Partylist blues


Apparently, it’s time to update the old saying. If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again—but this time as a party-list group. Politics. It’s certainly more fun in the Philippines.

Take Magdalo Para sa Pilipino (please—as some of our readers might be tempted to add).

Formed by failed putschists and their allies, headed by one of two former coup plotters whom the people in their pluralist wisdom reelected to the Senate, the Magdalo group is dedicated to representing the interests of “retired and former members of the [Armed Forces of the Philippines], the urban poor and the youth, which are marginalized and underrepresented groups.”

It takes a generous leap of faith to link all these three major sectoral groupings in a politically meaningful way, but it was another issue altogether that caught the attention of the Commission on Elections, which disqualified the group in 2010, and the Supreme Court, which upheld the disqualification in 2012. Can a gathering of former soldiers who plotted against the government be trusted to join the electoral process? The Court ruled that the group, should the members wish to register it again, ought to renounce the use of force or any illegal means.

Magdalo has dutifully done so, affirming that it did “not advocate the use of force or violence or other unlawful means to achieve its goals.” Having been allowed to run, it has now won at least one seat in Congress.

The former labor attaché and ambassador Roy Señeres (indeed, he is known by the shorthand most overseas Filipinos use to refer to the Philippine ambassador in residence, “Amba”) may be said to have followed the same try-again-as-a-party-list formula. Having ran unsuccessfully for the Senate before, he is set to take a seat in Congress, as first nominee of the OFW Family Club Inc. (His son Christian also ran for the Senate this year.)

Despite its name, which rather sounds like that of a warehouse discount store, the OFW Family Club is a decade-old organization dedicated to helping overseas Filipino workers, by fighting for their benefits and funding scholarships for their children. Unfortunately, the group is also facing accusations that its second nominee used to work for Smartmatic, raising conflict-of-interest or unfair-advantage questions. Talk about fighting benefits.

These first-time party-list winners were joined by more familiar names: Buhay Hayaang Yumabong (Buhay), Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment Through Action Cooperation and Harmony Toward Education Reforms (a group that seems to have been named by a Chinese communist bureaucrat but which is better known by the more convenient A-Teacher), 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy (1-Care), Abono Party List (Abono), Cooperative Natcco Network Party (Coop-Natcco), the Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (ASAP—but not the weekend variety show) and the Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac). The political appeal of at least two groups that made it in the first cut—three, if Magdalo, which started as a regional party, is included—was regionalist: the Ako Bicol Political Party and An Waray won at least one seat each.

The robust ideological parties with limited national popularity which the Supreme Court, in its recent and dramatic overhaul of the party-list system, included as among those deliberately favored by the constitutional provision on party-list groups, did well as expected. Bayan Muna, Gabriela, and rival Akbayan Citizens Action Party were returned to Congress again, in an unbroken string of party-list victories.

Which leaves us with: More of the same. It is good to note that farmers and teachers continue to enjoy representation at the highest levels of government, but many of the winners in the Comelec’s first list leave us unimpressed.

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  • Monsi Serrano

    The partylist system has been abused, misused, misrepresented and misunderstood not only by the voters but also by the candidates. We all know how others bastardized the Party-List system in the Philippines. Partylist system main reason for existence is to provide opportunity for the under-represented sectoral groups. These groups are labor, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

    But despite that, we saw some greedy politicians creating partylists that would serve their selfish interests. Ang classic case is the “Ang Galing Pinoy” of Mikey Arroyo. Imagine a presidential son representing the security guards? The name is very apt. Ang Galing (ng) Pinoy at nagpauto kay Mikey (Filipinos are good and they were fooled by Mikey Arroyo).

    The injustice done to more deserving partylists can be blamed only to COMELEC for their idiotic decisions made before, approving “de facto” partylists and disqualifying legitimate ones. Obviously this happened because COMELEC has become partisan instead of non-partisan.

    As for OFW Family Club, I heard how Amba Seneres answered the interview in one of the TV shows on how he will do something for our “bagong bayani”. His ideas are pie in the sky — and is not even practical.

    Personally, I would rather propose something practical and attainable initial support for our OFWs. OFWs ‘Pasalubong’ Must Be Tax-Free!

    They say that the OAV (Overseas Absentee Voting) will be the swing vote for senatorial candidates lagging behind the surveys. With millions of OFWs out there, it is certain that they can make a difference if not a big impact in the outcome of the elections.

    Thus, our beloved “Bagong Bayani” must be more discerning about the candidates they choose. Each candidate had his or her own drama and propaganda. Many of them, sad to say, had nothing significant to show for after a term or two in an elective post. I know of a 2016 presidential aspirant wooing our Bagong Bayani as early as now and, as such, has been deemed by the less discerning among our migrant workers as deserving of the presidency in 2016.

    As for me, I cannot imagine voting a housing czar who tolerates squatting in subdivisions in his own turf just because he values their votes come election time. Many of the legitimate owners of these parcels of land are OFWs. They sacrificed a lot for a lot and now the lot is occupied by a lot of strangers who vote a lot.

