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CBCP Head Expresses Reservations on Additional Solons

ILOILO City, April 27, 2009-The head of the Catholic bishops' leadership is apprehensive of the ruling which increases the number of lawmakers in Congress because it might cause more problems than gains.

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said in a country suffering from political and economic crisis, the decision means additional burden to the public.

Lagdameo said it is no other than the taxpayers who will be much affected by the new Supreme Court (SC) decision increasing the number of party-list representatives in the lower House.

"The additional congressmen mean increase in the expense to our country because they will have to be given salaries, allowances and even increase in pork barrel," he said.

This year alone, Congress allocated for itself P9.665 billion in pork barrel under the P1.425-trillion budget. The amount shows an increase of about P2 billion from its pork barrel allocation in 2008.

Each House member is usually allocated P70 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund, commonly referred to as "pork barrel" yearly, while each Senator is allocated P200 million. However, lawmakers who earlier supported impeachment resolutions were no longer given such funds.

"The huge obligation goes to the public really," the Jaro archbishop said. "I hope that they (SC) have thought it carefully."

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed on Friday the additional winning party-list groups entitled to one or more seats, raising the number sectoral members in the chamber from 22 to 51.

The move followed after the High Court reversed itself and ruled that all the vacant seats for the party-list system should be filled up in keeping with the mandate of the Constitution.

The Constitution states that representatives from the under-represented and marginalized should constitute 20 percent of the House membership.

Meanwhile, on the entry of controversial military general Jovito Palparan to the Congress as Bantay party list representative, Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro C. Bacani and a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission asked "what body is he (Palparan) supposed to represent?"

"Palparan has already been rebuked by the Melo Commission for his Human Rights violations and I do not know what sense there is in putting in Congress a man who is notoriously reputed to be a Human Rights violator," the prelate explained.

He said he has very "serious reservations about him (Palparan), for the sake of the victims."

As far as CBCP Permanent Council member and San Fernando Auxiliary Bishop Pablo Virgilio S. David is concerned, the CBCP has been clear in its stand against political dynasties.

"Medyo masyadong obvious na ito," Bishop David said referring to the assumption of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo's sister into the House of Representatives as party list lawmaker.

"Being a member of the Constitutional Commission during President Aquino's time, our idea of party list representatives should represent underprivileged groups and somehow should be identified with the underprivileged groups," the Bacani explained.

"I am not saying they should not have any formal schooling but at least should have some connection to a underprivileged sector," he added.

Referring to Federation of Free Farmers founder Jeremias Montemayor, the prelate said it is acceptable to have him represent farmers "because he has fought long battles for the country's farmers."

prelate said he is worried should the time come a voting would take place for the agrarian reform and these party list representatives who claim to represent the underprivileged would even support anti-agrarian reform measures.

"Sana nama'y huwag gagawing katawa-tawa ang pagiging member ng party list," he concluded. (CBCPNews/Melo Acuña)