HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SUFFRAGE APPROVES ANTI-PTC BILL Solons urge immediate passage as election season nears

AKBAYAN Representatives Etta Rosales and Mayong Aguja today renewed their appeal for their fellow legislators to pass House Bill 6581, otherwise known as the anti-Permit to Campaign (PTC) bill.

Authored by the two party-list representatives, the proposed measure seeks to criminalize extortion from political candidates in exchange for their freedom to campaign in areas controlled by armed groups such as the New People’s Army.

The measure was approved yesterday by the Committee on Suffrage which shall then come out with a Committee Report for deliberation in a House plenary session. Both Aguja and Rosales said they will personally urge the President to certify the bill as a priority measure.

“As the campaign period nears, more and more incidents of extortion and intimidation against politicians and party-list groups like AKBAYAN are surfacing, making the passage of this bill more urgent,” says Aguja. He added that the PTC was among the many serious election-related problems that contributed to the politics of money and violence.

“May vote buying na, may dayaan pa, may permit-to-campaign pa!” exclaimed Aguja. “E di yung may pera na lang na makakapag-bayad ng PTC ang puwedeng tumakbo. Those who say that they are pro-people should not contribute to corruption and to coercion,” Aguja stressed.

For her part, Rosales emphasized the right to suffrage as a fundamental right for all Filipinos and that the PTC subverts this right by limiting the field of choices for voters. “By collecting money from prospective candidates and threatening to harm those who will not pay, armed groups like the NPA are in effect eliminating other options for voters. That degrades the people’s right to freely choose who will govern them,” she said.

AKBAYAN Party-list nominee and long-time peace advocate Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel said the passage of the bill at the committee level is a welcome development. “Particularly welcome is the support given by the likes of Rep. Antonio Nachura from Western Samar and Rep. Salacnib Baterina from Ilocos Norte.” Nachura defended the bill as a much-needed measure to put coercion and extortion in the specific context of elections.

Hontiveros said that the approval only goes to show the wide support that the bill is enjoying. “Hopefully it is not yet too late for government to do something about this practice, which makes armed groups supposedly fighting for the masses as agents of violence and corruption,” she said.