party lists

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.

Probe sought on 6 party-list groups

Probe sought on 6 party-list groups
By Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) was asked yesterday to investigate six party-list groups for alleged links to President Arroyo.

In a letter to Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, Kontra Daya said Agbiag Timpuyag Ilocano Inc. (Agbiag), Babae Para sa Kaunalaran (Babae Ka), Youth League for Peace Advancement (Lypad) and Kalahi Sectoral Party (Kalahi) would “bastardize” the party-list system if allowed to run on May 10.

In a memorandum dated Oct. 16, 2006, Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs said these party-list groups must be supported, the letter added.

Kontra Daya said Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak Maharlika (ADAM) was formed by Energy Undersecretary Zamsamin Ampatuan, while the Binigkis na Interes ng mga Drayber sa Adhikain Inc. (Bida) was founded by Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Efraim Genuino.

“We urge the Comelec to immediately conduct an investigation and a public hearing on the issues raised,” Kontra Daya said.

“This can serve as an initial step in correcting the abuses of the party-list system.”

The Comelec must be watchful over the possible endorsement of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) and 1-Utak whose nominees are Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, Kontra Daya added.

JDV III: Protect counting machines

Senatorial candidate Joey de Venecia III has urged Comelec to make a “full revelation” of arrangements in the transporting of vote counting machines to protect them from software designed for digital dagdag-bawas.

“While the more than 80,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines are now safely under guard, these will be under threat from contamination once their distribution commences,” he said.

“There are very real dangers that the PCOS machines can be waylaid and tampered with by individuals possessing the technical know-how to insert malicious software intended to alter the results as ballots are inserted into them on Election Day.”

De Venecia said three years ago, a study conducted by the Center for Information Technology Policy of Princeton University showed the most widely used automated voting machines in the United States were vulnerable to “malicious software.”

“While the machine tested by Princeton University researchers was a direct recording (touch screen voting) machine (the Diebold AccuVote), its internal architecture is basically similar to the PCOS machines leased by Comelec from Smartmatic.”

De Venecia said the study showed “malware” introduced into the voting machine can modify all of the records, audit logs, and counters kept by the voting machine.

“So, even careful forensic examination of these records will find nothing amiss and anyone who has physical access to a voting machine, or to a memory card that will later be inserted into a machine, can install said malicious software using a simple method that takes as little as one minute,” he said.

De Venecia said such vulnerability points to the clear and present danger of precinct level “digital dagdag-bawas,” the likes of which will totally compromise the integrity of the elections.

“I was among those whose earnest efforts at pushing for anti-corruption reforms and promoting information technology to bring in investments and create jobs (and) whose winning bids for the Senate can easily be knocked out by automated election fraud,” he said.

“We urge the Comelec to revisit the safeguards for both the technical integrity of the PCOS machines alongside the critical need of transporting these to all precincts securely and on time.” – With Jose Rodel Clapano

Palace denies GMA ties with party-list groups

Palace denies GMA ties with party-list groups
By Paolo Romero and Sheila Crisostomo
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang denied yesterday any links with party-list groups branded as fronts for the administration.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the Palace has maintained its distance on matters involving the Commission on Elections (comelec).

“The accusation, I think, is that the party-list groups are fraudulent or non-accredited,” he said.

“To my knowledge, this is not something that is being done (by the administration), and if there are these allegations, the Comelec would be the one to judge and decide on the matter.”

“The Comelec has oversight over the electoral process, including the accreditation of party-list groups so we will leave it to the discretion and the authority of the Comelec.”

Critics must keep the Palace out of the issue, Olivar said.

Kontra Daya has asked the Comelec to investigate six party-list groups for alleged ties with President Arroyo.

The complaint cited an alleged memorandum dated Oct. 16, 2006 from Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs that the party-list groups be supported.

In a letter to Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, Kontra Daya said Agbiag Timpuyag Ilocano Inc. (Agbiag), Babae Para sa Kaunalaran (Babae Ka), Youth League for Peace Advancement (Lypad) and Kalahi Sectoral Party (Kalahi) would “bastardize” the party-list system if allowed to run on May 10.

Kontra Daya said Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak Maharlika (ADAM) was formed by Energy Undersecretary Zamsamin Ampatuan.

