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Change is coming, they say. Thus change must also come to the annual SONA of the President. Only July 25, President Rodrigo R. Duterte is set to deliver his first State of the Nation Address. Here are some ways this year’s SONA can be different and meaningful.

  1. We agree with the President. Let’s stop the SONA red carpet and fashion show. There is something terribly wrong when paid public servants strut around in designer gowns and suits, at work, while ordinary folks struggle to make ends meet.

 

 

  1. Do away with the overkill security measures. Security for SONA 2015 seemed to rival the security for the Holy Father Pope Francis’ visit, except that those being protected inside Batasan were anything but holy. The security measures of the past were a waste of public resources and a terrible inconvenience on commuters and motorists. Every year, Commonwealth Avenue is turned into a war zone because of the presence of thousands of policemen, backed up by soldiers, container vans, razor-sharp concertina wires and firetrucks.
  2. Let the people near Batasan. It’s a matter of Constitutional right. Absent any evidence of clear and present danger, there is no reason to block rallyists from getting near the SONA venue. This is also the simplest solution to the problem of heavy traffic. By allowing people to gather along Batasan Road, government can open up Commonwealth Avenue. Commuters will thank, instead of curse government.

  1. No more gimmicks, please. Gloria Arroyo had her bangkang papel. Noynoy Aquino had his AVP’s and constant blaming of GMA. These don’t amount to much in terms of solutions. People want to hear about concrete programs to solve poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment, lack of sovereignty, human rights and so on. Answers and programs, not just sound bytes for the evening news.
  2. Keep it real. It’s called State of the Nation Address. It’s supposed to reflect our current situation. To the President’s speech writers, don’t sugarcoat it. Don’t tell us how far we’ve come and how great life is. Don’t give us statistics on the so-called growth that’s not really felt by most. Don’t bombard us about improved credit ratings and other stats  that don’t mean squat to the poor. Give us the ugly truth so that concrete solutions can be found. We’d rather have an honest SONA than one that reads like a script for Encantadia.

The current president made many firsts during his inauguration. He had no problem breaking tradition. Let’s hope he does the same for his first SONA.

Magra-rally pa ba kayo?

Posted: June 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

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Ilang beses kong nabasa ang tanong na ito matapos i-anunsyo ang pagkakatalaga ng ilang mga progresibo sa susunod na Duterte administration. Dalawa sa mga progresibo ang hahawak sa DAR at DSWD. Tinuturing na mga progresibo din ang hahawak ng DOLE at DepEd.

 

Sa ganitong kalagayan, magra-rally pa ba ang Kaliwa?

 

Maikling sagot, OO naman. Marami pang problema ang mangangailangan ng sama-samang pagkilos. Hindi naman nalutas ang lahat ng problema ng bansa dahil lamang may bagong gobyerno. At hindi naman ang pag-upo sa gabinete ang katapusan ng ating gawain. Hindi cabinet appointment, kundi panlipunang pagbabago, ang ipinaglalaban natin.

 

Pero kung ang tanong ay “magra-rally na ba kayo laban kay Duterte?”, ang sagot diyan ay “hindi pa sa kagyat, wala pang dahilan”. Hindi dahil sangayon tayo sa lahat ng kanyang pahayag at lahat ng kanyang appointments. May pagkakaiba pa rin sa pananaw. Pero ang mga pagkakaiba ng pagtingin ay sisikapin idaan sa pag-uusap. Maaaring may ilang pagbatikos pero hindi naman antagonostiko ito. Tiyak na may pagtutunggali pero meron ding pagtitimpi. Sisikapin nating makitungo sa susunod na adminsitrasyon sa batayan ng kung ano ang makakabuti sa bayan. Pero hindi rin naman tayo mangingimi na makitunggali sa nakikita nating mga kamalian. Mananatili tayong mapagbantay. Karapatan at tungkulin ito ng mamamayan.

 

Ang malinaw, sinusuportahan natin ang mga progresibo at makabayang layunin at programa ng bagong gobyerno.

