Disqualified party-list group appeals to SC justices

After failing to get a status quo ante order from the Supreme Court, a party-list group disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from the May elections has appealed directly to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the tribunal's 14 justices to rule in its favor. In a letter sent to each of the 15 justices, the Confederation of Non-Stock Savings and Loan Associations, Inc. (CONSLA) asked the high court to include the group among those covered by the Status Quo Ante (SQA) order that it issued for some 50 disqualified party-list groups.

“CONSLA now most respectfully implores the magnanimity and sense of Justice of Your Honors, aware of the voluminous task and endeavors Your Honors face. Certainly, fairness dictates that Your Honors – as last resort in the dispensation of justice -- take heed of the plight of CONSLA,” said the group's president and nominee, retired Air Force Col. Ricardo Nolasco Jr., in the letter. While the justices were on a Christmas break, CONSLA filed its petition contesting its disqualification by the Comelec. The court tackled the petition on January 8. "The SQA could have temporarily restored its accreditation as a party-list and could have prompted the Comelec to include its name in the official ballots now being printed by the poll body," Nolasco said. Nolasco emphasized that CONSLA had been registered and accredited as a party-list group by the Comelec on November 6, 2009. In a massive purge of party-list groups, however, the poll body last year took back the accreditation of many old groups and denied the applications of new ones on the basis that they do not represent the marginalized sector as stipulated under the Party-List System Act. Nolasco, in the letter, insisted that his group is underrepresented and has around seven million members who "are engaged in labor intensive activities, have very limited or often denied access to financing from the formal banking sector, have no conventional forms of collateral, and have financing requirement mostly for short-term emergency and consumption loans, in relatively small amounts.” “CONSLA members have always been perceived as high risk borrowers due to the nature of their professions and inability to provide securities or collaterals for their relatively simple credit needs. In addition, traditional banking institutions are extremely averse to catering to these types of loans due to the high cost of administering the same. Therefore these borrowers are, more often than not, deliberately ‘crowded out’ from the traditional banking system,” he said. The disqualified groups that were able to secure SQA orders from the high court would still have to be included on the ballots that the Comelec would be printing starting this month, pending the high court's ruling on the petitions' merits. The groups questioning their disqualification all insisted that the Comelec has no authority to determine what constitutes a "marginalized sector," saying it is a task reserved only to Congress. A SQA order would have required the Comelec to observe the status quo or the situation before it released a resolution on December 10 last year disqualifying CONSLA and other groups for allegedly not representing a marginalized sector. — Mark Merueñas/KBK, GMA News