8 party-list groups get Supreme Court reprieveBy Christine O. Avendaño, Jocelyn R. Uy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Not four but eight party-list groups, including the one led by ex-convict Romeo Jalosjos Jr., which were earlier barred by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from taking part in next year’s election, got a reprieve from the Supreme Court.
This developed as the Comelec disqualified 10 more party-list organizations claiming to represent government employees, farmers, migrant workers and orphans.
One of them was a group supposedly created by Efraim Genuino, former chairman of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) who faces charges involving irregularities at the state-run casino operator.
But the poll body allowed a group representing Filipino nurses—Ang Nars Inc.—to take part in the May elections.
The Supreme Court en banc on Wednesday released a resolution requiring the Comelec and eight party-list groups to “observe the status quo prevailing” before the poll body issued the resolutions against them.
Kapatiran ng mga Nakakulong ng Walang Sala Inc. of Jalosjos and three others joined Ako Bicol, Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives, 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Inc. and Alliance for Rural Concerns, which the media reported on Tuesday got a reprieve from the high court.
The three others were Aksyon Magsasaka-Partido Tinig ng Masa, Alliance for Rural and Agrarian Reconstruction Inc. and Association for Righteousness Advocacy on Leadership Party-List.
In resolutions it issued on Oct. 10, 11, 16 and 24, the poll body canceled the party-list groups’ registration for various reasons, including not being qualified to represent the marginalized sectors and their questionable nominees. They were barred from taking part in the 2013 elections.
In its decision, the high court en banc said it adopted a resolution the other day that sought the consolidation of the petitions of the eight party-list groups and required the Comelec to comment on the petitions within a “nonextendible” period of 10 days from notice.
The party-list groups sought relief from the Supreme Court, saying the poll body had committed grave abuse of discretion for disqualifying them.
Ang Nars Inc. identified its nominees as Leah Primitiva Samaco-Paquiz, Lydia Palaypay, Chris Sorongon, Caridad Galban and Anna Marie Acorda-Kapunan.
“They are marginalized professionals [and] all of their nominees are marginalized,” Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said in an interview with reporters.
He said the group was composed of nurses, including the nominees, who have yet to be employed or those who have chosen to stay in the Philippines.
“They represent nurses who are unemployed and also those who are making a sacrifice by staying in the country instead of working abroad,” Brillantes said.
Last week, the Comelec announced that the group Pilipinos with Disabilities was the first official candidate for the party-list elections next year.
Of the 10 party-list groups it disqualified yesterday, two were among those the poll body accredited for the 2010 elections—Action Brotherhood for Active Dreamers Inc. and Abot Tanaw, the group identified with Genuino.
Abot Tanaw claimed to represent overseas Filipino workers and operate social media services to keep migrant workers in touch with their families in the Philippines.
In a document submitted earlier to the Comelec, poll watchdog Kontra Daya noted that Genuino’s son-in-law, Gerwin See, was named the first nominee of Abot Tanaw in the 2010 elections. The others were said to be Pagcor consultants. But the group failed to win a seat in the previous balloting.
Other groups that failed to get Comelec accreditation were Guardian, Hukbong Querubin Humanitarian Team Inc., Ikaw ang Laging Wagi ng Bayan Inc., Samahang Ilocanong Magsasaka, Aangat Ahon Magsasaka, Guardians of Orphans and Disabled, Una Edukasyon and Courage Government Employees Party-list (Courage).
Hukbong Querubin listed Jose Martin Loon, stepson of former Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, as one of its nominees.
Courage said the Comelec “seriously erred and committed grave abuse of authority” in denying its accreditation as a party-list organization.
“It perplexes us to no end on how they can claim that government employees are not marginalized and therefore do not deserve to have a representative in Congress,” the group said.
The Comelec ruling on Wednesday brought to 79 the number of organizations delisted from the 2013 elections. Brillantes said the Comelec en banc was still looking at some 50 more groups up for disqualification.
The election body started purging the list of 265 groups in September as part of its effort to cleanse the party-list system of sham groups and nominees who are either multimillionaires, relatives of government officials and members of powerful political clans.
The review of groups hoping to participate in next year’s elections was being conducted in light of the Constitution provision on the party-list system, the Party-list System Act and jurisprudence, according to the Comelec.
The election body was also strictly implementing the guidelines enumerated in the Ang Bagong Bayani v. Comelec case.
The decision, written by former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, issued guidelines to ensure that only those who belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors—labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, professionals and the LGBTs—can run for party-list seats in Congress.
The guidelines said that the political party or sector must represent the marginalized and underrepresented groups identified in the Constitution and that the party or organization must not be “an adjunct of” or a “project organized or an entity funded or assisted by the government.”
It also said that the nominee of a party must represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
Ruling on Akbayan
Brillantes also announced Wednesday that the en banc, composed of him and six election commissioners, had decided on the fate of Akbayan. But he refused to elaborate pending the signing of a formal resolution on the voting.
“We just voted on it… we already have a majority but I won’t preempt [the resolution],” he told reporters. “I am not sure if the vote was 4-3 or 5-2 but I am not announcing what is our decision.”
Akbayan faces two disqualification complaints in the Comelec.