COMMISSION on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista on Monday pushed for a refinement of the party-list system instead of scrapping it, as President Rodrigo Duterte wants to do.
He added that sectoral representation in Congress was important, but acknowledged there were problems in how this was carried out.
“I think it should be reformed. You know the saying that comes to mind: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The concept behind the party-list system is good, but there are problems in its implementation,” Bautista said.
The party-list system, he said, should not be used by the powerful and the wealthy as a backdoor into Congress, and amendments to the law could safeguard against such abuses.
The system, he said, should be reserved for the underrepresented and the marginalized.
Earlier, Duterte called for the abolition of the party-list system since it has become a shortcut for wealthy individuals to obtain seats in the House of Representatives.
But Bautista said the Comelec was merely implementing what was set by law and jurisprudence. For example, he said, the number of seats that party-list groups can have are all in accordance with Supreme Court decisions.
Two party-list lawmakers also called for a review of the law rather than an abolition, as they cited numerous accomplishments of “true” party-list groups.
Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said it would be more prudent to review the party-list system law to institute needed reforms.
Alejano said that while he did not support abolishing the party-list system, he agreed that the law should be amended “to weed out wealthy opportunists.”
“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 voice in the highest lawmaking body of the Republic,” he said.
“It is a well-known fact that there are many well-meaning party-list groups that have successfully and actively pursued the interests of the sector they represent in Congress,” Alejano said.
A comprehensive review of the implementation of the 21-year-old law may help in preserving the “true” intention of RA 7941, he said.
“I propose studying the background of the different party-list groups that participated in the election, the personalities that represent these party-list organizations as well as their performance in the previous congresses to ascertain that they have promoted the advocacies of their parties,” Alejano said.
Villarin said he fully supports calls for reform in the partly-list system and stressed that not all party-list groups are bad.
He said that as a party-list group in Congress, Akbayan has been successful in passing landmark legislation such as the Reproductive Health Law, the Sangguniang Kabataan Reform Law, and the Philippine Competition Act.
“We continue to push for our advocacies in public health, labor and citizen empowerment among many others. It would be better if the President pushes for the abolition of political dynasties and the banning of political turncoats instead,” Villarin said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said the “voice of the people” must be respected in connection with the President’s call for the abolition of the party-list system.
“I think we should listen to the voice of the people because in the end it is the people who would decide whether or not they would agree to the proposal of President Duterte,” Alvarez said.
On Friday, Duterte expressed his dissatisfaction with the implementation of Republic Act No. 7941 or The Party-List System Act, saying that the party-list system has been abused by the rich and the powerful.
The President, said would support its abolition in the proposed Constitutional reforms.
“I will insist: No party-list. The system has been abused. The ones who win are the wealthy, representing what? Security guards,” Duterte said.
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