Makabayan bill seeks amendment to party-list law
MANILA, Philippines — The party-list system must revert to its original purpose of serving the marginalized and underrepresented, not political dynasties and the moneyed class, according to opposition lawmakers.
The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives has filed a bill that would make the party list system exclusive to parties representing the neglected, six years after the Supreme Court ruled that party list groups need not advocate only for the marginalized.
“There is an urgent need to restore the party list system to its original purpose, which is to give the marginalized sectors representation and voice in Congress,” the six-member group of progressive lawmakers said in the bill’s explanatory note.
Through House Bill No. 242, the Makabayan bloc proposed that the party list system “must be reserved exclusively for the marginalized and underrepresented sectors” by adopting conditions and guidelines in the accreditation of party list groups and selection of their nominees.
The bill would amend Republic Act No. 7941, or the Party List System Act of 1995, to add an eligibility requirement stipulating that any party list group must prove in a public hearing that it truly represents a marginalized or underrepresented sector.
By the same token, nominees must also show evidence that they truly belong to the sector they claim to represent, according to the bill.
The proposal disqualifies party list nominees who have held public office or are related to incumbent government officials, or whose income is more than the base pay for lawmakers during an election.
The Makabayan bloc is composed of Representatives Ferdinand Gaite, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Eufemia Cullamat of Bayan Muna, Arlene Brosas of Gabriela, France Castro of ACT Teachers, and Sarah Elago of Kabataan.
They said they wanted to rectify the damage resulting from the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision, which “opened wide the floodgates” for the elite to participate in the system.
Wealthiest in the House
They noted that because of that decision, many party list lawmakers were now among the wealthiest and most powerful lawmakers in the House.
Under the 1987 Constitution and the party list law, party list representatives constitute 20 percent of the total number of House members.
In its ruling, the Supreme Court noted that the party list law did not require national and regional parties or organizations to represent the “marginalized and underrepresented sectors.”
“To require all national and regional parties under the party list system to represent the ‘marginalized and underrepresented’ is to deprive and exclude, by judicial fiat, ideology-based and cause-oriented parties from the party list system,” the court said.
But the Makabayan lawmakers said the ruling practically obliterated the only space left for poor and underrepresented sectors to actively participate in legislation.
Critics observe that the party list system has been exploited by political dynasties.
Several party list lawmakers are former representatives whose terms have expired, or are the spouses or children of current or former ranking officials, or the scions of business leaders.
At present, the wealthiest congressman, according to his 2017 statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, comes from a party list group—1-Pacman Rep. Mikee Romero, a ports tycoon and leader of the 54-strong party list coalition.
In May’s midterm elections, at least 25 party list groups fielded nominees who were former lawmakers or local officials who had been term-limited, according to poll watchdog Kontra Daya.
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