The party-list system and the seafarers’ votes
The votes of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), both landbased and seabased, are now being courted by groups aiming political seats through the party-list representation.
Around 134 groups will vie for 59 seats allotted for the party list in the House of Representatives – trimmed from the 185 organizations that sought to enter the 2019 party-list race during the filing of candidacies in October 2018.
Party-list representation utilize the tendency for proportional representation systems to favor single-issue parties, and applies that tendency to allow underrepresented sectors to represent themselves in the law-making process.
The party-lists system was introduced in the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act 7941 (the Party-List Law) to provide a balance for locality-based lawmakers, who are almost always elected on the basis of their popularity and the money that they release. The party-list system is designed for parties to be voted according to their program of government and track record. It is also meant to open doors to more qualified individuals, enlisted by the parties, who do not have the money and the personal connections to make them win in locality-based elections, but whose platform may appeal to voters nationwide.
The Overseas Absentee Voting Act (OAV) was passed in 2003, allowing Filipinos overseas to vote for who they want to be president, vice-president, senators, and party-list representatives.
POEA 2017 data shows that out of the 1,992,746 deployed OFWs, 1,614,674 are landbased while 378,072 are seabased. In terms of remittances, the seabased sector sent home US$6,139,512.00 while the land based sector gave US$22,803,603,000.00.
Due to their absence during the election period, there is a specialized mode of voting by which ship officers and ratings manning ships, including offshore workers, service providers and fishermen, who are registered overseas voters, may cast their ballots 60 days before the day of elections.
Under a Commission on Election (COMELEC) resolution, seafarers may vote at any post, specifically Philippine embassies, consulates, foreign service establishments and other Philippine government agencies maintaining offices abroad, e.g., the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO).
During the voting period, seafarers may vote through two modes: adopting personal voting or, in case of postal voting, in any post with international seaports as identified and recommended by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
In posts adopting personal voting, seafarers voting shall be conducted by one of the election inspectors.
In posts adopting postal voting, ballots for seafarers shall be distributed proportionately among posts with identified international seaports. These ballots shall be in the custody of the post for the entire voting period. The seafarer shall personally claim the mailing packet at the post, accomplish the official ballot contained in a mailing packet; and submit the accomplished ballot which shall then be disposed in accordance with the procedures on postal voting.
COMELEC records show that seafarers who have registered to be OAVs number 43,033 as of 2019. This is less than 2016’s 49,339. The most seafaring OAVs are from Europe (22,433), followed by North and Latin America (10,468), Asia Pacific (7,662), and the Middle East and Africa (2,470).
But the strength of the seafarers’ votes are essentially felt through their families residing in the Philippines.
For the seafaring sector, two party-list groups are campaigning for this year’s mid-term election.
MARINO Partylist was formed in 2014 by seafarers and stakeholders from the maritime community mostly in Mindanao. They are pursuing advocacies that aims to make significant and meaningful changes and reforms in the maritime industry.
On the other hand, ANGKLA was founded in 2011 and run for congressional seat in 2013 under Partylist name, ANGKLA and won for 2 consecutive terms.
Several groups have called for the repeal or the amendment of the party-list law as political dynasties have “hijacked” the system, supposed to be a platform for representation of marginalized sectors. The rosters of party-list representatives in previous Congresses had been hit for being recycled lists of people already in power.
A study noted that at least 49 party-list nominees in the upcoming midterm elections are part of a political dynasty or families that have more than one member elected to a public post. If their parties garner enough votes, the nominees could occupy 83 percent of the 59 party-list seats in the House of Representatives.
(Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)
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