6 out of 10 Pinoys unaware of party-list system

6 out of 10 Pinoys unaware of party-list system
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – With only a few weeks left before the elections, six out of 10 Filipinos are still unaware of the party-list system, a latest survey by Pulse Asia revealed yesterday.

Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan survey, conducted from March 21 to 28, showed that despite the fact that the election for party-list representatives has been taking place since 1998, almost six in 10 registered voters or 58 percent still have not heard or read anything about the party-list system.

Majorities in all geographic areas (51 percent to 61 percent) and practically every socio-economic class (58 percent to 60 percent) are not aware of the party-list system, Pulse Asia said.

It is only in the best-off Class ABC that a majority awareness level is recorded at 55 percent, it added.

Nonetheless, there is a slight increase in the level of awareness between February and March 2010 (+4 percentage points) and a significant increase between January and March 2010 (+11 percentage points).

However, Pulse Asia said the current overall level of awareness is still significantly lower than the April 2007 figure (59 percent), the highest level of awareness recorded by Pulse Asia.

The survey also found that only 10 of the 187 party-list groups running in the May 10 elections have a “statistical chance” of winning congressional seats if the elections were held last month.

It showed Gabriela and Bayan Muna leading the party-list race with 7.81 percent and 7.25 percent, respectively.

“Among these probable winners, only two party-list groups would gain the maximum of three congressional seats – Gabriela and Bayan Muna,” Pulse Asia said.

The other probable winners are Akbayan (4.12 percent); Anakpawis (3.91 percent); A Teacher (2.85 percent); Senior Citizens (2.73 percent); An Waray (2.47 percent); Buhay (2.39 percent); AKB (2.38 percent); and Butil (2.03 percent).

However, Pulse Asia said that based on the formula for the allocation of party-list seats discussed in the Supreme Court’s ruling on April 21, 2009, 36 other groups would win a seat in the House of Representatives.

These are Kabataan, Abono, Akap Bata, Apec, Kalinga, Amin, Coop-Natcco, 1 Ang Pamilya, Anad, Abamin, Anak, Agri, Yacap 1-Utak, Binhi, Ahon, Women Power, Cibac, Unlad Pilipinas, Bukid, Akap, Kaagapay, 1-Abaa, Act Teachers, Agap, Alyansa ng OFW, Alay Buhay, 1-Care, Kabayan, Ahapo, 1-Aani, Opo, Agham, LPGMA, Emmanuel and Abroad.

The Party-List System Act states that the groups garnering more than two percent of the votes would be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes. A party-list can have a maximum of three seats. The party-list representatives would constitute 20 percent of the total number of the members of the House including those under the party-list.

The non-commissioned survey used face-to-face interviews of 3,000 representative adults, higher than the usual 1,800 respondents used in Pulse Asia’s previous pre-election surveys.

The survey has sampling error margin of plus or minus two percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level.

Like district congressmen, party-list reps enjoy perks

Like district congressmen, party-list reps enjoy perks
VERA Files


WHEN it comes to the perks of being a lawmaker, party-list representatives are no different from congressional district representatives.

Every month, they, too, receive a monthly salary of P35,000. Every year, each of them are also entitled to P70 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and at least P30 million from Public Works Fund, more popularly known as “pork-barrel funds.”

Then there are the so-called “extras”—at least for those who align themselves with the powers-that-be.

Some party-list representatives admit receiving a monthly allowance from the Office of the Speaker. They get additional “bonuses” when the passage of Malacanang-sponsored bills is being rushed. The sums range from P100,000 to P250,000 per vote, depending on the importance of the bill, according to congressional sources.

The opportunity to travel abroad for free, either by invitation of groups abroad or by hosts within the House of Representatives, is also something the party-list representatives look forward to.

Because of these privileges, many among the party-list representatives prefer to stick it out with the majority bloc. As a result, the party-list representatives are divided into three groups—pro-administration, the opposition and hard-line opposition.

Those who have chosen to stand up for their principles say they have had to pay a stiff price.

Luzviminda Ilagan of the militant group Gabriela has not received the PDAF since she assumed office in 2007.

