[G.R. No. 147589.June 25, 2003]
ANG BAGONG BAYANI-OFW LABOR PARTY (under the acronym OFW), represented herein by its Secretary-General, MOHAMMAD OMAR FAJARDO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; CITIZENS DRUG WATCH; MAMAMAYAN AYAW SA DROGA; GO! GO! PHILIPPINES; THE TRUE MARCOS LOYALIST ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES; PHILIPPINE LOCAL AUTONOMY; CITIZENS MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT AND PEACE; CHAMBER OF REAL ESTATE BUILDERS ASSOCIATION; SPORTS & HEALTH ADVANCEMENT FOUNDATION, INC.; ANG LAKAS NG OVERSEAS CONTRACT WORKERS (OCW); BAGONG BAYANI ORGANIZATION and others under Organizations/Coalitions of Omnibus Resolution No. 3785; PARTIDO NG MASANG PILIPINO; LAKAS NUCD-UMDP; NATIONALIST PEOPLES COALITION; LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO; AKSYON DEMOKRATIKO; PDP-LABAN; LIBERAL PARTY; NACIONALISTA PARTY; ANG BUHAY HAYAANG YUMABONG; and others under Political Parties of Omnibus Resolution No. 3785, respondents.
[G.R. No. 147613.June 25, 2003]
BAYAN MUNA, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; NATIONALIST PEOPLES COALITION (NPC); LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO (LDP); PARTIDO NG MASANG PILIPINO (PMP); LAKAS-NUCD-UMDP, LIBERAL PARTY; MAMAMAYANG AYAW SA DROGA; CREBA; NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGARCANE PLANTERS; JEEP; and BAGONG BAYANI ORGANIZATION, respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
Before the Court are Motions for proclamation filed by various party-list participants.The ultimate question raised is this:Aside from those already validly proclaimed pursuant to earlier Resolutions of this Court, are there other party-list candidates that should be proclaimed winners?The answer to this question is circumscribed by the eight-point guideline given in our June 26, 2001 Decision in these consolidated cases, as well as by the four unique parameters of the Philippine party-list system:
First, the twenty percent allocation -- thecombined number of all party-list congressmen shall not exceed twenty percent of the total membership of the House of Representatives, including those elected under the party-list.
Second, the two percent threshold -- only those parties garnering a minimum of two percent of the total valid votes cast for the party-list system are qualified to have a seat in the House of Representatives.
Third, the three-seat limit -- each qualified party, regardless of the number of votes it actually obtained, is entitled to a maximum of three seats; that is, one qualifying and two additional seats.
Fourth, proportional representation -- the additional seats which a qualified party is entitled to shall be computed in proportion to their total number of votes.
To fully understand the matter on hand, we deem it wise to recapitulate some relevant antecedents.
On June 26, 2001, the Court promulgated in these consolidated cases its Decision requiring Comelec to do the following:
x x x [I]mmediately conduct summary evidentiary hearings on the qualifications of the party-list participants in the light of the guidelines enunciated in this Decision. Considering the extreme urgency of determining the winners in the last party-list elections, the Comelec is directed to begin its hearings for the parties and organizations that appear to have garnered such number of votes as to qualify for seats in the House of Representatives. The Comelec is further directed to submit to this Court its compliance report within 30 days from notice hereof.
The Resolution of this Court dated May 9, 2001, directing the Comelec to refrain from proclaiming any winner during the last party-list election, shall remain in force until after the Comelec itself will have complied and reported its compliance with the foregoing disposition.
Comelecs First Partial
In its First Partial Compliance Report dated July 27, 2001, Comelec recommended that the following party-list participants be deemed to have hurdled the eight-point guideline referred to in the aforementioned Court Decision:
1.BAYAN MUNA (BAYAN MUNA)
2.AKBAYAN! CITIZENS ACTION PARTY (AKBAYAN!)
