ANXIETY, FEAR, HOPE: A first time voter’s journal

By Justine Nicole Malonzo

I was nervous when I stepped inside our voters’ precinct last Monday. I held my ballot and pen gently, afraid I might accidentally put an unwanted mark or shade the wrong circle that would invalidate my vote.

I was worried when the machine didn’t read my ballot the first time. And the second time. And the third time. I gave out a nervous laugh and the election inspector, in an effort to relax me a bit, said, “The machine is just tired.” I do not know if it was in their manual of operations but the machine finally read my ballot on my fourth try after the inspector suggested I feed it bottom first. Relief washed over me when my voters’ receipt reflected my votes correctly.

It was 10 AM in the morning when I cast my first-ever ballot.

Except for my ballot-feeding difficulties, my entire family had an easy time of it, unlike many other voters. As a first time voter, I was curious at the long lines I saw in other precincts. We were lucky, it turned out.

We left for home soon after, except for my father who is a media worker and had to do his job. As a Kontra Daya volunteer, I later on proceeded to its Quezon City headquarters, excited to be contributing my time verifying reports of election anomalies. Kontra Daya is a poll watchdog that documents and reports poll fraud. I was oriented on what I would be doing, verifying reported anomalies in precincts listed in a Google Sheet I was given. To verify said reports, I would call and ask sources for further details.

My elation at having successfully cast my first ever ballot was again replaced with anxiety when reports of broken vote counting machines (VCM) came flooding in. There were also reports of illegal campaigning and other issues, such as VCMs refusing to print ballot receipts. Hundreds of precincts had to resort to asking voters to sign waivers agreeing to let the poll watchers feed the ballots to replacement VCMS when and if they arrive.

The issue of broken VCMS persisted until nighttime. I was still talking to people who failed to cast their votes even when the precincts have supposedly closed by 7 PM. By then, the unofficial count was already being projected at the headquarters, and the one leading in the presidential race was the son of the dictator.

And my anxiety turned to foreboding. I was scared for myself, for my family, for every Filipino’s future.

As a journalism student I’ve studied in several courses about what Marcos supporters now tout as the “golden era of the Philippines.” I heard from a professor her experiences under Martial Law that prompted me to read up on our recent history. I also met people who survived imprisonment and torture under Marcos Sr.’s regime. With the election results scrolling before my eyes, I felt so bad and devastated for all those who either died or survived the dictatorship.

Nearly a week after the polls, I still cringe whenever I see someone celebrating Marcos Jr.’s impending victory. I cried when my best friend told me how her family ridicules student activists protesting on the streets — I was one of them. My friend’s family also mocks her, a Robredo supporter, telling her to give up because the margin of Marcos’ victory was insurmountable. I cry every time I hear “Rosas”, that aspirational song I sang lustfully with the Pink crowds during the campaign period. It’s now a song that reminds me of what could have been had my candidate won.

I am sad at how the first election I directly participated in turned out. But it’s not over because I am not losing hope. I will oppose the next six year if it turns out to be the same horror story that I heard and read about. I believe there are enough number of Filipinos who will not let it happen again.  I am hopeful that the Filipino youth are discovering their worth and would be the generation that will stand up for truth. They will not let the people be silenced and oppressed again. #

Bayan Muna vows to remain ‘party of the poor’ even outside Congress

Bayan Muna (BM) has conceded defeat in Monday’s national elections but said its fight for the poor is far from over.

In a statement Thursday, BM said that based on partial and unofficial counts, the once leading party list group is set to lose its current three seats at the House of Representatives.

The party however vowed to continue to be the party of the poor and the marginalized and to carry on its “fight against fascism and corruption in the next government.”

BM also rejoiced that the Rodrigo Duterte government has failed in its bid to totally eliminate the entire Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan from the next congress.

“The Makabayan Coalition will still have three representatives from Kabataan, Gabriela Women and ACT Teachers parties,” it said.

Corrupted party list system

BM said its first defeat since it joined and topped the 2001 elections is the result of the continuing corruption of the party list system.

