By ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
MANILA — Catholic priest Fr. Joe Dizon, convener of the anti-fraud and election monitoring group Kontra Daya, raised hell earlier this week over the Commission on Elections’s (Comelec) accreditation of a partylist group that is, by its own declaration, a project initiated by an official of the Arroyo administration and a prominent ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Father Dizon said the Comelec should not have accredited the partylist group that calls itself Batang Iwas Droga (Bida or Kids Avoiding Drugs), and called for the group’s disqualification from the May 2010 elections.
Bida describes itself in its website as “the brainchild” of Ephraim Genuino, chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor). The Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and the Department of Education (DepEd) are Pagcor’s project partners in Bida.
Launched in 2003 as an anti-illegal drug campaign for elementary-school children, it was accredited as a partylist group for the 2010 elections.
“Why is it being allowed to run when it’s a government-sponsored project?” Father Dizon said in a statement sent to media.
In its 2001 ruling on the case of Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al, the Supreme Court unequivocally thumbed down partylist groups that are sponsored or supported by the government or its officials. Stated the Supreme Court:
“x x x (The) party or organization must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government. By the very nature of the party-list system, the party or organization must be a group of citizens, organized by citizens and operated by citizens. It must be independent of the government. The participation of the government or its officials in the affairs of a party-list candidate is not only illegal and unfair to other parties, but also deleterious to the objective of the law:to enable citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors and organizations to be elected to the House of Representatives.”
Bida is just the latest in a string of government-sponsored partylist groups that had been allowed to compete in elections since 2001.
As Father Dizon said, Bida “is like Richard Gomez’s Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga, or MAD.”
On Jan. 15, 1999, amid reports of increased drug use among Filipino youth, then-President Joseph Estrada issued Executive Order No. 61, creating the National Drug Law Enforcement and Prevention Coordinating Center (DEP Center), an agency under the Office of the President. Sec. 1 of EO 61 provides that “the Center shall be headed by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government as Chairman; with the Chief of the Philippine National Police as Vice-Chairman; and Task Force Chief Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force; Chairman of the Dangerous Drugs Board; Director of the National Bureau of Investigations; Commission of the Bureau of Immigration; Chief of the National Prosecution Service; and Commissioner of the Bureau of Customs as members.”
The DEP Center initiated MAD in July 1999. MAD competed in the 2001 elections, fielding actor Richard Gomez as its first nominee, and became the subject of the case now known as Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al.
MAD’s disqualification did not deter the Arroyo administration from supporting partylist groups.
In the 2004 elections, Arroyo endorsed the partylist groups Alliance for Nationalism and Demcracy (Anad), which is also supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (Cafgu); Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (Alif), Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal para sa Ikauunlad ng Lokal na Ekonomiya (Smile), Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP), and Veterans Freedom Party (VFP). Of these, Alif and VFP each landed a seat in the 13th Congress.
In 2006, an employee of the Office of External Affairs (OEA), an agency under the Office of the President, leaked to cause-oriented groups a memorandum, dated Oct. 16 that year, in which then-OEA chief Marcelo Fariñas II specifically requests for “funding assistance” from the Office of the President’s intelligence funds for the pro-administration party-list groups as well as for the OEA’s Special Concerns Group, or SGC.
Attached to the two-page memorandum is a “confidential” partylist campaign proposal including a proposed budget of P5.5 million from October to December 2006 ($107,192 based on the year’s average exchange rate of $1:P51.31). The campaign proposal identifies the following as the four main partylist organizations to be supported: Agbiag! Timpuyog Ilocano (Agbiag), Babae para sa Kaunlaran (Babae Ka or Women for Development), League of Youth for Peace and Development (Lypad), and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (Kalahi). Three of these groups –- Agbiag, Babae Ka, and Kalahi -– were among 22 partylist organizations exposed in 2007 as “Malacañang and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) fronts.”
Other partylist groups supported by or having links to the Arroyo administration competed in the 2007 elections, among them the following: Anad, Akbay Pinoy OFW-National (APOI), and Bantay Party-List.
Of these groups, it was Anad and Bantay that won seats in the 14th Congress. Like Anad, Bantay is supported by the AFP and the Cafgu. APOI is linked to Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Melchor Rosales and National Capital Region (NCR) Director Rodolfo Feraren. They have all been re-accredited for the 2010 elections.
The new partylist groups that the Comelec recently accredited include one that was founded and is headed by an energy secretary who also happens to be a member of the powerful Ampatuan clan of Mindanao. Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, nephew of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who was implicated in what is now known as the infamous Ampatuan Massacre, is the first nominee of the party-list group that calls itself Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maralita, or Adam.
More recently, the partylist groups Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) and 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-Utak) have reportedly included among their nominees Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo and energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, respectively. (Bulatlat.com)