By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — The election watchdog Kontra-Daya and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) have filed a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) calling for the immediate and final disqualification of a number of party-list groups, among them groups led by relatives of President Benigno Aquino III and those of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In the petition, Kontra-Daya called on the Comelec to disqualify the groups from the party-list elections because they “represent interest antagonistic to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors that the party-list system aspires to empower and protect.” It also called on the commission to investigate a list of other groups, saying that their advocacies, nominees and track records are questionable.
“The nominees of all these groups are disqualified to be nominees because not only are they not representatives of marginalized and underrepresented, but they come from the rich, the powerful and the over-represented. Many are also disqualified, not just because they are part of powerful economic and political clans but are politicians who ran and lost in the previous elections,” it said.
Kontra-Daya called on the Comelec to adhere to the law when approving groups intending to run in the party-list polls. It reminded the Comelec that any political party, sector, organization or coalition running in the party-list race should represent the marginalized and underrepresented groups identified in Section 5 of RA 7941.
“It must show — through its constitution, articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, platform of government and track record — that it represents and seeks to uplift marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Majority of its membership should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented,” it said.
The election watchgdog also said that even as major political parties are expressly allowed by RA 7941 and the Constitution to participate in the party-list system, they must comply with the declared statutory policy of enabling Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors to be elected to the House of Representatives.
“In other words, while they are not disqualified merely on the ground that they are political parties, they must show, however, that they represent the interests of the marginalized and underrepresented,” it argued.
Kontra-Data created three categories for the party-list groups it wants disqualified. The first is for groups “created by politicians and political clans as a cheap way to get a seat in congress” (19 groups); second, groups “created by the rich and the powerful taking out seats that should have been for the poor and the powerless” (six groups); and the third and fourth are groups which the Comelec should investigate further, and groups backed or funded by the government.
Kontra-daya is anti-fraud group established in 2007. From the time it was formed, it has closely monitored and conducted research on the electoral system of the Philippines, as well as voter’s education and awareness. It has filed numerous election cases during the 2010 national elections in relation to the party-list system and has engaged the Comelec on the matter of the automated elections.
The petition was signed by conveners Fr.Joe Dizon, University of the Philippines (UP) Dean of the College of the Mass communications Roland Tolention; National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbrera; U professor Judy Taguiwalo; artist and activist writer Bibeth Orteza; artist and social critic Mae Paner; Col. Guillermo Cunanan; KMP’s deputy secretary-general Wildredo Marbella; and Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap’s secretary-general Gloria Arellano.
Tingting Cojuangco, peasant rights advocate?
Kontra-Daya and KMP have very strong objections to the Aksyon Magsasaka-PartidoTinig ng Masa group, and among the main reasons is that it’s first nominee is Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco.
“This supposedly peasant and farmer group has no business in joining the party-list system of elections and created merely by the landlords of this country to circumvent the law,” they said.
Cojuangco was Tarlac governor for six years. She is the wife of presidential uncle Jose “Peping” Cojuangco, one of the former owners of Hacienda Luisita, a vast sugar estate which was recently ordered by the Supreme Court to be distributed to the farmers and where seven farmworkers were killed in 2004 during the infamous “Hacienda Luisita Massacre.”
Kontra-Daya said Cojuangco has no business representing farmers since she is a big landlord.
“Aside from having interest adverse to the sector she claims to represent, Cojuanco already served as a former governor of Tarlac from 1992 to 1998. Cojuangco also intended to run for vice governor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao under PDP-Laban last year but her nephew, Pres. Aquino, pushed to postpone the elections and synchronize it with the 2013 elections. Without even commenting that Cojuanco does not belong to any marginalized and underrepresented sectors, it shows that she has the financial and political machinery to compete in regular elections,” he said.
Melchora led by Iggy’s common-law widow
According to Kontra-Daya, while the Movement of Women for Change and Reform or Melchora’s first nominee, Mary Grace Ibuna, is clearly a woman, this does not automatically entitle her and her group a slot in the party-list system of elections.
“The 1987 Constitution, RA 7941 and the Supreme Court decision clearly stated that the nominees must belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Clearly, Ibuna does not fit to this category,” it said.