 

Masasabing iba ang turing natin kay Duterte kumpara sa trato natin kay Aquino ngayon. Hindi maaaring ipagpantay ang dalawa. Ibig sabihin, hindi tayo magsusunog ngayon pa lang ng effigy ni Duterte, tulad ng nakagawian natin kay Aquino. Pag-iibahin natin sila.

 

Kung ang CPP-NPA-NDF nga ay handang makipag-interim ceasefire sa Duterte admin matapos mapalaya ang mga political prisoners at maibalik ang usapang pangakapayapaan, tayo pa kaya? (Pero take note na ibababa lang ng mga rebolusyonaryong pwersa ang kanilang armas kapag nagkapirmahan na ng isang pinal na kasunduang pangkapayapaan.)

 

Syempre, may mga protesta pa rin laban sa mga pwersa at interes na kontra sa reporma’t pagbabago. Laban sa mga hacendero na ayaw magpatupad ng land reform. Laban sa mga malalaking employer na ayaw itigil ang kontraktwalisasyon. Laban sa mga malalaking minahan sa sumisira sa kalikasan. Laban sa mga dayuhang pilit na ibinabalik ang mga base militar nila o mang-aagaw ng mga dagat at isla natin. Laban sa mga kurap at abusadong opisyal ng gobyerno. Laban sa militarisasyon ng mga Lumad. Laban sa bulok na estado at naghaharing sistemang mala-kolonyal at mala-pyudal at para sa tunay na pagbabago.

 

Ang kaibahan lang ngayon, may ilang mga kakampi tayo sa gobyerno na katuwang sa pagsusulong ng panlipunang pagbabago at paglilingkod sa sambayanan. Buo ang ating suporta sa kanila at hangad natin ang tagumpay nila. Alam nating hindi rin magiging madali ang gagawin nila lalo’t ngayon pa lang ay may mga nagnanais na sila ay mabigo.

 

Samantala, may isang bagay din na dapat nating bantayan. Ito yung pang-iintriga at panghahati. May mga Dilawan na kontra kay Duterte na ang nais ay udyukan ang Kaliwa na mag-rally para sa kanila. Ngayon pa lang, gusto na nilang ipambala sa kanyon at isubo sa labanan ang Kaliwa habang sila ay manonood lang at nakaabang sa Twitter. Ayos din, ano?

 

Huwag tayong magpadala sa ganitong pang-uudyok na kunwari ay prinsipyado pero ang totoo’y nang-uupat lang. Buti sana kung nag-rally sila laban sa lahat ng kabalbalan ni Aquino, may ascendancy silang maningil. Eh sa anim na taon ni Noynoy, ni hindi ko sila nakitang mag-rally habang pinapatay ang mga Lumad at mga magsasaka sa Mindanao.

 

Anyways, so ganun na nga. Madami tayong gagawin. Pagtulungan nating maisulong ang mga adhikaing makabayan at progresibo, sa loob man o labas ng gobyerno. Wala sa kamay ng isang tao ang pagbabago. Kalahok dito ang buong sambayanan. Magkikita-kita pa rin tayo, sa kalsada at kung saan-saan. ###

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Photo from Interaksyon

 

Yesterday, the Philippine National Police presented before the Senate a supposed witness to the Kidapawan protest that saw two people dead and scores injured and arrested.

 

Charlie Pasco, a self-confessed military intelligence asset of the AFP’s 39th Infantry Battalion, said he infiltrated the farmers’ protest and talked to Darwin Sulang who he described as a former comrade in the New People’s Army. He later said that Sulang was armed with a .38 caliber handgun. Sulang, however would die in the dispersal from a gunshot wound to the head, from an M-16 rifle.

 

Pasco’s testimony, apart from maligning the dead Sulang, was intended to shift the blame for the violence on the protesters. He tried to portray the farmer protesters as being armed and violent, which was why the police had to use deadly force against them.

 

It is very convenient for Pasco to heap accusations on the dead Sulang as the latter can no longer rebut the allegations made by the former. It is also very strange that Pasco’s testimony surfaced only now, when it is already established who actually fired their weapons on the protesters.

 

Who is Pasco? Why did he appear only now with his tall tale of the farmers being armed and violent?

