Because frothing-in-the-mouth angry can be good sometimes, I’m going to go right ahead and say:
Bwakang Inang COMELEC yan!
Over the past several weeks, AKBAYAN has exposed party-list organizations that are actually fronts of the administration. It’s funny that an issue that has generated maximum media attention and has turned into a national controversy was brewed one hot afternoon in our HQ, by a bunch of five or so young people in jeans. We had heard rumors that some party-lists were being used as admin fronts. “Expose kaya tayo ng pekeng party list”, someone suggested. “Pano?” another one asked, slightly bored. “E di tingnan natin mga websites nila, o kuha tayo ng mga kopya ng finile nila sa COMELEC, tapos igoogle natin pangalan ng leaders at nominees.”
And that was all it took. That and either the sheer stupidity or a gargantuan sense of impunity by the party-list groups causing them to actually list the names of government officials in their official documents. Two-word advice for 2010: Use dummies.
The output was nothing short of amazing. It revealed the hand of officials from the Office of External Affairs, from the Philippine National Police, from the military. It revealed connections with Bert Gonzales, with Dante Ang and with Sigaw ng Bayan, group that pushed for the malacanang-based People’s Initiative that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional. It also revealed that the brother of COMELEC Chair Benjamin Abalos was the party-list nominee of an organization purportedly representing tricycle drivers. As a result of AKBAYAN’s expose, the media launched a full-blown investigation, uncovering another practice, the sale of party-list seats for millions and millions of pesos.
Then COMELEC responded in the craziest, most stupid, most ridiculous way possible. It said (via a resolution still made invisible to the public) that party-lists are now BANNED from releasing the names of their nominees. If they had said that it is not compulsory for party-lists to declare their nominees, that would already have been wrong by Constitutional and logical standards. After all, we have rules and jurisprudence that say party-list nominees must comply with eligibility requirements and must belong to the sector he or she represents. How can one enforce that if the nominees are kept secret?
But banning party-lists from disclosing their nominees? It’s beyond wrong. It’s unthinkable.
This issue riles me so, not only because I play an active part in AKBAYAN’s 2007 campaign, but also because it is a debauchery of one of the very few mechanisms available to marginalized groups to be a part of governance and policy-making. The Party-list Law, while replete with many flaws, has at least succeeded in opening an elite congress to those who represent the interests of previously-voiceless sectors. Not shackled by the parochial concerns of district representatives and having no districts to ingratiate themselves to, party-lists have managed to elevate the debate in Congress and take on issues of national dimension. They also serve to protect the interests of the ordinary Filipinos not addressed by landed and wealthy legislators. AKBAYAN, for instance, espouses in its Constitution genuine representation and participation, so the bills that it passes are the result of a consolidated effort between the basic sector, an NGO for the technical expertise, and the Party’s legislative committee. The Right to Self-Organization Bill of AKBAYAN for instance, which was approved in both houses, was the product of a team of labor lawyers from Saligan, Rep. Mayong, and most importantly, labor leaders representing hundreds upon hundreds of workers. In the drafting of our rural development bills, no meetings take place without Ka Cenon, Ka Vic and Ka Nestor, actual farmers and fishermen who bring the wealth of their experiences to inform our legislation.
Which is why the very idea of administration-backed party lists insults us to the very core. The agenda is patent, of course: to put in stooges of GMA in Congress to foil another impeachment complaint. That in itself is disgusting. They’ve done that to district reps in the past, pouring money and machinery to the campaigns of local congressmen. But to steal a mechanism that belongs to the working people, the peasants, the urban poor, the women, the gays and lesbians; to co-opt what was envisioned as a beautiful principle to breathe life into democracy; and then to try to squirm out of it by violating the right of the people to an informed choice —
That’s a whole new level of ugly.
**** In light of this, please please visit and support AKBAYAN’s online campaign to “Bare the List”. Visit our blog at barethelist.wordpress.com