POSTSCRIPT / May 9, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Our choices for 12 senators, and why

DISCLOSURE-1I have no special preference and no reason to campaign for any of the 62 candidates for senator. None of them is a close friend or an acquaintance of long standing. While I have talked with a few of them in press forums and chance encounters, that is about it in terms of interaction with them.

In marking his ballot on Monday for 12 senators, a voter alone with his conscience should consider not only the competence, integrity and patriotism of his choices but also the overriding goal of helping put together a Senate truly independent of the Executive department.

We repeat that – the nation needs an independent Senate, not another annex of Malacañang.

With the serious erosion of the system of checks and balances among the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches of government, we the citizens must step in to repair the damage. It is time we drew the line somewhere strategic – and it looks like that last bastion is the Senate.

Twelve of the 24 seats in the continuing Senate will be filled in the midterm May 13 election from a field of 62 candidates sporting various party labels.

We cannot emphasize enough that the survival of whatever is left of our democratic way of life rests on the people’s electing senators who can resist undue pressures and stratagems of an overreaching Executive. We need a Senate that exercises its oversight functions courageously and independently.

The bigger House of Representatives, alas, has gotten used to bending with every gust from the Palace. With the Senate beginning to sway with the same wind, the electorate must buttress its ranks with men and women of conviction who can resist pressure, intimidation and blandishments.

Voters can review the record of senators seeking reelection — how they voted on bills that had added economic stress on the masses without commensurate benefits, and how they colluded in covering up oppression and violation of human rights.

Voters can help restore the luster of the Senate by blocking former and aspiring members who are notorious as raiders of the public coffers, purveyors of lies, or lacking the needed preparation for the complicated task of crafting laws.

The Senate is not a stage waiting to be packed with clowns, showbiz characters and odd personalities who have gained wide attention because of sheer popularity or notoriety.

We do not mention or suggest names, because we presume the campaign has done that. We just reiterate our appeal to voters to help strengthen the Senate as a crucial defense line of a people whose rights and their very lives are under assault.

 Party-lists: Back door into the House

DISCLOSURE-2The implementation of the constitutional provision for party-list congressional representation of marginalized sectors is disgusting. If only it were possible, the election for PL seats should be suspended. Incumbent PLs could hold over while the system is revamped before the 2022 polls to stop its being (ab)used by political dynasties and vested groups sneaking into the House.

For more than a decade now, we have been fulminating here against the (we suspect deliberate) throwing open of the back door of the House of Representatives to political dynasties, vested and business groups, et cetera, by exploiting the party-list system.

We have seen the House flowing with an alphabet soup of party-lists whose true identity and intent are hidden behind acronyms that insult the intelligence.

Confronted with, for instance, a QYL Party-list enjoying the same office space, staff, budget (and pork barrel?) as the usual district congressman, how will you the taxpayer know what or who picked your pocket?

You go snooping and you discover that the PL congressman is the son of a big-time trapo in the province who has run out of government posts to farm out to his clan members and so has diversified to using PL (sometimes read as “PaLamon”).

In fairness to legitimate PLs in the House, most of them are doing a good job giving a face, voice and hope to their underrepresented nor marginalized sectors.

We have been suggesting, among other things, that:

*A party-list name must be descriptive of the sector it represents, not a cryptic acronym like a social media username. Some groups start their names with the letter “A” so they would be at the top of the alphabetical list to catch the voter’s eye. Another trick is to use tags already popular in the market.

*PL nominees must belong to the sector they represent. PL groups claiming to represent identical sectors must resolve their rivalry before they are registered.

*Any PL whose sector remains marginalized after five terms, during which they get full material benefits, should be stripped of their registration. If they cannot lift their sector above the bottom margin after the bonanza of five years, they are not doing their job.

As we were writing this, we noticed a statement of poll watchdog Kontra Daya on the same topic. Citing its own research, it said that it has flagged at least 35 would-be party-list representatives who do not belong to marginalized sectors.

It said that these representatives come from 25 PL groups that (1) have links to political dynasties or officials already elected to a government office, (2) represent special business interests, or (3) possess questionable advocacies and nominees.

A Pulse Asia survey conducted April 10–14 showed that only 76 percent of respondents have heard, read or watched something about the party-list system. Kontra Daya said such low awareness was alarming.

Kontra Daya listed several PL groups being used by dynastic groups and special business interests. Many PL nominees serving in the House were found to be relatives of politicians or scions of big businessmen.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 9, 2019)

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