FACTS: Atong Paglaum, Inc. and 51 other parties were disqualified by the Commission on Elections in the May 2013 party-list elections for various reasons but primarily for not being qualified as representatives for marginalized or underrepresented sectors. Atong Paglaum et al then filed a petition for certiorari against COMELEC alleging grave abuse of discretion on the part of COMELEC in disqualifying them.
ISSUE: Whether or not the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying the said party-lists.
DECISION: Remanded to COMELEC
RATIO DECIDENDI: No, the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in following prevailing decisions in disqualifying petitioners from participating in the coming elections. However, since the Court adopts new parameters in the qualification of the party-list system, thereby abandoning the rulings in the decisions applied by the COMELEC in disqualifying petitioners, we remand to the COMELEC all the present petitions for the COMELEC to determine who are qualified to register under the party-list system, and to participate in the coming elections, under the new parameters prescribed in this Decision. Moreover, Section 5(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution mandates that, during the first three consecutive terms of Congress after the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, "one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector." This provision clearly shows again that the party-list system is not exclusively for sectoral parties for two obvious reasons. First, the other one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives would naturally be open to non-sectoral party-list representatives, clearly negating the idea that the party-list system is exclusively for sectoral parties representing the "marginalized and underrepresented." Second, the reservation of one-half of the party-list seats to sectoral parties applies only for the first "three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution," clearly making the party-list system fully open after the end of the first three congressional terms. This means that, after this period, there will be no seats reserved for any class or type of party that qualifies under the three groups constituting the party-list system. Hence, the clear intent, express wording, and party-list structure ordained in Section 5(1) and (2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution cannot be disputed: the party-list system is not for sectoral parties only, but also for non-sectoral parties.