Ibuna is an heiress of the wealthy Ibuna family. Her grandfather served 12 years as the longest serving mayor of San Juan, Metro Manila. She is the former partner of the late congressman Iggy Arroyo whose assets are estimated to amount to hundreds of millions.
“Even if her husband has died, she is no different from the wives and children of political clans who are disqualified from the party-list system, since she has as resources the political and economic clout of Cong. Iggy Arroyo in Negros,” Kontra-Daya said.
Rich entrepreneurs represent Kasangga
The group claims to represent the sector of Small Entrepreneurs, but Kontra-Daya has exposed that none of its representatives, as well as nominees, ever belonged to this sector as they are members of the powerful economic elite.
Its representative in 2007 was Ma. Lourdes Tuason- Arroyo, sister of Mike Arroyo, husband of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She is neither a small entrepreneur nor marginalized and underrepresented.
Ang Kasangga’s current representative is businessman Teodorico T. Haresco. Haresco also sat on the Board of Directors of the Philippine National Oil Corporation. He owns several businesses no longer under the category of “small enterprises” and was the contractor builder of the hundreds of bridges under ex-pres. Macapagal Arroyo. He is also one of the richest congressmen, with P92.814 million ($2.2 million) net worth for 2011.
Another nominee of Ang Kasangga for 2013 is Gwendolyn Pimentel, a former senatorial candidate who ran under a major political party, Nationalista Party. Having ran and lost in an immediately previous election, she is not qualified to become a nominee of a party-list group for 2013.
Third nominee Rene Villa has held high positions in the past and present administrations. He was the former Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform. Presently, he heads the Local Water Utilities Administration.
Mikey’s jeepney driver aspirations in Ang Galing Pinoy
Kontra-Daya also wants Ang Galing Pinoy disqualified. The group is led by first nominee and former Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, eldest son of the former president. He was congressman of 2nd District Pampanga from 2004 to 2010. His net worth is P99.2 million ($2.36 million).
“This group and its nominees do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors they claim to represent. Its nominees do not have any track record of advocating for the rights and welfare of marginalized sectors such as security guards and unorganized groups of taxi, FX taxi, jeepney and bus drivers. Its nominees in the 2010 polls belong to the political clans in the province of Pampanga and they do not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, the same as the nominees for 2013,” it said.
First nominee Charlie Garcia Chua is senior partner of the Chua and Munsayac Law Firm and certainly not a security guard or driver. He is also a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of Lubao Pampanga, and the right-hand man of Mayor Dennis Pineda of Lubao Pampanga.
Second nominee Eder Garcia Dizon is a cosmetic surgeon and certainly not a security guard or tricycle driver. He is also a known businessman in Pampanga, and president and owner of Suncove Corporation in Pampanga which is a franchise holder of PCSO Small Town Lottery, a legalized version of jueteng.
Groups supposedly advocating farmers’ rights
The KMP in particular is calling for the disqualification of The Agrarian Development Association (ADA) led by nominees former congressman Eric D. Singson, and incumbent Ilocos Sur Rep. Eric “Owen” Singson, Jr.
The senior Singson is a former deputy speaker in the House of Representatives and was a congressman in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 12th Congress. His wife, Grace Singson, served as Mayor of Candon from 1987 to 1995 and Congresswoman of 2nd District Ilocos Sur from 1998 to 2001. His son, Allen Singson, is currently the Mayor of Candon.
The younger Singson is the son of the group’s first nominee.
“The Singson, have been a political and economic power in Ilocos for decades and could never be considered as belonging to a marginalized and underrepresented sector in Congress. They have been very well represented in Congress as they have been since the 8th Congress. Neither do ADA and its nominees have any track record of adhering to the advocacy of the rights and welfare of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors,” Kontra-Daya said.
Alliance of Organizations, Networks and Associations of the Philippines, Inc (ALONA) with Danilo Suarez Jr, Joanna Suarez, and Alexis Abastillas-Suarez as nominees
Suarez, Jr is the son of Danilo Suarez, Sr. who is on his 5th term as Quezon congressman. Danilo Sr., served as Quezon congressman from 1992-2001 and again 2004-2010, except in 2001-2004 when his wife Aleta was the congresswoman, making the Suarez family a member of Congress for more than 20 years.
