'Nabalahura': Lawmakers back calls to amend party-list system

Mike Navallo and Wena Cos, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2022 02:29 AM

Supporters of Gabriela ABS-CBN News/file
Supporters of Gabriela Women's Party stage a protest against the NTF-ELCAC Barangay Development Program and its disqualification case against the partylist on September 27, 2021 at the House of Representatives in Quezon City. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/file

MANILA - Women lawmakers on Thursday called to amend the Party-list System Act amid the rise of groups not belonging to marginalized sectors or those whose representatives do not belong to the sectors they represent.

"Ang nangyari, nabalahura na ang partylist system ng Pilipinas," Rep. Arlene Brosas of the Gabriela Women's Party said on Thursday on a group which claimed to represent single mothers.

(The purpose of the country's party list system is defiled.)

"May mga sumulpot na tulad nito, na for mothers daw pero hindi naman mother, so kahit yung mga nagrerepresent sa kanila hindi genuine na nirerepresent ang kanilang constituent," Brosas said during a Pandesal Forum on women’s rights in Quezon City on Thursday.

(Groups claim to represent sectors, like this one which said they represent single mothers, but those representing them are not even mothers themselves.)

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) accredited party list Mothers for Change (MOCHA), which claims to represent single moms, to run for a congressional seat in the 2022 elections. 

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration deputy administrator Mocha Uson was nominated to represent the party list. 

But Uson and her fellow nominee, former beauty queen Michelle Gumabao, are not single mothers.

Brosas said the background of the questionable party-list groups should be checked to see who stands to benefit should they win a seat at the House of Representatives.

Depending on the number of votes, a party-list group could get as many as 3 seats.

“Kakwestyon kwestyon naman talaga. Not only the party-list na yon…kung genuine ba talaga yung mga partylists na sumasali ngayon,” she said.

(It's definitely questionable, not just that particular party list, but if all party lists vying for a spot in congress are genuine.)

“‘Yung mga partylist na lumahok o lumalahok ngayon, kailangan mo talagang suriin ng mabuti kung ito ba ay ang background nito ay sa big business, kung ito ba ang background nito ay mga pulitiko mismo,” she added.

(We have to look at whether or not these party lists are actually representing big businesses or politicians.)

Poll watchdog Kontra Daya recently reported that 7 out of 10 party-list groups have been hijacked by political clans, big businesses, and state interests.

Among the groups mentioned was Uson’s party-list whose nominees were linked to the anti-insurgency task force NTF-ELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict).

Senator Risa Hontiveros echoed Brosas’ views.

"Dapat sana ma-revisit ang aktwal na pagpapatupad... para ibalik ito sa orihinal na intent ng Konstitusyon para di mangyari 'yung nakikita natin na hindi naman talaga kumakatawan ang mag grupo sa constituency nila at ginagamit lang ang partylist system na backdoor para makapasok sa pulitika," Hontiveros said.

(The law should be revisited to serve its actual purpose to create representation, unlike what is happening now where groups don't actually represent their constituency and instead use their congressional seat as a backdoor into politics.)

Republic Act 7941 or the "Party-List System Act" was enacted to ensure 20 percent of the total number of the members of the House of Representatives constitute representatives of marginalized and underrepresented sectors.

The 2013 Supreme Court case of Atong Paglaum vs. Comelec declared that the party-list system is not limited to sectoral groups and it is possible that non-members of marginalized sectors may represent political parties allowed to run as party-list groups.

"Ibalik natin sa mas maliliit, sa 'di mayayaman, at di makapangyarihang partido, [doon] na meron talagang distinct na ideyolohiya, may track record, may platform of legislation na isinusulong," Hontiveros said. 

(We should give those seats back to the marginalized, groups with an ideology, a platform of legislation, and a track record to back them up; not to the rich and the powerful parties.)

Presidential candidate Leody de Guzman, for his part, called for increased representation for party-list groups at the House of Representatives — from 20 to up to 60 percent of the 300-member body.

“Sa ganoon [maririnig] ang boses ng ating mamamayan at magkatotoo yung totoong demokrasya sa loob ng Kongreso na ang mangingibabaw ay boses ng mayorya ng lipunang Pilipino,” he said.

(That way, real democracy will happen in Congress, where the majority voice of the Filipino people will be heard.)

Women remain "severely underrepresented" in the government, Hontiveros said. 

"Bukod sa pagbabago ng kultura at economic empowerment, dapat nagsisimual rin yun sa partido na may mag polisiya na at least one-third ng leadership positions ay hahawakan ng kababaihan."

Of the 24 Senate seats, only 7 are occupied by women, one of whom, Senator Leila de Lima, was imprisoned under allegations of using drug money for her candidacy in 2016.

(Apart from cultural and economic empowerment, parties should have policies that ensure a third of leadership roles are held by women.)

Brosas said that while female representation in legislation increased over time, there is a "dissonance" in some female lawmakers. 

"Hindi lahat ng babae ay bitbit ang agenda ng kababaihan... Hindi naglalapat na kung ikaw ay babae ang bitbit mo ay agenda din at kahilingan ng mga kababaihan," Brosas said. 

(Not all women carry the female agenda. Being a woman does not immediately mean that you will fight for the rights and welfare of women.)

Former senator Nikki Coseteng added that female representation in the government should not be measured by numbers. 

"Hindi sapat na may women in office o yung may mga quota system, kailangan sila rin ay maging handa; kailangan meron ding mga kalalakihan na progresibo mag-isip," Coseteng said. 

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