3.LUZON FARMERS PARTY (BUTIL)
4.ANAK MINDANAO (AMIN)
5.ALYANSANG BAYANIHAN NG MGA MAGSASAKA, MANGGAGAWANG BUKID AT MANGINGISDA (ABA)
6. PARTIDO NG MANGGAGAWA (PM)
It also recommended the disqualification of the following party-list participants for their failure to pass the guidelines:
MAMAMAYAN AYAW SA DROGA (MAD)
ASSOCIATION OF PHILIPPINE ELECTRIC COOPERATIVES (APEC)
VETERANS FEDERATION PARTY (VFP)
ABAG PROMDI (PROMDI)
NATIONALIST PEOPLES COALITION (NPC)
LAKAS NUCD-UMDP (LAKAS)
CITIZENS BATTLE AGAINST CORRUPTION (CIBAC)
LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO (LDP)
BUHAY HAYAANG YUMABONG (BUHAY)
COCOFED-PHILIPPINE COCONUT PRODUCERS FEDERATION, INC. (COCOFED)
COOPERATIVE NATCCO NETWORK PARTY (COOP-NATCCO)
NATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF IRRIGATORS ASSOCIATION (NCIA)
ASOSASYON PARA SA KAUNLARAN NG INDUSTRIYA NG AKLAT, INC. (AKLAT)
THE TRUE MARCOS LOYALIST (FOR GOD, COUNTRY, AND PEOPLE)ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES (MARCOS LOYALIST)
CHAMBER OF REAL ESTATE AND BUILDERS ASSOCIATION, INC. (CREBA)
BIGKIS PINOY FOUNDATION (BIGKIS)
AKSYON DEMOKRATIKO (AKSYON)
In response to this Report, the Court issued its August 14, 2001 Resolution which partially lifted its May 9, 2001 Temporary Restraining Order (TRO).The Court did so to enable Comelec to proclaim Bayan Muna as the first winner in the last party-list election, with the caveat that all proclamations should be made in accordance not only with the Decision of the Court in the instant case but also with Veterans Federation Party v. Comelec, GR Nos. 136781, 136786, and 136795, October 6, 2000, on how to determine and compute the winning parties and nominees in the party-list elections.
In another Resolution dated August 24, 2001, the Court again partially lifted its May 9, 2001 TRO to enable the Comelec to proclaim Akbayan and Butil as winning party-list groups, in accordance not only with the Decision of the Court in the instant case but also with Veterans Federation Party v. Comelec, GR Nos. 136781, 136786, and 136795, October 6, 2000.
In its Consolidated Reply dated October 15, 2001, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), on behalf of the Comelec, recommended that -- except for the modification that the APEC, BUHAY, COCOFED and CIBAC be declared as having complied with the guidelines set forth in the June 26, 2001 Decision in the instant cases [--] the Partial Compliance Report dated July 27, 2001 be affirmed.But because of (1) the conflicting Comelec reports regarding the qualifications of APEC and CIBAC and (2) the disparity in the percentage of votes obtained by AMIN, the Court in a Resolution dated November 13, 2001, required the parties to file within 20 days from notice their respective final position papers on why APEC, CIBAC, and/or AMIN should or should not be proclaimed winners in the last party-list elections.
Thereafter, in another Resolution dated January 29, 2002, the Court agreed to qualify APEC and CIBAC, which had previously been disqualified by Comelec in its First Compliance Report.
Thus, in the same Resolution, the Court once more lifted its May 9, 2001 TRO to enable the Comelec to proclaim APEC and CIBAC as winners in the party-list elections.The Court said:
we accept Comelecs submission, per the OSG, that APEC and CIBAC have sufficientlymet the 8-point guidelines of this Court and have garnered sufficient votes to entitle them to seats in Congress. Since these issues are factual in character, we are inclined to adopt the Commissions findings, absent any patent arbitrariness or abuse or negligence in its action. There is no substantial proof that CIBAC is merely an arm of JIL, or that APEC is an extension of PHILRECA. The OSG explained that these are separate entities with separate memberships. Although APECs nominees are all professionals, its membership is composed not only of professionals but also of peasants, elderly, youth and women. Equally important, APEC addresses the issues of job creation, poverty alleviation and lack of electricity. Likewise, CIBAC is composed of the underrepresented and marginalized and is concerned with their welfare. CIBAC is particularly interested in the youth and professional sectors.
To summarize, after the Court had accepted and approved the First Partial Compliance Report and its amendments, the following nominees were validly proclaimed winners: BAYAN MUNA (Satur C. Ocampo, Crispin B. Beltran and Liza L. Maza), AKBAYAN (Loretta Ann P. Rosales), BUTIL (Benjamin A. Cruz), APEC (Ernesto C. Pablo) and CIBAC (Joel J. Villanueva).
