In a decision published today at its website, the Supreme Court has opened the doors of Congress to 32 more partylist representatives who fought and won in the 2007 elections. The ruling comes almost two years since the elections and leaves only a year for the new representatives to do their work.
This is good news for common working people, professionals and small businesses. The partylist groups are actually for them, and a number of the would-be representatives are raring to bring their issues and concerns before Congress.
These parties actually won in 2007 and they all deserve to obtain the seat they fought for and won.
Despite their small number and sometimes “second-class citizen” treatment in the hands of district representatives, partylist congressmen remain the common people’s true champions within Congress, especially those who come from progressive groups and persuasions. This is especially true under the Arroyo administration which we have seen to have the inclination of cheating, stealing and killing.
With Charter Change being pursued by the President’s cabal in Congress, the 32 new representatives would be formidable force to stop this madness and to proselytize about much-needed genuine reforms needed and sought by marginalized and oppressed sectors.
One of the new representatives would be lawyer Neri Javier Colmenares, an expert on constitutional law and international humanitarian law, and who is well-known in local and international human rights movements. Attorney Colmenares will the third Bayan Muna representative and is expected to take the lead in the floor battles to defeat Charter Change.
Also in the list of those who will get seats are Joel Maglunsod of Anakpawis. Maglunsod, who hails from Mindanao, is a Bisaya-speaking champion of workers and other toiling people. He loves videoke. He doesn’t retreat from a good fight.
Raymond Palatino, known to bloggers and activists as Mong or mongster, will finally be the youth representative in Congress — perhaps the first since partylist elections were held. He will carry the colors of the Kabataan Partylist. He is currently the Southeast Asia editor of Global Voices Online and a crew member of Bloggers Kapihan. He will be arriving tonight from a brief stay with his family abroad. I predict Mong’s first bill would be for a nationwide moratorium on tuition fee increases and something about a mass employment program for graduates and young professionals yearning for work.
The entry of these three activists will bring to eight (8) the number of progressive legislators. They will be good additions to House deputy minority leader Satur Ocampo and Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna, Gabriela‘s Liza Maza and Luz Ilagan and Anakpawis’ Rafael Mariano. It is a pity that Anakpawis chair Crispin Beltran did not live long enough to see this day.
In 2001, Bayan Muna crossed the rubicon, so to speak, and surprised many by emerging as the top partylist group, netting the maximum of three seats for a partylist contender. The party did it again in 2004 and inspired the rise of Anakpawis and Gabriela.
In 2007, despite the all-out war against the armed Left, the policy of assassinating and criminalizing activists, the arrest and detention of Ocampo and the massive fraud that sought to cut down the electoral inroads of progressive partylists, Bayan Muna still emerged victorious. Despite these odds, the final vote count saw Bayan Muna occupying the second spot.
For activists, this is a bittersweet victory. Many activists belonging to Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela and Kabataan died before, during and after the elections. They are targetted, hunted down and assassinated for the crime of espousing new politics, the politics of change and principles, which some mistakenly view as purely leftist politics. The entry of three new activists into Congress are living tributes to the many who have gone on to become martyrs to their just cause.
Sure, the SC decision also allows entry into Congress of parties that many doubt to be of good character and may not be representing marginalized and oppressed sectors at all (i.e. ANAD and other pet parties of the administration) but this does not diminish the greater victories of enlarged representation for the genuine ones. What can be done is to bring the issue of these fakes before Comelec and the SC, and have them disqualified.