It’s war: Akbayan vs Anakbayan

Angela Casauay
Two leftist party-list groups are locked in an ugly war

Akbayan vs Anakbayan. Screengrab from YouTube page of ABS-CBN News Channel

MANILA, Philippines – The word war between two prominent leftist groups reached fever pitch Tuesday, October 16, after Anakbayan stormed into the press conference of Akbayan in Manila to denounce the latter’s “hypocrisy” and ties to Malacañang.

Anakbayan has called on the Commission on Elections to disqualify Akbayan, claiming that the party-list is now no different from the perceived Arroyo-allied party-lists, which they protested against in 2007. (Read: Should Comelec disqualify Akbayan?) 

Anakbayan spokesperson Vencer Crisostomo said Akbayan refused to answer questions raised by their members and instead resorted to name-callling.

“When queried about their former members who are now appointees of the Palace, our members heard their usual answers. If they only answered and opened themselves up for debate, then this would not have happened” Crisostomo told Rappler.

Akbayan members were heard shouting “KSP (kulang sa pansin) and “utak pulbura” at the protesters after they refused to stop.

Akbayan chief communications officer Emman Hizon said Anakbayan barged into the press conference to “try to shut us out.”

“Our spokesman Barry Gutierrez even approached them and told them that Anakbayan will be given air and space but they didn’t ask questions. They approached the presscon in a disrupting manner. We couldn’t even understand their questions because they were just shouting so we were forced to ask them to leave,” Hizon told Rappler. 

Anakbayan wrote Comelec last week to seek the disqualification of Akbayan and other party-list groups with close ties to the administration, including the Black and White Movement, Abante Mindanao and Bagong Henerasyon.

But Hizon claimed there is no formal petition filed with the Comelec.

“It’s just a letter outlining why we should be de-listed, not a formal petition. It lacks all the necessary evidence,” he said. 

Bitter rivals

Akbayan and Anakbayan have been rivals in the Philippine Left.

Akbayan is associated with the moderate Left, composed of activists linked to socialists and social democrats. Anakbayan, on the other hand, is associated with the radical Left.

In the 2010 presidential race, Akbayan allied itself with the Liberal Party and campaigned for President Benigno Aquino III. Anakbayan and its affiliates campaigned for Aquino’s fierce rival then, Sen Manuel Villar.

They are supporting rival senatorial bets. Former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is running for the Senate under the administration ticket, while Bayan Muna Rep and Anakbayan ally Teddy Casiño is running for a Senate seat as an independent.

On criticisms that Akbayan had ceased to be marginalized after its members have become Malacañang appointees, Hizon said that the organization has been in existence for 14 years, even before the Aquino administration. 

“We are pioneers. In fact, we started this campaign against bogus parties but our main basis was not premised on the closeness to the administration but with the lack of necessary history and track record. Some of these party-lists don’t even have histories to speak off. That was our main point of contention,” Hizon said. 

Former Akbayan presidents Loretta Ann Rosales, Joel Rocamora, and Ronald Llamas hold key positions in government. Rosales heads the Commission on Human Rights, while Llamas is the presidential adviser on political affairs. Rocamora heads the National Anti-Poverty Commission, while Akbayan national chairperson Percival Cendaña is with the National Youth Commission.

One of Akbayan’s nominees in the 2013 party-list race, Barry Gutierrez, was Llamas’ undersecretary until recently.

Hizon said Akbayan is a political organization “that tries to represent the marginalized in all levels of government, from the barangay level to the highest echelons.”

“If they are saying that we are overrepresented, then they are saying that the marginalized can only be represented in certain levels. Than is undemocratic and demobilizing,” he said.

Comelec chair Sixto Brillantes Jr told reporters the poll body is divided on the issue of whether or not to disqualify Akbayan. The commissioners should be able to reach a decision on Wednesday, October 17, Brillantes said.

He admitted that Akbayan Rep Walden Bello called him up to ask him about the status of the petition against the party.

In the meantime, the war continues on Twitter. Here’s what people are saying.

– Rappler.com

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