Comelecs Second Partial
In its Second Compliance Report dated August 22, 2001 and received by this Court on August 28, 2001, Comelec recommended that the following party-list participants be deemed qualified under the Courts guidelines:
11.ADHIKAIN AT KILUSAN NG ORDINARYONG TAO PARA SA LUPA, PABAHAY, AT HANAPBUHAY (AKO)
13.SENIOR CITIZENS/ELDERY SECTORAL PARTY (ELDERLY)
14.ALL TRADE UNION CONGRESS OF THE PHILIPPINES (ATUCP)
15.MARITIME PARTY (MARITIME)
16.ANG BAGONG BAYANI OFW LABOR PARTY (OFW)
17.ANIBAN NG MGA MAGSASAKA, MANGINGISDA, AT MANGGAGAWA SA AGRIKULTURA KATIPUNAN (AMMMA)
18.ALYANSA NG NAGKAKAISANG KABATAAN NG SAMBAYANAN PARA SA KAUNLARAN (ANAKBAYAN)
19.ALYANSA NG MGA MAY KAPANSANAN SA PILIPINAS (AKAP)
20.MINDANAO FEDERATION OF SMALL COCONUT FARMERS ORGANIZATION, INC. (MSCFO)
21.WOMENPOWER, INC. (WPI)
22.AGGRUPATION AND ALLIANCE OF FARMERS AND FISHERFOLKS OF THE PHILIPPINES (AAAFPI)
23.ALL WORKERS ALLIANCE TRADE UNIONS (AWATU)
In the same Compliance Report, the poll body classified the following party-list groups as unqualified:
GREEN PHILIPPINES FOUNDATION (GREEN PHIL)
PARTIDO NG MASANG PILIPINO (PMP)
ANG LAKAS NG BAGONG KOOPERATIBA (ALAB)
PARTIDO NG MARALITANG PILIPINO PINATUBO PARTY (PMP-PINATUBO)
BAYAN NG NAGTATAGUYOD NG DEMOKRATIKONG IDEOLOGIYA AT LAYUNIN, INC. (BANDILA)
BAGONG BAYANI ORGANIZATION(BAGONG BAYANI)
KABATAAN NG MASANG PILIPINO(KAMPIL)
AARANGKADA ANG MGA HANDA ORAS-ORAS(AHOY)
PHILIPPINE MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (PMA)
ALLIANCE TO ALLEVIATE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL ORDER, INC.(AASENSO KA)
PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKO SOSYALISTA NG PILIPINAS(PDSP)
COOPERATIVE UNION OF THE PHILIPPINES(CUP)
ATIN(FORMERLY ABANTE BISAYA)
VOLUNTEERS AGAINST CRIME AND CORRUPTION(VACC)
ASSOCIATION OF BUILDERS CONSULTANTS AND DESIGNERS, INC. (ABCD)
CITIZENS DRUGWATCH FOUNDATION, INC.(DRUGWATCH)
ALAY SA BAYAN PARA SA KALAYAAN AT DEMOKRASYA(ABAKADA)
ASOSASYON NG MGA TAGA INSURANCE SA PILIPINAS, INC. (ATIP)
ANG LAKAS NG OVERSEAS CONTRACT WORKERS(OCW)
NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SUGAR PLANTERS(NFSP)
KABALIKAT NG BAYAN PARTY(KABALIKAT)
PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO LAKAS NG BAYAN (PDP-LABAN)
BANTAY BAYAN FOUNDATION PARTY, INC.(BANTAY-BAYAN)
ABANTE KILUSANG KOOPERATIBA SA GITNANG LUZON [AKK COALITION]
GREEN PHILIPPINES (GREEN)
PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATION OF DETECTIVE AND PROTECTIVE AGENCY OPERATORS(PADPAO)
ALLIANCE FOR GREATER ACHIEVEMENTS IN PEACE AND PROSPERITY(AGAP)
ALYANSA NG KOOPERATIBANG PANGKABUHAYAN PARTY (ANGKOP)
NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR DEMOCRACY(NAD)
PEOPLE POWER PARTY(PEOPLE POWER)
PHILIPPINE TECHNOLOGICAL COUNCIL(PTC)
PHILIPPINE LOCAL AUTONOMY MOVEMENT, INC. (PLAM)
PROFESSIONAL CRIMINOLOGIST ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES(PCAP)
