By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – Last year the currently incumbent partylist Akbayan came under fire from critics. With Akbayan leaders enjoying key appointive positions in the Aquino cabinet and its partylist receiving or taking care of millions of government funds, questions are lodged over whether it was indeed “marginalized.”
Despite this, Akbayan leaders continue serving the Aquino Cabinet while its party-list group still got the Comelec’s nod to participate in the 2013 partylist elections. This week, as election year 2013 begins, various groups are up in arms again as the Aquino government released millions more of “slush funds” for Akbayan.
“The Aquino government and Akbayan Partylist are hypocrites in trying to portray themselves as enemies of patronage politics and corruption when they are engaging in both in order to advance their political interests,” the progressive labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) said in a statement.
The Aquino government has recently appointed Akbayan Partylist Rep. Kaka Bag-ao as a conduit for P140-million-peso priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel funds for the Dinagat Islands, after its representative Ruben Ecleo was removed from office. Bag-ao happens to be seeking to represent the district of Dinagat Islands in the next elections.
The youth group Anakbayan called the Aquino-released pork barrel funds to Akbayan’s Bag-ao as clearly “a slush fund for the 2013 elections.”
Corruption, patronage politics of Akbayan and Aquino
On top of accessing the P140-million ($3.4 million) pork barrel fund for Dinagat Island, Akbayan had received at least P14 million ($340 thousand) in campaign funds from the Aquino family back in 2010. Bag-ao was reported to have been provided also with almost P60 million ($1.46 million) for her projects as appointed representative.
“This is corruption as clear as day,” said Vencer Crisostomo, chairman of Anakbayan. Crisostomo was the youth leader who figured last year in exposing Akbayan’s alleged bogusness as partylist.
This time around, the youth group Anakbayan adds “hypocrite” to their labels for Akbayan. “While funds of other reps have not been released, funds for Dinagat are being released under a ‘caretaker’, which, not surprisingly is an Akbayan representative,” said Crisostomo. “Aquino is clearly using the PDAF release to manipulate the 2013 polls,” he added.
This is patronage politics, both Anakbayan and KMU said in separate statements. In contrast to the Aquino government’s “eager handing out of favors to its allies” such as Akbayan, it had not given rival parties their share of the PDAF, they said.
In giving Bag-ao “unfair advantage” in her candidacy as representative of Dinagat Island, “President Aquino is making it clear that he is deciding things not on the basis of what’s good for the nation but of what’s good for himself and his allies,” Elmer “Bong’ Labog, chairman of KMU, said. The labor group accused Aquino of pushing for his allies, such as Bag-ao and representatives of Akbayan, to win in the 2013 elections so he can “continue to control Congress and railroad pro-US, pro-elite, anti-poor and anti-worker legislation.”
KMU said it is another proof Akbayan does not represent marginalized sectors in Philippine society. “It is now overrepresented in the Aquino government and is part of the Aquino ruling clique.”
Labog dared Aquino and Akbayan to quit hiding “behind the rhetoric of transparency and accountability in using the (pork) fund.” He urged the public and the voters “not to vote for this bogus partylist group in the coming elections.”