Comelec asked to disqualify partylist fronting for tobacco interestsBy Tina G. Santos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A network of anti-tobacco advocates has asked the Commission on Elections to disqualify a partylist organization which it accused of being a front for the powerful tobacco industry.
In a letter to Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Alliance Philippines (FCAP) opposed the candidacy of Agrarian Development Association, whose nominees, it claimed, were closely identified with the tobacco industry.
FCAP is an umbrella organization of groups and individuals from medical and professional organizations, faith-based youth, and environmental groups strongly involved in upholding tobacco control laws.
“ADA, a party-list group representing farmers accredited by the Comelec but lost during the last sectoral election, is again vying to get a seat for the 2013 Congressional poll,” FCAP said in a statement.
A check with the Comelec website reveals the following ADA nominees: 1. Eric Singson, 2. Eric Singson Jr., 3. Rodolfo Salanga, 4. Blake Clinton Dy, 5. Grace Kristine Singson Meehan, and 6. Victor Manuel Jr.
“The four nominees of the ADA belong to the affluent, the influential and the powerful by reason of their individual or familial wealth or the political and economic ties they have honed and developed through the years. They are neither marginalized nor underrepresented. They are rich people who use the poor, marginalized sector, in the hope of gaining a seat in Congress,” said FCAP in its August 27 letter to the Comelec.
The party-list law requires that 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives should be allocated to marginalized groups, the anti-tobacco advocates noted.
According to FCAP, Eric Singson was a former congressman of Ilocos Sur’s 2nd district while his son, Eric Singson Jr., is the incumbent representative of the same district.
Salanga is a long-time president of the Philippine Tobacco Institute (PTI) while Dy operates the Anglo-American Tobacco Corp, it added.
“It is an insult to genuine marginalized groups that a tobacco industry-backed organization like ADA was allowed to misrepresent itself as a legitimate party list movement. The tobacco industry’s imprint is all over ADA and its nominees. The Comelec should immediately disqualify this group,” said Roberto Del Rosario, FCAP’s president, in a statement.
FCAP also questioned ADA’s lineup of nominees as these people were neither founders nor officers of the farmer’s group.
“This is not just a clear misrepresentation of the agrarian sector but a direct assault on our electoral process. The tobacco industry and its beneficiaries in business and in government should not be allowed to make a travesty of the very noble intent of the party list election which provides an avenue for the marginalized sector of society to have a voice in government,” Del Rosario said.
Meanwhile, the Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA) said the intrusion of the tobacco industry in politics through the fielding and funding of a pseudo party-list organization is “disturbing,” considering the ongoing sin tax debates in the Senate.
“The tobacco industry in the Philippines is now positioning itself to enter government to quell efforts by health advocates to push for tobacco control efforts aimed at reducing cigarette consumption and saving kids from smoking,” said Dr. Ulysses Dorotheo, project director for Southeast Asia Initiative on Tobacco Tax of SEATCA.
“The Philippines having one of the highest number of smokers in Southeast Asia at 17.3 million and the highest smoking youth in the region, is an important market to the industry. The industry will do anything including undermining laws and policies just to maintain its dominance in this region,” said Dorotheo.
The Comelec is expected to release by the end of the month the final list of accredited party list organizations qualified to run for next year’s election.