Ako Bicol Group Seeks Catanduanes Votes - CT

The partylist group Ako Bicol launched its bid to corner a sizeable share of the partylist votes in the province of Catanduanes in the coming 2010 national and local elections.

Last Saturday, the group’s deputy secretary general for media affairs, Albay broadcaster Joshua Martinez Jr., met with members of the local media to explain the party’s mission, vision and objectives in joining the polls. Also present were officials of the Sunwest Group of Companies, whose chief executive officer Elizaldy Co is widely held as Ako Bicol prime mover and expected to be one of the nominees as partylist representative should it win the required number of votes.

Martinez said his group needs to win at least 900,000 votes out of the 3 million votes in Bicol, to be added to the votes of Bicolanos elsewhere in the country, to garner three seats in the House of Representatives. The problem, he said, is that Bicolano voters have yet to realize the importance of the partylist system, noting that in the 2007 elections, only 30 percent voted in partylist groups. Records show that in the same elections in Catanduanes, only 37 percent, or 41,286, of the voter turnout filled in the blank for the partylist group. The race here was topped by Buhay Hayaang Yumabong of religious leader Mike Velarde and Bayan Muna.

On the question of its nominees, Martines disclosed that the Ako Bicol Movement’s executive council chaired by Zaldy Co will decide the matter before the March 2010 deadline set by the Commission on Elections. He added that while Co may indeed be one of the nominees as House representative, the businessman is not keen on joining Congress as he only wants to expand his business empire to the rest of Bicol in order to generate employment and livelihood opportunities.

The movement, headed by Atty. Rodel Batocabe as president, was founded by ordinary people, businessmen and professionals who played a role in helping Albay get back on its feet after the devastation of typhoon Reming in 2006. The movement’s many activities, from calamity relief projects to medical missions, feeding programs and scholarships, has elicited support from NGOs and other groups and soon expanded its presence across the region.

"If successful in 2010, the Ako Bicol partylist representatives would be able to assist the movement in financing its humanitarian activities," Martinez declared. Aside from funding programs in health, education and infrastructure development, the partylist solons would add to the Bicolano bloc in Congress that represents all sectors of the region.

Ako Bicol was accredited as a regional political party last July 24, 2009 and has already filed its manifestation to participate in the 2010 partylist polls. Pressed by the Tribune, Martinez refused to name who represents Catanduanes in the Ako Bicol executive council.

Source: Catanduanes Tribune - 12 December 2009

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