Not too many congressmen but too many Arroyos in Congress

Kabataan Party-list Representative-elect Raymond “Mong” Palatino today said if there should be a crisis in the House of Representatives, it is “not because there is an overabundance of congressmen but the addition of another spawn from the Arroyo clan in the Lower House.” This was Palatino’s reaction to statements by House Speaker Prospero Nograles and other like-minded solons who are “inventing trivial concerns over the SC ruling granting 32 more seats to party-list representatives by over-emphasizing the alleged crisis the additional seats would cause Congress.”

“The real and present crisis is that we now have too many Arroyos in power. We cannot have too much congressmen, especially if they genuinely represent the marginalized sectors of society. What is terribly bothersome is that these Arroyos are landlords and compradors. Do they really represent who they claim to represent? That is the one questionable thing in this whole matter,” Palatino said.

There will be four Arroyos in the House of Representatives once the SC ruling takes effect. The fourth addition, Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, is the younger sister of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and claims to represent small entrepreneurs as the primary nominee of Kasangga party-list.

Palatino, who likewise awaits official proclamation by the Comelec today, said, “We condemn the Arroyos and Malacanang for once again making a mockery of the party-list system, first by fielding human rights violator Ret. Gen. Jovito Palparan and now by defending the installation of a fourth Arroyo in the House. Their election into post cannot be hailed as democratic, their mandate questionable because they are clearly detached from the sectors they claim to represent, if they even truly embody them at all.”

“We are not happy to share our victory with them. We cringe at having to share a common chamber with their ilk. We vow to immediately join moves by the progressive party-list bloc to have them disqualified from their posts,” said Palatino. Kabataan Party-list is among the party-lists to secure a seat in the House of Representatives per SC GR No. 179271.

Once proclaimed, the 29-year-old Palatino will be the first youth sectoral party-list congressman to assume office in the House of Representatives.

Kabataan seats first youth-sector Representative in Congress

Late yesterday afternoon, I came to Vinzons Hall to a cheerful crowd of colleagues from STAND-UP and other mass organizations who jubilantly announced to me that we now have a youth-sector representative in Congress in the person of Raymond “Mong” Palatino under the Kabataan Party (Youth Party) which ran in the 2007 elections.

Mong, aside from being a notable blogger, was the Chairperson of the UP Diliman University Student Council in 2000. Due to a now-defunct Supreme Court formula for seat-allocations in Congress, Kabataan Party was not able to seat Mong, who was our first nominee despite garnering more than 220,000 votes.

The said formula has recently been overturned by a Supreme Court decision in the case of BANAT vs. COMELEC (G.R. 179271) which effectively grants 32 other partylist nominees their right to sit as Representatives in Congress.

Kabataan Party list

This ruling, however, also means that a handful of other Arroyo-supported party-lists will gain seats in an already Administration-controlled chamber. Unfortunately, one such new Congressman would be Gen. Jovito Palparan under the BANTAY party, who has been widely accused for masterminding many of the extra-judicial assassinations of members and volunteers of progressive organizations and parties such as Bayan Muna.

Nevertheless, our seating the first youth-sector representative in Congress is still an opportunity for us to advance the youth’s agenda in the House of Representatives, and together with other progressive parties such as Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela, who have themselves gained additional seats, we shall continue to uphold the nationalist and democratic interests of the people through politics of change and collective action. Mabuhay ang kabataang Pilipino!

We get fooled sometimes

Just a few blog entries before we leave for the US in a few hours. It’s been a week since elections were held in the Philippines. And true, there appears to be numerous things to be content with. There’s this redeeming feeling in the triumph of opposition senatorial candidates over those of President Gloria Arroyo’s, though there is still the very obvious attempt by the present administration at manipulating the final results. There’s also delight in seeing new actors defeating traditional actors in the political arena in various local elections around the country. Mong Palatino of Kabataan Party, however, recently wrote about how though there are instances where there appears to be progress in the way our democratic elections are held and conducted, we should not be illusioned into believing that our democracy is “finally working”. That though once in a while traditional oligarchs are defeated in some localities, hundreds more continue to reign in many other parts of the country.

He likened our politicians to burgers, coke and fries. Regularly, consumers are offered variations and additional sauces and whatnot. But they are still burgers, coke and fries. In the same way, traditional actors simply morph and rebrand or repackage themselves–say, as youthful and idealistic new breeds–but continue to be the same kind of bureaucrats their forefathers actually were.

There’s this nagging and persistent pessimism, at least in me, that there remains much to be changed, that for as long as elections continue to be an exercise where the wealthy simply compete against each other, and for as long as powers that be continue to manipulate results, it isn’t truly democratic.

Doesn’t end in elections

My family and I are leaving for the US for a vacation next week. I can’t wait. I really need a break. This summer has not allowed me to rest. From internship, to org work, to frat duties. Though I am not able to vote, the past elections season has also been quite interesting for me. Aside from helping out in the campaign for Kabataan Party in the party list elections, I also got involved in the campaign of some brods in the Upsilon who were running in their respective localities. Whew. I feel like a political hopper. It was quite an experience.

By the way, democratic participation doesn’t end in elections. I got quite annoyed when one of my acquaintances made the comment, “you don’t have a right to complain if you don’t vote.” As if non-voters, even children, don’t pay taxes through VAT, among other means of contribution in society to which everyone has a stake, voter or not.

