Here is an article that made a friend’s blood pressure shoot up the day it came out. Although I, too, was initially livid, I now find this story hilarious.
I hope this piece of writing is an earnest effort at literary journalism, because it sure is not news in any real sense of the word. For one, it tries, in vain, to infuse some sense of irony. The story’s angle, however, was based primarily on very wrong information: that militant party-list organizations did not know that Jovito Palparan was running under a party-list during 2007. It also has a malicious, pro-Palparan, anti-left, spin to it. Fortunately, the article is a disservice to its cause.
Parts of the article that would bring delight to you: a weird reference to a Pussycat Dolls song; a quote from Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who himself could use some time in the gym, about a “leaner, meaner Congress”; and quote from Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr., who wants to take it “slow by slow.”
Militants got Palparan proclaimed unwittingly
By Delon Porcalla Updated April 26, 2009 12:00 AM
MANILA, Philippines – Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it.
Critics of militant lawmakers are probably humming the popular Pussycat Dolls song “When I Grow Up” as left-wing groups are partly to blame for the inclusion of retired general Jovito Palparan in the list of new party-list congressmen.
Militants got Palparan proclaimed unwittingly by intervening in the party-list petition with the Supreme Court.
Records show that Bayan Muna filed a petition to intervene in the case of Banat before the SC, where it sought to compel the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to proclaim other winning party-list representatives.
It turned out, however, that they didn’t know Palparan was the first nominee of the Bantay party-list group.
It is only now that Bayan Muna, led by Rep. Satur Ocampo – former spokesman of the communist ally National Democratic Front – realized it.
This was why lawmakers from the progressive bloc all of a sudden wanted to disqualify Palparan who they derisively call the “butcher,” allegedly responsible for the spate of extrajudicial killings, particularly of militant activists.
“Rewarding this acknowledged notorious human rights violator with a seat in Congress will be a mockery of the party-list system,” said Ocampo, a deputy minority leader. “Palparan is not marginalized (and) does not represent any marginalized sector.”
Last Friday Comelec proclaimed the additional winning party-list groups, which are entitled to one or more seats, raising the number of sectoral members in the chamber from 22 to 51.
But Palparan hit back at the militant lawmakers, saying they are “fooling the people and abusing the resources of a democratic government.”
Palparan said militant lawmakers, particularly Ocampo, are the ones who should be barred from Congress because “they have not renounced their link to the NPA and may be still active.”
Palparan’s critics have not proven any of their allegations.
Comelec Chairman Jose Melo himself, who headed an independent panel that conducted a probe on Palparan’s alleged human rights violations, and even recommended sanctions, said he could do nothing about it since no less than the SC upheld his victory.
Women’s group Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza said they are now gearing up for Palparan’s disqualification.
The families of missing UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño expressed outrage at the looming entry of Palparan in Congress, echoing that Palparan is not fit to be in public service.
“Congress must never allow again a brutal torturer to take a seat in Congress,” said Connie Empeño, whose daughter Karen is still missing after she was reportedly abducted by unidentified men believed to be soldiers.
No to more House members
Militant lawmakers said if they can have their way, they do not want members of the House of Representatives increased, although most of their colleagues in the party-list group were the ones who benefited from the latest SC ruling providing for 32 more legislators.
Ocampo said it is not the number but the quality of representatives in the House that the people need. There are positive and negative factors at play in the proposal to increase the membership of the House based on population count.
Another opposition lawmaker, neophyte Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City, is against more members in the House and instead wants a “leaner and meaner Congress.”
He is pushing for reapportionment and wants each legislative district to have 400,000 constituents, and not 250,000.
Rodriguez, a former immigration commissioner during the time of deposed President Joseph Estrada, moved to prevent the addition of more House members by insisting on general reapportionment of all congressional districts in the country based on the latest census.
In his House Bill 6114, he proposed that legislative districts be reapportioned with a minimum population of at least 400,000 per district based on the 2007 census. The bill provides exemption to cities and province with at least 250,000 residents.
His proposal, however, was set aside by the House committee on revision of laws in favor of a bill increasing the House membership from the current 250 to 300.
The bills of Speaker Prospero Nograles and Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr. will soon be up for plenary debate.
Meanwhile, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Jaro, Iloilo Archbishop Angel Lagdameo yesterday questioned the timing of the SC decision that has paved the way for the installation of new party-list representatives in the House.
Archbishop Lagdameo told CBCPNews, the official news service provider of the CBCP, that he believed that the SC order would bring more harm than good to the Filipino people and was worried over the repercussions of having 32 additional party-list congressmen, who would now be entitled to receive their own Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which would be taken from taxpayer’s money.
“The additional congressmen mean an increase in the expense of our country because they will have to be given their salaries, allowances and even increase in pork barrel,” Lagdameo said.
Placing additional lawmakers could worsen the country’s economy especially at this time when there is a prevailing global economic crisis, he said.
This year alone Congress allocated P9.665 billion in pork barrel under the P1.425-trillion budget. The amount shows an increase of about P2 billion from its pork barrel allocation in 2008.
Each House member is usually allocated P70 million in PDAF, commonly referred to as “pork barrel” yearly, while each senator is allocated P200 million.
The government would reportedly have to shell out an additional P200 million in expenses and P2.31 billion in additional pork barrel for the House in order to accommodate 32 new congressmen.
Meanwhile, paramilitary personnel, rebel returnees, senior citizens and prospective drug dependents are now among the marginalized sectors now represented in the House.
Senior Citizens Inc. representative Atty. Godofredo Arquiza said his group’s proclamation last Friday stands to benefit those above 60 years old.
“There is a law granting benefits to senior citizens but it is not enough. Considering what the elderly people have contributed to our society, we believe they deserve to get more,” he told The STAR in Filipino.
For controversial Bantay representative Palparan, he said it is about time the government look after members of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit, rebel returnees and security guards as they have been helping in preserving peace and order.
Palparan said in a telephone interview that these people must be considered as “partners” of the government and thus deserve higher salaries, allowances and other benefits. He is planning to file a bill to effect these compensations.
Newly installed party-list congressman Salvador Britanico of Banat proposed yesterday a common office, a hall or any open space in the Batasan complex where the new lawmakers can put up a table per congressman as temporary office while the House leadership scout for new space for them.
He told reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo Hotel in Quezon City that a temporary remedy for this problem is the use of a common hall where new lawmakers can put up their table.
Another option is the rental of office spaces outside the Batasang Pambansa complex where the new partly-list congressmen may hold office.
Speaker Prospero Nograles said problems regarding office space “will be taken up by the House leadership with the recommendations of the secretary general and the general services.”
“Meantime, the new congressmen may need to adjust and get oriented first. There is no sense to rush. Haste makes waste. Slow by slow lang,” the Speaker added.
He yesterday assured the new party-list lawmakers that he would swear them in as soon as they have complied with the necessary requirements. – With Sheila Crisostomo, Perseus Echeminada and Evelyn Macairan
(Just so there is no confusion: this is an opinionated, obviously pro-Palparan, article. I really hope the reporter whose byline appears below the title did not have anything to do with the story.
“Palparan’s critics have not proven any of their accusations.” That, after a paragraph where Palparan accuses the militants of using the resources of the government for the insurgency and does not substantiate it.
Furthermore, anybody looking for proof may do well to read the Alston Report, Melo Commission report, the decisions of the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court regarding the amparo cases of the Manalo brothers and the families of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno, and the countless fact-finding reports at international missions in Southern Tagalog, Eastern Visayas and Central Luzon.)
Photo from the Time Life website.