Suarez, Sr. is also one of the richest members of Congress. His congressional CV not only lists his bills but his memberships in the Manila Yacht Club, Makati Sports Club, Puerto Azul Country Club, Manila Polo Club, and a host of other quite expensively extravagant activities. His business conglomerate extends to many fields.
Suarez, Jr’s brother David C. Suarez is the governor of Quezon, while Donaldo C. Suarez is a board member of the province and president of the Provincial Councilors League. Joanna Suarez the second nominee is a sister and Alexis the third nominee is a sister in law of the first nominee Danilo Suarez.
“The fact that the nominees of a party-list group come from the same family should immediately raise the “red flag” on the part of this Honourable Commission since no honest to goodness, genuine group of the marginalized and the poor could really be controlled by a single family. Alona is not only a family enterprise but is an enterprise of a very rich and powerful family,” Kontra Daya argued.
Manila-based political party behind Kabalikat ng Bayan sa Kaunlaran (KABAKA)
Kontra-Daya said that Kabaka’s participation in the party-list system of elections is also questionable because it’s an already established political party in Manila, where it fielded candidates in the Manila local elections since its founding and registration in 1987. Kabaka participated in the 2010 elections wherein it fielded a lone candidate, Rep. Amado Bagatsing.
The group said that Kabaka should not be allowed to participate in the party-list system because it obviously does not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
“It is a traditional political party, fielding traditional politicians since its establishment. First nominee Amanda Christina L. Bagatsing belongs to a political family and not a marginalized or underrepresented sector. Her father is Amado Bagatsing, who was congressman of the 5th District of Manila from 1987 to 1998, 2007 until present. Amanda’s uncle and Amado Bagatsing’s brother, Ramon Jr. was also congressman of the 4th District of Manila from 1987 to 1998. Their father, and Amanda’s grandfather, Ramon, was former and longest serving Mayor of Manila (from 1971 to 1986) and also served as congressman of the 3rd District of Manila from 1957 to 1971,” it said.
Kontra-Daya also said that Amanda has no track record of advocating for the rights and welfare of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
“She was in the news when the large entourage of Pres. Gloria Arroyo in Brazil and Japan was criticized for its extravagant public spending, and Rep. Bagatsing and his daughter Amanda were listed as among the 16 members of the House of Representatives who joined Pres. Arroyo together with their spouses and children,” it said.
Powerful elite family launches Ilaw Ng Bayan (ILAW)
Kontra-Daya said that while Ilaw with nominee Gerard Hilarion Ramiro. claims to represent the marginalized and underrepresented sector of the urban poor, but its first nominee is the farthest from belonging to the urban poor sector.
“Ramiro’s father is long term Rep. Hilarion Ramiro of the 2nd District of Misamis Occidental (1987 to 1995, 1998 to 2001), and his mother is Rep. Herminia Ramiro also of the 2nd District of Misamis Occidental (1995 to 1998; 2001 to 2010), who is currently the Misamis Occidental governor. He clearly belongs to a powerful political family and could win in regular elections without exploiting the party-list system and circumventing the law. Ramiro has no track record of advocating for rights and welfare of the urban poor sector,” it said.
There are also compelling reasons for Kontra-Daya to oppose the participation in the polls of group Ang Mata’y Alagaan (AMA) with nominees Lorna Q. Velasco, Atty. Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera and Vincent Michael Velasco, a family enterprise of Justice Presbitero Velasco.
Kontra-Daya pointed out that all nominees of the group are all relatives to each other: parents and their children. Also, all the nominees do not belong the marginalized and underrepresented sector they say they represent.
“The Velascos are very powerful politically and economically, considering that they have as head of the family a sitting member of the Supreme Court. They are also represented in the House of Representatives, through Rep. Lord Allan Jay Q. Velasco, the Congressman for the Lone District of Marinduque,” it said.
AA Kasosyo and Cannolli
The current representative of AA Kasosyo is Nasser C. Pangandaman, who served as Department of Agrarian Reform secretary during Macapagal-Arroyo’s term. His son, Mohammed Pangandaman is currently the congressman for Marawi City.
“We do not know the assets of AA Kasosyo Congressman Nasser Pangandaman, but we are sure, it is not certainly that of a ‘marginalized and underrepresented’ person. AA Kasosyo and Rep. Pangandaman are disqualified because both do no belong to the marginalized and underrepresented and are in fact, economic and political powers in their area. They have not even genuinely advocated for the marginalized sectors they claim to represent, ” Kontra-Daya said in its petition.
