‘CLINGING TO POWER, NOT PUBLIC SERVICE VIA PARTY-LIST SYSTEM’
President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent call for the abolition of the party-list system by the next administration has elicited mixed reactions from the public.
But for those who use the party-list system as a back door to the Lower House to cling to power and influence – political clans, interest groups, the wealthiest – this is bad news.
The President’s call for the abolition of the party-list system through charter change begs the question: Is it the best solution for now?
The party-list system was created under the 1987 Constitution to give a voice to the underrepresented, such as the labor, peasant, urban poor, women, and youth groups. It was formalized through Republic Act 7941 or the Party-list System Act of 1995.
This means that abolishing the party-list system can be possible by repealing RA 7941 without charter change. By many indications, Filipinos are frustrated with the party-list system as it apparently is not serving its purpose, with many of the marginalized sectors not truly represented in Congress.
Partial and unofficial results of the May 2022 presidential elections show the interest of Filipino voters towards the party-list system is low with only six groups garnering at least two percent of the total party-list votes cast to earn at least one seat in Congress.
Studies and researches have shown that more than 70 of the 176 party-list groups seeking at least one sectoral seat in the Lower House have links to interest groups, political clans, wealthy families, multi-billion businesses, including those with questionable backgrounds. At present, the Lower House has 63 seats.
We also took cognizance of a previous report about a party-list group representative supposedly representing farmers who had neither filed nor authored a single bill or delivered a privilege speech during the previous Congress to promote the welfare of the sector he represented.
There’s more. A member of a First Family in the past administration also used the party-list system to represent security guards supposedly to gain a seat at the Lower House if it were not disqualified by the Commission on Elections.
While the intention of the party-list system is noble, the reality on the ground is that the underrepresented and marginalized sectors are actually being sidelined by the law itself, as traditional politicians, interest groups, wealthy families and clans capable to launch a competitive campaign trail are the ones getting seats at the Lower House through RA 7941.
For one, how can party-list groups representing marginalized sectors be among the biggest political advertisers on mainstream media from Jan. 1 to March 20 this year, based on data by Nielsen Ad Intel?
Abono party-list, for one, has aired ads worth more than P377 million, mostly before the start of the campaign period and another P3.08M during the campaign period while 1-Pacman spent P257M (about half of the ad spots aired before the campaign period) while Ako Bicol spent P243M.
In terms of votes garnered, Abono ranks 42nd with 287,460 votes while 1-Pacman is at 49th with 270,071 votes. Ako Bicol, on the other hand, ranks fifth with 811,645 votes.
Food for thought – a member of the Lower House draws a monthly salary bet-ween P273,000 and P312,000, or an annual salary of P3.2M to P3.7M, which means nominees of these party-list groups will not be able to recover their campaign expenses with their three-year salary.
With the party-list system getting abused and exploited, the President’s call is expected to be a great challenge to the next administration, whose platforms, aside from the call for unity, will be known when the presumptive president assumes the highest post of the land on July 1.
Meanwhile, those against the President and those supporting his call for the abolition of the party-list system should realize the votes cast or the lack of it for the party-list groups in the May 9 elections is the resounding voice of the Filipino nation and it may be time to respect that.
There must be an alternative system that serves the purpose for the next president to think about.