(Magdalo v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 190793, June 19, 2012)
DOCTRINE: The registration of political parties does not involve administrative liability as it is only limited to the evaluation of qualifications for registration.
On 2 July 2009, Petitioner Magdalo sa Pagbabago (MAGDALO) filed its Petition for Registration with the COMELEC, seeking its registration and/or accreditation as a regional political party based in the NCR for participation in the 10 May 2010 National and Local Elections. In the Petition, MAGDALO was represented by its Chairperson, Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, and its Secretary General, Francisco Ashley L. Acedillo (Acedillo).
On 26 October 2009, the COMELEC denied the Petition for Registration as it was not in accordance with Art. IX-C, Section 2(5) of the Constitution. It is common knowledge that the party’s organizer and Chairman, and some members participated in the take-over of the Oakwood Premier Apartments in Ayala Center, Makati City on July 27, 2003, wherein several innocent civilian personnel were held hostage. This and the fact that they were in full battle gear at the time of the mutiny clearly show their purpose in employing violence and using unlawful means to achieve their goals in the process defying the laws of organized societies.
MAGDALO filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which was elevated to the COMELEC En Banc for resolution. MAGDALO also filed a Manifestation of Intent to Participate in the Party-List System of Representation in the 10 May 2010 Elections, in which it stated that its membership includes former members of the AFP, Anti-Corruption Advocates, Reform-minded citizens. They filed an Amended Manifestation, and in which they manifest that the instant MANIFESTATION is being filed ex abutanti (sic) cautelam (out of the abundance of caution) only and subject to the outcome of the resolution of the Motion for Reconsideration that is still pending. It is not in any way intended to preempt the ruling of the Commission but merely to preserve the possibility of pursuing the Partys participation in the Party-List System of Representation in the eventuality that their Petition is approved.
The COMELEC En Banc denied the Motion for Reconsideration. In the instant Petition, MAGDALO argues that the findings of the assailed resolutions on the basis of which the Petition was denied are based on pure speculation. The assailed Resolutions effectively preempted the court trying the case. The subject Resolutions unfairly jumped to the conclusion that the founders of the Magdalo committed mutiny, held innocent civilian personnel as hostage, employed violence and used unlawful means and in the process defied the laws of organized society purportedly during the Oakwood incident when even the court trying their case, (RTC Makati) has not yet decided the case against them; and the Resolution violates the constitutional presumption of innocence in favor of founders of the Magdalo and their basic right of to due process of law.
Whether the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion when it denied the Petition for Registration filed by MAGDALO on the ground that the latter seeks to achieve its goals through violent or unlawful means.
This Court rules in the negative, but without prejudice to MAGDALOs filing anew of a Petition for Registration. The COMELEC has a constitutional and statutory mandate to ascertain the eligibility of parties and organizations to participate in electoral contests.
The Commission on Elections
Section 2. The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:
x x x x x x x x x(5) Register, after sufficient publication, political parties, organizations, or coalitions which, in addition to other requirements, must present their platform or program of government; and accredit citizens arms of the Commission on Elections. Religious denominations and sects shall not be registered. Those which seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, or refuse to uphold and adhere to this Constitution, or which are supported by any foreign government shall likewise be refused registration.
Thus, to join electoral contests, a party or organization must undergo the two-step process of registration and accreditation which is:
(a.) Registration is the act that bestows juridical personality for purposes of our election laws; accreditation, on the other hand, relates to the privileged participation that our election laws grant to qualified registered parties.
(b.) Accreditation can only be granted to a registered political party, organization or coalition; stated otherwise, a registration must first take place before a request for accreditation can be made. Once registration has been carried out, accreditation is the next natural step to follow.
The COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in finding that MAGDALO uses violence or unlawful means to achieve its goals.
In finding that MAGDALO resorts to violence or unlawful acts to fulfill its organizational objectives, the COMELEC did not render an assessment as to whether the members of petitioner committed crimes, as respondent was not required to make that determination in the first place. Its evaluation was limited only to examining whether MAGDALO possessed all the necessary qualifications and none of disqualifications for registration as a political party. In arriving at its assailed ruling, the COMELEC only had to assess whether there was substantial evidence adequate to support this conclusion.
This Court finds that the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the Petition for Registration filed by MAGDALO.