MANILA, Dec 18 (PNA) — The entry of various bogus groups that claim to represent the marginalized and under-represented sectors of society has prompted the Commission on Elections to weed them out of the party-list system.
The poll body’s move was lauded by election watchdogs who have been pushing for an amendment to Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act of 1995 but were criticized by groups affected by the Comelec en banc rulings.
To date, there are 83 groups allowed to join the May 2013 mid-term polls, including 58 previously accredited and 25 newly accredited.
The groups appealed their disqualification cases before the Supreme Court and, so far, 36 of the delisted groups were given reprieve by the High Court while 24 are still awaiting a similar consideration.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes. Jr. admitted discussions on whether to delist a group has taken much of their time for the 2013 polls preparation.
But Brillantes said it is necessary to delist groups to preserve the party-list system which has become a ground for some groups to get into the political scene and gain power, thus defeating the real purpose of the law.
“Hindi naman biruan itong party-list… The party-list system has gone out of bounds,” he said.
Brillantes said with the new procedure in accreditation, it is more difficult for groups to get the poll body’s nod because groups approved by the divisions still had to go through the en banc.
More than 100 groups have been disqualified because they apparently do not represent the marginalized and underrepresented sector—the main purpose of the law— and their nominees are either rich or from a well-known political clan.
Ako Bicol and Ang Galing Pinoy were some of the groups axed for failure to meet the requirement of representing the marginalized.
AGP claims to represent security guards and tricycle drivers but is represented by Mikey Arroyo, one of the wealthiest party-list lawmakers in the House of Representatives.
Under RA 7941, only 12 marginalized and under-represented sectors can seek congressional representation: Labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.
Brillantes has called for the amendments to the law.
He said ambiguities in the law have blurred the concepts of marginalized and under-represented in the Constitution.
Election lawyer Luie Guia has urged the Comelec to issue a resolution defining rules in accrediting party-list or multi-sectoral groups.
“Wala kasing malinaw na pamantayan ito… Maganda sana kung i-break down ng Comelec ang operational terms. Ano ang ibig sabihin ng marginalized? Dapat may definition na ilalagay,” Guia said.
It’s not all praises though for the Comelec’s efforts to rid the party-list system of sham groups.
Election watchdog Kontra Daya slammed the poll body for accrediting partylist groups that are clearly not marginalized nor under-represented.
Kontra Daya was referring to the accreditation of Ang Mata’y Alagaan to join the 2013 polls.
The AMA claims to represent blind indigents and people afflicted with all kinds of eye diseases and disorders but whose nominees belong to the well-connected Velasco family.
“Comelec’s campaign of cleansing the partylist system is not thoroughgoing and appears selective. It retained many incumbent partylist groups that are represented or were created by wealthy families that are already well-entrenched in power, while it denied the accreditation of partylist groups that truly represent marginalized sectors,” said Kontra Daya Spokesperson Fr. Joe Dizon.
On the issue of political dynasties, the poll body said it is impossible for them to stop the practice of some relatives of politicians from seeking government posts because Congress had yet to pass an enabling law for the constitutional prohibition.
Brillantes said political dynasty is prohibited in the 1987 Constitution but there is no enabling law to implement it.
He said he would support any move to stop political dynasty through “people’s initiative” or a massive signature campaign but this can be done after the 2013 polls.
“A people’s initiative is the best because Congress will not allow banning political dynasties because it will directly affect them,” he said.
According to Center for People Empowerment in Governance, more than 60 percent of the members at the House of Representatives are from powerful and well-known political clans.
In the lineup of 33 senatorial bets running in 2013, more than half are from political families, including Nancy Binay, Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, among others.
With all the hullabaloo on the party-list system and other issues, the Comelec said it is ready to hold automated local and national elections in 2013.
Despite issues concerning the poll body’s policies and preparations for the upcoming elections, including the printing and bidding of the ballots, the Senate finance committee approved Comelec’s budget of more than P8 billion.
The Philippines had its first automated election in the 2010 presidential elections where results of the vote were known in many provinces on the same day.
Brillantes also said they are anticipating a peaceful election next year even in areas previously placed under Comelec control. (Janice M. Cave, PNA) HBCJMC/UTB