“Since the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Supreme Court allowed the candidacy of bogus parties, money and the machinery of political parties and big business took over to increase their representation in Congress,” the group said.

The group’s claim mirrors the result of election watchdog Kontra Daya’s announcement that 70 percent of party list candidates in this years polls are linked to political clans, big businesses, and state groups such as the military.

Kontra Daya said that 44 of the May 2002 party list candidates are by political clans, 21 are by big businesses, 34 are by groups with unclear advocacy, 32 are connected to the military, 26 are by incumbent elected officials, while 19 have pending criminal charges.

BM said this has destroyed the essence of the party list system to give representation to the poor and the underserved.

Duterte’s dirty tricks

The group also blamed the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) for the worst attack it received, beginning in 2017 to as as late as election day last May 9.

 “With President Duterte leading through the NTF-ELCAC, the progressive parties suffered five years of unceasing red-tagging, vilification, bribery, threats, filing of trumped-up charges and assassination of our leaders and members,” BM said.

Among the dirty tricks employed against the Makabayan Coalition, BM said, was a fake Comelec resolution released on the eve of the elections lat May 8 alleging that the entire Makabayan bloc was disqualified.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines also ordered its personnel to blast SMS (short messaging system) and social media messages urging the people not to vote for the progressive parties and their senatorial candidates as they were allegedly supported by the Communist Party of the Philippines, the New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

BM added that it is also looking into the effects of malfunctioning vote counting machines and the disenfranchisement of voters.

It added it would demand accountability from those who denied the Filipino people of progressive representation in Congress.

“The demand for change is louder than ever because the current system allows the unfettered rule of dynasties and oligarchs in our politics and economy,” the party said.  # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Comelec, pinapanagot sa palpak at madayang halalan

Isang porum ang inilunsad ng election watchdog na Kontra Daya para talakayin ang naging resulta sa nakaraang eleksyon noong Mayo 13. Ginanap ito noong Mayo 25 sa PARDEC room sa Commission on Human Rights.

Ayon sa Kontra Daya, marumi at malawakan ang dayaan sa halalan noong Mayo 13. Ipinakita dito ang mismong mga aberya at palpak na mga Vote Counting Machines at SD cards, mga aberya sa pagtransmit sa resulta ng bilangan, talamak na vote buying at sistematikong atake sa oposisyon at progresibong partido bago at sa panahon mismo ng halalan.

Sinabi ng ilang eksperto na kaduda-duda na ang proseso ng automated na paraan simula nang ipinatupad ito noong 2010. Marami na anila mga ebidensya na madaling manipula ang resulta ng bilangan lalupa at hindi ito transparent sa publiko.

Dagdag pa ng Kontra Daya, dapat managot hindi lamang ang Commission Elections sa kapalpakan nito kundi ang Smartmatic na siyang service provider sa nasabing automated elections.

Nananawagan ang Kontra Daya na maging mapagmatyag dahil titindi pa atake sa mamamayan pagkatapos ng halalan dahil karamihan pa rin sa mga nagwagi ay malalaking dinastiya sa pulitika at kaalyado ng adminsitrasyon. (Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

Black Friday Protest laban sa ‘dayaang Duterte Magic’ sa Halalan 2019

Isang Black Friday Protest ang isinagawa ng mga progresibong grupo para tutulan ang anila’y naganap na malawakang dayaan at karahasan noong eleksyon ng Mayo 13.

Ayon sa Youth Act Now Against Tyranny, hindi katanggap-tanggap sa kabataan ang resulta ng halalan kung kailan ang mga nominado ni Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte ang karamihan ng mga nananalo. Tiyak na maisusulong lamang ng mga ito ang mga pakana ng pangulo tulad ng ng pederalismo, ayon pa sa mga kabataan.

Para naman sa election watchdog na Kontra Daya, ang eleksyong 2019 ang isa sa pinakamalalang automated elections sa nakalipas na dekada, hindi lamang umano sa maraming pumalpak na vote counting machines, mga sirang sd cards at delay sa transmission ng resulta kundi automated na rin ang paraan ng pandaraya. Kontrolado ng Malacañang ang Commission on Elections sa anumang kahihinatnan ng bilangan, ayon sa grupo.

