“The 2016 smear campaign and squid tactics in the partylist system elections are now in high gear,” says Ako Bicol Representative Rodel Batocabe after being the subject of negative news stories that came out on national television just two days after the start of the campaign season.
In the segment of a primetime news program, self-styled political analyst Ramon Casiple opined that one effective standard of measuring performance of party list groups is through the number of bills they filed on behalf of their constituents. He then singled out Ako Bicol as a party list which only filed about “five or seven bills, all of which are not for the Bicolano people and does not specifically refer to the Bicol region.” The report then cited two bills, among which, HB 6340 which seeks to lower the age of senior citizens to 56years old, as having no direct relation to the Bicolanos and the Bicol region.
Batocabe stressed that a cursory search of Congress’s website would reveal that the two representatives of Ako Bicol are the most prolific legislators in the 16th Congress (see http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/07/19/15/arroyo-among-house-members-most-bills-filed). In fact, Batocabe is listed as the top party list representative which has the most number of bills authored and co-authored while his his Ako Bicol colleague, Rep. Christopher Co is number 3 in terms of bills authored and co-authored. Batocabe, however, lamented Casiple’s flawed analysis that Ako Bicol bills should only directly concern Bicol and the Bicolanos. He said that such analysis is “simply absurd, bordering on the hilarious.”
Batocabe said that the number of bills filed relating to Bicol is not and should not be used as a standard of Ako Bicol’s performance in the legislature. “If it were be the standard, we will just only file bills of local significance which are limited to naming a street, renaming a school building or converting a provincial road to national road in the Bicol region. And if we file a bill that will benefit only our constituents, let say institutionalizing a rural employment program only for Bicolanos or mandating a land use plan only for Bicol state universities, then such bill is nothing but a class legislation and violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Certainly, we can not only advocate a policy against bullying or the establishment of permanent evacuation centers in the Bicol region alone. “averred Batocabe.
Batocabe further added that “if we use Casiple’s standard, then, we might just as well require district representatives to file bills concerning their districts only and should not file bills which are of national significance. Otherwise, if a Tondo congressman will file an anti-trust bill, it has nothing to do with his constituents following Casiple’s erroneous logic.”
The Bicol solon also countered that the bill reducing senior citizen age to 56 years old also concerns Bicolanos. “Definitely, I am more than 100 percent sure that there are Bicolanos who are within the 56-59 years old range which will be benefited by this proposed measure. “He further said that while Ako Bicol’s bills are mostly of national significance which affect the lives of every Bicolano, the party list has also bills and resolutions which concerns only the Bicolanos and the Bicol Region.
“Hence, we in Ako Bicol bill have also passed resolutions concerning Bicol and the Bicol Region like an inquiry into coco lisap and Mayon eruption to urging the President to name Nora Aunor as National Artist, to recognizing Bicolano beauty queens like Venus Raj and Bea Rose Santiago or simply to honor an unheralded Bicolana pupil, Janella Lelis, who saved the Philippine flag in her school from raging floodwaters.” concludes Batocabe.
Ako Bicol topped the party list in the 2010 elections with three seats. Its seats were reduced to two after the Comelec disqualified the party list in the 2013 elections. Its disqualification was however subsequently reversed by the Supreme Court a month before the elections.