Misrepresentatives: Issues in the party-list system

With less than 6 months to go before the 2013 National and Local Elections, political factions in the Philippines are currently 카지노사이트mobilizing their resources and manpower in anticipation of campaign season.

Certain political factions, however, are being ruled out of the game, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) under Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. has been steadily disqualifying questionable entities operating under the party-list system of the House of Representatives.

Comelec has deemed these disqualified groups as groups that have not met the standards set by the party-list system for the just representation of marginalized sectors. As of November 15, at least 79 party-list groups will no longer be permitted to participate in the 2013 elections; 47 of these groups had not been accredited, while 32 were outright rejected by Comelec.

These temporary figures may change, given that the Supreme Court on November 13 issued a status quo ante order (SQAO), which prevents the Comelec from enforcing its resolutions dated October 10, effectively upturning the Comelec’s decision to deny the participation of eight questionable, but influential party-list groups in the 2013 elections.

The SQAO is similar to a temporary restraining order (TRO). Instead, however, of merely preventing the disqualification of the aforementioned groups, the SQAO temporarily restores the accreditation of the eight groups that had failed accreditation. The groups claim that the Comelec committed a “grave abuse of discretion” in disqualifying them.

Brillantes noted that the poll agency is powerless in this regard. In an public statement, he said, “’Pag hindi nila [Supreme Court] ni-lift ang SQA before we start configuration, then we have to add them.” He maintains that the disqualification of groups is done precisely because they are “not marginalized”.

Champions of the minority

A party list group, according to the Comelec’s primer on the party-list system, “is a mechanism of proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives from marginalized or underrepresented national, regional and sectoral parties, or organizations or coalitions thereof registered with the Commission on Elections.”

Party-list groups emerge as avenues for marginalized groups to garner one seat of representation inside the Congress.  Two basic characteristics are required for one to be considered as legitimate party list. The first is that the sector, which one should represent is marginalized and underprivileged as explicitly stated in the Constitution and the law; and second, the representative should be a member of the marginalized sector or a marginalized organization. For instance, in a trade union party, the worker must be a member of a trade union, while for an LGBT party, gay and/or lesbian representatives should also take charge. 바카라사이트

Party-list groups do not only represent the sector; they also advocate and lobby the concerns of their organization to establish social change. This is a chance for everyone’s voice to be heard since everyone is entitled the freedom to set up his or her own respective parties or organizations. The right, however, seems excessively utilized by many Filipinos today.

These contents follow the provisions in the Philippine Constitution as stated in Sec. 5, Article VI: The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party-list… one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”

With 50 seats in the 250-seat House of Representatives up for sectoral party-list groups, the pressure becomes stronger for party-list groups seeking greater voice, as the Philippine electorate may vote a maximum of three representatives per party-list; citizens, however, do not vote for the representatives that each sectoral group provide, but rather for the group itself.

These representatives, as citizens should know, must genuinely come from and represent “parties, associations, [and] sectoral groups which represent Filipinos belonging to the marginalized or under-represented sectors.” The party-list group wins a seat in the House if at least two percent of the total national votes choose the party-list.

One of the persistent issues introduced to the system is the definition of an under-represented or marginalized sector. The Comelec may exercise discretion upon determining a marginalized sector; however, under the law, certain preferences for marginalized sectors must be stated in legal resolutions. The Constitution provides for the express marginalization of the youth, women, indigenous cultural communities, and the urban poor; amendments to Court resolutions may provide for the marginalization of overseas workers (Ang Bagong Bayani) and war veterans (Veterans Party-list), for example.

Indeed, certain party-lists that have gained increasing popularity are being questioned as to whether they still represent a minority or under-represented, marginalized interest. Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party is one of the parties being questioned as to whether they still abide by the category of ‘marginalized’. 온라인카지

Akbayan, a party-list claiming to represent the democratic interest of all citizens, has members in high appointive positions in the Philippine government, and has reputedly signed coalition agreements with larger parties.

In addition, Akbayan has been receiving huge sums from questionable donors, questioning the integrity of the party-list group as a socialist minority party. Brillantes has explained that the specific claim against Akbayan is that it “represents many marginalized sectors, where it should be just one marginalized sector.”

The witch-hunt

What lies as a bone of contention in the entire process is the legitimacy of the representatives elected; some do not represent or come from the sectors their parties fall under.

The Comelec began a fierce crackdown on the party-list groups following past inconsistencies, such as Mikey Arroyo’s claim to represent security guards under the party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy (AGP). Mikey Arroyo, son of former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, has never performed duties as a security guard, but has testified in past public appearances that his “heart lies with [them]”.

Such claims are null before the current Comelec’s stringent filtering of the representatives that party-list groups espouse. Other notable cases include the Ako Bicol party-list group (AKB), whose representatives do not come from marginalized segments of the Bicolano population; Ang Kasangga Party-list, representing marginalized micro-entrepreneurs whose representative, Teodorico Haresco, owns businesses with P150 million in combined paid-up capital, among others.

Key to the Comelec’s classification of these party-list groups is the assistance of election watchdog Kontra Daya, a non-profit initiative that aims to monitor questionable party-lists’ bids for election. Kontra Daya releases periodic reports on questionable party-lists and party-list representatives, monitoring the legitimacy of representatives.

Where the Comelec has been exercising its discretion in deciding the legitimacy of party-list groups by checking the background of legislators claiming to represent the marginalized, this power has come under flak from numerous groups questioning its respect for due process.

A statement by Vincent Yambao Jr., chairman of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ (IBP) electoral reforms committee, follows, “While the Comelec’s perseverance is to be admired and commended, it should not be remiss in upholding the basic tenets of due process and equal protection.”

The IBP has deemed the Comelec’s disqualification of party-list groups as “arbitrary”, likened to a witch-hunt driven by vested interests.  Yambao, as reported by the Manila Standard Today, adds, “[Registered party-list groups] enjoy reasonable expectation that their manifestation of intention to participate for the 2013 elections would be granted. It can even be argued that they enjoy the presumption of compliance with respect to the nature and status of their organizations.”

The Comelec’s interview with individual party-lists, conducted to accredit the individual groups, lasted for 15 minutes, according to Yambao. Said interviews were, according to him, not in accordance with due process for the accreditation of the groups.

La Salle’s powerless

Party-list systems in De La Salle University do not abide by a fixed mechanism wherein objectively ‘under-represented’ or ‘marginalized’ sectors are elected to represent student groups. Both of the school’s political parties are political parties, technically defined to follow the Comelec’s definition of a political party as “an organized group of qualified voters pursuing the same ideology, political ideas and principles for the general conduct of government.”

DLSU’s two existing student political parties, Iisang Tugon sa Tawag ng Panahon (Santugon) and Alyansang Tapat sa Lasalista (Tapat) claim to represent all students, but from different perspectives, with each party positing its own stance for “the general conduct of government” translating into the values that each party wants to instill in students.

Tapat President Gab Andres says that Tapat sees the students as the marginalized group who need greater representation in the University. “In the University, it is [we], the students, who are powerless; this is why we push for pro-student programs and policies in the USG to champion our rights and welfare,” he states.

Santugon President Jojo Pugeda affirms that his socio-political party does not focus on any particular target segment to represent in the student population. “Basically, we recognize the entire studentry as our target market,” he says. “[Santugon] does not focus on a particular target segment in the student population when it comes to marketing our political party.”

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