At least 29 out of 53 party list reps proclaimed by Comelec are from political clans, former government officials, multi-millionaires

bogus party list groupsMore than two weeks after the May 2013 polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has finally proclaimed, albeit still incomplete, the winning party list groups. Looking at the composition of the party list representatives who will sit in the 16th Congress, it appears that at least 29 out of the 53 representatives initially proclaimed by Comelec (from 38 party list groups) either come from political dynasties, related to current or former government officials, are former public officials themselves, and/or are multi-millionaires. The remaining five seats (to complete the mandated 58 seats) will likely be bagged by representatives coming from the political and economic elite as well. Thus, when the much delayed proclamation has already been completed, political clans, former public officials and/or multi-millionaires will occupy more than half of the seats intended for the poor and marginalized (at least 34 out of 58 party list seats).

After gaining some ground to rid the party list system of questionable and bogus groups, the people’s campaign was ultimately derailed by the Comelec itself when it allowed some of the dubious parties to run, and further by the Supreme Court (SC) when it decided that the party list system is not exclusive to under-represented and marginalized sectors. (Download the SC decision here.) Because of their power, influence and wealth, many of these questionable and bogus party list groups were able to clinch seats in the incoming 16th Congress while those that genuinely represent the under-represented and marginalized were, well, marginalized.

Political dynasties (at least four reps)

Winning party list groups include those associated with established political dynasties such ABONO (Rep. Conrado Estrella III from the Estrella clan of Pangasinan and Rep. Francisco Ortega III from the Ortega clan of La Union); AAMBIS-OWA (Rep. Sharon Garin from the Garin clan of Iloilo) and; AVE (Rep. Eulogio Magsaysay from the Magsaysay clan of Zambales). Expectedly, the bailiwicks of these political clans delivered votes for their party list groups. Pangasinan and La Union, the bailiwicks of the Ortegas and Estrellas, for instance, accounted for more than 78% of the votes of ABONO, based on partial and unofficial results posted on the Comelec website. Votes from Iloilo, the bailiwick of the Garins, comprised more than 55% of the votes garnered by AAMBIS-OWA.

Related to politicians, public officials (at least five reps)

Other winning party list groups will have representatives related to sitting government officials like Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr. of ABAMIN, brother of reelected Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez; and Rep. Raymond Mendoza of TUCP, husband of reelected North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza. Note that more than 19% of the votes cornered by TUCP came from North Cotabato. Others are relatives of high ranking officials of the judiciary such as Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro of ABS, wife of Court of Appeals (CA) Justice Normandie Pizarro and AMA Rep. Lorna Velasco, wife of SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco. Meanwhile, DIWA Rep. Emmeline Aglipay is the daughter of former Philippine National Police (PNP) Edgardo Aglipay.

Former government officials (at least seven reps)

Former government officials are also making a political comeback as party list representatives. They include former Manila Mayor and Environment Secretary (Arroyo administration) Lito Atienza of BUHAY; former Undersecretary for Political Affairs (current Aquino administration) Ibarra Gutierrez III of AKBAYAN; former Labor Attache of the Philippine Embassy in the UAE (Cory Aquino administration), former Ambassador in Washington DC (Ramos administration), and former chairman of the National Labor Relations Commission or NLRC (Estrada administration) Roy Señeres of OFW Family; former National Anti-Poverty Commission or NAPC member (Arroyo administration) and former Department of Agrarian Reform or DAR assistant secretary Rep. Cresente Paez and former National Cooperative Development Council or NCDC officer Anthony Bravo of COOP-NATCCO; former Road Board member (Aquino administration) Jesulito Manalo of Angkla; and former Department of Justice or DOJ Secretary (Ramos administration) Silvestre Bello III of 1-BAP.

Multi-millionaires (at least 13 reps)

Finally, multi-millionaires (i.e. those with a net worth of almost or over P10 million as declared in their 2012 SALN and/or are associated with business interests) will again also sit as supposed representatives of the poor and marginalized including BUHAY Reps. Mariano Velarde, son of El Shaddai founder Bro. Mike Velarde, and William Tieng, whose family controls Solar Sports; A Teacher Reps. Mariano Piamonte, board member of a private Bulacan university and former executive director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP), and Julieta Cortuna; 1-CARE Rep. Michael Angelo Rivera; AKO BICOL Reps. Christopher Co (of Albay’s rich Co family that owns  transnational group Sunwest Group of Companies, Tektone Global Technologies Foundation, commercial hub Embarcadero de Legaspi, and other construction firms, malls, and resorts) and Rodel Batocabe; AGAP Rep. Nicanor Briones; AN WARAY Rep. Neil Montejo, whose family owns hotels in Tacloban City;  YACAP Rep. Carol Lopez; BUTIL Rep. Agapito Guanlao; LPGMA Rep. Arnel Ty, an incorporator of various LPG distributors in the country; and ALAY BUHAY Rep. Weslie Gatchalian, whose family owns Waterfront Phils., the largest Filipino-owned hotel chain in the country;

But note also that those who come from political clans or are related to current and former government officials are also multi-millionaires and have interests in various businesses as well. The table below lists the 16 party list representatives who were members of the 15th Congress with a declared net worth of almost or more than P10 million and will sit again in the 16th Congress as party list legislators.

pls saln 2012

Remaining five seats

Other party-list representatives who will likely bag the remaining five seats are also former government officials, related to public officials and/or multi-millionaires including former Cagayan congressman Patricio Antonio of AGBIAG!, the richest party-list representative in the 15th Congress with a net worth of P67.87 million, based on his 2012 SALN. Others are ALIF Rep. Abdul Tomawis, whose uncle Jerry Tomawis is currently the administrator of the Southern Philippine Development Authority (SPDA); former Toll Regulatory Board or TRB member (Aquino administration) Pablo Nava III of Append Inc.; PBA Rep. Mark Sambar, who has a net worth of P12.09 million (2012 SALN); and former Angadangan, Isabela Mayor Jose Panganiban of ANAC-IP.

