Solons: Fix, not abolish, party-list groups
More party-list representatives have come out to oppose the call of President Rodrigo Duterte to weed them out of Congress and abolish the party-list system of representation in the overhauled 1987 Constitution.
Duterte made the statement to abolish the party-list system because the proportional system of representation of marginalized and underrepresented sectors was abused by political clans and wealthy personalities using the party-list as a backdoor to Congress.
“With a new Constitution, I will insist: no party-list,” Duterte said.
Duterte said the party-list system should be abolished in the new Constitution that would pave the way for a shift from a unitary to a federal form of government. The President said he preferred a Constitutional Assembly mode of amending the Charter, where Congress would convene to propose amendments.
In a statement, Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin said not all party-list groups failed to represent the interests of the marginalized sectors.
Villarin said the party-list system of representation should be fixed and not abolished.
“To call for its total abolition is simply out of the question,” Villarin said.
What the President should do is to weed out political dynasties which have used the party-list system as an easy entry into Congress, he said.
“What the President should do is follow and implement the constitutional mandate of abolishing political dynasties. Many of them are in fact now allied with him,” Villarin said.
“He should likewise push for banning political turncoats,” he added.
For his part, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said instead of abolishing party-list groups, the President should call for a review of the Republic Act 7941 or the party-list law that sets the guidelines for party-list representation enshrined in the Constitution.
The law states that the party-list representatives should have experience in helping the marginalized sectors, such as labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.
Party-list groups may also represent a regional group or a particular ideology or advocacy.
But through the years, the wealthy politicians and members of political clans have used the party-list system to enter Congress although they are not members of the marginalized sectors.
The Supreme Court in its recent decision ruled that even the wealthy may represent the marginalized as long as it is their “principal advocacy” to push for the “special interest and concerns of the sector.” Majority of the members of sectoral party-list groups should also belong to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
“It would be wise for the President to call for a review or investigation on the party-list system law before having any pronouncement,” Alejano said.
“I agree that the party-list law should be amended to weed wealthy opportunists out of the system,” he added.
According to the law, party-list groups consist of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions “which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies (to) contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”
Alejano said the Supreme Court has ruled that the party-list system is a social justice tool and should not be abolished.
“The Supreme Court aptly stressed that the party-list system is a tool for social justice. To abolish it completely without conducting a comprehensive study of its implementation is to deprive the marginalized, the underrepresented, a voice in the highest lawmaking body of the Republic,” Alejano said. RAM/rga
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