(Abayon v Hret G.R. No. 222236, G.R. No. 223032)
In G.R. 189466, petitioner Daryl Grace J. Abayon is the first nominee of the Aangat Tayo party-list organization that won a seat in the House of Representatives during the 2007 elections. Respondents filed a petition for quo warranto with respondent HRET against petitioner Abayon. They claimed that Aangat Tayo was not eligible for a party-list seat in the House of Representatives, since it did not represent the marginalized and under represented sectors since she did not belong to the marginalized and under represented sectors, she being the wife of an incumbent congressional district representative.
It was Aangat Tayo that was taking a seat in the House of Representatives, and not Abayon who was just its nominee. All questions involving her eligibility as first nominee, said Abayon, were internal concerns of Aangat Tayo.
In G.R. 189506, petitioner Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. is the first nominee of the Bantay party-list group that won a seat in the 2007 elections for the members of the House of Representatives. Lesaca and the others alleged that Palparan was ineligible to sit in the House of Representatives as party-list nominee because he did not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors that Bantay represented, namely, the victims of communist rebels, Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGUs), former rebels, and security guards.
Petitioner Palparan countered that the HRET had no jurisdiction over his person since it was actually the party-list Bantay, not he, that was elected to and assumed membership in the House of Representatives. Palparan claimed that he was just Bantay’s nominee. Consequently, any question involving his eligibility as first nominee was an internal concern of Bantay. Such question must be brought, he said, before that party-list group, not before the HRET.
Whether or not respondent HRET has jurisdiction over the question of qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan.
Although it is the party-list organization that is voted for in the elections, it is not the organization that sits as and becomes a member of the House of Representatives. Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution,5 identifies who the “members” of that House are:
Sec. 5. (1). The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a partylist system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations. (Underscoring supplied)
Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution9 provides that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to, among other things, the qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives. Since, as pointed out above, party-list nominees are “elected members” of the House of Representatives no less than the district representatives are, the HRET has jurisdiction to hear and pass upon their qualifications. By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.10
The Court holds that respondent HRET did not gravely abuse its discretion when it dismissed the petitions for quo warranto against Aangat Tayo party-list and Bantay party-list but upheld its jurisdiction over the question of the qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan.