MANILA, Philippines—The absence of a law defining a “marginalized” sector is putting the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in a legal and procedural dilemma.
Because there are no laws defining what a “marginalized” sector is, “there’s the more reason we cannot pinpoint who the nominees are,” Comelec Chair Jose Melo said at a media briefing Wednesday.
Asked if he considered ethical Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo’s bid to become a party-list representative, Melo said the son of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo could stand as a nominee.
Mikey is the first nominee of the Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP), a group that claims to represent security guards in the House of Representatives.
As to the ethics of Mikey’s position, “that’s the call of the people,” Melo said.
But limiting party-list nominees to members of marginalized groups is not wise, said Melo, a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court.
“For example, here is a group of tricycle drivers. What if their nominee is a tricycle driver and he was not able to finish school. How can he represent the interest of tricycle drivers? They should have somebody who is educated to speak for them,” Melo said.
Thus, at the end of the day, Melo said there could be no hard and fast rule on party-list nominees and it would be up to the voters “to judge” them on Election Day, Melo said.
The Comelec is drafting guidelines for party-list nominees, which will allow citizens to oppose the candidacy of nominees who they believe are not qualified to represent a marginalized group.
Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento on Tuesday said the rules, which the Comelec is issuing for the first time, would address questions on what constitute a “qualified” party-list nominee, among other things.
Nominees who fail the guidelines will be disqualified. If their party-list group wins in the May 10 national elections, they would not be able to take their seats in the House.
Poll officials said the party-list system was deeply flawed. Some party-list groups in the House have criticized certain nominees and their colleagues for using the system to strengthen the administration party.
The progressive bloc claims that certain party-list lawmakers do not belong to the marginalized sectors they represent.
Some officials also use the system to circumvent the law on the three-term limit, Melo said. “They are qualified, but there are unethical matters like that,” he said.
Melo noted that the Comelec had released the names of the nominees of the party-list groups.
By making the names public, concerned citizens and groups can file complaints and disqualification cases against certain nominees.
The Comelec hopes that the public will be guided on what party-list group to vote for.
Accredited party-list groups have until March 26 to submit their nominees to the Comelec. As of March 23, only 45 groups out of the 187 organizations on the ballot, had submitted the names of their nominees. –Kristine L. Alave, Philippine Daily Inquirer