Itinuring ng Bagong Alyansang Makabayan na isa sa pinakamarumingsa kasaysayan ang naganap na halalan noong Mayo 13. Ginamit umano ng pamahalaan ang tinaguriang “Duterte Magic” para maghasik ng pandaraya, takot at karahasan sa mamamayan upang ipanalo ang mga kandidato nito lalo na sa Senado. (Bidyo ni: Joseph Cuevas/ Kodao)

‘PNP talaga ang namimigay ng black propaganda materials’

“Nakita namin ang isang bulto ng newspaper sa mesa ng mga pulis. Mayroon ding mga lokal na nakapagsabi sa amin at may mga pictures na ang mga pulis talaga ang namimigay nito.”–Rexi Sora, Kontra Daya-Manila

Machine errors worse in today’s polls than in 2016, Kontra Daya reveals

Voter counting machine errors worsened in today’s polls, bucking the lowering trend set in the 2013 and 2016 national and local elections, watchdog Kontra Daya revealed.

The group raised alarm over mounting reports of voting machine failures on top of procedural lapses, vote buying, harassment, and militarization of polling stations as today’s elections were supposedly nearing their end.  

In an update released at four o’clock this afternoon, Kontra Daya reported more than 288 incidents of vote counting machine (VCM) failures that were independently monitored and mapped by its volunteer network on the ground.

 “The magnitude of the problem is clearer now that the Comelec has just admitted that 600 out an estimated 85,768 voting machines have been replaced,” Kontra Daya reported.

The group noted that the violations are worse than during the 2016 elections.

Kontra Daya said it monitored 205 VCM malfunctions in 2010, 171 cases in 2013, and 150 cases in 2016.

‘Recurring and systemic machine failures’

Todays elections are the fourth time the controversial VCMs are being used in the polls.

“Since the shift to automated elections, malfunctioning VCMs and voters registration verification machines (VRVM) are a cause of voter disenfranchisement due to delays,” Kontra Daya said.

“Rejected ballots, machines shutting down, stopping, or refusing to start, stuck up ballots and/or voters’ receipts, discrepancies in receipts generated, and resorting to manual procedures for verification of voter’s names,” the group added.

“With COMELEC’s admission that there are about 400-600 VCMs that need to be replaced in today’s polls, Kontra Daya expresse[s] alarm over possible election fraud and disenfranchisement,” Kontra Daya said.

The group said that the incidents of VCM failure in today’s polls may still increase.

VCM machine problems or shutdowns affected several precincts across major regions including Metro Manila (including Caloocan, Manila, San Juan, Malabon, Novaliches, Pasig, and Quezon Cities), Nueva Vizcaya, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Albay, Cebu City, Eastern Samar, Lanao del Sur and Maguindanao, the watchdog said.

No less than former Vice-President Jejomar Binay initially failed to cast his vote due to a malfunctioning VCM in his precinct earlier this morning. A replacement machine was eventually brought in, allowing Binay to vote after several hours.

Problematic VRVMs

Cases of malfunctioning VRVMs were also reported in Quezon City, Cavite, Caloocan, and Cebu City.

In these cases, most of the VRVMs in the polling precincts were reported as not working, compelling teachers to resort to manual verification of voters’ names in the list, Kontra Daya said.

A source also informed Kodao that Board of Election Inspectors in Nueva Ecija decided to stop using defective VRVMs this morning.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) introduced the use of VRVMs in today’s elections but said these are absolutely necessary in the conduct of the polls.

Earlier, Kontra Daya called for the suspension of the use of VRVMs as they have caused unnecessary delays in the voting.

Continuation of the pilot testing until 6 p.m. could result in voter disenfranchisement, Kontra Daya said.

As of six o’clock tonight, several voting precincts throughout Quezon City reported long lines of voters still waiting to cast their votes.