 

Pasco is a professional rebel returnee. He first “surrendered” in January 2014 and “surrendered” again on March 29, 2016 or a day before the Kidapawan protests.

 

Here is a news release from the Facebook post of Alberto Caber, the Public Affairs Branch Chief at Eastern Mindanao Command, AFP

 

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Meanwhile, on March 29, two years after his first surrender, a news release showed Pasco surrendered yet again to the AFP’s 10th Infantry Division in an awarding ceremony in Digos City, Davao del Sur. He surrendered an M-14 rifle and received P60,000 for this.

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We can very well assume that he must have recycled the same M-14 rifle he earlier surrendered in 2014 for which he already got paid under the same government program .

 

Pasco may have defrauded the Philippine government by surrendering twice to claim cash rewards OR the Philippine government through the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process headed by Ging Deles, is actually recycling rebel returnees as a form of racket.

 

Whichever it is, Pasco has zero credibility as a witness because he is a paid agent of the AFP. He already confessed under oath that he was there at the Spottswood Methodist church to infiltrate the rally, upon orders by his handlers from the AFP.

 

It is another thing altogether if he was actually in Kidapawan as he claims because it was already reported that he was busy “surrendering” and claiming a cash reward in Digos City on March 29.

 

What is enraging here is the lengths the PNP and AFP will go through to cover up the truth. They will not hesitate to concoct lies and slander a dead person just to save their asses. They know fully well that dead men tell no tales, but how low can you get? Sa harap mismo ng Tatay ng namatay, nagawa nilang magsinungaling, mag-imbento at magbintang!

 

Tatay Ebao Sulang refuted Pasco. Tatay Ebao said that he was formerly with the CAFGU and made it a point that his sons would not bear arms. He also said that he did not know rebel returnee and that his son Darwin was never friends with Pasco as the latter claims.

 

The PNP made a huge mistake in presenting Pasco as their witness. It shows utter desperation to cover up the truth, a move that actually backfired on them yesterday. ###

 

 

A day before the violent dispersal of Kidapawan farmers, negotiations were held between the Kidapawan provincial government and farmer leaders representing the protesters. The groups have occupied the main highway since March 30 and were demanding the release of rice support and the much-needed calamity funds.

During the negotiations, the farmers were told that the local government could only release 3 kilos of rice for each farmer and that they should leave Kidapawan because the rice will be distributed via the municipal mayors. ln other words, the government wanted the protesters to leave with hardly anything.

Three kilos was allegedly the only amount allowed by the Commission on Audit during the election period. This, despite the fact a state of calamity had already been declared by the provincial governor. No agreement was reached that day. 

The following morning, April 1, 10am, the governor again reportedly offered a new round of negotiations through her staff who talked to a Catholic priest. The priest informed the protesters who were of course open to resuming negotiations. The priest also informed protesters that the DSWD would be coming in to get the children.

It was at this time that the police told the protesters to disperse. They were given 5 minutes to comply. Again leaders tried to reason with the Kidapawan police, to no avail. The violent dispersal ensued.Shots were fired on unarmed protesters.

So what happened to the offer of another round of negotiations? Was it all a ruse? We do not know why, despite an apparent effort to open negotiations, the violent dispersal pushed through upon orders of the provincial governor herself. kidapawan pnp

Laging kinakatwiran na mahigpit ang COA; pero wagas naman kung gamitin ang pondong publiko para sa pangangampanya. Unbelievable.

May bigas ang gobyerno. I talked to an NFA official who admitted that there was sufficient rice supply with the local DSWD. So why on earth do they not distribute it when the beneficiaries are already there outside protesting? No sense of urgency? The need to follow COA guidelines? It has to be through the mayors? There seems to be no end to the reasons why they WON’T distribute the rice to those who needed it most and who were already there.

The incident in Kidapawan highlights government’s failure to help farmers not just in Mindanao but in other drought-affected areas. It is high time to demand adequate government support for all farmers nationwide faced with the disastrous effects of the El Nino.

Food. Justice. These are the most basic and urgent demands. From Kidapawan to the rest of the country.

