“This has been a familiar anomaly.”
The 1987 Constitution says 20 percent of all seats at the House of Representatives should be allotted to party-list organizations. In March 1995, President Fidel Ramos signed into law Republic Act 7941, which implemented the party-list system in Congress.
The system was put in place, ideally, to allow marginalized and underrepresented sectors of society to be represented in Congress. This is so that they could help craft laws that would benefit their often-overlooked constituencies, and the country in general.
The operative word is “ideally.”
We have seen all too well how this party-list system has been abused and exploited over the years. Perhaps we have become desensitized to the injustice of it all. There are far too many lawmakers supposedly serving as nominees for the marginalized groups they are supposed to represent. What they are, however, are the usual prominent personalities that for some reason could not occupy the seat for their own congressional district.
Often, they have too little in common with the sectors they claim to represent.
This comes to mind this week as we learned about the Commission on Elections’ decision to deny the application of 107 organizations gunning for party-list registration.
One of the organizations rejected by the poll body was Nurses United, an organization composed of health care workers who wanted to secure better working conditions moving forward.
The pandemic has highlighted the unjust situation of nurses and other medical frontliners, who have risked infection and battled fatigue while being denied their most basic pay entitlements.
“They let down the hundreds of health-care workers and millions of patients, who are looking forward to better national health care,” NU said of the poll body, which has not released the basis for its decision.
What those reasons are, we would like to know. We would also be interested if these same standards apply to other party list groups organized by traditional politicians or family members just so they could take up precious space in the halls of Congress at the expense of the really marginalized.
This has been a long-standing anomaly in our politics, one which has not been given much thought — not by the powerful people who benefit from them, and not by millions of voters who often unthinkingly favor organizations whose names begin with “A” or “1.”
Politics has always been a game of the privileged, while those who really have a stake in their decisions are left out of the conversation. We wonder what kind of political will it would take for this anomaly to be corrected and for the party-list groups to stay true to their essence and their constituencies.