Changing of the guards in seafarer’s cause
With two seats as party-list representatives , the major challenge of MARINO is to confront the questions raised on the qualification of its first three nominees who are not seafarers.
The results of the recent party-list election saw the changing of the guards for the Filipino seafaring industry as Marino replaced incumbent Angkla.
In previous elections, several sea-based groups attempted to gain slots in Congress through the party-list system.
Two parties ran twice but failed to reach the required votes: Maritime Party in 2001 and 2004 while Seaman’s Party ran in 2004 and 2007.
In 2010, three parties campaigned but also failed: Adhikaing Alay ng Marino sa Sambayanan (ALON) with 49,893 votes , Ang Kapisanan ng mga Seaman (AKSI) with 26,805 votes, and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) with 6,121 votes.
Angkla entered the political scene in 2013 competing with another group, Association of Marine Officer and Ratings (Amor Seaman). DIWA also carried the seafarers’ issues. Angkla , won a seat ranking 26th with 360,138 votes while Amor lost ranking 111th for 40,849 votes.
The 2016 election witnessed again the race between Angkla and Amor. As an incumbent, Angkla retained its seat but dropped to 32nd place with 337, 245 votes which is 22,893 votes lower than that in 2013. Marino made a debut ranking 79th place with 102,430 votes. Amor ranked 87th place with 68,226 votes.
During this year’s midterm election, Angkla’s popularity continued to slide down after occupying the 53rd slot with 179,531 votes. This is lower by 157,714 votes in 2016. As a consequence, Angkla came short of almost 12,000 votes to retain its seat in Congress for a third term.
The problem besetting the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers affected Angkla’s candidacy. Seafarers complained that the process for obtaining and renewing their license became more difficult when the functions of Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) were transferred to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) by virtue of Angkla’s R.A. 10635. MARINA was designated as the Single Maritime Administration to implement the STCW.
Angkla’s decline could likewise be attributed to the impression that it prioritize business matters rather than the basic seafarers’ issues. As Angkla was born in the boardroom with corporate genes, it is heavily supported by the groups of manning agencies as well as shipowners.
It echoed the manning agencies in depicting lawyers assisting seafarers for their legal claims as ambulance chasers when it authored R. A. No. 10706 (Seafarers Protection Act).
It even filed H.B. No. 5430 in February 2015 aimed to delay the execution of NLRC/NCMB award for cases involving monetary claims.
The negative perception on Angkla led to the shift of seafarers’ support to Marino for this year’s election.
Marino waves a Five-Point priority: cadet scholarships, family centers, trainings, free legal services and decentralization.
Despite the fact that its first three nominees are not seafarers, Marino placed seventh in ranking for its 677,378 votes. It is backed by big-time Davao-based businesses and has close ties with the Dutertes.
Several groups have earlier called for the repeal or amendment of the party-list law as political dynasties and businessmen 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 and those with business interest.
Poll watchdog Kontra Daya earlier raised red flags on party-list groups that have nominees that do not belong to the marginalized sectors they are supposed to represent. Its true intent should be upheld so that “only those that champion the marginalized and under-represented would emerge victorious.”
It is the group as a whole that should be evaluated but it cannot be denied that the identity of the nominees remains a significant reference for voters. Oftentimes, a party-list is voted based on political ads without actually knowing it or its platform.
Preliminary reports noted that seafarer deployment hit 337,502 in 2018 with remittance reaching US$6,139,512,000. As the incoming congressmen are not seafarers, Marino must prove that it is worthy of the Filipino seafarers’ vote as their party-list representatives that will genuinely protect their interest and not that of capital to the prejudice of their labor rights. Otherwise, they will face the 2022 election with a bitter pill and suffer the same fate of Angkla.
Atty. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786