ANAKBAYAN SPECIAL FEATURE
In 2007, Akbayan joined progressive partylist groups in calling for the disqualification of partylist groups created, funded, and backed by the Palace. It claimed that such ‘Palace fronts’ “makes a mockery of the law and the reasons for which the system was created in the first place.”
But in 2012, Akbayan is now the one backed by the Palace. Many of its officials, former representatives, and nominees for 2013, are heads of government agencies: the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Political Affairs, National Anti-Poverty Commission, Commission on Human Rights, National Youth Commission, Social Security Service, and the Government Service Insurance System.
Despite its obvious bias for the Aquino regime and against the Filipino people, Akbayan seeks to defend itself by saying that we should “look into their track record.”
Indeed, Akbayan’s track record will indeed show whether it represents the marginalized and underrepresented of Philippine society, or not.
On Cybercrime Law
Akbayan supported the Cybercrime Law until the very last minute.
The partylist group defended the Law, saying it was only ‘partially repressive’. Instead of joining calls by other groups and civil society to junk it, Akbayan called on the public to ‘participate in the drafting of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR)’. As stated by legal experts however, an IRR could not make any significant changes in any law. Participation in creating the IRR would have only served to create an image of public support for the Cybercrime Law.
Akbayan did not join any of the protests, nor even hold any protest activity of its own. None of the 15 Supreme Court petitions filed against the Law came from the group. It only issued a public statement against the Cybercrime Law after the Supreme Court issued a TRO. Their statements after the TRO only reflect the hypocrisy they needed to utilize in order to avoid being “irrelevant”.
Akbayan consistently shielded the Palace from any accountability regarding the Cybercrime Law while not making any significant effort to junk the law.
On the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms Bill (CARPER)
Akbayan pushed for a fake land reform program in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms (CARPER) in 2008.
CARPER still contained the loopholes in the old CARP which allowed landlords to prevent their haciendas and other landed estates from being distributed to farmers and peasants.
One such loophole is the ‘Stock Distribution Option’ (SDO) which was used in President Aquino’s Hacienda to Luisita. Instead of actually distributing the land, shares of stocks in the corporation ‘managing’ the estate were given to the farmers. In the case of Luisita, many received less than a hundred pesos in exchange for those stocks.
Another loophole is the ‘Voluntary Offer to Sell’ (VOS), a method of transferring the land from landlord to farmer. In such a method, landlords get to choose when they will give up their lands, and which of their lands will be given up. In addition, the VOS allows landlords to further inflate the price of their lands, and the payments which the farmers have to make.
As of present, even government data shows that CARPER has failed. With only two out of the six years allotted to the program remaining, only around 1/3 of all lands targeted for distribution have actually been distributed. This does not even take into account the huge number of cases where landlords managed to take back their holdings because the farmers were unable to pay.
Aquino’s reluctance to land reform, such as that of his predecessors, to implement genuine land reform has also become clear, owing much to his haciendero background and his political ties to groups like Akbayan who reinforce position of executing bogus land reform.
These, and other provisions of the CARPER, proved that the law that Akbayan boasts is anti-farmer and anti-poor. It has made farmers’ lives much harder amidst gross land-grabbing and exploitation in the countryside. Making them suffer for land that they have cultivated at the hands of hacienderos.
On Students’ Rights and Welfare (STRAW) Bill
Akbayan Youth brags that they represent the interests of the youth. But the STRAW Bill they’ve been pushing in Congress for years has several loopholes that legalizes more repression inside campus.
The bill in general gives the school administration vast control in organization and establishment of student councils, school organizations, and campus publications, and the power to meddle with students and their institutions’ right to freedom of expression.
The bill also has no provision banning the presence of the military, paramilitary, police and even intelligence units inside campuses. This makes campuses prone to militarization.
On education budget cuts
Akabayan and its affiliates also defended the 2011 and 2012 National Budget even if it clearly showed massive budget cuts to Education. This is not surprising as even in 2006, during the Arroyo presidency they supported the 300% tuition increase in the University of the Philippines as well as condemned the successful protest in the Polytechnic University of the Philippines to stop the 2000% tuition increase.
On Human Rights
During the 2004, 2007, and 2010 national elections, Akbayan relentlessly tagged progressive partylist groups like Bayan Muna, Kabataan, and Anakpawis as ‘communist fronts’. In 2007, Akbayan issued an official statement entitled “Bayan Muna continues to express sympathy towards the NDF”. This was used as a justification by the military to assassinate and abduct the said partylist groups’ members. From 2001 to 2010, 94 members and supporters of Bayan Muna were killed while 30 were victims of enforced disappearances. The very first victim of extra-judicial killings under Noynoy, who was gunned down a mere four days after Aquino was sworn into office, was the president of Bayan Muna in Capiz province. The second, two days after, was a provincial officer of Anakpawis in Nueva Ecija.
To distract attention from growing public clamor for their disqualification from the 2013 polls, Akbayan again red-tagged the youth group Anakbayan this year. In the same year, three University of the Philippines students who are members of Anakbayan were harassed by the military, including current Student Regent Cleve Arguelles who was personally tagged by a supposed leader of Akbayan.
Akbayan never condemned human rights violations committed against activists. Not once did it condemn the abduction of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, two students of the University of the Philippines who were kidnapped and tortured by Gen. Jovito Palparan in Hagonoy, Bulacan. It also kept silent in cases of military harassment vs. UP students such as Arguelles, the ‘Porac 3’, and ‘Calatagan 8’.
Under the leadership of then-Akbayan representative Etta Rosales, the House Committee on Human Rights acted on less five House Resolutions for investigations out of the hundreds filed from 2004 to 2007. As the head of the Commission on Human Rights since 2010, Rosales allowed the soldiers who kidnapped and tortured Filipino-American Melissa Roxas to go free. Without presenting any evidence, Rosales even alleged that Roxas was a member of the NPA.
Akabayan’s efforts have only served to strengthen the position of the state on the matter. Instead of engaging in meaningful campaigns, their red baiting has helped justify the AFP’s actions in making human rights violations rampant in the country.
Avoiding Issues of the Marginalized
VAT, unrelenting Oil Price Hikes and widespread illegal demolition among others are concerns that make the difference for many Filipinos in having decent life. Yet Akbayan never involved themselves in such issues. It shows that the problems of thousands of today’s most marginalized are left out of their plans, contrary to their claims.
Even before Aquino’s presidency, Akbayan had already established itself as a party existing in the favor of oppressors. Their ascendancy into Palace positions has only formalized their longstanding record of siding with the status quo.
We cannot say that their agenda has simply been reformist, in truth, much of their platforms have actually worsened the lives of the people. While the case for Akbayan’s disqualification case remains in question, their much touted track record has proven to be a disservice to the marginalized.