THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday, June 2, 2023, canceled the registration of An Waray party-list after it was found to have unlawfully assumed a second seat in the 16th Congress as a result of the 2013 national and local polls.

In a 15-page decision, the Comelec Second Division said it is granting the petition filed against An Waray party-list and its then nominee Victoria Isabel Noel, who assumed as the 2nd Representative of An Waray sans a Certificate of Proclamation from the Commission.

"Considering An Waray is entitled to one seat only in relation to the May 2013 NLE and with no Certificate of Proclamation to entitle her as 2nd Nominee to sit as representative of the HOR, Respondent Atty. Victoria Isabel Noel's assumption to office as Representative of An Waray in the HOR in the 16th Congress is without any legal basis," said the Comelec.

"Wherefore, premises considered, the Petition is granted. The registration of An Waray party-list is canceled," it added.

In particular, the poll body pointed out how An Waray committed one ground for cancellation of the party-list registration, which is failure to comply with laws, rules, or regulations related to the elections.

"An Waray arrogated unto itself the authority to have its 2nd Nominee, Atty. Victoria Isabel Noel, to take her oath and assume office as representative in the HOR, an act which clearly constitutes a violation of laws relating to elections imputable to the party as provided under Section 6 (5) of R.A. No. 7941," said the Comelec Second Division.

The Comelec noted how the National Board of Canvassers (NBOC) resolution being used by An Waray in assuming the second seat contained a provision of being issued "without prejudice" to the proclamation of additional party-list organizations and subsequent recomputation of seat allocation.

"Suffice it to say, NBOC Resolution No. 0008-13 dated 28 May 2013 was superseded by NBOC Resolution No. 13-030 (PL)/0004-14. Thus, the initial allocation of two seats to An Waray was subsequently recomputed to be one seat only," said the ruling.

According to Comelec Spokesman John Rex Laudiangco, the ruling of the Second Division may still be appealed before the Commission en banc.

"An Waray has five days from today to file a Motion for Reconsideration. Should they fail to do so within the reglementary period, the decision will become final and executory," said Laudiangco.

Asked about the possible effect of the decision to the seat currently held by An Waray party-list Rep. Florencio Gabriel Noel, the poll official admitted that he could be unseated.

"The primary qualification to be able to participate in the party-list system elections is its registration. Such qualification must be continually possessed. The cancellation of registration (thus) may be a ground for forfeiture or removal of seat," pointed Laudiangco.

He, however, stressed that the House of Representatives as well as the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal will still have a say in such a scenario.

"We must always take due notice that when it comes to qualifications, retention of a seat at the House of Representatives of a sitting member, it will ultimately be within the jurisdiction of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal," said Laudiangco.

In the May 2022 polls, An Waray had a total of 385,460 votes received, thereby earning it one seat in the 19th Congress. (HDT/SunStar Philippines)