QUEZON CITY—NINE groups claiming to represent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the House of Representatives failed again in the recently held party-list elections, initial results show.
Analysts say this is expected as voters were overwhelmed by the number of groups with the apparent lack of viable political platforms.
“(Running for the party-list elections) seems to be an exercise in futility for these groups. This has been happening in past elections before,” Francisco Aguilar Jr. of the Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino said.
The OFW Journalism Consortium spoke to Aguilar four days after an estimated 45 million voters trooped to polling precincts to elect groups under the party-list system aside from other candidates for the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial, and local seats of government.
The groups that ran include the Alyansa ng OFW, Ahon Pinoy, Action Brotherhood for Active Dreamers (ABROAD), Akbay Pinoy National Organization (APOI), Adhikaing Alay ng Marino sa Sambayanan (ALON), KALAHI Sectoral Party (KALAHI), Pamilyang OFW-SME Network (OPO), Ang Kapisanan ng mga Seaman (AKSI) and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS).
Despite the fact that the migrant worker sector is one of the groups specifically mentioned by the 1995 Party-List Law to be given sectoral representation, no party representing them was able to win in the past four party-list elections (1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007).
Aquilar said in a telephone interview the results of this year’s elections show that the migrant workers’ sector remains fragmented just like before.
With many groups advocating for specific OFW issues, the potential for having a single platform for all Filipino migrant workers has missed us, Aguilar said.
This had been the problem in migrant worker representation even in past party elections, he added.
“It’s difficult to unify these groups since many of them wanted to lead (and push for their respective agenda).”
To note, Aguilar’s group endorsed senatorial candidates Susan Ople and Danilo Lim, and 1Ganap partylist.
The group said its founding chapter did so as they believed “both candidates are seen to be supportive of the cause of OFWs.”
On the other hand, political science professor Jorge Tigno of the University of the Philippines in Diliman believes voters had difficulty in choosing among the 187 sectoral groups contending for representation because of their sheer number.
“Nearly all of them are forgettable since they are numerous, relative to the single choice that has to be made.” Tigno said in reply to questions sent by email.
At the same time, the migrants’ group’s diversity is not correlated with their “perceived political potential,” says Tigno, who had written about the role of Filipino migrants in shaping the country’s political scenery.
FIGURES from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) National Canvass Report as of May 12 show that Ahon Pinoy got the most among the nine with 22,975 votes.
Comelec data also revealed ABROAD received 24,302 votes; Alyansa ng OFW 18,877; ALON, 8.885; APOI, 9,763; and, KALAHI, 6,272 votes. Likewise, data showed OPO garnered 7.915 votes while AKSI and and UFS received 5,500 and 1,000 votes, respectively.
The results contrasts with a March survey by the Pulse Asia group that showed Ahon Pinoy, Alyansa ng OFW, ABROAD, and OPO having greater chances of winning at least one seat in the House. These groups managed to garner at most 1% of votes.
Comments from the OFW group’s nominees and heads were unavailable as of press time.
As provided for by the 1995 Party-list Law or RA 7941, any organization can run for party list representation provided if it can represent a specific national, regional or sector- based constituency. Twenty percent of the total seats in the House will be allocated to these groups.
The law also provides that each party provides a list of five nominees out of which a maximum of three representatives can sit in Congress. The number of seats a winning party can get is based on a proportional system, the formula of which had changed many times since 1998.
In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled the validity of a two-step process for a party to gain a sectoral seat.
The High Tribunal’s ruling said an organization should win at least two percent of the total votes cast to gain a seat. However, it may gain another seat if there will be remaining seats left after the first step.
Based on Comelec estimates, a party must win around 900,000 out of 45 million votes in order to get a seat in the party-list representation.
Aguilar said that the limited number of slots provided for by the Party-List law has also “drove a wedge among the members of the OFW sector.” Because party list groups are only allotted up to three seats in Congress, they are forced to compete with each other so that each can win in the elections.
“This prevents coordination among OFW groups (fighting for the migrant workers’ sector),” Aguilar explains.
With migrant workers having no representation again in Congress, Aguilar believes they can only influence policy making through lobbying. However, they should be careful in engaging lest they “are at the mercy of those being lobbied.”
(To be continued)