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Sanlakas, 3 other party-lists allowed to run in 2013 polls; 4 axed

(Updated 5:41 p.m.) The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has allowed Sanlakas – the party-list group of United Nationalist Alliance spokesperson JV Bautista – and three other groups to run in next year's elections. Four others, however, were disqualified. Aside from Sanlakas, joining the list of 79 others who were earlier allowed to run in the May 2013 elections are:
  • 1-Abilidad
  • Ating Guro
  • AWAT-Mindanao (Anti War / Anti Terror Mindanao Peace Movement)
Brillantes said it took the poll body some time to accredit Sanlakas because it belatedly found out that the group participated in the 2007 elections.   “Hindi namin nakita na originally may congressman na ito, tapos tumigil noong 2006 to 2007. Tumigil noong 2010 elections. New applicant pala ito for 2013. Tiningnan pa namin ‘yung records,” he said. Sanlakas was disqualified in the 2010 elections for failing to garner two percent of all votes cast in the preceding two elections, as stated in the Omnibus Election Code. It garnered only 0.62 percent of the votes in 2007, and 1.5 percent in 2004. Bautista, on the other hand, is a defeated senatorial candidate in 2010 and a current gubernatorial bet in Nueva Ecija. He was also Sanlakas representative in 2004.   Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said Sanlakas can re-apply for a party-list bid since the period covering two preceding elections has lapsed. "Militant left"   He added that Sanlakas, as a multi-sectoral group, has similar nature with groups Bayan Muna and Akbayan for being “militant left.”   “Kumbaga, coming from limbo rin. Underground rin ito. Ang isa sa mga behind Sanlakas ay sina Popoy Lagman. It is another stream of the militant left,” Sarmiento told GMA News Online. Filomeno “Popoy” Lagman was a former party leader in the Communist Party of the Philippines before he and his allies broke off from the group due to political differences. He was shot dead in 2001, allegedly by a New People’s Army breakaway group, at the Bahay ng Alumni in the University of the Philippines Diliman. “Let them participate in mainstream politics. Let them come out of limbo. Ito ‘yung nasa epilogue ng ‘Ang Bagong Bayani,’” he added, citing a 2001 Supreme Court ruling Ang Bagong Bayani vs. Comelec that said underground groups may participate in the party-list elections. Advocacy group Meanwhile, Brillantes said party-list group AWAT-Mindanao is controversial because it was approved even when it is mainly an advocacy group.   “Medyo controversial ‘yung sa AWAT Mindanao. It’s an advocacy against war and terrorism,” he said.   The poll body previously disqualified Black and White Movement – a group believed to be allied with President Benigno Aquino III and whose known member is presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda – for being merely an advocacy group. It disqualified Kalikasan and Greenforce groups for being merely advocacy groups for the environment.   But Commissioner Elias Yusoph said groups with an advocacy are allowed in Republic Act 7941 or the party-list system law.   “Advocacy is one of those included in the party-list law. It’s not only an advocacy group… but it has also proven that there is a track record,” Yusoph told GMA News Online, referring to AWAT Mindanao.   Among the groups that have been given the green light to participate in the party-list race were the supposedly pro-administration Akbayan, the left-leaning Bayan Muna, and militant transport group PISTON. Disqualified On the other hand, those recently disqualified were groups representing barangay officials, household helpers, persons with disabilities and urban poor:
  • 1-Kasambahay,
  • Aasenso Barangay,
  • Alay-Akay (Ang Alyansa Laban Sa Pang-aapi Sa May Kapansanan at Pang-aabuso sa Likas na Yaman)
  • Urban Poor Development Services
The Comelec has axed eight incumbent groups and a little over 150 existing and new others. The number of party-lists allowed to run could still increase as the Comelec awaits the decision of the Supreme Court regarding the reprieve it officially granted to 17 disqualified party-list groups. But Brillantes said the reprieved groups could increase to 33 or more by the time the high court will have its last session on December 11.   This means from the approved 84 groups so far, the party-list derby next year would more likely see no less than 110 groups participating, the poll chief said.   “Palagay ko marami pang aakyat niyan. Madadagdagan pa siguro ‘yun,” Brillantes said. Poll watchdogs such as the Kontra Daya and the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms criticized Comelec for keeping the list of groups to a little over a hundred, when Comelec previously promised to include only about 50 groups.( Brillantes insisted that their initial target is about 150 groups, but Sarmiento revealed that Brillantes initially promised 50 groups to be accredited, eventually ballooning to about 80 to 100 groups. “Nabitawan ata ni chairman na mga around 50… Pero mga 80 to 100 ‘yan,” he said. The party-list system, legislated under Republic Act 7941, aims to open the halls of Congress to the marginalized and underrepresented. — KBK, GMA News