As the filing of certificates of candidacy (COCs) for the 2022 national elections draws near, certain progressive party-list organizations are pushing back against a government task force tagging them as communists.
The National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) has filed petitions with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to cancel the registration of the Kabataan Partylist and Gabriela Women’s Party.
Gabriela’s case has been ongoing since May 2019, while the petition against Kabataan was filed in June 2021.
Gabriela has been accused of supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army, and receiving foreign funding. Meanwhile, the NTF-ELCAC is seeking Kabataan’s disqualification because of its alleged goal to destabilize the government.
The parties say these allegations are fabricated.
Under Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act, Comelec may cancel the registration of any organization if it advocates violence or unlawful means to achieve its goals. Election laws also prohibit candidates and parties from receiving foreign funding.
Both Gabriela and Kabataan are unfazed by the disqualification threats, as they still filed their manifestations of intent to join the May 2022 polls. The period for filing of certificates of candidacy will be from October 1 to 8, 2021. In the case of groups that want to join the party list, they will each submit to the Comelec the names of up to five nominees.
Here are some things to know about Kabataan and Gabriela.
Gabriela Women’s Party, founded in October 2000, is the Philippines’ sole women’s party-list organization.
The party-list group won its first seat in Congress in 2004. Arlene Brosas is the current representative of Gabriela Women's Party.
Meanwhile, Kabataan (whose name translates to “youth”) has been around for some 20 years as well, striving to highlight the youth’s role towards social change, especially in the areas of education, employment, health, human rights, and governance.
Kabataan Partylist first won a congressional seat in 2007. Its current representative is Sarah Elago.
The two parties’ position on issues have often overlapped. Here are some notable laws Gabriela and Kabataan authored and pushed for together:
They continue to lobby for the passage of measures catering to women and children, like the anti-discrimination or SOGIE bill and the anti-child marriage bill.
Kabataan and Gabriela are part of the progressive Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives. This group of party-list representatives includes those from ACT Teachers, Anakpawis, and Bayan Muna. They are known to be vocal about controversial measures pushed by Duterte’s allies.
In the early years of Duterte’s presidency, the bloc fought against the President’s bloody war on drugs and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao in May 2017, while their allies served in the Duterte Cabinet or were appointed to various agencies.
They’ve also pushed back against the death penalty bill, the government's COVID-19 response, the anti-terrorism law, and the non-renewal of the franchise of media giant ABS-CBN.
The Duterte administration claims that these progressive groups are acting as legal fronts for communist rebels – allegations the groups have denied.
In September 2017, Makabayan declared their separation from the majority coalition in the House. Kabataan Representative Elago and Gabriela representatives Brosas and Emmi de Jesus were part of the seven who left.
They separated to “intensify [their] opposition to the Duterte administration that has now fully unraveled as a fascist, pro-imperialist, and anti-people regime.”
Progressive groups being tagged as, or at least linked to, communists has been happening under past administrations. However, when Duterte put up the NTF-ELCAC in 2018 and passed the controversial anti-terrorism law in 2020, Gabriela and Kabataan were subject to intensified terror-tagging and disinformation campaigns.
Elago told the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism that attacks became “more pervasive” under Duterte, and that these intensified whenever they issued criticism.
In 2020, Elago was one of the most negatively targeted individuals in false claims that Rappler fact-checked on social media.
Still, the parties and their supporters continue to fight for their space in the elections.
“The threat of disqualification and attacks against Kabataan won’t stop us from joining the polls and taking a stand,” Elago said in Filipino on March 26, when the party filed its manifestation of intent to join the 2022 elections.
"Ang kasong ito ay patunay din na natatakot ang administrasyong ito na mabigyan ng boses ang kababaihan. Kaya gustong tanggalin sa loob ng Kongreso ang Gabriela Women's Party dahil napakaepektibo nito sa pagsusulong ng mga batas na patungkol sa kagalingan at karapatan ng kababaihan," Brosas said in a May 2021 statement.
(This case is proof that this administration is afraid of giving women a voice. They want to remove Gabriela Women’s Party from Congress because it has been effective in pushing for laws concerning the welfare and rights of women.)