| Photo via Wikimedia Commons
With a plethora of candidates and party lists, the 2022 election period has been quite a spectacle. Whether you are an active supporter of candidates or just a plain “who cares?” observer, you have to admit it has been entertaining. Maybe financially rewarding for some, educational for others, and a few others, a memory of a lifetime they can share with their future grandkids.
The Philippines election has not only turned into an entertainment galore with known and yet-to-be-known actors and actresses either running as candidates or dancing and singing with candidates who are proving themselves to be more qualified as entertainers than serious and capable public officials to be on the campaign sorties, but more so with the more than a hundred party lists wanting to have a share of the number of seats allotted to them in the House of Representatives.
The anointed party list representatives are after the glamour and power to be addressed as a Congressman/woman with all the financial benefits and perks that go with the title, without spending (perhaps) as much as the regular representative of the legislative district does. Some of those possible party-list representatives are in them to avoid the ‘heat” of the politics that surrounds a congressional contest. Whatever may be the underlying reason, we cannot deny the pecuniary benefits.
The 1987 constitution of the Philippines created party lists. It provides that of the total number of representatives elected by representative districts, an additional 20% must be party lists representatives. Thus, based on the Constitution’s original 250 legislative district representatives, a different 50 representatives must come from the party lists. The census was conducted after that, and the division of specific political subdivisions (provinces, cities, municipalities) must have increased that original number. The voters vote for the party lists, which name the representative from a list of five individuals they submit to the Commission on Elections if they get the required percentage of votes.
The law (Republic Act 7941) passed to implement the party-list system declares that the party-list system “will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole” to have representation in Congress. (Italics added for emphasis)
Upon reading the noble intention of the law, one is irresistibly tempted to ask: “Whom do the representatives elected by the legislative districts represent?” “ All the residents of the district (regardless of profession, economic status, religious beliefs, dialect, physical condition, employment, etc.) or specific sectors of the districts only?”
“Some party list names do not really suggest what they are or seek to represent but only suggest connections to certain movies or entertainment programs. Those who have been or are movie and television show aficionados will be able to link and identify the people behind these party- lists.”
For the May 9, 2022 elections, there are about 178 party lists or groups accredited by the Commission on Elections. Many appear to claim to represent the same or similar interest groups. They claim to represent various sectors and interests of society, including farmers, fishermen, taxi drivers, transport owners, teachers, homeowners, homeless, overseas workers, mothers, basketball players, indigenous people, seamen, breeders, firemen, marketers, midwives, persons with disabilities, cooks, seniors, youth, among many others, all with attention-getting acronyms, such as YACAP, AKMA-PTA, BARKADAHAN, IPATUPAD, SOLID CHANGE, ANGAT, BUTIL, KABALIKAT, ANGLA, MAY PAGASA, CANCER, and AKAP.
Some party list names do not really suggest what they are or seek to represent but only suggest connections to certain movies or entertainment programs. Those who have been or are movie and television show aficionados will be able to link and identify the people behind these party- lists. Or actors, who are either politicians themselves or known to support candidates, like Tutok to Win actively, Ang Probinsyano, PINUNO, and AGIMAT.
By their names, some claim to or will represent particular ethnic minority, local, provincial and regional interests, such as IWO (Igorot Warriors International), KUSOG TAUSOG, OK PARTY (Moro Ako-OK Partylist), AIA (Ako Ilokano Ako), API (Abante Pangasinan-Ilokano), AN WARAY, UMA ILONGGO, AKO BISAYA, AKO BISDAK – Ako Bisdak Bisayang Dako (AB-BD) Inc., AMIN (Anak Mindanao Party }, ABEKA ( Ang Kapampangan}. PROBINSYANO AKO, BICOL SARO, ALIF (Ang Labanan ng Indigenong Pilipino), and ANGAT PINOY (Nagkakaisang Pilipino para sa Pag-angat ng Maralitang Manileno)
Looking at the names of the party lists and their claimed membership, it appears only the politicians, lawyers, accountants, government employees, big landowners, and the rich and famous, among a limited few, are not marginalized and underrepresented. Which gives rise to another irresistible question: “Are these the only groups the legislative district representatives represent?”
“It is well-known that some established political families are behind the formation of many party lists. These party lists are intended to bolster and advance the political career of a member of their family. In some cases, they are formed to retain or recapture a seat in the House of Representatives.”
A curious mind asked: “Why is there a proliferation of party lists?” “ If a party-list is able to get a required percentage of votes that will entitle them a representation, who actually will represent them?”
It is well-known that some established political families are behind the formation of many party lists. These party lists are intended to bolster and advance the political career of a member of their family. In some cases, they are formed to retain or recapture a seat in the House of Representatives. When a family member is an incumbent representative for a legislative district or running for it, another family member may have to seek a slot as the representative of a party list.
A party list of teachers will not necessarily have a teacher to represent them in Congress. It is unlikely that a marginalized group of homeowners, homeless, seamen, fishermen, and similar others will have one of their own to represent them in Congress. Doubtful. Remember the case of a former congressman elected by the legislative district who became the representative of the party list of security guards because a family member wanted to run again as representative from the legislative district? Or a former mayor representing a group he was not known to be a champion? Or party list representatives who became known for advocating causes not directly related to the group they sent them to Congress to represent?
Without considering how many public funds are spent to support the party list system and how effective or ineffective it has been in advancing the cause of the marginalized and underrepresented, I must say that the tangible results demand that the system must be disbanded.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Manuel B. Quintal, ESQ., has practiced law in New York since 1989. He is active in the community as a member, an officer, or a legal adviser of various professional, business, and not-for-profit organizations. He was a columnist for Newstar Philippines, an English language weekly newspaper published in New York, from 2006 to 2009. He was Executive Editor of International Tribune, an English language weekly newspaper for the Asian community, based in New York, from 2010 to 2012. He is admitted to practice law in the Philippines and New York State. He has graduate degrees in Political Science and an LL.M. major in International Law.