 

ON March 30, farmers from different parts of North Cotabato, reeling from the debilitating effects of the drought brought about by El Nino, occupied the Kidapawan highway to demand from government immediate rice support and the releases of much needed calamity funds. They were demanding 15,000 sacks of rice for 6 municipalities, for the duration of the drought, until the farmers are able to recover. The root cause of the protest was government neglect of starving farmers and their families.

There were negotiations with the provincial government headed by Gov. Lala Talino-Mendoza. Instead of heeding their demands, Mendoza reportedly offered the farmers 3 kilos of rice each every three months. Government meanwhile claims there is adequate supply of rice especially for calamities. These are supposedly pre-positioned in agencies such as the regional DSWD. The drought should be considered a calamity, yet no rice was released.

ON April 1, the police conducted dispersal operations against the farmers. It is not true that they intended to “rescue” children who were with their protesting parents at the time. It is also not true that the first shots came from the ranks of the protesters as they were all unarmed. Notice also that there are no reports citing any policeman who was injured or killed by gunshots. Video footage will reveal that it was the police that charged the protesters. The farmers fought back as expected. The police started firing their weapons.

Under the law, the carrying of firearms by law enforcers within 100 meters of a protest action is a prohibited act. Firing on unarmed protesters is also illegal. Even if the protesters threw rocks, that does not justify the use of deadly force.

The police claim that they only fired warning shots. Videos will show that the firing of weapons lasted several minutes, belying the claim that these were mere warning shots. Video footage will also show that the police trained their guns on protesters. Three died as a result of the shooting. Some 116 were reported injured.

It is not true that armed groups or the NPA infiltrated the ranks of the protesters. This is a common lie peddled by the PNP to justify the shooting of unarmed civilians. The same lie was used during the Hacienda Luisita massacre in 2004 and the Mendiola Massacre in 1987.

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As of this writing, we have yet to hear a strong condemnation by Malacanang of what happened in Kidapawan. We have yet to see any concrete action from the Palace that would address the demands of the protesting farmers.

All presidential bets not with the administration have come out strongly condemning the incident and the government’s failed response to the drought. Mar Roxas meanwhile has condemned the violece but kept silent on the root cause of the protest ; government neglect. Roxas then called on the PNP to probe the incident, a problematic response since the PNP was the one involved in the shooting of farmers. Roxas and Gov. Mendoza both belong to the Liberal Party.

The farmers regrouped at the local Methodist church. They were soon surrounded by hundreds of police. Power was cut off. On April 2, a search warrant was served where the police claimed that guns were being hidden inside the church compound. The search warrant storyline seems to support the earlier claim by the PNP that the first shots came from the ranks of protesters. The search ended with no guns found in the church premises.

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There are also at least 78 detained protesters who were arrested during the dispersal operations.

We appeal to our friends to stand with the Kidapawan farmers during this very difficult time. We should continue to pressure the Philppine government to act on the just demands of the farmers, particularly the rice subsidy, and to stop the ongoing harassment of protesters in Kidapawan. Government must end the sige of the Methodist church in Kidapawan and allow the farmers to leave. We also call for the immediate release of all detained protesters. We appreciate all forms of material support, especially rice and other food that can be used by the farmers.

We demand justice for all the victims of the violent dispersal of protesters. An impartial probe must be carried out. Congress should also look into the issue. Police officials involved in the incident should be relieved. The provincial governor must also be held accountable for ordering the dispersal of the protesters. Lastly, the Aquino regime must shoulder responsibility for failing to address the needs of the farmers affected by the drought as well as for the continuing climate of impunity that enables state forces to carry out vicious attacks on unarmed protesters. ###

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In this fast-paced world of social media and the internet, choosing a phone that’s right for you can be somewhat tricky. I have been wanting to give some helpful tips for activists who wish to buy phones that they can use for their daily work. And by work I refer to how we arouse, organize and mobilize the people. I won’t be endorsing any particular product but instead I will try to guide you based on what we call phone specs of specifications.

