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THE Supreme Court has affirmed with finality its decision upholding the constitutionality of the formula it promulgated in the BANAT case for computing the winners in party-list elections.

In a 17-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier, the Court denied for lack of merit the motion for reconsideration filed by party-list groups Ang Partido ng Mga Marinong Pilipino Inc. (Angkla), Serbisyo sa Bayan (SBP) and Aksyon Magsasaka-Tinig Partido ng Masa (AKMA-PTM) seeking the reversal of the Court’s decision issued on September 15, 2020.

The petitioners ranked just below the 51 winning party-list groups in the May 13, 2019 elections.  AKMA-PTM was No. 52; SBP was No. 53 while Angkla was No. 54.

The SC, in the said decision, declared as “not unconstitutional” Section 11 (b) of Republic Act 7941 or the Party-list System Act that gives party-list garnering at least 2 percent of the votes for the party-list system (two percenters), a guaranteed seat in the House of Representatives.

Furthermore, the said law provides that those garnering more than 2 percent of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes, provided that each party, organization or coalition “shall be entitled to not more than three seats.”

The SC said the interpretation of Section 11 (b) of RA 7941 had long been settled in the case of Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) vs. Commission on Elections decided on July 8, 2009.

The BANAT case laid down the parameters and methodology on how the seats for the party-list sector should be allocated.

But, in their motion for reconsideration, the petitioners argued that the manner of allocating additional seats in the second round violates the “one person, one vote” policy protected under the equal protection clause.

They asserted that all votes are equal and should carry the same weight, thus, votes counted and considered in the allocation of guaranteed seats in the first round should be deducted before allocating seats in the second round.

To do otherwise, according to the petitioners, would be a clear case of double counting of votes where the votes that are already used to elect representatives through the guaranteed seat are once again used to elect a representative for the additional seat.

However, the SC stressed that the arguments raised by the petitioners in their motion for reconsideration  (MR) were mere rehash of the arguments raised in their main petition. “Notably, the issue raised herein has already been passed upon and deliberated in full in the Court’s decision dated September 15, 2020.

Indeed, petitioners do not raise any new arguments against the Court’s ruling but merely reiterate those raised in their petition,” the SC said.

The Court said majority of the justices remain unconvinced of the arguments reiterated by the petitioners.

It noted that the petitioners are “misguided” in their view on how the concept of “one person, one vote” policy applies to the party-list system.

The SC stressed that subscribing to this concept would cause chaos in the political landscape not only in the application of Section 11 (b) of RA 7941 to party-list systems but also with respect to laws reapportioning legislative districts.

The Court also noted that the petitioners agreed to the uneven valuation of votes when they concurred in the distribution of party-list seats in two rounds using two different formulas and when they proposed that the three-seat limit under the law should still be observed.

It further pointed out that the most obvious sign of petitioners’ concurrence with the law was their availment of the benefits of the BANAT formula in previous elections.

“The Court is therefore in quandary on why petitioners are now claiming that the votes of non-two-percenters are being diluted in supposed violation of the ‘one person, one vote’ policy when they should have known based on their prior experience that, on the contrary, it is their votes which are being overvalued when seats are allocated in their favor in the second round,” the SC explained.

The SC also stressed that the BANAT formula is in accordance with the clear intent of RA 7941.

“All told, the idea of the petitioners and the dissents on what is fair and equitable is simply not what was legislated. Indeed, there are infinite methods of allocating additional seats, which may be considered fair, equitable, and proportional. But surely, it is not for the Court to recalibrate the formula for the party-list system to obtain the broadest representation possible; and make it seemingly less confusing and more straightforward,” the SC said.

“This is definitely a question of wisdom which the legislature alone may determine for itself. Thus, until RA 7941 is amended, Section 11 [b] as outlined in BANAT remains to the applicable law,” it added.