Listed below are some of these questionable groups, based on an earlier research done by poll watchdog Kontra Daya with some additional/updated information:

BUHAY

Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (BUHAY) is associated with the religious group El Shaddai with its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Mariano Velarde, being the son of influential El Shaddai founder and leader Bro. Mike Velarde (who also used to be a nominee of BUHAY). Rep. Velarde is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P52.75 million (2012 SALN). The group’s second nominee is Jose Atienza, a former Manila mayor and secretary of the Department of Environment & Natural Resources (DENR). Its third nominee, incumbent Rep. William Tieng, is another multi-millionaire with a net worth of P14.77 million (2012 SALN) and belongs to the family that controls Solar Sports. All three nominees – Velarde, Atienza and Tieng – will sit in the 16th Congress for BUHAY.

A TEACHER

The Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment through Action, Cooperation, and Harmony (A TEACHER) claims to represent teachers. But its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Mariano Piamonte Jr., is the former executive director of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and board member of the University of Regina Carmeli in Malolos, Bulacan. Piamonte has a declared net worth of P5.44 million (2012 SALN). Its second nominee, incumbent Rep. Julieta Cortuna is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P16.20 million. Other nominees are associated as well with private school administrators such as its fifth nominee, lawyer Joseph Noel Estrada, the vice president for administration of the Emilio Aguinaldo College (EAC) and executive director of the Coordinating Council of Private Educational Associations (Cocopea). Piamonte and Cortuna will sit in the 16th Congress to represent A TEACHER.

1-CARE

The First Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Inc. (1-CARE) claims to represent not only the rural-based consumers of electricity but consumers of other utility services as well including water, transportation and telephone. The group was earlier disqualified by the Comelec on the grounds that electricity consumers are not necessarily a marginalized sector because they could also include well-off consumers. It second nominee, incumbent Rep. Michael Angelo Rivera is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P9.63 million (2012 SALN). Rivera and first nominee Edgardo Masongsong will sit in the 16th Congress for 1-CARE.

AKBAYAN

The AKBAYAN Citizen’s Action Party is a close ally of the Aquino administration and many of its top officials have clinched key presidential appointments. They include second nominee Ibarra Gutierrez III (undersecretary for political affairs) & third nominee  Angelina Ludovice-Katoh (member of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor); former AKBAYAN representatives Etta Rosales (Commission on Human Rights), Mario Agujo (member of the GSIS Board of Trustees) & Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel (spokesperson of the National Anti-Poverty Commission; also a losing senatorial bet under the Team PNoy); former AKBAYAN presidents Ronald Llamas (presidential adviser on political affairs) & Joel Rocamora (head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission); and former AKBAYAN chairperson Percival Cendaña (commissioner-at-large of the National Youth Commission). AKBAYAN also received P18 million in campaign funds from presidential relatives including P10 million from Kris Aquino during the 2010 polls. AKBAYAN’s incumbent representative, Walden Bello, has a declared net worth of P6.84 million (2012 SALN). Joining Bello to represent AKBAYAN in the 16th Congress is Gutierrez.

AKO BICOL

The AKO BICOL Political Party claims to advocate progress and development of the Bicol Region. It had three representatives in the previous Congress. First is Christopher Co of the Co clan of businessmen in Bicol. Also members of the current Congress are lawyers Rodel Batocabe and Alfredo Garbin, both multi-millionaires with a net worth of P29.18 million and P13.30 million, respectively (2012 SALN). For the 16th Congress, Co and Batocabe will sit as AKO BICOL representatives.

ABONO

The ABONO Party List claims to represent the agricultural sector. However, both incumbent representatives, Conrado Estrella III and Franciso Emmanuel Ortega III, come from the Estrella and Ortega political clans in Pangasinan & La Union.  Both representatives are multi-millionaires with Ortega III’s net worth pegged at P17.2 million. Conrado III’s brother, Raymund Estrella, is an incumbent representative of ABONO with a net worth of P11.03 million (2012 SALN) while Francisco’s brother, Victor Ortega, also an incumbent ABONO representative, has a net worth of P25.67 million (2012 SALN). In the 2013 elections, other members of the Ortega clan that won a seat in La Union include Victor Ortega (Lakas), first district representative; Manoling Ortega (NPC), provincial governor; and Francisco Ortega Jr. (NPC), member Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Estrella III and Ortega III will represent ABONO in the 16th Congress.

OFW Family

The OFW Family Club Inc. seems to be more of a family club than about the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Its top nominee, Roy Señeres Sr., occupied various positions in past administrations – Labor Attache of the Philippine Embassy in the UAE under Cory Aquino; Ambassador in Washington DC under Ramos; and chairman of the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) under Joseph Estrada and Gloria Arroyo. His son, Roy Jr., is the third nominee while daughter Hannah Señeres Francisco is the fourth nominee. Meanwhile, the second nominee, Juan “Johnny” Revilla, is the project manager of Placewell Manpower, one of the three recruitment agencies hired by the Comelec to provide IT technicians to help operate the PCOS machines during the 2010 presidential elections, according to Migrante International. The group also alleged that Placewell is among the most notorious recruitment agencies involved in various cases of illegal recruitment and other violations against OFWs. Señeres and Revilla will sit as representatives of the OFW Family in the 16th Congress.

COOP-NATCCO

The Cooperative NATCCO (National Confederation of Cooperatives) Network Party or COOP-NATCCO has as its top nominee incumbent Rep. Cresente Paez, a former appointee of Gloria Arroyo to the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC). He was also an undersecretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) during the Cory Aquino administration and a former member of the United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB) Board of Directors. Paez has a declared net worth of P1.19 million (2012 SALN). Its second nominee, Anthony Bravo, is an official of the National Cooperative Development Council. Paez and Bravo will represent the group in the 16th Congress.

AGAP

The Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP) claims to represent the agricultural sector including the poor farmers but its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Nicanor Briones, is chairman of big security firm Audacious Services and is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P46.37 million (2012 SALN). Briones and second nominee Rico Geron will sit in the 16th Congress as AGAP representatives.

AN WARAY

The group’s top nominee, incumbent Rep. Neil Montejo, is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P17.79 million (2012 SALN). His family owns the Montejo Newspaper and Hotel Alejandro, a prominent and luxurious hotel in Tacloban City. Another current Rep. Florencio Noel, husband of Malabon Congresswoman Jane Lacson-Noel (who was reelected), is also a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P15 million. Its third nominee, Victoria Isabel Noel, is a relative of Reps. Florencio and Jane Noel while fifth nominee Patrick Aguilos was a losing Liberal Party (LP) candidate for Tacloban City councilor in the 2010 polls. For the 16th Congress, Montejo and second nominee, Jude Acidre, will represent AN WARAY.

