Using counterinsurgency against party-list system

AT GROUND LEVEL - Satur C. Ocampo - The Philippine Star

Failing to achieve his goal in the May 9 elections to defeat the five progressive party-list organizations under the Makabayan Coalition in the House of Representatives, President Duterte now calls on the next administration to abolish the party-list system altogether.

“This party-list [system] needs to be removed by whoever is going to be the next president. I recommend the abolition,” Duterte said during his televised address on Wednesday night. He claimed that leftists use the system to deceive and destroy the government.

Last March, he had accused the Makabayan Coalition party-list groups – Kabataan Party-List, AnakPawis, Bayan Muna, ACT-Teachers and Gabriela Women’s Party – of being legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines.

He also claimed the progressive party-list groups are using government funds to support the armed revolutionary forces. That spurious allegation had been raised in the mid-2000s, under the Gloria Arroyo administration, against the six progressive party-list representatives, including me, who were charged with rebellion. The Supreme Court, acting on our petition for certiorari and prohibition, debunked the allegation and directed the lower court to dismiss the rebellion charge.

This time around, President Duterte still has no evidence to support his serious accusations. Repeatedly, the Makabayan party-list groups have refuted these claims. They have challenged both the military and civilian officials making the accusations to file charges against them, and back these up with legally credible evidence.

But no one has come forward to do that! It’s the height of unfairness – nay, of injustice – that neither the highest official of the land nor his factotums raising the same accusations can show proof that could stand in a court of justice.

Conscious that abolishing the party-list system requires the removal of the pertinent provision in the 1987 Constitution, Duterte urges the incoming administration to initiate the amendment early in its term of office.

Article VI, Section 5 (1 and 2) provides that “party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives…” who, “as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations.” Those to be elected must come from “the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”

Duterte’s call is part of his regime’s counterinsurgency strategy: Abolishing the party-list system would deprive the progressive parties – and their marginalized and underrepresented constituents – of further representation in Congress. It is akin to the idea of depriving armed rebels of their base areas for military operations against government forces.

The NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End the Local Communist Armed Conflict), which the President heads, has failed to achieve its declared objective: to put an end to the said armed conflict by the end of his term. Hermogenes Esperon, Duterte’s national security adviser and NTF-ELCAC vice chairperson himself, has said so.

In her column on this page yesterday, Marichu Villanueva wrote: “Esperon conceded the continuing internal threats posed by the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front (CPP-NPA-NDF) still pervades in far-flung parts of the country.”

Last Thursday, Bayan Muna issued a statement on the emerging results of the 2022 party-list elections.

Based on the latest partial and unofficial vote count, the statement noted, Bayan Muna might not win a seat in the next Congress starting July. Currently it has three representatives in the House (led by Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Isagani Zarate). Only three parties in the Makabayan Coalition – Kabataan, Gabriela and Act-Teachers – look like winning one seat each.

This turnout resulted from changes in the implementation of the party-list law, with the Supreme Court and the Comelec allowing the participation of “bogus” party-list groups that were fielded by political dynasties and big business in order to have more of their people in the legislature, said Bayan Muna:

“Naghari na ang pera at makinarya ng mga political dynasty at malalaking negosyo para dagdagan ang kanilang mga kinatawan sa Kongreso. Sinisira nito ang esensya ng sistemang party-list na dapat para sa mga mahihirap at kulang ng representasyon.” This killed the essence of the party-list concept which was meant to increase representation for the marginalized sectors.

Also a big factor was the intensified attack by the Duterte administration against the Makabayan party-lists, led by the president himself, mainly via the NTF-ELCAC. “Over five years, relentless red-tagging, vilification, bribery, the filing of trumped-up charges and outright killings have been experienced by leaders and members of the progressive party-lists,” the statement said. It also cited the following:

• Among the dirty tactics employed by the NTF-ELCAC was the issuance of a fake Comelec resolution on the eve of the elections stating Bayan Muna and its allied party-list groups were disqualified from participating in the elections. (The Comelec en banc quickly denied it had issued such a resolution.)

• Also on the eve of the polls, the Armed Forces of the Philippines directed all “uniformed personnel” to circulate through text messages the call NOT to vote for the progressive party-list groups and the senatorial candidates of the Opposition, alleging they were supporting the CPP-NPA-NDF.

If authenticated, the AFP act constituted a violation of the Constitution’s Article XVI, Section 5 (3), which states: “No member of the military shall engage directly or indirectly in any partisan political activity, except to vote.”

Declaring “Tapos na ang halalan. Pero hindi pa tapos ang laban,” Bayan Muna vowed to:

• Continue monitoring the vote count and stay vigilant over probable fraud. It called on the people to protest against dirty tactics and to demand accountability on the part of those involved in such schemes.

• Continue working for change in the country’s political system because it fosters the dominance of the dynasties and oligarchs, both in politics and the economy. There must be no let-up in the fight against fascists and plunderers as the next administration comes into power.

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Email: [email protected]


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