Comelec proclaims new party-list groups

Published by rudy Date posted on April 25, 2009

MANILA, Philippines – Amid protests and condemnation, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) yesterday proclaimed 32 new party-list groups, paving the way for the inclusion of a fourth Arroyo in the House of Representatives.

Convening as the National Board of Canvassers (NBC), the Comelec proceeded with the proclamation of the qualified party-list groups entitled to new and additional seats in Congress.

Among the newly proclaimed party-list groups were Uni Mad, ABS, Kakusa, Kabataan, Aba-Ako, Senior Citizens, AT, VFP, Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy, Banat, Ang Kasangga, Bantay, Abakada, 1-Utak, and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

Party-list groups given additional seats in Congress were Buhay, Bayan Muna, Cibac, APEC, Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment Through Action, Cooperation and Harmony Towards Education Reforms (A Teacher), Akbayan, Alagad, Coop-Natcco, Butil, ARC, Anakpawis, Amin, Abono, Gabriela, Yacap, Agap, and An Waray.

In an eight page-resolution, the Comelec deferred the proclamation of Bagong Alyansang Tagataguyod ng Adhikaing Sambayan and Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino until final resolution of their pending cases before the commission.

Comelec said several events affected the computation of the percentage of votes obtained by the party-list groups as well as the total number of party-list seats available for allocation.

It also cited the cancellation of the registration of the party-list Filipinos for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement last July 2008 which resulted in the change in party-list rankings.

While the Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc. was included in the decision of the Supreme Court as the party-list group entitled to the last 55th seat, the Comelec said it could no longer be accommodated since the number of available seats for distribution has been reduced to 54.

“Since Shariff Kabunsuan is no longer considered a province, having its own legislative district, the total number of legislative districts has been reduced from 220 to 219. Accordingly, the total number of seats that may be allocated under the party-list system has also been reduced from 55 to 54,” the Comelec explained.

Only 11 newly proclaimed party-list representatives led by Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, younger sister of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and Kasangga nominee, attended the proclamation. Former general Jovito Palparan, nominee of party-list group Bantay, was also present.

Bantay questioned

Former Akbayan Rep. Etta Rosales questioned the inclusion of Bantay in the list of new party-list groups.

“Bantay and its representatives seem to violate not only the eight- point guidelines of the Supreme Court, but more significantly, the recommendation of the Independent Commission to address the media killings,” Rosales said.

While there is no direct evidence in the killings of members of left-leaning organizations, Rosales said there was “heavy circumstantial evidence” against the former military officer.

Pastor Alcover Jr. of the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy (Anad) party-list representative said the appointment of another Arroyo in Congress could lead to a “crisis” in Congress.

‘Too many Arroyos’

Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond Palatino pointed out that “if there should be a crisis in the House of Representatives, it is not because there is an overabundance of congressmen but the addition of another pawn from the Arroyo clan in the Lower House.”

Palatino said there would be “too many Arroyos in power,” thus giving the upper hand to the current administration.

“We cannot have too many congressmen, especially if they genuinely represent the marginalized sectors in society. What is terribly bothersome is that these Arroyos are landlord and compradors. Do they really represent whom they claim to represent? That is the one questionable thing in this whole matter,” he said.

The group condemned the efforts of the Arroyos and Malacañang in making a mockery of the party-list system by fielding alleged human rights violator Palparan and defending the installation of a fourth Arroyo in the House.

Members of militant groups staged a rally in front of the Comelec main office in Intramuros to protest the proclamation of the new party-list representatives.

Palatino criticized Speaker Prospero Nograles and other congressmen who, he said, “are merely inventing trivial concerns” over the SC ruling granting more seats to party-list representatives.

He stressed that three Arroyos are already in the House of Representatives — presidential sons Juan Miguel Arroyo and Diosdado Arroyo, as well as Ignacio Arroyo, brother of the First Gentleman. They represent Pampanga, Camarines Sur, and Negros Occidental, respectively.

With the SC ruling, a fourth Arroyo will be in the House through the Kasangga party-list, whose primary nominee is Lourdes Arroyo.

Kasangga claims to represent small entrepreneurs, reportedly including balut vendors.

Palatino said the election of Palparan and Arroyo “cannot be hailed as democratic” as the youth party-list group questioned their mandate for being “clearly detached” from the sectors they claim to represent.

“We are not happy to share our victory with them. We vow to immediately join moves by the progressive party-list bloc to have them disqualified,” Palatino said.

Lawmakers had earlier raised concern over the SC decision to increase the number of seats for party-list representatives, saying the additional seats would cause a crisis in the House of Representatives.

‘Mockery of party-list system’

Lawmakers from the progressive bloc also criticized the entry in the House of Arroyo and Palparan.

“The entry of First Gentleman Arroyo’s sister, Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, and Gen. Palparan to the House of Representatives is a mockery of the party-list system. This will surely result to the further hardening of Malacañang’s grip on the Lower House,” said party-list Rep. Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, representing farmers’ groups.

Rep. Liza Maza of women’s group Gabriela, said Comelec’s proclamation of Arroyo and Palparan “shows the shameless bastardizing of the party-list system by Malacañang.”

“Since when did they represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors?”

She cited a SC decision where it declared “neither can the interest of those of the urban poor nor the working class be fully represented by an industrialist.”

She recalled the Gabriela exposé in 2007 of a confidential memorandum from Malacañang’s Office of External Affairs requesting P5.5 million from the Office of the President to finance pro-administration party-list groups.

“Malacañang’s propensity to use the party-list system for its own ends is now a barefaced reality. With a butcher and an Arroyo kin in the House of Representatives, the administration’s agenda is reinforced inside Congress,” said Maza.

Case rests with Comelec

Malacañang reiterated that it does not have to defend the President’s sister-in-law or Palparan on their qualifications as party-list representatives.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said it is not the function of the Palace to “pass judgment on the issue of qualifications of party-lists and their representatives.”

He said that the matter rests with the Comelec, mandated to implement the country’s electoral laws.

He explained that any legal question raised about some party-list groups, particularly how they represent the marginalized sectors, would have to be addressed to the courts. —-Mayen Jaymalin with Katherine Adraneda, Delon Porcalla, Marvin Sy, Philippine Star

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