Prohibiting candidates who lost any electoral position to run as party-list nominees in the succeeding polls is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court has declared, as it struck down provisions in both the Party-List System Act and the Rules and Regulations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
In an en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Jhosep Lopez, the SC resolved as unconstitutional the pertinent phrase “a person who has lost his bid for elective office in the immediately preceding election” under Section 8 of Republic Act No. 7941, the Party-List System Act.
It also struck down the phrases “have lost in their bid for an elective office in the May 13, 2019 National and Local Elections” and “or a person who has lost his bid for an elective office in the May 13, 2019 National and Local Elections,” under Sections 5(d) and 10, respectively, of Comelec Resolution No. 10717.
The High Court made the ruling as it granted the petition filed by Catalina G. Leonen-Pizzaro and Glen Quintos Albano, who were party-list candidates in 2019. They filed the petition in 2021. In a decision promulgated last January
24, the SC said: “The Court found that the prohibition placed on losing candidates violates the constitutional guaranty of substantive due process as it effectively intrudes on the right of losing candidates in the immediately preceding elections from participating in the present elections.”
“The State cannot require eligibility for public office to be conditioned on a candidate’s ill performance in the previous election, nor may such performance be used as a rubric to gauge the person’s ability to serve,” the SC ruled.
The High Court also ruled that by the express wording of Section 5(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, “Congress is empowered to determine, by law, who shall be elected through the party-list system and, therefore, determine the qualifications of the party-list representatives elected.”
The SC emphasized that in reviewing the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, it found the clear intent of the framers to delegate to Congress who is in the best position to draft, study, and enact all the details regarding the implementation of the party-list system, and the determination of the qualifications of nominees under the system.
“The Court said that given these, there is nothing constitutionally repugnant on the part of Congress to provide for the selection of party-list nominees as reflected in Section 8 of R.A. No. 7941 and as later adopted and reproduced by the respondent Comelec in its Resolution No. 10717,” it said.
“The Court likewise ruled that regardless of the power of Congress to provide for the qualifications of party-list representatives by law, it must still yield to the general limitations on legislation, particularly the equal protection clause,” the decision read.
“Applying the rational basis test, the Court held that the assailed portion of the provisions under R.A. No. 7941 and Comelec Resolution No. 10717 must be struck down, as no substantial distinction exists between candidates who lost in the immediately preceding election vis-à-vis those who won or did not participate therein,” the SC declared.