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SC upholds Comelec disqualification of Cocofed party-list

The Supreme Court has upheld the disqualification of the Coconut Producers Federation (Cocofed) from the May 2013 party-list elections for its failure to identify at least five of their nominees.

In a summary, the SC Public Information Office said the Commission on Elections did not commit grave abuse of discretion when it disqualified and cancelled the certificate of registration and accreditation of Cocofed after it only submitted names of two nominees instead of five, as required by law.

"That the requirement to submit the names of at least five nominees is mandatory is shown shown by the language of the law which used the words 'shall' and 'not less than five,'" the SC said in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Arturo Brion.

In an attempt to remedy the situation, Cocofed later filed a "Manifestation with Urgent Request to Admit Additional Nominees" with the Comelec but already after the May 13 elections.

The Comelec, however, stood by its decision and declared as final and executory Cocofed's disqualification.

In its own ruling, the SC said: "[Cocofed] should have explained its inability to comply prior to the elections."

"A party is not allowed to simply refuse to submit a list containing 'not less than five nominees' and consider the deficiency as a waiver on their part," the high court said.

Even if the May 2013 elections are long past, the SC stood firm in its decision not to render Cocofed's petition as moot.

"The validity of its status as a registered party-list organization remains a very live issue...notwithstanding Cocofed's failure to attain the required votes for a congressional seat in the 2013 elections," the SC said.

Cocofed was among the 12 party-list groups disqualified by Comelec on May 10. Comelec's ruling, however, came a little late as the ballots had already been printed—with the names of the 12 groups included. — VC, GMA News