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Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc vs COMELEC G.R. No. 190529 Ponente: Justice Brion

Facts:

The Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. (PGBI) files

a petition for review and a motion for

 

reconsideration to nullify Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13,

 

2009 insofar as it relates to PGBI and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009. These

resolutions delisted

PGBI from the roster of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions under

the party-list system.

 

According to Section 6(8) of Republic Act No. 7941, known as Party-List System Act, COMELEC, upon verified complaint of any interested party, may remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition if: (1) it fails to participate in the last two preceding elections or (2)fails to obtain at least two per centum (2%) of the votes cast under the party-list system in the two preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered. For May 2010 Elections, the COMELEC en banc issued Resolution No. 8679 deleting several party-list groups or organizations from the list of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions.

Among the party-list organizations affected was PGBI; it was delisted because it failed to get 2% of the votes cast in 2004 and it did not participate in the 2007 elections.

PGBI filed its opposition to Resolution No. 8679 and likewise, sought for accreditation as a party-list organization. One of the arguments cited is that the Supreme Court's ruling in G.R. No. 177548 – MINERO (Philippine Mines Safety Environment Association) vs COMELEC cannot apply in the instant controversy.

One of the reasons is because the factual milieu of the cited case is removed from PGBI's. Additionally, the requirement of Section 6(8) has been relaxed by the Court's ruling in G.R. No. 179271 - BANAT (Barangay Association for Advancement and National Transparency) vs COMELEC.

COMELEC denied the motion and in response, pointed out that the MINERO ruling is squarely in point, as MINERO failed to get 2% of the votes in 2001 and did not participate at all in the 2004 elections.

Issue:

Whether the MINERO ruling can be use as a legal basis in delisting PGBI.

Held:

According to the Court, the MINERO ruling is an erroneous application of Section 6(8) of RA 7941; hence, it cannot sustain PGBI's delisting from the roster of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions under the party-list system.

First the law is clear in that the word "or" is a disjunctive term signifying disassociation and independence of one thing from the other things enumerated; it should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies, as a disjunctive word. Thus, the plain, clear and unmistakable language of the law provides for two separate reasons for delisting.

Second, MINERO is diametrically opposed to the legislative intent of Section 6(8) of RA 7941 and therefore, simply cannot stand. Its basic defect lies in its characterization of the non-participation of a party-list organization in an election as similar to a failure to garner the 2% threshold party-list vote.

What MINERO effectively holds is that a party list organization that does not participate in an election necessarily gets, by default, less than 2% of the party-list votes. To be sure, this is a confused interpretation of the law, given the law's clear and categorical language and the legislative intent to treat the two scenarios differently. A delisting based on a mixture or fusion of these two different and separate grounds for delisting is therefore a strained application of the law - in jurisdictional terms, it is an interpretation not within the contemplation of the framers of the law and hence is a gravely abusive interpretation of the law.

Instead, what should be taken into account is the ruling in BANAT vs COMELEC where the 2% party-list vote requirement provided in RA 7941 is partly invalidated.

The Court rules that, in computing the allocation of additional seats, the continued operation of the two percent threshold for the distribution of the additional seats as found in the second clause of Section 11(b) of R.A. No. 7941 is unconstitutional; it finds that the two percent threshold makes it mathematically impossible to achieve the maximum number of available party list seats when the number of available party list seats exceeds 50.The continued operation of the two percent threshold in the distribution of the additional seats frustrates the attainment of the permissive ceiling that 20% of the members of the House of Representatives shall consist of party-list representatives.

To reiterate, Section 6(8) of RA 7941 provides for two separate grounds for delisting; these grounds cannot be mixed or combined to support delisting; and the disqualification for failure to garner 2% party-list votes in two preceding elections should now be understood, in light of the BANAT ruling, to mean failure to qualify for a party-list seat in two preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered. This is how Section 6(8) of RA 7941 should be understood and applied under the authority of the Supreme Court to state what the law is and as an exception to the application of the principle of stare decisis (to adhere to precedents and not to unsettle things which are established).

The most compelling reason to abandon MINERO and strike it out from ruling case law is that it was clearly an erroneous application of the law - an application that the principle of stability or predictability of decisions alone cannot sustain. MINERO did unnecessary violence to the language of the law, the intent of

the legislature and to the rule of law in general

.

Therefore, the Supreme Court grants PGBI’s petition and accordingly, annul COMELEC Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13, 2009 insofar as the petitioner PGBI is concerned and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009 which denied PGBI's motion for reconsideration. PGBI is qualified to be voted upon as a party-list group or organization in the May 2010 elections.

Instead, what should be taken into account is the ruling in BANAT vs COMELEC where the