Lobby bared to have Pacquiao head House panel
There is a “strong lobby” in the House of Representatives to have Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao made the permanent chair of the committee on overseas workers affairs despite his having no experience heading a committee, the former panel chair, ex-Rep. Walden Bello, said.
As the senior vice chair of the committee, Pacquiao, who has not attended a committee meeting in the last three years, automatically became its acting chair after Bello resigned from the House in March.
“It would be disastrous if [the position] were given to him now,” said Bello, the former Akbayan party-list representative who gave up the chairmanship of the 35-member committee after announcing his break with the Aquino administration.
Now on his second term, Pacquiao was the top absentee in the House in 2014, appearing only four times on the plenary floor. His excuse was that he would rather do constituency work in his district than attend Congress sessions.
Even so, Pacquiao’s staff and friends in the 290-strong House are waging a campaign to have him head the overseas workers committee officially, according to Bello.
“I think it’s coming both from inside and outside Congress…The committee staff says [Pacquiao’s] office has been strongly interested in and is strongly lobbying for him” to become the permanent chair, Bello said in an interview.
Bello said he had nothing against Pacquiao personally and admired him as a boxer, but felt that he was too inexperienced and had shown too little interest in overseas workers affairs to be the head of the committee.
He said a number of advocates for OFWs, whom he did not name, had approached him to raise their reservations about Pacquiao, with most concerns relating to his lack of experience and interest in their causes.
“Can he head it? Yes, eventually, but not now. He would appreciate the fact that he’s a professional, and as a professional he needs training. He has not attended a committee meeting” in the current 16th Congress, Bello said.
“The only time he did was when he came to propose his bill. This was in the 15th Congress when he and I coauthored a bill to strengthen the antitrafficking law,” he said, referring to the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2012.
So far, that law, which allows preemptive action against human traffickers, has been Pacquiao’s singular achievement in his career as a lawmaker.
In the 16th Congress, which opened in 2013, Pacquiao has sponsored or authored 14 bills and resolutions, none of which have been passed into law. Five of the measures relate to sports or boxing, while three are local bills.
His one bill related to overseas workers affairs is a proposal on the publication of a handbook on migrant workers rights and responsibilities. This is pending in the committee.
The committee secretary, Christopher Lomibao, in an earlier interview said the decision to appoint a permanent chair of a House committee rested on the House leadership, subject to plenary approval.
Bello said it was ultimately up to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. whether or not to make Pacquiao’s appointment official.
He said he believed Belmonte shared his assessment of Pacquaio, “but there’s also a lot of pressure on him as well.”
Belmonte and Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II did not respond to inquiries about Pacquiao’s status in the committee.
Bello said he did not want to interfere in the selection process, but he felt he needed to raise his objections to Pacquiao’s appointment, which could reverse the gains made by the committee in the last five years.
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