Axed party-list group asks SC to stop disqualification-A A +A
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
REGIONAL political party Ako Bicol (AKB) asked the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday to reverse the poll body's ruling removing its accreditation for the May 2013 elections as a party-list group on the ground that it does not represent any marginalized sector.
In an 86-page petition, the group, through its counsel retired SC Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza, asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) to stop the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from implementing its October 10 resolution that disqualified it, and reinstate its accreditation as party-list qualified to participate in the elections.
AKB said the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion when it stated in its resolution that the party-list group must represent sectors mentioned in the Constitution or in Republic Act 7941, namely, labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals, and LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders).
“A party-list must represent marginalized and under-represented group/s, but it is a mistake to think that these sectors are the only marginalized and under-represented sectors of society and further that these sectors are necessarily financially poor and destitute,” said Mendoza.
He pointed out that the poll body wrongly assumes that “marginalized sectors” are composed of financially poor people, when there is no exact legal definition for “poor,” or “marginalized and underrepresented sector” in the Constitution.
“These and the other sectors mentioned in the Constitution or in RA 7941 are not necessarily ‘poor’ in the financial sense of the phrase as the Comelec appears to believe they are ‘poor’ only in the political sense that they cannot win seats in district elections but, in other political arenas, they can possibly do so, be the arena national, regional, or sectoral. It is therefore error to hold that ‘marginalized and under-represented sectors’ must be those mentioned in the Constitution or in RA 7941,” the group held.
Furthermore, while the Comelec disqualified AKB from participating in the elections, it nonetheless maintained the group’s accreditation and registration as a political party, which Mendoza said is contradictory.
“Respondent Comelec has no power to determine the qualifications of party-list representatives and impose arbitrary assumption that to be qualified as a party-list, petitioner must represent financially poor and destitute constituents,” the group said.
Lawyer Alfredo Molo III, Mendoza’s co-counsel, said in an interview that under the Constitution, the party-list system is free and open.
“Like a movie house, it is a general admission and no reserve seats. But what the Comelec is doing is reserving seats for certain groups and excluding other organizations. This is an opposite of what the Constitution says. The Comelec has no authority to overstep the sovereign will of the people to choose who their representative will be. But in deliberately allotting the seats, the Comelec is violating the Constitution because it was not allowed. Comelec is resorting to constitutional amendments,” he said.
AKB is the first among the groups and organizations previously disqualified by the Comelec to file a case at the SC questioning their disqualification.
AKB was first accredited and registered by the Comelec in 2009. In the 2010 polls, it won the largest number of votes gathered by all party-lists, with 1,522,986 votes, representing five percent of the total votes cast.
While in Congress, the group said it matched its poll record with its legislative record by filing 270 bills and 73 resolutions.
Comelec earlier ruled that AKB does not represent or seek to uplift a marginalized and underrepresented sector within the contemplation of the party-list system. It added that the Bicolano ethnic group, which AKB sought to represent, does not belong to the 110 groups recognized by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
In disqualifying AKB, Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the group’s accreditation was for a political party registration, and not to represent a sector for party-list. A separate petition to run in the party-list elections should have been filed by the group, which it failed to do. (JCV/Sunnex)