Party-list bets hit for ‘song-and-dance’ campaign

Christian V. Esguerra, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 08 2019 04:10 PM

Ballot boxes are inspected for the 2016 national elections in this file photo. Midterm elections will be held on May 13, 2019. ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA -- Well-funded party-list groups may overrun those legitimately representing marginalized sectors, as their strategies shifted to personality-centered campaigns in this year’s midterm elections, an analyst said.

A number of such groups have enlisted the support of highly paid celebrities, indicating hefty campaign funding that could rival those of traditional parties, said political science professor Julio Teehankee.

“In the final analysis, if this trend continues, even the more organized and representative of sectors... will be overrun by those with the biggest war chest,” he told ABS-CBN News.

The Philippines’ party-list system allows voters to pick groups that will comprise 20 percent of the House of Representatives.

It was conceived in the 1987 constitution to provide representation for the marginalized and underrepresented. 

But a 2013 Supreme Court ruling went by the constitutional provision that also allowed "registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations."

The decision has since been blamed for further providing opportunities for groups with questionable advocacies to join party-list elections.

DISTURBING

Similar to the system of proportional representation in other countries, the Philippine party-list system fields parties as candidates, not individuals.

But it is also unique because it limits to 3 the maximum number of seats a group may win, meaning the number of votes is not exactly in proportion to the available legislative positions.

“If you will notice, there is now a preponderance of TV commercials of these so called party-list organizations and the focus is no longer on issues but rather more on emphasizing name recall,” said Teehankee, who has studied the country’s problematic party-list system for years.

Party-list groups, he said, were supposed to campaign on the basis of concrete party platform anchored on legitimate advocacies.

But many were “campaigning... as if they were running for a traditional political position with the use of song-and-dance routine,” said Teehankee.

“This is quite disturbing and this is also an indication that there is really a need to revisit the party-list system... to truly represent the marginalized sector.”

MARGINALIZED

Reforming the party-list system, analysts argued, will require reversing the 2013 Supreme Court ruling or amending the Constitution.

A total of 134 groups are running in Monday’s party-list election, many of them fielded by political clans banking on their traditional bailiwicks to deliver the votes.

In his 2019 study “untangling the party-list system,” Teehankee argued that the current 3-seat cap should be removed to make sure that the seat occupied by a group would be proportional to the number of votes won.

Party-list seats should also be increased to 40 percent of the lower house, he said, to “provide more opportunities for the representation of marginalized sectors.”