Mariano Michael Velarde

Comelec: Party-list bets have to belong to sectors

Comelec: Party-list bets have to belong to sectors
By Leila B. Salaverria, Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Party-list nominees should “belong” to the marginalized sector they seek to represent, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) Thursday said in a resolution aimed at preventing political opportunists and proxies from using the party-list system.

The nominees should also have a proven track record in their advocacy, the Comelec said.

In the resolution, the Comelec en banc set the parameters for the qualifications of party-list nominees, which would give citizens and groups grounds to petition for the disqualification of questionable nominees before the poll body.

A nominee is “one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition he seeks to represent,” the resolution said.

The nominees should prove that they have “active participation” in the advancement of their party-list group’s causes.

Speeches, articles

Thus, the nominees and the group have to submit “documentary evidence,” such as speeches, declarations, written articles, and other positive actions showing the nominees’ “adherence to the advocacies of the party-list,” the resolution said.

Comelec officials said they issued the guidelines to clarify the “very broad” provisions on the party-list definition that have allowed just anyone to claim to be a nominee of a marginalized group.

Some party-list groups and nominees have no business in claiming to be a member of the marginalized sector, according to Commissioner Armando Velasco.

Velasco said half of the 187 party-list groups on the official ballot might not be for marginalized sectors.

Asked if there was anyone on the list who could be disqualified because of the new guidelines, he said “there could be some.”

Due process

Velasco declined to name names, saying that these nominees deserve due process and that he does not want to preempt the commission’s decisions.

He said some groups might challenge the Comelec resolution on party-list nominees, but he pointed out that the poll body was empowered during the election period to come up with such rules.

Party-list nominations recently came under scrutiny after some high-profile political figures were revealed to be nominees of marginalized sectors.

President’s Arroyo’s eldest son, outgoing Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, is the No. 1 nominee of Ang Galing Pinoy, a group that claims to represent security guards.

Bro. Mike Velarde, leader of the El Shaddai Charismatic Movement, is the fifth nominee of Buhay. The first nominee is his son Mariano Michael.

Selfish

Ferdinand Rafanan, chief of the Comelec legal department, condemned the personalities who accepted nominations from party-list groups just to be able to sit in Congress and enjoy the perks of their position.

Rafanan described these nominees as “selfish.”

The party-list system, Rafanan said, was established to give voice to the underrepresented sectors of society. “It should be the powerless themselves who should represent their group. Otherwise the purpose is not served,” he said.

The Comelec’s citizens arm noted that some party-list groups were allowed to run in the May 2010 polls even though there were questions surrounding their legitimacy.

“This calls for a review because there are so many nominees who are not marginalized,” said Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

In a report posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines website, De Villa lamented the accreditation of bogus organizations.

She said these groups were crowding out groups that truly represent the marginalized and were providing an easy way for traditional politicians to get into Congress.

Scrutinize nominees

In an earlier interview, De Villa encouraged voters to scrutinize the nominees of party-list groups to ensure that they would be voting for those who really speak for the marginalized and the underrepresented.

She said voters, in choosing a party-list group, should exercise the same zeal as when they are selecting their candidates for the presidency.

Even if party-list wins…

“They should invest some time and research on candidates. That includes the party-list,” she had said. A Pulse Asia survey released last month showed that 69 percent of voters were unaware of the party-list system.

The resolution said groups seeking to disqualify nominees should file their petitions with the Comelec clerk. The commission en banc will study the petition and decide on its merits.

Nominees found to have failed to meet the criteria would not be allowed to take seats in the House of Representatives should their party-list group win in the May 10 polls.

“If the evidence of guilt is strong, the proclamation of the nominee shall be suspended notwithstanding the fact that his group or organization received the winning number of votes in such election,” the resolution said.

Each party-list group is entitled to a maximum of three seats in the House, but the groups are required to submit the names of at least five nominees by March 26.

The party-list groups have until this Friday to submit their nominees to the Comelec.

Kontra Daya calls on public to report dubious party-list groups, nominees

Kontra Daya calls on public to report dubious party-list groups, nominees
Kontra Daya

The anti-fraud and election monitoring group Kontra Daya today called on the public to report to its hotlines the dubious party-list groups and nominees that they know of.

Kontra Daya convener Fr. Joe Dizon said exposing the questionable party-list groups and nominees is important in preventing the bastardization of the party-list system, which is supposedly meant to empower marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

“These dubious party-list groups and nominees are crowding out the groups that genuinely represent the marginalized and underrepresented,” Dizon said. “Exposing them is an important contribution to getting them out of the way.”

