Who's on the list?

This is my column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Yes, it mentions Ang Ladlad yet again. So the trolls, the crazies and the homophobics are forewarned - save your energy, go somewhere else because there is no chance I am going to post your hate messages in this blog.

There are at least three factors that feed on each other to create uproar: Doubt, urgency, and anxiety. All three are present—in large quantities—in the current imbroglio over the continuing refusal of the Commission on Elections to release the names of the nominees of the various groups given party-list accreditation.

According to the Comelec, there is no need to do so because what is voted upon in the party-list election is the party, not the nominees. Commissioner Resurreccion Borra has a point. The party-list system is not supposed to be identified with individual candidates and personages but with platforms, causes, and advocacies.

Thank you for the lecture, sir, but we already know that.

Which is precisely the reason why no one is asking the Comelec to release the names of the nominees of the various party-list groups for campaign purposes. No one is asking the Comelec to post the names of the nominees in the ballot boxes. Nor is anyone asking the Comelec to allow nominees to campaign as individuals. And certainly, no one is pressuring the Comelec to announce the names of the nominees to the general public in order to encourage them to vote for certain party-list groups on the basis of the qualifications of the nominees.

No, honorable commissioners of the Comelec. We are not asking that you release the names of the nominees so that the party-list organizations can be identified with individuals. In fact, we are asking for the opposite. We are asking the Comelec to maintain the integrity of the party-list system, in particular, the integrity of the party-list organizations, by ensuring that the nominees come from the sector that they are supposed to represent.

We are asking the Comelec to make public the names of the nominees of the various groups they have accredited for purposes of validating representation. And representation is the operational word behind the party-list system.

The whole idea behind the party-list scheme is to “broaden representation in the House of Representatives to include sectors and those organizations that do not have well-defined political constituencies” and “facilitate access to representation of minority or small parties.”

Again, the key word is “representation.” The whole intent of the party-list system is to be able to improve the quality of the representation in the House of Representatives precisely by opening its doors to party-lists who would bring in non-traditional politicians, in other words, people who are supposed to champion the platforms, causes and advocacies given accreditation by the Comelec.

So the issue is that we want to ensure that the nominees are the truly representatives of the groups that they seek to represent.

But let’s cut all the BS and go straight to the jocular.

Actually, what people want is for the Comelec to confirm or deny the authenticity of the list of nominees that is going around. In case you don’t know, the nominees of more than 20 groups given party-list accreditation is already going around and around in certain e-mail groups and the names are bound to floor anyone down or throw anyone off the wall.

The names in that list include various undersecretaries, regional directors of government agencies, military officials, even sons of people close to the powers-that-be. So there is widespread apprehension that the party-list system is being used as a backdoor to Congress by the government.

The obstinacy of the Comelec on the issue is adding fuel to speculations that something sinister is in the works. Actually, I started to have my doubts as early as January.

When the Comelec disqualified Ang Ladlad, the party-list of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people citing what struck me as spurious reasoning, I started to have some doubts about the way the party-list accreditation was being conducted in this particular election.

If we are to go by the intent of the law that created the party-list system, Ang Ladlad and its constituency would have easily qualified.

Of course the law creating the party- list system is coached in more than enough gobbledygook that provides ample opportunities for lawyers, in particular Comelec commissioners, to tangle the ideas so that they suit some interest or agenda.

Nevertheless, four key words effectively describe the main qualifications for party-list accreditation. These four words are undeniably applicable to the constituencies of Ang Ladlad. These are: marginalized, disadvantaged, minority, and underrepresented. The reasons why these words apply to the constituencies of Ang Ladlad have been the thesis of so many articles and case studies. Let’s not go into that now.

And yet the Comelec still chose to disqualify Ang Ladlad. The official reason cited had to do with lack of “national organization.” Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos even issued what he thought was helpful advice but only served to highlight his prejudice, when he urged lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders to come out of their closets.

I don’t know what reality-altering medication the Comelec commissioners are taking to assert that Filipino lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgenders are not underrepresented, marginalized and disadvantaged. To say that these people do not comprise a minority is tantamount to saying that the Philippines is a first world country.

The scuttlebutt is that the real reason why Ang Ladlad was not granted accreditation was really because it happens to be very vocal about being anti-Arroyo and for being pro-impeachment. But okay, so Ang Ladlad did not meet the Comelec’s seemingly stringent requirements.

And yet surprise, surprise, 90 other organizations qualified. And the list of organizations represents a whole gamut of all possible constituencies. It seems everybody is now marginalized, underrepresented, disadvantaged and belong to a minority. Well, everyone except lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people.

I know pulling down others to build a case for another advocacy smacks of extreme crab mentality, but I just cannot help it in this case. When one goes through the list of organizations the Comelec gave accreditation to, one just cannot help being exasperated. One cannot help questioning the qualification of certain organizations!

For crying out loud, how can certain professional organizations and cooperatives qualify as marginalized or disadvantaged? How in the world did organizations put up by scions of multimillionaires get through the gauntlet that the Comelec laid down for Ang Ladlad; unless of course that gauntlet was specifically designed for Ang Ladlad and no else.

It’s enough to make anyone give credence to the allegation that party-list seats are for sale in this country; that any group can get accreditation and instant votes in exchange for a certain amount.

I am sure the Comelec will be able to come up with erudite rationale to explain the accreditation of questionable organizations for party-list representation or to justify its continued refusal to release the nominees of the groups it accredited. But quite frankly, its decisions and actions on the party-list issue in this election raise too many questions. These may be reason to suspect that something is afoot.


danton.lodestar@yahoo.com said…
Dear Bong,

Hi, Danton Remoto here of Ang Ladlad. Thanks for your kind words. In the end, the truth will come out. What is your email address? Pls send it to my email at danton_ph@yahoo.com


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