MANILA, Philippines—The party-list system needs a “total overhaul” but it should not be done away with altogether, said Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr.
Brillantes said he did not agree with Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago that the party-list system should be abolished.
Santiago earlier said that if proposals to amend the Constitution push through, she would move to have the provision on the party-list system abolished because it was not working.
Brillantes said constitutional amendments were not needed as “the defect is not in the Constitution but in the law itself.”
He said what was needed was a “total overhaul” of the Party-List System Act, or Republic Act 7941.
Brillantes said that although the party-list system was not working in helping the marginalized get adequate representation in Congress, it should not be discarded altogether.
He said the system should instead be tweaked so that the voices of the “marginalized and underrepresented” are not drowned out in Congress by powerful political and business interests.
“I still strongly believe that ‘marginalized and underrepresented’ should be the key. Otherwise, you will again include the politicians,” Brillantes said.
He also criticized the recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed even nonmarginalized groups to join the party-list polls.
He said it was “like making the system a free-for-all.”
“It becomes open to all political parties, advocacies and marginalized. I pity the marginalized. They are the ones who are having a hard time campaigning because they have no money and now you are going to have them fight political parties,” Brillantes said.
Militant lawmakers said that there was enough momentum to amend the party-list law in the next Congress to keep out “opportunists” and reserve the system solely for the “marginalized and underrepresented.”
Brillantes’ statement that the party-list law needed to be overhauled, as well as the outraged reaction of groups outside Congress over the Supreme Court decision, could be used to galvanize support for bills seeking to amend the party-list law, said party-list lawmaker Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna).
Rich and powerful
Various groups have taken to the street to protest the Supreme Court decision on the party-list system which they said would allow the rich and the powerful to enter the system and edge out the groups from the marginalized sectors, which the law was supposed to help.
However, in order to take full advantage of this clamor for change, it is crucial that the Comelec stand pat on its position disqualifying questionable groups from the party-list race, said Colmenares.
“The Comelec must keep on with fighting the Supreme Court decision and clean up the system. These groups should be kept at bay, so that it would be likely that the filed bills to amend the party-list law will be passed, because there is enough outrage,” he said.
He said that if the bogus party-list groups would be allowed to run, they might win and derail any moves in the future to change the law to keep out persons in power and those who already wield influence.
“They will not be approving a bill that will disqualify them,” Colmenares said.
Party-list lawmaker Luz Ilagan (Gabriela) said she supported Brillantes’ position that the party-list law needed an overhaul.
Ilagan said Gabriela and other militant representatives had attempted to improve the law in the present Congress, but their bill got stuck at the committee level.