Nonrelease of the pork barrel funds to militant congressmen began when they vigorously pushed for President Arroyo’s impeachment in 2005 following the “Hello, Garci” scandal, she said.

Like Ilagan, Gabriela’s Liza Maza, Bayan Muna’s Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casino and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano have not been getting their yearly pork barrel fund.

Akbayan’s Riza Hontiveros and Walden Bello have also been deprived of their PDAF allocations. Akbayan has been voting against Arroyo since the first impeachment case was filed in 2005.

“That’s obvious discrimination because every representative is entitled to that,” Ilagan said. She said they would identify projects to be funded out of the PDAF and the Pubic Works Fund as provided by law. “But nothing really comes out of it,” she said.

Ilagan said the only extra perk that hardline opposition solons like her enjoy is the yearly invitation to travel abroad with Las Pinas Rep. Cynthia Villar, president of the Lady Lawmakers’ Association in Congress. Ilagan joined Villar in her trip to Egypt last year.

Villar, wife of Sen. and Nacionalista Party standard bearer Manuel Villar, was one of the special guests at Gabriela’s anniversary celebration in October, during which she committed her office and that of her senator-husband’s full support to the group’s advocacy.

Coalescing with national and even local candidates has been part of Gabriela’s political strategy to ensure their survival during elections.

Ilagan cited Gabriela’s alliance with Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in the 2007 elections. Duterte was investigated last year by the Commission on Human Rights over the rampant vigilante-style killing in his city. The investigation was requested by Karapatan, one of Gabriela’s allies.

A copy of Gabriela’s report of campaign contribution and election expenses to the Comelec for 2007 also shows the group’s receipt of P385,706.16 in campaign donation from Sen. Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal, another presidential aspirant for 2010. Madrigal also released the same amount for the Kabataan party-list of Rep. Raymond Palatino’s political advertisements.

The alliance can be seen in the sample ballots distributed by the politician’s camp on election day, Ilagan said. Gabriela and other groups reciprocate the favor by campaigning for the candidate.

“We don’t have money; they are the ones who will give financial resources. In exchange, we will campaign for him. We have what we call the command votes,” the Gabriela representative said.

Ilagan maintains that their group remains solid despite their funding woes. This is not the case with other party-list groups that make up the opposition bloc in the House.

An Waray Rep. Florencio “Bem” Noel also belongs to the opposition bloc, along with Cibac Rep. Joel Villanueva, Anak Mindanao (Amin) Rep. Mujiv Hataman and Akbayan Reps. Risa Hontiveros and Walden Bello. An Waray, Amin and Akbayan all supported the three impeachment complaints against Arroyo.

But unlike Ocampo’s group that roundly criticizes the wrong moves of the administration and its allies, Villanueva and the other opposition party-list groups choose the issues to oppose the administration on.

Akbayan and the other party-list opposition groups, for example, voted for the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program. Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Kabataan and Anakpwis, on the other hand, pushed for the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB).The CARP extension program bill was signed into law.

Noel said the difference between him and Villanueva and the militant solons is they do not hit Arroyo left and right and do not march in the streets to denounce her. They also seldom hold press conferences denouncing an administration program and do not have exposes all the time.

The reward: Their PDAF remains intact and is released to them regularly, albeit delayed. That is aside from the congressional insertions which, Noel said, depend heavily on the “ability” of the lawmaker to lobby.

As a result, the Cibac party-list has been able to regularly undertake programs for its constituents since the 12th Congress, ranging from infrastructure projects such as water systems, farm-to-market roads and barangay halls, to social projects such as medical, dental, optical, feeding and relief missions. The party also offers scholarships and livelihood and LGU assistance.

An Waray, for its part, allocates most of its pork barrel to government hospitals in Region 8. It prefers “soft” projects such as free hospitalization, scholarships, supply of medical needs such as thermometer and medicines to public hospitals intended for the poor.

Having access to PDAF and “being friends” with officials of various agencies also ensure Noel’s ability to maintain a four-year scholarship program in the provinces.

Rodante Marcoleta of Alagad belongs to the majority bloc but surprised everyone when he endorsed the controversial impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Oliver Lozano against the President in 2005. The case fizzled out.

