Party list, quo vadis?

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections has been reckless in accrediting party-list candidates and their nominees. A few days ago, the Supreme Court reversed Comelec’s flimsy decision disqualifying Ang Ladlad. Now, it is inviting more public disenchantment by disqualifying the Disabled Pinoy Party, yet allowing Rep. Mikey Arroyo to be the first nominee of a party list of security guards and former Secretary Angelo Reyes to represent a party list of bus and jeepney drivers.

Only for the marginalized. Comelec’s job is simple: just follow existing jurisprudence. In Ang Bagong Bayani vs Comelec (June 26, 2001 and June 25, 2003), which I had the honor of writing, the high court clearly ruled that the party-list system was reserved only for those “(1) who belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties; and (2) who lack well-defined constituencies but (3) who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”

Thus, the party-list candidate must show— through its constitution, articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, platform of government and track record—that it represents and seeks to uplift marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

Ang Bagong Bayani likewise plainly held that “not only the candidate party or organization must represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors so must its nominees… who (must also) belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors.”

To stress that both the party-list candidate and the nominees must be “marginalized,” the Court cited examples, “Surely the interest of the youth cannot be fully represented by a retiree; neither can those of the urban poor or working class, by an industrialist. To allow otherwise is to betray the State policy to give genuine representation to the marginalized and underrepresented.”

“In the end,” the Court concluded, the “role of the Comelec is to see to it that only those Filipinos who are marginalized and underrepresented become members of Congress under the party-list system, Filipino style.”

By the foregoing standards, Representative Arroyo, not being a security guard by occupation, cannot represent the security guard sector. Neither can Secretary Reyes be a nominee of a party list of drivers, for he is not a professional driver. The Comelec then should simply refuse to accredit them.

If Arroyo and Reyes think they can convince the Court to reverse its pro-poor decision in Ang Bagong Lipunan to accommodate them, let them try. Indeed, they may be emboldened to do so; after all, the Arroyo administration has shown its muscle in persuading the Court to reverse the half-century ban on midnight appointments.

Another dubious Supreme Court victory. And just the other day, the administration flexed its brawns again when it convinced the Court to legitimize legislative gerrymandering thereby assuring another GMA son, Rep. Dato Arroyo, of his continued stay in Congress.

Sec. 5(3) of Article VI of the Constitution states, “Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.” Straining this provision, the majority of nine in Aquino vs Comelec (April 7, 2010) upheld the creation of a new legislative district in Camarines Sur with a population of only 176,383, because “the 250,000 minimum population is only required for a city, but not for a province.”

However, the five dissenters (one jurist was on leave), led by Justices Antonio T. Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, complained that the majority conveniently ignored other parts of the Constitution mandating Congress to reapportion legislative districts pursuant to “(1) proportional representation; (2) minimum population of 250,000 per legislative district; (3) progressive ratio in the increase of legislative districts; and (4) uniformity in the apportionment of legislative districts in provinces, cities, and Metropolitan Manila area.”

Carpio disemboweled the majority’s skewed decision for it “marks a tectonic shift by tilting the balance in favor of entrenched interests, sacrificing the Constitution, and ultimately, the ideals of representative democracy, at the altar of political expediency.”

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Mischievous petition. Last week, top lawyer Romulo Macalintal petitioned the Supreme Court to abolish the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), which was created to decide contests relating to the presidency and the vice presidency.

Because Macalintal also lawyers for President Macapagal-Arroyo, critics immediately imputed Machiavellian motives to him. I disagree. The Constitution already provides, “The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice President…” Hence, even if his petition succeeds, the Court—not the PET—will hear presidential protests.

If at all, Macalintal merely created monstrous conflicts of interest, if not embarrassment, for the justices. You see, the PET is the respondent in the petition, is composed of all justices, and was created by the Court. Worse, the justices are given separate allowances and additional personnel as PET members.

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno inhibited from the petition to compel the Judicial and Bar Council to nominate a midnight chief justice, due to his being JBC chair. Per his example, will all the justices recuse from hearing this petition? If they do, who will decide the case?

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