THE Makabayang Koalisyon ng Mamamayan (Makabayan) accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Tuesday, April 16, of violating existing election laws by accusing their members as legal fronts of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
In a seven-page complaint-affidavit filed at the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Makabayan senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares and seven party-list congressmen said the AFP is engaging in partisan political activity and threat, while also coercing the latter’s members to campaign against the former’s candidates in the May midterm polls.
“The Makabayan coalition hereby accuse the respondents responsible for the acts complained herein of coercion; threats, intimidation, and terrorism; partisan political activity; and use of public funds and equipment and facilities for an election campaign, all of which are election offenses,” said the complaint.
“Complainants execute this complaint-affidavit to attest to the truth of the allegations and to cause the investigation into the Respondents’ acts and the filing of appropriate charges,” the group added.
Aside from Colmenares, complainants include party-list Representatives Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), France Castro (ACT Teachers), Carlos Zaratre (Bayan Muna), Emmi de Jesus (Gabriela), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), Ariel Casilao (Anak Pawis), and Sarah Elago (Kabataan).
Named as respondents, on the other hand, are Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, AFP Chief-of-Staff General Benjamin Madrigal, AFP Civil Relations Service (CRS) Commander Major General Bienvenido Datuin, and other AFP personnel.
In particular, Makabayan pointed at the act of the AFP-CRS of posting an e-poster in the Facebook page entitled “JUNK CPP-NPA House fronts” last April 13.
In the said e-poster, tagged as alleged legal fronts of the CPP-NPA are the Makabayan bloc in Congress, namely, party-list groups Bayan Muna, Anak Pawis, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan.
The post also stated that voters should not allow the return of the said party-lists and their known members to the House and the Senate come the May 13 polls.
“Causing the malicious red-tagging publication to be posted and allowing its continued circulation are acts... all of which are blatant violations of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code,” stated the complaint.
Makabayan said that in doing so, the respondents, who are military officials and personnel, are campaigning against its candidates.
Under the Omnibus Election Code (OEC), public officials and employees, including the military, are prohibited from engaging in partisan political activities.
Makabayan also said that the AFP's act would hinder the group's campaign activities on the ground while also threatening the lives of its members, as they are being painted as valid targets of the police and military under the government’s anti-insurgency activities.
The OEC prohibits acts of threats and intimidation against any person in a bid to prevent the participation in any campaign activities.
The group also accused the AFP of coercing its subordinates to campaign against Makabayan candidates via the posting of the e-poster.
The OEC prohibits any public official from compelling his subordinates to campaign for or against any candidate.
Makabayan also said the use of the AFP-CRS Facebook page in circulating the e-poster definitely makes it under the ownership of the government agency.
The use of government facility or equipment for any partisan political activity is explicitly banned by the OEC.
To note, an election offense carries the penalty of one to six years imprisonment, removal of right to vote, and disqualification from holding public office. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)