Kontra Daya recently filed before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a letter to Chairman Jose Melo, seeking the disqualification of the following party-list groups: Batang Iwas Droga (BIDA), Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maharlika (ADAM), Agbiag Timpuyog Ilocano (AGBIAG), Babae para sa Kaunalaran (BABAE KA), League of Youth for Peace and Development (LYPAD), and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (KALAHI).

BIDA declares in its own website (www.bida.org.ph) that it is “the brainchild of Ephraim Genuino, chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).” PAGCOR, in partnership with the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) and the Department of Education (DepEd), launched BIDA in 2003 as an anti-drug campaign for elementary school students.

ADAM has for its first nominee Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, nephew of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. Undersecretary Ampatuan has himself declared that he formed ADAM as “(his) own” party-list group, while at the same time denying that it has anything to do with the powerful Ampatuan clan.

AGBIAG, BABAE KA, LYPAD, and KALAHI were identified as in a 2006 memorandum from Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs (OEA) as the main organizations to be supported in a party-list campaign that intended to support “pro-administration” party-list groups and secure for them 9-12 seats in Congress.

The signatories of the letter to Melo cited Sec. 2 of Republic Act No. 7941, also known as the Party-List System Act, which provides that “the State shall promote proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives. Towards this end, the State shall develop and guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives by enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible.”

They also pointed to the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2001 case Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al, which states that a party-list group “must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government. By the very nature of the party-list system, the party or organization must be a group of citizens, organized by citizens and operated by citizens. It must be independent of the government. The participation of the government or its officials in the affairs of a party-list candidate is not only illegal and unfair to other parties, but also deleterious to the objective of the law: to enable citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors and organizations to be elected to the House of Representatives.”

In the same ruling, the Supreme Court stated that not only the candidate party-list group, but also its nominees, must represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

Dizon also noted that several of the party-list groups that have submitted their lists of nominees as of March 22 have nominees that cannot claim to represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

The most glaring example, Dizon said, is Ang Galing Pinoy Party-List, which claims to represent security guards and small businessmen. Its first nominee is Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The group’s second nominee is Dennis Pineda, mayor of Lubao, Pampanga and son of alleged jueteng lord Rodolfo “Bong” Pineda; while the third is Romeo Dungca, mayor of Bacolor, Pampanga.

The Alliance of People’s Organizations (APO) has for its first nominee former Ilocos Sur Rep. Salacnib Baterina, who is currently the president of Bio-Energy Northern Luzon Inc., while its third nominee is Anna Marie Ablan, daughter of Ilocos Norte Rep. Roque Ablan Jr. Bandila (Bagong Bayan na Nagtataguyod ng Demokratikong Ideolohiya at Layunin) Party-List has as its third nominee former actor Juan Miguel “Onemig” Bondoc, who hails from a family of wealthy businessmen and himself owns several businesses including the Benedictine International School of Quezon City. The first nominee of the Alliance of Mindanao Elders (AME) is Alfonso Goking, a councilor of Cagayan de Oro City who is a member of the Lakas-Kampi coalition. The Philippine Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed) is comprised of both landlords and farmers, as well as businessmen, and counts among its nominees Jose Lobregat, a scion of the wealthy Lobregat clan of Zamboanga, who also owns a cable TV company.

The Sulong Barangay Movement’s first nominee is Herminio Aquino, a half brother of the late Sen. Benigno Aquino Sr. and grand-uncle of presidential candidate Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III. The Aquinos have been among Tarlac’s wealthiest families for several generations.

The Pilipino Association for Country / Urban Poor Youth Advancement and Welfare (PACYAW), which claims to advocate sports development for urban poor youth, has as its first nominee Tourism Assistant Sec. Janet Rita B. Lazatin, a member of the ruling Lakas-Kampi coalition. Its second nominee is businessman and former Los Angeles Consul Reynaldo Pineda.

The fifth nominee of Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay) Party-List is Mariano “Mike” Velarde, who is not only the leader of the Catholic charismatic group El Shaddai but is also a millionaire who owns Amvel Land Development Corporation. Its first nominee is his son Mariano Michael. Buhay’s other nominees include William Irwin Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports, and Ma. Carissa Coscolluella, whose family is in the construction business.

“More than a hundred party-list groups were accredited for the May 2010 elections and most of them have yet to submit their lists of nominees,” Dizon said. “We should expect more of these cases. We urge the public to report to Kontra Daya these spurious party-list groups and nominees.”

Kontra Daya may be reached through its hotline 09213953004 and its e-mail address, [email protected] Concerned groups and individuals may also visit its website at www.kontradaya.org.