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Kabataan: Bill vs party-lists accused of rebel links meant to gag critics

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Kabataan: Bill vs party-lists accused of rebel links meant to gag critics
Rep. Sarah Elago (Kabataan party-list) and party-list nominee Raoul Manuel at the filing of candidacy papers Pasay City in October 2021.
Twitter / Kabataan Party-list

MANILA, Philippines — A Senate bill seeking to disqualify party-lists that the government accuses of terrorist links is part of a "saga of crackdown on genuine representatives" that will weaken the party-list system and Congress, Kabataan party-list said.

Kabataan, which the government has frequently accused of being a front for communist rebels, condemned Senate Bill No. 201, saying it seeks to expand the grounds for the cancellation of registration of party-lists and will pave the way for the "revival of the accusations that have never held any weight in any court of law."

Rep. Raoul Manuel (Kabataan party-list) said the proposal would bring the Anti-Terror Act into the halls of the legislature and would be used "to silence any critical voice in Congress." He said that "vague and sweeping" provisions in the ATA have been used against marginalized groups and against activists and that Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa's bill seeks to do the same.

Dela Rosa, in the bill, proposed adding "direct and indirect" participation in violence, terrorism, and unlawful means as a basis to bar target party-lists from the elections. It is unclear what would constitute "indirect participation" or "unlawful means".

Along with Kabataan, members of the Makabayan bloc are among the party-lists accused by administration allies of being linked to the armed communist movement, though the bloc's members have repeatedly denied this. 

The Department of Justice has junked cases of kidnapping filed against former Rep. Sarah Elago and other activists for lack of evidence. "There is also no evidence presented showing that Anakbayan is the recruiting arm of or somehow connected to the [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army-National Democratic Front]," the DOJ said in its resolution on the case.

RELATED: SC junks petition vs Elago, Anakbayan: Young activist not missing, can make her choices

'Abuse of the party-list system'

Manuel said Dela Rosa's proposal is a step back from former President Rodrigo Duterte's recommendation to scrap the party-list system — which watchdogs have warned has become increasingly dominated by political clans and wealthy backers — altogether. 

"Dela Rosa's bill strikes a compromise by retaining the corrupted party-list system and surgically cutting out any form of genuine representation and opposition via Terror Law-like provisions," Manuel said, adding passage of the bill would "ensure the supremacy of a Congress supermajority" since critics would risk being booted out of the House.

Manuel pointed out that the Omnibus Election Code and Party-list System Law already include sufficient grounds to disqualify or bar party-lists.

Party-lists under the Makabayan have filed House Bill No. 211, which proposes that no party-list can be registered unless it proves in an evidentiary public hearing that it truly represents marginalized and underrepresented sectors and that its nominees belong to these.

Manuel said Dela Rosa's bill is a way to go after party-lists like Kabataan since "[l]egal cases produced by red-tagging propaganda, such as what was attempted against Kabataan Party-list and Gabriela Women's Party, have never prospered or have already been junked for lack of evidence."

RELATED: Makabayan bloc not doing anything illegal in Congress, Esperon admits

with a report from Xave Gregorio

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