The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has upheld a government anti-insurgency body’s petition seeking the cancellation of the Gabriela Women’s Party’s registration in the party-list system for violations of the election law and the Constitution.
In an order dated Nov. 27 and signed by presiding Commissioner Socorro B. Inting, the Comelec’s Second Division ruled that the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) had the legal standing to file a petition to void the registration of Gabriela Women’s Party for receiving foreign government funding and supporting terrorists’ activities.
The NTF-ELCAC, which was created under Executive Order No. 70 adopting a whole-of-approach against insurgency, also named Gabriela, Inc. and General Assembly of Women for Reforms as respondents in its petition filed before the Comelec in May last year.
The poll body’s ruling, however, does not yet resolve the main case brought by the government’s petition against the respondents.
Section 8 of the Rule 32 of the Comelec Rules of Procedures provides that upon verified complaint of any interested party, “registration of any political party under the party-list system may be cancelled after due notice and hearing” if that party has received financial contributions from foreign governments.
The case stemmed from the document entitled “Overview of Non-Government Actors in the Philippines-Program 2017-2021,” shared by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Belgium with Philippine delegates during a meeting in Brussels in February 2019.
The document showed that the Belgian government, through its accredited non-government organization G3W, funded the Gabriela Women’s Party, the petitioners said.
They also cited the report of the Anti-Money Laundering Council, that from 2012 to 2016, the respondents received about P22.7 million.
“Respondent’s act is a blatant and direct violation of the Constitution which prohibits, in no uncertain and equivocal trend and qualifications, political parties, coalitions of political parties or organizations from receiving support from any foreign government,” the NTF-ELCAC said.
The NTF-ELCAC added that the respondents have violated the Constitution for their “acts of helping and supporting a declared terrorist organization,” referring to the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Meanwhile, a broad alliance of rights groups on Friday filed a criminal and administrative complaint against National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. as ex-officio of the NTF-ELCAC before the Office of the Ombudsman for red-tagging.
Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general, also implicated Armed Forces of the Philippines-Southern Luzon Command’s Lt. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr. as NTF-ELCAC spokesperson, Presidential Communications Operations Office Undersecretary Lorraine Marie Badoy as NTF-ELCAC Strategic Communications Cluster spokesperson, and Overseas Workers and Welfare Administration Undersecretary Mocha Uson.
She said the four anti-communist task force officials “must held criminally and administratively liable for the acts that malign, vilify and baselessly red-tag her, along with Karapatan’s officers and members.”
“They (accused) violated the principle of distinction under international and domestic humanitarian law, and committed graft and corruption,” she told the Manila Standard.
“Respondents acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith when they recklessly engaged in red-tagging me and Karapatan publicly, absent any competent, admissible, much less credible evidence to prove their claims,” the complaint read.
“Lastly, the red-tagging and vilification against us have indubitably already caused us undue injury not only by threatening our lives, liberty, security but also discrediting our work and advocacy and besmirching our reputation,” it further stated.
The 40-page complaint said Esperon, Parlade, Badoy and Udon repeatedly accused Karapatan of having connections with the Communist Party of the Philippines.
Also on Friday, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it is not the right time to have a ceasefire or resume talks with the CPP-NPA as the group’s members are dwindling due to relentless pressure from the government.
AFP chief-of-staff, Gen. Gilbert Gapay said such actions will only give the communist terrorists a respite from the pressures being exerted against them by security forces.
He also added that the AFP is raring to “permanently resolve” the insurgency problem, which has been plaguing the country for more than 50 years.
“So we will not give them that time, that opportunity to relax, to rebuild and their capabilit(ies), to recruit, to extort. They are already weak, I think, and also the AFP and the security sector have already gained momentum and it’s just a matter of time before we really put an end to this insurgency problem,” Gapay said.
Meanwhile, opposition senators called for the immediate release of Amanda Echanis and her baby for humanitarian reasons.
Echanis, 32, peasant organizer and daughter of slain activist Randall “Randy” Echanis, was arrested in Baggao, Cagayan by elements of the 77th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, the Philippine National Police, and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group last Dec. 2.
She is currently detained in Camp Adduro in Tuguegarao City with her month-old son for alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives, the usual charge against activists.
“Jail is not a place for a mother and her one-month-old boy she is nursing,” said Senators Francis Pangilinan and Risa Hontiveros in a joint statement.
Considering the vulnerabilities of mother and son, Pangilinan and Hontiveros said releasing them is in their best interest as per the First 1,000 Days Law or Republic Act 11148.
But while in detention, they said state forces must ensure they are treated humanely and accorded all their rights.
“We have just witnessed the heartbreaking death of Baby River Nasino after being separated from her mother, who was still nursing her,” said the two opposition senators.
“We hope our authorities have learned a thing or two about compassion and humanity from that incident, so as not to have a repeat of an avoidable tragedy,” they added.
They also urged a speedy and truthful investigation and handling of the case of Amanda, accused of keeping firearms, just as she has just given birth.
“We also recall that the probe on the brutal death of her father, Randall Echanis, has yet to find a conclusion,” they said. “Due process, justice, and compassion must be accorded to all, no matter their beliefs.”