Comelec chief muddling Akbayan issue

IN AN interview with the media, Comelec chair Sixto Brilliantes said the poll body has already voted on the disqualification case against Akbayan Party-list but refused to divulge the results of the vote pending a written position.

He said the poll body was “divided” on the issue, and refused to discuss details of its ruling. If we read between the lines however, there could be cause for worry.

In describing their decision, Brilliantes lumped Akbayan together with Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis.

“More or less pareho ng Bayan Muna, political party, multisectoral may track record, divided pa rin ang boto,” he said.

He also said unlike Ako Bicol’s case, Akbayan “has track record,” that is why the latter’s case is contentious.

What’s wrong with Sixto’s statement?

First, lumping Akbayan together with Bayan Muna and again citing the “multisectoral party” argument is missing the point. The complaint against Akbayan is not due to its being a multisectoral party but due to its being party in power and obvious government connections. (In the first place, multisectoral political parties are not prohibited from participation in the party-list.)

Brilliantes is essentially echoing the Palace’s flawed line when it defended Akbayan: “if Akbayan goes, so should Bayan Muna.” This is an obvious spin which tries to muddle the issue of Akbayan’s government connections. Bayan Muna is not partying in Malacanang, Akbayan is.

Second, in saying that “unlike Ako Bicol, Akbayan has track record,” Brilliantes is again failing to see the point. The issue is not whether thay have track record or not, the issue is their being in government and their nominees being government officials.

I think the Comelec chief is intelligent enough to understand these points, and I think he understands it. Could it be that he is deliberately muddling the issue to enable the Comelec to come up with a decision favoring the Palace?

There are clear legal grounds against the participation of Akbayan in the party-list race. In 2001, the Supreme Court (SC) in its ruling in the Bagong Bayani vs Comelec case, released guidelines regarding the party-list elections. It clearly prohibited the participation of government “or its officials” in party-list affairs. It said that:
“..the party or organization must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government..It 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..,”

In the same ruling, the SC also ruled that nominees of a party-list must not only represent a marginalized sector but must themselves belong to the marginalized sectors they seek to represent.

“..not only the candidate party or organization must represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors; so also must its nominees. ..the nominees must be Filipino citizens ‘who belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties.’”

In seperate rulings in 2001 and 2009, the SC also ruled against the participation of major political parties in the party-list race. It compared the party-list system to a student dormitory “open house,” which by its nature allows “outsiders only, not the dormers themselves” to enter.

Regarding these requirements which Akbayan has clearly flunked, the Comelec chief is silent.

And why suspend the announcement of their decision? Could it be that Comelec officials are still waiting for Malacanang’s approval?

Meanwhile, they are quick to disqualify Courage, party-list of rank-and-file government workers, for being government-backed and overrepresented. It would be height of travesty if they disallow rank-and-file employees but allow undersecretaries and commissioners to run. (Did their member unions’ opposition to the Corona impeachment cost them their accreditation?)

Accreditation of Kalikasan Party, a known environmental organization which has a clear “track record” in the fight against the cutting of pine trees in Baguio and incidentally also a known critic of Aquino’s mining EO, has also been cancelled by the commission.

If Brilliantes thinks muddling the issue and confusing the public will give him and his fellow Comelec officers a way out, he is gravely mistaken. The Comelec is left with no other choice but to disqualify Akbayan. Not doing so would mean failing the 2012 elections’ first major test of integrity and independence.

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