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Militant youth groups seek Akbayan disqualification

09:49 PM October 09, 2012

DAVAO CITY—How can a party-list group represented by people allied with the government be considered representative of the marginalized sector?

This was the question that militant youth groups on Monday raised at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) as they sought to disqualify Akbayan Citizens Party from the 2013 party-list elections.

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In a petition filed Oct. 8, the National Union of Students of the Philippines, Anakbayan and other youth groups, said Akbayan had ceased to represent the marginalized sector and should be disqualified from the elections.

Sought for comment, Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello yesterday said efforts to remove Akbayan as a party-list group stem from “partisan ideological reasons” and also motivated by jealousy that Akbayan has been able to champion the causes of the marginalized, while other groups claiming to do the same are fading away into irrelevance.

Akbayan and Anakbayan are identified with two different factions of the Left.

“Akbayan is no longer marginalized or underrepresented, a requirement to run in the party-list elections, as provided in Section 2 of  Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act,” the youth groups said in the petition addressed to Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes.

They cited the appointment to government posts of several Akbayan members, including Ronald Llamas, who serves as the presidential political affairs adviser of President Aquino; former Akbayan president and representative Loretta Ann Rosales, now the chair of the Commission on Human Rights; former Akbayan president Joel Rocamora, now the chair of the National Anti-Poverty Commission; former Akbayan Rep. Mario Agujo, now a member of the Government Service Insurance System Board of Trustees; former Akbayan chair Percival Cendena, now a commissioner-at-large of the National Youth Commission.

Positions

The petition also pointed out that Akbayan nominees for the 2013 party-list elections hold high appointive positions in the Aquino administration. They include Akbayan’s second nominee, Ibarra M. Gutierrez III, now the undersecretary for political affairs, an appointee of President Aquino;  Akbayan’s third nominee, Angelina Ludovice-Katoh, now a commissioner in the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor.

“Surely, the presidential appointments indicate Akbayan’s present status as a non-marginalized and underrepresented political party,” the complaint said.  “The appointments in high government offices proved that Akbayan is now well-entrenched in government and well-connected to the appointing power.”

The youth group said President Aquino himself announced on Oct. 1 the administration coalition, citing Akbayan side by side with the country’s major political parties.

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The group said that being a major partner in the administration coalition, the resources available to major political parties under the administration coalition shall be available for its disposal as well, not only for its lone senatorial candidate, but also for its candidacy in the party-list elections.

On Oct. 5, Akbayan Citizens Party member and senatorial candidate Risa Hontiveros filed her certificate of candidacy.

‘Unfair advantage’

“Akbayan’s access to these resources of major political parties under the administration coalition would give it an unfair and undue advantage in the party-list elections, where participating party-lists have only meager resources relative to major political parties,” part of the petition read.  “With such awesome powers, connections and resources, Akbayan has now ceased to be a marginalized and underrepresented political party eligible for participation in the 2013 party-list elections.

Bello, who said he expected more attacks against the group because of its successes, also said Akbayan was getting no additional funds or special favors from the administration.

“They don’t like Akbayan because of our reform orientation that basically benefits the masses. We’re stealing their thunder as an organization that’s successfully bringing progressive politics into the mainstream,” Bello said.

He also said it was clear from Akbayan’s track record that it is a multisectoral organization representing marginalized groups.

It championed legislation pertaining to the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, oversees absentee voting, the security of tenure, the land use act, and the reproductive health bill. Its advocacies and programs have benefited the urban poor, peasants, women and workers, he added.

Bello also said that even though Hontiveros is running as a senatorial candidate under the administration coalition, Akbayan does not receive any funds from the President’s political party. Akbayan has to raise its own funds to help Hontiveros, he added.

As for criticism about Akbayan members appointed to government posts, he said this does not change the fact that Akbayan represents the marginalized. “The point here is that in both positions, you are representing the marginalized,” he said. Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao, and Leila Salaverria in Manila

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