UP Diliman mock senatorial elections

Two of the three major student political parties in UP Diliman conducted their own mock elections this week. KAISA, held theirs last Monday. ALYANSA, on the other hand, held theirs yesterday. Both elections showed the same set of twelve candidates in the winning circle, with some variations in ranking.

KAISA-sponsored (5/7/07) ALYANSA-sponsored (5/9/07)
1. Francis Escudero 464 1. Francis Escudero 829
2. Francis Pangilinan 399 2. Francis Pangilinan 762
3. Loren Legarda 372 3. Joker Arroyo 744
4. Joker Arroyo 337 4. Manuel Villar 638
5. Manuel Villar 326 5. Loren Legarda 611
6. Benigno Aquino III 296 6. Benigno Aquino III 531
7. Alan Cayetano 284 7. Panfilo Lacson 529
8. Panfilo Lacson 246 8. Alan Cayetano 480
9. Ralph Recto 245 9. Ralph Recto 454
10. Juan Miguel Zubiri 242 10. Juan Miguel Zubiri 442
11. Edgardo Angara 232 11. Edgardo Angara 427
12. Michael Defensor 213 12. Michael Defensor 366
13. Antonio Trillanes IV 198
14. Aquilino Pimentel III 192
15. Sonia Roco 143

May ganoon pala roon

Last Sunday some brods and I were asked to go to Cavite to offer assistance to an alumni brod, Boying Remulla, in his congressional re-election bid. Though there are some issues wherein I don’t agree with Mr. Remulla, helping him was perfectly fine for me. Especially when his opponent is one of the President’s men, and that this opponent’s propaganda have saturated the entire district. It felt quite tokenistic, though, since I doubt our giving out flyers to a handful of baranggays will have an impact. I found it quite sad that a majority of the people whom we were handing flyers to always asked for something–cigarettes, candies, food, anything, when we didn’t have anything to give aside from the pieces of flyers. I guess people really have gotten so used to being given tokens and other such material and financial gifts during campaigns.

Amadeo, my father’s family’s hometown is part of Boying Remulla’s district. Though we skipped Amadeo, we did get to go around Maragondon, Silang, Indang, and Tagaytay. We spent some time at a forest resort with springs, pools and waterfalls in Indang that night. Then we had dinner and we stayed overnight in Tagaytay.

Philippine Agenda: Corruption

I was able to catch the third installment of GMA Network’s Philippine Agenda series last night.

Below is a portion of the episode which tackled the serious problem of political and bureaucratic corruption in the Philippines. The clip below specifically tackles the issue of the severe over-pricing of lamp posts acquired for the ASEAN Summit in Cebu months ago. Individual lamp posts were acquired by the government at 200+ thousand pesos each, jacked up scandalously from an original 11 thousand a unit. It’s really maddening and frustrating. Even Mike Enriquez, amusingly at times, exhibited such frustrations on screen.

[Links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4]

Corruption is one of the main reasons why I cannot stomach it when government renders its institutions of social services (like public hospitals and state universities) inaccessible to many Filipinos through various exorbitant fees because of annual budget cuts and other such prescriptions of commercialization. It’s simply unfair for the people to shoulder the immense cost of the corruption of their politicians, most of whom cheat their way into government.

And just because it brushed up on the issue of scandalous over-pricing of government projects, below is a campaign clip of jailed senatorial candidate Antonio Trillanes, a clip you’ll probably never see on airwaves dominated by commercials of traditional politicians.

Solutions can’t be convenient

A few nights ago, I came across the second episode of GMA Network’s Philippine Agenda. It was a tragic and morbid episode that tackled the public health services situation in the country. Tragic, obviously because the whole health sector situation is tragic in the first place, and morbid because two of the program’s subjects, after being shown struggling with their conditions, eventually die towards the end of the show. They couldn’t afford check-ups, nor the medicines, nor the other hospital fees. [Part of the documentary can be watched here].

When asked why public hospitals, which should ideally render much of its services for free, extract fees from things as minute as a patient’s use of a hospital bed, a government doctor said, “The government’s not giving us enough. We are being told to generate our own income.” What an all too familiar line, even in the University of the Philippines. From tuition increases in UP to fee increases in government hospitals, these have to be seen as part of a real and ongoing state policy of slowly abandoning social services. These has to be seen as a real and ongoing state policy of following policy impositions from foreign financial institutions. They are not unrelated situations.

Many even among my fellow students simply and more importantly, conveniently just tow the government and the conservatives’ lines–that there is not enough money, that there is nothing we can do about it but extract the income from the people themselves. But these shouldn’t be solved by simply giving up and surrendering to this constructed or manufactured, and more importantly inflicted, ‘reality’. It shouldn’t be solved by absolving the government of its duties by allowing public hospitals, public schools and state universities to generate their own income through tuition increases and other fee increases. Still, campaigns for greater state subsidy and other such policy shifts for social services must be intensified.

Yes, it’s election time once more, and though this is one of the people’s ways of manifesting their aspirations, it’s not the only democratic and participative way of demanding and implementing changes. And with such a huge clout of doubt in the integrity of such a “democratic process,” we can’t simply pin our hopes just on this.

Kahit ‘di ako makakaboto

I spent my late afternoon till evening last Friday with some friends from Mass Comm surveying an area in Quezon City for Kabataan Party, which we will be campaigning for in the next few weeks (which I’ll try to do while trying to complete a 100-hour internship in a month).

Fortunately, military personnel and alleged ex-communist rebels out to demonize partylist groups like Kabataan Party, in behalf of the present administration obviously, aren’t present in our designated area. Yet.