Ang Bagong Bayani vs Comelec

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  1 | Page   Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT  Manila EN BANC G.R. No. 147589 June 26, 2001    ANG BAGONG BAYANI-OFW LABOR PARTY  (under the acronym OFW), represented herein by its secretary-general,  MOHAMMAD OMAR FAJARDO,  petitioner, vs.  ANG BAGONG BAYANI-OFW LABOR PARTY 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 PEOPLE'S 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. x---------------------------------------------x G.R. No. 147613 June 26, 2001   BAYAN MUNA,  petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; NATIONALIST PEOPLE'S 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. PANGANIBAN, J.:  The party-list system is a social justice tool designed not only to give more law to the great masses of our people who have less in life, but also to enable them to become veritable lawmakers themselves, empowered to participate directly in the enactment of laws designed to benefit them. It intends to make the marginalized and the underrepresented not merely passive recipients of the State's benevolence, but active participants in the mainstream of representative democracy. Thus, allowing all individuals and groups, including those which now dominate district elections, to have the same opportunity to participate in party-list elections would desecrate this lofty objective and mongrelize the social justice mechanism into an atrocious veneer for traditional politics. The Case Before us are two Petitions under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, challenging Omnibus Resolution No. 3785  1  issued by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on March 26, 2001. This Resolution approved the participation of 154 organizations and parties, including those herein impleaded, in the 2001 party-list elections. Petitioners seek the disqualification of private respondents, arguing mainly that the party-list system was  2 | Page   intended to benefit the marginalized and underrepresented; not the mainstream political parties, the non-marginalized or overrepresented. The Factual Antecedents With the onset of the 2001 elections, the Comelec received several Petitions for registration filed by sectoral parties, organizations and political parties. According to the Comelec, [v]erifications were made as to the status and capacity of these parties and organizations and hearings were scheduled day and night until the last party w[as] heard. With the number of these petitions and the observance of the legal and procedural requirements, review of these petitions as well as deliberations takes a longer process in order to arrive at a decision and as a result the two (2) divisions promulgated a separate Omnibus Resolution and individual resolution on political parties. These numerous petitions and processes observed in the disposition of these petition[s] hinder the early release of the Omnibus Resolutions of the Divisions which were promulgated only on 10 February 2001.  2  Thereafter, before the February 12, 2001 deadline prescribed under Comelec Resolution No. 3426 dated December 22, 2000, the registered parties and organizations filed their respective Manifestations, stating their intention to participate in the party-list elections. Other sectoral and political parties and organizations whose registrations were denied also filed Motions for Reconsideration, together with Manifestations of their intent to participate in the party-list elections. Still other registered parties filed their Manifestations beyond the deadline. The Comelec gave due course or approved the Manifestations (or accreditations) of 154 parties and organizations, but denied those of several others in its assailed March 26, 2001 Omnibus Resolution No. 3785, which we quote: We carefully deliberated the foregoing matters, having in mind that this system of proportional representation scheme will encourage multi-partisan [sic] and enhance the inability of small, new or sectoral parties or organization to directly participate in this electoral window. It will be noted that as defined, the 'party-list system' is a 'mechanism of proportional representation' in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives from national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof registered with the Commission on Elections. However, in the course of our review of the matters at bar, we must recognize the fact that there is a need to keep the number of sectoral parties, organizations and coalitions, down to a manageable level, keeping only those who substantially comply with the rules and regulations and more importantly the sufficiency of the Manifestations or evidence on the Motions for Reconsiderations or Oppositions.  3    3 | Page   On April 10, 2001, Akbayan Citizens Action Party filed before the Comelec a Petition praying that the names of [some of herein respondents] be deleted from the 'Certified List of Political Parties/Sectoral Parties/Organizations/Coalitions Participating in the Party List System for the May 14, 2001 Elections' and that said certified list be accordingly amended. It also asked, as an alternative, that the votes cast for the said respondents not be counted or canvassed, and that the latter's nominees not be proclaimed.  