Party-list system tampered with by the Supreme Court


Seal of the Supreme Court of the PhilippinesWhat is already written clearly in the law should not be tinkered with and assigned another meaning or intention by a mere judicial fiat.

The Supreme Court (SC), in a vote of 11-2, recently ruled that the party-list system is not limited to “marginalized” and “underrepresented” sectors.  The ruling, in effect, abandoned the 2001 Panganiban doctrine on the same issue and opened up participation in the party-list election to powerful and well-heeled political parties and groups of all kinds, sizes and colors.

The two dissenting votes came from Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, both appointees of Pres. Benigno Aquino III.  In her dissenting vote, CJ Sereno said: “… (this) would allow more entrenched and well-established political parties to compete with the weaker segments of society, which is the very evil sought to be guarded against.”  

The framers of the 1987 Constitution deemed it wise to allocate 20% of the seats in Congress to sectoral representatives that would otherwise have a hard time getting elected to the House of Representatives through the traditional political parties or the system of district-level politics.  The idea was to give the marginalized and underrepresented sectors a voice in the shaping of national policies and a chance to legislate laws that will directly protect and benefit their collective interest.

Section 5 (2), Article VI of the Constitution and its enabling act, R.A. 7941 (The Party-list Act), identified these marginalized and underrepresented sectors as labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, fisherfolk, elderly, handicapped, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.

In setting “new parameters” that expand the types of organizations that can participate in election as party-list groups, the SC has practically amended R.A. 7941, which is a legislative function.  It did so by interpreting the “intention” of the constitutional commission members, instead of merely affirming, as it did in 2001, the operational words “marginalized” and “underrepresented” and the sectors that are already clearly identified and written in the constitutional provision and its enabling act.

The SC’s grant of reprieve to the 52 party-list groups earlier disqualified by the Commission on Elections also prevented the poll body from exercising its legally mandated power and responsibility of purging the party-list system of bogus groups.

The immediate implication of this SC ruling is that small party-list groups that struggle hard to get enough votes for even a single seat in Congress will find it even harder to compete for votes in the May 13 elections against bigger and wealthier political organizations and interest groups.  In the long run, the SC ruling will render the party-list system of election meaningless and a farcical exercise.

The party-list system in the country is politically correct.   It is a social justice mechanism designed to provide the teeming millions of marginalized Filipinos with an opportunity to directly participate in the enactment of laws that will benefit them, and we should not allow the system to be tampered with by a small group of eleven people in black robes.

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 07 April 2013

Related photos

Voted in favor of the SC ruling:

Justice Antonio Carpio

Senior Associate Justice and ponente of the ruling Antonio Carpio (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Teresita de Castro

Associate Justice Teresita de Castro (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Arturo Brion

Associate Justice Arturo Brion (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Diosdado Peralta

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lucas Bersamin

Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mariano del Castillo

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Roberto Abad

Associate Justice Roberto Abad (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martin Villarama, Jr.

Associate Justice Martin Villarama, Jr. (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jose Perez

Associate Justice Jose Perez (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jose Mendoza

Associate Justice Jose Mendoza (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Marivic Leonen

Associate Justice Marivic Leonen (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dissenting votes:

CJ Ma. Lourdes Sereno

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bienvenido Reyes

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other related photos

Urban poor garbage scavengers

Urban poor garbage scavengers – symbol of grinding poverty in the Philippines (photo credit: youronevoicecanmakeadifference)

Labor sector workers

Labor sector women workers (photo credit:

Overseas workers

Overseas workers (photo credit:

Filipino war veterans

Filipino war veterans (photo credit:

sunset, Malapascua, Philippines

Fisherfolks (photo credit: bruceliron.photoshelter)

Cultural minorities

Indigenous cultural minority (photo credit: philippinesdailyphotos)

Elderly Filipinos

Elderly Filipinos (photo credit:

Handicapped Filipinos (photo credit: