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PHILIPPINES: Millions of Votes for the Democratic Left

While the Commission on Elections has yet to announce the official results of the 2013 partylist elections, we would like to thank the Filipino voters and everyone who have made Akbayan Partylist's sixth straight electoral victory possible.
On behalf of Professor Walden Bello and Atty. Barry Gutierrez, who will represent us in the 16th House of Representatives, we dedicate our victory to the Filipino people, particularly the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, who have continuously entrusted us with the responsibility to represent and defend their interests inside and outside Congress.

We would also like to express our deepest gratitude to all of those who have supported the senatorial candidacy of our Chairperson, Risa Hontiveros. We extend our warmest and sincerest appreciation to the almost 11 million people who have voted for her; and by doing so, they have bravely confronted and defied traditional and patronage politics in our country. Likewise, we thank the army of volunteers led by the youth, women and other sectors who have invested their time and energy on the campaign and who have traveled with us to the remotest parts of the country to spread the message of hope and change.

Breaking the glass ceiling

It was not an easy senatorial campaign. From the very start, the sheer weight of trapo politics and the dynastic system of our elections have been heavily stacked against us. But we persevered. We have proudly and unfalteringly carried the politics of reforms. And while Risa did not emerge victorious, her votes confirmed that the reform constituency is growing and getting stronger. She may have conceded the 2013 senatorial battle, but certainly, she has not abandoned our collective aspiration to broaden people participation and representation in government. The struggle continues. Risa Hontiveros will carry on. We will not stop until we break the glass ceiling.

Dragon slayers

And while challenges are ever present in all our endeavors, so is hope. The election of Akbayan leaders and allies to district, provincial and municipal posts is a silver lining to the campaign for reforms. Notable of these are the "iconic electoral battles" waged and won by "dragon slayers" like Akbayan lawmaker and newly elected Dinagat Representative Kaka Bag-ao over the Ecleo clan, Akbayan Los Banos Mayor Caesar Perez against the Genuinos and the late Dr. Jay Pernes, who even in his death defeated the Fuas in Siquijor. The lesson is crystal clear; while the trapos and political dynasties wield tremendous power, they are not invincible. They can be beaten even in their own political fiefdoms.

A powerful and pluralist movement

However, a powerful and pluralist mass movement is necessary to defend and sustain these patches of hope, to replicate them in other areas, especially in the national arena where the elite is the strongest. We call on the Filipino people to remain committed to the reform process we have started three years ago which gave us important victories against corruption and impunity. We have not traveled this far just to stray from the path of change.

We also call on the different progressive forces, social movements and reform-oriented groups to use this occasion to reflect on and assess the recently concluded political exercise. The midterm election is rich in lessons and experiences. We hope that we can help each other in threshing out the valuable lessons even as we prepare for the next battle.

Millions of votes for the democratic left

A famous German philosopher once said that elections provide us with "a measure of proportion second to none" to gauge our own strength and that of our opponents. In this election, Akbayan, the country's leading democratic left party, received close to 11 million votes from its national electoral engagement. While it is certainly not enough to break the back of traditional and patronage politics at present, we are confident that with the strong and steady support from the people, we will tilt the balance in favor of the forces of change.

The Struggle Continues!

Akbayan: We're all set to defend RH law

Fresh from its sixth straight electoral victory in the partylist polls, Akbayan Partylist today said it is ready to defend the Reproductive Health Law from attempts to "abort it."

The partylist group made the statement after the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said the Catholic Church is readying anew its battle against the RH law.

"Final battle"

"We will stand our ground and are prepared to defend the RH law from those who want to 'abort' it. This is a final battle to prevent maternal deaths and secure the people's reproductive health rights from unreasonable and ill-founded attempts of a few groups," Akbayan National Spokesperson Barry Gutierrez said.

Defending RH law in two fronts

"We are all set to defend the RH law. We will wage the defense in two fronts. The first is in the Supreme Court where we are set to defend the law in oral arguments set this June 18. The second is in the House of Representatives where we will secure the RH law and ensure its appropriate funding against groups and politicians who want to kill it," Gutierrez added.

Gutierrez, who is also a law professor at the University of the Philippines-Diliman and former Director of the UP Institute for Human Rights, is set to defend the RH law before the Supreme Court on behalf of former Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros.

Last January 28, Hontiveros filed a motion for intervention with the Supreme Court. She argued that the RH law opponents are seeking help from the "wrong venue," saying that instead of bringing the matter before the Supreme Court, they should be questioning the "efficacy of reproductive health products" before the Food and Drug Authority.

"We are very grateful with the outpouring of support to help defend the RH law. From legislators, women's groups, youth and student associations, civil society organizations to fresh bar passers, the network of RH law defenders is getting broader and stronger. This is really a people's war to safeguard the reproductive health rights of our women and children," Gutierrez said.

Trapo politics not "Catholic vote"

Gutierrez also refuted notions that the "Catholic vote" was key to Hontiveros's defeat in the senatorial race.

"Even the Catholic church hierarchy admitted that the Catholic vote in the 2013 elections was negligible. In the case of Risa, it was primarily the sheer weight of political brand names and patronage politics which prevented her from making it to the magic 12," Gutierrez explained.

"Despite the loss, she gained more votes as compared to 2010 when she first ran for a senate seat. Her almost 11 million votes in the midterm election is a clear testament of the people's support for reproductive health and rights," Gutierrez said.

"Reform constituency"

Akbayan said it will organize and develop Hontiveros's votes into a stable "reform constituency" which will contest the 2016 elections from the political elite.

"This early, we are already preparing for the people's next important electoral battle. The lesson of the midterm election is clear, while the trapos and political dynasties wield tremendous political power, they can be defeated, even in their own political fiefdoms," Gutierrez explained.

" And while Risa's close to 11 million votes were not enough to break the back of traditional and patronage politics at present, we are confident that with the strong and steady support from the people, we will tilt the balance in favor of the forces of change," Gutierrez concluded.