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SC dismisses with finality Gabriela party-list bid for third House seat

The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday dismissed with finality the petition of Gabriela Women's Party which sought to proclaim a third representative for the group in the 17th Congress.

At a press conference, SC spokesperson Theodore Te said Gabriela's motion for reconsideration to the Court's February 7 resolution was rejected for lack of merit.

In its resolution, the SC turned down the petition filed by the party-list group in July last year on the ground of forum shopping.

Jurisprudence defines forum shopping as an act of filing of suits in multiple venues involving the same parties for the same cause of action, either simultaneously or successively, for the purpose of obtaining a favorable judgement.

The judiciary prohibits forum shopping because it abuses court processes and adds to the already congested court dockets.

In Gabriela's case, the SC said the group "abused the court processes" when it filed a petition with the high court even though the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had yet to rule on its appeal on the result of the 2016 party-list election.

That appeal has since been dismissed by the poll body for lack of merit.

"Worse, contrary to the directive of Section 5 of Rule 7 of the Rules of Court, Gabriela did not even bother to state in its verification and certification of non-forum shopping the fact that its Omnibus Motion was then still pending before the Comelec," the resolution stated.

"Gabriela's failure to comply with the rule against forum shopping alone constitutes a sufficient ground to dismiss the petition. To avoid any confusion, the Court adheres strictly to the rules against forum shopping, and any violation of these rules results in the dismissal of a case," it added.

Gabriela's petition sought to review and set aside the National Board of Canvassers Resolution 008-16 which declared the winning party-list groups, of which Gabriela was allocated two seats.

The group said the poll body, sitting as the NBOC, committed grave abuse of discretion when it came out with the resolution despite an alleged error in the computation of additional seats for winning party-list groups.

Gabriela got the second highest number of votes in last year's polls or a total of 1,367,795 votes, which entitled them to two seats in the House of Representatives.

But the group said it shoud get an additional seat.

In its petition, Gabriela said considering that there are 238 seats available to legislative districts, using the formula for determining the seats available to party-list representatives laid down by the SC, 59.5 seats are reserved for party-list representatives in the House.

The 1987 Constitution mandates that 20 percent of House seats should go to party-list groups.

The Comelec rounded down the number of reserved seats to 59, which Gabriela explained mathematically is 19.8653 percent while 60 is 20.1342 percent, and that both are 20 percent if rounded off.

The group said fixing the reserved seats for party-list representatives at 60 favors broader representation.

The SC dismissed Gabriela's claims, noting the Comelec correctly used the whole integer of 59 instead of 59.5 since there are no fractional seats under Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List Law.

"In determining the maximum number of seats reserved for party-list representatives, only the whole integer is considered. This is because what is being determined is the number of seats that can actually be allocated to the winning party-list groups and a fraction of a seat fails in this qualification since only a complete or undivided count guarantees the grant of a seat," the high court said.

"Logic would dictate that a fraction of a seat cannot be properly allocated to the winning party-list groups," it added.

Gabriela’s representatives at the House are Emmie De Jesus and Arlene Brosas.

The third seat would have been for Bai Ali Indayla, who represents the Moro and indigenous women. —KG, GMA News