“Sadly, personality politics is still at play in the partylist contest.  The system even goes to the extent that winnability hinges on traditional politicians’ endorsement and money.” — Carlos Isagani Zarate, Davao-based human rights lawyer and Bayan Muna second nominee

Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced that the canvassing for partylist votes will resume today (Monday), three days after it was suspended, and a week since the May 13 polls.

Some 136 partylists are eyeing the 58 seats allotted to marginalized sectors in the House of Representatives.

But the progressive partylist Bayan Muna sees lots of the same problem in partylist election with traditional politics and moneyed interest groups forming or endorsing partylist groups.

For Carlos Isagani Zarate, second nominee for Bayan Muna and Davao-based human rights lawyer, the tallies they gathered nationwide reflected “the dominance of partylists backed by religious groups, politicians, moneyed interest groups riding on the partylist system,” edging out partylists that truly represent marginalized sectors.

In the tallies from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting last week, Buhay Partylist, which is backed by the Catholic charismatic El Shaddai movement, is leading the partylist votes as it did so in the 2007 election.

Zarate also pointed out that partylists which were earlier disqualified by the Comelec like Ako Bikol and Senior Citizen’s Party were allowed to run by the Supreme Court, and are placed in the top 10.  Ako Bikol was disqualified as it does not represent the marginalized sectors in Bicol.

Zarate also noted that in Davao, partylists backed by politicians and local interest groups gathered huge number of votes.

The 1-BAP (1 Banat & Ahapo Party-list Coalition) topped the partylist votes in Davao with 53,596 votes.  Its first nominee is former Justice Secretary Silvestre Bello, who is from Davao and is a close friend of comebacking mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

The second highest vote-getter was the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) whose second nominee is an executive of Davao-based banana industry player, Tagum Development Cooperative.  TUCP topped the votes in North Cotabato as its first nominee is the husband of winning governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza.  The partylist is also endorsed by Rodrigo’s son Paolo Duterte, the newly elected vice mayor of Davao.

Zarate said another partylist ACT-CIS is endorsed by Rody Duterte in his campaign in Davao’s second district and by evangelist Apollo Quiboloy, whose flock is known for bloc voting.

Other partylists topping the Davao polls are A Teacher whose nominee, Mariano Piamonte, is also from Davao.

With such partylists cornering many votes, “this has made a steeper climb for us to get votes,” says Zarate.

Bayan Muna, which topped the 2001 and 2004 elections, finds itself in the third spot this election.

In Davao City, Bayan Muna ranked second among the partylists that made it to the top 20 last 2010 elections.  This election, however, it placed only fifth.

Its allied partylists in the Makabayan coalition such as Gabriela Women Partylist is ranked seventh in the national canvassing.  Gabriela used to top the partylist elections in Davao City last 2010, but this time, it only made to the third highest.

While other allies, Act Teachers, Kabataan, Piston, Anakpawis, except Katribu, Migrante and Akap Bata landed in Davao City’s top 20 partylists this year’s polls, some of them are still lagging in the nationwide tally as they try to make the two percent mark of the total partylist votes to clinch one seat in the House of Representatives.

Zarate says even as he and other partylist nominees made efforts to campaign in provinces, he sees how traditional politics have been ingrained in the people’s minds.

“Even if the people know that they need to vote for partylists especially coming from the progressive bloc, when the money is handed out to them, they will be swayed by the politicians whom to vote,” Zarate says.

“Many people think election is the revenge of the masses.  They think they can get back on politicians, saying: ‘If you can’t give me anything, you’re not getting my vote; but if you do, you get my vote.  It fits the system that the politicians want.”

He also notes that “personality politics is still at play in the partylist contest.  The system, he said, “even goes to the extent that winnability hinges on traditional politicians’ endorsement and money.”

But he doesn’t put the blame on the voters.  “It is really the system where election is seen as a fight among the elite, while candidates who bring out issues and platforms do not land in any position,” he pointed out.

He is saddened that some partylists are also giving out money to win votes.  “But for us, besides not having that capacity, ours is a politics that calls for change in this system.”

Zarate said even though the politics of change may not have influenced many voters, “there are some instances this has happened.”  He cites a municipality in Surigao del Sur, “the full slate of Makabayan won from the mayoralty to vice mayor to councilors.  There are progressive candidates endorsed by the coalition winning in local councils.  These show people want change.”

And for the next few days, Zarate and Bayan Muna await the results of the canvassing, hoping his partylist and allies could clinch more numbers to advance their agenda of alternative politics in Congress.

Zarate also hopes the Comelec can rule on the votes of disqualified partylists.  That way, the percentage of votes will be adjusted and other partylists will be given a chance.

Bayan Muna is assured though of a maximum of two seats for the next Congress.  The challenge Zarate says “lies after the election, where the people will see who among the winning officials are really living up to their promises.”  (Cheryll D. Fiel/davaotoday.com)

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