ABAMIN

Abante Mindanao Inc.’s (ABAMIN) first nominee, incumbent Rep. Maximo Rodriguez Jr., is the brother of Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P9.68 million (2012 SALN). Second nominee Virginia Sering is the sister-in-law of Maximo and is a full-time realtor being a member of the Muntinlupa Realtors Board as well as president of the Soroptimist International of Alabang. Third nominee Irenetta Montinola is also a distant relative of Maximo and was the executive director of the National Historical Institute (NHI) in 2007. Maximo Rodriguez will again represent ABAMIN in the 16th Congress.

BUTIL

The BUTIL Farmers Party was earlier disqualified by the Comelec because the group failed to prove that its nominees belong to the agriculture & cooperative sector. For the 16th Congress, BUTIL will be again be represented by Agapito Guanlao, a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P14.79 million.

ACT-CIS

 The Anti-Crime and Terrorism Community Involvement and Support, Inc. (ACT-CIS) is closely associated with the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) whose head, Chief Police Director Samuel Pagdilao Jr. is the husband of second nominee Ma. Rosella P. Pagdilao. For the 16th Congress, the group will be represented by top nominee Jerome Oliveros.

LPGMA

The LPG Marketers’ Association (LPGMA) claims to represent independent and small LPG retailers. Its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Arnel Ty, is a multi-millionaire with a declared net worth of P15.13 million (2012 SALN) and is an incorporator of various LPG firms including Omni Gas Corp., Republic Gas Corp., Pinnacle Gas, Multi Gas Corp., Extraordinaire Gas Corp. and Suncrest Gas Corp. Ty will once again represent LPGMA in the 16th Congress.

KALINGA

The Kalinga-Advocacy for Social Empowerment and Nation Building Through Easing Poverty Inc. (KALINGA) claims to work for the youth, senior citizens and poor families. The group is associated with the religious group Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ (4th Watch) with top nominee, incumbent Rep. Abigail Ferriol being the daughter of PMCC Bishop Arturo Ferriol. Its fourth nominee, Osinando Quillao, is a PMCC pastor. Ferriol will again represent KALINGA in the 16th Congress.

TUCP

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) claims to represent the ordinary workers. Its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Raymond Mendoza, is a lawyer and husband of North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza. Mendoza is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P3.87 million (2012 SALN). His brother Michael is the group’s fourth nominee while their father Democrito is TUCP President and Chairman of OPASCOR, a cargo handling company for foreign cargoes at the Cebu International Airport.  Second nominee Anthony Sasin is Management Consultant & Board of Director of ANFLOCOR, which manages firms engaged in exporting bananas & pineapples, real estate, etc. The third nominee is Miguel Niez, an Assistant Vice President & Manager for Materials Management of banana exporter TADECO. Mendoza will again represent TUCP in the 16th Congress.

YACAP

The You Against Corruption and Poverty’s (YACAP) top nominee, incumbent Rep. Carol Lopez, is a multi-millionaire businesswoman with a net worth of P16.95 million (2012 SALN). The group used to be Youth Against Corruption and Poverty but “Youth” was later dropped and replaced by “You” as Lopez could no longer represent the youth sector because of age. For the 16th Congress, Lopez will again represent YACAP.

AGRI

The Agri-Agra na Reporm para sa Magsasaka ng Pilipinas (AGRI) claims to represent farmers but has no track record of promoting its advocacy. It was disqualified by the Comelec because the group stopped existing after the 2010 elections, when it ran but lost, and was only revived in February 2012. Michael Ryan Enriquez will represent AGRI in the 16th Congress.

ANGKLA

Ang Partido ng mga Marinong Pilipino Inc. (ANGKLA) claims to represent OFWs/seafarers. Its top nominee, Jesulito Manalo, is a presidential appointee to the Road Board as private sector representative. He is also the corporate secretary of the Philippine Racing Club Inc. and the Heritage Park Management Corp. as well as president of the Summit Rural Bank of Lipa. Jesulito’s relative, Jose Miguel, a lawyer, is Angkla’s nominee. Other nominees include Alfredo Haboc, the Dean of the Mapua-PTC College of Maritime Education and Training. Manalon will represent ANGKLA in the 16th Congress.

ABS

The Arts and Business Science Professionals (ABS) has as its first nominee, incumbent Rep. Catalina Leonen-Pizarro who is the wife of Court of Appeals (CA) Justice Normandie Pizarro and is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P39.09 million (2012 SALN). Pizarro will again represent ABS in the 16th Congress.

DIWA

The Democratic Independent Workers Association (DIWA) claims to represent the labor sector. Its top nominee is incumbent Rep. Emmeline Aglipay, who is a former student council president at the De La Salle University (DLSU) and whose family owns one of the country’s largest security agencies. Aglipay is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P9.64 million (2012 SALN). The group’s second nominee Ramon Bergado is the chairperson and national president of PADPAO (Philippine Association of Detective and Protective Agencies Operators Inc.) while fourth nominee Leopoldo Blanco is PADPAO Region VII president and national director, president of NICO Security Agency, former OIC Vice Governor of Bohol and former president of the Bohol Chamber of Commerce and Industry. For the 16th Congress, Aglipay will again represent DIWA.

ALAY BUHAY

The ALAY BUHAY Community Development Foundation Inc.’s (ALAY BUHAY) first nominee, incumbent Rep. Weslie Gatchalian (proclaimed by the Comelec just last October 2012), is the son of tycoon and so-called “Plastics King” (and alleged crony of ousted President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada) William Gatchalian. He holds key positions in the family’s businesses including as Assistant to the President of Waterfront Philippines (the largest Filipino-owned hotel chain in the country) and Vice President for Investments & International Affairs of the Wellex Group. His brothers Sherwin and Rex are incumbent Mayor & first district Congressman, respectively, of Valenzuela City. Gatchalian will represent ALAY BUHAY in the 16th Congress.

