“Aquino’s Comelec has been persecuting progressive partylist groups while condoning the existence of bogus partylist organizations and even tolerating their campaign violations.” – Rep. Luz Ilagan, Gabriela Women’s Party
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Gabriela Women Partylist Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan has yet to fully recover from a bout of infection. But yesterday, armed with painkillers, she joined her colleagues from the Makabayan coalition as they trooped to Comelec’s main office. Makabayan is a coalition of progressive political parties and partylist groups. With its allies, it marched to the Comelec and then to Supreme Court yesterday April 8 to slam what it calls as a “continuing harassment against progressive partylists.”
As the 2013 midterm election approaches, the progressive bloc is finding not only their partylist groups under siege – that is no longer news to them – but what is worse this time, they find the partylist system itself as under siege.
“The people have long been offended and angry that the party-list system was used by rich and powerful politicians as a backdoor to get a seat in Congress. The Supreme Court has now openly invited the likes of Rep. Mikey Arroyo to pass through the front door and without the hassle of pretending to be poor and pro-poor,” Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Rafael Mariano said, quoting the Makabayan statement at a press briefing in Manila yesterday.
Ilagan explained that the partylist law was created as an equalizer to help ensure that 20-percent of the members of the House of Representatives come from the marginalized and under-represented sectors, organizations and parties. But the Supreme Court ruling issued last week “goes against the spirit of the Partylist law,” she said.
Blatant is the buzzword?
Gabriela Rep. Ilagan told Bulatlat.com that in their sorties in various provinces, they encounter many instances of blatant violations of election rules. Her report is echoed by other partylist candidates such as Katribu.
Just in campaigning, Ilagan said Gabriela has sent the Comelec numerous examples of violations in posters being extensively committed by other groups, including partylist groups which Makabayan calls as “bogus,” saying they do not come from nor represent the marginalized. Ilagan said Gabriela has also sent the Comelec copious photo documentations of these campaign violations of other groups. But all these have been ignored by the Comelec.
Instead, the Comelec seems bent on squelching the participation of progressive partylist groups. “Aquino’s Comelec has been persecuting progressive partylist groups while condoning the existence of bogus partylist organizations and even tolerating their campaign violations. This is evident in the eager efforts to pin Kabataan Partylist and Piston Partylist for campaign poster violations, while no hearings have been conducted to look into similar violations committed by groups like Akbayan and Buhay,” Ilagan said.
Comelec’s questionable choice of ‘sample’ to punish, harass
Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes had reportedly warned that he would give a sample to violators of campaign rules, but why did he single out Kabataan Partylist and Piston Partylist, when he himself had reportedly said Akbayan, for example, has many times more cases of violations? asked George San Mateo, chairman of Piston. Akbayan as a “partylist” has been the subject of bitter criticisms by progressive groups as its leaders now occupy various positions in President Aquino’s cabinet, and they are reportedly getting millions of funds not just from the government but also from Aquino’s family.
The Comelec’s actions against Kabataan and Piston partylists are clearly biased, the supporters of progressive groups say. Satur Ocampo urged the Comelec that if it could not monitor all partylists and candidates, then it would only be fair to defer action on Kabataan and Piston. To punish them when others are committing worse violations would be unjust, Ocampo said.
“The Aquino government is hell-bent on ensuring that critics of his administration, including those who have campaigned against Aquino’s anti-poor and repressive legislation are barred from holding positions in the House of Representatives,” Ilagan said.
What the Kabataan Partylist and Piston Partylist are going through comprise only the latest addition to a long string of “systematic campaigns” against progressives. Under the former administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the vilification and hounding of progressives resulted in more than a thousand cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances, and the arrest and incarceration of the then Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran. It forced the so-called Batasan 5 (five partylist representatives from Bayan Muna and Gabriela) who challenged the lawmakers’ supposed immunity by seeking refuge in Congress.
Under Arroyo and then under Aquino, more progressive groups are barred from entering the partylist elections – while others with dubious claims to representing the marginalized, such as the late general Angelo Reyes, actor Richard Gomez, Mikey Arroyo (son of former Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo), and retired military general Jovito Palparan, etc., were allowed to enter, if not for public outcries.
Last year the Comelec disqualified the Kalikasan Partylist and Courage Partylist, and attempted to disqualify Bayan Muna and Anakpawis. Kalikasan has been noted for vigorously opposing the Aquino government’s “plunderous” liberalization of mining and logging. It has also exposed the environmental hazards of increased US military presence in the Philippines. Courage Partylist, meanwhile, has been at the forefront not only of advancing the welfare of the public sector and the public it should have been serving; it had also helped in exposing irregularities in government transactions.
Makabayan has also scored Brillantes over his remarks about Makabayan senatorial bet Teddy Casino, whom the Comelec ‘mistakenly’ tagged as the fifth spender on TV campaigns. “That is so far from the truth,” Bayan Muna Partylist Neri Colmenares said.