Polling precincts are supposed to close at five o’clock.# (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Vote buying remains rampant, poll watchdog reports

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya said that vote buying remains rampant in today’s elections, a practice that has in fact started as early as January.

The group in its mid-afternoon report said it has received allegations of vote buying in the provinces of La Union, Bataan, Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Camarines Norte, Negros Occidental, Aklan, Leyte, Samar, Cebu, Davao, Agusan del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur.

Amounts reportedly range from P200 to as much as P4,500.

In Metro Manila, Kontra Daya received reports on vote buying in Quezon and Taguig cities.

Volunteers on the ground described the vote buying as “widespread,” “massive,” “brazen,” and “insulting”, Kontra Daya said.

“There were several reports detailing how vote buying is coursed through their respective barangay officials. Others are reportedly ‘helping’ voters find their precincts in exchange of votes,” the watchdog said.

In Moises Padilla town in Negros Occidental, police have reportedly arrested those allegedly involved in vote buying.

Among those confiscated are sample ballots with P1,000 each attached.

As many as 28 suspects have been arrested, a separate report sent to Kontra Daya said.

Moises Padilla is under Comelec control following the murders of of reelectionist Councilor Jolomar Hilario and a relative last March 31.

In Samar, vote buying reportedly began as early as January, Kontra Daya said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Kontra Daya urges Comelec to probe PNP on poll violations

“Red baiting is a different level of negative campaigning. It poses risks to those who are red-tagged and might result in extrajudicial killings.”


Election watchdog Kontra Daya called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to investigate reports of partisan activities of elements of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Kontra Daya received reports of death threats, harassment and red tagging of Makabayan party list groups and their supporters from all over the country. 

“The reports are very alarming,” Arao told Bulatlat. “They’re [PNP] supposed to be non-partisan. Comelec should investigate these complaints,” he added.

The PNP’s Police Community Relations Group (PCRG), in its Twitter account, denied that the newsletter being distributed constitute black propaganda.

The PCRG even posted a link of the publication.

Arao, also a journalism professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), noted that a report in the PNP’s newsletter claims that subversive documents and high-powered rifles were seized along with campaign materials of Bayan and Kabataan Partylist.

This, Arao said, is red baiting.

“Red baiting is a different level of negative campaigning. It poses risks to those who are red tagged and might result in extrajudicial killings,” Arao said.

Jose Mari Callueng, Karapatan paralegal and Kontra Daya volunteer, pointed out that the police violated the Omnibus Election Code and Civil Service Commission’s resolutions.

Section 261 (i) of the Omnibus Election Code (Intervention of Public Officers and Employees), states, “Any office or employee in the civil service, except those holding political offices; any officer, employee, or member of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, or any police force, special forces, home defense forces, barangay self-defense units and all other para-military units  that now exist or which may hereafter be organized who, directly or indirectly, intervenes in any election campaign or engages in any partisan political activity, except to vote or to preserve public order, if one is a peace officer, shall be guilty of an election offense.”

The Omnibus Election Code prohibits unlawful electioneering it defines as soliciting votes or undertaking any propaganda on the day of registration before the board of election inspectors and on the day of election, for or against any candidate or any political party within the polling place and with a radius of thirty meters.

Meanwhile, CSC Memorandum Circular (M.C.) No. 30, s. 2009 cited publishing or distributing campaign literature or materials designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate; directly or indirectly soliciting votes, pledges, or support for or against a candidate, among others, as partisan political activities.

CSC Memorandum Circular No. 9, series of 1992 also prohibits posting and distributing of campaign materials, leaflets, banners and stickers designed to support or oppose the election of any candidate; utilizing properties, supplies, materials, and equipment of the government for political purposes, among others.

Callueng said negative campaigning can be considered a partisan political act. 

The Karapatan paralegal said Comelec has jurisdiction over these cases.

“Comelec should investigate and penalize the violators,” Callueng said.

Administrative cases may also be filed with the Ombudsman against police officers violating the election code.