AAMBIS-OWA

The Asosasyon Sang Mangunguma nga Bisaya-Owa Mangunguma (AAMBIS-OWA) claims to represent “small landowners in far-flung areas”. Its first nominee, incumbent Rep. Sharon Garin, is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P26.66 million (2012 SALN) and comes from a powerful political family in Iloilo that includes her father Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) administrator Oscar Garin while her mother is San Joaquin mayor Nimfa Garin. Other family members in government include brother Iloilo vice governor Richard Garin, sister Guimbal mayor Christine Garin and sister-in-law Cong. Janette Garin, one of the richest congressmen with a net worth of P100.89 million (2012 SALN). Another member of the clan, Jimmy Garin, is the group’s third nominee. Sharon Garin is the group’s representative in the 16th Congress.

1-SAGIP

The Social Amelioration and Genuine Intervention on Poverty (1-SAGIP) claims to represent the poor. It second nominee, Edgardo Madamba is the assistant head of the Quezon City Urban Poor Affairs Office (UPAO) and is facing a graft complaint before the Ombudsman. Erlinda Santiago will represent 1-SAGIP in the 16th Congress.

AVE

The Alliance of Volunteer Educators (AVE) claims to represent the teachers. Its top nominee is incumbent Rep. Eulogio Magsaysay who comes from the known Magsaysay political clan in Zambales that includes former Zambales Governor Vic Magsaysay, former Senator and 2013 LP senatorial bet Jun Magsaysay and incumbent Zambales first district Congresswoman and 2013 PDP-Laban/United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) senatorial bet Mitos Magsaysay. Euologio is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P25.92 million (2012 SALN) and will again represent AVE in the 16th Congress.

1-BAP

The 1-BANAT & AHAPO Party-List Coalition’s (1-BAP) first nominee is Silvestre Bello III, a former official of the Aquino, Ramos and Arroyo administrations. Bello was former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary and head of the government peace panel negotiating with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He was also a former senatorial candidate and will now sit as representative of 1-BAP in the 16th Congress.

ABAKADA

The Abakada-Guro (ABAKADA) claims to represent teachers. Its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, used to occupy administrative positions at the Ilocos Norte provincial government and counselor of Sen. Bongbong Marcos when he was still second district Congressman of Ilocos Norte. The group’s third nominee Rodolfo Tor is a retired PNP Police Director and former UN Police Commissioner while the second and fourth nominees, Alexander Lopez and Reynaldo Parungao, respectively, are both lawyers. For the 16th Congress, dela Cruz will represent ABAKADA.

AMA

Ang Mata’y Alagaan (AMA) claims to represent the blind and the vision-impaired. Its top nominee, Lorna Velasco, is the wife of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco while the second and third nominees (Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera and Vincent Michael Velasco, respectively) are their children. Lorna Velasco will represent the group in the 16th Congress.

ANAC-IP

The Ang National Coalition of Indigenous People’s Action Na! Inc. (ANAC-IP) claims to represent indigenous peoples. Its first nominee is Jose Panganiban Jr., former municipal Mayor of Angadanan in Isabela province. He was also the former President of the Isabela chapter of the League of Municipalities and will now sit as representative of ANAC-IP in the 16th Congress if proclaimed by the Comelec.

AGBIAG!

The AGBIAG! Timpuyog Ilocano Inc.’s (AGBIAG!) top nominee is incumbent Rep. Patricio Antonio who used to be the first district Congressman of Cagayan and is a multi-millionaire with a net worth of P67.87 million (2012 SALN). If proclaimed by the Comelec, he will make a comeback as a legislator in the 16th Congress as representative of AGBIAG!.

APPEND

The APPEND Inc. has as top nominee Pablo Nava III who was a member of the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB) under the Aquino administration, sitting as private sector representative. He will now sit as representative of APPEND in the 16th Congress if proclaimed by the Comelec.

ALIF

Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (ALIF) claims to represent the indigenous people. Its top two nominees, Abdul and Agakhan Tomawis, are both sons of the group’s incumbent Rep. Acmad Tomawis, a multi-millionaire with a declared net worth of P18.56 million (2012 SALN). Acmad’s brother is Jerry Tomawis, administrator of the Southern Philippine Development Authority (SPDA). Two of Jerry’s children were involved in the multi-million Rasuman pyramiding scam in Lanao del Sur. Abdul Tomawis, if proclaimed by the Comelec, will represent ALIF in the 16th Congress.

PBA

The Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) is associated with Saranggani Congressman and wealthy boxing icon Manny Pacquiao. In the 2010 elections, PBA was among the top spenders among party-list groups with P80 million. Its top nominee, incumbent Rep. Mark Sambar is a multi-millionaire with a delcared net worth of P12.09 million (2012 SALN). For the 16th Congress, Sambar will again represent the group if proclaimed by the Comelec. (End)

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Noynoy relatives actually funded ₱18 M of Akbayan’s whopping ₱112-M 2010 poll expenditures

Akbayan actually received ₱18 million in campaign funds for the 2010 elections from President Aquino’s relatives. RG Cruz of ABS-CBN News reported that Akbayan, which is facing disqualification complaints before the Commission on Elections (Comelec), received ₱14 million from presidential sisters Kris (₱10 million), Ballsy (₱2 million) and Viel (₱2 million). But Akbayan also received funds from Viel’s husband Richard Dee (₱3 million) and Aquino’s maternal relatives from the Lopa family (₱1 million). Thus, the total amount that Akbayan directly received from presidential relatives could reach at least ₱18 million.

(See Table below)

Another ₱1 million came from a member of the Board of Trustees of the Cory and Ninoy Aquino Foundation (NCAF), Daniel Lichauco. As Cruz reported, Aquino family friend and presidential appointee Margie Juico, chair of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), gave another ₱1 million. So that puts the amount contributed to Akbayan by people with direct ties to Pres. Aquino at ₱20 million, a staggering sum by any standard, and especially so in a party-list standard.