So how does an active, on-the-go, socially involved individual chose a phone that’s right for his or her needs? How do you keep things within a modest budget? We all know that activists live by the mantra of simpleng pamumuhay at puspusang pakikibaka. What are the considerations if you want to get the most features for the least cost?

First, you have to determine the kind of phone user that you are. Here’s a simple guide.

 

The call and text type

Your phone is basically for calls and texts. No frills, no apps. You don’t check Facebook and Twitter on your phone. Maybe you don’t have any social media accounts. You want a phone that can function the way phones are supposed to function back in 2001. Plus, having the occasional games when you’re bored doesn’t hurt. (Remember Snake?) For this type of user, you are good to go with a feature phone. Choose one that has a very long battery life, as these phones often do. These phones can go three days with only one charge. That’s their greatest advantage. Their prices range from P400 to P800. During the relief ops after Yolanda, this is the phone we used since there was no electricity in many parts of Samar and Leyte and we knew charging would be a problem.

 
The moderate social media user

You probably check your Facebook and Twitter feeds on your phone occasionally. Then you store a few notes and some media like photos and songs. Your phone helps in your work but is not the main “weapon” so to speak. It is a handy companion that keeps you connected and informed on what’s happening around you. You’re happy just reading updates. For this kind of user, choose a phone with a decent quad-core processor, at least 1GB of RAM, and at least a quad-HD display (which is lower than 720p HD). The camera may not be the biggest consideration for you since you just use your phone to check on updates. These phones usually come with at least an 8MP camera and an 8GB built-in storage which is enough. There are many entry-level smartphones for you ranging from P2,000 to P3,000. Recently, there have been local releases for just less than P1,000.

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The active and always engaged

You keep track of the news and the work of your organization. You also want to update folks about the latest protest action, or developments in an ongoing campaign. You probably also do some media liaison work and rely on heavy texting as well as emailing news releases and advisories using your phone. You’re expected to post pictures to call attention to issues. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are your favorite platforms for propaganda. Your use of the phone is on the moderate to heavy side. Choose one with at least an updated octa-core processor, at least 2 GB of RAM, at least a 720p HD display, and a 13MP rear camera. Don’t worry about the front camera specs because believe me, the perfect selfie may not be that crucial to your work. Internal storage must be at least 8GB or 16GB with an expandable option for micro SD card of up to 32GB so you can store pictures and videos. Also, try to look for a phone where you have a reliable messaging app that does not convert SMS to MMS even if your message string is already very long. There are already decent phones at the P4,000 to P5,000 price range. They work pretty well. Those with better HD displays and better cameras may go up to P6,000 to P7,000. For heavy users, look for a phone with at least a 2,500 mAh battery rating.  This may be good for around 8 hours of use. Some folks trade off other features for a longer battery life which allows you to remain connected longer without having to plug your wall charger mid-day. This comes in handy when you’re at a picket line, vigil or in a long caravan or lakbayan.

 

Your phone is your mobile office

You either travel out of town a lot or are constantly on the move. You text out statements or advisories, update your organization’s social media platforms, post and repost news, check emails and even do some minor text and photo editing. You rely on mobile internet to get your work done. Your phone is your indispensable tool from meetings to rallies. You keep a very long directory for your org contacts and allies. You need to post pictures and videos that best capture the spirit and agitation of an event. You need a reliable partner for sharing social media content. Choose a phone with un updated octa-core processor or even some really powerful quad-core and hexa-core processors. Since you have a lot of pics and videos, try to find one with 3GB of RAM and at least 16GB of internal memory with an option for micro SD card expansion of up to 32GB. At this point, for documentation purposes, you may want a better camera, moving up from the average 13MP shooter of most mid-range phones. Your phone would likely be LTE-ready for faster uploads and downloads (the fast internet remains a myth in the Philippines). Due to heavy use, the battery rating of your phone should be somewhere from 3,000 mAh to 4,000 mAh. There are also phones now with ratings as high as a 5,000 mAh. The displays of these phones are either 720p HD for Full HD. Your price range may go up between P8,000 to P10,000 at this point. You may also want to invest in a powerbank. You must have some really specialized needs to be investing this much on a phone. This means that you’re seriously considering the quality of the camera, the call and messaging functions, mobile internet, battery and possibly even editing features.

