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Comelec can still disqualify bogus partylist groups, says lawmaker

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Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–There are still ways for the Commission on Elections to purge sham partylist groups from the ballot, despite the recent Supreme Court ruling that political parties and groups not representing the marginalized and underrepresented can join the partylist voting, according to Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares.

Colmenares said the Comelec could still take a closer look at the partylist groups and deny them from participating in the polls if they are shown to not be working for the particular sector they claim to represent.

They could also be ousted from the race for violating election laws, he added.

He noted that the Supreme Court had tasked the Comelec to determine which of the disqualified groups can join the elections based on the tribunal’s new standards.

“Since the grounds for disqualifying these groups include other grounds such as failure to prove their advocacy for a sector, or violation of election laws, then these rich powerful partylist groups can still … (remain) disqualified for these grounds since the Supreme Court decision did not touch on these issues,” he said in a statement.

Colmenares also assailed the Supreme Court ruling, saying it paves the way for political and economic elites to join the partylist system and edge out marginalized sectors that need representation. It disregarded the social justice principle, he said.

“Under the Constitution, the partylist system was intended as a ‘social justice’ tool to allow the poor to have a voice in Congress by allotting 20 percent of the seats for the marginalized and underrepresented,” he said.

He contended that it was a practice around the world to give preferential treatment to the downtrodden and underrepresented, and this is what the partylist system was intended to do.

“Affirmative action, or preferential treatment for the poor, is a recognized concept throughout the world in recognition of the fact that the poor cannot compete with the rich in the so called ‘level playing field,’” he said.

The Supreme Court ruling was like pitting welterweights with the heavyweights, he added.

“Of course, the poor partylist groups are no match to the economic elites and rich politicians in any election. That’s why the poor are given the partylist system because they cannot win in a district congressional election,” he said.

The Makabayan coalition, in a separate statement, blasted the Supreme Court ruling, saying it was “suspiciously strange” that the tribunal backtracked from earlier rulings that essentially excluded powerful groups from joining the partylist race.

“Makabayan urges the Supreme Court to reconsider its highly unpopular decision and preserve the long established social justice doctrine that the partylist system is only for the marginalized and the underrepresented. We call on the Commission on Elections to defend its decision in disqualifying these fake partylist groups and demand reconsideration from the Supreme Court,” it said.

It said the law was intended to enable the marginalized and underrepresented to join Congress, which is why the system must enhance their chances of getting seats in the legislature.

Thus, allowing lawmakers comprising 80 percent of the House of Representatives to join the race for the 20 percent partylist seats nullifies the intent of the party-list system, it further said.

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