THE arrogance demonstrated at the airport by “ACTS OFW” representative Aniceto Bertiz 3rd that triggered netizens’ outrage should remind us how absurd our so-called party list system is.
Purportedly set up to represent the country’s marginalized sectors, it has merely become the means for millionaires, religious cults, and most importantly, Communist Party cadres to enter Congress.
While supposedly representing OFWs, Bertiz is not an OFW, and is in fact the 11th richest party-list congressman now. While he claims to have been an OFW in his youth, Bertiz owns and heads the Global Asia Alliance Consultant Inc., one of the biggest deployer of OFWs. For each deployment his company charges a substantial fee. For him to claim that he represents OFWs is like saying that a capitalist who was once a salaried employee and then set up his own business represents the workers of that enterprise.
To explain what this party-list system that Cory Aquino and the Yellows made a part of our Constitution, I am reprinting below (with some minor edits) the first part of a series I wrote last February this year (“The party-list system is utterly absurd, a mockery of democracy” and “Cory Constitution gave fake parties House seats”).
Thank you, Mr. Bertiz, for reminding us that we really have to do away with this mockery of people’s representation. Abolish the party-list system, which has spawned hundreds of Bertizes since 1998, and even worse, Magdalo mutineer Gary Alejano, Akbayan’s Tom Villarin, and Carlos Zarate.
Start of February column
If there’s any provision in our Constitution that indisputably has to be deleted, it is the one that called for 20 percent of the House of Representatives seats to be reserved for so-called “party-list representatives” who supposedly represent the country’s marginalized sectors.
Unlike the usual congressmen who are elected by voters registered in a political district, party-list representatives are elected by any voter anywhere in the country. The voters elect not the individual but the party-list group, which then designates him as its representative.
Cory Aquino pushed for such a system in 1987, partly to crush the two-party system she hated. But the system has proven to be so utterly absurd, a scandalous mockery of our democracy. And we taxpayers shoulder the party-list representatives’ and their staff’s salaries as well as expenses in the amount of about P2 billion per year.
Instead of empowering the powerless sectors — “labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors” as the Constitution puts it — it has only succeeded in giving political clout to multi-millionaires, even two billionaires, so they could defend or expand their business interests. It has also given additional seats in Congress to provincial or regional political clans, for them to increase their political clout.
Most ironically, the party-list system has put cadres of the Communist Party in the House of Representatives — seven at present — giving the insurgency the resources and especially the funds — raised from our taxes — to advance their agenda to violently overthrow our democracy.
The political power of Red party-list representatives and how strategic — and bad for our democratic system — it has been, was demonstrated by their push for the enactment in 2013—helped a lot by President Aquino—of Republic Act 10368, or the Human Rights Victims Reparations Law. While the law’s title makes it appear that it was for a noble cause, the communist party-list representatives designed the measure such that government would pay as much as P1.7 million to its cadres, activists, and NPA guerillas (or their heirs) detained or killed during martial law. Because of this law, even its leader Jose Ma. Sison and his wife got P2.4 million.
It is ironic that the communist atheists are colleagues in Congress of two bible-quoting religious party-list representatives.
The Constitution’s Article VI, Section 5 (2) categorically excludes the “religious sector” from having party-list representatives. Yet “Brother” Mike Velarde who heads the huge born-again Christian charismatic group El Shaddai set up his Buhay party-list in 2001 and since 2004 has had two to three representatives in Congress. Buhay’s incumbent representatives are the preacher’s son Michael Velarde Jr. and former Manila mayor Jose “Lito” Atienza.
The perfect example of how scandalous the system has become is the fact that the purportedly richest member of the present Congress — both of the Senate and the House of Representatives, that is — is a party-list representative: Michael (“Mikee”) Romero, who has reported his net worth at P7 billion.
Who is Romero? He and another congressman represent the party “1-Pacman,” a name which is as ridiculous as it is a travesty of our system of representative democracy.1-Pacman doesn’t have anything to do with our boxing hero (and now senator) Manuel Pacquiao.