Marcoleta’s return to the House of Representatives was delayed by one year. But two days after assuming office, Marcoleta joined the official delegation of President Arroyo to the U.S. during which she met with President Barack Obama. Other party-list representatives on that trip were Godofredo Arquiza (Senior Citizens), Agapito Guanlao (Butil) and Daryl Abayon (AT).

Marcoleta was also among those who wined and dined with the First Couple at the posh Le Cirque restaurant in New York City. He shunned media interviews for weeks.

The controversial solon said he does not mind being identified with the administration for as long as he could deliver the goods to his poor constituents. He proudly enumerated his achievements: giving medical and financial assistance to the poor and providing swallow wells, water and power supply in depressed communities.

There are in fact many Marcoletas among the party-list representatives today: They are with the administration as the so-called “silent majority.” They seldom participate in discussions but are expected to support the moves and programs of the administration, including controversial bills like the Epira Law, Anti-Terrorism Law and Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Marcoleta himself has stopped dreaming to see his pet bill approved into law because, he said, lawmaking “is full of compromises.”

“You need to consider many factors. You need to lobby so the committee would put it (your bill) in the agenda. You know us, Filipinos, ‘Boss, mine first,’” he said.

Lawmaking, Marcoleta said, is now only second to his obligation of helping his constituents.

(The author is a television reporter who submitted a longer version of this article as her master’s project at the Ateneo de Manila University’s Asian Center for Journalism. Her adviser was VERA Files trustee Luz Rimban.)

Instead of boycott, vote for sure-loser Party-list

Instead of boycott, vote for sure-loser Party-list
POSTSCRIPT By Federico D. Pascual Jr.
The Philippine Star

NEGATIVE VOTE: A politician friend offered what looks like a partial solution to our dilemma of boycotting party-lists with dubious nominees but, in so doing, merely improving their chances of winning seats in the House of Representatives.

His solution: Instead of boycotting or skipping the party-list part of the ballot, vote for the PLs that are SURE LOSERS. Your negative vote will help increase the total votes cast for all PLs while reducing the proportionate share of the PLs that you want to defeat.

Remember, the total number of votes cast for all PLs is the basis of the computation of the two-percent threshold that entitles a party-list to one House seat.

When the total universe of votes is huge, the chances of one PL getting two percent are lessened. And while the obscure PL that you vote for may gain an extra vote, it is likely to lose anyway.

* * *

SURE LOSERS: Some of the 185 party-lists in the running are still bound to come out winners because the Constitution mandates that 20 percent of all House seats must go to representatives of marginalized or under-represented sectors.

But your negative vote for a sure loser is likely to ruin the chances of party-lists with dubious nominees — such as discredited politicians and slick operators using PLs to sneak into the Congress.

Which are the sure losers? We will not dare identify them here, but by perusing the list (assuming the Commission on Elections has done its job of publishing it) you will know them.

What we can do at this point is tell you which one survey says are the front-running party-lists. If you do not like these leading PLs, at least you know whom not to vote for.

* * *

TOP 16 PARTIES: The last survey of the Manila Standard showed that the party-lists Gabriela and Bayan Muna, described as leftist, led the field with six percent each of the 2,500 registered voters who participated nationwide. With its six percent, a PL can get the maximum of three seats.

Conducted March 21-23, the survey asked respondents for the first time since MS polling started last December to also indicate their choice of party-list on the facsimile ballot aside from their voting for president, vice president and senators.

Only 16 party-lists out of the 185 that had submitted nominees garnered at least 2 percent of the total PL votes cast.

Aside from Gabriela and Bayan Muna, the other “winners” were AKB, An Waray and Akbayan (with four percent each); A Teacher, Anakpawis, Senior Citizens, Buhay and Kabataan (three percent each); and Apec, 1 Ang Pamilya, Kalinga, Abono, Anak and Coop-Natcco (two percent each).

* * *

DIVISIVE TRIBALISM: People have shown interest in scrutinizing the nominees of faceless party-lists represented by acronyms. But it is difficult forming an opinion about the PLs since the Comelec still has to publish their respective nominees.

