SC party-list ruling assailed

by Shiela Crisostomo, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 07 2013 12:43 PM | Updated as of Apr 07 2013 08:43 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Civil society groups and election experts denounced the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday for its ruling allowing wealthy regional and national political organizations to join the elections as party-list groups.

Poll watchdog Kontra-Daya said the SC ruling – issued last Tuesday – would further bastardize the party-list system by giving moneyed and powerful individuals undue opportunity to enter the House of Representatives through the backdoor.

A group does not have to represent “any marginalized and underrepresented” sector to qualify as party-list organization, based on parameters laid down by the SC in its ruling.

In its decision, the SC in effect overturned the guidelines used by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for choosing which groups can run in the May 13 mid-term polls as party-list organizations.

While declaring that the Comelec was correct in disqualifying 52 groups based on old parameters, the SC remanded the cases to the poll body for reconsideration based on new guidelines.

“SC guidelines on party-list will open floodgates to non-marginalized groups

posing as regional parties. Non-marginalized nominees can also participate provided they have a ‘track record of advocacy,’ something that is easy to fabricate,” Kontra-Daya co-convenor Fr. Joe Dizon said.

He said they now expect previously disqualified groups to eventually be legitimized “with Comelec’s questionable credibility in accrediting groups.”

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal noted that the SC guidelines have “practically amended the Party-List Law which is a legislative function.”

“It also rendered meaningless the efforts of the Comelec to give real meaning to the party-list system in our country which is being used by the powerful and the rich to be representatives through the backdoor,” he added.

Macalintal maintained the “factual finding of the Comelec which caused the disqualification of party-list groups should have been respected by the SC since the poll body merely complied with the SC decision in Banat vs Comelec.”

Militant party-list Bayan Muna said the Comelec should stand firm in its decision to disqualify rich and powerful party-list groups as well as those that serve only as fronts of well-entrenched political dynasties and influential businessmen.

“We hope the Comelec will courageously stand pat on its decision. Otherwise, the party-list election will be in complete shambles. This could spell the end of that novel constitutional provision called party-list system,” Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said.

For Anakpawis party-list, the SC decision was a “judicial mockery of the party-list system.” It also called on the public to “condemn and defy the Supreme Court ruling come the May 13 elections.”

“The latest Supreme Court ruling legitimizes the continuing debauchery and bastardization of the party-list system,” Anakpawis chair Randall Echanis said in a statement.

The SC ruling “favors the ruling class, the elite, and traditional politicians and at the same time deprives the toiling masses of peasants and workers of genuine representation in the landlord and comprador-dominated Congress,” he said.

“We call on the Filipino people to oppose the SC decision by junking bogus party-list groups on May 13 and escalate street protests,” he said.

But Aaani party-list secretary general Jimmie Policarpio welcomed the SC decision.

“We are hopeful that the proceedings will not affect the work of the Comelec to ensure clean, honest and credible elections,” Policarpio said.

“At the same time, we are also hoping that any decision of the Comelec would not cause prejudice to the efforts of existing party-list groups allowed to participate in next month’s elections so as not to disenfranchise and demoralize their members,” he said. – With Jess Diaz, Rey Galupo, Ding Cervantes, The Philippine Star