CASE DIGEST: Abang-Lingkod v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 206952 : OCTOBER 22, 2013

ABANG LINGKOD PARTY-LIST (ABANG LINGKOD), Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondents.

REYES, J.:


FACTS:

ABANG LINGKOD is a sectoral organization that represents the interests of peasant farmers and fisherfolks, and was registered under the party-list system on December 22, 2009. It failed to obtain the number of votes needed in the May 2010 elections for a seat in the House of Representatives.

On August 16, 2012, ABANG LINGKOD, in compliance with the COMELEC August 9, 2012 resolution, filed with the COMELEC pertinent documents to prove its continuing compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941.

In a Resolution dated November 7, 2012, the COMELEC En Banc cancelled ABANG LINGKOD registration as a party-list group. It pointed out that ABANG LINGKOD failed to establish its track record in uplifting the cause of the marginalized and underrepresented; that it merely offered photographs of some alleged activities it conducted after the May 2010 elections.

ABANG LINGKOD field a petitioner for certiorari alleging that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in cancelling its registration under the party-list system. The said petition was consolidated with the separate petitions filed by 51 other party-list groups whose registration were cancelled or who were denied registration under the party-list system. The said party-list groups, including ABANG LINGKOD, were able to obtain status quo ante orders from the court.

The Court remanded to the COMELEC the cases of previously registered party-list groups, including that of ABANG LINGKOD, to determine whether they are qualified under the party-list system pursuant to the new parameters laid down by the Court and, in the affirmative, be allowed to participate in the May 2013 party-list elections.

On May 10, 2013, the COMELEC issued the herein assailed Resolution, which, inter alia, affirmed the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration under the party-list system. The COMELEC issued the Resolution dated May 10, 2013 sans any summary evidentiary hearing, citing the proximity of the May 13, 2013 elections as the reason therefor.

On May 12, 2013, ABANG LINGKOD sought a reconsideration of the COMELEC's Resolution dated May 10, 2013. However, on May 15, 2013, ABANG LINGKOD withdrew the motion for reconsideration it filed with the COMELEC and, instead, instituted the instant petition with this Court, alleging that there may not be enough time for the COMELEC to pass upon the merits of its motion for reconsideration considering that the election returns were already being canvassed and consolidated by the COMELEC.

ISSUE: hether or not ABANG LINGKOD was denied due process?

HELD: BANG LINGKOD was not denied of due process.

POLITICAL LAW: administrative due process


The essence of due process is simply an opportunity to be heard or as applied to administrative or quasi-judicial proceedings, an opportunity to explain one's side or an opportunity to seek reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. The requirements are satisfied when the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is the absolute lack of notice or hearing.

In the instant case, while the petitioner laments that it was denied due process, the Court finds that the COMELEC had afforded ABANG LINGKOD sufficient opportunity to present evidence establishing its qualification as a party-list group. It was notified through Resolution No. 9513 that its registration was to be reviewed by the COMELEC. That ABANG LINGKOD was able to file its Manifestation of Intent and other pertinent documents to prove its continuing compliance with the requirements under R.A. No. 7941, which the COMELEC set for summary hearing on three separate dates, belies its claim that it was denied due process.

There was no necessity for the COMELEC to conduct further summary evidentiary hearing to assess the qualification of ABANG LINGKOD pursuant to Atong Paglaum. ABANG LINGKOD's Manifestation of Intent and all the evidence adduced by it to establish its qualification as a party-list group are already in the possession of the COMELEC. Thus, conducting further summary evidentiary hearing for the sole purpose of determining ABANG LINGKOD's qualification under the party-list system pursuant to Atong Paglaumwould just be a superfluity.

Contrary to ABANG LINGKOD's claim, the Court, in Atong Paglaum, did not categorically require the COMELEC to conduct a summary evidentiary hearing for the purpose of determining the qualifications of the petitioners therein pursuant to the new parameters for screening party-list groups.

POLITICAL LAW: cancellation of party-list registration


Court finds that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in cancelling the registration of ABANG LINGKOD under the party-list system. The COMELEC affirmed the cancellation of ABANG LINGKOD's registration on the ground that it declared untruthful statement in its bid for accreditation as a party-list group in the May 2013 elections, pointing out that it deliberately submitted digitally altered photographs of activities to make it appear that it had a track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented. Essentially, ABANG LINGKOD's registration was cancelled on the ground that it failed to adduce evidence showing its track record in representing the marginalized and underrepresented.

R.A. No. 7941 did not require groups intending to register under the party-list system to submit proof of their track record as a group. The track record requirement was only imposed in Ang Bagong Bayani where the Court held that national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations seeking registration under the party-list system must prove through their, inter alia, track record that they truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented.

In Atong Paglaum, the Court has modified to a great extent the jurisprudential doctrines on who may register under the party-list system and the representation of the marginalized and underrepresented. For purposes of registration under the party-list system, national or regional parties or organizations need not represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector; that representation of the marginalized and underrepresented is only required of sectoral organizations that represent the sectors stated under Section 5 of R.A. No. 7941 that are, by their nature, economically marginalized and underrepresented.

Contrary to the COMELEC's claim, sectoral parties or organizations, such as ABANG LINGKOD, are no longer required to adduce evidence showing their track record, i.e. proof of activities that they have undertaken to further the cause of the sector they represent. Indeed, it is enough that their principal advocacy pertains to the special interest and concerns of their sector. Otherwise stated, it is sufficient that the ideals represented by the sectoral organizations are geared towards the cause of the sector/s, which they represent.

Dissenting, Mr. Justice Leonen, however, maintains that parties or organizations intending to register under the party-list system are still required to present a track record notwithstanding the Court's pronouncement in Atong Paglaum; that the track record that would have to be presented would only differ as to the nature of their group/organization. He opines that sectoral organizations must prove their links with the marginalized and underrepresented while national or regional parties or organizations must show that they have been existing as a bona fide organization. GRANTED.

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