By KONTRA DAYA
November 5, 2018
MANILA – Five years after the Supreme Court opened the party-list system to nominees who need not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors they claim to represent, more and more political dynasties and vested interests have joined the party-list race. Their inclusion has made it harder for party-list groups genuinely representing marginalized sectors to gain seats in Congress. The party-list system has been bastardized and corrupted, becoming an extension of the political dynasties in many provinces and undermining its original goal of providing representation to marginalized sectors such as workers, farmers, women, youth and indigenous people’s among others.
Initial research conducted by Kontra Daya shows that many of the 182 party-list groups in the 2019 elections may be classified as (1) those with links to political dynasties or officials already elected in other positions; (2) those representing special business interests; and (3) those with questionable advocacy and nominees.
Among the party-list groups that have links to political dynasties is Probinsyano Ako whose first two nominees are related to Ilocos congressman and former Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas. First nominee Rudy Ceasar is Farinas son. Second nominee Lira Farinas is also related to the congressman through Laoag City administrator Jami Farinas.
Tingog Sirangan has as its first nominee Yedda Romualdez who is an incumbent Leyte first district representative and part of the Romualdez dynasty in Tacloban. The Abono party-list remains as the vehicle of the Estrellas and Ortegas of Pangasinan and La Union. Its first nominee is Conrado Estrella III and its second nominee is Vini Nola A. Ortega who is also the wife of La Union governor Pacoy Ortega.
Ang Mata’y Alagaan’s first nominee, Tricia Nicole Velasco, is the daughter of former SC Justice Presbiterio Velasco and is part of the Velasco political clan in Marinduque. Her brother is Lord Allan Jay Velasco is a Marinduque congressman. Her mother Lorna Velasco was also a past nominee and representative of the same party-list.
Ako An Bisaya is linked to the Uy and Tuazon political clans of Samar and the Velosos of Leyte. Its first nominee is Ramp Nielsen S. Uy, a former vice-governor of Northern Samar. He ran and lost a congressional seat in 2013. Its second nominee is Rodolfo T. Tuazon, Jr. Its third nominee is former Leyte Congressman Eduardo Veloso, who was indicted by the Ombudsman for graft in relation to the PDAF scam.
AAMBIS-OWA is linked to the Garin and Biron political dynasties of Iloilo. Its first nominee is Sharon Garin while its second nominee is former Iloilo congressman Hernan Biron, Jr. Aangat Tayo’s nominee is Harlin Neil J. Abayon III, related to the Abayon political clan of Northern Samar.
The 1 Alliance Advocating Autonomy Party has the daughter of former speaker Bebot Alvarez, Ana Emelita, as its first nominee. Adhikain Tinaguyod ng Kooperatiba has Marjorie Ann Teodoro, wife of Marikina Mayor Marcy Teodoro as its first nominee. Serbisyo sa Bayan party-list, linked to QC congressman Sonny Belmonte, has end-termer Quezon City councilors Ranulfo Zabala Ludovica and Vicente Eric De Guzman Belmonte Jr. as their nominees. PBA Partylist is represented by Jericho Nograles of the Nograles dynasty in Davao. Abe Kapampangan’s first nominee meanwhile is Angeles Mayor Ed Pamintuan.
All in the family
Some current nominees are the spouse or children who seek to replace the current nominees. These group’s nominations have become a family affair. Agbiag Partylist’s nominee Michaelina Antonio is the wife of former Agbiag representative Patricio Antonio. Abante Mindanao’s nominee, Mary Grace Rodriguez, is the wife of its former representative Maximo Rodriguez. Ako Bicol’s second nominee is Justin Caesar Anthony D. Batocabe, son of incumbent Ako Bicol representative Rodel Batocabe.
Some nominees already had their stint as district representatives. Tingog Sirangan’s Yedda Romualdez of Leyte, there is Inang Mahal’s first nominee, former congresswoman Gina de Venecia, wife of former Speaker Jose de Venecia of Pangasinan. LPGMA’s first nominee is former representative Rodolfo B. Albano of Cagayan.
Some party-list seem to represent big business interests. One curious group, the Construction Worker’s Solidarity is represented by former DPWH Undersecretary Romeo S. Momo, Sr. who is facing an investigation for alleged anomalous road projects. Other nominees of his group belong to the Gardiola family that owns several construction firms that have been previously been implicated in questionable projects according to reports by PCIJ. The party list that claims to represent construction workers is actually a group representing construction firms.
Another similar group, Sandigan ng mga Manggagawa sa Konstruksyon has real estate developer and contractor Enrique Olonan as its first nominee.
ACTS-OFW has two set of nominees, with one set led by controversial congressman John Bertiz who heads a manpower recruitment agency. Its third nominee, Francisco Aguilar, is the president of another recruitment agency.
Anakalusugan has for its second nominee former congressman and DENR secretary Mike Defensor. Another example would be Ako Padayon Filipino whose nominees Adriano Ebcas, Reynaldo Sindo, and Juancho Chong are high-ranking officials of electric cooperatives in Camiguin, Surigao del Sur and Bukidnon.
A glaring example of how the party-list system has been used by the rich and powerful is the One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals, Inc. 1 PACMAN’s first nominee Michael Romero, happens to be the richest member of the House of Representatives with a reported net worth of P7 billion. His wealth does not come as a surprise since he is said to be the chief executive officer (CEO) or chair of, among others, the Harbor Centre Port Terminal, Mikro-tech Capital, Manila North Harbor Port, Pacific Inc. and 168 Ferrum Mining. We believe that having multi-billionaires as party-list representatives were not the original intent of the party-list law as these billionaires can easily seek congressional seats through the regular district representation.
In the coming days, Kontra Daya plans to release its initial comments on advocacies and nominees of at least 182 party-list groups. We call on the Comelec to do all it can to ensure whatever integrity is left in the party-list system will not be further eroded by the entry of more party-list groups and nominees that do not belong to nor truly represent the interests of the marginalized and underrepresented. We call on the people to be extra-vigilant with groups claiming to represent the voiceless but in fact, are representing dynastic interests. The SC ruling in Paglaum vs Comelec, which paved the way for the bastardization and corruption of the party-list system, will have to be reversed.