Comelec OKs Piston, 12 more partylist groupsBy Fat Reyes
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday announced that it has allowed 13 more new partylist applicants to take part in the 2013 elections.
In an interview with reporters, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said that the poll body, in a unanimous vote, had approved the application of the militant transport group Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston).
When asked about the decision, Brillantes said “Unanimous ang voting kasi puro drivers ito (The vote was unanimous because it’s a group of drivers).”
Brillantes said the poll body also approved the applications of Aagapay sa Matatanda, a group which seeks to represent the elderly and the senior citizens, and labor group Aasenso (Ating Agapay Sentrong Samahan ng mga Obrero Inc.)
In a separate interview, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said that the groups were accredited because the parties’ nominees really belong to the marginalized sectors they seek to represent in accordance with Republic Act 7941, or the Party-list System Act.
Sarmiento said that the groups passed the eight-point guidelines enumerated in the 2003 case of Ang Bagong Bayani v. Comelec.
In the Ang Bagong Bayani case, the Supreme Court issued guidelines ensuring that only those who belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors can run for partylist seats in Congress.
This latest announcement brought to five the total number of accredited partylist organizations for the 2013 polls. The Comelec earlier granted the applications of the groups Ang Nars Inc., which represents Filipino nurses; and Pilipinos with Disabilities, which represents persons with disabilities.
The Comelec has also accredited 10 other new applicants for the 2013 party-list polls, said Brillantes, but added that he could not announce the names of the other groups because the votes on these were not unanimous.
Still no decision on Akbayan
Brillantes, however, said that the poll body still has not made a final ruling on Akbayan partylist since the commissioners were still divided in their votes.
“Ang haba ng debate namin dyan…..What we decided is maybe we can come out with individual opinions tapos i-seal niyo na kako tapos bibilangin ko na lang,” Brillantes said. Commissioner Grace Padaca has not yet confirmed whether she would vote or not but that she had been listening to the deliberations, he said.
Sarmiento, for his part, noted that discussions were very fluid and that commissioners had shifts in their opinions. He said that factors like the “sensitivity of the issue, the long time that it has been in the public’s consciousness, and the personalities involved” could be the cause of this.
Two disqualification complaints against Akbayan had been filed before the Comelec by various groups arguing that it could no longer participate in the partylist elections because it was a “party in power” favored by President Benigno Aquino III.
Militant groups has said that Akbayan’s members held key positions in the present administration, including Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas, Commission on Human Rights chairwoman Etta Rosales, National Anti-Poverty Commission chairman Joel Rocamora and GSIS board member Mario Agujo.
Sarmiento said that the issues mentioned in the complaints have been discussed during the deliberations on Akbayan and that it could affect the decisions of the commissioners.
The Comelec has been undergoing a re-evaluation of old and new partylist groups as part of its efforts to cleanse the partylist system, which has been criticized as being dominated by bogus organizations or by groups whose nominees were either multimillionaires, former government officials or members of powerful political clans.