Changing of the guards in seafarer’s cause

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 the House of Representatives through the party-list system.

Two parties ran twice but failed to reach the required votes. Maritime Party ran in 2001 and 2004 while Seaman’s Party ran in 2004 and 2007.

In 2010, three parties campaigned but failed to garner the required votes: Adhikaing Alay ng Marino sa Sambayanan (ALON) with 49,893 votes; Ang Kapisanan ng mga Seaman (AKSI) with 26,805; and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) with 6,121 votes.

Angkla entered the political scene in 2013 competing for the slot with another group, Association of Marine Officers and Ratings, Inc. (Amor Seaman). DIWA also carried the seafarers’ issues.

Angkla won a seat as it ranked 26th with its 360,138 votes while Amor Seaman lost as it ranked 111th for its 40,849 votes

The 2016 election witnessed again the race between Angkla and Amor Seaman. As an incumbent, Angkla retained its seat but it’s ranking dropped to 32nd place with 337,245 votes which was 22,893 votes lower than that in 2013. Marino made a debut ranking 79th place with 102,430 votes. AMOR Seaman was in 87th place with its 68,226 votes.

During this year’s midterm election, Angkla’s popularity continued to slide down after occupying the 53rd slot for its 176,888 votes. This is lower by 160,357 votes in 2016. As a consequence, Angkla came short of 6,000 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. The seafarers complained that the process for obtaining and renewing their license became more difficult when the functions of the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) were transferred to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) by virtue of Angkla’s Republic Act 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 prioritizes business matters rather than the basic seafarers’ issues. It is heavily supported by the groups of manning agencies as well as shipowners. Angkla was born in the boardroom with corporate genes.

It echoed the manning agencies in depicting lawyers assisting seafarers for their legal claims as ambulance chasers when it authored Republic Act No. 10706 (Seafarers Protection Act).

It even filed House Bill No. 5430 on February 2015 wherein the seafarer will wait for longer years before they receive the NLRC/NCMB award, mostly for cases involving monetary claims for disability and death benefits, illegal dismissal as well as unpaid or underpayment of salaries and wages
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 its high ranking (7th place) for its 659,076 votes, Marino’s major challenge is to confront the questions raised on the qualification of its first three nominees who are not seafarers. It is backed by big-time Davao-based businesses and has close ties to 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.

In a party-list election, it is the party-list organization as a whole that should be evaluated by the electorate, but it cannot be denied that the identity of the nominees remains a significant reference for voters. Oftentimes, voters elect a party-list 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. The Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, followed by China, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

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.

***

Atty. Dennis Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, email [email protected], or call 09175025808 or 09088665786./PN

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