Party-list groups fear Comelec crackdownBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines – After Ako Bicol and other groups were purged from the party-list roster by the Commission on Elections, more party-list organizations now fear they may encounter the same fate.
The left-leaning Bayan Muna party-list organization is worried about the Comelec cracking down on groups simultaneously representing the same “marginalized” sector in the House of Representatives.
Former Representative Satur Ocampo, now Bayan Muna president, expressed fear Friday that the Comelec’s position on “single-sector representation” might “lead to the disqualification of genuine party-list groups like Bayan Muna” and its affiliate, Anakpawis.
“We laud the Comelec for its effort to cleanse the party-list system of fake party-list groups formed or used by multimillionaires and political dynasties,” Ocampo said in a statement. “But we take exception to the idea to disqualify ‘multisectoral’ party even if that party has been proven to be truly composed of and representing two or more or all the marginalized sectors.”
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares said the Comelec “should focus instead (on) whether a group is marginalized and underrepresented because that is what the people are questioning and not on novel legal theories of multisectoral parties.”
The Comelec disqualified Ako Bicol since there were already a number of lawmakers representing the Bicol region. The group topped the 2010 party-list election and got three seats in the House.
Saying the law does not bar multiple representation of one sector, Colemenares said: “A multisectoral group is allowed under the party-list (law) as long as it belongs to the marginalize sectors.”
“A group, whether single sector or multisectoral, is not qualified not because of the number of sectors they represent, but because they do not belong to the marginalized,” he added.
Ocampo said Bayan Muna was “comprised of and represents marginalized sector as stated by the party-list law.” But he did not specify the sector. Anakpawis, he added, “is composed of and represents workers, farmers and urban poor.”
“The litmus test of the cleansing process of the party-list system is whether or not a sectoral, regional or political party truly represents the marginalized sectors as listed in the party-list law and not whether a party represents only one or two or more marginalized sectors,” he said.
Poll watchdog Kontra Daya warned Comelec against being sidetracked from going after sham party-list groups by expunging from the system legitimate groups representing several sectors instead of just one.
In a statement, Kontra Daya convenor Fr. Joe Dizon said that the poll body must weed out only those that do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors as intended by Republic Act 7941, otherwise known as the Party-list System Act and Jurisprudence.
Dizon said the group believed that if Comelec focused on the multi-sectoral or sectoral nature of a group instead of simply determining whether or not such party truly represented the marginalized, it would further “limit the space for those without power or money to engage in governance.”
Kontra Daya was reacting to reports that the Comelec was also bent on disqualifying party-list organizations representing multi-sectoral groups.
But so far there has been no such official statement from Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr.or other commissioners on the matter.
On Wednesday, the Comelec en banc voted unanimously to disqualify Ako Bicol and 12 other organizations from the 2013 elections.
Ako Bicol was among the party-list groups that Kontra Daya questioned in a complaint filed with the Comelec last month.
“We are with Chairman Brillantes in his campaign to get rid of bogus party-list groups…[but] the exercise of cleansing the system becomes pointless and useless [if] it will also deprive the marginalized and underrepresented sectors that are grouped under one party-list organization from participating,” Dizon said.
But it must be guided by “basic common sense” and “simple logic” not to disallow the poor and the weak from various sectors deciding to run under one party-list group to run in the 2013 elections, he stressed.
“If the Comelec will insist on disqualifying groups on a basis other than they’re not marginalized and under-represented, it will unwittingly help perpetuate this injustice, the mockery of the party-list system and the marginalization of the poor and weak,” said Dizon. With a report from Jocelyn R. Uy