CITIZENS MOVEMENT FOR JUSTICE, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT, AND PEACE(JEEP)
Comelecs Final Partial
In its Final Partial Compliance Report dated September 27, 2001 and received by the Court a day later, Comelec recommended that the following be considered as qualified party-list participants:
24.NATIONAL CONFEDERATION OF TRICYCLEOPERATORS AND DRIVERS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES (NACTODAP)
25.NATIONAL FEDERATION OF SMALL COCONUT FARMERS ORGANIZATION, INC.(SCFO)
26.TRIBAL COMMUNITIES ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES(TRICAP)
27.PILIPINONG MAY KAPANSANAN(PINOY MAY K)
28.VETERANS CARE AND WELFARE ORGANIZATION(VETERANS CARE)
29.UNION OF THE FILIPINO OVERSEAS WORKERS, INC.(OCW-UNIFIL)
31.PILIPINO WORKERS PARTY(PWP)
32.PHILIPPINE ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED PERSONS(PARP)
33.ALLIANCE OF RETIRED POSTAL EMPLOYEES AND SENIOR CITIZENS, INC. (ARPES)
34.AGRARIAN REFORM BENEFICIARIES ASSOCIATION, INC. (ARBA)
35.FEDERATION OF JEEPNEY OPERATORS AND DRIVERS ASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES(FEJODAP)
36.GABAY NG MANGGAGAWANG PILIPINO PARTY(GABAY-OFW)
37.ALTERNATIVE APPROACHES OF SETTLERS(AASAHAN)
38.ALLIANCE FOR YOUTH SOLIDARITY(AYOS)
39.PARTY FOR OVERSEAS WORKERS AND EMPOWERMENT AND RE-INTEGRATION(POWER)
40.KILOS KABATAAN PILIPINO(KILOS)
41.KALOOB-KA ISANG LOOB PARA SA MARANGAL NA PANINIRAHAN(KALOOB)
42.ALYANSA NG MGA MAMAMAYAN AT MANDARAGAT SA LAWA NG LAGUNA, INC.(ALYANSA)
43.DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION OF THE PHILIPPINES(DFP)
44.PARTIDO KATUTUBONG PILIPINO(KATUTUBO)
Further, the Comelec recommended the disqualification of the following party-list groups:
AALAGAHAN ANG ATING KALIKASAN (ALAS)
PHILIPPINE SOCIETY OF AGRICULTURAL ENGINEERS(PSAE)
PARTIDO PARA SA DEMOKRATIKONG REPORMA(PDR)
CONSUMERS UNION OF THE PHILIPPINES(CONSUMERS)
CONFEDERATION OF NON-STOCK SAVINGS AND LOAN ASSOCIATION, INC. (CONSLA)
PEOPLES PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE FOR PEACE AND GOOD GOVERNMENT TOWARDS ALLEVIATION OF POVERTY AND SOCIAL ADVANCEMENT(PAG-ASA)
SAMA-SAMA KAYA NATIN TO FOUNDATION, INC.(KASAMA)
A PEACEFUL ORGANIZATION LEADERSHIP, FRIENDSHIP, SERVICE MOVEMENT(APO)
PHILIPPINE DENTAL ASSOCIATION(PDA)
PUSYON (BISAYA) PILIPINO(PUSYON)
SOCIAL JUSTICE SOCIETY(SJS)
CITIZENS ANTI-CRIME ASSISTANCE GROUP, INC.(CAAG)
ASA AT SAMAHAN NG KARANIWANG PILIPINO(ASAKAPIL)
BUSINESSMEN AND ENTREPRENEURS ASSOCIATION, INC.(BEA)
UNITED ARCHITECTS OF THE PHILIPPINES(UAP)
ABAY PAMILYA FOUNDATION, INC.(ABAY PAMILYA)
PEOPLES REFORM PARTY(PRP)
COALITION FOR CONSUMER PROTECTION AND WELFARE(COALITION 349)
NATIONAL URBAN POOR ASSEMBLY (NUPA)
ALLIANCE FOR MERITOCRACY(AFM)
BALIKATAN SA KABUHAYAN BUHAY COALITION(BSK)
BANTAY DAGAT, INC.(BDI)
CONFEDERATION OF HOME OWNERS ASSOCIATION FOR REFORMS IN GOVERNANCE AND ENVIRONMENT, INC.(HOMEOWNERS)
PORT USERS CONFEDERATION, INC. (PUC)
LABAN PARA SA KAPAYAPAAN, KATARUNGAN, AT KAUNLARAN(KKK)
