As I See It

Abolish the party-list system

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Isn’t it clear that the party-list system is being abused? If the Commission on Elections cannot stop these abuses, the system should be abolished.

Of the more than 100 party-list congressmen, only four are not millionaires or multi-millionaires. How can millionaires represent the marginalized sectors of society?

The most blatant example is the party list supposedly of security guards. Its representative is Mikey Arroyo, the son of former President Gloria Arroyo. He is not a security guard, never has been one, and never will be. So why is he representing security guards in Congress? Because his mother was the president in power when he was accredited, and the Comelec has been very lax in accrediting party lists. I asked the security guards in our village if they are members of the party list and they answered with a vehement “No!” They haven’t even heard of it until they read in the newspapers that they were being represented in Congress by Mikey whom they have not chosen, never met and never voted for.

The same is true with many other party lists. In fact, 99 percent of the accredited party lists with representatives in the House do not really represent the marginalized sectors of society that they supposedly represent. In the past, it was so easy for any ambitious politician to have a party list supposedly representing a particular marginalized sector apply for accreditation with him as the top nominee, and the Comelec would accredit it. Politicians who would never be elected as regular representatives were therefore able to enter the House through the back door, i.e., the party list.

For next year’s mid-term elections, we heard that a group of fake journalists we derisively call “hao-shiaos” is preparing to seek accreditation as a party list representing members of media, banking on the reputation of legitimate journalists to stampede the Comelec to accredit it. We would like to inform the Comelec that this group does not represent us, the legitimate journalists, and that the Comelec should not accredit it.

In the first place, the media sector is not marginalized; there is no need for us to be represented by anybody, especially not by “hao-shiaos,” in Congress. We can get along just fine without any, thank you.

In the second place, are not the regular congressmen supposed to represent all sectors in their districts, rich and poor, marginalized or not, in whatever sector or line of occupation they are? So why make special congressional districts for these sectors?

Each additional congressman is a drain on taxpayers’ money. The taxpayers shoulder the congressmen’s salaries and allowances and those of the members of their respective staffs. What is worse, they also collect pork barrel funds when they have no districts. Where will they use these pork barrel allocations?

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Not long ago, last April 13, President Aquino faced a mixed audience of Mindanao government officials, businessmen, community leaders, civil society representatives and other stakeholders at the Mindanao Power Summit in Davao City. There he spelled out explicitly and unequivocably that the primary cause of the Mindanao power crisis was the lack of alternative baseload power sources to meet the demands of the island’s growing economy and expanding population. It is obvious now that the President’s words had little effect on that motley group of religious, NGO and local government leaders who have remained “in denial” and clung stubbornly to the myth that the Agus and Pulangi hydro power sources will last forever.

These self-styled guardians of Mindanao’s future are the same ones who ignored the alarm bells that rang as far back as 2008, when the late Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes warned the 34th Philippine Business Conference that “…power demand is expected to outstrip supply in Mindanao.” When private sector proponents like Aboitiz, Alcantara and other groups brought forward their proposed solutions, self-proclaimed environmentalists protested the proponents’ use of coal in their prospective plants without considering that mitigating measures could be adopted to make coal an environment-friendly fuel. They didn’t hear out either the more realistic voices pointing to the fact that coal continued to be the only viable and affordable source of baseline power for Mindanao.

Fast forward to the present: the Agus and Pulangi hydroelectric facilities have been repaired, the rains have come back. But after a two-to-three months’ respite, National Grid Corp. of the Philippines declared last August that the island’s power situation is back to “red alert” status. To top it off and just to illustrate the island’s overdependence on the Agus and Pulangi hydro plants, a fire in the Agus 6 hydroelectric complex in Iligan City caused the generating units of the Agus 6 and 7 plants to trip, such that as of Sept. 5, 2012, the Mindanao grid registered a shortage of at least 200 megawatts.

For the short term, the people of Mindanao may have to bite the bullet and source their power from those expensive power barges while the government continues to move quickly to clear the way for the inception of more power. The progress being made by the Aboitiz group in developing their 300-MW Davao Power Plant and the recent approval by the Energy Regulatory Commission of several power sales agreements (PSAs) in Mindanao are encouraging signs that in the next three to five years, the power situation would begin to normalize as new baseload power generation sources come on stream.

Unfortunately, we hear that the self-proclaimed “good guys” are determined to prevent these PSAs from reaching fruition through all kinds of dilatory tactics.

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