JDV offers seats to OFWs?
Posted by butalidnl on 1 October 2006
According to news reports, House Speaker Jose de Venecia is offering Overseas Filipinos seats in the parliamentary government that he is proposing for the Philippines. In this setup, Filipinos overseas could run as party-list representatives using the “German-European” model of the party-list system. In the House proposal for Charter Change, most of the parliamentary seats would be divided according to districts, but 30% would be given to “party-list” seats that are contested by the main political parties (thus, not the present party-list parties).
De Venecia’s proposal was contained in a letter that he sent to Loida Nicolas Lewis, chairperson of the NAFFAA (National Federation of Filipino American Associations) which is holding a convention in Honolulu. The NAFFAA had been pushing for more “charter rights” for Overseas Filipinos, especially in the light of proposals for charter change.
Although it looks like a concession to Overseas Filipinos, the De Venecia proposal offers nothing new for Overseas Filipinos. In the present setup, we could already vote for party-list parties, and in addition also for President, Vice President, and Senators. The present charter change proposals either eliminate all the posts that we could vote for, or leave the modified party-list parties as the only ones we could elect.
While De Venecia says that Overseas Filipinos could run for these modified party-list seats, this is not really promised. The only thing that is sort of sure is the prospect of Overseas Filipinos voting for the modified party-list seats, and not the ability to run for these seats themselves. We need more than de Venecia’s say-so that this would be possible – after all the fuss that Comelec has raised about dual citizens being able to vote, we can reasonably expect Comelec ruling that Overseas Filipinos could not run for office due to “lack of residence”.
The proposal does not really assure that Overseas Filipinos would be represented in the proposed parliament. It only says that OFs could run under the party-list seats of the main political parties. Most probably this would not even be possible, or even desirable, for the main parties to do. And even if an OF would become a Member of Parliament, she/he would not really be representing the OF community. It would be something akin to the appointed “sectoral representatives” under the old Marcos constitution.
In order to be fully represented, Overseas Filipinos should be able to exercise full election rights, just like the Philippine-based Filipinos. Thus, we should not only be able to vote for candidates, but also: choose among candidates vying to represent OFs, run for electoral positions ourselves (and form our own parties), participate in all referenda and plebiscites, and even choose among ourselves representatives to other governmental bodies.
We need to be allotted seats in the new parliament – seats reserved just for Overseas Filipinos, and Overseas Filipinos based outside the Philippines at that (not former OFs, nor OF advocates).
And even before all these, Overseas Filipinos should be allowed to fully participate in discussions on proposed amendments to the Constitution. Under the present rules, we could not even vote in a plebiscite on the proposed amendments.