BONDING IDEALISM FOR NATIONAL HUMAN INITIATIVE(BINHI)
KATIPUNAN NG MGA BANTAY BAYAN SA PILIPINAS(KABAYAN)
FEDERATION OF SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF PHIL. VETERANS, INC.(LAHING VETERANO)
PRIME MOVERS FOR PEACE AND PROGRESS(PRIMO)
PROGRESSIVE ALLIANCE OF CITIZENS FOR DEMOCRACY(PACD)
COUNCIL OF AGRICULTURAL PRODUCERS(CAP)
TAPAT FOUNDATION, INC.(TAPAT)
ALLIANCE FOR ALLEVIATION OF NATIONAL GOVERNANCE AND TRUST PARTY (AKA)
ANG IPAGLABAN MO FOUNDATION(AIM)
PHILIPPINE MINE SAFETY AND ENVIRONMENT(PMSEA)
BICOL SARO PARTY(BSP)
AABANTE KA PILIPINAS PARTY (SAGIP BAYAN MOVEMENT)(APIL)
PHILIPPINE PEOPLES PARLIAMENT(PPP-YOUTH)
SPORTS AND HEALTH ADVANCEMENT FOUNDATION, INC.(SHAF)
KILUSAN TUNGO SA PAMBANSANG TANGKILIKAN, INC. (KATAPAT)
CITIZENS FOUNDATION FOR THE PREVENTION OF CRIMES AND INJUSTICES, INC.(CITIZEN)
NACIONALISTA PARTY(NP) (Withdrew participation in the party-list election)
ONEWAY PRINTING TECHNICAL FOUNDATION, INC.(ONEWAY PRINT)
PHILIPPINE JURY MOVEMENT(JURY)
DEMOCRATIC WORKERS PARTY(DWP)
SECURITY UNITED LEAGUE NATIONWIDE GUARDS, INC.(SULONG)
ORGANISASYONG KAUGNAYAN NASYONAL SA PAG-UNLAD(O.K. NAPU)
PAMBANSANG SANGGUNIANG KATIPUNAN NG BARANGAY KAGAWAD SA PILIPINAS(KATIPUNAN)
NATIONAL COUNCIL FOR COMMUNITY ORGANIZER(NCCO)
NATIONWIDE ASSOCIATION OF CONSUMERS, INC.(NACI)
LUZVIMINDA ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION, INC.(LEDFI)
TINDOG PARA HAN KABUBUWASON HAN WARAYNON(TINDOG WARAY)
FEDERATION OF LAND REFORM FARMERS OF THE PHILIPPINES(FLRF)
KATRIBU MINDANAO, INC.(KATRIBU)
DEMOKRATIKONG UGNAYAN TAPAT SA SAMBAYANAN(DUGTUNGAN)
KATARUNGAN SA BAYAN TAGAPAGTANGGOL NG SAMBAYANAN(KABATAS)
GO! GO! PHILIPPINES MOVEMENT
PAMBANSANG SAMAHANG LINGKOD NG BAYAN, INC.(PASALBA)
PHILIPPINE REFORMIST SOCIETY(PRS)
ALUHAY NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION, INC.(ALUHAI)
ORGANIZED SUPPORT FOR THE MOVEMENT TO ENHANCE THE NATIONAL AGENDA(OSMEA)
All these Compliance Reports have already been affirmed by this Court except that, in regard to the First Compliance Report, it agreed -- as earlier stated -- to add APEC and CIBAC to the list of qualified groups.
Orders and Pleadings
Under its Resolution No. NBC-02-001, Comelec motu proprio amended its Compliance Reports by, inter alia, adding four more party-list participants (BUHAY, COCOFED, NCIA and BAGONG BAYANI) to the list of qualified candidates for the May 14, 2001 elections.
In its Comment dated November 15, 2002, the OSG opined that Comelec acted correctly in revising its Party-List Canvass Report No. 26, so as to reflect the correct number of votes cast in favor of qualified party-list parties and organizations. Consequently, it moved to lift our TRO with respect to COCOFED, BUHAY, SANLAKAS and PM, because [a]s shown in the revised COMELEC Party-list Canvass Report No. 26, movants BUHAY, COCOFED, SANLAKAS and PM received 4.25%, 3.35%, 2.21% and 3.17%, respectively, of the total votes cast in the May 14, 2001 party-list election.