The party’s name is intended to fool careless, impatient, or even ignorant voters that they are electing their hero Manny “the Pacman” Pacquiao. What the name stands for mocks our representative system. 1-Pacman purportedly is the acronym for: “One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals.”
The “1” in this outfit’s name — just as a dozen other groups have done — is there so it would be higher up in the list of the ballot form, so its chances of being picked are enhanced.
1-Pacman doesn’t even pretend to be representing any marginal group; merely says that “among its platform is to prioritize sports development.” That is the kind of party-list representative we have.
Romero’s case though would explain why somebody who is so fond of the luxurious lifestyle, who never thought of helping the “marginalized,” would want to be a party-list representative. Being a party-list representative obviously gives him the political clout in his bitter feud against his father for control of the billion-peso Romero conglomerate.
Clout for business
Other multi-millionaires who have become party-list representatives though aren’t in such deep trouble as Romero. They, or their clans, probably calculate that a seat in Congress gives them clout for their business interests.
The second richest member of the entire Congress is another party-list representative, Emmeline Aglipay-Villar, who reported a net worth of P1.4 billion. She is the nominee of the DIWA party, which stands for Democratic Independent Workers’ Association.
Has the 35-year-old Aglipay-Villar ever been a leader or organizer or counsel for a union or federation?
No. She is the wife of Public Works Secretary Mark Villar, the son of one of the richest real-estate magnates in the country, Manuel Villar. Her P1.4 billion net worth is probably her estimated conjugal share in her husband’s wealth as shareholder and executive of his father’s conglomerate.
She is also the daughter of a retired police general who became Philippine National Police chief during the Arroyo administration, Edgardo Aglipay. The latter is chairman of DIWA, whose treasurer is of course Mrs. Aglipay.
How do such multi-millionaires get to be party-list representatives? Believe it or not, it is unbelievably easy, as long as one has no scruples in trampling democratic values, and of course if one sees the investment as a worthwhile one.
A party-list gets a seat in Congress, if it gets 2 percent of total votes, with another seat given if it gets an additional 2 percent to a maximum of three seats, with 20 percent of Congress seats required by the Constitution to be allocated to such representatives.
In the 2016 elections, 59 seats were allocated to party-list representatives. To fill up these number, 33 out of the 46 party-list winners which got less than 2 percent of the votes were given congressional seats. Thus, the party which got the lowest number of seats, Agbiag, got only 240,000 votes — just 0.7 percent total votes — to get a representative in Congress. An Ilocos-based “party-list,” Agbiag, is represented by another millionaire, Michelle Antonio. Romero’s 1-Pacman party got 1.3 million votes, so it got him and another representative, multimillionaire Enrico Pineda, into Congress.
How do artificial, really fake “parties” get the votes needed to win a seat in Congress?
One, they piggy-back on the electoral campaign of a local political boss and its network — of course after a huge payment — so the party-list is “carried” in their campaign for the traditional territorial-based representatives. As will be discussed [in the next column in the series], this is the reason why many party-list representatives are in reality mere extensions of provincial and regional political clans.
Second, I was told by many sources in the past several years that most party-lists get to have their numbers by sheer manipulation of returns by corrupt Comelec officials. The going rate in the 2016 elections, I was told, was from P20 million to as high as P30 million to ensure that a party-list wins.
Several years ago, I nearly fell off my seat when a Chinese-Filipino businessman mentioned over dinner that he was celebrating as his “party-list” had won two seats in Congress, and he spent only P5 million.
It has been actually the easiest form of graft income in the Comelec, as the operators need not worry that a losing candidate would protest, as the party-list contest is not a one-on-one fight, with nearly every party-list aware that it is after all a bidding game.
That is how depraved the party-list system has become, which had been billed by the Left and the Yellow Cult in 1987, when the Constitution was being drafted, as Cory Aquino’s legacy to give political power to marginalized sectors and weaken the traditional pulitiko parties.
As with all of the Yellow Cult’s noble ideals, the reality is so rotten.