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SC ruling on party-list system backed

MANILA, Philippines - A former magistrate yesterday expressed his support for the Supreme Court’s recent ruling revising standards in the country’s party-list system.

Retired Justice Vicente Mendoza, a known constitutional expert, supported the move of a majority of SC justices to allow national and regional groups not belonging to “underrepresented and marginalized” sectors to participate in the polls.

Mendoza said the initial purpose of making the party-list system exclusive to sectoral groups has been achieved.

“They were given three terms or nine years where half of the party-list seats had been reserved exclusively for them. That three terms already ended, and the intention of the Constitution is that it will be opened up after those nine years,” he said in an interview.

The former justice also downplayed fears raised by critics, especially militant party-list groups, that the April 5 SC decision discarding the previous criteria set in “Ang Bagong Bayani case” will pave the way for domination of the party-list system by “rich and powerful politicians.”

“If after those nine years of exclusive seats those party-list groups are not yet strong politically, then that only means they are weak and not chosen by the people to represent them. Party-list groups must be allowed to evolve according to the wishes of the people, not according to the wishes of militant party-list groups,” he added.

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Mendoza, counsel of Ako Bicol party-list, pointed out that some militant groups “have been in power yet they still claim to be financially weak and economically marginalized.”

He believes the ruling will pave the way for democratization of the country’s electoral system by allowing full participation of all “politically weak” and “marginalized groups” to win seats in the House of Representatives.

“This new ruling will reflect the true will of the people. This is the natural progression of maturity of political groups,” Mendoza said.

He added the decision of the high court is faithful to the Constitution and to the intent of the Constitutional Commission that crafted the 1987 Charter, contrary to claims by some militant party-list groups “that one must wallow in poverty to be marginalized.”

“It is not true that under the Constitution, the party-list system is reserved only for financially destitute people,” he said, adding the system is not exclusively for militants.

Under the Constitution and Republic Act 7941, marginalized sectors include labor, peasant, fisher folk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly and handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.

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