MANILA, Philippines—Party-list groups from opposite sides of the political fence continue to trade barbs over the Supreme Court decision redefining sectoral representation in Congress.
Retired Supreme Court justice and constitutionalist Vicente Mendoza, a lawyer for the Ako Bikol party-list group, said the ruling would allow such groups to mature into true-blue political organizations, while Bayan Muna party-list Representatives Neri Colmenares and Teodoro Casiño said it would curtail their party’s growth unless they were allowed to take more seats in Congress.
Early this month, the Supreme Court, voting 10 to 2 with one abstention, ruled that party-list groups did not have to come from the marginalized sectors of society.
Mendoza lauded the decision, saying it was “a tool for social justice and greater democratization.”
“They (militant party-list groups) were given three terms or nine years where half of the party-list seats were reserved exclusively for them. Those three terms have ended and the intention of the Constitution is that the system will be opened up after those nine years,” Mendoza said in a statement.
“If after those nine years those party-list groups are not yet strong politically, then that only means they are really weak and not chosen by the people to represent them. Party-list groups must be allowed to evolve according to the wishes of the people, not according to the wishes of militant party-list groups,” Mendoza said.
But Colmenares said Mendoza was basing his argument on the assumption that the Philippines was emulating the German model of the party-list system.
“The Philippines is not Germany and the weak and poor here cannot compete with the rich and powerful. The party lists cannot graduate from being weak to being strong because the rich put a three-seat limit to party-list groups. That’s not allowed in Germany but they allow it here,” Colmenares said.
Casiño, for his part, said party-list groups had become “more genuine in terms of having clear constituencies, programs, platforms and ideologies than the traditional parties that have become mere vehicles for opportunism and the personal ambitions of the ruling elite.”
Ako Bikol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, however, downplayed fears raised by the militant groups that the Supreme Court ruling would lead to abuse of the party-list system.
“There cannot be domination of the system by any group—even by the rich and influential. There’s no such thing as domination because of existing safety measures in the law,” Batocabe said in a statement.
“The mission and desire to serve the marginalized and underprivileged cannot be considered the sole domain or some sort of ‘political franchise’ of so-called militant or left-leaning groups,” he said.