JULY 2005

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Editor's Note

Featured Stories

The Unmaking of the President

by Sheila S. Coronel
Mrs. Arroyo is reaping the consequences of the damage she has wrought on key institutions.

The Tangled Tale of the Tapes
There appears to be more comedy than cunning in the release of the "Garci" tapes.

Bye, Bye Love
Gloria and Mike complement, but also compete with, each other.

Despite Susan, The Opposition is not Quite Smelling Like Roses
by Luz Rimban
Mrs. Poe is the best thing that has ever happened to a splintered and discredited opposition.

Pondering Plans B to G
A whole range of options is being offered as a way out of the current mess.

Who Really Won in 2004?
by Yvonne T. Chua
The experts say the fight was so close it was a statistical dead heat.

The Comelec's Fall from Grace
by Alecks P. Pabico
The questionable credentials and integrity of commissioners have wrecked the election body.

Sins of the Commission
Scandals have hounded the Comelec for years.

Master Operator
by Sheila S. Coronel
The man whose voice is heard on The Tapes is an expert in election fraud.

Working 'Miracles' in Mindanao
by Yvonne T. Chua
The "Garci" recording gives clues on how the cheating was done in the South.

Statistically Improbable
The result of the elections in some Mindanao towns challenges credulity.

Messing with the Party List
by Luz Rimban
Favored party-list groups got more than a little help from the Comelec fraud squad.

Shame and Scandal in the Family
The Arroyos have weathered allegations that range from keeping secret bank accounts to getting money from illegal gambling.

Blogging Gloria
by Alecks P. Pabico
Ringtones, bootlegged CDs, and blogs are the new weapons of resistance.

Writings on the (Democracy) Wall
Filipinos have never been shy about speaking out, especially in turbulent times.

The Non(Musical): A Program Guide
There really is only one Garci recording, but several versions of it have been released. A full transcript and a list of the cast of characters in The Tapes is in this issue.

Gloriagate: The Jokes
Filipinos deal with crisis with an unflagging sense of humor.

Messing with the Party List

Favored party-list groups got more than a little help from the Comelec fraud squad.


STRUGGLING FOR RECOGNITION. Party-list groups like Bayan Muna, whose members are shown here, in an anti-U.S. rally, are taking a crack at electoral politics. [photos courtesy of Malaya]
PITY party-list organizations. Although Republic Act 7941 reserves 20 percent of House seats for these groups, which are supposed to be from marginalized sectors whose interests are not represented in Congress, the reality is that it is difficult for them to win votes. That's because Filipinos are still mostly uninformed about the party-list process and the Commission on Elections has done nothing in terms of a voter-awareness campaign to remedy the situation.

Based on the Garci tapes, however, it now seems that some party-list groups that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo supported may have been counting on help from no less than a Comelec commissioner himself. In several instances, Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was heard discussing the chances of at least five party-list groups getting seats in Congress: VFP (Veterans' Freedom Party), ALIF (Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino), ANAD (Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy), SMILE (Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Ikauunlad ng Lokal na Ekonomiya) and TUCP' (Trade Union Congress Party).

"These were all publicly endorsed by GMA," says Ronald Llamas, national president of Akbayan, another party-list group. "They are all identified with GMA. There are no anti-GMA among the party-list groups mentioned in the tapes."

Two of these groups have already been proclaimed winners and are currently holding seats in the House of Representatives; Ernesto Guidaya represents the VFP, while Acmad Tomawis represents ALIF. The Cornelec is also expected to proclaim ANAD as another winner, meaning its first nominee, ex-communist-turned-vigilante Jun Alcover, will soon have a seat in Congress.

The VFP was proclaimed ahead of ALIF, having been among the 15 party-list organizations declared as winners by the Comelec on June 2, 2004. Sitting as the national board of canvassers for the party-list elections, ihe Comelec proclaimed 15 organizations as winners, resulting in 23 party-list representatives. But this was only a partial proclamation. At that time, the Comelec said it was suspending the canvass as it was still awaiting a final Certificate of Canvass from the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

The next day, June 3, Garcillano is recorded as having called up someone named Lyn and telling her, "Ipaalala mo kay Romy meron silang reward niyan pero 'wag maingay...Meron pa kasing isa pa sana kung pupuwede pero hindi ko alam meron silang ikakuwan, 'yung SMILE din ke kuwan pa naman 'yan, sa kaibigan diyan sa tabi. Pero 'yung isa sigurado na 'yun...Pagkatapos ng kuwan, tatanungin ko pa 'yung isa. (Remind Romy they have a reward but that they should keep silent...There's still another one that could be included] but I don't know if they have...and then there's SMILE, which is our friend's. But one's already for sure...Later, I'm going to ask about the other one.)" SMILE, which represents small and medium-scale businesses, including vendors and service providers, had former bastketball star Ramon Fernandez as a nominee.

Five days later, a certain Ruben called up Garcillano, asking, "Papaano 'yimg ano natin, sa party list (so how's our, you know, in the party list)?" The commissioner replied he could not do anything yet because "wala pang usapan ang mga tao tungkol diyan (there hasn't been talk about that yet)." But Ruben pressed on, asking specifically about TUCP and ANAD. TUCP is the party-list arm of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, which has had its former secretary-general, Ernesto 'Boy' Herrera, become senator in the past.

Garcillano told Ruben that doing anything would be difficult because the proclamation of party-list winner was over and expressed concern about being too aggressive in pushing forward "favored" groups '"yung mga malapit" since they could be noticed. Ruben then reminded him that the organizations he mentioned were "malapit 'yan ha kesa sa SMILE (they are more favored than SMILE)."

A few minutes after this conversation, Garcillano accepted another call that turned out to be about the VFP. The caller, an unidentified man, wanted to know if there was a chance the group could have another representative aside from Guidaya. Garcillano again said the proclamation was over, bul like Ruben die caller was insistent. Garcillano finally said that the number of votes garnered by the group had already been recorded and official; the implication was the figures could no longer be played around with.

Exactly a week later, on June 14, Garcillano accepted a call from another unidentified man who asked when something would be clone about "the party list." The commissioner replied that he was still working on it, but that "ang mauna siguro iyong ALIF. Pero gusto ko masabay-sabay (ALIF could be first. But I would want them proclaimed all at the same time)."

As it turned out. the Comelec did proclaim ALIF as a winner. But other party-list groups have since questioned that act. They note that ALIF was proclaimed alone, separate from the first batch, and ahead of another expected batch that to this day is waiting to be proclaimed. Why, the groups ask, did ALIF get special treatment? How did it get in, while other party-list organizations are still wailing for either their first or second nominees to be proclaimed?

As far as other party-list organizations are concerned, VFP, ALIF, and ANAD are among those vested interests seeking entry to Congress through a backdoor that has made a mockery of the party-list system. Long before the Garcillano conversations were made public, the party-list group Partido Manggagawa (PM) had already sought the disqualification of eight party-list organizations, including VFP, ALIF and ANAD, on the grounds that these did not meet the criteria for accreditation.

Had the Comelec been stricter in screening party-list candidates, these groups would not have had a chance in running in the elections. VFP is a reincarnation of the Veterans' Federation of the Philippines, a group previously disqualified from the party-list contest because it was an entity supported by the government. It changed its name to Veterans' Freedom Party less than a year before the elections. Its representative Guidaya was in fact a retired military man who used to head the Philippine Veterans' Affairs Office (PVAO), an agency under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

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