It comes as a surprise to the average voter that AKB, that reportedly got four percent in the survey, stands for Ako Bicol Political Party. As for An Waray, this is a multisectoral group drawing members mostly from Leyte, Samar and Biliran.

The Comelec should have been more careful in allowing party-lists based on ethnic colors. After opening the door to Bikolanos, Warays, and other ethnic groups, how can it draw the line when other tribal groups also claim the same right to launch similar party-lists?

Aside from the divisive effects of having parties based on tribal or ethnic origins of people, there is also the matter of redundancy. All the provinces where these ethnic and tribal groups reside are already represented by the congressmen in their districts.

Responding to demands that the Comelec disqualify certain party-lists, the poll body says it is too late. Of course, it is too late. The agency had neglected its due diligence in screening party-lists jostling for accreditation.

* * *

ANG GALING NG UTAK: One focal point in the controversy over PL nominees is presidential son Rep. Mikey Arroyo of the second district of Pampanga. He has been nominated by Ang Galing Pinoy, a party-list of security guards.

Another official, former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, has been nominated by 1 Utak, a party-list representing the transport sector.

It might interest those following their political saga that the Manila Standard survey gave 1-Utak one percent of the votes. Ang Galing Pinoy of congressman Arroyo did not make it.

Of course, those are just survey scores. They do not necessarily reflect the final outcome of the May 10 elections.

* * *

AGAIN?: Mention of Reyes, former energy secretary, reminds us of another energy official who wants to repackage himself as head of a so-called energy team of a presidential contender, to the consternation of people who know his ugly past in government.

Other advisers of the presidential candidate, who is in the lead pack, are wary that this energy adviser’s entry will be counter-productive since he is known in the energy sector for his sticky fingers when handling big contracts.

He is remembered for awarding contracts to favored friends, and reportedly pocketing commissions. It was during his watch when blackouts gripped the country in the early 90s. He was instrumental in sealing deals with independent power producers (IPPs) causing electricity rates to soar.

The IPP deals were doled out without public bidding, with the government guaranteeing payments even if power is not delivered.

* * *

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Gordon, Roxas, Santiago top UP mock polls

Gordon, Roxas, Santiago top UP mock polls
By Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Richard Gordon would be president if students of the University of the Philippines system had their way, a mock online poll conducted among the UP system’s 11 units has shown.

In a press conference Thursday, BotongIsko2010, an alliance of student groups, said Gordon won with 1,236 votes from 3,958 students who participated in the poll.

He was followed by administration candidate Gilbert Teodoro who got 923 votes and Manuel Villar who got 698. Benigno Aquino III came in fourth with 591 votes.

For vice president, Mar Roxas won with 1,383 votes. Gordon’s running mate Bayani Fernando came in second with 943 votes, Loren Legarda was third with 579 votes and Jejomar Binay came in fourth with 563 votes.

JP Bernardo, head of the BotongIsko2010 technical committee, said the 3,958 voters were from the UP system’s units in Diliman, Manila, Los Baños, Baguio, Mindanao, Cebu, Tacloban, Iloilo, Miagao, San Fernando and the Open University. The entire student population is 48,860.

“We used an open source voting system in which the students were asked to log onto a website using their student number and last name,” he explained.

BotongIsko2010 conceded that not much publicity was given to the online poll, hence participation was low. Coupled with that was the fact that it coincided with finals week on March 18-23.

In the senatorial poll, Miriam Defensor-Santiago won with 2,302 votes. The other senatorial candidates who rounded out the top 12 were Pia Cayetano, Satur Ocampo, Franklin Drilon, Liza Maza, Gilbert Remulla, Risa Hontiveros, Ralph Recto, Adel Tamano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sergio Osmeña III.

Kabataan won the party-list race with 1,322 votes, followed by Bayan Muna which got 241.

Earlier, the Alpha Sigma Fraternity at UP conducted the last of a three-part poll, this one showing Villar as the choice for president of 2,866 students of a total 8,468 that participated from 25 colleges.

In second place was Aquino with 1,787 votes, followed by Gordon with 1,317.

Teodoro, who topped the second part of the mock poll, came in fourth this time with 646 votes.