When Congress reopens late July, Bayan Muna and two other progressive party-list groups will spearhead the repeal of the oil deregulation law and a review of the country’s commitments to the GATT-WTO. Another party, Suara Bangsamoro, is set to file charges against poll officials in Mindanao for fraud and other election irregularities.
By AUBREY SC MAKILAN
The consistent topnotcher in the party-list electoral race will legislate for the repeal of the oil deregulation law and the review of the Philippines’ commitment to the controversial General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs – World Trade Organization (GATT-WTO) when Congress reopens late July.
The plan was revealed by Bayan Muna (BM – People First) even as another progressive party-list group, Suara Bangsamoro (voice of the Moro people), was set to file charges against Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials who, it said, defrauded them of votes during the May elections.
The repeal of the oil deregulation law and the review of GATT-WTO were sought last week by Rep. Satur Ocampo, first House nominee of BM which topped the May 10 party-list elections. BM first posted the same feat in the May 2001 party-list polls.
The repeal of the oil deregulation law and the junking of the country’s commitments to the GATT-WTO have been urged by many sectors for several years due to their adverse impact on the economy, employment and the people’s income. There have been calls in Congress to pull a break on the country’s commitments to the WTO in the midst of unrestricted foreign imports and labor mass lay-offs, among other effects.
Petroleum companies have hiked oil prices after the May 10 elections following a series of increases since the oil industry was deregulated in the mid-1990s.
In an interview with Bulatlat.com last week, Ocampo also said BM and its allied party-list groups Anakpawis (toiling masses) and Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) will prioritize bills that will address urgent popular demands including wage increase, human rights compensation and the investigation of military atrocities.
The three political parties were proclaimed winners in the party-list race by Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos on June 2. BM garnered 1.2 (or 9.5 percent, with three seats), Anakpawis 538,396 votes (4.2 percent for two seats) and GWP 464,586 votes (3.6 percent for one seat).
Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, former secretary general of Bayan (New Patriotic Alliance) and Joel Virador of Negros will represent BM in Congress. Crispin Beltran, former BM representative and chair of KMU (Kilusang Mayo Uno – May First Movement) and Rafael Mariano, former chair of Bayan and Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP – Peasant Movement in the Philippines) will represent Anakpawis, with Liza Maza, also former BM representative and secretary general of Gabriela, for GWP.
Unable to take any seat were Anak ng Bayan (nation’s youth), Migrante Party and Suara Bangsamoro. These three progressive parties were also leading in pre-election surveys but many people believe they, along with the first three, were cheated out by administration and Comelec officials in a conspiracy with military and police units.
At least 41 party activists were also killed reportedly by military, paramilitary and police assassins during the election campaign.
Other party-list groups proclaimed by Comelec were: the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC), Akbayan! Citizen’s Action Party (Akbayan!), Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay), Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), Partido ng Manggagawa (PM), Butil Farmers Party (Butil), Alliance Of Volunteer Educators (AVE), Alagad, Veterans Freedom Party (VFP), Cooperative NATCCO Network Party (Coop-Natcco), Anak Mindanao (Amin), and An Waray. The June 2 Comelec tally also showed Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (Alif) with at least two percent.
Party-list votes counted totaled 12,721,952 out of the 13,241,974 voters who voted. About 30 million registered as voters but independent watchdogs reported more than a million of them were disenfranchised.
Suara Bangsamoro protests
Meanwhile, a nominee of Suara Bangsamoro said her party will file charges against some Comelec officials and canvassers for fraud in several provinces in Mindanao, southern Philippines. Suara had on June 1 petitioned the Comelec national office in Manila blocking the proclamation of AMIN.
Amirah Ladisan, Suara’s House nominee, told Bulatlat.com that lawyers of her party can prove wide discrepancies between statements of votes (SOVs) and certificates of canvass (CoCs) in Mindanao particularly in Maguindanao province.
In Pagalungan town, Maguindanao, six votes were counted as 1,006. Provincial tabulator Agnes Carreon admitted not being able to rectify the error, Lidasan said. Other towns where discrepancies were reported are: Upi, where 2,126 votes were recorded as 5,237; Barira, where Suara got zero votes.
Lidasan said she has relatives in Kapatagan, Lanao del Sur including an aunt, Mayor Rahida Maglangit. Yet Suara also got no votes in the town, she said. In the same town, Alif party-list group was supposed to have garnered 40,000 votes or bigger than the combined number of voters in 10 municipalities – 36,000.
Suara has chapters in both Barira and Kapatagan towns, yet the party-list group got zero, Lidasan said.
Lidasan said she would not mind if because of widespread fraud Suara Bangsamoro lost in the elections. But, she said,
“Bumoto ang mga Muslim at bumoto sila para sa Suara. Injustice ito sa mga Morong naniniwala na Suara lang ang makakatulong sa kanila” (The Muslims voted for Suara. This is an injustice to them who believe Suara could be their voice).
Meanwhile, Ocampo dismissed National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales’ threats to file disqualification charges against BM and the other two winning progressive party-list groups. “Wala namang pagbabago, wala pa rin naman siyang ebidensya” (Nothing is changed, he doesn’t have any proof), he said.
The BM representative said that with the winners proclaimed, they will have to face Gonzales and his “cohorts” in the House Electoral Tribunal for any case they will file against them.
Beltran, on the other hand, has a different rejoinder. On June 3, he dared Gonzales, whose own party lost in the elections, to a boxing match. The Aanakpawis president issued the challenge after the Macapagal-Arroyo aide declined an earlier invitation for a debate or forum to prove allegations about the progressive groups’ links to the New people’s Army.
“Kung ayaw humarap ni Norberto Gonzales sa debate o forum para patunayan ang kanyang akusasyon, hinahamon ko sya, suntukan na lang kami!” (Since Norberto Gonzales refuses to join a debate or forum to prove his charges, I challenge him to a boxing match), Beltran told Bulatlat.com.
The labor leader said he received reports that Gonzales had inquired at the Comelec about any disqualification case filed against the six party-list groups. He said on June 1 the the Elderly Citizens Party which is reportedly linked to Gonzales, asked Comelec to disqualify BM and the two other winning political groups.
“Wala namang prinsipyong matino na ipinaglalaban si Gonzales. OK lang ako sa suntukan,” Beltran joked. (Gonzales has no principles to fight for. A boxing match is just perfect for me).
Beltran added that Gonzales who, militant groups said, spearheaded a vilification campaign against the progressive groups, should pay for the many deaths and human rights violations his accusations have resulted in.