Dynasties, political clans deliver votes for partylist groups

Posted: May 23, 2013 in philippine elections
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Poll watchdog Kontra Daya has been waging a sustained campaign to clean up the partylist system. Its biggest debacle was the recent SC ruling.

The Commission on Elections will soon be proclaiming the winning partylist groups for the 2013 polls. The proclamation is the culmination of a process that saw several groups disqualified only to be latter on re-accredited on the basis of a Supreme Court ruling that allowed non-marginalized groups and nominees to participate in the partylist race. The ruling overturned a long-standing principle that the partylist system was reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented and that nominees should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented that they claim to represent.

As in the past two elections, the partylist results for 2013 show us an overwhelming majority of groups coming from the rich and powerful and from established political clans now gaining seats in congress. The domination of these groups has been a steady trend over the past two elections, with legitimate partylist groups being eased out of the winner’s circle. For 2013, the top partylist group BUHAY has multi-millionaires and a former Manila mayor as its incoming representatives.

In many cases, the political dynasties of a region delivered the votes for a certain partylist group whose nominees belong to that dynasty. In cases where a one family has both a partylist representative and a regular district representative, we see an increasing concentration of political power in the hands of a few. This runs counter to the “social justice” intent of the partylist system which supposedly aims to give marginalized groups unable to compete in regular district elections a chance to enter congress through a partylist system. Families not content with a regular congressional seats have now taken to using the partylist system to expand their power and influence and to accommodate relatives possibly competing for limited local positions.  It is totally possible that political dynasties use the same local election (dirty) tactics to get votes for their partylist groups.

Abono partylist was top PL in La Union getting 191,020 votes or an amazing 70.6% of the total. It was also number one in Pangasinan where it got 265,181 votes or 36.7% of the total.  Abono got most of its votes from Region I. It is believed that the Ortega and Estrella dynasties delivered votes for the group. Abono’s nominees are Conrado M. Estrella III, Francisco Emmanuel R. Ortega III. Interestingly, another Ortega won as the congressman of the first district of La Union while another Ortega won as provincial governor.

Aambis-Owa was top partylist in Iloilo getting 129,788 votes or 20% of the total because of the Garin dynasty. The group got most of its votes from Region VI. Aambis-Owa’s top nominee, incumbent Rep. Sharon Garin, a multi-millionaire comes from the powerful Garin family in Iloilo. Her brother Richard Garin also won as congressman in the first district of Iloilo.

Partylist Alay Buhay was top PL in Valenzuela  getting 70,963 votes or 38% of the total because of the powerful Gatchalian family. Alay Buhay’s top nominee is Wesley Gatchalian, a big businessman. His brother Sherwin Gatchalian also won a congressional seat in Valenzuela. Another brother, Rex also won as Mayor of Valenzuela.

AMIN was top partylsit in ARMM  getting 111, 136 votes or 32.9% of the total. The top nominee Sitti is the wife of Mujiv Hataman, who ran and won as governor of ARMM.

Ang Mata’y Aalagaan of the Velasco family as expected topped the partylist race in Marinduque. It got 18.81% of the PL votes in the province where another Velasco ran but lost his congressional bid because of a legal issue involving the Comelec.

Agbiag! Timpuyog Ilocano, whose top nominee is incumbent representative is Patricio Antonio, a former district congressman, was the top partylsit in the province of Cagayan, garnering 103,676 votes or 38.5% of the total. Another  Antonio, Patricio’s brother Bong won as provincial governor of Cagayan.

The Agrarian Development Association of the Singson family topped the partylist race in Ilocos Sur, getting 40.24% of the votes in the province. Though ADA does not appear to be headed in the winner’s circle for the partylist race, two other Singsons are poised to get seats in congress via regular congressional districts.

In Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboango Sibugay,  partylist group Kakusa topped the race getting 96,250 votes or 18% of the total. Kakusa’s nominees include former Zamboanga congressman and convicted rapist Romeo Jalosjos. Their family is quite influential in the region with another Jalosjos winning a congressional seat in Zamboanga del Norte.

Partylist group ABAMIN, whose top nominee Maximo  is the brother of Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez, topped the partylist race in Misamis Oriental, getting 176,820 or 52.37% of the PL votes in the province. In Cagayan de Oro City where Rufus is district congressman, ABAMIN got a whopping 62.12% of the partylist votes.

Meanwhile, regional groups like Ako Bikol and An Waray continued their dominance of their respective regions. Questions however remain regarding the big business and political interests behind these groups who, in the first place, already have the means to compete in regular district elections.

The partylist system has long been taken over by political dynasties and the rich and powerful. However, things are only bound to get worse after the Supreme Court decision that has allowed non-marginalized groups and even major political parties (through their sectoral wing) to join the partylist race. The ruling will result in the greater concentration of power in the hands of a few. Expect more dynasties to put up partylist groups in the future.

The SC qualification that major political parties who field candidates in regular district elections cannot participate in the partylist race is quite useless. The problem is not the political parties per se but rather the political dynasties wanting to dominate even the partylist elections the same way they do local elections, hoping that the local votes they get will be enough to get them an additional seat in congress.

Meanwhile, legitimate sectoral groups such as Piston, Migrante, Katribu, Akap Bata, Ang Ladlad and PWD will have to try again next year to secure a seat in a race that has become that much more difficult for the already marginalized.  ###

*Partylist votes cited above come from www.comelec.gov.ph , results as of May 23, 2013.

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