Progressives on warpath vs partylist groups allied with Arroyos

MANILA - Makabayan senatorial candidates Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza have filed a petition before the Commission on Elections (Comelec) seeking to disqualify Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel 'Mikey' Arroyo as a nominee of party list group Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP).

Anakpawis Partylist, KMU, Gabriela, Migrante and Courage - representatives of "truly marginalized groups in the Philipines" - vowed also to spend the Holy Week filing disqualification cases not only against Mikey Arroyo and the rest of the dubiously "marginalized" leaders of AGP (which include incumbent Pampanga officials related to Lilia and Bong Pineda, known Arroyo allies and alleged jueteng operators), but also against the rest of the 30 accredited partylists that are "backed by the Arroyo administration and do not genuinely represent any marginalized sector," said Kontra Daya member Renato Reyes.

"Mikey Arroyo must know that he is performing a great disservice to members of genuine party-list groups and the marginalized sectors they represent. The least he can do now is to withdraw and not to wait for the Comelec to declare his disqualification - there is no way he can justify being "marginalized" and being the so-called representative of a group of security guards," Ocampo said.

It is not enough for the candidate to claim representation of the marginalized and underrepresented, because representation is easy to claim and to feign, Ocampo and Maza said in the petition. The partylist organization or party must factually and truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented constituencies mentioned in Section 5 of the Constitution.

"The intent of the Constitution is clear: to give genuine representation to the people, not only by giving more laws to benefit those who have less in life, but more so by enabling them to become veritable lawmakers themselves. Consistent with this intent, the policy of the implementing law, we repeat, is likewise clear: "to enable Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and become members of the House of Representatives."

Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño explained why Arroyo should be disqualified. "Representative Mikey Arroyo is in no way a member of, nor does he belong to, any marginalized or underrepresented sector. He is in fact a super-rich and mega-powerful man, being an incumbent congressional district representative, a former vice governor and a son of the President, the most powerful official in the land."

Casiño added that Mikey is a member of the ruling coalition party Lakas-Kampi-CMD and could not have been a member of AGP for 90 days as required by law. "Mikey is not a security guard, a tricycle driver, nor is he an advocate of such sectors. In fact, he is a multi-millionaire as attested to by his 2008 statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) which totaled P99.2 million," said Casiño.

A day before the deadline of filing of partylist nominees, the Comelec issued on March 25 Resolution No. 8807 or the rules on disqualification cases against nominees of party list groups.

It said that the nominees should truly belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition they seek to represent.

Party list groups are required to submit "documentary evidence" including prior declarations, speeches, written articles and other positive actions on the part of the nominee/s showing his/her adherence to the advocacies of the party-list group/organizations. The nominee/s must be both an advocate and a bona fide member of the party list group.

"There is even speculation that the Comelec is afraid to stand up against Mikey Arroyo and the other relatives of incumbent government officials who are trying to infiltrate the party-list system. The Comelec is tasked with upholding clean and credible elections, but why is it allowing the likes of Mikey Arroyo to join the party-list elections? The Comelec cannot wash its hands of the responsibility to right this wrong," Ocampo said.

"Arroyo and her allies may have succeeded in exploiting the loopholes in the party-list system at this point but we cannot allow these maneuvers to prosper," Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said in a separate statement, adding that they too would file a disqualification case against Mikey.

"Root out the Arroyo Tree, An Evil Tree"

Colmenares deemed Mikey's move as "part of orchestrated efforts to support his own mother's plans to become Speaker of the House and to amend the 1987 Constitution. This is all a self-serving ambition at work at the expense of the party-list system."

"We caution the public that the congressional bid of Pres. Gloria Arroyo, her two in-laws and her two sons who are running as district and party-list representatives, the accreditation of various Malacañang-backed party-lists and many of her ex-Cabinet members' candidacy for district representatives, are all geared toward supporting the perpetuation of Arroyo's rule after her term as president," Colmenares said.

For this election the First Gentleman's brother, Ignacio "Iggy" Arroyo, seeks to represent the fifth district of Negros Occidental and Diosdado "Dato" Arroyo the first district of Camarines Sur. Ma. Lourdes Arroyo, sister of Mike Arroyo, is seeking to represent the Kasangga party list, an incumbent party list, while Arroyo herself is seeking the congressional seat in the second district of Pampanga.

"Imagine Mrs Arroyo's son, Mikey Arroyo, being the nominee of a partylist representing security guards, her sister-in-law Lourdes Arroyo allegedly representing the magbabalut (boiled duck egg vendor) and former Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, a mouthpiece of big oil companies, eyeing to represent the transport sector in Congress. This is intolerable-a clear measure of an insecure regime desperately clinging to power," said Joselito Ustarez, KMU vice president, in a press conference.

Ferdinand Gaite, national president of Courage and member of Kontra Daya, promised that they will pore over the list of nominees for the partylist groups. So far they have secured the names of nominees for 112 of the 187 accredited partylist groups. They will investigate further because, according to them, it seems there are family members (such as spouses) of known Arroyo allies among the nominees.

"We should not have to file disqualification cases, one does not need to be intelligent, for instance, to know that Mikey Arroyo cannot be considered 'marginalized.' His SALN stated he has P99 million, he is an incumbent congressman, a presidential son, and we have never seen him don the uniform of the security guard, let alone work as one," said Gaite.

Gabriela reported that some of these dubious partylist groups are actually working with the military, and being trained by them, to conduct vilification campaigns against the progressive party-list groups and candidates. Joms Salvador, secretary-general of Gabriela, cited as example the party-list Babae Ka. In a sortie in Tondo, Gabriela members reported they saw Babae Ka using government vehicles.

"This should bring about a tremendous upsurge of protests to counter Arroyo and her ilk's schemes to use the law for their self-interest," said Salvador. The progressive groups vowed to hold a series of protest actions, including a trooping to the Comelec offices and the national headquarters of administration-backed partylist groups.

"We can take no more after nine years of a corrupt and tyrannical rule. The people have had enough. Ensuring that Arroyo's rule will end in June 30 this year means blocking all her efforts to invade the Lower House. The people must be able to see through these squid tactics and navigate the murky waters to prevent a dark regime from continuing," Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan said. (