Monday, July 02, 2012

‘Fixers’ In Comelec


MANILA, Philippines — Militant partylist groups on Sunday sought a legislative inquiry into reports that partylist accreditations are being sold to the highest bidder by “fixers” at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Javier Colmenares and Teddy Casiño filed House Resolution 2460 that will direct appropriate House committees to look into claims by Danton Remoto, a member of Ladlad partylist, that fixers are selling partylist accreditations for over P1 million.

Remoto reportedly pointed to unnamed lawyers in the Comelec as being involved in the racket.

Remoto is the partylist nominee of Ladlad, which the Comelec 2nd Division recently disqualified from participating in the 2013 elections.

In calling for an inquiry, Colmenares also noted the case of a certain Joel Mendez who was allegedly offered to become a nominee of any two party-list groups already accredited by the Comelec for a price.

He said Mendez was offered to pay P5 million for a 2nd nominee slot and P2 million for a 3rd nominee slot.

He also cited a 2010 newspaper article that reported the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) arresting suspected members of a Comelec syndicate involved in the sale of accreditation papers.

“This issue of bribery must not be left in limbo. The integrity of our party-list system must be protected,” Colmenares said.

Colmenares said that in the absence of a full investigation on the alleged cases of bribery, doubts are inevitably cast on the integrity of Comelec in upholding the intent of the party-list system to ensure that only qualified party-lists are allowed to join the elections.

Citing a study of the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, Colmenares said of the 57 nominees from 43 party-lists in the 15th Congress, 12 are members of political clans, while 9 are affiliated with or are openly endorsed by religious groups.

Colmenares said 79 percent of the party-list groups were classified as “traditional” or those having links with traditional political forces, administration, political clans, big business and emerging religious dynasties.

Citing a 2001 decision in Bayan Muna versus the Comelec (G.R. No. 147613), Colmenares noted that the Supreme Court stated that a party-list group “must not be an adjunct of or an entity funded or assisted by the government.”

He said the court also stated that not only must the candidate party or organization represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors, its nominees must themselves also belong to marginalized sector of society.

“Since 1998 there have been lots of attempts to corrupt the system by so-called bogus or pseudo party-lists which were able to worm their way through the screening process of the Comelec and some have even been victorious in acquiring congressional seats,” Colmenares said.

Casiño asked the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to review Comelec’s imposition of the P10,000 fee for the filing of disqualification.

Casiño said the Comelec resolution charging a soaring filing fee of P10,000 becomes an additional deterrent for any ordinary citizen and legitimate group or organization, especially those from the marginalized and underrepresented to help weed out fake party-list groups who may again bribe their way into the party-list system.

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