Haves get to represent have-nots in Congress | Inquirer News

Haves get to represent have-nots in Congress

By: - Reporter / @mj_uyINQ
/ 12:18 AM May 23, 2016
congress

House of Representatives. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

A billionaire, a CEO of a big recruitment agency, lawyers and members of the country’s influential political clans—all vowing to champion the rights and welfare of the poor and the marginalized—are among the new representatives in Congress, a development that one of them calls a bastardization of the party-list system.

Of the 115 party-list groups that participated in the May 9 elections, only 46 learned the privilege to fill the 59 seats in the House of Representatives reserved for party-list lawmakers.

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Of the 46, nine groups won seats for the first time: One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals (1Pacman), Kabalikat ng Mamamayan (Kabayan), Alliance of Organizations, Networks and Associations of the Philippines (Alona), and Acts-Overseas Filipino Workers Coalition of Organizations (Acts-OFW). Ang Kabuhayan, Serbisyo sa Bayan Party (SBP), Una ang Edukasyon (1-Ang Edukasyon), Manila Teachers’ Savings and Loan Association, Inc. (Manila Teachers) and Kusug Tausug.

‘Surprise win’

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Pulling off a surprise win in its first try in the party-list elections, 1Pacman won two seats which would be occupied by billionaire Michael “Mikee” Romero and Manny Pacquiao’s business manager, Erick Pineda.

Romero is the team owner of GlobalPort Batang Pier in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) and chair of Globalport 900, which controls Manila North Harbor Port Inc.

The group’s second nominee, Pineda is also the team manager of the professional basketball team, Mahindra Enforcer, in the PBA.

READ: Winners of 59 seats in party-list race announced

Giving back

Aware of criticisms against the supposed “bastardization of the party-list system,” Romero said his track record as a businessman, who has helped generate many jobs for the Filipinos, drew public interest to his group’s campaign that translated into millions of votes.

“Our conscience is very clear. We’d like to help. Financially, I am OK. So I want to give back already whatever we can. I think we can do a lot of changes and reforms in the next Congress,” Romero told the Inquirer following the proclamation of winning party-list groups on Thursday night.

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“I think the Supreme Court already came out with a ruling that even nonmargnalized persons can represent a marginalized sector. Like me, my track record is giving jobs. So that’s our advocacy, to give jobs to the marginalized,” he added.

READ: New groups make it to party-list’s Top 10

Department of Sports

1Pacman, whose main advocacy is to create a Department of Sports and to give jobs to the marginalized and the poor, received the third highest number of votes in the party-list elections, with 1,310,197.

“Our message was very clear [to the people] because they banked on the track record that I did in my business-Air Asia, North Harbor, Global Port and the rest that I accomplished, which was almost several hundred thousands of jobs already,” Romero said.

Lawyer Harry Roque

Kabayan, which first attempted to get a seat in the House in the 2013 party-list race, also gave a strong performance, earning two seats in the May 9 elections, with 840,393 votes.

The group, which aims to advance health, housing and livelihood for the poor and marginalized, will be represented by lawyers Harry Roque and his student, Ron Salo, in the 17th Congress.

“I am going to bring my activism in Congress. I can ensure the public that we will use Congress to promote rights for which our party stands for, which is ’kalusugan, katarungan, pabahay and kabuhayan,’” said Roque, a human rights advocate and a professor of law at the University of the Philippines.

He also assured the public that he would ensure that his group’s “victories in the Supreme Court” would be recognized and observed in Congress.

“We argued against the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) and PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) and we will make sure that the annual budget will be free of DAP and PDAF” Roque said.

Bastardized

One of the fresh faces in the House, Roque said he agreed with observations that many of the people appointed as nominees of party-list groups were relatives of traditional politicians.

“It’s a shame. This is an innovation of the 1987 Constitution so that the marginalized and multisectoral groups can have a bigger voice in society. It’s sad that politicians have bastardized it,” he said.

READ: New party-list formula sought

Quezon gov’s wife

At least three of the new party-list groups in the House will be represented by relatives of well-known wealthy political families:

Alona identified its first nominee as Anna Villaraza-Suarez, wife of the well-connected David Suarez, who got a fresh mandate as governor of Quezon province.

SBP, founded in 2014, will be represented by House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte’s nephew, Ricardo Belmonte Jr.

SBP’s win in the party-list elections placed three Belmontes in the House, according to poll watchdog Kontra Daya. The other Belmonte is Jose Christopher, a congressman of the sixth district of Quezon City.

Sulu gov’s daughter

The lone seat won by the newly formed group, Kusug Tausug, whose advocacies are anchored on empowering the people of Sulu, will be occupied by Shernee Tan, youngest daughter of Vice Gov. Abdusakur Tan.

Acts-OFW, which received 374,601 votes equivalent to one seat in the House, will be represented by Aniceto “John” Bertiz, a former Filipino migrant worker in Saudi Arabia, who now runs Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc., a recruitment agency.

Ang Kabuhayan, which represents small business owners, will be fielding Dennis Laogan as its representative while 1-Ang Edukasyon will be represented by lawyer Salvador Belaro Jr.

A former commissioner of Bar Discipline of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Belaro was a nominee of the Bicolano sectoral party, Oragon, that failed to get a seat in the 2010 elections.

Manila Teachers, which won one of the last few seats in the House, listed its chair and CEO Virgilio Lacson as its nominee.

Records show that Lacson was dismissed from service in 2001 when he was a councilor of Malabon City due to “unjustified prolonged absence.” The administrative complaint was filed by eight other city councilors in 2000.

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