POSTSCRIPT / March 7, 2010 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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VIPs, trapos hijacking Party-list House seats

MARGINALIZED: The Commission on Elections has given some 185 Party-list groups until March 26 to submit their nominees for congressional seats. The nominees will be checked for qualification and their names published if they qualify.

The processing should be summary so the apprehensive public will know early who the nominees are and if the occasionally barking Comelec also has a bite as an election watchdog.

To begin with, there should be a clearer and more restrictive definition of what a “marginalized” sector is. The Party-list law should be interpreted in the strictest sense.

The Comelec should not allow itself to be a party to the mockery of the Party-list system.

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SUGGESTIONS: Postscript suggests that:

* The Party-list name must be descriptive of the advocacy of the marginalized sector it represents. If the name is, for instance, “Utak,” can we assume that the group represents the mentally-challenged – or the more scheming — characters in society?

* These nominees should be disqualified: professionals who have not been actively involved in the activities of the marginalized sector; incumbent or former government officials of at least director rank; police and military officers who have held at least the position of colonel or its equivalent; those who have run for public office at least once in the last three elections; those who maintain bank accounts with a combined total of at least P3 million at any one time during the last calendar year.

* The nominees of one Party-list group must not exceed four. Nominees who withdraw or are disqualified cannot be replaced once the list is submitted, so the group must screen its nominees very carefully.

* When the total number of Party-list nominees who attain the required number of votes in the election exceed the absolute number representing their percentage share in the total number of seats in the House of Representatives, the seats should be reapportioned to prevent their number from exceeding the limit.

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SNEAKING IN: The reasons for these observations or proposed requirements or restrictions should be obvious to right-thinking Filipinos.

For instance, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, who is giving his congressional seat to his mother, President Arroyo, should not be allowed to sneak back through a side door using a Party-list group.

Mayor Buddy Dungca of Bacolor, Pampanga, reportedly said a group calling itself Ang Galing Party would nominate Mikey Arroyo, with outgoing Mayor Dennis Pineda of Lubao town as second nominee.

Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo has complained that the Comelec has been “very lenient in accrediting Party-list groups that hardly represent marginalized sectors.”

“The party-list law aims to give representation to sectors whose voices are often unheard or dismissed in the public debate,” Ocampo said. “In recent years, however, we have seen how the law was twisted and manipulated to accommodate individuals and groups that do not represent the marginalized, but in fact stand for big political and business interests.”

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VILLAR DROPS: It is now the turn of Nacionalista presidential candidate Manny Villar to scratch his head and ask why Liberal standard bearer Noynoy Aquino was able to break away from their statistical tie and surge ahead by 7 percentage points in the latest survey.

In the last (Feb. 21-25) nationwide poll of Pulse Asia, Aquino grabbed 36 percent of 1,800 adults surveyed against Villar’s 29 percent.

While Aquino at 36 percent stood still compared to his previous standing of 37 percent in the January survey, Villar fell by a significant six percentage points (from 35 to 29 percent).

The biggest gainer was the third man in the lead pack, Erap Estrada of the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino, who pole-vaulted by six points from 12 to 18 percent.

The others trailing the trio have not been able to pull themselves up from their single-digit straps. But the fourth-placer, administration bet Gibo Teodoro, managed to go up by two points from his static 5 percent to 7 percent.

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QUESTIONS: Assuming the surveys of the top two poll firms in town are honest and reliable, these are some of the more interesting questions they raise:

Has Aquino reached a plateau at 35-38 percent? Is this plurality, which is a third of the total votes, secure enough in a field with at least four serious contenders (Aquino, Villar, Estrada and Teodoro)?

Were most of the six additional percentage points earned by Estrada and the two points gained by Teodoro taken from Villar or from the residual 6 percent who are undecided voters?

How did the major issues raised in late January and early February affect voters’ preferences in February? Are voting patterns widely influenced by issues raised in media and other forms, or largely by popularity and advertising?

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NOYNOY TOPS NCR: In the last survey, Aquino maintained his dominant position in the National Capital Region, which is traditionally oppositionist having a close-up view of goings-on in the capital.

The son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino is the favorite of the upper socio-economic classes ABC (43 percent) and the D class (36 percent) concentrated in the capital and neighboring areas.

But Aquino and Villar were running neck-and-neck in the rest of Luzon (33 percent Aquino, 31 percent Villar) and the Visayas (39 percent Aquino, 38 percent Villar) and among the poorest E class (36 percent Aquino, 33 percent Villar).

In Mindanao, 38 percent of respondents chose Aquino while 31 percent picked Estrada. The Villar camp has questioned this score since it is convinced it holds a dominant position in Mindanao. But Estrada makes the same claim.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 7, 2010)

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