co-author of 473 bills, only four of these may be classified as poverty alleviation.

Similar to Romero, Rep. Rico Geron of AGAP party-list is a multi-millionaire who claims to represent agricultural workers. He is the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in the country. In 2016, SIDC’s employees went on strike citing unjust labor policies like low pay and contractualization. That year, Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU) condemned the “anti-worker nature” of Geron and his party-list group.

Meanwhile, other party-list representatives have also been accused  misdeeds.

Incumbent Rep. Arnel Ty of LPGMA or the LPG Marketers Association, a party-list that advocates “the need of the consuming public to have access to lower-priced LPG,” was found guilty of the unauthorized refilling of branded LPG tanks belonging to oil companies, violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 33 or “short selling and adulteration of petroleum and petroleum products” in 2016.

Along with former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, incumbent AGRI Rep. and garlic trader Orestes Salon faced graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Salon and his 23 co-accused were allegedly able to monopolize the supply of garlic during the Aquino administration, manipulating the prices of garlic from 2010 to 2014.

Salon, who supposedly champions the rights of farmers in the country, posted a bail of P30,000 for his alleged involvement in the garlic cartel.

Ang Mata’y Alagaan (MATA) party-list claims to represent the blind and visually impaired. Also engaged with the overall health of the Filipino, the group also claims to give away free medicine, consultations, operations, and dental missions. However, MATA party-list Rep. Tricia Velasco-Catera is the daughter of retired SC Justice Presbitero Velasco and re-electionist Torrijos Mayor Lorna Velasco. The former Supreme Court justice is now running as governor of Marinduque. Tricia’s brother Lord Allan Jay Velasco is running for congressional re-election. Ethics complaints were filed against Velasco-Catera over her alleged “highly unethical activities,” such as Gluta-drip sessions at her office in the House of Representatives during working hours.

Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (Page) said that the use of Glutathione drips is highly discouraged by established medical professionals. As reported by Rappler, Page questioned whether Velasco-Catera’s practice was safe or legal under the code of ethics for doctors, especially for having the Gluta-drip sessions inside her office. “One’s office cannot be considered a medical clinic. We do not want to even consider the dire consequences if something untoward happens to Rep. Catera in the very premises of the House of Representatives due to such unregulated practice of medicine,” Page said.

History of Disqualifications

In October 2012, Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) was disqualified from the 2013 elections for failing to meet requirements on representation. They were among the 54 party-list groups and organizations that were barred from participating in the said elections. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified AGP because its nominees “did not represent its chosen marginalized sectors.”

Panao said that it is important to look at these political parties internally, specifically on the lack of proper guidelines on how nominees are chosen. He said that once a party successfully meets the qualifications set, they basically already have the freedom to choose whoever their nominee is, as long as they achieve the bare minimum. “If people elect [them], it can happen na yung mga nominee ay member ng political dynasty, member ng traditional or outterm, former district representative. So, pwede siyang gamiting backdoor.”

AGP aimed to represent the interests of such sectors as security guards, tricycle drivers, FX drivers, taxi drivers, and street vendors. One of AGP’s principal nominees was Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was neither a security guard nor tricycle driver. At the time, the younger Arroyo was facing inquiries regarding his wealth, which by some reports increased from P5.7 million in 2001 to P101.3 million in 2009.

Following the 2013 SC decision, AGP was one of the party-list groups whose cases were not remanded to Comelec and remained disqualified. Furthermore, even after the SC decision, they decided not to appeal. AGP was then removed from the 2013 ballots, concluding with finality that they were not permitted to run in that year’s midterm elections.

A Backdoor Entry

Six years after the Atong Paglaum case, the party-list system has cemented itself as a backdoor entry for traditional politics in the already elite-dominated House of Representatives.

In 2012, the Comelec initiated special proceedings that sought the disqualification of several partylist groups after public outcry over the proliferation of nominees who were neither marginalized nor underrepresented. Groups like Kontra Daya filed disqualification cases against what they described as “fake” or non-marginalized partylist groups.

The groups disqualified by the Comelec soon brought their case to the Supreme Court. With the consolidation of 54 petitions from 52 party-list groups in 2013, the SC was prompted to decide on Comelec’s disqualification case against various groups from running in the May elections of the same year.

Among the most common grounds that Comelec cited for the disqualifications were:

1.    The sector the party-lists aimed to represent were neither marginalized nor underrepresented

2.    The nominees did not belong to those sectors

3.    The nominees / political parties did not have extended histories in supporting their chosen sectors

A number of the grounds for disqualification were essentially rendered null by the SC decision, which set six new parameters to which the Comelec must adhere in determining who was allowed to participate in the May 2013 elections. The decision’s fourth parameter states that “it is enough that the party-lists’ principal advocacy pertains to the special interests and concerns of the sector.”

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), said that this results in narrower representation, especially when measuring who gets to sit. “Mas-kumikitid yung representation… kasi yung party-list sana would have allowed other sectors to be represented. Pero yung mga dati nang nakaupo, gusto nila pati iyong partylist i-claim nila, hawakan nila, because it helps concentrate power in the hands of a few.”

While disadvantaged groups have their own seats, the law in its current form does not protect them from unfair competition, according to Reyes. “Ang dilemma is how can they compete during the elections doon sa mga dynastic party-list groups, tsaka sa mga well-funded local machineries? So yung mga party-list groups na talagang galing sa mga mahihirap yung kanilang kinatawan, lagi silang mahihirapang mag-compete and manalo ‘pag ang kalaban nga nila yung mga dynasties at yung mga bilyonaryo.”

Meanwhile, Panao said that the low requirement of only two percent to gain seats, albeit limited to three, also results in almost identical parties. “Hindi sila ganun ka-productive kasi hindi sila maka-forge ng alliance… hindi sila nagtutulungan kasi ine-alienate mo na no’ng kampanya ninyo; nagkaroon ng fragmentation sa halip na unity. Parties are meant to unify your preferences, that’s the point of party-list, whether you like it or not.”

In the 17th congress, Kalinga Party-list, whose nominee is one of the poorest in Congress, was only able to file a total of 40 bills, whereas Ako Bicol Party-list, which listed multi-millionaires Christopher Co and Rodel Batocabe, filed 1,163 bills.

Despite the high number of bills authored and co-authored by Ako Bicol, only 55 unique bills were passed into law. The party-list was the main sponsor of 39 of these bills, and a co-sponsor of 16. These laws, however, were not directly concerned with the welfare of Bicolanos, the region they claim to represent.

In his statement in an interview with ABS-CBN, the late Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said that authoring bills that would only benefit Bicol would be “tantamount to class legislation and a violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution.”

“Amend it or craft a new law that defines with lesser ambiguity – with no ambiguity – those gray portions and those gray areas of the law. Ang nangyayari sa akin ngayon we have the law, we don’t amend it, and we let the Supreme Court do the interpretation,” Panao said. #

(Part 2: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise)

Bayan Muna celebrates 6th straight electoral victory

Bayan Muna held a thanksgiving party last May 27 at the Quezon Memorial Circle for its supporters and volunteers to celebrate another victory in the party list elections this year.

Bayan Muna won a single seat for the upcoming 17th Congress, marking the sixth straight time it sent representatives to the legislature.

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