MANILA, Philippines—A petition seeking the disqualification of Akbayan Rep. Arlene Javellana Bag-ao from her post has been filed before Congress after she allegedly shed her affiliation with the party-list group and shifted loyalty with the ruling Liberal Party in her bid to run for congressman in the lone district of Dinagat Islands in Mindanao.
In an 11-page petition filed before the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) on January 28, Dinagat Island resident Rogelio Libot Ontua charged that Bag-ao should be stripped of her post as Akbayan representative, citing the turn-coatism provisions of Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Law.
Under RA 7941, “any party-list representative who changes his/her political party or social affiliation shall forfeit his/her seat.”
Ontua argued that Bag-ao effectively “forfeited” her seat as Akbayan representative when she listed the Liberal Party (LP) as her official party in the certificate of candidacy (COC) she filed October 1, 2012 for the May 2013 elections for the post of congressman representing Dinagat Islands.
“Scrutinizing Bag-ao’s sworn COC…there can be no mistaking that she considers LP, not Akbayan, as her political party. The change in her political party is too plain, too obvious and too glaring not to be noticed,” Ontua said.
Ontua further noted that Bag-ao’s COC was accompanied by a Certification of Nomination and Acceptance (CONA) dated September 20, 2012 signed by LP president Mar Roxas which only validated that her party loyalty no longer belongs to Akbayan but to LP.
Ontua urged that the HRET need not look far in validating Bag-ao’s violation of RA 7941 and her obvious shift in party loyalties from Akbayan to LP.
“In contrast, in the case of (former Akbayan Rep.) Rissa Hontiveros, Akbayan is fielding her as Senator. In her COC, she listed Akbayan as her political party,” he disclosed.
And given “the disparity between the manner by which Bag-ao and Hontiveros accomplished their respective COCs, (it can only) lead to one inconvenient truth: they now belong to different political parties.”
Bag-ao had been appointed by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte as Dinagat Island’s “caretaker” as early as October 2012 after duly-elected Rep. Reuben Ecleo was expelled by the House for a murder conviction.
Her anointment by Belmonte as caretaker drew widespread criticism after P140 million in pork barrel fund was released to Dinagat Island under Bag-ao’s care purportedly to provide continuous support for the district’s constituents after Ecleo’s expulsion from Congress.
It was charged that Bag-ao, being merely a party-list representative and not a duly-elected official of Dinagat Island, has no authority, much more, the accountability on how to dispose of the badly-needed funds for the country’s most impoverished districts.
Belmonte had earlier been reported to have defended his anointment of Bag-ao as Dinagat Island’s caretaker in the absence of Ecleo since the Akbayan congresswoman was a Dinagat Island resident.
This explanation has not sat well with Dinagat natives who have argued that Bag-ao’s appointment “trampled upon our democratic right to elect our own representatives while the House appoints a virtual outsider to take charge of our lives.”