THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS has announced the disqualification of a major party-list organization that currently has three party-list congressmen in the 15th Congress as part of a crackdown on nonqualified party-list candidates.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the Comelec en banc has disqualified the regional party-list group Ako Bicol. Brillantes said Ako Bicol was removed from the list of party-list organizations because it was really a regional political party masquerading as a party-list group representing a marginalized sector.
“We are not allowing that to join the party-list,” Brillantes said. “Para malinis na ang party-list.”
Ako Bicol currently has three representatives in Congress, the maximum number of nominees that a party-list group can take in Congress. These are Reps. Rodel Batocabe, Alfredo Garbin, and Christopher Co. Ako Bicol claims to represent Bicolanos, and has an active website where it announces the activities of its party-list representatives, lists its medical and other missions, and announces school scholarships.
Brillantes said this was a major decision by the Comelec, as the Ako Bicol group has three members of Congress. This was also a clear signal to other political parties that they cannot use the party-list system in order to get a foothold in Congress.
“Marami pang darating na magpapaalam sa party-list,” Brillantes said in a brief talk before reporters, editors, and producers in the seminar workshop held by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism entitled Covering the 2013 elections: Uncovering campaign finance, local power, and governance at the Bayview Hotel.
Brillantes added that Ako Bicol got one of the highest number of votes for a party-list group; 1.3 million votes cast under the party-list system. Under the law, a party-list group that garners at least two percent of all the votes cast under the party-list system is already qualified to have a seat in Congress. Brillantes also said that the representatives of Ako Bicol were all lawyer-businessmen who hardly represent the marginalized sector.
Brillantes also called on Ako Bicol to file its appeal before the Supreme Court, if it does plan to, so that the courts can make a final ruling at the soonest time. Three other sitting party-list groups are also set to be disqualified by the Comelec, Brillantes said.
Brillantes said the Comelec has already received applications for accreditation for 300 party-list groups. Of this number, some 115 party-list applicants have already been shaved off the list. Brillantes says he expects the final list to go down to around 150.
Brillantes added that the Comelec will start imposing strictly election campaign laws.
“We will be very, very strict in all political propaganda,” Brillantes said. “Para makabawi naman ng kaunti ang mahihirp na kandidato, para hindi masyadong lumamang ang may maraming pera.”