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'Menopausal Bitch,' La Salle and the Party-List System

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Party-List Congressional Representative Eulogio “Amang” R. Magsaysay, who (sadly) represents teachers and volunteer educators in Congress, called a PAL employee a “menopausal bitch” after she did not accede to his seating request. PALEA and Partido ng Manggagawa picketed Rep. Magsaysay’s office in Green Hills while the hapless female PAL employee tearfully recalled the incident.

But where is ACT, PAFTE, PPSTA and other cause-oriented teachers’ groups? Shouldn’t these organizations be similarly dismayed that one of their representatives sunk that low?

The words Rep. Magsaysay uttered? According to a news report, he allegedly said to her: “You shut up, menopausal bitch, bitch, bitch!” and “Papasisante kita.” (I will get you fired). This was after she told him she could not sit him beside his sons as all seats were taken on the L.A.-bound flight. He was then shaking his head and seething in anger. After approaching him, he allegedly said those furious words that aren’t normal even for an angry person at the airport.

An angry person spewing angry words at a busy airport would have certainly attracted attention. If there are witnesses to this incident at the Mabuhay Lounge (Balikbayans, Fil-Ams, etc.), they should come out now.

*Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE)

Rep. Magsaysay’s party-list group is the Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE). In the recent election, AVE garnered 214,760 votes, entitling it to one seat in Congress. AVE appears to be the Magsaysay political clan’s party-list group as they formed and controlled it. The first AVE nominee is Rep. Magsaysay while its third nominee is his mother, Adelaida R. Magsaysay.

If AVE, as a winning party-list group, grabbed more votes than it did, it could have effectively propelled two Magsaysay members to Congressional positions even if they did not campaign directly for themselves. AVE seems to be the Magsaysay vehicle for getting into Congress.

Should the party-list system be used by political dynasties and powerful families as their vehicle for indirectly getting elected?

*La Salle Green Hills

According to an AVE Facebook note written by the Act Teachers Partylist, Rep. Magsaysay was educated in La Salle Green Hills for grade school and high school. No kidding! That’s my alma mater! And this guy, who undeniably is a La Sallite or La Sallian, called a PAL employee a “menopausal bitch” because she could not sit him beside his sons in the fully-booked business class section for a Los Angeles flight?

Wow, a La Sallian calling a PAL employee a “menopausal bitch” just because he didn’t get what he wanted. Sounds like one of those spoiled brats in La Salle who immediately got mad if they didn’t get what they wanted quickly and without delay. That is not what the La Salle brothers and lay teachers taught us in La Salle. Eleven years of superior La Sallian education in Green Hills and this is the (his) result. La Sallians everywhere should not be proud of this moment.

This comes in light of the fact that the Secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) is none other than famous La Sallian Brother Armin Luistro. What does Bro. Armin think of this?

When I was a student in Green Hills, Bro. Armin was then a young and up-and-coming brother whom we thought would head a La Salle school someday. He not only became De La Salle U president but is now the head of the education sector of the country. I’m proud of that brother.

But now this: Rep. Magsaysay, a La Sallian, who represents teachers and educators in Congress, engages in inappropriate name-calling for not getting what he wanted. Meanwhile, a La Sallian brother heads the education department of the country. Two La Sallians directly engaged in reforming the Philippine educational system but one of them revealing a distasteful, despicable, un-La Sallian side.

Perhaps as a consolation, AVE’s Facebook information also says that Rep. Magsaysay went to the United States for college and post-grad. As such, some La Sallians might conclude that he got this knack for name-calling in the states. Yeah, better blame it on stateside education.

Whether this came from the states, from his upbringing or from his surroundings in La Salle, such statement is reprehensible and uncalled-for. Even if he was a product of the respected Ramon Magsaysay High School in Cubao, Rep. Magsaysay’s statement is still unjustified.

*Menopausal Bitch and the Hassles of Air Travel

When you call someone a “bitch”, you’ve got to be prepared to be called a “pimp” in return. If you call someone a “menopausal bitch”, you’ve got to be game when you are called a “middle-aged pimp”. When you dish, you have to be prepared to receive. But I don’t think this name-calling party-list representative was prepared to receive anything.

Air travel is a hassle nowadays. In the United States, because of many body screenings, thorough bag checks and occasional pat-downs, air travel between states is time consuming and difficult. There are long lines and one can be randomly selected to be more thoroughly screened. Patience is key. It’s a waiting game out there. You can even miss your original or connecting flight due to these security measures.

In the Philippines, airport screenings may not be as tough or thorough but the lines are equally long. Overt manifestations of impatience, cutting in line and sometimes heated exchanges between passengers or with airline employees regularly occur. Flying from Manila to airports in the provinces is usually less stringent but problems still crop up.

Airline passengers may have certain requests to airline employees. These may be accommodated or not accommodated as a result of various factors such as timeliness of the request, space in the cabin, spreading out of passengers and other reasons. It really depends.

Flying PAL (Philippine Airlines), the country’s flagship, can be good or bad. I did not have that many problems with PAL when I had to fly around the country as a young lawyer assigned to argue cases in provincial courts. Mostly, I had a good or at least satisfactory experience.

But PAL has its problems. Other than workers’ strikes, there is an old joke that PAL stands for “PAL Always Late”. And it has been, on several occasions, late. Whenever PAL planes are late, passengers can’t do anything but wait. Why? Because it owns the planes. Even if you complain, there is little chance the plane will come in any sooner. Mostly, you just sit there and wait.

However, if the passenger is the one who’s late, even if it is just for 5 or 15 minutes, PAL may make it difficult for her to board her plane. She may justify why she was late or how bad traffic is going to the domestic airport. These justifications may fall on deaf ears. When a passenger is late, the passenger pays. When a PAL plane is late, passengers just have to wait. That isn’t fair.

