• Disqualify party-lists, not their reps

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    THERE’S no reason why congressmen elected for three successive terms should be disqualified from seeking a fourth term while party-list organizations aren’t subject to such limitations. Equity demands that party-lists that have won in three successive elections should no longer be allowed to contest a House slot in the next election.

    The reason for the term limitation on congressmen is to give other persons the chance to hold an elective post. This is supposed to stop some legislators, no matter how good a public servant he may be or how competent he is in lawmaking, from having a stranglehold on the post.

    The same rationale should cover party-list organizations.

    As interpreted by the Commission on Elections, the three-term limit covers only the representatives of the winning party-lists. This interpretation has resulted in the disqualification on the fourth nomination of lawmakers like Risa Hontiveros of Akbayan, Bam Noel of An Waray, Liza Maza, Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino all of Bayan Muna, and Raymond Palatino of Kabataan.

    This is all wrong. The disqualification should be imposed on the party-list organizations themselves, not on their representatives.

    Some party-list organizations have been running in elections even after winning three successive times. They include Akbayan that has had representatives in six successive Congress, Bayan Muna (5), Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (5), Buhay (4), Butil (5), Kabataan (4), An Waray (4), and Gabriela (3).

    The electorate votes for the party-list, not for its representative(s). In all probability, the voters don’t even know who will represent their chosen party list in Congress. Thus, the mandate is given to the organization. It’s the organization, not the electorate, who will name its nominee to the House.

    Nothing best illustrates this than the authority given to a party-list to replace its representative for whatever reason, be it on a pre-arranged term-sharing or for failure to further its advocacies, or the representative could no longer stomach its direction. Walden Bello resigned from Akbayan because he couldn’t continue supporting the Aquino administration as desired by the organization. Akbayan promptly replaced him.

    In May 2012, Homer Mercado of 1-UTAK resigned and was replaced by Zeny Maranan. In 2001, Leonardo Montemayor of ABA resigned from the House upon his appointment as Secretary of Agriculture and he was replaced by Dioscoro Granada. Joel Villanueva of Cibac was disqualified by the Supreme Court in 2010 because of age issue and was immediately replaced.

    Note that in the case of a congressmen who has the direct mandate of the people, nobody can replace him if he resigns except the winner of a special election called to fill up the vacancy.

    I consider the election of party-list representatives, just like the multi-party system, appropriate only in a parliamentary government. But while the Constitution isn’t amended, we should recognize its existence while at the same time, making sure that the representatives don’t get more privileges than those of congressional districts.

    Oca Orbos still a dreamer!
    Former Rep. Oscar Orbos, also former governor of Pangasinan, sent me an email reacting to my column last July 21 suggesting that Vice President Jojo Binay’s proposal to do away with term limits for local officials should be weighed carefully and not immediately rejected just because the proponent heads a politically entrenched family.

    Oca Orbos wrote: “Term limits for elected officials (where such is an imposition, even if well meaning, of groups with good intentions) is really a forced restriction on the people’s right to choose their servant leaders.”

    He maintained that there should be minimum restrictions on qualifications for elective posts.

    “The operative determining act as to who will in effect be qualified to serve the people will be determined solely by the people’s choice in clean, honest, credible electoral exercise,” he added.

    He dreams of a Philippine society where there is “direct, sustainable, institutional, independent and universal empowerment of the people” that could compel servant-leaders to deliver the required services.

    Oca believes that an empowered people will assure the country with a continuing supply of trained, experienced, dedicated committed crop of servant leaders who will be forced to first and foremost serve the interests of the people “with or without term limits.”

    I guess Oca hasn’t lost his idealism thru the years but I doubt if his dreams of politically empowered Filipino people would ever be realized during his lifetime. Maybe, if we have more persons like him in government, things might still change. However, it seems that Oca is enjoying his life and learning more outside of government than inside it.

    19espiloy47@gmail.com

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