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High Court sustains Comelec ruling on party-list winners

The Supreme Court has sustained the proclamation by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) of the winning party-list groups in the 2019 national elections.

In a September 15, 2020 en banc decision, the SC junked the petitions of party-list groups Aksyon Magsasaka-Tinig Partido ng Masa, Serbisyo sa Bayan, and Angkla: Ang Partido ng mga Marinong Pilipino, Inc., which placed 52nd, 53rd, and 54th, respectively, in the last party-list election where the Comelec proclaimed 51 winning party-lists only.

The petitioners sought to nullify the constitutionality of Section 11(b) of the Republic Act No. 7941 or the Party-list System Act that provided the procedure for the allocation of seats for the party-list sector in the House of Representatives.

This provision provides that party-list groups that get at least 2% of votes cast will get one seat each; those that get more are entitled to additional seats "in proportion to their total number of votes," with a limit of three seats.

According to the petitioners, this formula leads to a double counting of votes and is thus unconstitutional.

In its ruling, however, the high court failed to reach a majority vote of eight needed to nullify the provision.

"As a consequence, the proclamation by the Comelec of the winning party-list groups during the 13 May 2019 elections in accordance with the formula espoused in the Banat Case was upheld," the SC Public Information Office said, in a statement.

"Further, Section 11(b) of RA 7941 was not declared unconstitutional," it added.

The seven justices who voted to deny the petition include Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Jose Reyes, Jr., Rosmari Carandang, Henri Jean Paul Inting, and Mario Lopez.

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo, Ramon Paul Hernando, Rodil Zalameda, Edgardo Delos Santos, and Samuel Gaerlan dissented.

Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa submitted a concurring and dissenting opinion.

The decision and the opinions have not yet been released.

Banat case refers to the SC ruling in 2009 on the petition filed by Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency, assailing the Comelec’s proclamation of winning party-list groups.

In its decision, the SC laid down the formula for the allocation of seats for the party-list sector in Congress.

Under the SC ruling, the parties, organizations, and coalitions will be ranked from highest to lowest based on the number of votes they got; those that received at least two percent of the votes cast are entitled to one guaranteed seat each; those with enough votes based on the ranking are entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes until all the additional seats are allocated; the seat limit for each party, organization, or coalition is three.

"In computing the additional seats, the guaranteed seats shall no longer be included because they have already been allocated, at one seat each, to every two-percenter," the SC said, citing the Banat case.

"Thus, the remaining available seats for allocation as 'additional seats' are the maximum seats reserved under the Party List System less the guaranteed seats," the court ruled.

The tribunal stressed that without a provision in the law for rounding off, fractional seats are disregarded.

Topics: Supreme Court , Commission on Elections , groups Aksyon Magsasaka-Tinig Partido ng Masa , Serbisyo sa Bayan , and Angkla: Ang Partido ng mga Marinong Pilipino Inc , Marvic Leonen , Jose Reyes Jr , Rosmari Carandang , Henri Jean Paul Inting , Mario Lopez
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