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Only Buhay may get three seats

Comelec ruling upsets Bayan Muna

By Nikko Dizon
Inquirer
First Posted 01:29:00 06/05/2007

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2007, Politics, Elections

MANILA, Philippines -- The dust in the party-list race has yet to settle but a new controversy looms with the announcement of the Commission on Elections Monday that only the No. 1 group would get the coveted maximum three seats in the House of Representatives.

In accordance with the Comelec ruling, only the pro-life El Shaddai-associated Buhay, which is currently leading the party-list race, would be entitled to three seats.

The militant group Bayan Muna will likely get two seats, down from its three seats in the 13th Congress.

Comelec Chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. said the poll body would use the so-called ?Panganiban formula? instead of the commission?s ?2-4-6 formula? in determining the number of seats each winning party-list organization would have in the incoming 14th Congress.
?It?s only the No. 1 group that will get three seats under the (Panganiban) formula,? Abalos said at a press conference after the Comelec, sitting as the National Board of Canvassers (NBC), adjourned for the day.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casiño described Abalos? statement as ?very distressing.?

?Applying the one-party formula will be against the spirit of the party-list law, which is to encourage more party-list groups to join,? Casiño said.

He said it was not a coincidence that those that would be hit by the Comelec statement were opposition party-list groups.

?I hope Abalos won?t allow himself to be used by Malacañang?s political agenda,? he said.

More popish than the Pope

For her part, outgoing Akbayan party-list Rep. Loretta Ann ?Etta? Rosales said Abalos was more popish than the Pope.

?We find the formula problematic as it is, but his interpretation is downright malicious and wrong by reducing us all to one seat each. They really want to annihilate independent voices in the House,? Rosales said.

The party-list system allows marginalized groups to take part in legislation.

Abalos was referring to the formula created by the Supreme Court to determine the additional number of House seats entitled to a party-list group as it resolved the case of the Veterans Federation Party et al. v. Comelec in 2000. The ruling was penned by then Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban, who retired late last year as Chief Justice.

Based on the formula, the additional number of seats of a party-list group is pegged on the number of votes of the first, or No. 1 party.

Formula explained

On its website, the Citizens? Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) has posted an explanation of the formula by Dr. Felix P. Muga II of the Mathematics Department of the Ateneo de Manila University.

Muga wrote: ?The Supreme Court formula, which we call the Panganiban-Veterans Formula, allocates one seat to the parties with at least 2 percent of the total party-list votes.?

?Then the additional number of seats of a concerned party is computed by dividing its number of votes by the number of votes of the first party. The quotient is multiplied by the additional number of seats of the first party,? he said.

?The integer part or the whole part of this computation is the additional number of seats of the concerned party,? Muga said.

?The Supreme Court refers to the ?first party? as the party-list group that obtained the highest votes in the party-list election. The first party has one additional seat if it garnered at least 4 percent but less than 6 percent of the total number of party-list votes, or it has two additional seats if it obtained at least 6 percent of the total number of party-list votes,? he said.

Muga said the formula imposed a three-seat cap to be consistent with the provision of the Party-List System Act, or Republic Act No. 941.

Prevailing doctrine

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that the poll body would follow the formula because ?it is the prevailing doctrine.?

?It has not been reversed until now. So that?s what we have to follow. That?s the Supreme Court ruling. You have to yield to the Supreme Court [because it is] the highest tribunal,? Sarmiento said.

In April, the high court denied Cibac?s petition for a second seat in the House following the 2004 party-list elections.

The Supreme Court said the additional seat allocation formula should follow its decision on the VFP case.

The Comelec?s audited tally as of June 2 showed that Buhay had 1,015,627 votes, followed by Bayan Muna with 816,340, and Cibac, 667,004.

Gabriela Women?s Party ranks fourth with 491,928 votes while the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) is fifth with 475,190.

Some 700,000 to 1 million votes are still to be canvassed by the NBC sub-canvassing committee, according to Bayan Muna lawyer and third nominee, Neri Colmenares.

Panganiban?s invention

Colmenares pointed out that it was a formula that was simply the ?invention? of Panganiban.

?Where did the formula come from? Nowhere in the law did it say that there?s this formula that should be followed. Nor was it in the constitutional proceedings,? he said.

Colmenares said Bayan Muna had always held the ?Panganiban formula wrong? such that when it was the first party in the 2001 and 2004 elections, it never questioned the ?2-4-6 formula? implemented by the Comelec, which also gave other party-list groups like APEC and Akbayan three seats each.

In the 2-4-6 formula, a party-list that gets 6 percent of the total number of votes cast for the party-list elections would be entitled to three seats. A group with 4 percent will get two seats, and a group with 2 percent, one seat.

The Comelec, Colmenares said, never implemented the Panganiban formula, which was why he was surprised that in this year?s party-list elections, it decided to do away with its own 2-4-6 formula.

He said the Panganiban formula was not really a formula. ?It simply says that the first party will get three seats and all the succeeding parties will get their second seats if they get one-half of the vote of the first party,? he said.

?The (Panganiban) formula itself is not right in general and in particular to Bayan Muna. Firstly, the formula says that it is for proportionality but in fact, it (becomes more) disproportionate for the party-list groups,? Colmenares said.

Secondly, Colmenares said, the Comelec?s decision to implement the Panganiban formula ?is unjust and unfair to Bayan Muna,? which now appears to be the second party.

?The fight isn?t over yet. Of course, there?s still a chance (for Bayan Muna to be No. 1). But let?s say that?s the trend (Bayan Muna at No. 2), now they will implement the Panganiban formula?? he said.

Personal

He acknowledged that the fight over which formula would be implemented in determining the additional seats would be somewhat ?personal? because he is Bayan Muna?s third nominee, and thus the one who might not be entitled to a House seat.

Should the Comelec decide to implement the Panganiban formula, Bayan Muna would question the ruling in the Supreme Court, he said.

He added that with the Panganiban formula, it appears that party-list organizations, even if they get 2 percent of the total votes cast for party-list elections, would occupy fewer seats in the 14th Congress.

In the current 13th Congress, the party-list groups occupy a total of 23 seats. Under RA No. 7941, party-list groups are entitled to up to 20 percent (some 50 seats) of the total number of members of the House.



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