By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Farmers and human rights activists urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to disqualify a partylist group allegedly with links to the Revolutionary Proletarian Army-Alex Boncayao Brigade (RPA-ABB).
In a petition for disqualification, human rights group Karapatan and the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) called for the removal and/or cancellation of registration of Abang Lingkod partylist. Filed by Wilfredo Marbella, deputy secretary general of KMP and Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairwoman on June 27, the complainants called on Comelec to provide due course and cancel the certificate of nomination to Abang Lingkod.
The said partylist was given accreditation in January 2010 but lost in the last elections.
“Abang Lingkod is not a party-list group of the marginalized and underrepresented peasant/farmer sector because Abang Lingkod’s objectives do not contain anything that relates to the peasant/farmer sector and, none of its incorporators and trustees are peasants/farmers,” the petition stated. “On the contrary, its nominees and leaders possess interest in conflict and adverse to the interests of peasants/farmers.”
Karapatan said Abang Lingkod’s standard bearer Joseph Stephen Paduano, also known as Carapali Lualhati, is the national commander of the RPA-ABB.
The RPA-ABB is a breakaway group from the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines. Since it signed a peace pact with former president Joseph Estrada, with Danding Cojuangco, a landlord and uncle of President Benigno “Noynoy” C. Aquino III, acting as witness, the group has been integrated into the Armed Forces of the Philippines as force multiplier and member of the special Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit. The RPA-ABB members are also being hired by landlords to harass farmers, according to KMP.
The complaint cited that Paduano, through his group RPA-ABB, was a recipient of “funding from the government and big landlords in Negros.” The groups said it is a ground for removal and/or cancellation of Abang Lingkod’s registration.
In a previous article, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said that a total of P267 million ($ 6.21 million) of government funds have already been released to the RPA-ABB since the 1990s. In Negros Occidental, the provincial government and the RPA-ABB have reportedly forged a memorandum of agreement, stipulating that P31 million ($720,930) of the P91 million ($2.12 million) would be released in order to fund “developmental projects.”
In 2001, the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) was disqualified when the Comelec and the Supreme Court discovered that it was funded by the Philippine National Police “using public funds.”
The complaint cited that “by nominating Paduano as its standard bearer, Abang Lingkod, for all intents and purposes, ties up its supposed advocacy with him. Hence, whatever advocacy that Paduano carries is attributed to that of Abang Lingkod. It could be very well concluded that Paduano’s track record of violating the rights of peasants/farmers is also reflective of the nature, character and objectives of Abang Lingkod.”
Paduano and Patrick Leonard S. Lacson, provincial board Member of Negros Occidental were named defendants of the complaint.
The RPA-ABB has been involved in numerous cases of human rights violations, specifically in Negros Occidental and Oriental.