Operating system

As for the phone’s OS, that’s really a matter of preference. You have Android, IOS and Windows. Each one has its own learning curve the first time you use it. As a rule though, go for the more recent or updated versions of the OS since there is a good chance that these have less software bugs.

 

Now, phones are just tools. They cannot replace actual mass work, actual face to face propaganda and organizing work. Social media is just another means to get your message across to a wide audience. It is however, not the only means of getting your message across. Technology should serve our activist work and must be guided by our political and organizational objectives. No, you do not need a flagship phone. You do not need to spend P30,000 on a gadget. (Also, just think how much it would hurt if you dropped your high-end phone during a rally, or have it soaked by water cannons? I’ve seen it happen many times). However, if someone gives you such devices, then good for you. But I won’t recommend you spending your own money for flagship devices. It’s not practical, to say the least.

So if you’re an activist choosing a phone for work, choose one that can best serve your needs. Specs such as front-facing selfie cameras or how good a phone can handle graphic-intensive games should not be your primary consideration. When buying smartphones, look at the processor, the RAM, the internal memory, the camera and battery. Spend within a modest or reasonable budget. Try to look for bargains. Even relatively older models that have a stable operating system and reliable hardware should be considered if they come at a lower price. Even second-hand phones, as long as they have solid performance, should be considered. If you’re not into smartphones, then go for the basic feature phones for calls and texts.

Lastly, it’s not the quality or brand of your phone that will determine the quality of your political work. It’s how you merge theory and practice that really counts. ###

 

P.S. This is only a guide to choosing a phone. How I wish there is a guide for “buying” a phone, if you know what I mean. =)

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The Comelec has accredited 115 partylist groups for the 2016 elections. This is the second elections since the landmark Supreme Court ruling that opened the partylist system to everyone including the rich and powerful. According to the decision, it was no longer necessary that a nominee should belong to the sector that the group seeks to represent. Even major political parties can now field their sectoral organizations in the partylist race. The SC ruling marked the end of the long-held principle that the partylist system is reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented sectors of society, and that nominees had to belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector that they wish to represent.

Aside from a very long printed ballot come election day, what else do we expect from the partylist system in 2016?

Even before the SC ruling, the partylist system was already being undermined in favor of the rich and powerful. Efforts to “clean up” the partylist system, while achieving limited success from 2007-2010, suffered a major setback in 2013.

If the 2013 partylist results are an indication, we can predict that the 2016 partylist race will again be skewed in favor of the “over-represented” groups who have long-wielded political power in the country.

The dominance of these groups has been a steady trend over the past three elections, with legitimate partylist groups being eased out of the winner’s circle. For 2013, the top partylist group BUHAY had multi-millionaires and a former Manila mayor as its incoming representatives.

In many cases, the political dynasties of a region delivered the votes for a certain partylist group whose nominees belong to that dynasty. In cases where a one family has both a partylist representative and a regular district representative, we see an increasing concentration of political power in the hands of a few. This runs counter to the original “social justice” intent of the partylist system which supposedly aims to give marginalized groups unable to compete in regular district elections a chance to enter congress through a partylist system. Families not content with a regular congressional seats have now taken to using the partylist system to expand their power and influence and to accommodate relatives possibly competing for limited local positions.  It is totally possible that political dynasties use the same local election (dirty) tactics to get votes for their partylist groups.

Abono partylist was the top PL in La Union getting 191,020 votes or an amazing 70.6% of the total. It was also number one in Pangasinan where it got 265,181 votes or 36.7% of the total.  Abono got most of its votes from Region I. It is believed that the Ortega and Estrella dynasties delivered votes for the group. Abono’s incumbent representatives are Conrado M. Estrella III, Francisco Emmanuel R. Ortega III. Interestingly, another Ortega won as the congressman of the first district of La Union while another Ortega won as provincial governor.

A check with the website of the House of Representatives will show that during his term, Ortega did not principally author any bill. He was co-author though of 21 House Bills, most of which had little or nothing to do with the agriculture sector his partylist claims to represent. Estrella meanwhile was the principal author of two bills related to curbing smuggling.

