SC, Comelec Urged: Don’t Mock Partylist Law, Allow Marginalized Sectors in Congress

Three big partylist groups have questioned the Comelec’s efficiency, fairness, accuracy and capacity to respect, uphold and promote the law, particularly that of the partylist system and in allowing representation for the marginalized.


MANILA — T’is the season to start cheating?

Three big partylist groups have questioned the Comelec’s efficiency, fairness, accuracy and capacity to respect, uphold and promote the law, particularly that of the partylist system and in allowing representation for the marginalized. This developed as three of the biggest and most popular new partylist groups – Alliance of Concerned Teachers, Migrante and Courage — were kept out by the Comelec from the partylist race in the 2010 elections.

These partylist groups trace their lineage to organizations that have been figuring in the news for years in the course of serving their underprivileged members across the nation and abroad. ACT and Courage have been household names to teachers and public servants given the years these organizations have spent struggling to improve the teachers’ and public servants’ pay and working conditions.

Over the years, ACT and Courage, by the nature of its members’ jobs, have also unearthed for the concerned public issues of corruption that could further disadvantage education and public service if left unchecked. Migrante, on the other hand, has been the group to call for millions of Filipino exported labor who have had more than their share of usual problems in working abroad.

Yet, despite the documentary corroboration ACT and Courage said they had submitted to the Comelec early on, the Comelec now says they failed to see the national representation or membership of these groups. As for Migrante, the Comelec delisted the partylist group based on a strict, “illegal” or erroneous interpretation of the Partylist System Act, said Migrante.

On the other hand, the Comelec has easily allowed relatively never-heard partylist groups to join the 2010 elections. Some of those easily allowed in by the Comelec are just “dummy and bogus partylists,” said Courage Partylist national president Ferdinand Gaite. Worse, according to Migrante, the Comelec had previously allowed some who, based on the Comelec’s “reasons” for keeping out Migrante, should also have been kept out in the past elections.

Comelec “Delays”

The Comelec’s timing of releasing its decision to reject these partylist groups for the 2010 elections barely gave ACT, Courage and Migrante time to question the decision and still file their manifestation of intent to participate in the elections.

Migrante’s legal counsel, Julius Matibag, assailed the fact that it took Comelec 22 days just to “resolve” Migrante’s “verified opposition,” and that it was delivered to the group only on November 19.

“Such a delay has greatly limited the period available to the Supreme Court to resolve Migrante’s application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) before the December 1 deadline of the filing of the manifestation of the intent to participate in the elections,” said Matibag.

Still, after protesting in front of the Comelec office, Migrante trooped to the Supreme Court on November 20 to seek a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Comelec’s ruling.

Courage and ACT also criticized the timing of the Comelec’s release of decision to keep them out of the partylist race in 2010. Gaite said they patiently followed up on their petition only to be told of the decision “when the deadline of filing of certificates of candidacy is just a day away.”

Comelec Inaccuracies and Double-standard

Blatant inaccuracy and unfairness marred the Comelec’s rejection of Courage, Migrante and ACT. Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson of Migrante, noted that Comelec has previously allowed five partylist groups — Visayas Farmers Party, Sagip Kapwa Foundation, Visayas Association of the Philippines, Pinoy Overseeas Party and Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency — to participate in the 2004 elections even if they failed to obtain 2% of the total partylist votes in 1998 and did not participate in the 2001 elections.

Comelec now delisted Migrante saying the group failed to get 2% of the partylist votes in the 2001 elections and as they did not participate in the 2004 elections, they also did not get 2% of the partylist votes. “How can you lose in a race you didn’t participate in?” asked Migrante. And why, Migrante asked in a statement, prevent them from joining the 2010 election when five others in similar situation had been previously allowed in?

Gaite of Courage hit the Comelec’s “double standard” in giving legitimate partylist groups a hard time while being “lenient to dummy and bogus partylists.” “We were given the runaround,” he said. During the hearing the Comelec raised no question or opposition to Courage.

Comelec has also made more plainly erroneous assertions in its decision to reject Courage and ACT.

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