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Changing of the guards in seafarer’s cause

Dennis Gorecho .

THE results of the recent  party-list election saw the changing of the guards for the Filipino seafaring industry as  Marino replaced  incumbent Angkla.

In previous elections, several sea-based groups  attempted to gain slots in the House of Representatives through the party-list system.

Two parties run twice but failed to reach the required votes. Maritime Party run  in 2001 and 2004 while  Seaman’s Party run  in 2004 and 2007.

In 2010, three parties campaigned but failed to garner the required votes: Adhikaing Alay ng Marino sa Sambayanan (Alon)  with 49,893 votes, Ang Kapisanan ng mga Seaman (Aksi) with  26,805, and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS) with  6,121 votes. 

Angkla entered the political scene in 2013 competing for the slot with another group, Association of Marine Officer and Ratings Inc. (Amor Seaman). Diwa also carried the seafarers’ issues.  Angkla , won a seat as it ranked 26th with its  360,138 votes while  Amor Seaman lost as it ranked 111th for its 40,849 votes.

The 2016  election witnessed again  the race  between Angkla and Amor  Seaman. As an incumbent, Angkla retained its seat but it’s ranking  dropped to 32nd  place with 337, 245  votes which is 22,893 votes lower than that in 2013.  Marino made a debut  ranking 79th place with 102,430 votes.  Amor Seaman was in 87th place with its 68,226 votes. 

During this year’s midterm election, Angkla’s popularity continued to slide  down after occupying  the  53rd slot  for  its 176,888 votes.  This is lower by 160, 357 votes in 2016. As a consequence,  Angkla  came short of 6,000 votes to retain its  seat in Congress for a third term.

The problem besetting the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping (STCW) for seafarers affected Angkla’s candidacy. The seafarers complained that the process for obtaining and renewing their license became more difficult when the functions of Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) was transferred to the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) by virtue of Angkla’s R.A. 10635. Marina was designated as the Single Maritime Administration to implement the STCW.

Angkla’s decline could likewise  be attributed to the impression that it   prioritize   business matters rather than the basic seafarers’ issues. It is heavily supported by the groups of manning agencies as well as shipowners. Angkla was born in the boardroom with corporate genes.

It echoed the manning agencies in depicting  lawyers assisting seafarers for their legal claims as ambulance chasers when it authored  RA  No. 10706 (Seafarers Protection Act).

It even filed HB No. 5430 on February 2015 wherein the seafarer will wait for longer years before they receive the NLRC/NCMB award, mostly for cases involving monetary claims for disability and death benefits, illegal dismissal as well as unpaid or underpayment of salaries and wages

The  negative perception on Angkla led to the shift of seafarers’ support to Marino for this year’s election.

Marino  waves a Five-Point priority: cadet scholarships, family centers, trainings, free legal services and decentralization.

Despite its high ranking (7th place) for its  659, 076 votes, Marino’s major challenge is to confront the questions  raised on the qualification of its first  three nominees who are not seafarers. It is backed by big-time Davao-based businesses and has close ties with the Dutertes. 

Several groups have earlier called for the repeal or amendment of the party-list law as political dynasties and businessmen have “hijacked” the system, supposed to be a platform for representation of marginalized sectors. The rosters of party-list representatives in previous congresses had been hit for being recycled lists of people already in power and those with business interest.

In a party-list elections, it is the party-list organization as a whole that should be evaluated by the electorate, but  it cannot be denied that the identity of the nominees remains a significant reference for voters. Oftentimes, voters elect a partylist based on political ads without actually knowing it or its platform.

Preliminary  reports noted  that seafarer deployment hit  337,502 in 2018 with remittance reaching US$6,139,512,000. The Philippines is the biggest supplier of ratings, followed by China, Indonesia, the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Marino must prove that it is worthy of the Filipino seafarers’ vote as their party-list representatives that will genuinely protect their interest and not that of capital  to the prejudice of their labor rights. Otherwise, they will face the   2022 election with a bitter pill. 

(Lawyer Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan  law offices. For comments, email, or call 09175025808 or 09088665786)


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TREND MAKER. Mindanao Gold Star Daily was established in 1989 to set ablaze a new meaning & flame to the local newspaper business. Throughout the years it continued its focus and interest in the rural areas & pioneered the growth of countryside journalism.

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