Comelec on admin-backed groups: But they passed screening

By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak

Posted at Mar 15 2010 07:09 PM | Updated as of Apr 30 2010 04:35 AM

MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday defended its accreditation of groups allegedly backed by the administration to participate in this year's party-list elections.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters that these groups passed the rigorous process of verification conducted by the poll body, and the public was given enough time to oppose the petitions of these groups. Nobody filed any opposition.

"When parties file for accreditation, the petitions are published. All parties are allowed to file opposition," he said.

Larrazabal was reacting to a letter by an election watchdog questioning the accreditation of 5 groups supposedly backed by the Arroyo administration because of their members' or nominees' ties with the President and her allies.

The letter was addressed to Comelec chair Jose Melo, but copies of it were distributed to Comelec reporters by Renato Reyes, co-convenor of Kontra Daya and secretary-general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), before the group could even meet poll officials.

This prompted Larrazabal to say, "Don't go to the media, go straight to Comelec. File a petition."

Since these groups are already accredited, Larrazabal said "all the people can do is not vote for them" if they are opposed to their supposed links to administration people.

Kontra Daya is complaining about party-list groups Batang Iwas Droga (BIDA), Agbiag Timpuyog Ilocano (AGBIAG), Babae para sa Kaunlaran (BABAE KA), League of Youth for Peace and Development (LYPAD), and Kalahi Advocates for Overseas Filipinos (KALAHI).

The group said that BIDA, as stated in its official website, is the "brainchild" of Ephraim C. Genuino, chair of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR). This is the second accredited group found to be linked to PAGCOR, the other being Bigkis Pinoy Movement (Bigkis). The letter stated that government-adjunct groups are not allowed to run for party-list representation.

The other groups--AGBIAG, BABAE KA, LYPAD, and KALAHI--were supposedly mentioned in a Malacañang memorandum, which provides for a "party-list campaign" to ensure the winning of pro-administration groups.

The group also warned the poll body that the reported nominees of groups Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), 1-United Transport Koalisyon (1-UTAK), and Adhikain ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Maharlika (ADAM) are all administration allies.

AGP is reported to have presidential son, outgoing Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, among its nominees. The younger Arroyo will not seek re-election to give way to her mother's candidacy for the same seat.

1-UTAK is allegedly eyeing Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes as nominee. Reyes has held various positions in the Arroyo Cabinet.

ADAM, on the other hand, has for its first nominee Energy Undersecretary Zamzamin Ampatuan, nephew of former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. The influential Ampatuan clan of Maguindanao is known to be allies of Arroyo.

The groups BIDA, BABAE KA, KALAHI, AGP, and ADAM are among the 160 groups already accredited by Comelec for the party-list elections.

The accreditations of AGBIAG, LYPAD, and 1-UTAK are under appeal, but they have been included in the ballot just in case they are approved. A total of 187 party-list groups are printed on the ballots.

"For the 2010 elections, we can already see a concerted effort on the part of the allies of the Arroyo administration to use the party-list system so that they can remain in power as members of the Congress," the group expressed in their letter.

Larrazabal reminded that appointed officials, such as in the case of Reyes and Ampatuan, are deemed resigned as soon as they accept the nomination of their party-list groups. He added that people "can file a petition against a nominee, but there has to be a basis."

Comelec will accept nomination for party-list representation until March 26. (Newsbreak)