    Let us please be reminded that these informal settlers do not pay taxes yet they benefit from taxpayers’ money – the blood and sweat of hardworking OFWs. Our squatters now are more sophisticated in terms of lifestyle. They have television sets in their squatted home. The better off have air-conditioning and new appliances,
    and a big bonus – free electricity! If the government continues to treat our
    squatters like royalty, isn’t that being unfair to the millions of our OFWs?

    So far, I have not seen any politician who came up with a law that would truly benefit our OFWs. The EOC (Employment Overseas Certificate) alone costs so much, and must be facilitated in person instead of online. This doesn’t only waste the time of our “Bagong Bayani”, but also the time of the government. If I may suggest, let all EOCs and other documents needed by our OFWs including the payment be processed online. Then to ensure its authenticity, each document has
    corresponding barcodes which will be scanned prior to departure. With that,
    process becomes simpler and the corruption will be lessened because no money
    will pass through the hands of the person processing these documents.

    However, are there any of our politicians who proposed or thought of this kind of system? They would rather focus on other non-sensical issue such as putting the RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) for the cars. These are only cars, and yet they give so much importance to them rather than thinking of so many ways to make it easier for our OFWs. What a crooked minds they have. Why? Because they treat our OFWs as assets instead of talents. Assets are bound to be used until they
    last. While talents are supposed to be honed and nurtured for the growth and
    development not only of the individual but also to whom the talents are shared.

    Now here is to you our beloved “Bagong Bayani”. It is your time now to shine in this election. You have chosen the candidates that really support your cause and care for you. Not those who just do that because they have a hidden agenda like preparing for 2016. Those who really care for the OFWs do not resort to political dynasty even if they justify that they want to help. One could help – truly help at
    that, without joining the politics. When someone professes that he is there to
    help that is why he joined politics, we can say that most of them joined
    politics because of the money involved in being elected in the public office.
    Imagine, even the so-called evangelists have been enticed to run for public
    office. If you are already serving your flock well by leading them to live a
    good and righteous life, why do you have to orphan them simply because you want
    to ascend in the quagmire of political arena? What could be the reason? Your
    guess is good as mine.

    I am still waiting to see a truly sincere politician who will give priority to our OFWs. Seeing our OFWs being taxed for the small “pasalubongs” (gifts) they bring for their
    family make me so angry and disgusted. I could only shake my head in disgust as
    I hear them say, “Naku wala na nga akong pera, itatax pa yung pasalubong ko sa
    anak ko. Baka iwanan ko na lang yan kesa magbayad ako.” (Oh my, I don’t have
    money anymore and they will still ask me to pay tax for the gift that I have
    for my child. I might just leave my gift to them instead of paying the tax.)

    I have called on the attention some politicians about coming up with a law that will give tax exemption to the “pasalubongs” of our OFWs once they get a fresh mandate. I hope could really do something for our OFWs. After all, it is through our hardworking OFWs that our economy became healthy and gave us a good rating from Fitch Ratings.

    It’s time for the government to give back a little to our OFWs, whom they call “Bagong Bayani”. In that way, the title of “Bayani” will really be fitting. Considering the amount of money they bring to our country versus that tax that the government asks to pay for the gifts they bring home, the tax-free for OFWs pasalubongs will
    just a drop in a bucket, but will certainly go a long way. It will be a show of
    goodwill and sincerity on the part of the government. It’s one way of telling
    to our OFWs, “Thank you, we value your sacrifices to help our country rise

    • mamer2

      Some Party-List groups are even “seen as fronts” for dynasties.
      I do not know how the Comelec could defend its approval of many of these Party-List Groups.
      Why were those psuedo party-list groups approved…, and on what basis were their approval made by the Comelec..? AND Why was the “Senior-Citizens” disapproved.?

  • farmerpo

    There is only one word I can conjure re partylist. STINK! The virgin idea is now so corrupted that any corrupt Juan Pablo and Pedro can register a partylist and have a good chance of getting a seat in Congress. Try BAHO, Buhay Alang Halong Ogag.

  • mewo_meow

    scrap partylist in 2016.

  • Ghie_kong

    Bago lang ang Magdalo Party List, bigyan natin sila ng pagkakataon na gawin ang ipinaglalaban nila. Anyway para naman yun sa mga sundalo.

  • mikoytri

    The people gave Magdalo the new mandate for three years in the congress, i would love to see how they will work for our people especially for our soldiers. Let’s give them a chance.

  • EddieRamon83

    Hindi ko sila binoto pero dahil panalo na sila, hayaan nating gawin nila ang trabahao nila, dati naman silang mga sundalo, malamang sa kapakanan ng mga sundalo ang ipapanukala nilang batas. Buti at meron pang magiging representante ang mga sundalo at kapulisan natin.

  • kris mejia

    At one point, people get them elected, meaning they believe in their visions as part of representing them at least. So lez seat back and relax. Okay na rin yung may malalapitan ka in needy times.

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