Another party-list questions disqualification before SC

Another party-list on Thursday went to the Supreme Court to seek a reversal of a Commission on Elections (Comelec) decision disqualifying it and other groups from running in the 2013 elections. 1st Consumers Alliance for Rural Energy Inc (1-CARE) became the third group to question the Comelec decision after Ako Bicol and Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC). In its petition for certiorari, 1-CARE accused the poll body of committing grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it disqualified "without legal basis" the group from vying a seat in next year’s elections. "The Comelec has acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, in practically re-opening, and the issues already resolved in the registration proceedings of petitioner 1-CARE," the group said in its 57-page petition. The group was referring to an earlier resolution of the Comelec First Division approving its application to run in the May 2013 midterm elections.

In a resolution dated October 16, the Comelec en banc disqualified 1-CARE because it "deliberately nominated and included unqualified nominees" for the elections, in violation of Section 1 of Comelec Resolution 9366 and Section 6(5) of the Party-List System Act or Republic Act 7941.

1-CARE, who won two seats in the May 2010 elections by securing 768,829 votes, said RA 7941 does not authorize the Comelec "to revisit, at its whim and caprice, and reverse at this point in time its final and executory decision." Unqualified nominees 1-CARE also belied the Comelec's claim that the group fielded unqualified nominees for the elections. "No party-list will spend millions during the campaign but will deliberately nominate disqualified nominees," it said. The group said it did not make sense for the Comelec to proclaim the group's nominees after winning in the May 2010 elections, then declaring them unqualified for the 2013 elections. The group noted that if a nominee is later declared unqualified, the party-list can just replace him or her. 1-CARE also cited a Supreme Court ruling dated November 23, 2010 that upheld a Comelec resolution dismissing a petition by Barangay Natin Party-list (Banat) seeking the revocation of 1-CARE's accreditation as a party-list group. A subsequent motion for reconsideration filed by Banat was also denied, according to 1-CARE. The group also cited a January 29, 2002 resolution of the high court on the Ang Bagong Bayani case, in which the court upheld the legality of party-list groups APEC and Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC), saying the two groups "is composed not only of professionals but also of peasants, elderly, youth and women." 1-CARE claimed it is "similarly situated" to APEC and CIBAC. It said Congress and not the Comelec has the power to determine who is qualified to occupy a seat in the legislature. 1-CARE describes itself a group that "organizes energy consumers and builds people’s alliances, with a vision of shared future, offering a participatory response to chart a collective destiny with goals of ensuring people and advocate enactment of laws and formulation of policies that are beneficial to marginalized rural energy consumers.” The group asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order/status quo ante order and a writ of preliminary injunction, allowing it to still participate in the 2013 midterm elections. — Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News

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