Is the party-list system effective in giving a voice for the voiceless?

The framers of the 1987 Constitution acknowledged the dominance of elite groups in the traditional political system. Acknowledging the need to give space to those with little or no representation in the traditional political system, they included a provision for a party-list system in which groups representing “marginalized and underrepresented sectors” may have congressional representation.

Art. VI, Sec. 5 of the Constitution states:

“The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”

In accordance with the said provision, from 1987 to 1998, 10 percent of the seats at the House of Representatives were occupied by representatives either selected or elected from the sectors enumerated.

In 1995, Republic Act (RA) No. 7941 (An Act Providing for the Election of Party-List Representatives through the Party-list System, and Appropriating Funds Therefor) was passed. It serves as the enabling law for Art. VI, Sec. 5 of the Constitution. Sec. 2 of RA 7941 provides:

“The State shall promote proportional representation in the election of representatives to the House of Representatives through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives. Towards this end, the State shall develop and guarantee a full, free and open party system in order to attain the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral or group interests in the House of Representatives by enhancing their chances to compete for and win seats in the legislature, and shall provide the simplest scheme possible.”

Under the party-list system, party-list groups can have a maximum of three seats in the House of Representatives. Sec. 11 of RA 7941 further provides that:

“The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each; provided, that those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes; provided, finally, that each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats.”

In addition, Section 5 of RA 7941 provides that:

“Any organized group of persons may register as a party, organization or coalition for purposes of the party-list system by filing with the [Commission on Elections or] COMELEC not later than ninety (90) days before the election a petition verified by its president or secretary stating its desire to participate in the party-list system as a national, regional or sectoral party or organization or a coalition of such parties or organizations, attaching thereto its constitution, by-laws, platform or program of government, list of officers, coalition agreement and other relevant information as the COMELEC may require: provided, that the sectors shall include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.”

The first party-list election was held in 1998. Since then, voters have been allowed to fill their ballots with one district representative and one party-list group.

Nine years after the first party-list elections, 12 years after the passage of RA 7941, and 20 years after the ratification of the present Constitution – is the party-list system serving the avowed purpose of giving voice to the voiceless? Bulatlat

Alexander Martin Remollino

Alexander Martin Remollino was Tinig.com's associate editor. He was a poet, essayist, and journalist. He also wrote some short fiction.

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