THE party-list system, once touted as a panacea to the problem of under-representation in Congress of many marginalized sectors when Sen. Joey Lina conceptualized the enabling law, had over the years been misused and abused.
The result is while there are 51 party-list organizations in the House of Representatives, many of their nominees share the same surnames as traditional leaders and politicians in various districts. The party-list system as envisioned in the Constitution has been observed more in the breach than in the proper implementation, for the system had been hijacked by the rich, powerful and influential sectors of society, clearly to their advantage.
The latest scandal to hit the party-list system is that one revealed by Commissioner Ma. Rowena Guanzon of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) at a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms headed by Sen. Imee Marcos. The committee held a hearing to take up various bills on electoral reforms, including a proposal strengthening the party-list system in the country.
Commissioner Guanzon claimed at the hearing that some party-list group seats are for sale. Guanzon stressed, “I am personally against the gaming of the party-list rules because I’m sorry to say that in truth, a lot of party-list or some of them, sell their seats. After they win, they change their representatives or nominees.”
The lady Comelec commissioner further explained that the party-list nominees can only withdraw, replace, or change the order of their list of nominees only up to the close of voting precincts on election day as provided for in the Party-List Act.
We note the legal requirement that party-list groups can only change their nominees if there is a vacancy declared by the House of Representatives, and not by the Comelec. The nominees must have assumed the seat before he or she can resign and be replaced by another nominees. When the Speaker or the Secretary General informs the Comelec in writing that there is a vacancy, the poll body will just tell the Speaker who the next nominees is based on the list earlier submitted by the party-list organization. That’s when they can change their nominees or add to it if the list is already exhausted.
Guanzon’s information that some rogue party-list organizations are selling their seats by illegally replacing their nominees in mid-stream is clearly a breach of trust between the electorate and those voted upon.
The correct and fair idea is for the voters to know the individuals who would represent the groups that they are voting for. All changes in party-list representation must conform with the legal process.