Aambis-Owa was top partylist in Iloilo getting 129,788 votes or 20% of the total. The group got most of its votes from Region VI. Aambis-Owa’s top nominee was Rep. Sharon Garin, a multi-millionaire comes from the powerful Garin family in Iloilo. Her brother Richard Garin also won as congressman in the first district of Iloilo.

Partylist Alay Buhay was top PL in Valenzuela getting 70,963 votes or 38% of the city’s total because of the powerful Gatchalian family. Alay Buhay’s top nominee is Wesley Gatchalian, a big businessman. His brother Sherwin Gatchalian also won a congressional seat in Valenzuela. Another brother, Rex won as Mayor of Valenzuela.

AMIN was top partylsit in ARMM getting 111, 136 votes or 32.9% of the total. Their top nominee Sitti is the wife of Mujiv Hataman, who ran and won as governor of ARMM that year.

Ang Mata’y Aalagaan of the Velasco family as expected topped the partylist race in Marinduque. It got 18.81% of the PL votes in the province where another Velasco figured in a bitter battle to secure a congressional seat in the legislative district. His bid for a congressional seat was eventually upheld by the Supreme Court, so that there are on record, two Velosos in the 15th Congress.

Agbiag! Timpuyog Ilocano, whose top nominee is incumbent representative Patricio Antonio, a former district congressman, was the top partylsit in the province of Cagayan, garnering 103,676 votes or 38.5% of the total. Another Antonio, Patricio’s brother Bong, won as provincial governor of Cagayan.

Based on the House website, Rep. Antonio was the principal author of only one bill during his second term; An Act Granting Scholarships for Children Of Small Farmers And Appropriating Funds Therefor.

The Agrarian Development Association of the Singson family topped the partylist race in Ilocos Sur, getting 40.24% of the votes in the province. Though ADA however did not enter the winner’s circle, two other Singsons are poised to get seats in congress via regular congressional districts.

In Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboango Sibugay, partylist group Kakusa topped the 2013 race getting 96,250 votes or 18% of the region’s total. Kakusa’s nominees include former Zamboanga congressman and convicted rapist Romeo Jalosjos. The influential family had another Jalosjos winning a congressional seat in Zamboanga del Norte.

Partylist group ABAMIN, whose top nominee Maximo is the brother of Cagayan de Oro representative Rufus Rodriguez, topped the partylist race in Misamis Oriental, getting 176,820 or 52.37% of the PL votes in the province. In Cagayan de Oro City where Rufus is district congressman, ABAMIN got a whopping 62.12% of the partylist votes.

Meanwhile, regional groups like Ako Bikol and An Waray continued their dominance of their respective regions. Questions however remain regarding the big business and political interests behind these groups who, in the first place, already have the means to compete in regular district elections. In the current Congress, Ako Bikol’s Rodel Batocabe was the principal author of five house bills, one of which sought the legislation of the elimination of dengue.

Even before the SC decision, the partylist system had already been overrun by political dynasties and the rich and powerful. Groups whose constituents and nominees come from marginalized and underrepresented groups face a formidable challenge with the influx of the moneyed elite. The grassroots-based partylist groups, those with a well-defined mass base, would be in the best position to at least retain and at most expand their elected leaders. They however have to work harder than ever as the dynasties and powerful interest groups employ the same reactionary formula of guns, goons and gold for the partylist race.

It would also be good to fully examine the legislative record of the different partylist groups that won seats last 2013. Did the majority of the parytlist groups provide an alternative voice inside Congress or where they echoing the positions of the major political parties? What legislation did they file for their supposed underrepresented constituency? Or did they simply vote along the lines of the major political parties? Aside from the Makabayan bloc, composed of 7 partylist representatives from various sectors, who else among the partylist groups have stood up to challenge the status quo?

The 2016 partylist race promises to be one of the most intense ever as the doors have been swung wide open for all vested interests. With the proliferation entry of big vested interests, expect patronage politics, vote-buying and intimidation to once more undermine this electoral contest. ###