Party-List System: A malady nobody wants to touch


    MANY officials, political pundits and ordinary citizens are one in assessing the Party-List System — a well-intentioned political mechanism enshrined in the Constitution and enabled by a law — as having been bastardized and abused by almost every sector that tried to ride in this political play.

    Former senators Joey Lina Jr. and John Henry Osmeña would have been troubled by how various groups have abused and bastardized the law that they authored, despite their pristinely nationalist intentions. Now, the party-list system has become both an extension and an expansion of the old political power of existing political parties and families, religious sects and organizations that have lorded it over the nation for decades.

    What should surprise Lina, Osmeña and the other senators and congressmen behind Republic Act 7941, including former President Fidel V. Ramos, is the way well-organized leftist groups have taken advantage of the party-list system that they crafted as an easy road to gain power.

    Now in the 18th Congress, a big part of the party-list bloc is controlled by the so-called Makabayan group who are suspected of having direct ties with the dissident Communist Party of the Philippines and its armed wing, the New People’s Army.

    ‘What we need now is the approval in the House of a counterpart bill of the same intent. This will encounter rough-sailing, if not an actual storm.’

    Finally, we now see a semblance of sanity with Senate President Vicente Sotto III touting that party-list groups “associated” with rebels and those designated or declared as terrorists under the Anti-Terrorism Act should be disqualified from the nation’s party-list system. He filed a bill seeking to amend RA 7941 in this regard.

    In his Senate Bill No. 1989, Sotto sought the refusal or cancellation of the registration of party, organization or coalition that “directly or indirectly [participate] in acts detrimental to the best interest of the government, to overthrow the government or diminish its powers or to be associated by any means to rebels or those designated and/or proscribed as terrorist persons or groups under the Republic Act No. 11479 or the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020.”

    In filing his SB No. 1989, Sotto said “the interpretation of the law on party-list has expanded its qualification and has deviated from the intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, which is to truly represent the marginalized and the underrepresented.”

    “The party-list system has also been abused and used as a vehicle to pursue advocacies that are not for the best interest of the Government,” he continued, lamenting further that such deviation has resulted in “evil.”

    The bill amends the Section 5 of RA 7941 to further refine the registration of groups in the Commission on Elections before the elections to make sure that they represent the “marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations, and parties and that they lack a well-defined constituency.”

    It also provides that “majority of its members should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented,” with sectors including labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals. Party-list nominees must also belong to the marginalized sectors, “having the common characteristic of its members and not just sharing the same beliefs or advocacy.”

    We note that Sotto’s bill would perhaps pass the Senate, with the minority led by Sen. Franklin Drilon backing this measure. What we need now is the approval in the House of a counterpart bill of the same intent. This will encounter rough-sailing, if not an actual storm.