The Comelec must also be watchful over the possible endorsement of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) and 1-Utak whose nominees are Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, Kontra Daya said.

Clarification

Kontra Daya clarified yesterday that the party-list group it wanted out of the May 10 party-list polls is Batang Iwas Droga, not the Binigkis na Interest ng mga Drayber sa Adhikain Inc.

The acronym of both groups is officially listed in Comelec’s Resolution 8744 as BIDA.

Renato Reyes, Bayan secretary general and co-convenor of Kontra Daya, said Batang Iwas Droga should be disqualified from the party-list system because of alleged links with Mrs. Arroyo.

In a letter to Comelec Chairman Jose Melo, Kontra Daya said Batang Iwas Droga declares itself in its website, www.bida.org.ph, as the ‘brainchild of PAGCOR (Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.) chairman and chief executive officer Ephraim Genuino.

“Pagcor’s partners in this project are Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Education.

“This group is no different from Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD).”

MAD was a party-list group that was disqualified from the 2001 polls for links with the government.

Partylist-for-sale, Comelec naalarma din

Partylist-for-sale, Comelec naalarma din
Abante

Ibinunyag kahapon ng isang opisyal ng Commission on Elections (Comelec) na maraming ‘bogus’ partylist group na posibleng habol lamang ay magkapera sa pamamagitan ng ‘partylist-for-sale’ na diskarte.

Ayon kay Comelec Law Department chief Atty. Ferdinand Rafanan, may mga nakakarating na sa kanilang ulat ukol dito kaya nag-utos na ito ng masinsinang imbestigasyon.

Ang modus-operandi umano sa ipinagbibiling partylist ay bubuo at mag­hahain ng accreditation sa Comelec ang mga lehitimong marginalized group.

Kalaunan oras na mapagbigyan ang aplikas­yon, naghahanap umano ang accredited partylist ng nominees at aalukin ang mga ito ng malaking pres­yo para maging kinatawan ng grupo sa Kamara oras na lumusot sa 2% votes.

Posibleng dito, aniya, pumapasok ang maiimpluwensyang personalidad gaya ng opisyal ng gobyerno, kaanak ng mga pulitiko at mapeperang indibidwal dahil sila ang may kakayahang tapatan ang inaalok na presyo ng party-list group.

Samakatuwid, sa ganitong sistema marami umanong partylist nominees na hindi naman galing sa sektor o organisasyon ng ikinakatawang margina­lized group.

May duda na ang Comelec na nangyayari ang ganitong sistema, subalit hindi nagbigay ng pangalan si Rafanan kung aling grupo ang hinihinala nilang nakikinabang sa ‘partylist-for-sale’.

Aniya, gumugulong na ang imbestigasyon ng Comelec Law Department para tukuyin ang mga party-list group na pumapasok sa kompromiso.

Bagama’t may kaunting nalalaman ang komisyon, hinimok ni Rafanan ang publiko na mayroong direktang nalalaman sa ganitong sistema na maghain ng pormal na reklamo sa Comelec upang malapatan agad ng karampatang atensyon at resolusyon.

Ngunit nilinaw din ng opisyal na kailangang dumaan ito sa pagtalakay ng En Banc kung saan sasalain ang mga ihaharap na impormasyon at alegasyon.

Kamakalawa, nagpiket ang grupong ‘Kontra Daya’ sa Comelec upang ipro­testa ang pagtahimik ng komisyon sa pagdami ng ‘bogus’ partylist.

Inihalimbawa ng grupo ang umano’y naulinigan nilang impormasyon na isinusulong ng dalawang partylist group bilang first nominee sina presidential son at Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel ‘Mikey’ Arroyo at Energy Sec. Angelo Reyes.

Sumama na rin sa pagkastigo ang election watchdog na Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) laban sa mga pekeng partylist group.

Samantala, itinatwa ng Malacañang ang mga party-list groups na nauugnay sa kanila sa pagsasabing hindi nila pakawala ang mga ito.

Kapwa sinabi nina depu­ty presidential spokespersons Gary Olivar at Charito Planas na walang kaugnayan ang palasyo sa mga inaakusahang “peke at pro-administration” party-list groups kung kaya paalma na sinabihan ng mga ito ang mga kritiko na huwag nang isabit ang Malacañang sa usapin at sa halip ay iakyat sa Comelec ang lahat ng kanilang hinaing.

