Case Digest: ABC Party v. COMELEC

G.R. No. 193256 : March 22, 2011

ABC (ALLIANCE FOR BARANGAY CONCERNS) PARTY LIST, REPRESENTED BY ITS CHAIRMAN, JAMES MARTY LIM,Petitioner, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND MELANIO MAURICIO, JR., Respondents.

FACTS:


On May 25, 2010, private respondent Melanio Mauricio, Jr. filed a petition with the COMELEC for the cancellation of registration and accreditation of petitioner ABC Party-Liston the ground that petitioner is a front for a religious organization; hence, it is disqualified to become a party-list group under Section 6 (1)of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7941, otherwise known as the Party-List System Act.

On June 16, 2010, the COMELEC, Second Division issued a Resolution dismissing the petition. The dismissal on procedural grounds was grounded on the lack of proper verification of the petition.According to the COMELEC, Second Division, the Verification with Certification Re: Forum Shopping and Special Power of Attorney was not duly notarized in accordance with the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, as amended. Sections 1 and 6, Rule II require that the person appearing before a notary public must be known to the notary public or identified by the notary public through competent evidence of identity. In this case, the "Acknowledgment" at the end of the verification did not contain the name of private respondent who supposedly appeared before the notary public, and he was not identified by any competent evidence of identity as required by the rules on notarial practice. The COMELEC, Second Division also dismissed the petition based on substantial grounds, as it found that ABC is not a religious sect, and is, therefore, not disqualified from registration.

However, the COMELEC en banc found that the petitions verification page substantially complied with the 2004 Rules on Notarial Practice, and that the records of the case showed that the Resolution of the Second Division was issued without any hearing, contrary to RA No. 7941, which deprived Mauricio of the opportunity to submit evidence in support of his petition.

In filing this petition, Petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc no longer had jurisdiction to entertain the petition for cancellation of registration and accreditation of ABC Party-List after it was already proclaimed as one of the winners in the party-list elections of May 10, 2010. Further, petitioner submits that Section 6 of R.A. No. 7941, which states that the COMELEC may motu proprio or upon verified complaint of any interested party remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition, is applicable only to a non-winning party-list group.

ISSUES:

Whether or not the Comelec has jurisdiction to hear the case on ABC party lists cancellation of registration

Whether or not a cancellation case should be summary


HELD:

The petition is denied.

POLITICAL LAW: Jurisdiction and powers of the Comelec to cancel party list registration.


First issue: Section 2 (5), Article IX-Cof the Constitution grants the COMELEC the authority to register political parties, organizations or coalitions, and the authority to cancel the registration of the same on legal grounds. The said authority of the COMELEC is reflected in Section 6 of R.A. No. 7941. In the case of the party-list nominees/representatives, it is the HRET, in accordance with Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution, that has jurisdiction over contests relating to their qualifications.Although it is the party-list organization that is voted for in the elections, it is not the organization that sits as and becomes a member of the House of Representatives,but it is the party-list nominee/representative who sits as a member of the House of Representatives. Thus, the jurisdiction of the HRET over contests relates to the qualifications of a party-list nominee or representative, while the jurisdiction of the COMELEC is over petitions for cancellation of registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition.In sum, the COMELECen banchad jurisdiction over the petition forcancellation of the registration and accreditation of petitioner ABC Party-List for alleged violation ofSection 6 (1) of R.A. No. 7941.

Second issue: Petitioner contends that the COMELEC en banc committed grave abuse of discretion when it singled out this case and directed that it be set for hearing when other cases of the same nature were summarily and motu proprio dismissed by the COMELEC, citing the cases of BANAT v. CIBAC Foundation and BANAT v. 1-Care and APEC. However, in both cases, the proceedings were summary because the registration/qualification/cancellation of the party lists had already been decided in another case.

DISMISSED.

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