Download the full list of Akbayan’s 2010 campaign contributors 

It’s safe to assume that there are other rich family friends of the Aquinos who contributed to Akbayan’s 2010 election war chest because of the group’s ties to the then presidential bet. There’s no way that a truly under-represented and marginalized party-list group could have raised a total of ₱112.18 million in campaign funds for a single election, even higher than the declared funds of the Nacionalista Party (NP), pegged at ₱80 million. NP is a major political party that the law bars from participating in party-list elections.

Note likewise that Akbayan officials, who supposedly come from marginalized sectors, have also contributed millions of pesos in campaign funds for the group’s 2010 electoral bid. Akbayan representative Walden Bello, for instance, donated ₱1.4 million on top of another ₱2 million that he loaned for Akbayan’s campaign funds. Former Akbayan president Joel Rocamora, appointed by Aquino as head of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) also contributed ₱1 million. Kayrami namang pera ng mga taong ito.

In a statement, Akbayan argued that the campaign contributions did not come from “illegal, unscrupulous, or tainted sources.” And as usual, when faced with an issue it could not confront head on, Akbayan resorted to red-baiting and accused its critics of using NPA (New People’s Army) revolutionary taxes from mining and logging companies for their electoral campaign. Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, who it seems is also moonlighting as Akbayan spokesperson, defended the campaign contributions saying that the Aquino sisters, as private citizens, have a right to contribute to Akbayan for supporting the President.

But again, Akbayan and Malacañang are missing, or more likely, sidetracking the real issue. The point is not whether the sources of Akbayan’s campaign funds are illegal or not. The simple fact that a significant amount of their 2010 electoral spending was directly bankrolled by the Aquino family further bolsters the argument that they do not represent the under-represented and marginalized. How can they claim to represent the farmers when Akbayan is being funded by one of the country’s richest and most powerful landlord families? How can Akbayan claim to fiscalize Aquino on the issue of land reform when the president’s family bankrolled their electoral campaign?

Even their claim that their track record is their best defense will not hold water. Their favorite showcase of supposed legislative triumph, the Carper or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms, is not facilitating the massive redistribution of farm lands in the possession of big landlords, but quite the contrary. Case in point is Hacienda Luisita, wherein Carper legitimized the otherwise immoral claim of Akbayan’s biggest patron – the Aquino family – for a “just compensation” worth billions of pesos even after squeezing the farmers dry for decades by owning the land that was never rightfully theirs. Even the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which supported Carper, is complaining the very slow progress in land acquisition and distribution under the Aquino administration.

Really, the best defense that Akbayan could muster to answer the string of controversies it is facing is cheap, baseless propaganda directly copied from the “Palparan Handbook on Red-baiting.” The primary source of RG Cruz’s report was an official Comelec document. To respond to it by maliciously claiming that NPA revolutionary taxes are being used as campaign funds by their critics is outrageously reckless amid the continuing extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances of political activists from people’s organizations tagged as communist fronts by the military.

Backed into a corner, Akbayan has become more vicious in its red-baiting. But while further exposing its true colors as a mouthpiece of the status-quo and an advocate of the bloody military campaign against people who are truly working for the under-represented and marginalized, Akbayan has yet to give a convincing answer to the legitimate question that even the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has raisedmarginalized at under-represented ba kayo? ###

Akbayan case is Comelec’s first true test of integrity and independence

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes, newly-appointed commissioner Grace Padaca and the rest of the poll body are confronted with the challenge of showing impartiality in their review of the qualification of party-list groups with close ties to Malacañang (Photo from The Philippine Star)

Written for The Philippine Online Chronicles

Prologue: President Benigno Aquino III himself was the special guest during the 5th Regular Congress of Akbayan. In his speech, he called Etta Rosales his “favorite”, hinted that Risa Hontiveros will soon be senator, and declared that even before he became president, “iisa na ang takbo ng utak namin ng mga myembro ng Akbayan.”  The chumminess of the country’s most powerful man with Akbayan was in full display, with Aquino jesting that Ronald Llamas is no longer a sosyalista, but has become a sosyal. But Akbayan is not laughing now as it struggles to answer its critics – can a party-list of presidential favorites and sosyals, a party-list of people who think like Malacañang – still claim to represent the under-represented and marginalized?

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is in the middle of cleansing the party-list system, a long overdue initiative. So far, it has already disqualified 16 party-list groups, including four incumbent parties which have a combined seven representatives in the current Congress. But it seems that the first true test of the poll body’s integrity and independence is the case of Akbayan.

Palace-backed party-list groups

From the usual suspects like Mikey Arroyo’s Ang Galing Pinoy (already delisted by the Comelec), Ako Bicol (among the disqualified parties) and others, public attention has now shifted to the contentious case of Akbayan, which the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and several youth groups led by Anakbayan asked Comelec to disqualify because they are already “well-entrenched in government”. Akbayan stalwarts in the Aquino administration include controversial presidential adviser Ronald Llamas, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chair Etta Rosales, and National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) chief Joel Rocamora, among others.  Running under the administration senatorial slate in the 2013 midterm polls is Risa Hontiveros.

Aside from Akbayan, election watchdog Kontra-Daya also said that other groups associated with Malacanañg like the Black and White Movement of Budget chief Butch Abad, Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda, Social Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman, and peace adviser Ging Deles, among others should refrain from participating in the party-list system that is exclusive to the under-represented and marginalized.

Legitimate issue

Despite Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello’s attempt to divert the issue by again red-baiting, the legitimacy of the question being raised by Anakbayan and others continues to gain traction. In fact, even long-time poll watchdog Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) has joined calls to disqualify Akbayan and Black and White Movement. “Hindi naman sila marginalized. Marginalized ba sila eh may posisyon ang mga lider nila sa pamahalaan? Nandun na sila sa kalapit-lapit na power tapos sasabihin mong marginalized ka at unrepresented ka? Unrepresented voice of the marginalized? Kahit hindi naman marunong mag-isip, kaagad-agad ay makikita yun,” its chairperson Henrieta de Villa said.

Indeed, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes and the rest of the poll body are confronted with the challenge of showing impartiality in their review of the qualification of party-list groups that have close ties to Malacañang. A particular official who will be closely monitored is newly-appointed Grace Padaca, a former Liberal Party (LP) member. Will she inhibit from the deliberations to help make the process credible? The ball is now in Comelec’s court.