4  On April 11, 2001, Bayan Muna and Bayan Muna-Youth also filed a Petition for Cancellation of Registration and Nomination against some of herein respondents.  5  On April 18, 2001, the Comelec required the respondents in the two disqualification cases to file Comments within three days from notice. It also set the date for hearing on April 26, 2001,  6  but subsequently reset it to May 3, 2001.  7  During the hearing, however, Commissioner Ralph C. Lantion merely directed the parties to submit their respective memoranda.  8  Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the pace of the Comelec, Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party filed a Petition  9  before this Court on April 16, 2001. This Petition, docketed as GR No. 147589, assailed Comelec Omnibus Resolution No. 3785. In its Resolution dated April 17, 2001,  10  the Court directed respondents to comment on the Petition within a non-extendible period of five days from notice.  11  On April 17, 2001, Petitioner Bayan Muna also filed before this Court a Petition,  12  docketed as GR No. 147613, also challenging Comelec Omnibus Resolution No. 3785. In its Resolution dated May 9, 2001,  13  the Court ordered the consolidation of the two Petitions before it; directed respondents named in the second Petition to file their respective Comments on or before noon of May 15, 2001; and called the parties to an Oral Argument on May 17, 2001. It added that the Comelec may proceed with the counting and canvassing of votes cast for the party-list elections, but barred the proclamation of any winner therein, until further orders of the Court. Thereafter, Comments  14  on the second Petition were received by the Court and, on May 17, 2001, the Oral Argument was conducted as scheduled. In an Order given in open court, the parties were directed to submit their respective Memoranda simultaneously within a non-extendible period of five days.  15  Issues: During the hearing on May 17, 2001, the Court directed the parties to address the following issues: 1. Whether or not recourse under Rule 65 is proper under the premises. More specifically, is there no other plain, speedy or adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law? 2. Whether or not political parties may participate in the party-list elections.  4 | Page   3. Whether or not the party-list system is exclusive to 'marginalized and underrepresented' sectors and organizations. 4. Whether or not the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in promulgating Omnibus Resolution No. 3785.  16  The Court's Ruling The Petitions are partly meritorious. These cases should be remanded to the Comelec which will determine, after summary evidentiary hearings, whether the 154 parties and organizations enumerated in the assailed Omnibus Resolution satisfy the requirements of the Constitution and RA 7941, as specified in this Decision. First Issue:  Recourse Under Rule 65 Respondents contend that the recourse of both petitioners under Rule 65 is improper because there are other plain, speedy and adequate remedies in the ordinary course of law.  17  The Office of the Solicitor General argues that petitioners should have filed before the Comelec a petition either for disqualification or for cancellation of registration, pursuant to Sections 19, 20, 21 and 22 of Comelec Resolution No. 3307-A  18  dated November 9, 2000.  19  We disagree. At bottom, petitioners attack the validity of Comelec Omnibus Resolution 3785 for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion, insofar as it allowed respondents to participate in the party-list elections of 2001. Indeed, under both the Constitution  20  and the Rules of Court, such challenge may be brought before this Court in a verified petition for certiorari under Rule 65. Moreover, the assailed Omnibus Resolution was promulgated by Respondent Commission en banc; hence, no motion for reconsideration was possible, it being a prohibited pleading under Section 1 (d), Rule 13 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure.  21  The Court also notes that Petitioner Bayan Muna had filed before the Comelec a Petition for Cancellation of Registration and Nomination against some of herein respondents.  22  The Comelec, however, did not act on that Petition. In view of the pendency of the elections, Petitioner Bayan Muna sought succor from this Court, for there was no other adequate recourse at the time. Subsequent events have proven the urgency of petitioner's action; to this date, the Comelec has not yet formally resolved the Petition before it. But a resolution may just be a formality because the Comelec, through the Office of the Solicitor General, has made its position on the matter quite clear. In any event, this case presents an exception to the rule that certiorari shall lie only in the absence of any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy.  23  It has been held that certiorari is available, notwithstanding the presence of other remedies, where the issue raised is one purely of law, where public interest is involved, and in case of urgency.  24  Indeed, the instant case is indubitably
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