The Powerful and Popular Versus the Marginalized: The Party-list Poll Results

Screengrab from GMA News’ Youtube account.

THE PARTY-LIST system has been so corrupted that it has led to the political dynasties’ and their agents’ strengthening their hold on the House of Representatives.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed 51 winning party-lists in the recent midterm polls, filling 61 seats in the next Congress. Many groups and their nominees who made the top ten of the race were political newcomers, garnering more votes than some of the reelectionists.

The party-list system was established to involve the poor and powerless in the lawmaking process. But if the results are any indication, it is increasingly becoming just another means for the already powerful clans and their partisans to get into the House.

CMFR cheers the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Rappler, GMA-7’s 24 Oras, and ABS-CBN 2’s Bandila and its online news platform for analyzing the results of the party-list elections.

Citing political science experts, the Inquirer, Bandila and two separate articles from all attributed to name recall and its wealth of campaign resources the victory of party-list Anti-Crime and Terrorism Through Community Involvement and Support (ACT-CIS). Endorsed by broadcaster Erwin Tulfo, ACT-CIS received more than two million votes, securing the maximum of three congressional seats allowed by law. One will be occupied by his sister-in-law Jocelyn Tulfo.

The reports noted that Tulfo is a known supporter of President Duterte. They also recalled that he was involved in the controversial placement of PHP 60 million worth of Department of Tourism (DOT) ads in his block time program, when his sister Wanda Tulfo-Teo was still the DOT secretary.

Celebrity and high-profile endorsement also helped some of the winners. Party-lists Ang Probinsyano (5th) and Probinsyano Ako (8th) banked on the popularity of a similarly named TV show, the former being endorsed by the show’s lead actor. Meanwhile, Marino (7th) relied on the endorsement of the Duterte family.

24 Oras and Rappler provided more insight in the composition of the party-lists. 24 Oras reported that 21 of 59 party-list nominees are either related or connected to incumbent and incoming government officials. Rappler listed at least 19 groups who will enter the House for the first time, identifying from these groups the nominees who were “either former elected government officials, a member of a political or influential clan, or linked to a powerful individual.”

The 24 Oras report further explained that Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List System Act provided for the representation of marginalized and underrepresented who lack well-defined political constituencies. In 2013, however, the Supreme Court ruled in Paglaum v. Comelec that a party-list’s nominee does not necessarily have to be a member of the sector that he or she is representing.

More media organizations must take the task of watching whether the new party-lists can deliver on their campaign platforms and promises, and attend to the needs of the people they claim to represent.