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Poll watchdog questions ‘mega-rich’ party-list solons


An election watchdog on Tuesday questioned party-list representatives who are supposedly “mega-rich” and “are financially capable to compete in regular congressional district elections.”
 
In a statement, the group Kontra Daya said the current composition of sectoral groups at the House of Representatives is “dominated by personalities who cannot be considered marginalized and who in fact have connections with established political families and big business interests.”
 
The poll watchdog particularly criticized Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, who represents Ang Galing Pinoy, a party-list group for security guards and tricycle drivers. 
 
Arroyo, son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was the 24th richest House member last year, with a net worth of P99.2 million. Mrs. Arroyo represents Pampanga's second legislative district in the House of Representatives. The younger Arroyo, however, dismissed Kontra Daya’s statements as “rehashed.”
 
“These critics should realize that inspite of having no funds, I was able to muster enough support from my friends in the private sector to deliver basic services to the members of my party-list,” Mikey said in a text message to GMA News Online.
 
‘Big business interests’
 
The election watchdog likewise questioned two other party-list representatives who supposedly have “big business interests.”
 
Kontra Daya cited the cases of Ang Kasangga Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Association of Laborers and Employees (ALE) Rep. Catalina Bagasina as “glaring cases of violations of the spirit of the party-list system.”
 
GMA News Online contacted these two sectoral representatives for their statements, but they were not immediately available for comments. Their offices also refused to release copies of their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) to the media for scrutiny.
 
The poll watchdog said Bagasina—the richest party-list representative last year with a net worth of P133.9 million—owns a cargo forwarding company. The website of Front Cargo Forwarders, Inc. identifies Bagasina as its founder. 
 
Haresco, whose party-list represents small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs, for his part, has a net worth of P92.8 million, making him the 30th richest House member last year.
 
Comelec’s role
 
In the same statement, Kontra Daya likewise called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to avoid “unqualified” candidates to participate in the party-list elections.
 
“The Comelec should clean up this mess. It should review the accreditation of these groups before they are allowed to run again and make a mockery of the party-list system,” the poll watchdog said.
 
The Comelec already started screening party-list groups for the 2013 polls last month. A total of 172 party-list groups have expressed intention to participate in the midterm elections. Article VI, Section 5(2) of the 1987 Constitution mandates that party-list representatives shall constitute 20 percent of all House seats. These representatives shall be nationally elected “from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”
 
ACT Teachers’ party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio, for his part, suggested that the Comelec open up for public scrutiny documents being submitted by groups wishing to be accredited for the party-list polls.
 
“The people can help Comelec weed out bogus party-lists, but they have to be armed with information which, right now, is mostly in the hands of Comelec. If these (pieces of) information are hidden from the public then bogus party-lists can slip into Congress more easily,” he said in a separate statement. — RSJ, GMA News