Some airline personnel may not also be responsive to passengers’ requests. Same thing with certain U.S. carriers. Some of them just blow you off as if they didn’t hear what you said or turn down your request without finding alternative solutions. Still, a passenger can’t react that way. Uttering “menopausal bitch” is way too extreme.

Whatever problem one encounters with PAL desk employees, telephone operators, ground crew, stewardesses or pilots, it is still not a good idea to call them a “menopausal bitch”. That’s plain rudeness. If he did that in the states, he might have been arrested.

Rep. Magsaysay tried to justify his action by saying that he misinterpreted the PAL employee’s high-pitched tone. That had he known her voice was naturally that way, he would not have reacted in that manner. That sounds lame. He shouldn’t have reacted like that at all. There were some high-pitched La Salle Green Hills female teachers back in the day, but I’m certain he wouldn’t have called any of them a bitch. Neither would he have dared do that to any high-pitched female professor at the University of Southern California.

Air travel is a hassle and a pain in the neck. But good behavior must still prevail, especially from someone who is a national leader. Or from a party-list representative of teachers and educators. Or from a scion of a known political clan. Or from a La Sallian. Or from a representative who authored dozens of house bills on education, scholarship and public school teachers.

*Does the Party-List System Work?

It’s easy to say that Rep. Magsaysay’s unfortunate “bitch” statement was merely a minor glitch in his career. That he said it without really meaning it. Then again, the fact that he said it and given his stature, background, post-grad education and wealth, it is not justifiable in any way.

Some have already called for his resignation. Others will call for his censure or reprimand. Whatever his penalty (if any) will be, this very sad episode should shock him to reality that he cannot display an arrogant behavior at the airport or at any other place.
But the bigger-picture issue is this: Does the party-list system really work?

If the party-list system produces the likes of Walden Bello (Akbayan), Teddy Casino (Bayan Muna), Liza Maza (Gabriela, ran for Senator in 2010 but lost), Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna, ran for Senator in 2010 but lost) and other representatives who truly epitomize the interests of the marginalized, then the system works. Bello, Casino, Maza and Satur Ocampo will find it very difficult to win a Congressional seat. They can only dream of securing a Senatorial post.

However, consider the flipside. If the party-list system regurgitates wealthy and politically-connected representatives, then the system doesn’t work. It only serves as a new vehicle for the elite and the powerful to get a seat in Congress without directly running and campaigning for their actual names to be voted upon. It’s their backdoor entrance to Congress. They are able to mask their identities by campaigning for a party-list group. Here are a few of them:

Ang Galing Pinoy (tricycle drivers and security guards) – Mikey Arroyo

A Teacher or ABAKADA (teachers) – Jesli Lapuz (former DepEd Secretary)

Alliance for Labor and Employment (ALE) – Erlinda M.B. de Leon (Gloria Arroyo’s first cousin)

Anak – Zamsamin Ampatuan (former Energy Undersecretary)

Buhay (pro-life group) – Mike Velarde and Rene Velarde

Kasangga (balut vendors) – Marilou Arroyo (she withdrew at the last minute)

1-UTAK (transport sector) – Angelo Reyes (former energy secretary)

AVE (teachers and volunteer educators) – Eulogio Magsaysay and Adelaida R. Magsaysay

Sagip – Romeo Maganto (former Manila police general)

It’s quite obvious that, as former Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales lamented, politicians and business interests have been bastardizing the party-list system. Mournfully, the COMELEC is doing very little to stop it. It did not thoroughly scrutinize the 187 groups for fear of delaying ballot printing.

Glaringly, many of the party-list groups’ names start with either “1” or “A”. Ostensibly, this is designed to secure a top slot in the ballot. Of the 187 registered party-list groups, seven starts with “1” and 102 starts with the letter “A”. Further adding to the bastardization is that even if COMELEC suspected that some of these groups are spurious, it took no action and even disqualified groups which genuinely represented the marginalized.

If the party-list system results to representatives from Akbayan, Gabriela, Bayan Muna, Coop-Natcco, An Waray, Amin, Senior Citizens, and Alagad, then this system which is enshrined in the 1987 Constitution and implemented by Republic Act No. 7941 is something to fight for.

But for as long as political families, business groups and influential clans (whose name recall has faded or whose members simply cannot win a Congressional post) take advantage of it and secure seats, then it might have to be done away with. There are many bogus, government-funded groups that serve as fronts for those in power or want to be in power.

Intrinsically and conceptually, however, there is nothing wrong with the party-list system. It was intended to usher into Congress true representatives of the underrepresented. It was, ideally, a source of empowerment and proportional representation. It is a system that is seen in Spain, Switzerland, Slovakia and South Africa. Many other European and Latin American countries use variations of it. The main problem is that power-seeking or power-maintaining opportunists and their consultants saw the loophole of the system and capitalized on it.

*Love It or Hate: Good and Bad

Love it or hate it, the party-list system brings some good (activists and true sectoral representatives) and a lot of bad (traditional politicians, faded political families, social elites, public figures, political parties, religious groups and arrogant airline passengers). Certain special interests have again found a way to malign, bastardize and distort a democratic institution.

The idealism of the party-list system has been hijacked by powerful interests. As my good friend, an OFW-freelance photographer in Beijing, would put it, “I favor the abolition of the party-list system. We don’t need more politicians. What we need is a moral and cultural upheaval.” Nicely put. Moreover, we don’t need a party-list representative shouting “menopausal bitch”.

(The author is a lawyer & writer based in Washington, DC, and educated by Georgetown Law (cand.), the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton (Cert.Bus.), Kyushu University, and UP.)

By Carlo Osi




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