‘SC decision makes a mockery of party-list system’ –– progressive groups

“The new interpretation of the partylist law not only watered down the very essence of the legislation but also opened the floodgates of Congress for millionaires and traditional politicians who are using the partylist system as a backdoor to the Lower House.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – The progressive groups condemned the recent Supreme Court ruling allowing 41 of the 54 previously disqualified partylist groups to run for the upcoming May 13 national elections. The groups said the new SC ruling “institutionalize the bastardization of the partylist system.”

On April 5, Friday, Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes announced that the SC has released its decision on the disqualification of the 54 partylist groups. These groups were disqualified for failing to meet the requirements for representing marginalized sectors in the House of Representatives.

Son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo’s partylist Ang Galing Pinoy was one of the disqualified groups.Ang Galing Pinoy claims to represents security guards, tricycle drivers, farmers and small businessmen.

According to the SC decision, partylist groups need not be “marginalized or underrepresented” to run in the partylist election. Furthermore, the SC said that as long as the “principal advocacy pertains to the special interest and concern of the sector, the group can participate in the election.

“This sudden turnaround is a complete shock considering that the Supreme Court has consistently disallowed the district congressmen and the rich from the party-list election since 2001 in the case of Bagong Bayani and which was recently reiterated in the case of Banat, which surprisingly was also written by Justice Antonio Carpio himself,” Bayan MunaRep.NeriColmenares said in a statement sent to Bulatlat.com.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio also penned the recent SC decision. Those who favored the decision to allow the previously disqualified partylist groups are Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and MarvicLeonen. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes dissented.

Kabataan Partylist first nominee Terry Ridon said Carpio’s decision “has reversed the hard-earned victory against bogus partylists. He added that in effect, the new ruling further bastardize the remaining avenue for genuine people’s participation in government.

Elite domination

“In effect, the new SC ruling will further marginalize genuine representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented, as powerful traditional politicians – especially in areas dominated by the elite – could now easily enter the partylist elections,” said Bai Ali Indayla, Moro youth leader and second nominee of Kabataan Partylist.

Indayla then asked: “So in areas dominated by the landed elite, clans like the Ampatuans in ARMM can easily set up a regional party and put another family member in position.” Indayla added that new SC ruling also allows proliferation and expansion of political dynasties in the countryside.

Ridon pointed out that the new ruling would only favor “the rich and well-entrenched” while further marginalizing progressive partylists that lack resources to compete with traditional politicians.

Meanwhile, Vencer Crisostomo, national chairman of Anakbayan said that not only will the elite dominate the House of Representatives but it will further “trapofy” it.

“Instead of giving space for poor, the party-lists system will give more for dominant candidates and parties. It reversed the progressive and pro-poor intent of the party-list system. Expect more hacienderos, trapos and cabinet members to abuse the system originally reserved for poor and marginalized sectors,” he said.

Colmenares said that under the Constitution, the party-list system was intended as a “social justice” measure to allow the poor to have a voice in Congress by allotting 20 percent of the seats for the marginalized and underrepresented.

“The decision essentially disregarded this social justice principle when it allowed the 80 percent district congressmen to join in the party-list elections. Why did we even separate the 20 percent for the partylist if they will just allow district congressmen like Rep.Mikey Arroyo to join the partylist system?”

“The new interpretation of the partylist law not only watered down the very essence of the legislation but also opened the floodgates of Congress for millionaires and traditional politicians who are using the partylist system as a backdoor to the Lower House,” Ridon said.

‘Partylist system is for the poor’

Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP) Rep. Luz Ilagan said the partylist system was created to favor the poor, marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

“It was supposed to give farmers, workers, informal settlers, indigenous groups and women– sectors whose opinions are often relegated to the sidelines, the chance to take active part in legislation and policy making. The Supreme Court ruling takes an entirely opposite direction. It makes a mockery of the partylist system,” said Ilagan.

The GWP represents and has proved to benefit women from the marginalized sector. They and the rest of the Makabayan bloc have pushed for pro-people legislation such as the P125 across-the-board wage hike, the comprehensive version of the Reproductive Health bill which takes away the issue of population control, and the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, among many others.

Colmenares urged the Comelec to stand pat on its decision. He said that there is still hope because the decision is not yet final.

“The Comelec has been tasked to screen which of the disqualified party-list groups shall remain disqualified. The position of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno is correct. Since the grounds for disqualifying these groups include other grounds such as failure to prove their advocacy for a sector, or violation of election laws, then these rich powerful party-list groups can still remain disqualified on these grounds since the Supreme Court decision did not touch on these issues,” said Colmenares.

The Comelec will still review the qualifications of the remaining 13 partylist groups.

“We hope the Comelec will courageously stand pat on its decision. Otherwise, the party-list election will be in complete shambles. This could spell the end of that novel constitutional provision called the partylist system,” Colmenares said. ()

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