The past few days have certainly been full of surprises. Early yesterday afternoon, word started to circulate that the Supreme Court had issued a ruling immediately permitting 32 new party-list representatives to take their seats in the House. To my mind, the clearest summary of the Supreme Court’s decision can be found in The Business Mirror:
The decision, in effect, paved the way for the representation of 19 more party-list groups by 32 additional House representatives from the present 17 party-list groups with 23 representatives…
On the other hand, the SC affirmed its previous ruling in Veterans Federation Party v. Comelec disallowing major political parties from participating in party-list elections.
Under RA 7941 and the deliberations of the constitutional commission, major political parties may coalesce with certain sectors to be able to join in party-list elections.
“However, by a vote of 8-7, the Court decided to continue the ruling in Veterans disallowing major political parties from participating in the party-list elections, directly or indirectly. Those who voted to continue disallowing major political parties from the party-list elections joined Chief Justice Reynato Puno in his separate opinion. On the formula to allocate party-list seats, the Court is unanimous in concurring with this ponencia,” the Court said.
In its ruling, the SC maintained that the party-list election has four unbreakable parameters as clearly stated in the Veterans decision.
These include the 20-percent allocation in the membership of the House of Representatives; the 2-percent threshold; three-seat limit, and proportional representation.
However, the Court said the formula in Veterans has flaws in its mathematical interpretation of the term “proportional representation,” which compelled it to revisit the formula for the allocation of additional seats to party-list organizations.
In determining the allocation of seats for party-list representatives under Section 11 of RA 7941, the Court said following procedure shall be observed:
– The parties, organizations, and coalitions shall be ranked from the highest to the lowest based on the number of votes they garnered during the elections.
– The parties, organizations and coalitions receiving at least 2 percent of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one guaranteed seat each.
– Those garnering sufficient number of votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes until all the additional seats are allocated.
– Each party, organization or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three seats.
The Court noted that in computing the additional seats, the guaranteed seats shall no longer be included because they have already been allocated, at one seat each, to every 2-percenter.
Among the newly-authorized party-list representatives is Mong Palatino, who just very well might be the first Filipino blogger to make it the House, and a national position.
In fact, he may have overtaken Jeff Ooi, the Malaysian blogger turned Member of Parliament, who sits in the assembly for the State of Penang (incidentally, you may want to read Ooi’s tale of woe concerning his economic difficulties as an MP, with a Philippine Peso equivalent of 79,762 monthly salary and 93,000 in allowances! and how the Malaysian tax authorities scrutinize officials and also, grant tax writeoffs for the purchase of books and computers by any citizen!), as the highest-ranking blogger-turned legislator. Palatino’s fellow National Democrats may also be celebrating his representing the fourth generation of their movement to assume national prominence and position.
What was interesting about the Supreme Court’s decision (besides junking the Panganiban formula), was that it was widely interpreted as representing a complication for the administration’s ongoing amendments efforts.
An interesting analysis of the alliances (pro and con) in the House, as well as an exploration of whether amendments can still be accomplished before the 2010 elections, is provided in Chacha is Dead? by Joel Rocamora:
Retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban says he has information that they only have 178 votes for the Villafuerte resolution. He doubts that they can get the remaining 18 signatures. Of the 238 incumbent congressmen, 89 belong to the Lakas, 52 to Kampi, 30 to the Nationalist People’s Coalition, 20 to the Liberal Party, 10 to the Nacionalista Party and the rest are distributed among the LDP, PMP, PDSP, PDP-Laban and Uno, and party list members.
Even if we assume that all 52 Kampi members will vote for the Villafuerte resolution, the official position of the leadership of Lakas, NPC, the LP, and the NP is against a “House only ConAss”. The NPC, LP and NP are deep into preparations for the 2010 elections for which they’ve already spent several hundred million pesos. We cannot assume that the members of these parties can all be bought by Malacanang. Any combination of congress persons from these parties plus some of the more progressive party list representatives totaling 42 will frustrate Villafuerte.
The April 21 decision of the Supreme Court adding thirty five new party list representatives does not make it any easier. Most of the new party list reps are local trapo and rabid anti-Left people like Jun Alcover of Anad and Jovito Palparan of Bantay Party. Even if GMA people manage to get three fourths of the new party list reps to sign on, however, they still can’t make up for the missing signatories that six months of solicitation have failed to produce. They can’t make up for the obvious hesitation of the largest fraction in the House and the party of the Speaker.
The Speaker, interesting enough, pleaded lack of physical space and budget, and raised a constitutional question, when informed of the Supreme Court’s decision. He certainly didn’t immediately issue a summons for the affected party-list representatives to materialize in his office so that they could be sworn in forthwith.
Then, today, news began to circulate in the late afternoon that an interesting resolution has been filed in the House. Here it is:
House Resolution No. 1109
Yesterday, Dean Jorge Bocobo had some choice things to say about the line of reasoning of the Villafuerte Resolution, but for my purposes let me just reproduce his summary of Villafuerte’s line of reasoning and ostensible motive for creating a “justiciable issue”:
Speaking to Pia Hontiveros (Strictly Politics, ANC) Rep. Luis Villafuerte, President of the Kampi Party of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said he wants to trigger “a justiciable controversy” to get the Supreme Court to rule definitively on the meaning of Article 17 Sec. (1). For this purpose he has drafted a resolution on which he says he only needs 198 signatures to trigger that justiciable controversy. But Rep. Villafuerte informs the audience that his resolution does not contain any specific amendment or revision of the Constitution as such, but only “establishes the mode” by which Congress is to exercise its “constituent power” to propose such changes for ratification at plebiscite.
The leitmotif of the Villafuerte mode of exercising constituent power is the concept of a “Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).” Notice that in the 1935 provision, Congress “in joint session assembled” proposes amendments with House and Senate Members voting separately and obeying the three fourths majority rule. The Villafuerte Resolution however contemplates an entirely different entity altogether than that found in the 1935 Constitution. He envisions a Constituent Assembly whose Members are all the Members of Congress with no distinction as to whether they are Senators or House Members.
The Resolution above, filed this morning, adds a “pledge” by its signatories, that should the Supreme Court rule favorably, they will not extend their own, or the President’s, terms, or create any sort of mischief, including canceling the 2010 elections. Scout’s honor, your honors.
Anyway, Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel was able to get the resolution stricken from today’s order of business in the House. But the gauntlet has been thrown down by the leadership. The Senate, perhaps, can refrain from legitimizing the ploy by refusing to be drawn in by running to the Supreme Court; however, this does not prevent someone else (paging Atty. Oliver Lozano!) from going to the Supreme Court, creating the “justiciable issue” the resolution proclaims as its reason for being.
Besides that, the filing of the resolution sets aside the question of the new party-list representatives and therefore, leaves intact the original administration coalition computation of the votes required to propose amendments -regardless of whether or not the Senate agrees or disagrees.
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