By TONYO CRUZ
Voters re-elected and gave a fresh mandate to the Makabayan Bloc of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan partylist representatives in the last election.
Bayan Muna won the maximum three seats a partylist could win in any election. Veteran public sector unionist Ferdinand Gaite and Lumad leader Bai Eufemia Cullamat are set to join Rep. Carlos Zarate as Bayan Muna congresspersons.
Four women will banner the Makabayan congressional delegation: Gabriela’s Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers’ France Castro, Kabataan’s Sarah Elago, and Bayan Muna’s Cullamat.
Bayan Muna partylist and the Makabayan Bloc also made history with Cullamat. More accurately, Cullamat is set to make history for the Lumad. Known as the chair of the Lumad group Kasalo Caraga, she is about to become the first-ever grassroots Lumad leader to be sworn in as a member of Congress.
On the day the Comelec proclaimed the senatorial and partylist winners, the people groaned their disappointment over the newly proclaimed, mostly pro-Duterte senators. But they gleefully greeted the partylist victories of Bayan Muna, Gabriela, ACT Teachers, and Kabataan.
The 2019 re-election of progressive lawmakers is a repudiation of the regime’s objective to wipe them out of Congress through unlawful electioneering, illegal campaigning, misuse of public offices and funds for partisan ends, and other acts prohibited by law.
Some segments of the official political opposition also joined the anti-Makabayan attacks. They cannot forgive Makabayan for so-called “offenses” such as: supporting peace talks between the Duterte regime and the communists; backing the cabinet appointment of progressives, independents, and oppositionists. They cannot forgive Makabayan for having a mind of its own.
Sadly, the campaign against Makabayan partylists resulted in the loss of Anakpawis, the party of workers and farmers formed by labor icon Crispin Beltran and peasant leader (and former DAR Secretary) Rafael Mariano.
Massacres and assassinations were perpetrated in Negros and other provinces which had long been known as Anakpawis bailiwicks. Leaders note reports of vote-shaving operations, with precincts reporting fewer votes for Anakpawis compared to its actual votes.
The plight of Makabayan highlights the difficulties of genuine partylists in a partylist system now being dominated by traditional politicians and dynasties. Not only do real partylists have to contend with shoestring budgets; they have to fight off the combined efforts of the elites and the state to capture House seats intended by the Constitution for the marginalized and the underrepresented.
Makabayan partylists ran and won on a platform of fighting for sovereignty and democracy. They return to Congress with a fresh, new mandate to continue their parliamentary activism: to use the platform of Congress to challenge the Duterte regime and to promote the causes essential to the underrepresented and the marginalized.
The strength of the Makabayan Bloc is that it belongs both to Congress and more so to the Parliament of the Streets. It cannot be easily silenced. Neri Colmenares said it clearly in his non-concession statement: Dirty and violent elections won’t deter or derail the fight for reforms.
In fact, the “magic” we witnessed on Election Night — the thousands of defective vote-counting machines and SD cards, and the illegal acts unpunished or allowed by the Comelec — give Makabayan the political and moral basis to condemn the system for denying the people their right to freely choose their leaders.
Between now and the 2022 elections, Makabayan could play a pivotal role in politics. It can help thwart the attempts to tamper with the Constitution to keep Duterte in office to remove term limits, to destroy the bill of rights, and to surrender our territory and economy to foreign interests.
Makabayan is gearing to challenge the regime’s legislative objectives to lower the minimum age of criminal liability, to restore the death penalty, and to amend the anti-terror laws.
Makabayan lawmakers should also make moves to reform the partylist system, and help initiate investigations on the conduct of the 2019 elections.
Duterte’s defenders are proclaiming their lord and savior as so mighty and powerful, that it showed in this election. Makabayan’s hard-fought triumph makes that dubious and incomplete.
Colmenares is not about to leave. He emerges from this election as a statesman of the Left, incorruptible, principled, and ready to work in coalition with others in the opposition. The broad Makabayan senatorial slate he led together with Otso Diretso, Labor Win, and independents could be the starting point for a Grand Opposition Coalition in the future. He gives people hope. His designated number 22 could be referring to 2022.
Makabayan lawmakers will soon take the oath of office. They will be wearing as a badge of honor the fact that they defeated Duterte’s efforts against them, the fact that they are a potent force for sovereignty and democracy, the fact that they continue to win the people’s mandate despite all odds.