Cancel registration of 'rebellious' party-list groups? Not so fast, says Guanzon

MANILA, Philippines – National security officials may want the poll body to cancel the registration of party-list groups with supposed links to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but for Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, it's not as easy as simply giving an order.

In a Senate hearing on electoral reforms and people's participation on Tuesday, October 8, committee chairperson Senator Imee Marcos asked the poll body for its thoughts on accusations leveled by "certain security officials" against party-list groups whom they described as "legitimate front organizations for insurgent rebellious groups."

Marcos did not name any specific party.

Guanzon emphasized the proper process would be for any registered voter to file a verified petition with the poll body.

"We can only cancel them by petition and that has to be filed. They cannot just tell us to cancel their registration. They're already registered. They have been voted by the people for many years already," she said.

Guanzon, an independent voice in the Comelec, likewise slammed the scare tactics used when threatening to cancel registrations of party-list groups with supposed links to the CPP and its armed wing, the New People's Army.

"What I object to is the red scare. The red scare that it is creating – that is what I am concerned and worried about. We live in a democratic country!" Guanzon said.

She added, "This party-list provision in the Constitution was done specifically to accommodate all democratic ideologies, accommodate groups that are to the left center, or the left. What is now the problem? I do not see a problem."

Marcos said she agreed with Guanzon that the party-list system "should remain open to all ideological groups rather than pushing them towards violent rebellion."

Prior to this, Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa, in an earlier hearing, asked the poll body "to help end the communist insurgency in the country" by canceling registrations of progressive groups Bayan Muna, Gabriela Women's Party, Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Kabataan, and Anakpawis.

Together, the groups make up the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives that have served as an opposition voice in the Duterte-dominated House. (Anakpawis failed to gain enough votes to get a seat in the 18th Congress.)

Members of the Makabayan bloc earlier decried the "vilification campaign" against them, saying security officials have yet to present proof to back up their accusations.

President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to end the communist insurgency, but peace talks with the CPP's political arm, the National Democratic Front, broke down two years into his term. Since then, the Duterte administration has lashed out at the communists, tagging them as "terrorists." – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

image