Kontra-Daya also pointed out how there are existing write-ups about Pangandam and his family describing how the former talked about “repairing his sprinklers for his plants and flowers” showing orchids and other flowers. His wife, in the meantime, is said to be “experimenting with cannoli cake filled with delicious ricotta, fresh berries and semisweet chocolate chips.”
“This outrageous “so rich and so not marginalized” statements cannot be that of a marginalized sector whose main concern, instead of the rising prices of basic commodities, or low wages of workers, or discrimination, or injustice, or floods and disaster, are about sprinklers, ricotta for cakes and picnics,” the group said.
Billioner and ex-convicted rapist established Kakusa
As for the Kapatiran ng mga Nakakulong na Walang Sala (KAKUSA) led by nominees Jesusa Sespene and former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos, Kontra-Daya said that the group was the brainchild of Jalosjos, a man convicted of rape and recently released from prison.
“He was sentenced to two life terms for raping a minor, he was freed by former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. Previous to this scandal, he served as Former 1st District Zamboanga Del Norte Representative from 1995 to 2001, after being a member of Batasang Pambansa in 1984-86. The succeeding representatives were all of the Jalosjos family, namely Rep. Cecilia Jalosjos-Careeon (2001-2010) and Seth Jalosjos (2010-). His brother Cesar is congressman of the 3rd District (2004-2013). The 2nd District Congressman of Zamboanga Sibugay is his son Romeo Jalosjos Jr.,” it said.
Kakusa claims to represent inmates and detainees and it current representative in congress is Ranulfo Canonigo. He was recently shot and based on reports in Mindanao, it was because Canonigo no longer follows the orders of Jalosjos. The first nominee Sespeñe is presently the chief of staff of Rep. Cesar G. Jalosjos, Romeo’s brother. The third nominee Cipriano Robielos III is Jalosjos’ lawyer.
Kontra-Also also argued how ABC TV 5, in its feature “Anggulo: Ex-Congressman, Ex Convict” shown on August 8, 2012 showed Jalosjos touring the media through his two private islands and huge resorts, his Dakak resort estimated to cost P1 billion ($23.8 million). Jalosjos was also shown giving P1,000-peso tips to porters but admitted his extreme wealth in public, and toured the media through his P35 million ($833 thousand) helicopter, his P9 million ($214 thousand) yacht; and the rest of the island of which he owns 90 percent.
Big-time businessman leads Alay-Buhay
Based on the research of Kontra-Daya, Weslie T. Gatchalian, first nominee of Alay Buhay, comes from a political family and economic power being the son of “plastics king” William Gatchalian. He is brother to incumbent Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian and to Rex Gatchalian who is Representative of 1st District of Valenzuela from 2007 to present.
“Gatchalian’s resume reflects that he does not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector Alay Buhay claims to represent—by his very own admission he is both owner and executive official in many of his family’s huge business enterprises: among his positions are executive vice president of Metro Alliance Holdings & Equities Corp. since 2005; vice president for Investments and Foreign Affairs of TheWellex Group of Companies; assistant vice president of Westlink Global Equities Corp.; and president of Wellex Industries Inc. since January 1, 2008 and served as its Treasurer since January 19, 2006.
The old and traditional politics of Bagong Henerasyon (BH)
This party-list, Kontra-Daya said, claims to represent youth, women, and urban poor sectors, but it was in 2001 when its first nominee Bernadette Herrera-Dy started her political career as councilor of Quezon City. During her term, Herrera-Dy became more commonly known to her constituents as “BH.”
“Just like any other politicians, BH (the politician) founded her own foundation. She had her family to help her incorporate the same as she admits in their very own website. BH (the foundation) is actually set up for the benefit of BH (the politician). It was not intended to become a separate group but rather an organization to facilitate the advocacy of BH (the politician) as councilor of Quezon City, as she is mandated to perform as an elected public officer. It is an organization comprised of supporters of BH as a politician.
This arrangement is prohibited because it is intended to circumvent the electoral system, including the party-list system,” it said.
BH is also said to be a government-funded entity because when it applied for registration with Comelec, its founder and principal was an incumbent public officer, and the money used in the advocacy came from the government.