Sue us, Comelec dares party-list groups
MANILA, Philippines – To fix the system, why not challenge it?
Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr on Friday, November 9, said disqualified party-list groups could help refine the Party-List Law by suing the Comelec before the Supreme Court (SC). Brillantes said the law, after all, does not adequately define the marginalized and underrepresented, the only sectors allowed to run for party list.
The status quo, therefore, forces Comelec interpretations to “prevail in accordance with the Party-List Law, unless we are reversed by the Supreme Court.”
"That's why we're encouraging people that we have disqualified to go up to the Supreme Court, and maybe come out with jurisprudence that will really define what marginalized is. We have our own definition. We apply it on a case-to-case basis," Brillantes explained in an interview on ANC.
Three groups – Ako Bicol, 1-Care, and Apec – have already gone to the SC to challenge the Comelec's decision to disqualify them from the 2013 polls. In its petition before the SC, Apec, which stands for Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, said the Comelec did not allow them to appeal its October 15 resolution.
Signed by former President Fidel V Ramos, the Party-List Law or Republic Act 7941 does not categorically define marginalized and underrepresented sectors. But it identifies the following sectors as qualified to run for a party-list post: labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.
Brillantes said the problem lies in specific contexts, as in the case of women who come from different socio-economic brackets. “If you're a millionaire woman, can you run for party list?"
On Thursday, November 8, Brillantes admitted Comelec commissioners end up being subjective in determining their criteria for disqualifying party lists. “We debate among ourselves: Ano ba’ng marginalized sa ‘yo? Ano ba’ng marginalized sa akin?” (What's marginalized for you? What's marginalized for me?)
He then urged the Senate to revise the 17-year-old Party List Law.
Besides the law, the Comelec also uses a 2001 Supreme Court ruling as basis to disqualify certain party lists. While this ruling does not categorically define the marginalized and underrepresented, it sets 8 criteria in identifying groups qualified to join the party-list race:
- The parties must comply with the declared statutory policy of enabling “Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors" to be elected;
- The religious sector may not be represented in the party-list system;
- The parties must not be disqualified under Section 6 of RA 7941 (Party-List System Act);
- The parties must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government;
- The parties must not only comply with the requirements of the law; its nominees must likewise do so;
- The parties must represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors; so also must its nominees;
- The parties must likewise be able to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation
So far, disqualified party lists include groups identified with the Aquino and Arroyo administrations.
On Wednesday, November 7, the Comelec said it has disqualified the pro-Aquino group Black and White because it supposedly does not represent the marginalized. Earlier, the poll body also barred the party-list group of Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo, son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, from participating in the 2013 party-list race.
The Comelec is also expected to rule on the possible disqualification of another pro-Aquino group, Akbayan, whose members include some who now occupy posts in government. The election watchdog Kontra Daya on Thursday said this will be the Comelec's "biggest test." – Rappler.com