Party lists to form 3rd-biggest blocBy Gil Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Incoming party-list groups are organizing themselves into the third-biggest bloc in the House of Representatives so they can demand “proportional representation” in the allocation of key committee positions.
According to party-list member Rodel Batocabe (Ako Bicol), 40 of the 53 party-list members in the 16th Congress have agreed to join the sectoral representative bloc and he expects more to join the bloc before the opening session on July 22.
(The Commission on Elections has left some party-list seats in reserve pending a Supreme Court decision on the eligibility of party-list groups that obtained more than the minimum two-percent share of total votes cast for sectoral representatives.)
Batocabe said the party-list bloc would be the third-largest in the House, after the ruling Liberal Party and the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
“We will join the majority coalition and vote for Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.,” he said in a phone interview.
Batocabe said the party-list groups would press to get at least 20 percent of all committees to be distributed by the Speaker to members of the majority coalition.
There are 65 regular committees and 15 special committees in the House.
In the 15th Congress, party-list representatives led six committees, including the committee on accounts.
Party-list groups deserved to take charge of more committees, Batocabe said.
The party-list bloc also wants at least one seat in the House of Representatives Election Tribunal (HRET) and one to two seats in the bicameral Commission on Appointments. Batocabe said the party-list bloc would also want to have one of its members among the six deputy speakers.
“I believe that we as party-list members deserve to have proportional representation in the key bodies of Congress in keeping with the constitutional mandate allocating 20 percent of the seats in the House to sectoral representatives,” said Batocabe.
“But let me stress that while we might have our wish list, in the end we will submit and defer to the sound discretion of the House leadership,” he said.
Batocabe explained that it was easier to form a party-list bloc in the House this year as practically all of the winning groups would be joining the majority.
Another party-list House member, Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), said the House minority would have no party-list members in the 16th Congress.
“They either failed or were disqualified. That would suggest that the ranks of the party lists formally in the opposition would be diminished,” said Tinio.
He said the Makabayan bloc of party-list groups remained intact with all its component parties securing reelection, but did not say if the coalition would be joining the minority.
The Makabayan coalition in the House is composed of so-called progressive party-list groups—Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), Kabataan, Courage, Migrante Sectoral Party, ACT Teachers’ Party, Katribu, Kalikasan Green Party, Suara Bangsa Moro, Piston and Akap-Bata.
The party-list groups went through the wringer in the last elections as the Comelec made wholesale disqualifications primarily because they did not represent marginalized sectors.