It added that the proclamation by the COMELEC of BUHAY, COCOFED, SANLAKAS and PM (as well as all other qualified parties and organizations which received at least 2% of the total votes cast in the same party-list election) as winners in the said party-list is in order.
However, in its November 25, 2002 Comment, the OSG contended that NCIA, which is not a qualified party or organizationper the Comelec [First] Partial Compliance Report dated July 27, 2001, cannot be proclaimed as winner in the last party-list elections. It also recommended that ABAs Motion to lift the TRO with respect to its proclamation should be likewise granted, because it is a qualified party or organization that hurdled the 2% threshold in the last party-list elections.For, ABA received 3.54% of the votes cast in the said party-list elections, as shown in COMELEC Resolution No. NBC-02-001. ABAs proclamation as winner is therefore in order.
Preparatory to resolving the present Motions and in observance of due process, the Court resolved on February 18, 2003 to require the parties, including the OSG, to submit their respective Position Papers on the following issues:
1)Whether Labo v. Comelec,Grego v. Comelec and related cases should be deemed applicable to the determination of winners in party-list elections
2)Whether the votes cast for parties/organizations that were subsequently disqualified for having failed to meet the eight-point guideline contained in our June 26, 2001 Decision should be deducted from the total votes cast for the party-list system during the said elections
The Courts Ruling
At the outset, the Court needs to pass upon the claims of the OSG that the initial recommendation contained in Comelecs First Compliance Report dated July 27, 2001, regarding BUHAY and COCOFED should be reconsidered, and that these two party-list groups should be deemed qualified.
BUHAY and COCOFED
In recommending the disqualification of BUHAY for being most probably merely an extension of the El Shaddai, a religious group, Comelec said in the above-mentioned Report:
Upon hearing the case for BUHAY, the Commission determined that, based upon BUHAYs declarations of intent in its constitution, upon its avowed platform of government which both mirror the sentiments of the El Shaddai Movement and upon the circumstances surrounding its relationship with the El Shaddai Movement, BUHAY is most probably merely an extension of the El Shaddai.In this light, it is very likely that the relationship between the leader of the El Shaddai, and the nomineeof BUHAY is less a matter of serendipity than anattempt to circumvent the statutory prohibition against sects or denominations from participating in the party-list elections.
In the same Report, Comelec also stated that COCOFED did not deserve a seat in the House of Representatives, because it was allegedly an adjunct of the government.Explained the Commission:
COCOFED is a sectoral party representing the peasantry.It is a non-stock, non-profit organization of coconut farmers and producers, established in 1947.It has no religious affiliations.However, the records indicate that it is an adjunct of the government.
COCOFEDs Amended By-Laws specifically provides that:
The Chairman of the Philippine Coconut Authority or his duly authorized representative shall automatically be a member of the National Board.
The Philippine Coconut Authority is an administrative agency of the government which receives support and funding from the national government.Thus, to have the Chairman of the Philippine Coconut Authority sit on the National Board of COCOFED clearly amounts to participation of the government in the affairs of candidate which, as this Court has said, would be unfair to the other parties, and deleterious to the objectives of the law.
Furthermore, in the Articles of Incorporation of COCOFED, it declared, as one of its primary purposes, the obtaining of possible technical and financial assistance for industry development from private or governmental sources.
On the other hand, in its Consolidated Reply dated October 15, 2001, the OSG -- in representation of the poll agency -- argued that the above findings of the Comelec in regard, inter alia, to BUHAY and COCOFED are not supported by substantial evidence and, thus, should be modified accordingly.This opinion is buttressed by the OSGs Comment dated November 15, 2002.
The OSG stressed that the Comelec report on BUHAY was merely anchored on conjectures or speculations.On COCOFED, the OSG explained that the bylaws making the chairman of the Philippine Coconut Authority an automatic member of the COCOFED National Board has already been deleted as early as May, 1988.
It added that while the primary purposes of COCOFEDs Articles of Incorporation authorize the organization to help explore and obtain possible technical and financial assistance for industry development from private or governmental sources x x x, this statement does not by itself constitute such substantial evidence to support a conclusion that the COCOFED is an entity funded or assisted by the government.
We are convinced.For the same reasons that we concurred in the earlier accreditation of APEC and CIBAC, we accept the OSGs position that indeed Comelec erred in disqualifying BUHAY and COCOFED.
