Manila, Philippines – The Belmonte-led majority coalition in the House of Representatives (HOR) has almost completed filling in committee chairs and members. The HOR has 58 regular standing committees, while there are 11 special committees.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello

The House committee on overseas workers affairs (COWA) is one of the regular standing committees. The COWA chairmanship in the 16th Congress went to Akbayan Representative Walden Bello. He also chaired the COWA during the 15th Congress.

But the Filipino migrant rights advocacy group MIGRANTE questioned Bello’s chairmanship of the COWA.

“Why still assigned the chairmanship of COWA to a non-OFW sectoral representative? An OFW family sectoral group had won and in fact got two seats to represent the OFWs and their dependents in the House,” said MIGRANTE sectoral party vice chairman John Leonard Monterona, also Migrante International coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa.

Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III
Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III

Monterona noted it’s the first time that an OFW partylist group had won in the partylist election since 1998 when the party-list system of representation had been institutionalized into the PH political system.

He is referring to the OFW Family party-list group that won in the 2013 party-list elections that got two seats.

OFW Family partylist is headed by former ambassador Roy Seneres, Sr. as its first nominee, while a controversy due to question of citizenship involving its 2nd nominee barred to assume seat in Congress.

Monterona said as a matter of courtesy to the sector that hugely contributing to keep the PH economy afloat due to billion dollar remittances sent yearly, the Belmonte-led House should have assigned the COWA to OFW Family rep. Roy Seneres, Sr.

Monterona claimed that many OFWs preferred Seneres, Sr. to chair the COWA.

“Many OFWs believed, which aside from MIGRANTE that undoubtedly could well represent the OFWs in Congress but unfortunately it failed to get the required votes to secure a seat in Congress, former labor attache-turned-ambassador and now Congressman Roy Seneres, Sr. could well articulate OFWs issues and concerns without resorting to political gimmicks.”

“That’s a major setback of the so called ‘tyranny of the majority’. Committee chairmanship is assigned on the basis of political affiliation and maneuvering rather than genuine representation, experience, and capability of the elected representatives of the people,” Monterona noted.

Rep. Bello and his group Akbayan is in close alliance with the PNoy administration. Several Akbayan leaders are occupying cabinet positions.

“I have suggested to OFW Family party-list Rep. Roy Seneres, Sr. to initiate to file a house resolution institutionalizing the automatic designation of an OFW partylist group representative(s) who got the highest number of votes to chair the COWA,” Monterona lamented.

“It’s high time to end the ‘tyranny of the majority’ in so far as committee assignment is concerned,” Monterona added.

Lastly, Monterona opined that they welcome if a bill punishing political turncoatism will be filed again in Congress and eventually passed into a law. # # #