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Atong Paglaum, Inc.

vs Commission on Elections

G.R. No. 203766 Political Law Constitutional Law Legislative Department Party-List System
This case partially abandoned the rulings in Ang Bagong Bayani vs COMELEC and BANAT vs
COMELEC.
Atong Paglaum, Inc. and 51 other parties were disqualified by the Commission on Elections in the
May 2013 party-list elections for various reasons but primarily for not being qualified as
representatives for marginalized or underrepresented sectors.
Atong Paglaum et al then filed a petition for certiorari against COMELEC alleging grave abuse of
discretion on the part of COMELEC in disqualifying them.
ISSUE: Whether or not the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying the said
party-lists.
HELD: No. The COMELEC merely followed the guidelines set in the cases of Ang Bagong
Bayani andBANAT. However, the Supreme Court remanded the cases back to the COMELEC as the
Supreme Court now provides for new guidelines which abandoned some principles established in the
two aforestated cases. The new guidelines are as follows:
I. Parameters. In qualifying party-lists, the COMELEC must use the following parameters:
1. Three different groups may participate in the party-list system: (1) national parties or
organizations, (2) regional parties or organizations, and (3) sectoral parties or organizations.
2. National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize
along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector.
3. Political parties can participate in party-list elections provided they register under the party-list
system and do not field candidates in legislative district elections. A political party, whether major or
not, that fields candidates in legislative district elections can participate in party-list elections only
through its sectoral wing that can separately register under the party-list system. The sectoral wing is
by itself an independent sectoral party, and is linked to a political party through a coalition.
4. Sectoral parties or organizations may either be marginalized and underrepresented or lacking in
well-defined political constituencies. It is enough that their principal advocacy pertains to the special
interest and concerns of their sector. The sectors that are marginalized and underrepresented
include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped,
veterans, and overseas workers. The sectors that lack well-defined political constituencies include
professionals, the elderly, women, and the youth.

5. A majority of the members of sectoral parties or organizations that represent the marginalized and
underrepresented must belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector they represent.
Similarly, a majority of the members of sectoral parties or organizations that lack well-defined political
constituencies must belong to the sector they represent. The nominees of sectoral parties or
organizations that represent the marginalized and underrepresented, or that represent those who
lack well-defined political constituencies, either must belong to their respective sectors, or must
have a track record of advocacy for their respective sectors. The nominees of national and
regional parties or organizations must be bona-fide members of such parties or organizations.
6. National, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations shall not be disqualified if some of their
nominees are disqualified, provided that they have at least one nominee who remains qualified.
II. In the BANAT case, major political parties are disallowed, as has always been the practice, from
participating in the party-list elections. But, since theres really no constitutional prohibition nor a
statutory prohibition, major political parties can now participate in the party-list system provided that
they do so through their bona fide sectoral wing (see parameter 3 above).
Allowing major political parties to participate, albeit indirectly, in the party-list elections will
encourage them to work assiduously in extending their constituencies to the marginalized and
underrepresented and to those who lack well-defined political constituencies.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court gave weight to the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission
when they were drafting the party-list system provision of the Constitution. The Commissioners
deliberated that it was their intention to include all partiesinto the party-list elections in order to
develop a political system which is pluralistic and multiparty. (In the BANAT case, Justice Puno
emphasized that the will of the people should defeat the intent of the framers; and that the intent of
the people, in ratifying the 1987 Constitution, is that the party-list system should be reserved for the
marginalized sectors.)
III. The Supreme Court also emphasized that the party-list system is NOT RESERVED for the
marginalized and underrepresented or for parties who lack well-defined political constituencies. It
is also for national or regional parties. It is also for small ideology-based and causeoriented parties who lack well-defined political constituencies. The common denominator however is
that all of them cannot, they do not have the machinery unlike major political parties, to field or
sponsor candidates in the legislative districts but they can acquire the needed votes in a national
election system like the party-list system of elections.
If the party-list system is only reserved for marginalized representation, then the system itself unduly
excludes other cause-oriented groups from running for a seat in the lower house.
As explained by the Supreme Court, party-list representation should not be understood to include
only labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped, veterans,
overseas workers, and other sectors that by their nature areeconomically at the margins of society. It
should be noted that Section 5 of Republic Act 7941 includes, among others, in its provision for

sectoral representation groups of professionals, which are not per se economically marginalized but
are still qualified as marginalized, underrepresented, and do not have well-defined political
constituencies as they are ideologically marginalized.

Atong Paglaum v. Commission on Elections


April 9, 2013 by 1inareformina
The Decision courtesy of the Supreme Court website
Background of the case
52 party-list groups and organizations filed separate petitions totaling 54 with the Supreme Court (SC)
in an effort to reverse various resolutions by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) disqualifying
them from the May 2013 party-list race. The Comelec, in its assailed resolutions issued in October,
November and December of 2012, ruled, among others, that these party-list groups and
organizations failed to represent a marginalized and underrepresented sector, their nominees do not
come from a marginalized and underrepresented sector, and/or some of the organizations or groups
are not truly representative of the sector they intend to represent in Congress.
Petitioners argued that the poll body committed grave abuse of discretion in denying some of the
petitioners application for accreditation and cancelling the existing accreditation of the rest. They also
lamented the poll bodys denial to accord them due process in the evaluation proceedings.
The high court consolidated these cases; Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was tasked as the
Member-in-charge of the case.
Status quo ante orders (SQAO) were issued in all 54 petitions which restored the status quo prior to
the disqualification of petitioners. However, only 39 of the 52 petitioners or only 41 petitions were able
to secure a mandatory injunction, directing the Comelec to include their names in the printing of
official ballots.
THE RULING
In a Decision promulgated on April 2, 2013, the high court, through Carpios ponencia, ruled in favor
of the 54 petitions and remanded these petitions to the Comelec. The party-list groups and
organizations covered by the 41 petitions that obtained mandatory injunction orders from the high
court still stand a chance to make it to the 2013 party-list race as the high court ordered the poll body
to determine whether petitioners are qualified to register under the party-list system and to
participate in the 13 May 2013 party-list elections under the new parameters set forth in the Decision.
The rest, meaning, the 13 other petitions, were remanded to the poll body merely for purposes of

