Nothing new with party-list
THREE years ago, there were calls to abolish the party-list system because only the rich and powerful got to enter Congress through that method, without being elected for individual platforms.
President Rodrigo Duterte was among those who said the party-list system should be stricken off the Constitution because of abuses where only those with financial resources to run a nationwide campaign can win. He was thinking at that time to convene the constitutional body to draft a new Constitution that would, among others, delete that provision. “Ang nananalo yung may pera. (Those who win are those with money.) Representing the what? Security guards?” Duterte had said.
Has anything changed since then?
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said 134 party-list organizations will vie for seats in the House of Representatives in the coming May 13 midterm polls. This is more than the number of those who ran in the 2016 elect i ons.
A total of 115 partylist groups joined the 2016 elections. Of that election, 46 won in the party-list polls and their nominees occupied 59 House seats.
For this year’s exercise, the Comelec was expected to whittle down the list as one lesson from the conduct of the 2016 polls. But the opposite happened and it wasn’t because the number of marginalized sectors in the country grew in three years.
Republic Act 7941, known as the Party-List System Act, says, “The State shall promote proportional representation in the... House of Representatives to... enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Repr esent at i ves.”
The law also states that government shall develop and guarantee a “full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives...” It is in this second part of the law’s policy declaration that the Comelec needs to work harder.
The Comelec failed in its job of cleaning up the list when it did not disqualify those not marginalized, especially those with ties to political dynasties or business interests. The poll watchdog group Kontra Daya had said the “rich and powerful” still persist in the coming elections while party-list groups organized by the marginalized sectors were disqualified. It cited the disqualification of Manggagawa Party-list, Aksyon Health Workers and People Surge composed of survivors of super typhoon Yolanda.
“Reducing the number of duly-registered party-lists by disqualifying groups that actually represent the marginalized does not solve the mockery of the party-list system,” Kontra Daya said.
Here was one failure of the Comelec before even the first ballot was cast.