“To my knowledge, this is not something that is being done. Kaya ang kausapin nila ang Comelec, huwag nilang kausapin ang Malacañang. E maski papaano nasiraan na ‘yung Malacañang tapos sasabihin nila niluto. E ito, no-win si­tuation palagi ang ibinibigay sa atin. Ilabas n’yo na ang Palasyo dito,” ani Olivar.

Sinabi rin ng dalawang palace officials na mas makakabuti na hintayin muna ang resulta ng imbestigasyon ng Comelec sa mga iniimbestigahang partylist groups bago agad na husgahan na pakawala nga ng Malacañang ang mga ito.

Letter of complaint to the Comelec on bogus party-list groups and questionable party-list nominees

Letter of complaint to the Comelec on bogus party-list groups and questionable party-list nominees
Kontra Daya

HON.JOSE MELO
Chairman
Commission on Elections

March 15, 2010

Dear Chairman Melo:

Warm greetings of peace!

We, conveners of the Kontra Daya campaign, are writing to express our outrage over the participation of several groups either sponsored or supported by the government in the race for party-list seats. We are also dismayed that some individual government officials are reportedly being considered for nomination by certain party-list groups.

This situation is a clear and grave violation of the law and jurisprudence defining the intent and scope of the party-list system.

Republic Act No. 7941, also known as the Party-List System Act, provides among other things 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. (Sec. 2)

The Supreme Court, in its decision on the 2001 case Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al, argued that:

x x x (The) party or organization 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.

Existing law and jurisprudence clearly reserve the party-list system for groups genuinely representing marginalized and underrepresented sectors while precluding the participation of government agencies or officials in it.

We thus manifest our strong objection to the recent accreditation of the following party-list groups:

* Batang Iwas Droga (BIDA) – Launched in 2003 as an anti-drug campaign for elementary school students, BIDA declares itself in its own website, www.bida.org.ph, as “the brainchild of PAGCOR Chairman & Chief Executive Officer Ephraim C. Genuino.” PAGCOR’s partners in this project are the Dangerous Drugs Board and the Department of Education. This group is no different from Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD), which competed for a party-list seat in 2001 and became the subject of Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, et al. We have attached entries from the website of BIDA and PAGCOR as proof of that BIDA is a government adjunct. These are sufficient grounds to disqualify BIDA.

* Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maharlika (ADAM) – The group has for its first nominee Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, nephew of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. While denying that ADAM has anything to do with the Ampatuan clan which has held sway in Maguindanao for several generations, Undersecretary Ampatuan has himself declared that he formed ADAM as “(his) own” party-list group. Being himself a current government official, and one who comes from a prominent and influential clan in Maguindanao, Ampatuan and ADAM’s qualifications are at the very least questionable.

* Agbiag Timpuyog Ilocano (AGBIAG), Babae para sa Kaunlaran (BABAE KA), League of Youth for Peace and Development (LYPAD), and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (KALAHI) – These four groups are identified in an Oct. 16, 2006 memorandum from Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs (OEA) as the four main organizations to be supported in a party-list campaign that aimed to “provide full support to several COMELEC-accredited (party-list) groups that are ascertained to be pro-administration and ensure the winning of nine (9) to twelve (12) seats in the House of Representatives,” among other objectives. We have attached the scanned copy of the said Palace Memorandum. The memorandum should be seen as a ground for the disqualification of these party-list groups.

We would also like to draw the Comelec’s attention to reports that Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes are being eyed as nominees of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) and 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-UTAK), respectively.

Arroyo comes from the dominant political party Lakas-Kampi, is an incumbent congressman from Pampanga, and is the son of the incumbent president. Nothing in his current status qualifies him as a party-list representative. We call on the Comelec to exercise special vigilance in this regard, once the nominees of party-list groups have been submitted. Comelec has no choice but to disqualify Arroyo.

Reyes meanwhile is the current Secretary of Energy and has held previous positions in the Arroyo cabinet including Secretary of Defense and Interior and Local Government. He has also been the AFP Chief of Staff, another position that makes him influential and privileged. Nothing in his credentials makes him qualified to be a party-list nominee. We call on the Comelec to exercise special vigilance in this regard. Should he be included in the list of nominees of 1-Utak, Comelec has no choice but to disqualify Sec. Angelo Reyes.

