Party-lists for rich politicos that don’t really represent marginalized to be abolished

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Assailing the party-list system as “a mockery of the law” because only rich politicians who can buy votes were elected, President Duterte vowed to abolish it when Congress starts to amend the 1987 Constitution through a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass).

He wants the party lists to be taken out of the Philippines’ political system because he believes they are created by the wealthy as platforms to seek positions in Congress.

He said the rich and powerful Filipinos use their resources to create associations or groups that ride on advocacies to convince citizens to vote for them

As a result, he said the party-list system has been turned into a mockery of the underprivileged sectors who it was supposed to serve. He noted that’s the most shameless thing to do.

“Because you have the money, you can buy anything? What is your group? United idiots association,” Duterte said
“I will not allow it. That is being abused. Those who win the elections are those who have money, representing what? The security guards?” added the President, saying that the system was meant to empower marginalized sectors.

Duterte was apparently referring to Ang Galing Pinoy, a political group of security guards and tricycle drivers, formerly represented in the House of Representatives by Mikey Arroyo, son of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In 2013, the Commission on Elections disqualified Ang Galing Pinoy after its First Division ruled that Mr. Arroyo did not belong to the sector he claimed to represent.

With a net worth of over PHP 95 million, Arroyo was among the wealthiest party-list representatives in the 15th Congress. He first served as representative of Pampanga’s second district from 2001 to 2009 before his stint as party-list representative.

The President assured that once the Con-Ass finished its job of revising the Constitution, he would be there to read it.

“So you could only come up with the Constitution that is responsive to the will of the people…this party-list, it will never come again,” he said.

During national elections, Filipino voters are allowed to vote for a party-list group. The representatives of the winning party lists get seats in the House of Representatives

A total of 46 organizations were proclaimed by the Commission on Elections as winners in the party-list elections last May 9. Its representatives now occupy 59 seats in the House of Representatives in the incumbent 17th Congress.

Only the regional party Ako Bicol got the maximum three seats allowed while 11 organizations each got two seats each. The 34 other organizations has one seat each.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson supported the President’s stand to abolish the party-list system, saying it had been “bastardized” and did not truly represent the marginalized sectors.

“I agree with the President. It’s about time we abolish the party-list system,” said Lacson.

The President’s plan to abolish the party-list system drew varied reactions from members of the House of Representatives.

Former House Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr. warned that such call has political cost and said that the Constituent Assembly being pushed by the President to amend the 1987 Constitution may suffer.

“I have to admit he is a really brave and admirable leader considering all of the party-listers belong to his supermajority and he would need their votes to get the necessary vote in Con Ass,” he said.

Belmonte also said it is expected that the party-list groups “will oppose their abolition.”

Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano and Kabayan party-list Rep. Harry Roque defended the party-lists groups, saying there are some party-list groups that truly pursue the interest of their respective constituents.

“There are many well-meaning party-list groups that have successfully pursued the interests of the sectors they represent in congress. But, I agree that the party-list law should be amended to weed wealthy opportunists and fake representatives out of the system,” said Alejano.

He said the party-list system was enacted into law to provide marginalized and under-represented sectors due representation in Congress.

“It would wise be for the President to call for a review or investigation on the party-list system law before making any pronouncement,” said Alejano.

Roque said the party-list system has helped uplift the lives of countless Filipinos. But he will defer to the party-list coalition for the official statement. I will say though that I will not win as a district congressman because I am not a trapo, and not part of a dynasty. I only have this opportunity to serve because of the party-list system.”

Roque also mentioned that two Cabinet members of Duterte are products of the party-list system- former 1-BAP Rep. Silvestre Bello III and Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano.

Bello sits as Department of Labor and Employment Secretary. Mariano is the Department of Agrarian Reform Secretary,
But Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangc said he is counting on the Comelec to recommend to Congress whether there is a need to amend the Party-list Law following the President’s call.

“It is a fact that there are those who abuse the party list system. But there are also party lists who are properly represented. I would like to hear from Comelec, if amendment of the party list law could prevent these abuses,” he said.

“If we strike out the party-list system from the Constitution it should be replaced with a provision that will ensure representation for the marginalized sectors,” he further stated. (SWCA)

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