FOLLOWING the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) approval for Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo as representative of Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), a militant group calls for the resignation of poll officials backing the decision.

It was Comelec Commissioners Armando Velasco, Elias Yusoph, Lucenito Tagle, and Nicodemo Ferrer who noted and approved that the former presidential son is qualified to represent the marginalized sector.

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“These commissioners cannot be trusted to carry out their mandate. They appear incapable of understanding it. They have lost the trust of the electorate," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. said.

Commissioners Gregorio Larrazabal and Rene Sarmiento however favored the disqualification case filed by former lawmakers Liza Maza of Gabriela and Satur Ocampo of Bayan Muna.

Comelec chairman Jose Melo did not take part in the voting.

Reyes added that Arroyo’s presence in the first State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III on July 26 is meant to insult the Filipino people.

“The Aquino administration should now exert its own effort to block the return of Mikey Arroyo to the House of Representatives,” he said.

Reyes also said that Commissioner Ferrer, a member of the poll body's second division, was responsible for allowing another bogus party-list group, Batang Iwas Droga (Bida), to seek representation in Congress.

Bida, an entity funded by the Philippine Games and Amusement Corporation (Pagcor), however failed to win seats in the House of Representatives during the last May elections.

Velasco’s side

Commissioner Velasco, amid the call for resignation, said his decision to allow Arroyo to sit as the representative of AGP party-list in Congress was based on practical reasons.

“In my own observation nakita ko dyan na kung itatali natin ‘yung nominee sa personality part because for example if you don’t want the first nominee then there will be a second nominee and so on," he said.

“Mahirap naman to deny a party if they won a seat kaya I concurred with the second division ang may control dito is the party, you have to give the priority to choose,” he explained.

The Second Division headed by Commissioner Ferrer earlier said it is enough that the nominee is a member of the party for him to represent the sector he wants.

Velasco also clarified that his vote was not a swing vote. “It’s not a swing vote. I made the decision when I studied the ponente (author), when I read it I was convinced.”

Asked if he think Arroyo is qualified to represent the security guards, taxi and FX drivers, among other in the House of Representatives, he said: "I am not fully convinced kaya nga sabi ko inano ko na lang sa batas.”

Palace reaction

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they expect the former party-list leaders to appeal the decision of the Comelec in allowing Mikey to sit as representative of AGP.

While they respect the decision of the Comelec, Lacierda said they expect the petitioners, which include former Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo, to appeal the case.

“Ang sabi sa akin ni Ka Satur ay magpa-file sila ng petition before the Supreme Court. But it’s an independent body, Comelec is an independent institution and whatever they decide, we respect that,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda added that they are leaving it to the current Congress to determine if there is a need to amend the law on Party List System Act.

Prelates’ split-decision

An official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said he respects the Comelec decision over Mikey’s case.

“They decided on it themselves; I don’t know the rules on party-list. We have to abide by the decision of the Comelec,” said Bishop Deogracias Iniguez, CBCP Public Affairs office head.

Although, he said that he does not like the judgment.

On the other hand, a retired Archbishop said the decision of the poll body is a form of payback to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz is convinced that whoever approved the nomination of the young Arroyo is just showing their “utang na loob” to the former president.

“Definitely the mother must have pushed some buttons. It is shameful. I feel ashamed,” he said.

On the other hand, anti-fraud and election monitoring group Kontra Daya criticized the Comelec en banc for violating its own guidelines.

The Comelec’s own Rules on Disqualification Cases Against Nominees of Party-List Groups/Organizations, promulgated on March 25, provide that a party-list nominee must not only be “a bona fide member of the party-list or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety days preceding election day,” but should also be “one who belongs to the marginalized and underrepresented sector/s, the sectoral party, organization, political party or coalition he seeks to represent.”

Based on these standards, Dizon said, the Comelec could not have run out of reasons for disqualifying Arroyo from taking a congressional seat.

“He is also one of the richest politicians in the Philippines, as attested by his having properties not only here but also in the United States. He is no security guard, tricycle driver, or small businessman, nor has he any track record of actively advocating for these sectors,” he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/JMR/FP/Sunnex)