Comelec cannot turn a blind eye to the clear pattern of abuse and distortion of the party-list system being done under the Arroyo administration. The 2010 elections will not be the first time interest groups would claim to be representing the marginalized. The lack of strict implementation of the law has allowed representatives of major political parties, influential persons, cabinet and military officials to take advantage of the party-list system.

For the 2010 elections, we can already see a concerted effort on the part of the allies of the Arroyo administration to use the party-list system so that they can remain in power as members of Congress.

To allow these issues to remain unresolved is to be an accomplice to a brazen bastardization of the party-list system.

We urge the Comelec to immediately conduct an investigation and a public hearing on the issues raised above, in relation to the party-lists BIDA, ADAM, AGBIAG, BABAE KA, LYPAD, and KALAHI. This can serve as an initial step in correcting the abuses of the party-list system. We reserve the right to file before the Comelec additional complaints on other party-list groups that do not conform to the law. We also reserve the right to file our opposition to the nomination of the Rep. Mikey Arroyo and Sec. Angelo Reyes once the final list of nominees is submitted.

For the Conveners,

FR. JOE DIZON
ENGR. RODOLFO NOEL LOZADA
MO. MARY JOHN MANANZAN
RENATO REYES JR.
GRACE POE-LLAMANZARES

Watchdog files raps vs 6 ‘gov’t’ party-list groups

Watchdog files raps vs 6 ‘gov’t’ party-list groups
By Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Election watchdog Kontra Daya Monday filed a complaint in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against six party-list groups it said were government fronts.

Kontra Daya tagged Batang Iwas Droga (Bida), Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maharlika (Adam), Agbiag Timpuyog Ilokano (Agbiag), Babae para sa Kaunlaran (Babae Ka), League of Youth for Peace and Development (Lypad) and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (Kalahi) as government-sponsored groups.

Kontra Daya said their inclusion on the list of 187 accredited party-list groups was a violation of the law establishing the party-list system, which is supposed to provide congressional representation for marginalized and underrepresented sectors of society.

The watchdog also asked the poll agency to check if Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, the President’s son, and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes were nominees of party-list groups Ang Galing Pinoy and 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-UTAK), respectively.

It said both Arroyo and Reyes should be disqualified as nominees.

Kontra Daya said Bida itself announced on its website that it was the brainchild of Efraim Genuino, who heads the government Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.

The Dangerous Drugs Board and Department of Education were also involved with the group, it said.

Adam, on the other hand, has for one of its nominees Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan.

“Being himself a current government official, and one who comes from a prominent and influential clan in Maguindanao, Ampatuan and Adam’s qualifications are at the very least questionable,” Kontra Daya said.

Agbiag, Babae Ka, Lypad and Kalahi, Kontra Daya said, were named in an October 2006 memorandum from Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs as groups to be backed to “provide full support to several Comelec-accredited (party-list) groups that are ascertained as pro-administration and ensure the winning of nine to 12 seats in the House of Representatives.”

Sought for comment, Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the party-list groups went through a “rigorous process of verification.”

“There was an opportunity for people to oppose their accreditation. If they don’t want them to win a seat, all they have to do is not vote for them,” he said.

Who can be a party-list rep?

Who can be a party-list rep?
By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHEN word went around that Rep. Mikey Arroyo, anticipatedly displaced by his mother from his seat in Pampanga, might run for a position in Congress as party-list representative, true or not, people naturally wondered if this was constitutionally allowable. For that matter, a similar question was asked about Secretary Angelo Reyes.

It is a legitimate question because there is a distinction between the qualifications of a district representative and those of a party-list representative.

We are familiar with the qualifications of district representatives. They must be natural-born Filipino citizens, at least 25 years of age on the day of the election, registered voters in the district to be represented and residents of the district they hope to represent for at least one year immediately preceding the election. No qualities of the person are prescribed, no level of education, no party affiliation, no profession. One can be a lawyer, a doctor, a billionaire, a laborer, or even a Cardinal. Yes, even a Cardinal, because the Constitution says that no religious test shall be imposed for the exercise of civil or political rights.

Clearly, Mikey Arroyo or Secretary Reyes can be one of them. Not everyone, however, can be a party-list representative.