Therefore, we now add these two groups to the list of 44 qualified groups earlier mentioned and thereby increase the total to 46.
We shall now take up the main question of which parties/organizations won during the last party-list election.
Legal Effect of the Disqualifications
on the Total Votes Cast
The instant Motions for proclamation contend that the disqualification of many party-list organizations has reduced the total number of votes cast for the party-list elections. Because of this reduction, the two-percent benchmark required by law has now been allegedly attained by movants.Hence, they now pray for their proclamation as winners in the last party-list elections.
Recall that under Section 11(b) of RA 7941 (the Party-List Act), only those parties garnering a minimum of two percent of the total votes cast for the party-list system are entitled to have a seat in the House of Representatives.The critical question now is this:To determine the total votes cast for the party-list system, should the votes tallied for the disqualified candidates be deducted?Otherwise stated, does the clause total votes cast for the party-list system include only those ballots cast for qualified party-list candidates?
To answer this question, there is a need to review related jurisprudence on the matter, especially Labo v. Comelec and Grego v. Comelec, which were mentioned in our February 18, 2003 Resolution.
Labo and Grego
In Labo, the Court declared that the ineligibility of a candidate receiving majority votes does not entitle the eligible candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected. A minority or defeated candidate cannot be deemed elected to the office.In other words, the votes cast for an ineligible or disqualified candidate cannot be considered stray.
However, this rule would be different if the electorate, fully aware in fact and in law of a candidates disqualification so as to bring such awareness within the realm of notoriety, would nonetheless cast their votes in favor of the ineligible candidate.In such case, the electorate may be said to have waived the validity and efficacy of their votes by notoriously misapplying their franchise or throwing away their votes, in which case, the eligible candidate obtaining the next higher number of votes may be deemed elected.In short, the votes cast for a notoriously disqualified candidate may be considered stray and excluded from the canvass.
The foregoing pronouncement was reiterated in Grego, which held that the exception mentioned in Labo v. Comelec is predicated on the concurrence of two assumptions, namely: (1) the one who obtained the highest number of votes is disqualified; and (2) the electorate is fully aware in fact and in law of a candidates disqualification so as to bring such awareness within the realm of notoriety but would nonetheless cast their votes in favor of the ineligible candidate.
Note, however, that the foregoing pronouncements (1) referred to regular elections for local offices and (2) involved the interpretation of Section 6 of RA 6646.They were not meant to cover party-list elections, which are specifically governed by RA 7941.Section 10 of this latter law clearly provides that the votes cast for a party, a sectoral organization or a coalition not entitled to be voted for shall not be counted:
SEC. 10. Manner of Voting. Every voter shall be entitled to two (2) votes: the first vote is a vote for candidate for membership of the House of Representatives in his legislative district, and the second, a vote for the party, organization, or coalition he wants represented in the House of Representatives: Provided, That a vote cast for a party, sectoral organization, or coalition not entitled to be voted for shall not be counted: Provided, finally, That the first election under the party-list system shall be held in May 1998.(Emphasis supplied)
The language of the law is clear; hence, there is room, not for interpretation, but merely for application.Likewise, no recourse to extrinsic aids is warranted when the language of the law is plain and unambiguous.
Another reason for not applying Labo and Grego is that these cases involve single elective posts, while the present controversy pertains to the acquisition of a number of congressional seats depending on the total election results -- such that even those garnering second, third, fourth or lesser places could be proclaimed winners depending on their compliance with other requirements.
RA 7941 is a special statute governing the elections of party-list representatives and is the controlling law in matters pertaining thereto.Since Labo and Section 6 of RA 6646 came into being prior to the enactment of RA 7941, the latter is a qualification of the former ruling and law.On the other hand, Grego and other related cases that came after the enactment of RA 7941 should be construed as inapplicable to the latter.
Subtracting the votes garnered by these disqualified party-list groups from the total votes cast under the party-list system will reduce the base figure to 6,523,185.This means that the two-percent threshold can be more easily attained by the qualified marginalized and under-represented groups. Hence, disregarding the votes of disqualified party-list participants will increase and broaden the number of representatives from these sectors.Doing so will further concretize and give flesh to the policy declaration in RA 7941, which we reproduce thus:
SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy
Celebrating the Month of Overseas Filipinos in December of every year, in line with the International Migrants Day, is recognizing the valuable role and productive contribution of migrants both in the Philippines and their countries of destination
Sit at any airport in the Philippines and you can palpably feel the pulse of Filipino migration. Overseas workers saying goodbye to their loved ones or returning home to be greeted by an ecstatic family.
