Akbayan: Representing the over-represented, deceiving the marginalized


MANILA — 2007: Akbayan, a partylist[1] group which claims to be ‘leftist’, calls for the disqualification of around 14 partylist groups,

Citing their organizational and financial links with the administration of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said “We must stop the rabid bastardization of the party-list system being committed by Mrs. Arroyo’s political pimps and paid hacks.”[2]

Indeed, documents[3][4] which were leaked to the public by leftist partylist groups Kabataan, Migrante, Anakpawis, and Gabriela Women’s Party showed that these groups were formed by the Palace’s Office of External Affairs to

“Form a party-list bloc that will support the plans and programs of the administration and help in countering destabilization moves by the opposition as well as left-leaning party-list groups… contribute in the overall campaign to substantially lower the number of votes of leftist and left-leaning party-list organizations, and in the process reduce the seats of these anti-administration parties in the House of Representatives.”

Indeed, a quick look at those partylist groups showed that most, if not all, of their nominees, leaders, and founders were either top government officials and/or those close to the then administration[5].

Fast forward to 2012: Arroyo has been replaced by Benigno Simeon ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III. With the exception of notorious human rights violator and ex-general Jovito Palparan’s Bantay, andex-convict Romeo Jalosjos’ Kakusa, all of ‘Gloria partylists’ have either been dismantled or faded into non-existence.

Today, another partylist has close links with the current administration. Many of its top officials enjoy posts in the government[6]: two former presidents (presidential advisor for political affairs, head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission), two former House representatives (head of the Commission on Human Rights, a commissioner of the Government Service Insurance System), two of their current nominees in the partylist race (undersecretary for political affairs, commissioner of the Presidential Commission for the Urban poor), and two others (Board Member of the Social Security Service, commissioner of the National Youth Commission). One of their former House representatives is also running under the ruling party for the 2013 Senate elections.

Ironically, it is Akbayan which is now enjoying a ‘cozy relationship’ with the new administration. Even more ironic is with several youth and student groups[7] and a labor center[8] calling for its disqualification from the partylist elections, Akbayan is employing the same arguments used by the ‘GMA partylists’.

The calls for disqualification cite a landmark Supreme Court ruling[9] back in 2001 which forbid from participating in the partylist elections, among others,

“(Parties, organizations that are) an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government.”

Representing the marginalized?

In a live TV debate last October 12 between Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello and Anakbayan, the latter’s national chairperson said:

“Kung totoong pinaglilingkuran nila yung marginalized and underrepresented, ang posisyon ng (Akbayan) sa Cybercrime Law ay consistent sa posisyon ng Palasyo. At kahit po balikan nyo yung ibang posisyon nila, puro po posisyon ng Palasyo yan” (If they truly serve the marginalized and underrepresented, why is Akbayan’s position on the Cybercrime Law consistent with the Palace’s position? And if we go back to their other political positions, they are all consistent with the Palace’s position!)

Indeed, the call for Akbayan’s disqualification from a growing number of groups and organizations stems not just from a legal argument, but from popular disgust with its role as a ‘cheerleader’ of a neoliberal, anti-poor, and anti-people regime.

At the height of the anti-Cybercrime Law protests last week which forced the Supreme Court to issue a restraining order against it, Akbayan called on the public to ‘participate in the drafting of the (Law’s) Implementing Rules and Regulations’. While everyone else was calling for the Law’s junking, this partylist group wanted people to legitimize it by fostering the illusion that an ‘IRR’ could actually change the Law’s intent, which is to stifle Filipinos’ freedom of expression and privacy online.

Even earlier, one of Akbayan’s bosses, Commission on Human Rights commissioner Etta Rosales, dismissed protests against the rising cost of education in the country, telling youth activists to “go to the library instead”.

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