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Opinion

Abusing the Party-List Law

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

One of the party-list groups that outgoing President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte wants voted out of office is Gabriela, which supposedly fights for the rights of women and children in the House of Representatives.

Digong said that Gabriela is a left-leaning sector of society and one of the political fronts of the New People’s Army (NPA), which advocates the overthrow of the government.

For the sake of argument, let’s say Gabriela is what the President describes it. The organization being left-leaning does not make them illegal.

What is illegal is if a portion of its Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), otherwise known as pork barrel, goes to buy guns and ammunition for the NPA.

In which case, the party-list group should be watched by military and police intelligence.

And if intelligence gathered shows Gabriela and other leftist groups are channeling some of their pork barrel to the underground, their members should be arrested and charged in court for trying to aid in the overthrow of the duly constituted government.

Military intelligence, central of which is the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), should come out with hard evidence to support accusations that left-leaning party-list groups are helping in the overthrow of the government.

And if military intelligence can’t back up such allegations, then it should keep quiet.

This is not to say, however, that I’m in favor of party-list groups that don’t represent marginalized sectors of society, such as senior citizens, fisherfolk, farmers, security guards, teachers, persons with disability (PWD).

How could Ako Bicol and An Waray party-list groups, for instance, represent the Bicolanos and Warays (Visayans from Samar and Leyte) when they already have district representatives in Congress?

How could Ang Galing Pinoy, purporting to be a voice of security guards in the House of the Representatives, be headed by Mikey Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when he is neither a security guard nor an official of a security agency?

How could Drivers United for Mass Progress and Equal Rights-Philippine Taxi Drivers Association (DAMPER) be represented by Claudine Bautista, daughter of Davao Occidental Gov. Claude Bautista?

Claudine’s marriage-cum-wedding reception at the exclusive resort at Balesin Island became vulgar news for its pomp and splendor.

Did Claudine Bautista ever drive a taxicab?

The 1987 (Cory Aquino) Constitution provides for the representation of “under-represented sectors” in the House of Representatives.

Senate President and vice presidential candidate Tito Sotto lamented the abuse of the law on party-list groups.

Sotto, one of the sponsors of the Party-List Law, said there were intense discussions and debates on which groups should be considered marginalized: farmers, fisherfolk, urban poor, women, labor, youth, PWD, the elderly or seniors.

“Now the nominees are billionaires,” the Senate president said.

*      *      *

From where I sit, the most useless and hypocritical party-list group is Gabriela, whose purported mission is “to advocate women’s issues and represent Filipino women in the House of Representatives.”

What seems to be Gabriela’s slogan – as seen on their Facebook page – is “Para sa Babae, Bata at Bayan (For women, children and country).”

I now forget the person who told me years ago that a Gabriela nominee oppressed her housemaid.

As one wag puts it, “Magaling mambola ang Gabriela (Gabriela makes themselves and their ideas sound good).”

Gabriela, which usually lies dormant, becomes vociferous whenever there is news that a prominent, aggrieved woman is beaten up by, say, her husband.

Gabriela shouts to high heavens – of course, for the benefit of media – it will fight for the aggrieved woman.

The party-list group comes to life. It issues press statements it will fight – supposedly to the end – for the prominent battered wife.

When the news of the prominent battered wife dies down, so does Gabriela’s fervor. There’s a term for it in Tagalog: ningas cogon (a term taken from a quickly-burning grass fire that dies down just as fast).

That’s what happened decades ago: A famous woman committed suicide supposedly because she could no longer bear being a battered wife to a well-known politician. Gabriela went to work allegedly to prosecute the husband. The result? Zero, zilch, nada, nothing!

Years ago, I thought that Gabriela could help with rape victims, battered wives and women in general in my work in Isumbong mo kay Tulfo, my program.

Of course, we were utterly mistaken. Whenever we would seek Gabriela’s help, the party-list group’s office was empty. Our calls to the Gabriela office were never returned.

Do you know why? Because the victims we were bringing to them were not actresses, society matrons and rich girls, that’s why.

Gabriela’s claim of defending women, children and country is full of crap if you ask Isumbong mo kay Tulfo, an original tribune in media.

William Shakespeare describes Gabriela’s claim succinctly: “All sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

*      *      *

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Federico Laciste had difficulty fielding questions from senators during the last hearing of the Senate committee-of-the-whole on why there was unabated smuggling of agricultural products.

Laciste heads the task force on anti-smuggling of vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products such as pork, beef and fish.

Laciste, a retired police general, placed the blame on the Bureau of Customs.

That’s a lot of bull!

As head of the task force, Laciste’s position is field inspectorate and, as such, can direct the customs bureau to seize smuggled agricultural products.

Watch for more reports on the smuggling of agricultural products in this column.

Abangan!

NPA

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