By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Piston Partylist and Kabataan Partylist, two groups known for being critical of the Aquino government’s policies, are being threatened with cancellation of their registration and possible barring from this coming mid-term election. They seem to be the focus of what critics described as the Commission on Elections (Comelec)’s display of an unusually keen eye and too prompt action over alleged elections violations.
There are more blatant violations happening, some of which are led by Team Pnoy and their favored partylist groups, but the Comelec does not seem as keen to go after them, protesters from the Kilusang Mayo Uno said at a picket yesterday, March 14, in front of Comelec office in Intramuros, Manila.
This is political harassment, said Vencer Crisostomo, chairman of progressive youth group Anakbayan. Crisostomo said the Aquino government’s favorite, the pseudo-progressive Akbayan partylist, has many violations and they even use government funds but they are not being threatened with disqualification.
In harassing progressive partylist groups, the Comelec, said Crisostomo, is campaigning everyday against these partylist groups, demonizing them in the public mind. “Comelec tweets everyday, every week, issues press release vs Kabataan, Piston partylists, exclusively and persistently. But it is ignoring its favored party lists’ violations.”
That alone tells you “This is not about violation, this is harassment and Comelec’s posturing at the same time,” Crisostomo concluded.
“They’re singling out for harassment the progressive partylists to cover up the Comelec’s inutility in ensuring the integrity of the PCOS machines, and the conduct of the automated elections itself. Until now, there is still no source code, we still are set to use pirated software, the integrity of PCOS machines are questionable,” Crisostomo said.
Singling out critics
After the Comelec sent them notices about posting violations, both the Kabataan Partylist and Piston Partylist complied, and took to removing the posters their supporters might have pasted in areas that they did not know were banned places.
But the Comelec’s law department still went ahead issuing subpoenas to these partylist groups. Steve Ranjo, secretary-general of Piston, told Bulatlat.com the Comelec said they still found a tiny Piston poster stuck on a base of a lamppost on February 23 (a Saturday).
“Comelec has clearly not seen any poster in LRT – but they saw one remaining piece, and because of this they said Piston Partylist is subject to prosecution in violating “fair elections,” Ranjo said.
Kabataan Partylist said they have also complied after receiving the Comelec notice. Kabataan’s leader, Terry Ridon, who is also a lawyer, talked with a member of the Comelec, “but they’re continuing the charges,” Crisostomo said. The two partylist groups are subpoenaed for hearing this Friday.
Aside from the surprising attentiveness of Comelec to these partylist groups’ small alleged violation of the Fair Elections Act, when bigger violations are happening around it, Piston’s Ranjo told Bulatlat.com they are surprised to receive another Comelec notice after the notice sent by its law department.
Comelec’s law department asked them to attend the hearing to explain their postering violation on March 20. But another letter asked them to attend the Comelec’s en banc session on March 15, or five days ahead of the investigation on their alleged violation. The advanced en banc hearing would tackle the possible cancellation of registration of Piston Partylist.
George san Matero, Piston president, said “We are already marginalized, were being marginalized further.”
“We’re also being demonized as the Comelec calls Piston “pasaway” in media interviews,” Ranjo said.
When other groups display more outright violations of elections law, the Comelec chooses to target Piston and Kabataan partylist groups for “disciplinary action” of its law department, while its en banc is threatening us of outright cancellation of our registration, Ranjo said. He slammed the turn of events as a very unjust basis for the Comelec to prepare to disenfranchise the drivers, the transport sector and the youth and student sector.