COMELEC: REVIEW LPGMA ACCREDITATION CAREFULLY
Its election time once again and, as usual, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) is busy evaluating the certificates of candidacy (COCs) to screen out the nuisance from the serious candidates for the national and local positions up for grabs in May 2016.
Among those in the running are party list groups competing for 50 sectoral representative seats at the House of Representatives. Party list groups, according to Article 6, Section 5 (2) of the 1987 constitution shall represent the following authorized sectors: labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, fisherfolk, elderly, handicapped, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.
The law is very specific on who and what party list groups can represent. It is for that reason that on September 24, 2015, I sent a letter-complaint to COMELEC Chairman Andres Bautista regarding the possible violation of the constitution by the party list group LPG Marketers Association, Inc. (LPGMA).
LPGMA obviously does not represent any of the sectors specified in the constitution. And while they claim that they represent the professional sector, there are, however, many underlying issues on their claim. For one, to be considered professional, one has to have the required education and pass the appropriate Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) licensure examination or, at least, undergo specialized skills training and be certified professional or skilled by an authorized accreditation agency.
To sell LPG, whether on a wholesale or retail basis, one does not need to be a professional; all it takes is capital and the business plan to make the venture worth the time and the investment. In short, selling LPG is a business venture and not a professional undertaking.
There are many nuances to the party list system. In essence, the system was designed to secure legislative representation for certain sectors who, otherwise, would not have a voice in Congress. The intention was to provide House representation for all sectors, especially the marginalized, but the system has become susceptible to abuse and misuse.
In short, while the party list system was established to promote and protect broader public interest, notably those of the marginalized, business and commercial interests have crept into the system, boxing out the intended beneficiary sectors and muddling the noble objectives of party list representation. It is noteworthy that in the Constitution business, commerce and industry are not mentioned at all in the sectoral list.
The legislators who crafted the law establishing sectoral representation at the House would never allow their law to be exploited to promote business interest in Congress. Much more, they would never allow certain sectors to be clothed with legislative clout that would enable them to question, harass or influence government regulators.
Such is the importance and influence of sectoral representatives in the House of Representatives that the Commission on Election must be very careful in evaluating the various partly list groups that have filed their COCs for the coming synchronized election. LPGMA, to my mind, is among those the COMELEC must carefully review for possible violation of the party list law.
In the interest of full disclosure, I will state as a matter of public record that I have filed at the Department of Justice (DOJ) a cartel case against LPGMA, perhaps among the few, if not the first, cartel case that was given due course by the DOJ. That case remains under litigation.