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Duterte: Party list has turned ‘evil,’ abused by the rich

President Duterte has slammed the exploitation of the party list system by rich people, whom he accused of using their money to squeeze themselves into Congress.

“Everyone involved there are the rich. The rich people fund the party list,” the President said in his speech at the oathtaking of newly elected local officials in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday night.

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“They are named after laborers, but their nominees are the millionaires so they stay in power there,” he said.

Duterte said the party list system—which was originally meant to give representation to the “marginalized” sectors—had become “one evil” abused by the rich.

Wealthiest in House

He made the statement amid reports that the wealthiest member of the House of Representatives, Michael “Mikee” Romero, was the first nominee of the party list 1-Pacman in the 17th and the incoming 18th Congress.

Romero, the president of the Partylist Coalition Foundation in the House, reported a net worth of P 7.9 billion.

Through privately held F&S Holdings, the Romero family bought out two major shareholders of budget airline AirAsia Philippines, increasing its share in the company from 15.7 percent to 44.5 percent.

The second richest party list representative is Virgilio Lacson of Manila Teachers with a net worth of P793.87 million.

Other wealthy party list representatives include Delphine Lee (Agri, P254.3 million), Jesulito Manalo (Angkla, P124.5 million), and Milagros Magsaysay (Senior Citizen, P95.7 million).

The party list system law, or Republic Act No. 7941, which was signed in 1995, was meant to provide congressional representation for the “marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties,” including labor, the peasantry and fishermen, women and the urban poor, elderly and handicapped.

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Under the law, 20 percent of the members of the House is to be allocated to party list groups.

Panelo explains

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the President was simply “expressing an idea” that party list groups should truly represent the marginalized sectors.

But, Panelo said, the approval of the party list representatives was up to the Commission on Elections “since they are the ones qualifying the nominees.”

Duterte was “expressing an idea and that’s for the Comelec to respond to it,” he said.

Asked why the President endorsed some party list groups that did not represent the marginalized, Panelo said it was possible that their nominees “might have a record of truly fighting for principles.”

Call for review

Sen. Grace Poe on Thursday said she wanted a review of the party list law.

“The problem is with our laws and the decisions of the Supreme Court, that’s why these things managed to slip past us,” she said. “Maybe it should be revisited because some claim to be youth representatives but are not from the youth themselves.”

Data from the House show that Romero is one of the chamber’s two billionaires and that his net worth is larger than the combined wealth of the next 12 wealthiest members of the House, which has 282 millionaires.

The second richest member is Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez, with a net worth of about P1.02 billion.

 

Millionaires’ club

In all, 41 of the 291-member chamber are multimillionaires with  a net worth of at least P100 million each.

Among the top multimillionaires are outgoing Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos (P923.8 million), former Speaker and outgoing Quezon City Rep. Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. (P864.75), Marikina Rep. Bayani Fernando (P748 million), and Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo (P714.6 million).

Only seven House members are not millionaires, four of them from the militant Makabayan bloc—Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis), France Castro (ACT Teachers), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela) and Sarah Elago (Kabataan), who is the “poorest” with a net worth of P85,400.

Other lawmakers who are not millionaires are Pepito Pico (Diwa), Gabriel Bordado Jr. (third district, Camarines Sur) and Paul Hernandez (Kabayan).

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