Noth­ing new with party-list

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORY! - NINI B. CABAERO

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.

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