Comelec: Mikey can run
By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Despite the controversy over government-backed party-list groups, there is no reason to disqualify Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo from the party-list race, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said President Arroyo’s eldest son has served as a representative in Congress and is competent to become a nominee of the party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP).
“He (Arroyo) is qualified to be a member of Congress,” Melo said, noting that his decision to give way to his mother in the congressional race in the second district of Pampanga could not be a basis for disqualification.
The young Arroyo, incumbent representative of the province’s second district, is the number one nominee of AGP while the group’s second nominee is Dennis Pineda, outgoing mayor of Lubao, Pampanga. Pineda is the son of alleged jueteng lord Bong Pineda.
The President is running for representative of Pampanga’s second district after Mikey gave way to her.
Melo explained that the law does not require a sectoral representative to be a member of that specific marginalized sector.
“For example, a group of tricycle drivers need not be represented by a tricycle driver. They can be represented by operators or advocates,” Melo pointed out.
“No offense, but a tricycle driver, who probably has not completed elementary or high school education, may not be able to represent the interest of their group in Congress,” Melo added.
He lamented that the voters have become personality-oriented in choosing their candidates.
“Sometimes, we are against a certain person not because he is not qualified, but only because of things he said or did,” Melo stressed.
Melo said he is personally in favor of allowing qualified people to be nominees of party-list organizations.
Melo admitted that there are some people in the administration that might be using the party-list system as a backdoor to enter Congress, adding that it had happened in the past.
He said the government-backed party, which he declined to identify, was eventually disqualified from the party-list elections.
The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) asked the Comelec to disqualify Arroyo as a party-list nominee.
Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. said if the Comelec accepts Arroyo’s nomination, it “will be a serious test of the credibility of the poll body.”
“The inclusion of Mikey Arroyo as the first nominee of party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy marks a new low for the party-list system. We maintain that Mikey Arroyo is not eligible to become a party-list nominee,” he added.
Reyes claimed that Arroyo does not come from the ranks of the marginalized, thus violating the party-list system.
Comelec drafts party-list guidelines
Melo said the Comelec is now drafting guidelines in the selection of party-list nominees but it would still be difficult to screen the organizations and their nominees.
“Those who completed three terms, but would try to seek a congressional seat through the party-list, will definitely be disqualified, but other than that there is really no hard and fast rules,” Melo explained.
Melo said the Comelec is expected to come out with the guidelines by next week and seek written comment from sectors concerned.
But in the absence of strict regulations, Melo said, the Comelec is allowing the voters to make the proper choice.
Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III urged the Comelec to adopt tighter rules on the party-list nominees.
Aquino said Rep. Arroyo obviously does not belong to the marginalized sector based on his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
Aside from Mikey, his mother President Arroyo and brother Dato are also seeking seats in the House of Representatives. Mrs. Arroyo’s second son Dato is seeking to represent the newly created second district of Camarines Sur.
Aquino expressed hopes the Supreme Court would act on his petition to nullify the creation of the new district in Camarines Sur due to the violation of the population requirement.
“The party-list system is reserved for marginalized sectors, which are not represented. If he (Mikey) were going to represent the security guards, we must remember that he had been a congressman for sometime now, but I never heard him become part of that industry. I can’t understand why he has to be the representative of that group,” Aquino said.
He said it must also be established first whether security guards were being abused in terms of salaries and number of working hours so as to be considered marginalized.
Malacañang appealed to its critics not to single out the Arroyo family on the issue of political dynasties.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo emphasized that a lot of political families have multiple representatives in Congress and so the President’s family should not be the sole target of criticism.
Saludo pointed out that there is nothing illegal about having more than one family member in Congress.
Criticisms about the President and her family being part of a political dynasty recently came up following the disclosure that Mikey Arroyo is the principal nominee of the AGP party-list for Congress.
Other members of the Arroyo family seeking reelection in Congress are Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo, the brother-in-law of the President; Maria Lourdes Arroyo, the sister of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, again as nominee of Kasangga party-list.
If they all succeed in their respective bids, there would be five members of the Arroyo clan in Congress.
Former President Joseph Estrada expressed dismay over the abuse of the party-list system.
Estrada, presidential bet of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), said the objective of the party-list system to ensure that the marginalized sectors would have a voice in the House of Representatives enshrined under the 1987 Constitution has been consistently violated.
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay expressed support for the Comelec’s move to impose stringent guidelines and disqualify party-list nominees who are exploiting the system to earn House seats.
Binay, PMP vice presidential bet, said the Comelec should ensure that party-list nominees belong to marginalized sectors and “do not own plush houses in Pampanga and California, splurge on horse races and feast on Black Angus steaks.”
“How in heaven’s name can Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo represent the poor and dispossessed security guards? Or why would Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes qualify as a representative of harried bus and jeepney drivers long burdened by frequent oil price increases that Reyes himself had been justifying?” Binay asked.
Liberal Party senatorial candidate Rep. Risa Hontiveros accused the Arroyo family of exploiting and insulting the party-list system to benefit the clan.
“The Arroyos and their allies are using the party-list system to populate Congress with GMA-friendly legislators. They want to make a GMA-voting bloc in Congress,” Hontiveros said.
The labor party-list group Partido ng Manggagawa (PM) announced that the party would file disqualification cases against alleged bogus party-list groups once the Comelec officially releases the list of nominees on March 27. With Michael Punongbayan, Sheila Crisostomo, Aurea Calica, Jose Rodel Clapano, Marvin Sy