“They are not marginalized. Are they marginalized when their leaders hold positions in the government? There they are – so near to those in power and you’ll say that they are marginalized and unrepresented? Unrepresented voice of the marginalized? Even if you don’t know how to think you will easily see that.” – Henrietta de Villa, chairwoman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – “This is the kind of denial that confirms the truth of what’s being denied.” This is how the labor group Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) reacted to a Malacañang spokesman’s defense of Akbayan, an incumbent partylist group whose disqualification is being sought by KMU and youth group Anakbayan. The Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) also joined calls for the Akbayan’s disqualification last Monday October 15.
In a press briefing in Malacañang last Tuesday October 16, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended Akbayan against calls for disqualification as a partylist group. Lacierda rejected claims that Akbayan should no longer be considered as representing marginalized sectors, but he cited a different basis from those raised by the KMU and the Anakbayan in their respective letters to the Commission on Elections.
While the KMU and Anakbayan are pointing to Akbayan’s being Palace-backed as grounds for demanding its disqualification, Lacierda said in defending Akbayan, that “If that’s the case, so should Bayan Muna because it’s fielding… Teddy Casiño is running as a senatorial candidate,” adding “What is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. That’s the reasoning that they’re going to say. But, again, we leave everything up with the Commission on Elections,” Lacierda said.
Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of youth group Anakbayan, also regarded Lacierda’s defense of Akbayan and Black and White Movement as proof of their close ties with the Palace. He called on the Comelec not to give in to pressure from Malacañang and their allies.
“We hope the Comelec will not give Aquino’s party-lists special treatment re their party-list purge. The cleansing of the partylist system would be pointless if they will not include Palace-backed partylist groups,” said Crisostomo.
Akbayan members holding key positions in Aquino government
Youth group Anakbayan based their disqualification charge against Akbayan on rules regarding the partylist system.
“The SC ruling on the party-list system clearly prohibits government-funded and supported entities. Akbayan has control of National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) funds and CCT,” Crisostomo said. Joel Rocamora of Akbayan chairs the National Anti-Poverty Commission.
“The mere fact that they are in power gives undue advantage to their party,” Crisostomo said.
The youth leader also cited a COA report questioning the NAPC for hiring consultants and contractuals who were paid P27.97 million ($665 thousand).
Also, according to the Supreme Court ruling on partylist groups: “The parties must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government; The parties must represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors; so also must its nominees.”
Crisostomo said that nominees of Akbayan and Black and White are clearly not from marginalized and underrepresented sectors as they are already appointees of the president.
Two of Akbayan’s nominees for Congress in the 2013 elections are Palace undersecretaries Ibarra M. Gutierrez III, currently an undersecretary for political affairs, and Angelina Ludovice-Katoh, a commissioner in the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.
Akbayan also has at least two members in the Aquino cabinet: Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas and National Anti-Poverty Commission Chair Joel Rocamora. Other prominent Akbayan leaders holding key positions in government are Loretta Rosales, chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights, Mario Aguja, board member of the Government Service Insurance System, and Percy Cendena, commissioner of the National Youth Commission.
Akbayan’s senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros, meanwhile, is running under the ruling Liberal Party, and has been endorsed by President Aquino himself.
PPCRV joins calls for disqualification of Akbayan, Black & White movement
In an interview with Radio Veritas, Henrietta de Villa, chairwoman of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), said in Filipino, referring to Akbayan and the Black and White Movement (of which Lacierda is a member): “They’re not marginalized. Are they marginalized when their leaders hold positions in the government? There they are – so near to those in power and you’ll say they’re marginalized and unrepresented? Unrepresented voice of the marginalized? Even if you don’t know how to think you will easily see that,” she said.
KMU, together with youth group Anakbayan, had asked the Commission on Elections to disqualify Akbayan, on the grounds that the said partylist group is “not marginalized and is in fact overrepresented in government, as its leaders and nominees are holding positions in government.”
Answer the issues, don’t ‘red-bait, manhandle’ critics, Akbayan urged
In another press conference on Tuesday called for by Akbayan, youth members of Anakbayan said they sat quietly for the significant part of the forum and listened to what Akbayan had to say.
But “when it became evident that Akbayan was merely rehashing its irresponsible claims of ‘red-tagging’ against those who sought their disqualification, instead of addressing the points raised against them, the youths decided to take the floor,” Anakbayan explained in a statement. They said Akbayan had called for the public forum and Walden Bello is a public official, as such, “they are accountable to the people and being an administration party, should have been ready for criticisms and even protests.”
But instead of engaging the youth group in a debate, Anakbayan complained that they were manhandled. Akbayan’s media officer was even caught on camera mauling the protesters, and Walden Bello trying to get a swipe at those who spoke against them.
In previous broadcasted debate, Akbayan’s Walden Bello had responded to criticisms by claiming that the youth group is just being “envious.” In a subsequent announcement, Akbayan claimed that not too many of them are being appointed in government.
As for Akbayan’s charges that only the “extreme left” wanted them disqualified, Anakbayan countered that this had been “invalidated.”
“For sure, this (being extreme left) cannot be said of PPCRV,” the Anakbayan reasoned.
The youth group appealed to the public and the media not to help Akbayan in its efforts to “overstate their value by pointing to certain accomplishments and claiming that they are effective.” Based on Akbayan’s record, that is a lie, said Anakbayan.
‘Akbayan’s accomplishments contravenes peoples’ interests’
Anakbayan-NCR Secretary-General Dianne Marie Solmayor said “They (Akbayan) are dodging questions on their eligibility to run as a party-list group by veering into their usual act of tagging us as fronts of the so-called “extreme left.” The youths took Akbayan to task for the same red-tagging which they blamed as the cause why some of their members and leaders were extra-judicially killed and abducted.
Akbayan has countered the calls to delist them by saying their track record shows how “effectively” they have been representing the marginalized. But according to Anakbayan, these claims are “simply delusional.” Solmayor cited Akbayan’s support for the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms, which various groups criticized as “anti-peasant” and putting “the interests of landlords at the forefront instead of the marginalized.”
Solmayor added as proof of Akbayan’s cozy relations with Malacañang its affirmative vote for the 2012 budget, even if it instituted large cuts on the budget of state colleges and universities; Akbayan’s deafening silence on the brutal demolition; and Akbayan’s stand in the Cybercrime Law. The youth group Anakbayan said “all these are just some of the proofs of Akbayan’s consistently echoing of Malacañang’s anti-people stand.”