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LP blasts Comelec’s designation of NP as ‘dominant minority party’

Sen Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan asnwers questions from the media at the weekly Kapihan sa Senado on May 2. INQUIRER.NET PHOTO/CATHY MIRANDA

The opposition Liberal Party (LP) on Friday denounced as unacceptable the decision by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to designate a key ally of the ruling party as the “dominant minority party” in next week’s polls.

“Incredible. You chose to deny the existence of the opposition and gave all the privileges to the administration,” said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, LP president and campaign manager of the Otso Diretso opposition coalition.

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He was addressing members of the poll body after it declared on Thursday Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban)  the leading majority party and the Nacionalista Party (NP) the dominant minority party in the midterm polls.

“How can that happen when PDP and NP are both allied with the administration? How can they be both majority and minority? Is the PDP-NP alliance the new KBL?” Pangilinan said, referring to Kilusang Bagong Lipunan, the political vehicle of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“This is absolutely unacceptable. We oppose this,” he added.

The Comelec designation is crucial as the dominant majority and minority parties are entitled to copies of critical poll documents—the election returns (ERs) and certificates of canvass—plus preferential rights to deploy watchers to polling places and canvassing centers.

“Don’t pretend to be blind,” Pangilinan appealed to the Comelec. “Don’t be an instrument and a tool of the administration in trampling on our political rights and mangling our democracy.”

He said his party would oppose the decision in the Supreme Court.

“No retreat. Never surrender,” he added.

In an alliance

The NP, led by real estate mogul and former Speaker and Senate President Manny Villar and his wife, reelectionist Sen. Cynthia Villar, is in an alliance with PDP-Laban and the Hugpong ng Pagbabago regional party led by President Duterte’s daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte.

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Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez explained that the Comelec merely made a mathematical computation in reaching its decision.

“It’s not partisan, it’s pure math,” he told reporters.

Jimenez said the dominant majority and minority parties were selected based on the number of their incumbent elected officials, the number of candidates fielded for the midterm polls and their “numerical strength in the regions,” among others.

For this election, the criteria also included the number of women the parties are fielding, he added.

“It’s not about who you are allied with. It is about your size and relative strength as a political party, that’s why you become the dominant majority or minority party. It’s clear that political alliances is not a criterion,” Jimenez said on Friday.

Resolution No. 10538, which determined the dominant majority and minority parties, ranked PDP-Laban the highest with a score of 55.74. NP placed second with a score of 35.87, while LP was in third place with a score of 27.63.

Pangilinan said the decision “runs counter to democracy … runs counter to the basic tenets of fair play, runs counter to common sense.”

Not different

“This is no different from the decision and politicking of politicians in the House of Representatives when they proclaimed GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) Speaker and elected as minority leader their ally and party mate Rep. Danny Suarez,” Pangilinan said. “Has the Comelec become a sycophant too?”

Commissioner Luie Tito Guia said he did not object to the criteria used in the selection but pointed out that the dominant minority party should have been “a party that belongs to those that stand opposite the majority.”

“The purpose of determining which are the dominant majority and minority parties is to ensure fairness in treating contending or opposing political groups. This purpose will not be served if the dominant minority party also comes from the majority,” Guia said in his separate opinion, which Commissioner Rowena Guanzon also supported.

Guia said the process should have involved the identification of parties belonging to the majority and the minority before determining which were the dominant parties.

“With the current polarized political climate, it is not hard to divine which group belongs to the majority or minority,” he added.

Former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal on Friday said having a watcher right inside a polling precinct was more important for the dominant parties than obtaining copies of the ERs.

As stipulated in the automated elections law, the dominant political parties will each be given a copy of the first eight of the 30 printed ERs before the transmission of the digital information to the Comelec servers, said Larrazabal, who now serves as election lawyer for the administration-allied Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Copies of ERs

The other major political parties would also get copies of the 22 remaining printed ERs after the transmission of votes, he said.

Larrazabal said in case there was not enough space inside polling stations, representatives of the dominant parties would be given preference to remain inside, in addition to the representative of the accredited citizens’ arm, the voters and the Board of Election Inspectors.

“For me, that’s more important than having copies of ERs because that’s easier to check later. But if the [Board of Election Inspectors] decides to ask people to leave the [polling precinct], more preference will be given to the watchers of the two dominant political parties to stay,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

See the bigger picture with the Inquirer's live in-depth coverage of the election here https://inq.ph/Election2019

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TAGS: Comelec, copies of ER, Dominant minority party, dominant party, duterte, election returns, Elections, Guanzon, Guia, James Jimenez, Larrazabal, LP, NP, Otso Diretso, Pangilinan, PDP-Laban
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