'Disqualification of party-listers arbitrary'

Posted at 11/06/12 2:31 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The dean of the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP-NCPAG) hit the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for implementing an “arbitrary” system in disqualifying party-lists from the 2013 elections.

Dean Edna Co said the party-list system, as prescribed in laws and available jurisprudence, should be about “proportional representation.”

She said the word “marginalized”, in assessing the qualification of a party-list group, should not be taken in its most literal sense.

"The problem is that such mechanism for choosing among the existing sectors has not been determined, thus the arbitrariness and the seeming chaos of the Comelec's process of disqualifying party-list groups," Co said.

She said Comelec should have clear guidelines as to which group should be maintained in the list for the 2013 elections.

"It is difficult for Comelec to cleanse the party-list system without some clear guidelines or criteria that would guide them of the purging or the cleansing. Given such limitation, the Comelec's decision could be arbitrary,” Co said.

She added that if Comelec is to purge the unqualified from the list, it should not be subjective in choosing the marginalized and the underrepresented.

"The party-list law certainly needs amendment, and such amendment should emanate from the spirit of the Constitution, which is to provide representation for the under-represented.”

House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. also described Comelec’s process as “torture” to party-list groups, specifically to those who are holding seats in Congress.

“I am 100 percent sympathetic with the people who are already here and whenever they ask me for advice, I said the soundest advice I can give is that the Comelec’s ruling is still appealable to the Supreme Court so do whatever you think is proper.”

At least two groups have already brought their case before the Supreme Court. More groups are expected to question the Comelec’s decision on their respective disqualifications.

In its petition, Ako Bicol (AKB) questioned Comelec’s decision that it does not represent the marginalized. It said Comelec could not just impose an "arbitrary assumption that to be qualified as a party-list, petitioner must represent financially poor and destitute constituents.”

AKB won the largest number of votes in 2010, or a total of 1,522,986 votes that represents 5% of the total votes cast.

1-Care or the 1st Consumer’s Alliance for Rural Energy also questioned the poll body’s decision amid a Supreme Court decision in February 2011 already favoring its accreditation.

“The long established doctrine of Immutability of Judgments was totally disregarded in the case at hand. It is incumbent upon the Court to assist in the enforcement of the law and in the maintenance of peace and order in our government and society at large to put an end to judiciable controversies with finality,” 1-Care earlier said.