BAGUIO CITY (Apr. 23) — Bayan Muna reiterated its firm resolve to pursue wider representation for the party list system in Congress by asking the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the first party rule and the 3-seat cap, in a press briefing Wednesday.
The three-seat cap and the first party rule, which were imposed by the Comelec in the 2007 elections, essentially disallow the filling up of the 54 party-list seats in Congress, or 20 percent of the total congress representatives, as mandated by the 1987 Constitution.
“The said Comelec rule disenfranchises millions of voters,” lawyer Neri Colmenraes said. He is the third nominee of Bayan Muna in the last elections.
Bayan Muna raised both these issue during the Oral Arguments before the Supreme Court summer sessions in Baguio City Wednesday.
The Comelec, then headed by Chairman Benjamin Abalos, imposed the First Party rule which allocates a maximum of only three seats to the ‘first party’ regardless of the votes of the other parties.
Buhay which garnered 7.2% of the party list votes was given three seats while Bayan Muna which garnered 6.5% of the votes [Comelec Report No. 27] was only given two seats.
The Three-seat cap provides that any party will only get a maximum of three seats even if its vote entitles it to more than three seats.
The First Party rule and the Three-seat cap rule violate the proportional representation mandated by the Constitution which requires that the party list groups are allocated seats in proportion to their share of the votes.
The First Party rule and the Three Seat Cap resulted in disenfranchising a total of 5,053,132 voters in the 2007 elections since only 23 of the 54 party list seats are currently filled up, according to Colmenares. He added, 38 seats were not filled up after the 1998 party list pools, while 32 seats remained vacant after the 2001 elections. In 2004 only 24 of the 53 party list seats were occupied, Colmenares added.
These Comelec impositions specifically violate Article VI, Section 5 (1) and (2) of the Constitution on the party list system which intends to empower and enfranchise the marginalized majority via party-list representation in the House of Representatives.
During the Oral Arguments, Atty. Colmenares also asserted that the major political parties should not be allowed to participate in the party list elections. The Supreme Court decided in favor of Bayan Muna in 2001 to disqualify those who are not marginalized or underrepresented from participating in the party list election.
The major political parties such as Kampi, Lakas-NUCD, and Liberal Party with their massive resources and machinery are not marginalized or underrepresented and their participation will take seats away from deserving party list representatives of the people. In its petition (G.R. No. 179295) filed by Bayan Muna, A-Teacher and Abono on September 7, 2007 with the Supreme Court, the groups said that the principle of proportional representation, which is an essential feature of genuine people empowerment, has been gravely distorted.
The Bayan Muna lawyer said that to give flesh to the clear intent of the constitution, all that is needed is to adopt the formula outlined in RA 7941, the party list law, so that the 20% allocation for the party-list representatives can be filled up.
The other members of the Bayan Muna legal panel in the oral arguments were Atty. Manja Bayang, Atty. Jonel Torregosa and Prof. Lex Muga of the Ateneo de Manila University Math Department.
“We are earnestly hoping that the Supreme Court immediately decide on the petition and correct the current anomaly attending the party,” Colmenares said. # Vincent Michael L. Borneo/BM Media and Public Relations