Random listing in the Party-List ballot

The Commission on Elections, on June 15, 2012, issued a Resolution calling for the conduct of a raffle of accredited party-list groups “for purposes of determining their order of listing in the official ballot,” to be used in the May 13, 2013 national and local elections.

COMELEC Resolution No. 9467 states that “only party-list groups/coalitions accredited by or duly registered with the Commission, and which have manifested their desire to participate in the party-list election, may participate in the raffle for purposes of determining their order of listing in the ballot.”

The COMELEC said the raffle will be conducted on December 14, 2012 at the poll body’s main office in Manila.

But the move to abandon the alphabetical listing in the party-list ballot was met with criticism from several party-list groups. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares averred that this move “will cause massive delay in the voting.”

“We do not support this move because this will clog up precincts (as) it will take more time for voters to look for their party-lists. And if they do not find it or have a hard time doing so, they may just forgo voting for party-lists which would lead to their disenfranchisement,” said Colmenares.

Yacap Representative Carol Jane Lopez and DIWA Representative Emmeline Aglipay, meanwhile, said the new COMELEC rule would pose a problem to visually impaired voters.

Focus on the heart of the issue

Personally, I see no problem with the COMELEC’s move. I think this is a step in the right direction, as this finally addresses the shameful practice of some party-list groups who deliberately start their organization’s names with the letter “A” or the number “1” just so they would land in the top spot of the party-list ballot.

Party-list groups desperately scramble to the top spot precisely to take advantage of the hordes of Filipino voters who have little or no knowledge about the party-list system. This, for me, is the heart of the issue. 

That more than half of the Party-list groups that vied for seats in the 2010 elections had names starting with “A” or “1” is just symptomatic of this bigger problem.

Party-list legislators should then focus their attention in calling on the COMELEC to launch a massive and systematic information and education campaign on the party-list system. 

After all, an informed voter, who knows what is at stake in his party-list ballot, wouldn’t dare waste his vote by conveniently choosing the one on top of the list.

The problematic scenarios raised by our well meaning party-list legislators are, in fact, not new. We have been experiencing them even before when we still had the alphabetical sequence in the party-list ballot. But be assured, the same problems will still plague us even after we make the switch to randomization.

Because, again, the lack of education on the party-list system is the heart of the issue.