Letter to House Speaker Belmonte re Blacklist at the House of Representatives

May 25, 2015

The Honorable Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr
The Speaker of the House of Representatives
HOR Complex, Constitution Hills 1126
Quezon City, Philippines

Dear Mr. Speaker,

On May 20, 2015, lawmaker Terry Ridon of Kabataan Partylist denounced a memo from the House of Representatives, dated March 18, 2015, banning certain activists and progressive leaders from entering the HOR, citing violations of the rules of proper behavior and decorum. This memo was discovered recently when student leaders who had been invited to come as resource speakers for a house panel hearing had been denied entrance.

Rep. Ridon revealed that this memorandum had been issued by Legislative Security Bureau Director Isabelito Flores. Furthermore, Ridon said that he requested for a full copy of the memo, but this was never provided to him.

The memo contains a list of persons being denied entrance to the HOR, including We the Faceless and #ScrapPork Network member Mae Paner aka Juana Change, labor leader Elmer Labog, UP professor Danilo Arao, and other leaders and members of people’s groups including the transport sector, government employees, students, peasants and teachers’ groups.

Mr. Speaker, we are beyond outraged. What an appalling and dangerous precedent to ban these leaders, members and Filipino citizens from attending sessions of the very legislative body elected to represent us all. Where is our freedom to express our convictions concerning the laws that affect us?

We, the members of We the Faceless and different other citizen advocate groups decry and censure this alarming and unjust occurrence for the following reasons:

1. There has been no due process. None of the fifty people named in the blacklist were given an opportunity to hear exactly what their offense was and present their side in the alleged violations. A decision was made unilaterally to prohibit them from entering the House of Representatives.

2. There has been no transparency. The memorandum was implemented “without the knowledge and approval of the House,” according to Rep. Ridon.

3. This is an assault against the democratic process and the rights of the people you represent, all guaranteed by the Constitution you have sworn to uphold. For you to stealthily promulgate and enforce this ban against the very people you represent is not only a mockery of the democracy that allowed you to be in the position you are in, but also an unspeakable travesty of the constitutional principles that should govern your service to the nation.

We, the people, craft our laws to build the society we want, through you. We exercise our power to do this, through you. And you forbid us, the people, from exercising these powers?

What are you afraid of by welcoming those whose opinions may be opposed to yours?

A plurality of voices, especially those that speak for under-represented sectors in society must be made welcome for the democratic process to work.

Further discussions on the BBL are coming up, as well as President Aquino’s final State of the Nation Address for his term. We strongly urge you, as well as the leadership of the 16th Congress of the Republic of the Philippines to condemn and rescind this blacklist and publicly acknowledge that all voices are welcome in Congress as you, and we all, are committed to making democracy work.

We hope that you will take this opportunity to correct this humiliating political blunder of disenfranchising the very same citizens you have sworn to represent and whose mandate you are duty bound to carry out. Banning the entry of these people without the benefit of due process and without respecting their constitutionally guaranteed rights is like a servant prohibiting his master to enter his own house.

Anna Maria Romero
Denggai Silorio
Inday Espina Varona
Peachy Rallonza-Bretana
Crisanto San Gabriel
Troy Zarate de Leon
Noemi Lardizabal Dado

CC: Hon. Ronaldo Zamora, Minority Leader
Hon. Neptali M. Gonzalez II, Majority Leader
Hon. Kaka J. Bag-ao Hon. Henedina R. Abad
Hon. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. Hon. Giorgidi B. Agabao
Hon. Neri J. Colmenares Hon. Sergio F. Apostol
Hon. Emmi A. de Jesus Hon. Pangalian M. Balindong
Hon. Fernando L. Hicap Hon. Roberto V. Puno
Hon. Luzviminda C. Ilagan Hon. Carlos M. Padilla
Hon. Antonio L. Tinio Hon. Carlos Isagani T. Zarate
Atty. Marilyn B. Barua-Yap DPA, Secretary General
Legislative Security Bureau
Lt. Col Isabelito P. Flores, PN(M)(Res), Executive Director,
Legislative Security Bureau