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Quo Vadis Party Lists?

According to Senate President (SP) Tito Sotto, Pres. Digong in their recent meeting in Malacanang expressed his wish to get rid of the Party-List System once and for all. The Speaker of the House, Lord Allan Velasco, was also in attendance and was fully aware of this President’s utterance.

According to SP Sotto, President Digong disclosed to them that some of these Party-Lists are just tools of the Communists. Their ultimate goal really is to topple the duly constituted government. Political dynasties likewise use this platform to perpetuate their power and influence at the expense of the underprivileged sectors of society they purportedly represent—these are the reasons why the Party-Lists System has to be dismantled while reform on economic provisions could be introduced as well to open up the vital foreign investments the country badly needs at this time. In order to do these revisions, a Constitutional Reform (Charter Change) is necessary though, SP Sotto further claimed (in the latest report, he now espouses amendment to the Party-List System sans Cha-Cha).

This is one of the few exceptional times that I completely agree with the President—indeed, a comme il faut initiative he seriously endorses, which is best for the country in all respect. My hats off to the President!

Although I have a very strong reservation of the planned Charter Change as a means to achieving these proposed significant changes because opening up the Constitution through Constituent Assembly will be like opening a floodgate as feared by Senator Lacson where cynical political motives will benefit the most than what the initial and original intention of the proposed amendments would achieve, we are left with a very limited option at this time. The risk though is worth taking at this pivotal moment.

Many, if not all Party-List Representatives will surely and vigorously oppose this proposed abolition of their position—who wants to kill their own goose that lays golden eggs, anyway?

Incidentally, the House Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional Amendments is a Party-List Representative himself—Alfredo Garbin, Jr of Ako Bikol. He is for the purging of progressive Lawmakers under the Party-Lists instead of the abolition of the Party-List System in its entirety. He claims that this can be done even without going through Constitutional Amendment. All it needs is to amend R.A. No. 7941 or the Party-List System Act, which Congress can do by itself. Those allegedly considered enemies of the State (supporters of Communists) and those that do not equitably represent or misrepresent the marginalized sectors but exploit the Party-List System by building political dynasties are seemingly in the chopping block—along these lines, he declared. The latter allegation, however, will be hard-pressed to validate or prove. Whoever will complete the list may be accused of bordering between political persecutions of rivals and their alleged affiliation to the known legitimate opposition block. No doubt the process of selection that is adopted for this purpose will be mired in a heightened controversy. But “there are more ways of killing a cat”, granting either side is inclined on a protracted dispute on this issue, the president always can step in and utter his infamous words; “’tang na nyo!” and everything is settled, believe you me!

There are 61 Party-List members in Congress today. Initially, most of them belong to marginalized and underrepresented groups such as the urban poor, labor, women, youth, etc. The Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, however, qualified various kinds of groupings and parties that are not anymore exclusive along these sectoral lines. This opens up a door of great opportunity for divergent and excursionary factions or blocs that cater exclusively to narcissistic personalities.

Now, the Party-List System is bastardized. Not a few enterprising individuals have enriched themselves masquerading as honorable Party-List Representatives, a.k.a. Party-List Congressmen, and as individuals, they prefer to be addressed as Cong. for short. But they have nothing to show—no conceivable accomplishment but merely the usual myriad of corruption in PDAF projects, which by the way they brazenly pride on (what a shame). Not even a single applicable Bill is submitted during their term to advance their Party-List’s declared cause except their co-sponsorships (which any of the Congressmen can join for record purposes) with others. They are the ones that destroyed the noble intent of the Party-List System and they must be exposed!

Party-Lists Representative differs greatly from District Representative in the sense that the former advocates a distinct cause and diversely promotes the advancement of its adherents either nationwide (like Magdalo, TUCP, Philreca, PBA) or in a specific region (like Ako Bicol, Ako Bisaya, An Waray, One Cebu), while the latter focuses mainly on the welfare of the general public as a whole within the represented territorial District.

Finally, let us ask ourselves this honest question—do we really need these (miss) representations, or is it time to abolish them all? Besides, all Congressmen with no exception will tell us regardless of their political affiliation that they are for the underprivileged, the unrepresented and marginalized sectors or groups, and is always pro-poor especially during the election campaign. So, if this is the case, Party-List System is irrelevant because its listed primary causes and objectives are thus far fully covered already!

President Digong wants the Party-List System erased in the Constitution for valid reasons. Will the Constituent Assembly, if ever called, vote for the abolition of these now impractical and unnecessary representations?

The answer to this question is L.O.L. the best-loved abbreviation in text messaging.

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