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14 party-lists proclaimed

Velarde’s ‘Buhay’ out to repeal RH Law The Commission on Elections has proclaimed 14 winning party-list groups, led by the Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay) of Catholic evangelist Mike Velarde, guaranteeing them at least one seat each in the 16th Congress after they garnered 2 percent of the total votes cast for the party-list election on May 13. Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the poll body will proclaim on Monday the party-list groups that will get the remaining 44 seats up for grabs, if there are no delays arising from issues that may be raised by 12 disqualified party-list groups. At least 58 congressional seats are reserved for party-list groups. “There are 14 party-list groups that will be entitled to at least one seat. They will not be affected whether we include the votes of the 12 disqualified party-list groups or not. That’s why we already proclaimed the 14,” Brillantes said. Asked what they plan to do in Congress, former Manila mayor Lito Atienza, one of the Buhay nominees who will occupy three congressional seats, said the group is eyeing the possible repeal or amendment of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law. The 15th Congress passed the law in December but the Supreme Court suspended its implementation for 120 days and set oral arguments on June 18. “Obviously our people, our electorate, identified themselves with our advocacies and what we explained during the campaign,” Atienza said in an interview on the ABS-CBN News Channel. “If we have the opportunity to do so, I am committed to support a repeal of the law or at least amending it eventually so that we will remove the totally condemnable provisions,” he said. Meantime, Brillantes said the Comelec will announce Monday exactly how many seats the 14 winners would get, according to a formula prescribed by the Supreme Court. Aside from Buhay, the 13 other party-list groups are Advocacy for Teacher Empowerment Through Action Cooperation and Harmony Towards Educational Reforms (A Teacher), Bayan Muna, 1st Consumer Alliance for Rural Energy, Inc. (1-Care), Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party (Akbayan), Ako Bicol Political Party (AKB), Abono Party-list (Abono), OFW Family Club, Inc. (OFW Family), Gabriela Women’s Party (Gabriela), Cooperative Natcco Network Party, Coop-Natcco), Agricultural Sector Alliance of the Philippines (AGAP), Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), Magdalo Para sa Pilipino (Magdalo), and An Waray. Brillantes said the votes of the 12 disqualified party-list groups were still included in the canvassing of the votes. He added, however, that those seeking relief from the Supreme Court but who fail to get a restraining order will be considered disqualified. On the other hand, if the Supreme Court steps in, this will only affect the last three slots for the party-list groups, Brillantes said. One problem was the disqualified Senior Citizens group, which obtained 552,724 votes. The group’s lawyers have argued that disqualifying the group would disenfranchise half a million voters, Brillantes said. Two militant lawmakers on Friday accused the Comelec of illegal “maneuvering” and indecisiveness on the 12 disqualified groups, three of which had garnered enough votes to win. Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said she believed at least one or two of the groups would be proclaimed as the Comelec flip-flopped. “Isn’t it suspicious that after undue haste in senatorial proclamations, the Comelec suddenly sputters to a questionable delay, raising suspicions of maneuvering?” Ilagan said. Under the law, Ilagan said, the disqualified partyl-ist groups have an option to seek a reversal of the Comelec proclamation by running to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, which has exclusive jurisdiction on all post-proclamation protests in the congressional race. “Since election laws render Comelec decisions final and executory five days after it was issued, the poll body is enjoined from counting the ballots of the disqualified groups,” she said. Ilagan demanded Brillantes to decide on the disqualification and to stick to the decision, saying further delaying the proclamation of winners is not only unfair but also raises strong suspicions of poll fraud. According to their computations, Gabriela and Bayan Muna were entitled to at leat two seats each in the House, Ilagan said. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares also slammed the Comelec. “The delay only raises the possibility of fraud by losing party-list groups,” Colmenares warned. He said records show that the Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification of the 12 groups when it remanded to the Comelec their petitions seeking the annulment of the poll body’s ruling to bar them from the 2013 polls. With Maricel V. Cruz
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