All this vote requires is common sense, and maybe one Google search. The partylist system is supposed to “enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies <to> contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”
Operative word marginalized. Operative phrase the nation as a whole.
One weekend from election day we should not forget these important facts about the partylist; more importantly we should not think this vote irrelevant. The partylist vote is a national vote after all, one that those in power, i.e., GMA have manipulated to her benefit. The value of the partylist system for GMA and those in power is clearly proven by this: there are 187 organizations listed on your ballots as partylist groups. How many of them are GMA-funded partylists? Take a look at this and this.
Of course even organizations that aren’t in those lists of GMA-planted partylists shouldn’t easily be seen as valid partylist groups. Many of these organizations work on the level of representation by putting the sector in their names, but really, many of them are not organizations at all, i.e., have no members. Google them and you’ll see.
Many others, while with organizations, do not clearly represent the sectors they say they do, i.e., there’s a teachers partylist that’s about protecting private school owners (who are rich therefore not marginalized at all) when the only people they should be protecting from oppression are public school teachers. Obviously, the goal for patylist groups such as this is to protect one’s business interests in Congress, and side with the majority in the process – how’s that for being marginalized?
Even more obvious? Partylist groups that say they represent OFWs, when that is in no way organized as a sector; those that represent cooperatives, when these are organizations within government institutions that do nothing but “help” workers by giving them loans and unilaterally subtracting those loans from monthly salaries, until workers have no other choice but take on another loan; those that are ambiguous about representation but say that they will provide jobs, give free education, allow Filipinos to go abroad and pay later, and even (goodness gracious!) give free cataract treatments.
The partylist system is not about civic duty; this is not to excuse government from the things it should be providing its people.
The partylist system is about representation in lawmaking, its premise is that the real marginalized are not protected by existing laws. Real marginalization is about economic mobility, the ability of a sector to spend, given how much they earn; their ability to improve their lives given their impoverished limitations. The real marginalized are those who suffer every day, given who they are, and the concrete conditions that forget their rights.
And please, those partylist groups that are about the regions? Realize that they are represented to begin with. There is already a Congressman for every city, yes? Then why are people from Bicol or the Warays marginalized sectors still?
The question therefore for anyone who’s voting for a partylist group is: do you know these people you are voting for? did these organizations exist before they joined the partylist election? Most importantly, if you aren’t marginalized, then which organization are you voting for?
I am by no means economically marginalized: I am middle class after all. I was teacher in a private school for five years, but it was my experience in a public university that has changed me fundamentally. As a member of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers, I have met/spoken to/worked with public school teachers; as treasurer of ACT Teachers Partylist this experience in the public school would resonate with the truth of marginalization.
It was here, in the halls of the public school that I lived what I once only knew in theory: little pay, barely enough to live decently, unprotected rights for the most part, oppressed in many ways with nowhere to go, and to do but stay. As someone who had the choice to leave, there was no reason for me to feel I was one of them. But it was here, in these spaces of laughter and friendship in the midst of the sadnesses of a public educations system that does, without a doubt, oppress its own teachers, I came to know compassion more than I ever have. More importantly, I came to know the value of change and revolt, and the power of the oppressed and marginalized to see those chains and break free.
And this is why the vote for partylist is as important as any other. It is here that the real marginalized sectors, as represented by real organizations and groups, and real people, actually do gain representation. It is here that bigger and better changes are made possible. Imagine a Congress where the partylist minority is united in representing economic marginalization – that would protect the majority in this nation more than anything else.
This is why the partylist vote is important to me, not so much as a member of the marginalized, but for the many others who I know are. This is why it’s important to me that I know the function of the partylist and why they want to be in Congress. This is why it’s important that I know these organizations and people. This is why it’s important to me to know that when the people who represent the marginalized enter Congress, they do so as members of the marginalized: as farmer and labor leader, as activist and activist lawyer, as teacher, as activist youth. There is no place here for lawyers and educators, doctors and president’s children, and military officers.
This is the rightful place of people and organizations that have proven themselves, outside Congress, and within it. And here are the ones I know, the ones who have the work they do on record, the ones who, even with their pork barrel cut-off by this government, have been able to serve nation and people.
Bayan Muna Partylist represents a broad organization of the working class and the poor; Anakpawis Partylist represents farmers; Gabriela Women’s Party is a broad alliance of women; Kabataan Partylist represents the youth in the many issues of and in education, among others; Katribu demands representation for the indigenous peoples. And then there is ACT Teachers Partylist, #39 on your ballots.
Click here for incumbent partylist organizations and representatives in Congress, to read up on what they’ve done.