Last week, a group called AGHAM (which means science in Filipino) was proclaimed as one of the party-list winners in the recently concluded elections. The group got 241,898 votes, enough to secure a single seat in Congress. AGHAM's first nominee, former broadcaster Angelo Palmones, will therefore assume the position as a duly-elected representative and member of the legislature.
I'm not a fan of the party-list setup here in the Philippines--I completely agree with former Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz that the system has been bastardized and is now utterly useless and expensive. The framers of the 1987 Constitution had good intentions when they drew up the party-list provision to give representation to the marginalized sectors of the society. They could have never anticipated, however, that all sorts of dubious characters and organizations would exploit it to gain access to Congress and its accompanying perks.
But, since it will take an amendment of the Constitution--a process that may take years to complete, if it will happen at all--to abolish the party-list system, I'm keeping an open mind that it can still bring meaningful changes in the country.
AGHAM, as a group running on a platform based on science and technology (S&T) development, could represent some of that hope.
The group wasn't victorious at first; it ran in the 2007 elections but lost miserably. This year, it bounced back and placed 32nd among the 187 party-list groups that competed in the May elections. Before formally taking his seat in Congress, Palmones is set to take his oath of office before Quezon City representative-elect Feliciano Belmonte Jr. today, June 9.
I was able to talk to the group's secretary, Vicky Bartilet, who told me that AGHAM will focus on S&T laws that have been passed by Congress but have not been sufficiently implemented by the national government.
Bartilet, a former official of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), said they will push for legislations relating to S&T manpower development and science education.
AGHAM, she said, will also play an active part in promoting bigger investments for research and development in the country.
I can only wish that the group can indeed accomplish the goals it set and promised to the people who voted for them, myself included. I've seen Palmones, as a media colleague, worked hard to uplift the level of awareness of science and technology in the country. We haven't been truly successful in that area yet, and so AGHAM has its work cut out for it.
If the group was successful in marshalling the votes from various science-related professional and civic organizations, pushing its agenda in Congress is a different ballgame altogether. This is when the real work begins.