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ATONG PAGLAUM, INC. v.

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS 2013


Petitioners: Atong Paglaum, Inc. et al. (51 other party-list groups and organizations)
Respondents: Commission on Elections
Power, Composition, Qualification and Term of Office (House of Representatives); RA 7941
SUMMARY: COMELEC erred in applying the decisions of Ang Bagong Bayani and BANAT,
because those prohibited major political parties from participating in party-list elections. The new
parameters set by this Decision allows national and regional parties to participate in the partylist elections without representing a marginalized and underrepresented sector, and allows
major political parties to participate as well via a sectoral wing linked to it through a coalition.
FACTS:

54 petitions from 52 party-list groups and organizations consolidated into one: assailing
the Resolutions from COMELEC disqualifying them from the May 2013 party-list
elections either by denial of registration under the party-list system or cancellation of
registration and accreditation as party-list organizations
280 groups and organizations registered under RA 7941 (Party-List System Act) and
COMELEC Resolution Nos. 9366 and 9531
o 13 of them were denied registration by COMELEC and were unable to secure
mandatory injunction from the Court, so were excluded from the ballot
o 39 of the petitioners had cancelled registrations but were able to obtain a
mandatory injunction, so were included in the ballot

ISSUE/S:
1. WoN COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion
o No, but this Decision sets new parameters for the qualification of national,
regional, and sectoral parties under the party-list system, so all of the petitions
are remanded to COMELEC for reevalution.
o Party-list system: indended to democratize political power by giving a chance to
parties that would not win in regular legislative district elections
Voter elects 1 representative for his/her legislative district and 1 for
his/her party-list group or organization of choice
o Sec. 5, Art. 6 of 1987 Constitution: House of Representatives shall have not more
than 250 members, with 20% coming from the party-list system of registered
national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations; 3 consecutive terms
after ratification of Constitution, one-half of allocated seats to party-lists shall be
filled with representatives from labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural
communities, women, youth, and other sectors (but not religious)
o Secs. 7 & 8, Art. 9-C: voters cannot vote for party-lists not registered under the
party-list system; political parties or organizations will only be entitled to appoint
poll watchers

Intent of the framers: party-list system not synonymous with sectoral


representation because the latter creates the problem of choosing which sectors
are to be represented, and other people will have two votes (if they belong to a
sector) while others only have one (just for legislative district); purpose of it is to
open the system, so that smaller parties can compete with major political parties;
political parties are meant to be able to join the party-list system so long as they
are also organized along sectoral lines
Proposal to give permanent seats for sectoral representation outvoted
by majority of Constitutional Commission; reserved seats for sectoral
representatives for only the first 3 terms after ratification, so they
therefore clearly intended to have both sectoral and non-sectoral parties
after that
Constitution clearly separated and differentiated national and regional (nonsectoral) parties from sectoral parties in Sec. 5(1), Art. 6, meaning the framers
intended for both to qualify under the party-list system
Party-list system composed of 3 different groups: national parties or
organizations, regional parties or organizations, and sectoral parties or
organizations
The three-term limit post-ratification for sectoral representatives in Sec. 5(2), Art.
6 also shows that party-list system was not meant exclusively for sectoral parties
after that time period
Can be seen by how only one-half of party-list seats were allocated for
sectoral representatives, while other half was already open for nonsectoral party-lists even during the first three terms after ratification
The three-term limit implies that after this set period, the party-list
system is meant to be open to non-sectoral parties
RA 7941: allows political parties, sectoral parties, or coalitions of parties
Sec. 3(a): parties can be qualified as a political party or a sectoral party
Sec. 3(c): political party (national and regional) group of citizens
advocating an ideology or platform, principles, and policies for the
general conduct of government
Sec. 3(d): sectoral party organized group of citizens belonging to any
sector whose principal advocacy pertains to the special interest and
concerns of their sector
Provisions differentiate political parties from sectoral parties,
meaning political parties are not required to represent the
marginalized and underrepresented sectors, because only
sectoral parties are required to do so
Mandating political parties to represent the marginalized and
underrepresented only would exclude ideology-based and causeoriented parties from the system, because they would not
necessarily only represent the marginalized and underrepresented
sectors of society, as set out in the Constitution; causes and
ideologies can cut across economic status

