Akbayan case: a test for Comelec’s integrity
THE DISQUALIFICATION of Akbayan as a party-list group is a litmus test for the Commission on Elections’ integrity and independence from President Aquino. Its reasons for disqualifying Ako Bicol, which garnered the biggest number of votes in 2010, and 12 others apply more to this rent-a-demonstrator outfit. It can’t have one standard for Mr. Aquino’s party-list group and another for others.
Consider the following. First, Akbayan’s list of those who bankrolled its 2010 campaign shows that more than 90 percent of its funds came from a small group consisting of Mr. Aquino’s sisters and cousins as well as his big-business supporters (see my column last week).
Then note that Akbayan members are always, always, the street demonstrators and complainants in court suits pursuing Mr. Aquino’s enemies. The only conclusion one can rationally arrive at is that this gang is the political equivalent of a yellow union pretending mass support for Mr. Aquino’s witch-hunts.
I had hoped Akbayan could explain why its donors included a dead man and a pro-Cojuangco barangay chair who each ostensibly donated P500,000. Instead, Akbayan, through a dummy, replied to my column last week by idiotic kill-the-messenger blah-blahs and inane conspiracy theories.
Because of space limitations, I couldn’t report the other questionable donors to Akbayan who appear to be either fictitious names or fronts for Mr. Aquino’s money.
The sum of P5.2 million was purportedly from “membership dues.” This is a huge amount that would even be difficult for the Liberal Party to raise from “membership dues.” Impossible for Akbayan, in which such dues are a token P1 per month per member.
Akbayan listed persons who gave substantial sums but whose residences do not indicate any financial capacity to do so. Among these: Jorge Bernardo of Morong, Rizal, ostensibly gave P1 million; Romeo Tomelden, Las Piñas, P500,000; Romeo Moralina of Dasmariñas, Cavite, P500,000; Mark Angelo Reyes of Taytay, P500,000; Alexander M. Cruz of Antipolo, P1.5 million; Lolita Chua of Zamboanga City, P3 million; Teodoro Camacho III, mayor of Balanga, Bataan, in 1968-1987, purportedly donated a whopping P8 million—the biggest donor next to Kris Aquino (P10 million) and even bigger than sisters Viel (P2 million) and Ballsy (P2 million). NGO activists for most of their working lives, where would Joel Rocamora and Walden Bello get P2.5 million to give Akbayan?
If these donors are authentic, then we have missed an earth-shaking phenomenon in Philippine society. Ordinary lower-middle-class Filipinos, even a provincial town mayor and a TV celebrity known to be disinterested in social crusades, are donating huge amounts of money to a tiny socialist party. I beg them to e-mail me to explain why, which will uplift my fate in humanity.
If they can’t, the Comelec should determine if Akbayan lied on its donors. If it did, its treasurer Arlene Santos and the purported donors are liable for perjury as they submitted notarized sworn statements claiming the donations. If they are authentic, then the Bureau of Internal Revenue should demonstrate its nonpartisanship in pursuing these obvious tax evaders.
Akbayan clearly fails in the Comelec and the Supreme Court’s criteria for legitimate entities for the party-list system. In disqualifying the 13 groups, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes explained that the main reason for its decision was that a party-list has to “represent a specific marginalized sector.” A legitimate party-list group can’t even claim multiple sectors, but just one sector, Brillantes explained.
Akbayan itself has never claimed to represent—nor could it ever with its namby-pamby leaders—any particular marginalized sector. The Supreme Court (G.R. No. 147589) had even emphasized that a party-list group “must show—through its constitution… that it represents marginalized and underrepresented sectors.” No such declaration in Akbayan’s constitution, which merely declares that it is a “national political party adhering to participatory socialism” (Section 4), and that it represents “Filipinos, guided by principles of democracy, etc. etc.” (Preamble).
The Court also emphasized that a party-list entity “must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government.” Akbayan has been without a doubt Mr. Aquino’s tool which his camp reportedly continues to fund. More than a dozen of its leaders are in key posts in his administration.
If the Comelec does not disqualify Akbayan, then Marcos’ KBL, Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masa, Angara’s LDP and similar national parties could very well field candidates in the party-list system to get their people easily into Congress.
The independence of the seven-man Comelec from Mr. Aquino was put under serious doubt when Brillantes made it the President’s tool to pursue a flimsy electoral-sabotage case against former President Arroyo, entirely based on the obviously fabricated hearsay testimony of a Maguindanao massacre suspect. Commissioner Rene Sarmiento hasn’t given up his dream of being a Supreme Court justice, after being rejected by Mr. Aquino in August for the chief justice post. Appointed last April, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim led the “Aquino-Roxas Bantay Balota” group. The newest member, former radio commentator and Isabela governor Grace Padaca—the only nonlawyer in the commission—even owes her temporary freedom to the money Mr. Aquino gave to bail her out from a corruption charge.
That leaves only three out of the seven commissioners—Armando Velasco, Elias Yusoph, and Lucenito Tagle—likely to refuse Mr. Aquino’s bidding. But Brillantes hasn’t anything to lose at this time of his life, and he could still save the Comelec from being another yellow tool.