Ang Bagong Bayani vs. Comelec | Political Parties

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  Today is Friday, August 15, 2014 Today is Friday, August 15, 2014 Republic of the Philippines SUPREME COURT ManilaEN BANC G.R. No. 147589 June 26, 2001ANG 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 LOYALISTASSOCIATION OF THE PHILIPPINES; PHILIPPINE LOCAL AUTONOMY; CITIZENS MOVEMENT FORJUSTICE, ECONOMY, ENVIRONMENT AND PEACE; CHAMBER OF REAL ESTATE BUILDERS ASSOCIATION;SPORTS & HEALTH ADVANCEMENT FOUNDATION, INC.; ANG LAKAS NG OVERSEAS CONTRACTWORKERS (OCW); BAGONG BAYANI ORGANIZATION and others under Organizations/Coalitions of Omnibus Resolution No. 3785; PARTIDO NG MASANG PILIPINO; LAKAS NUCD-UMDP; NATIONALISTPEOPLE'S COALITION; LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONG PILIPINO; AKSYON DEMOKRATIKO; PDP-LABAN;LIBERAL PARTY; NACIONALISTA PARTY; ANG BUHAY HAYAANG YUMABONG; and others under PoliticalParties of Omnibus Resolution No. 3785.  respondents.x---------------------------------------------------------x G.R. No. 147613 June 26, 2001BAYAN MUNA,  petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; NATIONALIST PEOPLE'S COALITION (NPC); LABAN NG DEMOKRATIKONGPILIPINO (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 peoplewho have less in life, but also to enable them to become veritable lawmakers themselves, empowered to participatedirectly in the enactment of laws designed to benefit them. It intends to make the marginalized and theunderrepresented not merely passive recipients of the State's benevolence, but active participants in themainstream of representative democracy. Thus, allowing all individuals and groups, including those which nowdominate district elections, to have the same opportunity to participate in party-list elections would desecrate thislofty objective and mongrelize the social justice mechanism into an atrocious veneer for traditional politics.The CaseBefore us are two Petitions under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, challenging Omnibus Resolution No. 3785  1  issuedby the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on March 26, 2001. This Resolution approved the participation of 154organizations and parties, including those herein impleaded, in the 2001 party-list elections. Petitioners seek thedisqualification of private respondents, arguing mainly that the party-list system was intended to benefit themarginalized and underrepresented; not the mainstream political parties, the non-marginalized or overrepresented.The Factual AntecedentsWith 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 andcapacity 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    (2) divisions promulgated a separate Omnibus Resolution and individual resolution on political parties. Thesenumerous petitions and processes observed in the disposition of these petition[s] hinder the early release of theOmnibus 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 toparticipate in the party-list elections. Other sectoral and political parties and organizations whose registrations weredenied 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 representationscheme will encourage multi-partisan [sic] and enhance the inability of small, new or sectoral parties or organizationto 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 electionof 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 keepthe number of sectoral parties, organizations and coalitions, down to a manageable level, keeping only those whosubstantially comply with the rules and regulations and more importantly the sufficiency of the Manifestations or evidence on the Motions for Reconsiderations or Oppositions.  3 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/SectoralParties/Organizations/Coalitions Participating in the Party List System for the May 14, 2001 Elections' and that saidcertified list be accordingly amended. It also asked, as an alternative, that the votes cast for the said respondentsnot be counted or canvassed, and that the latter's nominees not be proclaimed.  4  On April 11, 2001, Bayan Munaand Bayan Muna-Youth also filed a Petition for Cancellation of Registration and Nomination against some of hereinrespondents.  5 On April 18, 2001, the Comelec required the respondents in the two disqualification cases to file Comments withinthree 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 respectivememoranda.  8 Meanwhile, dissatisfied with the pace of the Comelec, Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party filed a Petition  9  beforethis 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 anon-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 orderedthe 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-listelections, 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. 3. Whether or not the party-list system is exclusive to 'marginalized and underrepresented' sectors andorganizations. 4. Whether or not the Comelec committed grave abuse of discretion in promulgating Omnibus Resolution No.3785.  16 The Court's RulingThe 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 OmnibusResolution satisfy the requirements of the Constitution and RA 7941, as specified in this Decision. First Issue: Recourse Under Rule 65Respondents 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 thatpetitioners 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 issuedwith 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 averified petition for certiorari under Rule 65.Moreover, the assailed Omnibus Resolution was promulgated by Respondent Commission en banc; hence, nomotion for reconsideration was possible, it being a prohibited pleading under Section 1 (d), Rule 13 of the ComelecRules 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 thatPetition. In view of the pendency of the elections, Petitioner Bayan Muna sought succor from this Court, for therewas no other adequate recourse at the time. Subsequent events have proven the urgency of petitioner's action; tothis date, the Comelec has not yet formally resolved the Petition before it. But a resolution may just be a formalitybecause 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 imbued with public interest and with extreme urgency, for itpotentially involves the composition of 20 percent of the House of Representatives.Moreover, this case raises transcendental constitutional issues on the party-list system, which this Court musturgently resolve, consistent with its duty to formulate guiding and controlling constitutional principles, precepts,doctrines, or rules.  