With its first two rulings, the general view is that the Comelec has been moving in the right direction in its campaign to weed out sham party-list groups. Strictly applying the condition of representing the under-represented and marginalized, it barred undeserving party-list groups from running in next year’s polls. Will the Comelec apply the same strictness on Akbayan and Black and White?

A curious case

The case of Akbayan is a curious one because not too many elections ago, it was raising the same issue it is facing now against other party-list groups. In 2007, Akbayan campaigned to disqualify party-list groups that were supported by the then Arroyo administration. Then Akbayan Rep. Rosales said that the Comelec’s accreditation of groups backed by Mrs. Gloria Arroyo made a mockery of the Party-List System Act. Citing the Supreme Court (SC), then Akbayan chair Rocamora reminded the public that groups that are an adjunct of or assisted by the government are disallowed to run in the party-list elections. Government interference undermines and weakens the party-list system, Rocamora added.

A lot has changed in five years. By virtue of their close ties with President Benigno Aquino III and his LP, Akbayan has been able to put its people in high-ranking government positions. Aside from Rosales, Rocamora and Llmas, other Akbayan officials appointed by Aquino in various executive posts are Mario Aguja (member of the board of trustees of the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS), Percival Cendaña (National Youth Commission’s commissioner-at-large), Ibarra Gutierrez (undersecretary for political affairs) and Angelina Ludovice-Katoh (member of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor or PCUP).

Singing a different tune

Now in power, Akbayan is singing a different tune.  They are claiming that their close ties with Malacañang do not automatically make Akbayan a Palace-backed party-list group. The main difference with the Arroyo administration and its party-list groups, according to Akbayan, is that they were not created by Aquino and were in fact a pioneer in the party-list system. They also supposedly do not receive funds from Malacañang.

But the issue is not whether Akbayan is created by Aquino or not. When the SC issued its landmark decision in June 2001, it clarified that a party-list group “must be independent of the government. The participation of the government or its officials in the affairs of a party-list candidate is not only illegal and unfair to other parties, but also deleterious to the objective of the law: to enable citizens belonging to marginalized and under-represented sectors and organizations to be elected to the House of Representatives.”

Powers that be

In fact, Akbayan is not only Palace-backed but is in effect an extension of Malacañang. Think of it this way – Akbayan, through its former president provides political guidance to the most powerful man in the country. The special position that Akbayan holds in the Aquino regime is underscored not only by numerous appointments but how the President has firmly stood by its officials like Llamas who got embroiled in the pirated DVD and AK47 controversies. By any stretch of imagination, Akbayan could not claim under-representation when it is a key part of the powers that be.

It is also grossly unfair to the truly marginalized parties competing in the party-list elections that Akbayan as well as Black and White have direct access to the huge resources of the executive branch. While they are not directly funded by Malacañang, they have access to billions of pesos in CCT (conditional cash transfer) funds that could be used for political patronage and electioneering.

Poll body split but Brillantes for Akbayan, Padaca as tie breaker?

Brillantes has earlier disclosed that the poll body is split on the issue of whether or not Akbayan and Black and White should be allowed to run in the party-list elections. “Nakabitin yan. May debate,”the Comelec chief said.

But it seems that if Brillantes can have his way, he will accredit Akbayan and Black and White. In a separate interview, he pointed out that a party-list group could not be faulted for having officials in the executive branch. “At least ang position ko is that overrepresented in Congress ang aking interpretation. If you are overrepresented in government, it’s not really a bar for you to participate,” Brillantes was quoted as saying.

The good news for Akbayan and Black and White is Grace Padaca the newly appointed seventh poll commissioner who is expected to break the impasse in the Comelec. While Padaca’s selection was already controversial because of her ties with the LP, her neutrality as an election official has also further become suspect with how Malacañang went all-out to ensure her appointment in the poll body.

Rejecting bogus party-list groups

And if the Comelec decides to pass the test on its integrity and independence and go against the will of the Palace, Akbayan and Black and White could still take comfort in the fact that the SC under Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno could take up the cudgels for them. Just recently, Sereno used her TRO power (temporary restraining order) to stop the Comelec from unseating an LP member as town mayor. Indeed, power has its many perks.

But only if the people will allow it. If public pressure is not enough to compel the Comelec and even the SC to uphold the integrity of the party-list system, there’s still the ballot next year to express its rejection of bogus parties claiming to represent the under-represented and marginalized. ###

Bellofied!

Being “Bellofied” is fatal.

Red-baiting on national TV last week was Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello. Lacking a solid argument to explain why his group should not be disallowed from participating in the 2013 party-list elections, Bello claimed that those seeking their disqualification want him dead. “Actually, yung disqualification, secondary option lang nila ‘yan. Yung primary option, physical elimination namin,” Bello declared. Host Anthony Taberna asked Bello if he is accusing youth group Anakbayan, which asked the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to disqualify Akbayan, of plotting to kill him. “Alam naman natin na front group sila ng extreme Left. And the extreme Left in 2005 targeted me as a counter-revolutionary to be eliminated,” Bello retorted. He then went on to name Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) as another front organization. “So let’s face it, let’s put it on the table… like KMU, front groups sila ng extreme Left,” claimed Bello. (Watch the full video below)

Well, Anakbayan and KMU just got “Bellofied”. Don’t mistake it with being Belofied, the Belo Medical Group’s digital makeover that gives a preview of how you will look like after undergoing a cosmetic procedure. But being Bellofied also transforms you – from a legal organization to a communist front. Being Belofied is fun, being Bellofied is fatal. Hundreds of activists from Anakbayan, KMU and other organizations who have been Bellofied were either shot dead or abducted under government’s counterinsurgency campaign Oplan Bantay Laya and Oplan Bayanihan. Being Bellofied will land you an appointment not with a cosmetic surgeon but with a heartless butcher.

Anakbayan, KMU and other national democratic organizations and their allies (the “extreme Left”, said Bello) have been constantly Bellofied by Walden and his cohorts at Akbayan. In January 2005, the Bangkok-based Focus on the Global South of which Bello was then an executive director, asked KMU, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Migrante, the International Peoples Struggles (ILPS) and others to “apply moral suasion” on the leaders of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA). The statement was issued after Bello and former Akbayan Rep. and now Noynoy Aquino-appointee Etta Rosales claimed that they have been targeted for assassination by the NPA. Their basis? A diagram of Filipino counter-revolutionary groups and their international links that appeared on the December 7, 2004 issue of Ang Bayan, the CPP’s official publication and downloadable from its website. Bello and Akbayan’s line echoed the propaganda of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), which has been carrying out assassinations and abductions of legitimate political activists.