The birth of the party-list representative came with the party-list system. Both arose out of the desire to give voice to the underrepresented and marginalized classes of society. The Constitution has reserved 20 percent of the total membership of the House of Representatives for party-list representatives. According to current jurisprudence and on the basis of the total number of representatives today, party-list representatives can be as many as 55—a force to reckon with if strategically deployed.

Constitutionally, a party-list representative has the same qualifications as a district representative, except for the fact that party-list representatives, since they do not represent a district, can be registered voters in any place of their choice. Since, however, they are to represent a party-list organization, they must also be bona fide members of a party-list organization.

The Constitution says that the party-list members must be chosen, as provided by law, from “the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.” Hence, if Mikey Arroyo is to become a party-list representative, he must fit into one of these classes. This may take a lot of doing!

In 2001 the Supreme Court thoroughly discussed the issue as to what kind of organizations may participate in the party-list system. The current doctrine on this subject is summed in the Epilogue to the 2001 decision:

“The linchpin of this case is the clear and plain policy of the law: ‘to enable Filipino citizens belonging to 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.

“Crucial to the resolution of this case is the fundamental social justice principle that those who have less in life should have more in law. The party-list system is one such tool intended to benefit those who have less in life. It gives the great masses of our people genuine hope and genuine power. It is a message to the destitute and the prejudiced, and even to those in the underground, that change is possible. It is an invitation for them to come out of their limbo and seize the opportunity.

“Clearly, therefore, the Court cannot accept the submissions of the Comelec and the other respondents that the party-list system is, without any qualification, open to all. Such position does not only weaken the electoral chances of the marginalized and underrepresented; it also prejudices them. It would gut the substance of the party-list system. Instead of generating hope, it would create a mirage. Instead of enabling the marginalized, it would further weaken them and aggravate their marginalization.

“In effect, the Comelec would have us believe that the party-list provisions of the Constitution and RA 7941 are nothing more than a play on dubious words, a mockery of noble intentions, and an empty offering on the altar of people empowerment. Surely, this could not have been the intention of the framers of the Constitution and the makers of RA 7941.”

The Court’s decision is a clear enunciation of what an organization must stand for if it is to be allowed to participate in the party-list system. It is a great idea which I myself supported in the Constitutional Commission. But it can also be a backdoor entry point for the undeserving. Hence, who should be elected to represent that organization?

Section 9 of the Party-List Law says that he must be “a bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the election.” This should mean that a party-list representative’s heart and mind should belong to the organization he or she represents. It may not always be easy to substantiate this requirement. Conversely, it may be easy to feign possession of this requirement!

Bloody Red Money: How the NPA earns from elections

Bloody Red Money: How the NPA earns from elections
By Nikolo M. Baua
ABS-CBN News

“So ma’am, taga bundok daw po kayo dati?”

Marife, 27, laughed at the question. I didn’t know what the etiquette guide was on talking to former insurgents but my goal was clear, make her comfortable enough to explain how the New People’s Army (NPA) conducts revenue collection. Clearly, an icebreaker was needed.

Wearing a lilac blouse, jeans, earrings and three silver rings, Marife didn’t fit my image of a rebel. All my doubts, however, were erased as she talked with a rich Tagalog vocabulary that was accentuated with terms that unmistakably came from communist party propaganda.

Marife said she joined the NPA when she was 17 years old. She was promised a gun, equality and a better chance at life in the remote, poor, rural farm towns of Quezon province. After years of armed training, learning the Communist Manifesto by heart and living by the party rules and hierarchy, she became leader of a team of guerrilas assigned to collect money from candidates during the 2004 elections.

NPA revenue collection is done systematically and efficiently. As early as October, local candidates for the May elections are identified per province and background checks are made on their wealth and businesses. The NPA then forms teams of 3 to 4 rebels to focus on all candidates for a particular position in the entire province. The teams are assigned to talk, negotiate and collect from these candidates, like account managers of a sales company.

Initial contact is friendly. The rebels either visit the area of the candidate unarmed and/or send them a letter. Marife’s team was assigned to collect campaign fees from all the candidates for mayor in all 40 municipalities and cities in Quezon.