Government employees found guilty of engaging directly or indirectly in partisan political activities may face a penalty of one month and one day to six (6) months suspension for the first offense; and dismissal from the service for the second offense, according to the 2017 Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service. #

Technical glitches mar elections

Kontra Daya has called for the suspension of pilot testing of the Voter’s Registration Verification Machine (VRVM), saying it has caused delays in the voting.


MANILA — Anti-fraud watchdog Kontra Daya has called on the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to suspend the pilot testing of the Voter’s Registration Verification Machine (VRVM), saying it has caused delays in the voting.

The Comelec identified 10 vote-rich areas for the use of 25,000 VCRMs. These include Pangasinan, Nueva Ecija, Caloocan City, Quezon City, Manila City, Cavite, Cebu, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Davao del Sur and the new Bangsamoro Region.

Kontra Daya reported the following:

  •  4 VRVMs not functioning in Roxas High School in Quezon City. BEI said machines did not recognize log-in details of BEI Chair.
  • VRCM not functioning in T. Paez Integrated School in Manila. Comelec Technical Team cannot troubleshoot the problem.
  • 4 VRVMs in Judge Juan Luna High School in QC are not working properly. Electoral board switch to manual verification of voters’ in the EDCVL.
  • VRVM in precint cluster 326 in Dasmariñas East Integrated National High school, Cavite not working
  • All VRVMs in Mabolo Elementary School, Cebu City are not working. Teachers resorted to manual finding of voters’ names in the list.
  • VRVMs in 3 precincts in East Bagong Barrio Elementary School, Caloocan City not working. Teachers resort to manual search on EDCVL
  • VRVMs in Silangan Elementary School, Caloocan City
  • VRVMs in Cielito ES Caloocan City

Danny Arao, Kontra Daya spokesperson, said the VRVM must be suspended as it causes unnecessary delays in the voting process. “We can afford to have it suspended because it is just pilot testing phase,” he said.

Kontra Daya also monitored malfunctioning of vote counting machines in the following:

  • Precinct 1332 Ismael Mathay Senior HS
  • Precinct 001A Sto Nino Elementary School, Lumban, Laguna.
  • Precinct No. 1289A , Cielito High School, Caloocan City
  • Precinct No. 451B, Tondo High School, Manila
  • Precinct 3A-3B, 4A, 4B San Manuel, Tarlac
  • Precinct No. 25, Ruperto Zubia Elementary School, Baler, Aurora
  • Precinct No. 43B Brgy. Bagong Buhay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan
  • Jose Fabella Memorial School in Mandaluyong City
  • Maypajo ES, Maypajo HS, Silangan ES, Caloocan City

Pens were also found defective in Bagumbayan Elementary School in Laguna, Pasong Tamo Elementary School

Kontra Daya said the malfunctioning of machines resulted in long queues, with some voters opting not to vote. #

Party-list (Mis)Representatives

By Kiana Cardeno, Nica Rhiana Hanopol, JM Casino, Ferdin Sanchez

(Part one of three)

The House of Representatives (HOR) is hardly representative.

In not so many words, a non-representative HOR is the reason for the enactment of the Party-list System Act in 1995 and the first party-list election held three years after. No less than the framers of the 1987 Constitution saw the need to establish a party-list system to ensure representation of the marginalized and underrepresented.

While its 2001 decision helped define what is meant by marginalized and underrepresented, the Supreme Court practically reversed itself 12 years later. On April 5, 2013, the highest court of the land decided that party-list groups do not need to represent any marginalized or underrepresented sector.

“In effect, anyone actually by that decision can join the party-list,” said Alicor Panao, a researcher on party-list systems and a political science professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

From two dominant parties in the 1950s, Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party, Republic Act (RA) 7941, or the Party-list System Act, sought to provide the broadest possible representation for the Filipino people, most especially the poor and marginalized.

Over the last decade, the trends of proportionality in the House of Representatives have favored regional and workers groups, holding the most number of seats.

At present, more than 40 of active party-lists are now seated in Congress supposedly on behalf of laborers, peasants, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.

