Electoral Firsts: Militant political parties vie for more House seats

For the militant cause-oriented movement, 2004 is not just an election year; it is also a year of “firsts” related to its entry into the electoral struggle. It will be fielding up to 20 nominees from Bayan Muna and five other new Party-list groups for House seats.

By Alexander Martin Remollino
Bulatlat.com

For the militant cause-oriented movement, 2004 is not just an election year; it is also a year of “firsts” related to its entry into the electoral struggle.

Bayan Muna won three seats in the House of Representatives in 2001. It was the third Left party to win in a congressional election; the first was the Democratic Alliance which won six congressional seats in Luzon in 1947, while the second was the Partido ng Bayan (PnB) which fielded candidates for senators and representatives in 1987. The representatives of the Democratic Alliance were deposed by the Roxas administration on false charges of electoral fraud and violence, thus paving the way for a two-thirds Congress vote approving the Bell Trade Act which gave American corporations equal rights with Filipino enterprises in exploiting the country’s economic resources.

The PnB fielded seven candidates for senators and 36 for House representatives. None of its senatorial bets won, while only two of its candidates for representatives gained seats. The party’s two representatives eventually joined the mainstream political parties. Romeo Capulong, a prominent human rights lawyer, was one of PnB’s senatorial bets in 1987. Capulong, who also lawyers for Marcos political prisoners, is now ad litem judge of the International Crime Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Interviewed by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 1992, Capulong said that the political party, espousing “new politics,” competed in the electoral field at the height of the popularity of then President Corazon Aquino—a wrong time to be an opposition party. Many of the party’s campaigners, together with six of its congressional candidates, were killed, among them its chairman lawyer and labor leader Rolando Olalia.

This year Bayan Muna will not be alone in its electoral quest; it will be accompanied by five other Left-affiliated parties for the first time.

First-timers

This year’s elections may as well be the first that individuals from humble beginnings and rose from grassroots activism to become mass leaders will run for the Party-list polls. Among the cause-oriented movement’s first-timers in the electoral contest are parties representing the basic masses (workers, peasants, and urban poor), migrant workers, youth, and Muslims.

The Suara Bangsamoro Party is the first party-list group to represent the country’s Muslim community. Its main concerns include articulating the Muslims’ welfare and democratic rights, the forging of a just peace in Mindanao and self-determination. The Muslim party will convene in February to select its nominees for the party-list elections.

Anakpawis

Anakpawis is a party with roots in the basic masses. Founded on Jan. 23, 2002, Anakpawis takes inspiration from the worker-peasant alliance Katipunan ng mga Anakpawis ng Pilipinas which figured prominently in militant mass actions during the 1930s. It is the first political party to field candidates springing directly from its constituents.

The new political party has organized membership from three big nationwide mass organizations: Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU – May First Movement), Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP – Peasant Movement in the Philippines) and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay – urban poor alliance).

The new party’s legislative agenda will give emphasis on the sectoral concerns of the toiling masses. Among others, its program of action includes promoting a self-reliant economic development through nationalist industrialization and genuine land reform; beneficial employment, decent wages, and self-organization; fighting for the peasantry’s right to own and till land; upholding the right of fisherfolk to utilize marine and inland fishery areas and resources; and protecting the urban poor’s right to decent housing and against eviction and displacement.

Anakpawis also seeks to advance women’s full participation in production and decision-making processes, and the protection of children from child labor and other forms of abuse and exploitation; and ensuring the right of indigenous communities to self-determination and participation.

Its first three nominees for congressional seats are Crispin Beltran, a former Bayan Muna representative who worked as a taxi driver and lives in a slum area in Quezon City; Rafael Mariano, a farmer from Nueva Ecija; and Carmen Deunida, a resident of an urban poor community in Manila who does laundry work for a living. Beltran is chair emeritus of KMU, Mariano chair of KMP and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan – New Patriotic Alliance) and Deunida chair of Kadamay.

Anak ng Bayan Youth Party

The Anak ng Bayan Youth Party is said to be the first youth party to participate in Philippine elections since Young Philippines. Young Philippines, founded in the 1930s by student leaders Wenceslao Vinzons and Arturo Tolentino of the University of the Philippines, took issue with the political establishment and demanded immediate independence for the Philippines.

Anak ng Bayan will concern itself with fighting for greater state subsidy on education and putting a stop to the commercialization of this basic service; establishing a nationalist and people-oriented educational system with a scientific and liberating character, free from outdated ideas; and asserting the right of youth and the people to decent employment, equal opportunities, and humane living conditions.

The youth party’s first three nominees are all known student leaders: Apolinario Alvarez, Eric Casilao, and Ronalyn Olea. Alvarez used to head the League of Filipino Students and currently chairs Anakbayan while Olea is the president of the College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

MSP and GWP

Two of Bayan’s affiliate organizations, Migrante International and GABRIELA, have branched out to form their own political parties. Migrante International has its Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP), while GABRIELA has its Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP).

MSP’s nominees include known migrant workers and leaders of overseas Filipino workers’ communities: Connie Bragas-Regalado and Flora Belinan of Hong Kong, Rowena Flores of Italy, and Edgar Cadano of Saudi Arabia. The party’s spokesperson, Jonh Monterona, is also in its slate. Another, Carol Almeda, will represent Filipino migrants from the United States.

GWP is not the first party-list group to represent Filipino women in the electoral race, but it will be the first women’s party affiliated with a large cause-oriented network. Among its nominees in the coming elections is former Bayan Muna Rep. Liza Maza, a long-time leader. She made her mark in Congress for her landmark bill against sex trafficking which was signed into law last year.

Maximization

Bayan Muna (BM), which represents the entire network of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), won the largest number of votes for party-list groups in the 2001 elections. BM leaders believe that due to the large number of these votes, the party can be divided into other party-list groups affiliated with it. With the entry of more party-list groups, the cause-oriented movement hopes to maximize the possibilities for parliamentary work in the service of people’s concerns.

The entry of the new Party-list groups brings to more than 50 the number of sectoral political parties registered with the country’s Commission on Elections (Comelec). That translates to about hundreds of nominees vying for the 51 seats at the House for sectoral representatives under the Party List Act.

The first Party-list elections were held in 1998 and the second in 2001. A sectoral representative has a three-year term.()

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