Every year since 2010, the number of Filipinos leaving the Philippines to work abroad has increased – from 1.4 million in 2010 to 1.8 million in 2015. Today, approximately 10.2 million Filipinos are living and working in more than 200 countries and territories.
With remittances expected to reach USD 28 billion (P1.4 trillion) for 2016, the equivalent of 10% of gross domestic product (GDP), the contribution of overseas Filipinos to the Philippine economy is unquestionable. About 20% of all households in the Philippines receive these remittances. Migration has brought immense benefits. One does not have to look far to see the family being supported through remittances that meet their daily needs, pay for their education and health costs, build their houses, and provide for the capital to start small businesses.
Filipino migrants also make a considerable contribution to the social and economic landscape in their host countries. They are the thousands of skilled nurses and medical personnel who support the national health services in many countries. They are the seafarers that guide the supertankers around the globe. They are the software engineers whose contributions are largely unsung with the appearance of new technology that make our lives that much easier.
It is why they are and should be called “bagong bayani” (new heroes).
But for each of these successes, there are as many tragic stories that speak to the challenges that migrants and overseas workers face. The many Filipinos who have left unprepared have had to endure trafficking, illegal recruitment, abusive working and living conditions, contract violations, exploitation, discrimination and social exclusion. They are at times deprived of political participation, social protection and retirement benefits. Their children are left to fend for themselves, they suffer broken marriages and disconnection with life in the Philippines.
Perhaps less recognized also are the challenges faced by those who choose to finally return. Years of savings are underutilized or squandered because of the lack of entrepreneurial skills and financial literacy.
Skills and technologies painfully acquired cannot be productively applied owing to the absence of supporting institutions that can match individuals to the markets. Those that left with skills – teachers or engineers – but de-skilled after years of working as domestic workers, now face no employment prospects on return.
GLOBAL FILIPINO. About 10.2 million Filipinos are living and working in more than 200 countries and territories.
Migration Resource Centers
Leaving often isn’t a matter of choice but coming back can be. So what more can be done for our “bagong bayani” so that they are better equipped for a life overseas and importantly, can better share their talents and good fortune on return? Beyond the macro considerations of how to better exploit the windfall in remittances, some localized actions can make a huge difference.
Working with 35 local governments through the Joint Migration and Development Initiative*, the United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines (UNDP) has helped establish Migration Resource Centers and local migration committees to better service departees and returnees. These centers, guided by the local committees, act as a one-stop hub for passporting, recruitment and other pre-deployment processes, but also in facilitating access to health, education, and social security services.
They also provide investment advice and business development training. These initiatives, at marginal cost relative to the prospective gains, can be replicated in municipalities, towns, and cities that are the source of migrants and overseas workers.
Financial literacy campaign
To do so will require legislationthat would encourage local governments to act more expediently and responsively to the needs of migrants and overseas workers and require also the provision of funding from the national government to supplement any local allocation for the establishment of the Migration Resource Centers.
The 2017-2022 Philippine Development Plan can be the anchor for such legislation, and it should define specific strategies to ensure that migration can work to the country’s and the overseas Filipinos’ benefit. These include ensuring the protection and welfare of overseas Filipinos and their families, strengthening their engagement in governance including participation in elections, and facilitating the reintegration of repatriated and/or returning overseas Filipinos by offering support services and promoting investment and retirement options.
An initiative UNDP supported that could be scaled up is the PESO Sense financial literacy campaign for overseas Filipinos and their families. PESO Sense, through an innovative mobile application, provides saving and budgeting tips, as well as investment and business advice.
Filipinos will take advantage of overseas opportunities that come their way – at times from choice but most often out of necessity. They, the “bagong bayani”, must be given a helping hand so that they can make the most of their opportunity while overseas and are the most productive on their return. – Rappler.com
Titon Mitra is the Country Director of the United Nations Development Programme in the Philippines.
* UNDP is implementing the JMDI programme in 8 countries, including in the Philippines, in partnership with the International Organization for Migration, International Labour Organization, UN Women, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Population Fund, and UNITAR with funding from the European Union and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
Published 5:12 PM, December 30, 2016
Updated 5:12 PM, December 30, 2016