Amend if you must, but do not curtail

COMELEC Chairman Sixto S. Brillantes Jr. (COMELEC Photo)

COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes recently called on Congress to amend the Party-List Law. He said, legislation is needed to “limit the sectors” who wishes to participate in the Party-List polls.

Right now, according to the COMELEC, there are 172 Party-lists that are seeking accreditation from the poll body. Because of that high number, the COMELEC has been conducting ‘marathon hearings’ in a bid to screen each applicant.

The COMELEC Chief seems troubled by the apparent high turn out of PL hopefuls that he wants to limit the number of those they will grant accreditation to to participate in the next year’s election, to 150.

True, the number’s quite staggering. But why fret?

Isn’t the high turn out indicative of a higher level of people’s appreciation to the Party-List System? After all, this is what Republic Act No. 7941 or the “Party-List System Act” is all about. To give the marginalized and the underrepresented sectors a chance to participate in making laws for benefit of the nation.

So I don’t see the anomaly there. It is in the manner of screening of PL applicants where the anomaly lies – the manner by which out and out fake party-list groups manage to get accreditation from the poll body.

I mean, how hard is it to spot a bogus party-list anyway?

Do we need an amendment to the law to be able to find out that an advocacy such as that of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Droga (MAD) can not, in any way, claim that it is a marginalized sector and that Mikey Arroyo does not, in any way, qualify as a poor and underrepresented security guard?

But while I fully agree with the COMELEC Chief that the PL Law needs to be reexamined; his way of doing it, I think, could trample on the people’s right to proportional representation.

Chairman Brillantes is treading on dangerous ground when he said “the law has to be specific. For example, among the professionals sector, when you allow security guards [to be represented], then you have to allow other professions.”

It baffles me as to why the Honorable Chairman wants to ‘limit’ the number of marginalized sectors who wish to participate in the party-list elections.  The COMELEC should not be be putting fences, right? it should be encouraging wider participation in the system.

Therefore, his proposal to ‘specify’ the marginalized sectors in the law, if only to weed out bogus party-lists, I believe, won’t won’t hold water. This would likely end up becoming a stumbling block towards the law’s intent of  promoting  proportional representation.

What needs tweaking in the law is the provision on the qualification of party-list nominees. This is the reason why the likes of Mikey Arroyo and Gen. Jovito Palparan made it to Congress, through the party-list system.

According to RA 7941:

Section 9. Qualifications of Party-List Nominees. No person shall be nominated as party-list representative unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, a registered voter, a resident of the Philippines for a period of not less than one (1)year immediately preceding the day of the election, able to read and write, a bona fide member of the party or organization which he seeks to represent for at least ninety (90) days preceding the day of the election, and is at least twenty-five (25) years of age on the day of the election.

So, a person such as the younger Arroyo need not be a security guard if he wants to represent security guards in Congress, if we are to follow the law.

Also, the P10,000 filing fee for filing of disqualification cases against bogus party-list groups should be scrapped.

Yes, the party-list system needs to be strengthened and protected from further abuse and bastardization. Yes, the party-list law needs to be revisited. But no, we should not curtail people’s  right to proportional representation.


Kudos to Bayan Muna Party-list for filing House Resolution 2472 seeking to probe alleged ‘party-list accreditation bribery’ in COMELEC. The measure also calls for the abolition of the P10,000 party-list docket fee.