Constitutional Law, Political Law

ABANG LINGKOD v. COMELEC G.R. No. 206952 October 22, 2013 Party-list System

FACTS:

Petitioner is a sectoral organization that represents the interests of peasant farmers and fisherfolks, and was registered under the party-list system. 

It participated in the May 2010 elections, but failed to obtain the number of votes needed for a seat in the House of Representatives.

On May 31, 2012, ABANG LINGKOD manifested before the COMELEC its intent to participate in the May 2013 elections. 

The COMELEC issued Resolution No. 9513, which, inter alia required previously registered party-list groups that have filed their respective Manifestations of Intent to undergo summary evidentiary hearing for purposes of determining their continuing compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941 and the guidelines set forth in Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC.

ABANG LINGKOD, in compliance with the COMELEC’s resolution, filed pertinent documents to prove its continuing compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941.

After due proceedings, the COMELEC En Banc cancelled ABANG LINGKOD’s registration as a partylist group, pointing out that ABANG LINGKOD failed to establish its track record in uplifting the cause of the marginalized and underrepresented, among other reasons.

ABANG LINGKOD then filed with this Court a petition for certiorari alleging that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the cancellation of registration of ABANG LINGKOD under the party-list system by the COMELEC was proper.

RULING:

The petition is meritorious.

Essentially, ABANG LINGKOD’s registration was cancelled on the ground that it failed to adduce evidence showing its track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented.

The flaw in the COMELEC’s disposition lies in the fact that it insists on requiring party-list groups to present evidence showing that they have a track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented.

Section 5 of R.A. No. 7941 however provides:

Sec. 5 Registration. Any organized group of persons may register as a party, organization or coalition for purposes of the party-list system by filing with the COMELEC not later than ninety (90) days before the election a petition verified by its president or secretary stating its desire to participate in the party-list system as a national, regional or sectoral party or organization or a coalition of such parties or organizations, attaching thereto its constitution, by-laws, platform or program of government list of officers, coalition agreement and other relevant information as the COMELEC may require: Provided, That the sectors shall include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. 

R.A. No. 7941 did not require groups intending to register under the party-list system to submit proof of their track record as a group. The track record requirement was only imposed in Ang Bagong Bayani where the Court held that national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations seeking registration under the party-list system must prove through their, inter alia track record that they truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented.

The Court finds it appropriate to lay down the following guidelines, culled from the law and the Constitution, to assist the Comelec in its work.

First, the political pat1y, sector, organization or coalition must represent the marginalized and underrepresented groups identified in Section 5 of RA 7941. 

In other words, it must show — through its constitution, articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, platform of government and track record — that it represents and seeks to uplift marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Verily, majority of its membership should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented. And it must demonstrate that in a conflict of interests, it has chosen or is likely to choose the interest of such sectors.

There was no mention that sectoral organizations intending to participate in the party-list elections are still required to present a track record.

Sectoral parties or organizations may either be marginalized and underrepresented or lacking in well-defined political constituencies. It is enough that their principal advocacy pertains to the special interests and concerns of their sector. 

The sectors that are marginalized and underrepresented include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped, veterans, and overseas workers. The sectors that lack well-defined political constituencies” include professionals, the elderly, women, and the youth.

There exists no reason to further require groups seeking registration under the party-list system to submit evidence showing their track record. Pursuant to Atong Paglaum not all groups are required to represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors and, accordingly, there is no longer any incentive in merely feigning representation of the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

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