MILITANT groups on Friday said the suspension of the party-list count was a ploy to rig the results to allow pro-administration organizations to win and to ease out vocal critics of President Benigno Aquino III.
“This suspension of the party-list canvass may just be another way of easing out the truly deserving from the party-list elections, especially with the indication of massive fraud being cooked up in the PCOS [precinct count optical scan] machines,” said Kakay Tolentino, secretary general of the Katribu party-list group.
Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano accused the Commission on Elections of being party to an administration plot to oust leftist groups such as the nine organizations under the Makabayan umbrella, which have been critical of President Benigno Aquino III.
“The suspension of canvassing of party-list votes allows more time for vote shaving and padding,” Mariano said. “We are fully aware of the government’s sinister intention to block the entry of progressive party-lists in Congress. The canvassing must resume as soon as possible. The people’s votes must be protected and safeguarded at all times.”
Katribu and Anakpawis are members of Makabayan, along with Bayan Muna, Gabriela, Kabataan, Courage, Migrante, ACT-Teachers, Akap Bata and Piston.
Bayan Muna and Gabriela had won two seats each in this Congress and are the front-runners in the race.
There are 111 party-list groups now vying to win 58 available seats in the House that represents 20 percent of the 250 legislative districts.
In the 15th Congress, there were 236 legislative districts, prompting the House to accommodate 49 party-list groups but Congress has added 14 more districts this year, which entitled the party-list groups to 58 seats.
Of the 285-member House, there were 220 congressmen who belong to the majority coalition led by the ruling party Liberal Party, which has 102 members.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the stalled count would deny representation to sectors for at least a month.
“What is more grating is that the delay is based on mere speculations. The party-list system is entitled to 20 percent of lower house, which is 58 seats in Congress,” Colmenares said.
“We never asked for a suspension of the canvassing of party-list votes, merely for the poll body to abide by its own decision, which became final after five days from notice to the groups without an appeal or motion for reconsideration,” Colmenares said.
Anakpawis staged a rally outside the Philippine International Convention Center where the National Board of Canvassers is convened, demanding that the canvassing of the party-list votes.
“The votes for the senators and the party-list groups are on one ballot. Why can they proclaim winners in the senatorial races but leave the party-list election hanging?” Mariano said.
Tolentino said Katribu sees no credible reason for the Comelec should stop tallying votes for the party-list race while it continues to count votes cast for senators.
The Comelec decided to suspend the canvassing for party-list votes late afternoon of May 14, purportedly because of the inclusion of 12 disqualified groups in the ballot.
“There is no need for the Comelec to stop the party-list count. The Comelec can simply subtract the votes cast for the disqualified groups from the total party-list votes. This is elementary mathematics,” Tolentino said.
She said the Comelec must be made accountable for the glitches, delays, malfunctions, boo-boos, and the reported fraud committed in the recent polls.
Makabayan President Satur Ocampo said the suspension of canvassing of party-list votes and the release of data to the transparency server, together with the numerous instances of malfunctioning PCOS machines and the much delayed transmission of votes make the process “prone to cheating by losing party-list and senatorial candidates.”
Gabriela Rep. Luz Ilagan alleged that with the many vital safeguards removed and reported irregularities, the Comelec is “practically providing the opportunity to cheat.”
Colmenares said the Comelec ruling to suspend the canvassing of party-list votes was highly irregular and would benefit party list groups who are out to tamper election results.
“The decision to delay the canvassing of party-list votes is the latest dirty tactic in the long string of misdeeds that make the results this election questionable. If anything, the delay provides interested parties the opportunity to cheat and boosts suspicion that results are being manipulated and that electronic vote shaving and padding is going on,” Ilagan said.
“The automated elections are feeding the people’s disenchantment with what the Comelec and Aquino tries to portray as a democratic exercise,” she said.
Ocampo vowed the Makabayan group would mount protest actions to put pressure on the Comelec to resume the canvassing.
Also on Friday, an international civil society group that monitored the May 13 mid-term polls recommended the enactment of a law to stop political dynasties.
In a statement, Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections said political dynasties were still a common phenomenon in the provincial and local level in the Philippines.
“We talk to some of them and it’s alarming that they believe it is destiny to serve in public office. Many of these family networks control economic and political power and [do everything] at all cost, including resorting to vote buying and violence, to maintain power,” said observer Geline Avila from the United States.
The group dispatched 30 poll observers to monitor last Monday’s election in selected areas in the country including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Pampanga, Camarines Sur and Masbate. With Joel E. Zurbano