Friday, November 9, 2012

A Job Well Done by Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes on the Party List Sytem

Photo Credit: Philippine Daily Inquirer

At present the Filipino public has taken its hat off to COMELEC chairman Sixto Brillantes who is seen to have done a good job as a head of that government office. Brillantes denied the accreditation of several groups as Party List. He disqualified 7other groups which have already sitting representatives. He also did the same to still other groups which were previously registered in the last election but failed to garner enough votes. Brillantes’ action is in contrast with that of previous commissioners who accredited and registered groups as party list as if what they were granting were a commodity in the public market.                                                                                                                                                  

Many people are not happy or satisfied with the party list system since its implementation because the constitutional provision is abused by powerful and influential groups. This malpractice has defeated the vision of the framers of the 1987 constitution that is to provide opportunities to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors of the society to have a voice in the Philippine Law making process. Some groups that are in the party list are just front of a political party or powerful political family whose aim is to expand its political power thus promoting political dynasty. Others are apparently identified with a religious groups or organization and still others can hardly be categorized as belonging to marginalized groups. And most of the nominees of the party list groups are millionaires and some of them do not even belong to the group they are supposed to represent.

Some Filipinos want the party list system abolished because it has only served the interest of the elite and the privileged group rather than that of the poor. A glaring example of abuse of this system is the party list group of the son of a former president who is supposed to represent security guards, tricycle drivers, farmers and small businessmen. However, he was never any of them and above all he does not belong to a marginalized family being a millionaire. Records also show that he has not done a deliberate effort to help these groups in his three years in office as their representative. He only authored one bill for security guard that is to extend the expiry of his license from one year to three years. Unfortunately, the bill is still pending for approval in congress.                                                                                              

The party list system is embodied in the Philippine constitution so that it cannot just be abolished unless the constitution is amended or replaced with a new one.  Philippine Constitution provides that the house of representative shall be composed of 250 members and this number includes the members of the party list who will constitute 20% of all its members who come from labor, peasants, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, overseas workers, the physically handicapped, veterans and professionals to exclude the religious groups. Since then the number of legislative districts has increased to 229. If that is 80% of the regular members of congress then the total number of all members shall be 286. And the 20% of that which is composed of the party list members shall be 57.

Commissioner Brillantes’ mettle will be tested in the May 2013 mid-term election. It will be the first main election that will be conducted under his watch. A clean and honest election next year will be a feather in his cap. 

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