“Halimbawa, sasabihin ko lang ‘Good morning mayor, ako po si Ka-Julienne.’ Alam na ng mayor na NPA ang kausap niya at kung ano ang gusto namin. Kung hindi revolutionary tax, permit to campaign (PTC) o kaya pabor tulad ng sasakyan. Mainit ang pagtanggap nila sa amin,” she revealed.

The “solicitation letters” are interesting, to say the least. There’s a letterhead of the organization and a logo. There’s a control number so they know how many letters are sent and who receives them. The text is photocopied, back to back, on legal size paper.

The letter starts with how society and government have been degraded by corruption and ineptness. The last two paragraphs are the sales pitch. “Nananawagan po kami sa inyong supporta (We are calling for your support).” After reading this portion, the rebels are either shown the door or given assurance by the candidate that he is willing to enter into negotiation.

The second phase is the actual negotiation, which is usually held outside the territory of the candidate. This time, the rebels bring firearms and extra men. The politican is also allowed to bring an associate, usually a cop or a bodyguard.

According to Marife, candidates are charged different campaign fees depending on the position they are pursuing.

“Iba-iba ang presyo. Meron kaming sinusundan na palatuntunan. Ang mayor ng isang first class na municipality, nasa P100,000 ang halaga ng permit to campaign. Pwede sila tumawad hanggang P90,000. Kung kunwari hindi kaya at P75,000 lang talaga ang kaya, napag-uusapan naman. Hihingi kami ng 4 na computer na pwedeng pa-isa-isa ibibigay, o kaya sasakyan. May schedule na susundan,” she said.

She added that sometimes, the candidate is asked to campaign for a particular party-list group, which is being supported by the NPA.

Marife said the rebels focus on local officials who have to campaign in barangays and barrios that are controlled by the rebel group. She said national candidates often campaign in controlled city venues.

The third meeting is also held outside the candidate’s territory. There they agree on the terms and payments are made in cash. Candidates who refuse have to go through a process. “Sometimes, if they really have nothing, we just take whatever they give us,” said Marife.

She admitted that many politicians actually don’t pay permit-to-campaign fees of the NPA. She said some candidates pay up because they think that they will get support from the group. Others do it because they just want to get along or they want to protect their interests.

“Mananakot lang ang NPA, pero hanggang doon lang yon. Dito sa Quezon wala namang nasasaktan,” she said.

Marife said NPA members individually or as a group are banned from campaigning for any candidate or party-list group. “Hindi ito naaayon sa prinsipyo ng grupo, na kailangan pabagsakin ang gobyerno o ang sistemang corrupt. Kung merong nahuhuling nagkakampanya, may kaparusahan ito, pwedeng demotion o ililipat sa ibang lugar,” she said.

A former police chief who refused to be named said candidates do get punished by the rebels. This usually happens in remote provinces, beyond the reach of law enforcers and the scrutiny of the media.

“Meron silang parang kangaroo court, pinag-uusapan nila kung anong gagawin, kung pagbibigyan ba o paparusahan. May kilala akong kandidato sa pagkakonsehal, nilinaw niya sa NPA na mangingisda lang siya, walang pera at gusto lang manilbihan sa kapwa. Pinagbigyan siya. Nakukuha rin naman yan sa pakiusap,” he said.

He admitted, though, that paying campaign fees to the NPA has become an obligation in some provinces. He said some local officials tolerate the NPA because they can be used to solve simple disputes.

“The hands of the police and military are tied because of lack of people and resources. They can’t help the community solve simple disputes such as settling an argument or the theft of a cow. In these cases, local leaders use the NPA because they know the people and they have access and the problems are solved. What the local leaders don’t know is that the NPA actually started the argument or even stole the cow. The local leaders now owe the rebels a favor because they helped out, like a syndicate,” he said.

Marife said her group collected P942,000 from different mayoral candidates in Quezon in 2004. She said total collections for the entire province was about P5 million a month, from October to May.

“Quezon pa lang yan. Ang alam ko, mas malaki pa ang Rizal at Batangas. May internal audit din bawa’t probinsya. Pero pag nabigay na sa national, wala na. Hindi rin namin alam kung saan napupunta. Buhay ang kapalit kapag nabawasan ang koleksyon o kung may gastos na hindi maipaliwanag. Pero kahit diyan laganap ang korupsyon dahil yung iba hindi naman talaga dinedeklara ang tunay na binigay ng pulitiko,” she said.

