Palace denies hand in party-list purge

By Alexis Romero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 03 2012 12:26 AM | Updated as of Nov 03 2012 08:26 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang yesterday denied allegations of a poll watchdog group that it is influencing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in the latter’s effort to cleanse the party-list system.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte maintained that contrary to allegations of Kontra Daya, the executive has nothing to do with the actions of the Comelec.

“That’s not true. At least, from the side of the Palace, we’re not influencing anybody,” Valte said in a press briefing aired over radio station dzRB in answer to Kontra Daya’s allegation.

Kontra Daya has also accused Akbayan party-list of enjoying undue advantage over other party-list groups, considering that some of its members hold high positions in the government, including Commission on Human Rights chair Loretta Rosales, Political Affairs Adviser Ronald Llamas and National Anti-Poverty Commission Secretary Joel Rocamora.

Another Akbayan member, Risa Hontiveros, is part of the administration coalition’s senatorial slate.

Militant groups have asked the Comelec to disqualify Akbayan, saying the group already enjoys the support of the government and thus cannot be considered marginalized.

Critics of Akbayan also pointed out that President Aquino’s sisters Kris, Viel and Ballsy had even donated P14 million to the group two years ago.

Akbayan, however, insists that it has championed the interest of the poor and has advocated social issues like the extension of agrarian reform and the cheaper medicine law.

In a statement, Kontra Daya convenor Fr. Joe Dizon said Comelec should not give in to the pressures of Malacanang, which he accused of defending groups with questionable qualifications.

“Comelec should stand firm on its decision to clean the party-list system. If they do their job, they will get the overwhelming support of the people. If they cave in to the pressures coming from Malacañang, then this will severely affect their credibility,” Dizon said. “Malacañang should not interfere in this process,” he added.

Dizon also chided Palace officials for supposedly defending Akbayan and other groups perceived as allies of the administration.

“There could be pressure being brought to bear on the Comelec. At the very least, comments by the President himself are just improper,” Dizon said.

“We hope Malacañang will not pressure its appointees to vote to uphold Aquino’s favored party-list groups,” he added.

Meanwhile, Malacañang is distancing itself from appeals for Comelec to disqualify militant organizations with communist links.

“We do not know who they (militant groups) will blame next (for the disqualification calls) but certainly, we are not behind it,” Valte said.

Earlier, groups claiming to be “pro-democracy” asked the Comelec to bar “communist party-list groups” from joining the 2013 polls, saying the latter espouse violence and are in partnership with the New People’s Army.

The New Guardians for Freedom and Democracy, People’s Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment and Pro Democracy Foundation of the Philippines want the Comelec to disqualify Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan, and Katribu Indigenous Peoples Sectoral Party.