Many of those claiming to represent these marginalized sectors do not belong to these sectors and are members of well-entrenched political dynasties and special interest groups. Some have been implicated in corruption investigations while others have been known to promote special business interests. They are among the 59 party-list representatives occupying seats in Congress today.

Contradicting Actions

Some party-list representatives have been exhibiting contradicting platforms and have backgrounds that oppose what their party supposedly stands for.

1-PACMAN, a party geared toward supporting “marginalized nationals,” is represented by Michael Romero, who is a high-profile industrialist with a net worth of P7.2 billion, according to his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) in 2017. He is also the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of several corporations such as Mikro-tech Capital, Inc, Harbour Centre Port Holdings, Inc., 168 Ferrum Pacific Mining Corp., Manila North Harbour Port, Inc., and GlobalPort 900 Inc. An author and co-author of 473 bills, only four of these may be classified as poverty alleviation.

Similar to Romero, Rep. Rico Geron of AGAP party-list is a multi-millionaire who claims to represent agricultural workers. He is the former chief executive officer (CEO) of Sorosoro Ibaba Development Cooperative (SIDC), one of the largest agricultural cooperatives in the country. In 2016, SIDC’s employees went on strike citing unjust labor policies like low pay and contractualization. That year, Pagkakaisa ng Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik-KMU) condemned the “anti-worker nature” of Geron and his party-list group.

Meanwhile, other party-list representatives have also been accused  misdeeds.

Incumbent Rep. Arnel Ty of LPGMA or the LPG Marketers Association, a party-list that advocates “the need of the consuming public to have access to lower-priced LPG,” was found guilty of the unauthorized refilling of branded LPG tanks belonging to oil companies, violating Batas Pambansa Blg. 33 or “short selling and adulteration of petroleum and petroleum products” in 2016.

Along with former Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, incumbent AGRI Rep. and garlic trader Orestes Salon faced graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. Salon and his 23 co-accused were allegedly able to monopolize the supply of garlic during the Aquino administration, manipulating the prices of garlic from 2010 to 2014.

Salon, who supposedly champions the rights of farmers in the country, posted a bail of P30,000 for his alleged involvement in the garlic cartel.

Ang Mata’y Alagaan (MATA) party-list claims to represent the blind and visually impaired. Also engaged with the overall health of the Filipino, the group also claims to give away free medicine, consultations, operations, and dental missions. However, MATA party-list Rep. Tricia Velasco-Catera is the daughter of retired SC Justice Presbitero Velasco and re-electionist Torrijos Mayor Lorna Velasco. The former Supreme Court justice is now running as governor of Marinduque. Tricia’s brother Lord Allan Jay Velasco is running for congressional re-election. Ethics complaints were filed against Velasco-Catera over her alleged “highly unethical activities,” such as Gluta-drip sessions at her office in the House of Representatives during working hours.

Pinoy Aksyon for Governance and Environment (Page) said that the use of Glutathione drips is highly discouraged by established medical professionals. As reported by Rappler, Page questioned whether Velasco-Catera’s practice was safe or legal under the code of ethics for doctors, especially for having the Gluta-drip sessions inside her office. “One’s office cannot be considered a medical clinic. We do not want to even consider the dire consequences if something untoward happens to Rep. Catera in the very premises of the House of Representatives due to such unregulated practice of medicine,” Page said.

History of Disqualifications

In October 2012, Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) was disqualified from the 2013 elections for failing to meet requirements on representation. They were among the 54 party-list groups and organizations that were barred from participating in the said elections. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualified AGP because its nominees “did not represent its chosen marginalized sectors.”

Panao said that it is important to look at these political parties internally, specifically on the lack of proper guidelines on how nominees are chosen. He said that once a party successfully meets the qualifications set, they basically already have the freedom to choose whoever their nominee is, as long as they achieve the bare minimum. “If people elect [them], it can happen na yung mga nominee ay member ng political dynasty, member ng traditional or outterm, former district representative. So, pwede siyang gamiting backdoor.”

