By Pepsi La Loma and Billy Javier Reyes
MANILA, Philippines- The leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged on Sunday asked members of the international community observing the conduct of the May 2010 elections to monitor the possible involvement of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) identified with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in partisan politics.
In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya-Vice chairperson Salvador France noted the Western election observers have focused their attention on the preparations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and have missed one vital electoral issue, which is the partisan politics and electioneering conducted by pro-Arroyo officials in the AFP against candidates critical of the Arroyo administration that includes two progressive senatorial candidates and left-leaning party lists.
The Pamalakaya officials appealed to the US-based National Democratic Institute (NDI) to also monitor and entertain reports and cases against AFP officials and rank-and-file personnel accused of engaging in partisan politics and electioneering.
Hicap and France asked Jamie Metzl of NDI, Thomas Barry, deputy regional director of NDI for Asia, Sam Gejdenson, former member of US Congress, Nora Owen, former justice minister of Ireland and Sue Wood, former president of the New Zealand National Party to put premium on documented reports that the military are campaigning for pro-administration bets and on the other hand are campaigning against certain candidates and party lists highly critical of the Arroyo administration.
“The pro-GMA clique in the AFP is in command of all these dirty electoral campaign against progressive candidates and party lists. It is blatantly and brazenly violating provisions of the 1987 Constitution that illegalize any kind or form of military partisan politics and electioneering. We appeal to the members of the international community to give proper attention to this militarist agenda of the pro-Arroyo faction in the AFP,” the Pamalakaya leaders said.
Pamalakaya also asked members of the Western electoral watchdog to remain until June 30 to complete their observation and make an objective preliminary assessment of the May 2010 elections. The militant group said the March 12 to March 17 schedule of NDI electoral observers was short and will not give them even a comprehensive overview on how the Arroyo government and Comelec commence the 2010 elections under its stewardship.
The militant group had pressed Comelec chairman Jose Melo to invoke the constitutional provision banning all military officials and government troops from exercising partisan politics in lieu of reports that that some members of the AFP are engaged in campaigning against Makabayan senatorial candidates—Bayan Muna party list Rep. Satur Ocampo and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza and activist party lists Bayan Muna, Gabriela and Anakpawis.
‘The commissioners of Comelec headed by Chairman Melo should impose an iron hand policy against officials and members of the AFP engaged in partisan politics. The military is violating the 1987 Constitution pertaining to partisan politics and this political-military adventure sanctioned by the ruling party in Malacanang must be put to an end,” the group said.
Leaders and members of Pamalakaya in Sorsogon said the military in the province are conducting house-to-house campaign in the province calling on all voters not to vote for militant party lists like Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Gabriela, Kabataan Party and Act Teachers party list. The party lists formed Makabayan coalition party that includes Katribu party list, a new party list representing indigenous people and national minority groups in the country.
On Feb.23, Army Major Arnal Manjares hurt one of the campaigners of Makabayan during a house-to-house sortie, while conducting house-to-house campaign for progressive party lists and senatorial candidates Ocampo and Maza.
Based on the report reaching the headquarters of Bayan Muna in Quezon City, Manjares slapped the face of the volunteer and threatened the victim and his companions that they would be killed and harmed if they come back again and campaign for leftwing party lists and candidates in the area.
Pamalakaya said in the last May 2007 elections, cases of partisan politics specifically against Bayan Muna, Anakpawis and Gabriela party lists were also documented Castilla Sorsogon, San Luis, Isabela, Nasugbu, Tanauan and Taysan in Batangas, Dasmarinas, Cavite, Cordon, and Cauayan, and San Luis Roxas, Isabela, Tuburan, Iloilo, Tubod, Lanao Del Norte, Palimbang Sultan Kudarat, Baggao, Cagayan, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, Kolambugan and Tubod Lanao del Norte, Roxas, Mindoro Oriental, Masbate, Guimba, Nueva Ecija, New Bataan, Compostela Valley.
There were also documented cases of military partisan politics against progressive party lists in Gumaca, Lucena, Sariaya, Candelaria, Lucena, Pagbilao, Gen. Luna and Macalelon, all in Quezon province, Alangalang and Tacloban in Leyte, North Cotabato, Marikina City, Makati City, any parts of Camarines Norte, Sa. Rosa, Laguna, Lavenzares, North Samar, Abuyog, Cagayan Valley, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Marawi City, many polling places in Lanao del Sur and many canvassing areas in Isabela.
Pamalakaya said the forms of military and police involvement include abductions and salvaging of progressive party list leaders and poll watchers, Illegal presence inside canvass areas or roaming around polling places and canvass areas, harassment of voters and forcing them not to vote militant party lists and instead vote for Palace backed party lists like Bantay of Rep. Jovito Palparan, transporting of ballot boxes in canvass areas, banning militant party list poll watchers inside the canvass areas and selecting only those they want to allow to enter, acting as bodyguards of candidates, presence of APC and 6×6 trucks near polling places and canvass areas, police counting the votes in precinct, the shooting and wounding of a Bayan Muna leader, the burning of school rooms, the Illegal arrest of poll watchers and the threatening Comelec official.
Pamalakaya also reiterated its call for Comelec to recall its previous decision allowing CAGGUs and other paramilitary units to carry fire arms during the election season. The militant group asserted that the long experience and track record of CAFGUs in partisan politics, acting as paid goons and private armies of powerful politicians, the poll body should have recalled its resolution and pursued the across-the-nation disbandment of special civilian armed forces.
Under Comelec resolution 8742 made effective last January 11, amending Resolution 8714, the CAFGU was exempted from gun ban along with members of the Presidential Security Group, Bureau of Fire Protection, Optical Media Board, the treasurers and deputy treasurers and members of the Internal Security Division of the Bureau of Treasury.
Prior to Comelec promulgation of Resolution 8714, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, commander of the Naval Forces Western Mindanao opposed the disarming of CAAs because these paramilitary groups are tapped by fishing companies to secure their venture in the South. For his part, Lt. Gen. Ben Dolorfino, chief of Western Command said as far as the military is concerned, the CAFGUs are part of the military organization and not all CAFGUs are utilized by private companies operating in far flung areas. #