Sec. 5: sectors include


labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor,
indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth,
veterans, overseas workers and professionals
Not all sectors listed are marginalized or underrepresented,
meaning these groups should still be able to organize themselves
into sectoral parties in advocacy so long as they are lacking welldefined political constituencies
Marginalized and underrepresented: labor, peasant, fisherfolk,
urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped,
veterans, and overseas workers
Lacking well-defined political constituencies: professionals,
elderly, women, youth
Sec. 6: none of the 8 grounds for cancellation refers to nonrepresentation of marginalized and underrepresented
marginalized and underrepresented only mentioned once in RA 7941,
in Sec. 2 on Declaration of Policy, while the specific implementing
provisions do not define or require that the sectors, organizations or
parties must be marginalized and underrepresented
The qualifier should therefore only apply to the sectors in Section
5 that are, by their nature, marginalized and underrepresented,
in which case a majority of the members of the sectoral party must
belong to that sector, and their nominess should either also belong
to the sector or have a track record of advocacy for that sector
o Such interpretation will give rise to a multi-party system, where ideology-based
and cause-oriented parties are represented alongside sectoral parties
representing the marginalized and underrepresented
2. WoN the Ang Bagong Bayani and BANAT criteria for participating in the party-list system
should be applied by the COMELEC
o No, because these decisions are not in accord with the 1987 Constitution, and
therefore new parameters for qualification must now be set.
o National or regional parties under party-list system are those that do not belong
to major political parties that field candidates in the legislative district elections
o Ang Bagong Bayani: major political parties must also represent marginalized and
underrepresented; enabled COMELEC to disqualify major political parties with
sectoral wings, thus prohibiting them from participating in the party-list system
completely
o BANAT: major political parties officially excluded from participating in party-list
elections
o Sec. 11, RA 7941: first 5 major political parties prohibited from entering party-list
system in May 1988 elections, but were allowed to participate via their sectoral
wings
Participation of major political parties in party-list elections therefore
contingent on their organization of a sectoral wing that has its own
constitution, by-laws, platform or program of government, as well as
officers and members (majority of which belong to the sector), and is

o
o

linked to the major political party through a coalition, as permitted by


Sec. 3, RA 7941
Sec. 9, RA 7941: nominees of sectoral parties must either belong to the sector or
have a track record of advocacy for the sector
COMELEC used the Ang Bagong Bayani and BANAT guidelines, which require
all political and sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions to represent the
marginalized and underrepresented
These decisions were examples of socio-political engineering and
judicial legislation
Political parties, major or not, should be able to participate in party-list
elections through its sectoral wings, so long as they do not field
candidates in the legislative district elections
Would not be in accord with the 1987 Constitution for COMELEC to use
these decisions in determining who are qualified to participate in the
May 2013 party-list elections
All petitions now remanded because COMELEC mandated for all national,
regional, and sectoral groups or organizations to represent the marginalized and
underrepresented, and for all nominees to belong to the sector they represent

NOTES:

On differentiating the types of parties: Major political parties are the dominant political
parties that have the capacity to field candidates in the legislative district elections, and
have a chance of winning them. These are different from non-major political parties,
identified in the case as national or regional parties. National or regional parties can
participate in the party-list elections without having to represent a sector, so long as they
are ideology-based or cause-oriented. However, major political parties are required to
represent a marginalized and underrepresented sector if they want to participate in the
party-list elections, via a sectoral wing that is linked to them via a coaltion. They must
also not field any candidates in the legislative district elections.

DISSENTS:
C.J. Sereno (Concurring and Dissenting)

Party-list system as a tool for social justice: not about mere plurality, but plurality that
prioritizes the inclusion of the poor and disadvantaged
Sec. 1, Art. 13 of 1987 Constitution: highest priority of Congress must be the reduction of
social, economic, and political inequalities, and the removal of cultural inequities
1987 Constitution replete with social justice provisions: in construing RA 7941 in
accordance with the Constitution, the party-list system must therefore be seen as
primarily a social justice tool
Problematic parameters of ponencia:
o 2nd parameter that does not require national and regional parties to represent the
marginalized and underrepresented: standard of marginalized and

underrepresented must be deemed to qualify even national and regional parties;


must be seen in line with social justice to favor underprivileged
o 4th parameter that allows sectoral organizations to either be marginalized and
underrepresented or lacking well-defined political constituences: must have
both to qualify for party-list elections
o 6th parameter that states disqualification of a nominee does not disqualify the
party-list group so long as they have one nominee still qualified: disqualification
of a nominee should not disqualify party-list group so long as they meet
Guidelines 1-5 of Ang Bagong Bayani and one of its top 3 nominees remains
qualified
Only 9 petitions should be remanded (cancelled registration on the basis of applying the
standard of marginalized and underrepresented)
COMELEC did not violate Sec. 3, Art 9-C

J. Leonen (Concurring and Dissenting)

In agreement with ponencia that national and regional parties should not be organized
along sectoral lines
Current application of marginalized and underrepresented criteria has caused chaos
and absurdity in the party-list system because the term is too ambigious
Current system: major political parties can support candidates for legislative district
elections, but electorate decides using personalities and popularity, not ideology or
platform
o Party-list system was created to change that, to develop genuine political parties
that are disciplined, organized, and loyal to their principle and platform
Constitutions language clearly shows the intent to include non-sectoral party-list groups,
and Congress cannot change that
COMELEC committed a grave abuse of discretion by applying the standard of
marginalized and underrepresented to all groups and organizations, despite the term
being ambigious and unqualified
o Because there is no working definition of the term, groups do not know what
standards they are trying to fulfill in order to qualify as a party-list group
In crafting new benchmarks, possible that non-sectoral groups or organizations should
instead show how their plans will impact the marginalized and underrepresented