‘Very small opposition’: What now for Makabayan groups?
MANILA, Philippines — Under the looming presidency of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the best course of action for the progressive Makabayan party-list groups that have a chance to win one seat each in the House of Representatives is to talk “louder” in order to make their views heard, according to a political scientist.
Prof. Maria Ela Atienza of the University of the Philippines Diliman said that from the initial results of the vote count of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the next administration would have a “very small opposition” in the House, and even in the Senate.
“They will have to raise their voices louder this time because they are fewer. That will be their role. They will have to carry the burden of representing the opposition,” she told the Inquirer.
Atienza attributed the electoral loss of activist party-list groups such as Anakpawis and Bayan Muna to the wide disinformation campaign waged against them and the constant red-tagging by the government’s anti-communist task force.
Per the partial and unofficial numbers from the Comelec transparency server, only the progressive party-list groups Kabataan and Gabriela have a chance to be represented in the next Congress.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Kabataan has garnered 530,486 votes or 1.47 percent of the 2-percent threshold, and Gabriela, 414,587 votes or 1.15 percent. These could possibly get them at least one seat each.
Only six party-list groups have obtained the required 2 percent of the votes — ACT-CIS, 1-Rider, Tingog, 4Ps, Ako Bicol, and Sagip.
‘Systematic, official red-tagging’
Atienza observed that with Kabataan and Gabriela in the House, and Risa Hontiveros possibly the lone opposition senatorial candidate to make it to the “Magic 12,” the next administration would have a miniscule opposition.
Asked what could have caused this, Atienza cited the red-tagging and disinformation on social media, She also cited Akbayan and Magdalo — who do not identify with the Makabayan coalition — among the opposition groups that failed to get at least 2 percent of the votes.
“In the past few years, Red-tagging by the Duterte administration has been rampant against them… All opposition [groups], they will say, are communist sympathizers. This is very systematic and very official Red-tagging,” she said.
Atienza said the fake and widely circulated Comelec “resolution,” which stated that all party-list groups in the Makabayan bloc, as well as senatorial aspirant Neri Colmenares, had been disqualified, could have also affected their chances at the polls.
The Comelec disowned the resolution that spread on social media and described it as false information.
As for Akbayan and Magdalo, Atienza noted that these party-list groups had been targeted by online trolls as being “dilawan (yellow)” because they allied themselves with presidential candidate Leni Robredo and her running mate, Francis Pangilinan.
‘Rubber stamp’ Congress?
Bayan Muna, which in previous elections was a big winner with two to three seats in the House, may not get a seat this time and Anakpawis is now at risk of not being able to run again in the next elections.
Anakpawis national president Ariel Casilao agreed with Atienza, saying that Red-tagging and even the direct attacks mounted against them during the campaign were factors in their defeat.
Casilao, who represented Anakpawis from 2016 to 2019, feared a “rubber stamp” Congress under a Marcos administration. But he pinned his hopes of a “formidable opposition” on Kabataan and Gabriela in the House and Hontiveros in the Senate.
ACT Teachers, another member of the Makabayan coalition, is hoping to clinch at least 1 percent with 325,944 votes or 0.90 percent as of Wednesday afternoon.
Under the Party-List System, a party-list group that fails to obtain 2 percent of the votes cast in the two preceding elections will not be allowed to run again using the same name.
The Makabayan party-list groups, as well as Akbayan and Magdalo, were beaten by the huge turnout of voters for such groups as Tutok to Win, Duterte Youth and Agimat, all identified with Marcos Jr. and his running mate Sara Duterte.
The poor numbers for the legitimate party-list groups are “surprising” and “somewhat troubling” for Ronald Mendoza, a professor and dean of the Ateneo School of Government.
“What we are seeing today follows a trend wherein the party-list system has been captured by entrenched political and economic interests,” Mendoza said.
He added: “This is de facto political exclusion, which may drive many legitimate concerns into festering grievances, and fuel more radical venues for our youth, if our political system fails to legitimately restore space for agency and action.”
Danilo Arao, convener of the poll watchdog Kontra Daya, said most of the dominant party-list groups had been flagged by his organization “for not being truly representative of the marginalized and underrepresented.”
Atienza warned that the first nominees of Kabataan and Gabriela—student leader Raoul Manuel and incumbent Rep. Arlene Brosas, respectively—along with Hontiveros, could face disinformation attacks online.
“Definitely, they will get a lot of flak. A lot of disinformation will be used against them, because that has been the playbook since 2016. And it apparently worked, and this incoming administration will definitely use it,” Atienza said.
Arao said he expected Kabataan and Gabriela to maintain a critical “anti-Marcos opposition” even in the face of a “hostile majority.”
“They will have to deal with various forms of disinformation like historical denialism and Red-tagging,” Arao said.
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