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Comelec hears Magdalo group petition as 'regional political group'

Supporters on Thursday hold a banner showing leaders of the Magdalo during a Comelec hearing on a petition to declare the group as a party-list group. Danny Pata
If you can’t beat them, join them. This is exactly what a group of former soldiers involved in a failed bid to topple the Arroyo administration in 2003 has decided to do: give up rebellion and try to effect reforms in the country by joining mainstream politics. The Magdalo Para sa Pagbabago filed a petition with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to be accredited as a regional political group last July 2 with the intention to participate in the party-list elections in the House of Representatives. The Comelec on Thursday began hearing the petition and Magdalo spokesman Ashley Acedillo told GMANews.TV that it could take the poll body “several weeks" to come up with a resolution. Acedillo explained that they were applying not as a “party-list group" but as a “regional political group." “Hindi kami puwedeng tawaging party-list in the sense na hindi naman kami (We can’t be called a party-list group in the sense that we are) ‘marginalized,’ but under the party-list system, groups that are also ‘underrepresented’ can participate. That’s where we belong," he said. Magdalo is said to be supported by 227 volunteer groups nationwide composed of some 19,000 members. Described as a “political and social movement advocating reform and fighting corruption," the Magdalo Para sa Pagbabago was founded by 15 former junior military officers and chaired by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. Trillanes was a lieutenant senior grade in the Philippine Navy who led more than 300 junior officers and soldiers calling themselves the Magdalo in a siege at the posh Oakwood Hotel (now Ascott) in Makati City six years ago. During the standoff, he and his colleagues urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to step down for her alleged failure to curb corruption. The mutineers eventually surrendered and were thrown in jail while facing trial. While in prison, Trillanes ran in the 2007 elections and won a seat in the Senate.

Acedillo said once the Comelec accredits the Magdalo, it will next pursue accreditation as a party-list group. “We were advised to apply first as a regional political group," he said. In a GMA Flash Report, Acedillo said his group was done with pushing for change through armed rebellion and its members would just dip their toes into “mainstream politics" to effect change and introduce alternative candidates. “We are no longer composed of soldiers because we have opened our membership to civilians," he said. Included in the group's platforms, Acedillo said, are the fight against corruption, improvement of the education system in the country, and the achievement of lasting peace in war-ravaged areas in southern Philippines. The Magdalo Group is not the first “rebellious" faction in the military to express interest in participating in the 2010 elections. Detained Army Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim last month announced his intention to run as senator and was allowed a one-day pass to travel to his home province of Nueva Vizcaya to register. [See: Danilo Lim eyes running for president in 2010] Lim is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center at Camp Crame in Quezon City on rebellion charges in connection with the November 2007 siege at the Peninsula Hotel, which he and Trillanes led. He is also facing mutiny charges before a military court for allegedly leading a planned withdrawal of support from President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Feb. 24, 2006. Like Lim, fellow detainee Col. Ariel Querubin has also registered as a voter in La Union as he announced his senatorial bid in the 2010 polls. [See: Detained Col. Querubin now a registered voter in La Union] Querubin, a decorated Marine officer, was detained after figuring in standoff at the Marine headquarters in Fort Bonifactio in 2006. Both Lim and Querubin were founders of the Young Officers Union (YOU), another military group that joined forces with the Rebolusyonaryong Alyansang Makabansa (RAM) headed by then Col. Gregorio Honasan in staging the bloodiest coup attempt in December 1989 against the administration of then President Corazon Aquino. - Mark D. Merueñas, GMANews.TV