Amid an effort by the military to have leftist party-list groups barred from participating in elections, the spokesman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said this can only be done if it is proven that the group espouses violence as a policy or a means of achieving its goals.
In an interview on Dobol B News TV, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said just one incident of violence is not enough to disqualify a party-list group.
“It must be proved that they espouse violence as a matter of policy and as a means of pursuing their goals,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino. “That's the language of the law.”
Jimenez offered this comment as the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, said there is enough evidence to seek disqualification of the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives before the Comelec.
Esperon's move came after President Rodrigo Duterte accused—without presenting any evidence—that the Makabayan bloc was a legal front for the Communist Party of the Philippines—an allegation that the leftist lawmakers denied.
Jimenez said that the party seeking the disqualification must prove that the party-list organization indeed violated the rules set under the law for valid and eligible party-list groups.
A member of the Makabayan bloc, the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) Philippines on Sunday raised the alarm on looming attacks against its ranks with the arrest of peasant organizer Amanda Echanis and her month-old baby, barely two weeks after a “fake witness” branded her as a member of the New People's Army (NPA).
"We are enraged at the arrest of Anakpawis organizer Amanda Echanis along with her newborn in Cagayan Valley, less than two weeks since she was red tagged by a self-proclaimed former CPP-NPA-NDF member,” the group said. “This clearly shows how red tagging is used by state forces to justify attacks against activists and any and all critics of the regime. The same fake witness also conjured up baseless and incredulous stories on ACT's supposed process of recruitment and support to the armed group, hence the imminence of dangers to our leaders and members. When the people are harassed, attacked, even killed by state forces for nothing else but the rightful exercise and defense of rights and liberties, the true terrorists are bared as no other than our very government.”
On Sunday, police reported the arrest of two ranking members of the NPA in separate locations in Quezon City and Laguna.
PNP chief Gen. Debold Sinas on Sunday said Romeo Aytona, 45, was arrested by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) operatives led by Lt. Col. Hansel Marantan in a police operation along Edsa corner Kamias Road in Quezon City at 6:20 p.m.
Police teams from the towns of Sta. Teresita and Santo Niño, both in Cagayan, in coordination with Laguna Police Provincial Office served a warrant of arrest against Joenel Lazo alias Joenel “Ka Sendo” Gallardo at Olivarez Homes, Phase 3 in Barangay Sto. Tomas, Biñan City, Laguna at 5:10 p.m.
Both Aytona and Lazo are wanted for a string of criminal cases in Cagayan Valley, the PNP said.