Comelec orders strict screening of new partylist groups
Despite a more relaxed rule on the party-list system set by the Supreme Court, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) vowed to continue being strict in approving party-list organizations to ensure that no bogus groups will be able to participate in the May 9 balloting next year.
The Comelec has also called on voters to choose only a group that they believe will be genuine in advancing the interests of the poor and the marginalized in Congress.
“The Comelec will not just let bogus groups join the party-list system. We will be able to identify them during the screening process,” Comelec Chair Andres Bautista told reporters at a recent press briefing in Intramuros, Manila.
Bautista noted that two divisions of the commission have been tasked to rigorously scrutinize groups that manifested their intention to participate in the 2016 elections.
A total of 243 groups filed their manifestation of intent to participate in next year’s elections, 32 percent more than the 183 organizations that did so for the 2013 balloting.
During the screening process, the Comelec will study each organization’s membership and officials and the pertinent documents they submitted, including their respective articles of incorporation. “When the divisions hold their hearings, they will flesh all these details out,” he said.
But he was also quick to admit that the recent Supreme Court ruling on the Atong Paglaum party-list case has made the accreditation process for the party-list system “easier to comply with” and “more liberal.”
“There are laws that we have to follow on the party-list system and on the other hand, there is the recent pronouncement of the SC, so we are considering all of them,” said Bautista. “But because of this case, our direction is more liberal,” said Bautista.
In March, the Comelec announced that it would no longer be requiring groups to submit the names of their nominees to be accredited as a party-list group based on the high court’s decision in 2013.
The decision stated that the party-list system did not require that organizations be marginalized and under-represented to be accredited as a party-list group.
The high court also ruled that nominees did not have to come from the marginalized and under-represented sectors to represent a party-list group in Congress. They may do so if they have a track record of advocating for the sector.
While the Comelec might accredit party-list groups for meeting the guidelines, the voters could still prevent them from winning seats in Congress if they believed that these organizations were bogus, added Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim.
“At the end of the day, it is still the voters who get to choose who they really want to represent them in the party-list system. I think that is the best safeguard,” said Lim.
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