AGP aimed to represent the interests of such sectors as security guards, tricycle drivers, FX drivers, taxi drivers, and street vendors. One of AGP’s principal nominees was Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and was neither a security guard nor tricycle driver. At the time, the younger Arroyo was facing inquiries regarding his wealth, which by some reports increased from P5.7 million in 2001 to P101.3 million in 2009.

Following the 2013 SC decision, AGP was one of the party-list groups whose cases were not remanded to Comelec and remained disqualified. Furthermore, even after the SC decision, they decided not to appeal. AGP was then removed from the 2013 ballots, concluding with finality that they were not permitted to run in that year’s midterm elections.

A Backdoor Entry

Six years after the Atong Paglaum case, the party-list system has cemented itself as a backdoor entry for traditional politics in the already elite-dominated House of Representatives.

In 2012, the Comelec initiated special proceedings that sought the disqualification of several partylist groups after public outcry over the proliferation of nominees who were neither marginalized nor underrepresented. Groups like Kontra Daya filed disqualification cases against what they described as “fake” or non-marginalized partylist groups.

The groups disqualified by the Comelec soon brought their case to the Supreme Court. With the consolidation of 54 petitions from 52 party-list groups in 2013, the SC was prompted to decide on Comelec’s disqualification case against various groups from running in the May elections of the same year.

Among the most common grounds that Comelec cited for the disqualifications were:

1.    The sector the party-lists aimed to represent were neither marginalized nor underrepresented

2.    The nominees did not belong to those sectors

3.    The nominees / political parties did not have extended histories in supporting their chosen sectors

A number of the grounds for disqualification were essentially rendered null by the SC decision, which set six new parameters to which the Comelec must adhere in determining who was allowed to participate in the May 2013 elections. The decision’s fourth parameter states that “it is enough that the party-lists’ principal advocacy pertains to the special interests and concerns of the sector.”

Renato Reyes, secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN), said that this results in narrower representation, especially when measuring who gets to sit. “Mas-kumikitid yung representation… kasi yung party-list sana would have allowed other sectors to be represented. Pero yung mga dati nang nakaupo, gusto nila pati iyong partylist i-claim nila, hawakan nila, because it helps concentrate power in the hands of a few.”

While disadvantaged groups have their own seats, the law in its current form does not protect them from unfair competition, according to Reyes. “Ang dilemma is how can they compete during the elections doon sa mga dynastic party-list groups, tsaka sa mga well-funded local machineries? So yung mga party-list groups na talagang galing sa mga mahihirap yung kanilang kinatawan, lagi silang mahihirapang mag-compete and manalo ‘pag ang kalaban nga nila yung mga dynasties at yung mga bilyonaryo.”

Meanwhile, Panao said that the low requirement of only two percent to gain seats, albeit limited to three, also results in almost identical parties. “Hindi sila ganun ka-productive kasi hindi sila maka-forge ng alliance… hindi sila nagtutulungan kasi ine-alienate mo na no’ng kampanya ninyo; nagkaroon ng fragmentation sa halip na unity. Parties are meant to unify your preferences, that’s the point of party-list, whether you like it or not.”

In the 17th congress, Kalinga Party-list, whose nominee is one of the poorest in Congress, was only able to file a total of 40 bills, whereas Ako Bicol Party-list, which listed multi-millionaires Christopher Co and Rodel Batocabe, filed 1,163 bills.

Despite the high number of bills authored and co-authored by Ako Bicol, only 55 unique bills were passed into law. The party-list was the main sponsor of 39 of these bills, and a co-sponsor of 16. These laws, however, were not directly concerned with the welfare of Bicolanos, the region they claim to represent.

In his statement in an interview with ABS-CBN, the late Ako Bicol Rep. Rodel Batocabe said that authoring bills that would only benefit Bicol would be “tantamount to class legislation and a violation of the equal protection clause of the constitution.”

“Amend it or craft a new law that defines with lesser ambiguity – with no ambiguity – those gray portions and those gray areas of the law. Ang nangyayari sa akin ngayon we have the law, we don’t amend it, and we let the Supreme Court do the interpretation,” Panao said. #

(Part 2: Party-list groups: Family Enterprise)