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Industrialists want LPGMA disqualified as party list

‘A cartel has been institutionalized,’ says FPI
By: - Reporter / @JeromeAningINQ
/ 08:55 AM May 12, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—An industrialists’ group has again sought before the Supreme Court the disqualification of LPG Marketers Association Inc. (LPGMA) party-list group.

In a 27-page petition filed last May 6, the 800-member Federation of Philippine Industries questioned the decision of the Commission on Elections dated March 24, 2014 that upheld the qualification of LPGMA in the party-list elections in May 2013.

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FPI alleged that the poll body committed grave abuse of discretion in accrediting LPGMA as a party-list group despite failure of the group to prove its qualification as a sectoral party based on standards laid down in the case of Atong Paglaum v. Comelec decided by the high court in April 2013.

In the said ruling, the court held that for sectoral parties to qualify in the party-list polls, majority of their members as well as their nominees must belong to the respective sectors they represent that should still be “marginalized and underrepresented.”

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The FPI, in its petition through its lawyer Rufino Margate Jr., said LPGMA violated this requirement.

“While the Comelec declared that the LPGMA represents a sector that lacks a well-defined political constituency, it made no finding at all whether or not the majority of LPGMA’s members are small and independent traders and marketers of LPG. Neither did it make any finding as to whether or not LPGMA’s nominees are small and independent traders and marketers of LPG,” petitioner stressed.

“The absence of such finding it quite conspicuous from Comelec Resolution dated 24 March 2014. It did not even devote a single sentence to discuss these issues. This is clear defiance of the directive of this Honorable Court and, hence, constitutes grave abuse of discretion,” FPI added.

FPI further insisted that LPGMA should not be allowed seat in the House of Representatives—now being occupied by Rep. Arnel Ty—simply because it “merely operates as a cartel, imposing and fixing the price of LPG in the Philippine market.”

FPI also questioned Ty’s membership in Congress, saying he and his supposed constituents are supposed to be subject to regulation of the Department of Energy.

“How can we expect the DOE to properly and effectively regulate the businessmen and traders belonging to the LPGMA when Congressman Ty has the power to summon and lambast even the Secretary of the DOE?” FPI argued.

The group also raised issues of lobbying, improper use of power and conflict of interest.

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“While LPGMA’s contribution in Congress has not been clear, it is obvious that the effect of its election so far is solely to advance the interest of its members vis-à-vis other businessmen engaged in the LPG business. It has perpetrated and still seeks to perpetuate a basic unfairness that defeats and makes a travesty of proportional representation. It has institutionalized a cartel. That has never been the object of the Constitution,” FPI said.

Citing such grounds, the high tribunal should set aside the Comelec resolution—in which Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. dissented—and declare LPGMA as not qualified as a sectoral party-list group, FPI said.

FPI chair Jesus Arranza warned that allowing LPGMA to keep its accreditation “would encourage other business and money-making groups to join the party-list bandwagon.”

“But nowhere in the party-list system or in the Constitution does it provide for a slot for the sector of businessmen, traders, marketers and retailers of LPG simply because we are not marginalized,” he told reporters in an interview.

It was the second time FPI questioned before the Supreme Court the participation of LPGMA in the party-list elections.

In February last year, the group filed a petition in the high court seeking to stop Comelec from allowing LPGMA to participate in the elections. It questioned Comelec resolution dated Dec. 13, 2012, that retained the LPGMA party-list registration.

However, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition, saying there was no point in remanding to the poll body the complaint for cancellation of the group’s accreditation since it had already issued another resolution that included the LPGMA in the list of accredited party-list organizations allowed to run in the May 2013 elections.

“Evidently, the Comelec has already determined and declared that the present factual circumstances of LPGMA meet the qualifications imposed by law on party-list groups,” said the high court.

The FPI filed a motion of reconsideration in July last year. A month later, however, the Supreme Court reversed itself, granted the motion, and remanded FPI’s petition to the Comelec.

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TAGS: constitutional law, Federation of Philippine Industries, House of Representatives, law, LPG Marketers Association of Inc., LPGMA, News, partylist, Philippine Congress, Supreme Court
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