During the elections one of the hottest issues, but not much publicized, was the bid for Congress by Mikey Arroyo, eldest son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the first nominee for the Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP) Party-list. After winning, some groups questioned and sought to disqualify Mr. Arroyo as the first nominee for the said Party-list. Just recently the Commission on Elections had rendered their decision in his favor. Mikey now sits in Congress as the representative of the AGP, an organization of motorcycle drivers and security guards.
There is a twist to the story: prior to this particular case, a case which has basically the same antecedent facts was ruled by the COMELEC in the negative, stating that a party list representative should also belong to the sector he is representing. Last Thursday, 29 July 2010, one Danilo Antipasado, a tricycle driver from Caloocan City, asked Congress to remove AGP as one of the party-list organizations and to disqualify Mikey since he does not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sector of society. Antipasado claims that the decision of the COMELEC will destroy the party-list system and its good intentions.
Jurisprudence provides, in the landmark case of BAGONG BAYANI-OFW LABOR PARTY vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, G.R. No. 147589, 2001 Jun 26, with Chief Justice A. Panganiban as ponente, that, “…it is not enough for the candidate to claim representation of the marginalized and underrepresented, because representation is easy to claim and to feign. The party-list organization or party must factually and truly represent the marginalized and underrepresented constituencies mentioned in Section 5. Concurrently, the persons nominated by the party-list candidate-organization must be “Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties.”
The Supreme Court further states that: “It is ironic, therefore, that the marginalized and underrepresented in our midst are the majority who wallow in poverty, destitution and infirmity. It was for them that the party-list system was enacted — to give them not only genuine hope, but genuine power; to give them the opportunity to be elected and to represent the specific concerns of their constituencies; and simply to give them a direct voice in Congress and in the larger affairs of the State. In its noblest sense, the party-list system truly empowers the masses and ushers a new hope for genuine change. Verily, it invites those marginalized and underrepresented in the past ” the farm hands, the fisher folk, the urban poor, even those in the underground movement ” to come out and participate, as indeed many of them came out and participated during the last elections. The State cannot now disappoint and frustrate them by disabling and desecrating this social justice vehicle.”
In the words of Chief Justice Panganiban, speaking for the Supreme Court, ”The party-list system is a social justice tool designed not only to give more law to the great masses of our people who have less in life, but also to enable them to become veritable lawmakers themselves, empowered to participate directly… in the enactment of laws designed to benefit them. It intends to make the marginalized and the underrepresented not merely passive recipients of the State’s benevolence, but active participants in the mainstream of representative democracy. Thus, allowing all individuals and groups, including those which now dominate district elections, to have the same opportunity to participate in party-list elections would desecrate this lofty objective and mongrelize the social justice mechanism into an atrocious veneer for traditional politics.”
How Congress will handle the Antipasado petition is, therefore, critical to our party-list law which is a tool for social justice to prevail in this country. We await with bated breath the decision of Congress on this matter. If it goes to the Supreme Court, then we will have to see if we can trust the Supreme Court not to reverse itself.
I guess, what I am really trying to say is that we are facing a test of a law designed to protect the underprivileged and the participation of those who are really there “down below”. This is important as the majority of us are “down below”. Going by the justice framework of the late President Ramon Magsaysay who said “those that have less in life should have more under the law”, we hope that justice, indeed, will prevail in this land we call our home. ###