POSTSCRIPT / January 10, 1999 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Reject sectoral solons smuggled by Comelec

ALL Filipinos who still care for their country must vehemently oppose the impending dumping on their lap of 37 additional sectoral congressmen of dubious legitimacy.

Also, that marketplace known as the Commission on Elections must not be allowed to get away with this wholesale electoral fraud. As a constitutional commission, it should be an example of integrity. It is not.

The idea behind the constitutional provision for sectoral or party-list representatives is to enable marginalized and disadvantaged sectors without the resources to compete in our expensive elections to send their own delegates to Congress.

The 13 sectoral representatives duly elected have taken their seats in Congress already. The Comelec is now subverting the will of the people by belatedly sneaking in additional “winners” even if they did not get the required minimum number of votes.

* * *

NOW tell me if these sectoral representatives who did not get the required 2 percent of the votes cast for the party-list candidates and who are now being smuggled through the back door are marginalized or disadvantaged:

  1. Joseph Victor Ejercito, the President’s son with actress Guia Gomez, representing the youth (Kampil).
  2. Jaime Galvez Tan, former Health secretary, representing a certain Aksyon national party.
  3. Miguel Varela, president of the Employers’Confederation of the Philippines, representing the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. (If he is marginalized, I and millions others must be 1,000 percent more so.)
  4. Eddie Ilarde, former senator, representing Maharlika which must be a bunch of Marcos loyalists.
  5. Aquilino Pimentel III, son of the senator, representing the regular party PDP-Laban.

The Who’s Who list of congressmen being smuggled by the Comelec includes other luminaries who by any stretch of the imagination cannot be considered marginalized or disadvantaged.

* * *

MAKING the President’s son JV as the lead man on the list is a smart move as most sipsip functionaries in government, including Comelec types, would go out of their way to please a newly installed popular president.

But the Comelec cannot let the presidential son in without allowing the other similarly situated aspirants. So the poll commissioners (you know why they are called commissioners?) let in the entire caboodle.

Searching far and wide for a legal justifications for that dastardly act, the Comelec found Section 5 (2) of Article VI (The Legislative Department) which says that the party-list or sectoral representatives shall constitute 20 percent of the total number of representatives in the House including those under the party-list system.

Ergo, said the salivating poll commissioners, we can still stuff Congress with 37 more for a total of 50 sectoral congressmen — never mind if they did not get the required 2 percent of the total votes cast for party-list candidates.

* * *

ACTUALLY, were it not for the fast-buck operators still infesting the Comelec, many of those claiming victory should not be on the winners list.

It was statistically impossible for some candidates to have garnered that many votes considering the Comelec’s monumental failure to inform the public of the new system, the forgivable ignorance of the voters, and the sectoral candidates’ own failure to campaign enough.

What many voters did, as borne out by the appreciation of the ballots, was to leave blank the slot for the party-list representatives. Most common reason was they did not understand it enough.

In other cases, what voters did was to write the sector they wanted represented (e.g.: youth, farmers, etc.) without writing down the sector’s party. Those were many wasted votes.

There was actually failure of election as far as the party-list system was concerned. Now they want us to accept alleged winners of dubious standing?

* * *

WHATEVER glorious picture is painted by President Estrada in his six-month Ulat sa Bayan, the final verdict on the actual state of the nation will still be with the individual Filipino, who must suffer the daily, continuing crisis of not having enough.

The President tried his best to give an upbeat report, but as a deprived housewife would say, we can’t eat an Ulat whatever statistical condiment you sprinkle over it. The economy is what your growling stomach tells you.

The President promised to lower the percentage of the population who are poor from 32.2 percent to 20 percent by the time he ends his term in 2004. “Poor” here means a family breadwinner brings home only $1,100 (P42,000) a year. Other research groups challenge government figures, counting more people languishing below the poverty line.

* * *

THE President’s anti-poverty target averages a 2-percent drop every year until 2004. That is an achievement enough if he could do it.

A big factor for success/failure is the runaway population. There are just too many mouths to feed, too many children to raise, for a nation that can manage a growth in the gross domestic product of only less than 1 percent.

The population growth of 2.3 percent wipes away the 2-percent drop in poverty envisioned by Mr. Estrada. In other words, while the percentage of the poor may drop by 2 percent, their actual absolute number will be more than that of the previous year.

Although Erap Estrada has contributed much to the population explosion, in fairness to him, he is not solely to blame for the national statistical horror that population growth outstrips the supposed decline of poverty.

* * *

MANY congressmen and senators are scrambling to sign resolutions rejecting any move in Congress to repeal the law imposing the death penalty. Why? Because it’s the popular thing to do.

While clever politicians usually go where the money is, some smart ones swim with the current of public opinion.

But some congressmen playing to the incensed gallery even went overboard by threatening to file impeachment charges against Supreme Court justices who voted for the stay of the execution last Jan. 4 of child-rapist Leo Echegaray.

Impeachment? Wala ba bang magawang matino ang mga iyan?

The court’s temporary restraining order that postponed Echegaray’s execution was a decision of the entire (en banc) court — not of eight justices. How do our honorable congressmen propose to impeach the entire Supreme Court?

In the first place, it is the duty of a Supreme Court justice to render a decision in his best lights, according to his conscience. Now, why should they impeach justices who were simply doing their duty?

* * *

WE have explored various angles of the Echegaray case. But one theory that keeps coming back is that a number of Supreme Court justices must have misread public opinion.

And they misread it because they were misled by some newspapers that they read.

With the way some high-profile newspapers practice so-called advocacy journalism, many readers get the impression that what they read is public opinion when in fact it’s nothing but the biases of the editors and/or owners of the newspaper.

The theory is that some justices were carried away by the so-called pro-life editorial campaign. They decided to go along and, in the process, do some public relations and project a humane side of the much-maligned tribunal.

Unfortunately for them, the incessant pro-life editorials did not jibe with public opinion. It’s only now that they are discovering that they had been misled by the newspaper they read.

* * *

POSTSCRIPT: A huge streamer materialized last month on the facade of the Cultural Center with the word “KATARUGAN” (JUSTICE) emblazoned in big bold letters. If there was a message somewhere, it was cryptic.

Lately, the streamer had lines added to it. It now says “Tagumpay ng KATARUNGAN. Maraming salamat po.”

Now, what does that mean, and who put it up for what?

Is it a message of the Cultural Center of the Philippines board that’s being replaced by Malacañang? Or is it a message of Imelda Marcos, the CCP founder, who must have felt she had found “justice” with the dismissal of cases against her?

Whatever, the Cultural Center should not engage in such political advertising. That streamer should be hauled down.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 10, 1999)

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