The supposed threat to Bello’s life courtesy of the CPP-NPA has never materialized. But leaders and members of organizations Walden Bellofied, those he accused of being CPP-NPA fronts, have been killed or abducted, never to be seen again. Think of Jonas Burgos. Think of Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeño. Think of the many activists that fell in the hands of Jovito Palparan. During the 2010 polls, Akbayan again resorted to Bellofying as part of its black propaganda campaign against then senatorial bets Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza. Refresh your memory how Risa Hontiveros Bellofied the candidates of Makabayan.

Aside from Bellofying, Walden also accused Anakbayan and its allies of simply being inggit because Akbayan made them irrelevant. “Ang problema nito – hindi nila inilalabas sa complaint na galing ito sa inggit kasi napaka-effective ng Akbayan in representing the marginalized masses whereas sila at yung mga parties where they are allied, the ultra-Left, ay talagang they have been drifting into irrelevance,” Bello said. He then went on to recite a litany of supposed legislative achievements. Well, if Bello’s measure of relevance is Congress, the last time I looked, the “ultra-Left” party-list groups have seven representatives in the Lower House, Akbayan has two. But Congress is the measure of relevance only in Bello’s warped mind. The last time I looked, the national democratic movement is still the single most potent political force in the country that can mobilize the biggest number of people on Sona or May 1. The last time I looked, it was Bayan Muna, Kabataan, Anakbayan, KMU, Bayan and others that were at the forefront (together with concerned netizens) in the fight against the Cybercrime Law, both inside the Supreme Court (SC), along Padre Faura and on Facebook and on Twitter, while Akbayan was… never mind. Bello wrote a column against the Cybercrime Law? Yes, but by that time, the protests have already snowballed and Bello and Akbayan are just simply jumping on the bandwagon, lest they become irrelevant.

I don’t know why Walden could not squarely answer the question being raised by Anakbayan. It’s a fair question that even an ordinary voter without any ideological leaning could ask. Why is Akbayan – whose current and former officials and nominees are occupying high ranking presidential appointments – should still be considered marginalized and under-represented, which are the basic requirements of Republic Act (RA) 7941 or the Party-List System Act?

Akbayan used to be a pseudo-progressive party-list group. Now, they’re simply a pseudo-party-list group.

Red-baiting: ang maruming laban ni Risa Hontiveros

Ano ang maganda sa laban ni Risa? (photo by rcmanila on Photobucket)

Hindi naman daw red-baiting ang ginagawa ni Risa Hontiveros ng Akbayan/Liberal Party (LP) sa senatorial candidates na sina Satur Ocampo at Liza Maza ng Makabayan. “Nowhere in my press statement did I call them communist,” ani Hontiveros.

Ano exactly ang sinabi ni Hontiveros? Nasa ibaba ang portion ng isang direct quote sa kanyang press statement:

“Actually, the links between the left-wing candidates in the NP slate and the Communist Party is something that nobody really questions.”

Ano exactly ang links na tinutukoy ni Hontiveros? Muli, direct quote sa kanyang press statement:

“It doesn’t help that Satur Ocampo and Lisa Maza keep on pussy-footing on ideological roots and organizational links.”

Wala naman daw nagdududa sa links nina Ocampo at Maza sa CPP. At huwag na raw magkakaila sina Ocampo at Maza sa ideological at organizational links na ito.

Hindi ito red-baiting?

Sa kanyang depensa sa batikos na magkatambal sila ni Gen. Jovito Palparan sa red-baiting, iginiit ni Hontiveros na: “It is actually their refusal to condemn the atrocities and abuses of the CPP-NPA that indirectly helps human rights violators like Palparan to commit further abuses.”

Sa ilohika ni Hontiveros, kasalanan (kahit pa indirectly) nina Ocampo at Maza kung bakit patuloy na pinapatay, dinudukot, at tinutoryur ng Arroyo administration at ng armed forces nito ang mga aktibista. Kung kukundenahin lang nina Ocampo at Maza ang “atrocities and abuses” ng CPP-NPA, matitigil na ang state-sponsored human rights violations?

Ganito mangatwiran ang mga doble-karang oportunista. Mapanganib ang mga taong ganito.

Karapatan s’yempre ni Hontiveros at ng Akbayan na batikusin ang ipinagpapalagay nilang atrocities at abuses ng CPP-NPA. Pero ibang usapin ang red-baiting.

Tandaang hindi ito ang unang pagkakataon na nag-red-baiting ang Akbayan.

Noong January 2005, sa internationally circulated statement ng Bangkok-based na Focus on the Global South kunsaan executive director si Walden Bello ng Akbayan, sinabi nitong: “Being part of a bigger global movement for social justice, we have interacted with, worked with, or even supported groups that are associated or working closely with the CPP such as Ibon Foundation, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), Cordillera People’s Alliance (CPA), International League of People’s Struggles (ILPS), KMU (May 1st Movement), Asian Student Association (ASA), and Migrante. We now appeal to the sense of decency of individuals in these and other groups and urge them to denounce these actions and apply moral suasion on Sison and other leaders of the CPP and NPA to refrain from the threat and use of force and assassination.”

Mahigit isang libo na ang biniktima ng extrajudicial killings sa ilalim ng Oplan Bantay Laya

Kagaganap pa lamang noon ng Hacienda Luisita massacre nang ilabas nina Bello ang kanilang statement. Ginatungan nito ang propaganda ng militar na mga komunista daw ang nasa likod ng welga sa Hacienda Luisita. Sa dokumentong Knowing the Enemy, na lumabas sa publiko pagkalipas ng ilang buwan, tinukoy ng AFP na communist fronts daw ang mga organisasyong binanggit nina Bello.

Sa mga dokumento ng Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), ang mga “sectoral front organizations” ng CPP-NPA ang target ng neutralization ng AFP. Ito ang kwento ng extrajudicial killings ng mga aktibista sa bansa.

