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Exposing the Perversion of the Party-List System | CMFR

Exposing the Perversion of the Party-List System

Photos by Lito Ocampo.

Photos by Lito Ocampo.


CHEERS TO the Philippine Daily Inquirer for looking into the state of the party-list system. In “Perversion of party-list system hit; SC blamed,” the Inquirer reported how the party-list system, which was supposed to improve the representation of marginalized sectors in the House of Representatives, has been “perverted” by traditional politicians through the loose ruling of the Supreme Court.

The 2016 elections saw several new yet dubious party-list groups installing even more nominees despite not having any clear sector to represent. For example, the newcomer One Patriotic Coalition of Marginalized Nationals (1Pacman), said the report, was able to get over 1.2 million votes which secured two seats for its nominees, edging out other groups that used to top the polls in previous elections.

CMFR research has found that 1Pacman’s nominees who will be taking seats in the 17th Congress are both prominent businessmen.  Its first nominee, Michael Romero, is the CEO of Globalport 900 Inc. and vice chairman of AirAsia airline, while its second nominee, Eric Pineda, is a marketing consultant and business manager of Senator-elect Manny Pacquiao.

In its report, the Inquirer pointed out how the Supreme Court ruling in 2013 has weakened the law and allowed those without real connections to marginalized sectors to gain congressional seats.  The Commission on Elections (Comelec) had tried to exclude suspicious party-list groups and nominees from the 2013 elections, but the Supreme Court subsequently ruled that party-list groups that do not represent marginalized sectors may run, although the ruling specifies its concern for the representation of “ideology-based and cause-oriented parties.” The Court also ruled that nominees do not need to be members of the sectors their party-list group represents, only that they champion the cause of these sectors.

On the basis of these ruling, the party-list system has opened a back-door entry for traditional politicians and political dynasties to the House. The report is commendable for looking into what has become of the party-list system.  However, it focused its attention on “left-leaning and progressive” groups such as Bayan Muna and Akbayan being edged out by other groups. The proliferation of groups that can hardly be described as representing marginalized sectors — most of them organized by political dynasties — received only passing mention.

CMFR has previously cheered similar reports looking into the party-list system. In her report, ABS-CBN’s Gigi Grande looked into the performance of incumbent party-list groups (“Reviewing Party-list Performance”) while Rappler’s Michael Bueza looked into the individuals and groups using the party-list system as a backdoor to the House (“Gaming the Party-List System“). But in  previous elections as well as in the recent May 9 polls, both the Senate and party-list candidates received scant attention from the media  (“Candidates for Senate and Party-List: Hardly Noticed”), as have issues related to the party-list system (“Perverting the Party-list System”).

The press should initiate a continuing critique of the party-list system so that these issues can be addressed before the next election.