Election watchdog flags domination of rich, powerful in party-list race

Election watchdog flags domination of rich, powerful in party-list race
File photo of a ballot.
The STAR / Krizjohn Rosales, file

MANILA, Philippines — An election watchdog said around 70% of party-list groups running in the May polls are being used by political clans, big businesses and state interests as a “backdoor to further entrench their political and economic interests.”

An analysis by Kontra Daya revealed that at least 120 of 177 party-list groups are identified with political clans and big businesses, have incumbent local officials, connections with the government and military, unknown or unclear advocacies and representations, and pending court cases and criminal charges.

The group said that at least 44 party-lists groups are controlled by political clans, at least 21 have connections with big businesses, at least 34 have unknown or unclear advocacies and representations, at least 32 have links to the government or the military, at least 26 have incumbent local officials running as nominees, and at least 19 have pending court cases or criminal charges.

ACT-CIS party-list

Among these party-list groups is ACT-CIS, which topped the party-list race in 2019.

Kontra Daya identified its first nominee, Edvic Yap, and its incumbent representative, Eric Yap, as among those named in August 2017 by Sen. Ping Lacson in a privilege speech who supposedly gives bribes to officials at the Bureau of Customs under the leadership of Nicanor Faeldon.

ACT-CIS’ second nominee and incumbent representative, Jocelyn Tulfo, is the wife of broadcaster Raffy Tulfo, who is running for senator. Raffy is the brother of ACT-CIS fourth nominee Erwin Tulfo and former Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo.

The Department of Tourism, under Wanda’s leadership, struck an allegedly anomalous P60 million advertisement deal with Bitag Media Unlimited Inc., a production company owned by her brother, Ben Tulfo.

Wow Pilipinas party-list

Kontra Daya also flagged the indictment of Wow Pilipinas first nominee Genevive Reyes for graft and the violation of the Coconut Preservation Act in April 2018. Reyes is also the vice mayor of Caluya, Antique.

The Sandiganbayan acquitted Reyes in October 2021 for these charges as it found that the prosecution failed to prove that she, as then Caluya, Antique mayor, cut or ordered the cutting of coconut trees.

The poll watchdog also pointed out that Wow Pilipinas’ second nominee, Peter Paul Dy Jr., is national president of the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers, managing director of PLD Construction and Development Inc., president of Mandy Hotmix, Inc. and CEO of Power Frame Development Corp.

Dy also sits on the board of directors of MAPS Construction, APSI Asphalt Batching Plant Supply, and Mandaue City Green Building Management, Kontra Daya said.

4Ps party-list

Marcelino Libanan is also among the many former district representatives who are joining the party-list race as nominees.

Libanan formerly represented Eastern Samar in the House of Representatives and was immigration commissioner during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Kontra Daya said he was accused of violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the purchase of 2,164 bags of fertilizer amounting to P3.25 million in April 2004.

In August 2020, the Sandiganbayan denied the appeal of Libanan and former Eastern Samar Gov. Clotilde Salazar to outrightly junk the graft cases against them.

Meanwhile, 4P’s fifth nominee is Jonathan Clement Abalos, nephew of former Metro Manila Development Authority chair Benhur Abalos, who is now the campaign manager of presidential candidate Bongbong Marcos.

BHW party-list

Kontra Daya pointed out that BHW party-list’s first nominee and incumbent representative, Angelica Natasha Co, is the daughter of former Rep. Christopher Co (Ako Bicol party-list).

Meanwhile, its second nominee, Martin Aber Sicat, is a shareholder of Aremar Construction Corp., a company that was investigated by the House of Representatives for allegedly receiving around P81 million from dummy contractors for various projects in Sorsogon in 2018.

IPEACEEPANAW, other red-taggers

Kontra Daya also flagged party-lists engaged in red-tagging, like IPEACEEPANAW.

“IPEACEEPANAW is essentially a government’s red-tagging mechanism even if it claims to promote the rights of indigenous peoples,” the election watchdog said.

Its first nominee, lawyer Reuben Dasay Lingating, is the former chairperson of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples and head of the Indigenous Peoples Peace Panel in 2017.

Its second nominee, lawyer Marlon Bosantog, used to be the the NCIP legal affairs office director and spokesperson of the controversial National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.

Kontra Daya said Bosantog was declared persona non grata by more than 100 elders and leaders in the Apayao province mainly for red-tagging indigenous people’s organizations and leaders as communist fronts in the Cordillera.

IPEACEEPANAW’s fourth nominee, Ramcy Astroveza, was NCIP commissioner, while its fifth nominee, Engwan Ala, is Hawudon Datu and municipal chieftain of an Indigenous people’s tribe in Carrascal, Surigao del Sur, who declared the Communist Party of the Philippines as persona non grata in the province.

Another red-tagging party-list is Duterte Youth, whose second nominee, Ralph Raymon Preza, is a relative of Tiaong, Quezon Mayor Ramon Abad Preza and his son, councilor Amboy Preza.

Kontra Daya also identified the party-lists MOCHA and Abante Sambayanan as being linked with the NTF-ELCAC.

SC ruling

In 2001, three years after the first party-list elections were held, the Supreme Court ruled that only parties and their nominees who are part of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors could sit in Congress.

But in 2013, it reversed itself, saying that groups of political parties only need to push for common beliefs or ideologies “regardless of their economic status as citizens.”

“The ruling allowed the participation of national and regional representation as well as the sectoral arms of political parties. It became an opportunity for powerful political clans and vested interests in the national and local levels to use the party-list system to extend their clout,” the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism said in a report.

But the system is “not beyond repair,” said political science professor Carl Marc Ramota in the PCIJ report.

“It’s not beyond repair. I’d like to believe, [because] this is a legislation, that it can be remedied through reforms,” Ramota was quoted as saying. — Xave Gregorio



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