Politics and business in the seafarers’ party-list election

THE PARTY-LIST system has been widely criticized for being dominated by political overlords and big business.

Several groups have 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.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) released last March  the names of party- list nominees which it said was effected to enhance the transparency of the electoral process and to enable voters to make an informed choice.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez noted that while Comelec maintains that, in a party-list elections, it is the party-list organization as a whole that should be evaluated by the electorate, 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.

According to election watchdog Kontra Daya, “nearly half” of the 134 groups or their nominees joining the 2019 elections do not represent the marginalized sectors.

Kontra Daya noted that at least 49 party-list nominees in the upcoming midterm elections are part of political dynasties 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.

In the sea-based sector, two party-list groups are seeking seats this May 13 mid-term elections, the incumbent ANGKLA and the MARINO.

The MARINO waves a five-point priority: cadet scholarships, family centers, trainings, free legal services and decentralization. MARINO missed a slot in the 2016 with its 100,323 votes (0.3 percent).

However, questions were recently raised on the qualification of the first three nominees of MARINO who are not seafarers.

First nominee Carlo Lisandro Gonzalez is the son of Carlos “Charlie” Gonzales, owner of Ulticon Builders, Inc. (UBI) a general contractor which in March 2017 bagged a contract of P183-million from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).He is UBI vice president for operations and Tapa King executive vice president.

Second nominee Jose Antonio G. Lopez previously worked with UBI, and now handles business development at Udenna, owned by Davao businessman Dennis Uy. The billionaire recently formed with China Telecoms the Mislatel Consortium and provisionally bagged the bidding for the Philippines’ third major telecommunications.

Its third nominee is Carlo Pio Pacana, a former human resource business partner in Sumifru-Phil which is a large-scale exporter based in the Davao region. It is in the sourcing, production and export of fresh fruits, primarily Cavendish banana, pineapple and papaya. It recently landed in the news due to a labor dispute with a Lakbayan organized by the workers from Mindanao to Manila.

MARINO claims support from the Dutertes. They are usually present during the campaign sortees of Sarah’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago. Imee Marcos even endorsed them.

On the other hand, ANGKLA is heavily supported by the groups of manning agencies as well as shipowners.

During the Senate hearings on the proposed Seafarers’ Magna Carta, the manning agencies attempted to resurrect ANGKLA’s escrow bill which it earlier filed as House Bill No. 5430 on February 2015 during the 16th Congress.

The manning agencies’ proposed provision in essence aimed to amend the Labor Code that will have significant impact on labor claims governing the immediately “final and executory” nature of decisions issued by the National Labor Relations Commission / National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NLRC/NCMB).

The manning agencies echoed ANGKLA’s rationale for the earlier Bill allegedly to ensure the restitution of monetary awards in case the appropriate appellate court annuls or partially or totally reverses the monetary judgment award.

It will result to the seafarer waiting for longer years before they receive the NLRC/NCMB award for cases involving monetary claims. Some incur huge debts to sustain their medication while others die before the decision by the Supreme Court is released, forcing the seafarers into accepting an ex-gratia, miniscule amount. Companies have the legal remedies to prolong the case but one cannot reclaim the life of the deceased claimant.

Seafarers must vote wisely for their party-list that will genuinely protect their interest and not that of capital to the prejudice of their labor rights.

Be Davids in the world of Goliaths.


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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