MANILA, Philippines – The country's elections chief wants a revision of the party-list law, saying it does not provide a clear-cut definition of what marginalized and underrepresented sectors are.
"Magulo eh. There has to be a total revision of the party-list law," Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. told reporters after a hearing of the Senate electoral reforms committee on Thursday.
At the hearing, Brillantes admitted that poll commissioners often have to make their own rules and rely on their own judgment when deciding which party-list groups truly represent the marginalized.
"We don't really have enough guidelines under the existing law," Brillantes said.
Brillantes said that aside from Republic Act 7941 or the Party-list Law, the commission uses the Supreme Court's guidelines in its decision on the Ang Bagong Bayani v. Comelec case of 2003.
These, apparently, are not enough. In screening party-list groups that want to run in the 2013 elections, for instance, Brillantes said deliberations among commissioners often involve subjective standards.
"We debate among ourselves. Ano ba'ng marginalized sa 'yo? Ano ba'ng marginalized sa akin?" he said.
"We make our own definition."
Under RA 7941, marginalized sectors qualified to run for party-list elections include laborers, peasants, fisherfolk, the urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, the elderly, the handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.
The Supreme Court decision, on the other hand, says representatives of any party-list group must belong to a marginalized sector.
Brillantes said the law needs to identify the specific members of a sector that are marginalized. He noted, for instance, that not all women or women's groups are.
Brillantes said that while the rules are still quite vague, the poll body uses its own power to be strict in accrediting party-list groups.
Senate electoral reforms committee chairman Aquilino Pimentel III, however, raised questions about the Comelec's power to disqualify groups that have been accredited, allowed to run, and even won in previous elections.
"Those you have already accredited, on what provision of law or legal doctrine do you base your power to revisit their accreditation?" he said.
Brillantes explained that the Comelec has the power to review party-list groups' qualifications because they are required to seek accreditation for every election they intend to participate in.
He added that previous rulings on a group's qualification won't necessarily apply in the present commissioners' own review.
"Just because you have been accredited in the past doesn't mean you will be an accredited party-list again," Brillantes said. "We feel that there are several party-lists which were previously accredited but do not have the continuing qualifications to participate in future elections."