The Commission on Elections (Comelec) should not allow millionaires to sit as party-list representatives in Congress as this is tantamount to depriving underprivileged Filipinos of the right to be heard in the legislature, according to a member of the House of Representatives.
Romblon Representative Eleandro Jesus Madrona said it was appalling that moneyed individuals are styling themselves as party-list representatives when the party-list law—Republic Act No. 7941—that was signed 17 years ago was intended to increase the representation of the so-called marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
“How can they be called the underprivileged when they are millionaires? Those seats are supposed to be for people who belong to the sectors or party they represent,” said Madrona.
“These millionaires have enough resources to go to Congress the traditional way (as district representatives),” he said.
Out of the 285 House members, 56 are representatives of 43 party-list organizations. All but five of the party-list representatives reported a net worth of more than P1 million.
Mikey heads list
Based on their 2011 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (Saln), the 10 richest party-list representatives are: Catalina Bagasina of Association of Laborers and Employment (P133,938,000); Juan Miguel “Mikey” Macapagal-Arroyo of Ang Galing Pinoy (P99,954,309); Teodorico Haresco Jr. of Ang Kasangga sa Kaunlaran (P92,814,808); Christopher Co of Ako Bicol (P91,063,195); Homer Mercado, formerly of 1-United Transport Koalisyon (P65,014,804); David L. Kho of Coalition of Senior Citizens (P59,521,695); Antonio Patricio of Agbiag Timpuyog Ilocano (P55,641,886); Mariano Michael Velarde, Jr. of Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (P53,326,935); Acmad Tomawis of Ang Laban ng Indigong Filipino (P48,530,000) and Nicanor Briones of the Agricultural Sectoral Alliance of the Philippines (P46,618,319).
The poorest party-list members are Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna (P697,701); Abigail Faye Feriol of Kalinga (P483,006); Raymond Palatino of Kabataan (P195,000); Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna (P91,000) and Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis (P46,946).
Colmenares said the millionaires would have not abused the party-list system had the Comelec refused to accredit them.
The sad truth, he said, is that many party-list groups were formed and/or are being abused by the rich and powerful to get more seats in Congress. Groups like the Ang Galing Pinoy of Mikey Arroyo have been using the party-list system to gain access to Congress because they want to expand the clout of the Macapagal-Arroyos. Mikey is the son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now a representative of Pampanga.
According to Colmenares, some party-list groups are allegedly bribing Comelec officials to get accredited and some are allegedly selling their seats to the highest bidder.
“In fact, I would not be surprised if the random listing of party-list groups will again be used by fake party-lists to have an edge over others,” he said.
Colmenares said his group has filed a bill amending the Party-list System Act to “stop this farce” by mandating that the Comelec tighten its criteria in accrediting party-list groups.