determining whether they may be granted accreditation under the new parameters but may not
participate in the May 2013 elections.
The Decision, however, clarified that the poll body may not be faulted for acting on the basis of
previous rulings (Ang Bagong Bayani, BANAT) of the high court regarding the party-list system.
These earlier rulings enumerated guidelines on who may participate in the party-list system.
New parameters set forth in the Decision on who may participate in the May 2013 party-list
race and subsequent party-list elections
The Decision identified three groups that may participate in the party-list system: (1) national parties
or organizations, (2) regional parties or organizations, and (3) sectoral parties or organizations.
On the part of national parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations which intend to
participate in the party-list race, the new guidelines state that these parties do not need to organize
along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized or underrepresented sector.'
As for political parties, they may participate in the party-list race by registering under the party-list
system and no longer field congressional candidates. These parties, if they field congressional
candidates, however, are not barred from participating in the party-list elections; what they need to do
is register their sectoral wing or party under the party-list system. This sectoral wing shall be
considered an independent sectoral party linked to a political party through a coalition.
The question is: where does representation of marginalized and underrepresented sectors come in?
The answer: on the sectoral parties or organizations that intend to participate in the party-list system.
The high court held that purely sectoral parties or organizations may either represent marginalized
and underrepresented constituencies or those lacking well-defined political constituencies. The
high court went on to enumerate marginalized and underrepresented sectors, as follows: labor,
peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, handicapped, veterans, and
overseas workers. The sectors that lack well-defined political constituencies include professionals,
the elderly, women, and the youth.
The rule on nominees and members coming from the sector they intend to represent also applies only
to the sectoral parties or organizations. The high court ruled that it is enough that [a] majority of the
members of the sectoral parties or organizations must belong to the marginalized and
underrepresented sector they represent.' The same is true for those who lack well-defined political
constituencies.
As for the nominees of these sectoral parties and organizations, the new guidelines provide that they
must either be members of the sector or have a track record of advocacy for their sector.

Should some of the nominees of these national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations be
disqualified, the party or organization itself will not be disqualified provided that they have at least
one nominee who remains qualified.
The party-list system, according to the Decision
Quoting Christian Monsod, the main proponent of the party-list system, the high court stated that it is
not synonymous with that of the sectoral representation. The high court stressed that the framers of
the 1987 Constitution did not intend to leave out non-sectoral parties in the party-list system and
exclusively limit it to sectoral groups.
The framers intended the sectoral parties to constitute a part, but not the entirety, of the party-list
system In fact, the framers voted down , 19-22, a proposal to reserve the party-list system
exclusively to sectoral parties.
There can be no doubt whatsoever that the framers of the 1987 Constitution expressly rejected the
proposal to make the party-list system exclusively for sectoral parties only, and that they clearly
intended the party-list system to include both sectoral and non-sectoral parties, the Decision read.
To amplify its position, the high court pointed out Sec. 5(1), Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution, which
states:
Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and
fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts
apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the
number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those
who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional,
and sectoral parties or organizations.
The Decision also pointed out pertinent provisions of Republic Act (RA) No. 7941, also known as the
Party-list System Act, specifically from Sec. 3 (Definition of Terms):
(b) A party means either a political party or a sectoral party or a coalition of parties
(c) A political party refers to an organized group of citizens advocating an ideology or platform,
principles and policies for the general conduct of government and which, as the most immediate
means of securing their adoption, regularly nominates and supports certain of its leaders and
members as candidates for public office
(d) A sectoral party refers to an organized group of citizens belonging to any of the sectors
enumerated in Section 5 hereof whose principal advocacy pertains to the special interest and
concerns of their sector
Again, the high court noted that defining these parties or groups, one from the others, could only
mean that they are not one and the same.
Previous rulings reversed by Atong Paglaum

As earlier stated, there are previous rulings on the party-list system in the case of Ang Bagong Bayani
v. Comelec (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2001/jun2001/147589_decision.htm) and BANAT
v. Comelec (http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2009/april2009/179271.htm).
In Ang Bagong Bayanis parameters for the party-list system, guideline 2 states that while even major
political parties are expressly allowed by RA 7941 and the Constitution to participate in the party-list
system, they must comply with the declared statutory policy of enabling Filipino citizens belonging to
marginalized and underrepresented sectors to be elected to the House of Representatives.'
However, in its latest Decision, in Atong Paglaum, the high court pointed out that there was an
inherent inconsistency in the Ang Bagong Bayani guidelines since the requirement that the major
political parties should represent the marginalized and underrepresented sectors essentially
automatically disqualified these major parties from the party-list system.
As for BANAT, incidentally also penned by Carpio, the high court said that the guidelines in this ruling
merely formalized the prevailing practice when it prohibited major political parties from participating
in the party-list elections even if through their allied sectoral organizations.