???????????????????????????????????????? Clash between Akbayan and Anakbayan
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - October 30, 2012 - 12:00am

Not too many people know the difference between Akbayan and Anakbayan, both party-list organizations that have won seats in the House of Representatives. To some, they’re “leftists,” to others, they’re commies, clear and simple. There’s a difference though, and this was highlighted by the televised commotion that took place when rowdy youths representing Anakbayan, stormed into a press conference of Akbayan, and shouting at the top of their voices that Akbayan was a fake party-list that no longer represented the poor and marginalized as some of its leaders are already in top government positions, and demanding that Akbayan be delisted by Comelec from the accredited party-list organizations.

True enough, Akbayan personalities have become a visible member of the President’s elite group of men and women — the creme de la crème. Its former president, Etta Rosales, is now Commission on Human Rights chief and Joel Rocamora, Akbayan founder, is now head of the National Poverty Commission. Ronald Llamas, former party president, is the Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs. Risa Hontiveros, a former House Representative and a former Akbayan secretary-general, who is running for senator in the 2013 election under the banner of both Akbayan and Liberal Party, is accused of “grandstanding” even long before the election.

In interviews with media, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said that the issue between Akbayan and Anakbayan is traceable to the “fight between rejectionists and the reaffirmists.”

The division among the leftists groups happened more than a decade ago when Armando Liwanag — believed to be the nom de guerre of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison ­— issued a document called “Reaffirm Our Basic Principles and Rectify Errors.”

The document, according to Lacierda, sought to return the party to its founding principles of characterizing Philippine society as “semi-colonial and semi-feudal” and the waging of a protracted people’s war in the countryside to topple the government. Not everyone found the document acceptable. Those who supported the document were called “reaffirmists” while those who refused to accept it were called the “rejectionists.” From this definition, we classify the Anakbayan to belong to the extreme left (of reaffirmists) and Akbayan to be “rejectionists.”

Joel Rocamora founded Akbayan in 1990 after breaking away from the CPP over differences in ideology with Jose Ma. Sison, whose “national democratic principle” was based on Marxist, Leninist and Maoist teachings. Joining Rocamora’s breakaway was Walden Bello, an internationally known social scientist who is currently a member of the 15th Congress representing Akbayan.

At a recent meeting with women in media, Risa said Akbayan belongs to the “democratic” left, as opposed to the ”extreme left” to which Bayan and its scores of affiliates belong.

Anakbayan is a youth movement affiliated with Bayan Muna (People First), a political party formed from major people’s organizations of the Philippines, among them Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN). The first president of Bayan Muna, respected journalist Satur Ocampo, was the party’s leading nominee in the May 14, 2001 party-list Philippine election. Bayan Muna topped the party-list race with an unprecedented 11.7 percent of the votes cast, consequently getting more than the required number of votes for three party-list seats in Congress.    

Ocampo was reelected president of Bayan Muna in its third national convention held January 13, 2004, and headed the party’s nominees for party list representatives in the May 10, 2004 elections where Bayan Muna garnered 10.8 percent of the votes cast, again securing three seats in Congress. Satur served as congressman three times, and ran but lost in the 2010 senatorial elections.

Another Bayan Muna leading light is Rep. Teddy Casino, the party’s secretary general in 1999 and who is currently serving in the 15th Congress.

Lacierda criticized Anakbayan and Bayan Muna for harping about Akbayan’s alleged closeness with the Aquino administration.

Akbayan has affirmed that the disqualification case against it is the militant left’s smear campaign against it. Akbayan nominee Barry Gutierrez said in a message texted to the media, “We definitely don’t think this is about the essence of the party-list. It is very clear that the issues being raised against us are baseless. Anakbayan does not understand the party-list law.” In fact, Gutierrez added, Anakbayan is violating the party-list law for taking up the “practice of forming multiple party-lists and transferring their nominees around them.”

Gutierrez was referring to the Makabayan Coalition party-list representatives switching groups every election — Liza Maza who used to represent Bayan Muna, but now represents Gabriela, and Raymond Palatino, who transferred from Kabataan party-list to Kalikasan for the 2013 elections.

Bayan’s current secretary general Renato M. Reyes Jr. has put out a blog questioning Akbayan’s right to represent the marginalized when, at the same time, it is “an integral member of the reactionary ruling clique.”

On the charge of Akbayan not representing the marginalized and underrepresented, the organization said it can “justifiably claim to a 14-year history of championing the marginalized and underrepresented within and outside the halls of Congress.”

It said Akbayan “is one of the few progressive groups which pushed for the passage of the party-list law and the first progressive national political party to participate in the first party-list election in 1998. This was at the time the extreme left was still opposed to the party-list law and stubbornly clinging to its disastrous ‘boycott election’ policy which resulted in its marginalization from the political mainstream in the aftermath of EDSA I.”

Among Akbayan’s accomplishments: pushing the payola scam in Congress in 1999 involving the privatization of the National Power Corporation; pushing for human rights based on sexual orientation and gender equality, opposing human rights abuses committed by both the state (military and police) and non-state (NPA) actors.

Akbayan also supported important bills that benefited the marginalized, such as the CARPER law, the Right to Labor Organization Act, Cheaper Medicines Act, the National Land Use and Management bill, and the resolution that forced all Mercury Drug outlets to provide a 20 percent discount on all medicines bought by persons with disabilities (PWDs). It has been vocally pushing for the passage of important pieces of legislation on reproductive health, freedom of information, and the so-called sin tax.

“But beyond its long history of representing the marginalized, Akbayan’s track record shows why the extreme left wants it removed from the party-list race. It represents a constructive and democratic Left that is committed to reforms. On numerous issues, it succeeded in pushing for reforms while exposing the true nature of the Extreme Left, an obstructive force committed to nothing but its own agenda of seizing state power through the barrel of the gun.”

For example, Akbayan said, when it pushed for the extension of the agrarian reform program the extreme left, together with the landlords, opposed it. When Akbayan stood against Chinese aggression in the West Philippine Sea, the extreme left was nowhere to be seen. When it exposed and opposed the atrocities committed by the CPP-NPA, the extreme left was deafeningly silent about it. When Akbayan called for the passage of the sin tax law, the Extreme Left argued for the case of the tobacco companies.

The accusation that Akbayan is an adjunct of the Aquino government is “hogwash,” said the party-list organization. “Even before the election of President Aquino, with whom the party doesn’t always see eye-to-eye on many issues, Akbayan was already an established party-list organization.

“Akbayan is understandably proud of its leaders who are appointed to important government posts. It is a testament to the party’s commitment and success in representing the marginalized in different levels of government and the mantle and capacity of our leaders to accept the challenge of good governance. It signals the ascendance of principled engagements as against the traditional role of progressives as outsiders to state affairs. While others have contented themselves to the usual roles confined to them by the political system, Akbayan continues to claim its rightful place in mainstream politics — and to make a difference in the life of the Filipino people.”



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