Just last Saturday, 11 soldiers died in a clash in Oriental Mindoro after they responded to a reported “permit-to-campaign” negotiation. The following day, a rebel and 6 soldiers died allegedly for the same reason.

Last Tuesday, a candidate for city councilor was killed in a firefight between an NPA guerilla and government troops in Quezon province. The candidate was allegedly negotiating for his own permit to campaign when the shooting started.

Col. Cornelio Valencia Jr. of the 76th Infantry Battalion believes things could get worse in the coming weeks as the NPA ramps up efforts to collect as much money as they can from the candidates.

“Through the years, they’ve lost so much men and funds. They’re desperate to regain everything. The elections are their biggest source of income and they will take full advantage,” he said.

Valencia said the only way to stop the NPA’s extortion scheme is for all politicians to stop giving in to the rebels’ demands.

“It’s a terror cycle. If you give them money, you are giving them access to more guns and ammunition to raid and attack. You are giving them reason to ask for more money,” he said.

Position of names on ballot could affect candidates' chances: expert

Position of names on ballot could affect candidates’ chances: expert
by Ryan Chua
ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines – When they first ran in 2007, members of the party list group United Transport Koalisyon (UTAK) thought of placing the numeral “1” before its name, hence its current name 1-UTAK. No deeper meaning behind it, a member says. It’s just a strategy for them to be first in the alphabetical list of party list groups that voters will choose from during the elections.

True enough, they became first in the list that year. This year, however, party list groups whose names begin with “1” increased: 1 Ang Pamilya, 1-Aangat Tayo, and 1-Aani, to name a few. “We were shocked because of instead of being number 1, we moved down to number 9,” says transport leader Zenaida Maranan, one of 1-UTAK’s nominees for this year’s polls.

Now that the system is automated and all candidates’ names are printed on the official ballot, many are making a big deal out of being ahead in the list.

Big deal

But what’s big deal, really? Science says one’s position in a list affects one’s chances of being chosen — or voted for, in the case of elections.

Dr. Felix Muga, a mathematics professor at the Ateneo de Manila, cites Benford’s law in statistics, which states that “in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data… the first digit 1 is almost one third of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency…”

Thus, if a candidate is associated with the numeral 1 or is first on the list, he or she has 30 percent more chances of “occurring” or being chosen than others. Those close to his or her name have good but lesser chances.

“The effect is usually on the undecided voters. Their tendency is to go to the number one on the list first,” Muga says.

Uncomfortable

This is why the Liberal Party (LP) is uncomfortable with the position of its bet, Sen. Noynoy Aquino on the list. Aquino is number 2, placed between the disqualified candidate Vetellano Acosta and Ang Kapatiran standard-bearer JC delos Reyes.

“It’s biased against Noynoy Aquino,” says LP campaign manager Butch Abad of the ballot’s design. “For one, it still contains the name of Vetellano Acosta … Look at the slot for Manny Villar. He’s by himself there.”

The LP believes the ballot’s design favors Villar, Aquino’s closest rival, whose name is alone in one column in the section for presidential candidates.

The party has asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to redesign the ballot and remove Acosta. But the poll body said this is impossible, because it would mean reconfiguring the poll machines’ software and printing millions of ballots all over again.

“Bong Revilla”

Curiously, reelectionist Sen. Bong Revilla’s family name on the ballot is not just “Revilla” but “Bong Revilla,” placing him among the first in the list. But his camp says this was not meant to place him ahead of others.

“The voters… have always known and identified him as Ramon B. Bong Revilla Jr. and not Ramon ‘Bong’ B. Revilla Jr.,” his camp said in a statement. “In 2004, the surname Bong Revilla was used when he filed his certificate of candidacy, and the Supreme Court upheld the commission’s decision by using Bong Revilla.”

Random, Not alphabetical

Muga thinks that to level the playing field, names on the ballot should be randomly instead of alphabetically arranged. This is the way they do it in California, he says.

For the Comelec, however, there’s too much and unnecessary ado about how names on the ballot are arranged.

“The position of the candidate on the ballot shouldn’t be the determining factor of whether he will win or not,” says Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal. “You should give voters more credit than that.”

In the end, the poll body says, it’s how candidates campaign — not where they are on the ballot — that will decide their fate on May 10.