Migrante: Comelec ‘tool of repression’

MANILA, Philippines – An activist migrant workers’ organization dubbed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) a “tool for political repression and electoral fraud” and asked the Supreme Court to act quickly on its petition against the poll body’s rejection of its and other leftist groups’ applications for accreditation to run as party-list groups in the May 2010 elections.

In a statement, Migrante also called for the dismissal of Comelec chairman Jose Melo and other election commissioners “for their bastardization of the party-list system.”

On the other hand, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) and Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (Courage), the two other groups whose applications for accreditation were rejected, said the Comelec was wrong in saying they had failed to prove nationwide membership.

The two groups claimed the Comelec’s regional offices had submitted their reports to the poll body’s central office in Intramuros, Manila before their provincial and regional chapters could submit proof of their existence.

“By the time na nag-susubmit ang mga chapters namin sa regional office, napasa ng mga regional elections officers ang kanilang mga reports (By the time our chapters made their representation to the regional offices, the election officers have already submitted their reports to the central office),” ACT chairman Antonio Tinio said.

Lisa Artajo of Courage said: “Sabay kami nagpapasa ng mga dokumento ng ACT. Ganun ang naging problema namin (We made our representation to the regional offices along with ACT. That was the problem).”

Migrante petitioned the high court on November 20 for a temporary restraining order against the Comelec’s decision to remove it from the roster of party-list groups.

ACT and Courage are expected to submit their petitions in the coming week.

The Comelec decision was also assailed by leftist lawmakers.

Gabriela Representative Liza Maza called the poll body’s move a “systematic attack against legitimate and progressive parties…Comelec is apparently denying the constitutionally mandated right of the marginalized sectors to be represented in the legislature.”

On the other hand, Kabataan Representative Raymond Palatino pointed out that ACT and Courage existed long before the party-list law was enacted. “We have worked and collaborated with them on various campaigns and issues nationwide. We, our members and chapters in the regions, together with other existing progressive party-list groups can vouch for their national constituency,” he said.

Courage, founded in 1986, claims a membership of 200 unions with 300,000 individual members nationwide, while ACT, established in 1982, counts teachers, mostly from public elementary and high schools, and in some state universities and colleges, as members.

Migrante [party-list], which was founded in 2004 and ran but failed to win a House seat that year, claims to have more than 100 affiliate organizations from more than 80 countries.

“The Filipino people cannot trust the Comelec to hold clean and honest elections, when it has already shown an obvious bias against party-list groups known to be critical of the administration,” Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante chair, said.

She also accused the Comelec of “twisting the law and outright lying” when it delisted Migrante from the roster of party-lists and disqualified ACT and Courage.

Regalado said the Comelec’s verification of Courage chapters “came out with an incorrect report that failed to recognize existing chapters and attributed to them non-existing ones. In Migrante’s case, it equated non-participation in the elections to failure to obtain 2% of total party-list votes.”

But while confident that the Supreme Court would decide in Migrante’s favor, Regalado worried that the decision may come too late to beat the December 1 deadline for the filing of manifestations of intent to run.

Courage, for its part, has launched a nationwide signature campaign to press the Comelec to allowing it tto run in the elections.

Its petition, posted on the Courage website, said: “The Comelec should have done its homework and opened their eyes to really see that COURAGE PARTYLIST has members in Region 1,Central Luzon, Southern Luzon, National Capital Region, Bikol Region, Regions 6, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 12, CARAGA and ARMM.”

“There is no doubt of its national constituency. Only an institution who would rather heed the voice of those in power than the voices of the marginalized would see otherwise,” it said. Election commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the disqualified groups are “free to file their for motions for reconsideration” within five days after the release of the Comelec resolution. (with a report from Noel Barcelona) – Article first appeared at Dateline Philippines.