Ang mga doble-karang oportunista ay nagpapanggap na progresibo. Sa isang banda, ipinagyayabang na sila ay human rights at peace advocates.

“How can I be a supporter of a human rights violator, when I filed a case for the disqualification of his (Palparan) party-list? When I authored a lot of resolutions investigating incidents of human rights violations? When I have bills penalizing torture, enforced disappearance, and strengthening the Commission on Human Rights?” tanong ni Hontiveros.

Isang bagay ang mag-file ng maraming bills at resolutions tungkol sa human rights. Ibang bagay ang mag-red-baiting. Ibang bagay ang ginagatungan at inuulit-ulit ang black propaganda ng AFP laban kina Ocampo, Maza, kanilang mga kasamahan at grupo.

Hindi maikakaila ni Hontiveros at ng Akbayan na ang kanilang red-baiting ay ginagamit ng Arroyo administration upang pagtakpan ang napakasahol nitong human rights record.

Noong 2008, nang lumabas ang report ni Prof. Philip Alston, ang Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Execution ng United Nations (UN), binira ng Malacañang ang integrity ng report. Pinagbintangan nito si Prof. Alston na pinapaboran ang CPP-NPA-NDF. Ang ebidensya ng administrasyong Arroyo? Ang mga naunang pahayag nina Bello at Etta Rosales ng Akbayan.

Sa official statement ni Ambassador Erlinda F. Basilio, Permanent Representative to the UN and other international organizations ng bansa, sinabi nitong:

“Prof. Alston’s partiality, selectivity and double standard are fully demonstrated in End Note no. 46 of Prof. Alston’s report. This concerns two leftist government critics – Prof. Walden Bello and Ms. Etta Rosales, whose freedom of expression and right to life were threatened, not by pro-government groups, but by Prof. Alston’s favored group (i.e. the CPP-NPA-NDF). Mr. Bello and Ms. Rosales are leaders of the party-list group Akbayan.”

Bakit hindi si Noynoy ang hamunin ni Hontiveros na i-denounce ang Hacienda Luisita massacre at SDO?

Ang tinutukoy ni Basilio ay ang pahayag noong December 2004 nina Bello at Rosales tungkol sa pagkakabilang nila sa diumano’y NPA hit list. Muli, isang bagay na kundenahin ang ipinagpapalagay nilang hit list (na actually ay diagram ng mga counter-revolutionary groups at kanilang international links, downloadable ito sa CPP website; tingnan ang page 8 ng Ang Bayan, December 7, 2004 issue). Ibang bagay ang malisyosong “umapela” sa mga ligal na organisasyon at institusyong gaya ng KMU, KMP, IBON, CPA, at iba pa dahil sila ay “associated” o “working closely” sa CPP-NPA. Ito ay red-baiting.

Balikan natin ang statement ni Hontiveros. Sabi nito, “She said that the PTC (permit to campaign), the NPA’s human rights violations, and allegations of corruption committed by Villar are valid electoral and political issues that all candidates, regardless of party affiliations, should address”.

Kung valid electoral at political issues ang PTC at NPA, bakit kina Ocampo at Maza lamang ito ibinabato ni Hontiveros? Bakit sina Ocampo at Maza lamang ang kailangang mag-denounce sa CPP-NPA na para bang sila ang kumukumpas sa mga gawain ng CPP-NPA?

Hindi ba’t para sa isang nagsasabing s’ya ay human rights at peace advocate, mas valid na electoral at political issue, in relation to the CPP-NPA, ang peace talks sa halip na denunciation nina Ocampo at Maza?

Kung naghahanap ng valid electoral at political issues si Hontiveros, bakit hindi n’ya hamunin si Noynoy Aquino na i-denounce ang Hacienda Luisita massacre at ang stock distribution option (SDO), na lehitimong human rights issues? Hindi ba’t mas may value ang denunciation ni Noynoy sa Hacienda Luisita massacre at SDO dahil siya at kanyang pamilya ang kumukumpas sa Luisita?

Bakit hindi ang peace talks, Oplan Bantay Laya, o Hacienda Luisita ang gustong pag-usapan ni Hontiveros? Dahil red-baiting ang totoong adyenda nila ng Akbayan.

Obliterate

farmer1Explaining her “no” vote to the Joint Resolution on CARP (Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program) extension, Representative Risa Hontiveros of the pseudo-progressive party-list Akbayan said that Congress has “managed to obliterate an entire class” with the approval of the said resolution. Obliterate means “wipe out”, “eliminate” or “annihilate”. I wonder how a single act of Congress can wipe out, eliminate or annihilate the entire Filipino peasantry, which for almost four decades now, has been waging a civil war in the countryside to implement genuine agrarian reform.

As if her advocacy of CARP extension with reforms is the be all and end all of the peasants’ fight for land, Hontiveros has reduced the class struggle for effective control of land between peasants and landlords in the cozy confines of the House of Representatives. The Joint Resolution may have set back the peasants’ struggle for genuine agrarian reform in the parliamentary arena, not a surprise in landlords’ turf. But it certainly did not reverse the victories achieved by the peasants’ direct political actions in the countryside to own the land the till. Or will it hinder future triumphs of their agrarian revolution.

As the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) said in its recent statement, “The legislative arena is just one field of struggle by farmers and advocates of genuine agrarian reform. Indeed, the battleground is far wider than the halls of a landlord-dominated Congress. It is in the remotest barangays in the countryside where farmers and farm workers should collectively struggle against oppression and exploitation that stem from landlord domination.

I can assure Hontiveros that the Filipino peasantry will not be wiped out, eliminated nor annihilated any time soon. Heck, they were not obliterated by the political killings and state terrorism by GMA and her armed forces. And no matter what this brazenly anti-people regime does, it could never kill and obliterate an aspiration.

What is certain is that the latest developments in CARP, combined with state repression, Cha-cha, and worsening poverty and hunger, will further fuel agrarian unrest and social discontent. CARP’s extension has only further exposed the rottenness of Congress, and in the process convinced a growing number of tillers that a strong peasants’ and people’s movement is the greatest hope for genuine agrarian reform in the country.