Probe urged on sale of party-list slots
A party-list lawmaker has asked Congress to investigate the alleged sale of party-list accreditations and nominations for millions of pesos by a syndicate in the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
“This issue of bribery by alleged fixers in the Comelec must not be left in limbo. The integrity of our party-list system must be protected,” said Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, who filed a bill calling for a House inquiry into the matter.
“With the absence of a full investigation of alleged cases of bribery, doubts are inevitably cast on the integrity of the Comelec to uphold the party-list system and ensure that only qualified party-lists are allowed to run in elections,” Colmenares said.
He said the House should summon Danton Remoto of the party-list group Ladlad—which was rejected by the Comelec—who had claimed that fixers and Comelec lawyers had offered him instant certification in exchange for millions of pesos, as well as cosmetic surgeon Joel Mendez who had said he was offered a nomination by an accredited party-list group if he paid P5 million (to be a second nominee) or P2 million (third nominee).
Colmenares questioned the Comelec’s failure to act on these allegations, as well as on the arrest by the National Bureau of Investigation two years ago of suspected members of a Comelec syndicate allegedly selling party-list accreditations and seats for P10 million to P15 million.
Colmenares said the Comelec should put its foot down on this brazen selling of party-list accreditations because it defeats the purpose of the law granting the poor and marginalized sectors of society greater representation in a Congress dominated by political dynasties.
“If we allow these fake party-list groups to buy their accreditation, then it will be just a matter of time before the party-list system is completely ruled by the rich and powerful who can afford to pay bribes and ease out genuine representatives of the people,” he said.
Colmenares said the party-list system, which automatically gets 20 percent of the House membership, had already been taken over by traditional politicians. A study by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance showed that of 57 nominees belonging to 43 party-list groups in the 15th Congress, 12 were identified as belonging to political clans and nine were tagged as being affiliated with or openly endorsed by religious groups.
Colmenares noted that Bayan Muna had obtained a Supreme Court ruling which stated that a party-list group “must not be an adjunct of or an entity funded or assisted by the government” and that nominees themselves should belong to the marginalized sectors of society.
Ang Galing Pinoy
“Since 1998 there have been lots of attempts to corrupt the system by so-called bogus or pseudo party-lists which were able to worm their way through the screening process of the Comelec and some were even victorious in acquiring congressional seats,” Colmenares said.
During the Arroyo administration, a son of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, was made the first nominee of the Ang Galing Pinoy party-list group which represents tricycle drivers and security guards even though he did not have the remotest connection to tricycle drivers or security guards. Mikey continues to sit in Congress today along with his mother who took over his original House seat representing the second district of Pampanga.
The Comelec has not only ignored calls to clamp down on the illegal sale of party-list accreditations, it has also made it harder to weed out the bogus groups. Colmenares questioned the Comelec’s imposition of a P10,000 filing fee in disqualification cases.