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Despite Comelec purge, 2013 party-list race to be dominated by rich and influential

Despite the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) aggressive purging of party-list hopefuls seeking congressional seats in the 2013 elections, some groups linked to individuals who can hardly be described as belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented were able to make it to the list. No less than Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. had expressed disappointment with the list, even saying that if he could have his way, he'd rather that the party-list system be “abolished.” "I am not satisfied, if you're going to ask me,” Brillantes said Thursday. “Ako mismo, gusto ko sana i-abolish lahat 'yan para wala nang eleksyon na party-list.” Brillantes suggested starting from scratch. “Para magbago na tayo, magsimula na tayo ng panibagong batas," he said, referring to Republic Act 7941, which legislated the party-list mechanism of representation enshrined in the Constitution. For his part, Commissioner Rene Sarmiento admitted that the Comelec is not perfect in their decision-making. "We respect 'yung decision ng aming kasamahan dahil that is our honest and mutual belief. May respetuhan naman," he said.  He, however, added that the poll body has tried its best in purging the system of bogus party-lists. "May kaunting blemish kasi decision-making maraming factors na kino-consider. But we tried our best to be faithful sa standards ng batas," Sarmiento said. A cursory look at the partial list would show that the party-list scenario next year features groups affiliated with government officials, millionaires, and well-entrenched political families. The incumbent groups: Abono Party-list The group claiming to represent the farmers' sector has fielded nominees affiliated with the Estrella family of Pangasinan and the Ortegas of La Union. For the 2013 elections, the group nominated Conrado M. Estrella III, who was Pangasinan sixth district representative from 1987 to 1995. Conrado is also the brother of incumbent representative Robert Raymond Estrella. Meanwhile, the second nominee, Francisco Emmanuel R. Ortega III, who is Abono's incumbent representative, belongs to a family of politicians in La Union. His father, Manuel Ortega, is the current governor of La Union while his uncle, Victor Francisco, is the incumbent La Union first district representative. Bagong Henerasyon The party-list group claiming to represent the urban poor, women and elderly has nominated their incumbent representative Bernadette Herrera-Dy, who served as Quezon City councilor for nine years. She is also a known ally of former President and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Its second nominee is Bernadette's husband, Edgar Allan Dy. Ang Asosasyon Sang Mangunguma Nga Bisaya-Owa Mangunguma, Inc. The group claiming to represent the Iloilo region nominated its incumbent representative Sharon Garin, sister of Janette Garin, the incumbent representative of the Iloilo's first district. Abante Mindanao The Mindanaoan group fielded Maximo Rodriguez, brother of Cagayan de Oro second district Rep. Rufus Rodriguez. Ang Kasangga The group representing microentrepreneurs has nominated its incumbent representative Teodorico Haresco, chair of Winsource Solutions, a service provider for call center agencies and other business process outsourcing companies. Haresco is the third richest party-list representative in the 15th Congress as of 2011, with a net worth of P92.8 million. Association of Laborers and Employment The supposedly labor group has a multi-millionaire as their representative for the next elections: Catalina Bagasina, who is its incumbent representative, has a net worth of P133.9 million as of 2011, and had served as mayor of Sasmuan, Pampanga from 2001 to 2009. Citizens' Battle Against Corruption CIBAC, which claims to be an anti-corruption group, is led by Emmanuel Joel J.Villanueva, the director of Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and is the son of Jesus is Lord founder Bro. Eddie Villanueva, a defeated presidential candidate in the 2010 elections. CIBAC's second nominee is Sherwin Tugna, son-in-law of the JIL founder. Una ang Pamilya The group advocating the development of the family has nominated Romeo Prestoza, Arroyo’s former Presidential Security Group chief.  Its third nominee is their incumbent representative Reena Obillo, who served as senior program officer of the Department of Agrarian Reform from 1988 to 2001. Ang Laban ng Indigong Filipino The group claiming to represent indigenous peoples nominated Abdul Tomawis as their representative. He is the son of incumbent representaitve AcmadTomawis, who has been ALIF representative since 2004. Buhay Hayaang Yumabong The group is represented by Mariano Michael Velarde, son of El Shaddai founder Mike Velarde. Even when the Supreme Court ruling Ang Bagong Bayani vs Comelec supposedly prohibits religious  groups from participating in the party-list elections, Brillantes said the commission decided that Buhay is not a religious party-list. Michael Velarde is also the 10th richest party-list representative as of 2011, with a net worth of P53 million. Kasosyo Producer-Consumer Exchange Association, Inc. The group representing producers and consumers has fielded Nasser Pangandaman as first nominee. Pangandaman served as Agrarian Reform secretary from 2007 to 2009. Arts Business and Science Professionals The professional-sector group has nominated its incumbent representative Catalina Leonen-Pizarro, wife of Court of Appeals Justice Normandie Pizarro and is the 13th richest party-list representative as of 2011 with a net worth of P40.375 million. Agbiag! Timpuyog Ilocano, Inc. The Ilocano group has nominated its incumbent represetative Patricio Antonio, who served as Cagayan first district representative from 1992 to 1995. Existing party-list groups: Ang Mata'y Alagaan The group claiming to represent blind indigents has nominated members of the family of Supreme Court associate justice Presbitero Velasco — first nominee is wife Lorna Velasco; second and third nominees are his children, Tricia Nicole Velasco-Catera and Vincent Michael Velasco. Brillantes said they accredited the group because two of the Velascos withdrew from the group. New groups: Abante Retirees The party-list group for the elderly has fielded as their first nominee Plaridel Abaya, who served as congressman of  first district of Cavite from 1995 to 2005 and is the father of Transportation and Communications Secretary Jun Abaya. 1-Joint Alliance of Marginalized Group The group has fielded Homer Mercado, who was 1-UTAK representative before resigning earlier this year. Mercado is the fifth richest party-list representative as of 2011 with networth of P65 million and the owner of HM Transport Corp., a bus company that bore his initials. — KBK, GMA News