25 Finally, procedural requirements may be glossed over to prevent a miscarriage of justice, when the issue involvesthe principle of social justice x x x when the decision sought to be set aside is a nullity, or when the need for relief isextremely urgent and certiorari is the only adequate and speedy remedy available.  26 Second Issue: Participation of Political PartiesIn its Petition, Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party contends that the inclusion of political parties in the party-listsystem is the most objectionable portion of the questioned Resolution.  27  For its part, Petitioner Bayan Munaobjects to the participation of major political parties.  28  On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General, likethe impleaded political parties, submits that the Constitution and RA No. 7941 allow political parties to participate inthe party-list elections. It argues that the party-list system is, in fact, open to all registered national, regional and  sectoral parties or organizations.  29 We now rule on this issue. Under the Constitution and RA 7941, private respondents cannot be disqualified from theparty-list elections, merely on the ground that they are political parties. Section 5, Article VI of the Constitutionprovides that members of the House of Representatives may be elected through a party-list system of registerednational, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations. Furthermore, under Sections 7 and 8, Article IX (C) of the Constitution, political parties may be registered under theparty-list system. Sec. 7. No votes cast in favor of a political party, organization, or coalition shall be valid, except for thoseregistered under the party-list system as provided in this Constitution. Sec. 8. Political parties, or organizations or coalitions registered under the party-list system, shall not berepresented in the voters' registration boards, boards of election inspectors, boards of canvassers, or other similar bodies. However, they shall be entitled to appoint poll watchers in accordance with law.  30 During the deliberations in the Constitutional Commission, Comm. Christian S. Monsod pointed out that theparticipants in the party-list system may be a regional party, a sectoral party, a national party, UNIDO,  31 Magsasaka, or a regional party in Mindanao.  32  This was also clear from the following exchange between Comms.Jaime Tadeo and Blas Ople:  33 MR. TADEO. Naniniwala ba kayo na ang party list ay pwedeng paghati-hatian ng UNIDO, PDP-Laban, PNP, Liberalat Nacionalista?MR. OPLE. Maaari yan sapagkat bukas ang party list system sa lahat ng mga partido. Indeed, Commissioner Monsod stated that the purpose of the party-list provision was to open up the system, inorder to give a chance to parties that consistently place third or fourth in congressional district elections to win a seatin Congress.  34  He explained: The purpose of this is to open the system. In the past elections, we found out thatthere were certain groups or parties that, if we count their votes nationwide, have about 1,000,000 or 1,500,000votes. But they were always third or fourth place in each of the districts. So, they have no voice in the Assembly. Butthis way, they would have five or six representatives in the Assembly even if they would not win individually inlegislative districts. So, that is essentially the mechanics, the purpose and objectives of the party-list system. For its part, Section 2 of RA 7941 also provides for a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoralparties or organizations or coalitions thereof, x x x. Section 3 expressly states that a party is either a politicalparty or a sectoral party or a coalition of parties. More to the point, the law defines political party as an organizedgroup of citizens advocating an ideology or platform, principles and policies for the general conduct of governmentand which, as the most immediate means of securing their adoption, regularly nominates and supports certain of itsleaders and members as candidates for public office. Furthermore, Section 11 of RA 7941 leaves no doubt as to the participation of political parties in the party-listsystem. We quote the pertinent provision below: x x x For purposes of the May 1998 elections, the first five (5) major political parties on the basis of party representationin the House of Representatives at the start of the Tenth Congress of the Philippines shall not be entitled toparticipate in the party-list system.x x x Indubitably, therefore, political parties – even the major ones -- may participate in the party-list elections. Third Issue: Marginalized and UnderrepresentedThat political parties may participate in the party-list elections does not mean, however, that any political party -- or any organization or group for that matter -- may do so. The requisite character of these parties or organizations mustbe consistent with the purpose of the party-list system, as laid down in the Constitution and RA 7941. Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution, provides as follows:
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