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Ex-Red groups tag Makabayan party-lists as CPP fronts, seek their disqualification

After the battle among the progressive organizations represented by party-list Akbayan and youth organization Anakbayan, another rift is developing, this time between the militants and the groups of former Red rebels. The groups—which include People’s Advocacy for Collaboration and Empowerment (PEACE), New Guardians for Freedom and Democracy, and the First Philippine Pro-Democracy Foundation Inc.—have submitted a letter to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) seeking the disqualification of the Makabayan Coalition's militant party-list groups from the elections next year. The party-list groups are Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Anakpawis, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan, and Katribu. According to PEACE president Agnes Lopez, the groups are fronts for the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), its armed wing New People’s Army (NPA) and their negotiating panel the National Democratic Front (NDF). The rebel returnee groups went on to say that the Makabayan groups with sitting representatives in Congress were channeling their P70-million pork barrel to fund the NPA. “How can party-list groups that support the overthrow of the government and the country’s political system be allowed to participate in the party-list elections?” Lopez said in an e-mailed statement. “If the Comelec can disqualify fake and bogus partylists then it should likewise disqualify communist partylists…. The Bayan Muna consortium continues to enjoy a close relationship with the CPP-NPA in clear violation of the law," Lopez added. In their letter addressed to Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr., the groups said the militant party-lists were “fronting for the CPP-NPA-NDF and thus are representing the latter’s interest/s and intentions yet dubiously presenting themselves to the Filipino people as representatives of bonafide sectoral organizations, e.g. pro-people, women, labor, teachers, youth and students, indigenous people.” They cited a video of CPP founder Jose Maria Sison calling the Makabayan coalition groups as the “legal democratic forces” in the protracted communist insurgency that is now the longest-running in Asia. Sison is currently in asylum in Netherlands. Republic Act 7941, or the party-list law, states that a party-list group will be disqualified if it “advocates violence or unlawful means to achieve its goal.” ‘Lumang tugtugin’ Reached for comment, Makabayan president Satur Ocampo said the party-list system also allows for members of the underground to join the parliament. According to a 2001 Supreme Court decision Bagong Bayani vs.  Comelec, the party-list system “invites those marginalized and underrepresented in the past—the farm hands, the fisher folk, the urban poor, even those in the underground movement—to come out and participate, as indeed many of them came out and participated during the last elections.” “The social justice principle of the party-list intends to provide opportunities for the marginalized sectors, mainly including those from the underground so that they may participate,” Ocampo told GMA News Online. Ocampo, one of the founders of the NDF, said the poll body in past elections has rejected disqualification cases against them for being communist fronts. “All these groups that are seeking our disqualification on that basis are wasting the time of the Comelec. They are recycling an old charge that has been repeatedly dismissed by the Comelec… Lumang tugtugin na ‘yan,” Ocampo said. For their part, Comelec first division commissioner Rene Sarmiento said their documents do not show that the Makabayan groups advocate violence. “If you check the records, walang ganoon. When they testified before us during the hearing, they opted for parliamentary struggle… that they are seeking changes through peaceful means,” Sarmiento said, adding that it would be difficult to prove that these groups were funding the CPP. The commissioner added that they would not disqualify a party-list group based on ideology. “There are allegations that are being printed in the papers… that they are fronts of this and that. Will this be a factor? I don’t think ideology will be a factor in our resolution,” Sarmiento said. The party-list law also defines a party-list group as being a sectoral or political party advocating an ideology or platform. The Makabayan group’s bitter rival Akbayan is also facing two disqualification cases before the poll body, separately filed by Anakbayan, League of Filipino Students, among other militant groups; and Kontra Daya, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, among others. Akbayan meanwhile denied that they are affiliated with the former rebels’ groups. — BM, GMA News