MANILA - Administration party members will occupy more than a third of district representative seats at the House of Representatives when the 18th Congress opens in July, putting “controversial bills” in danger of being “railroaded,” a law professor said.
A total of 82 out of the 129 candidates for district representative that the ruling PDP-Laban fielded won in the recently concluded elections. They are set to occupy 34 percent of the 241 seats for district representatives elected last week.
This is on top of the number of incoming sectoral lawmakers known to be allied with the administration, including topnotcher ACT-CIS (Anti-Crime and Terrorism Through Community Involvement and Support), which got enough votes for three seats.
For lawyer and professor Antonio La Viña, “these numbers do not mean much” for “most non-controversial legislation,” as those usually pass “without even a nominal vote.”
Numbers, however, do matter for controversial bills as such as the proposed revival of the death penalty, the lowering of the minimum age of criminal liability, and charter change, which “can all be railroaded," he said.
University of the Philippines Political Science Professor Jean Encinas-Franco, meanwhile, cited previous congresses where some district representatives did not support the President’s legislative agenda. This was especially true for those who represented areas with good socio-economic conditions, she said.
“These are congressmen and congresswomen in areas where their constituents no longer just need short-term benefits, such as pork,” Franco added, referring to discretionary funds.
The way La Viña sees it, political party affiliations may matter more in the race for the House speakership than in legislation as “political parties usually decide who to support as a bloc.”
Aside from PDP-Laban, the dominant party, the Nacionalista Party (NP) is also set to occupy 42 seats (17.43 percent) in the 18th Congress. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) will occupy 36 seats (14.94 percent), the National Unity Party (NUP) 25 seats (10.37 percent), the opposition Liberal Party (LP) 18 seats (7.47 percent), and the Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats (Lakas-CMD) 11 seats (4.56 percent).
The remaining 27 winning district representatives ran under 16 other political parties, including administration-linked Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP), with three winning bets.
Another 61 seats are allocated to party-list representatives from 51 party-list groups, as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) proclaimed on May 22, 2019.
Four more district representatives will be elected in the next six months, per Comelec Resolutions 10513 and 10524.
These officials will represent the newly split 1st and 2nd Legislative Districts of Southern Leyte and the “re-apportioned” 1st and 3rd Legislative Districts of South Cotabato, according to Comelec.
The 82 elected district representatives affiliated with PDP-Laban make up 63.57 percent of all congressional candidates that PDP-Laban fielded in the elections.
Meanwhile, HNP, led by the President's daughter Sara Duterte-Carpio, fielded candidates exclusively in the Davao region, and saw a 50-percent success rate— three out of its six district representative candidates won.
The opposition Liberal Party (LP) saw a higher success rate at 69.23 percent, with 18 winning candidates out of the 26 it fielded for district representative.
By comparison, in the May 2016 elections, only three district representatives affiliated with PDP-Laban won. The former administration party LP held a bigger proportion of seats (116 of 238 or 48.74 percent) in the House of Representatives when the 17th Congress opened in 2016, compared to PDP-Laban going into the 18th Congress.
Half, or 121 of the 241 winning district representatives in the recent elections are reelectionists. Seventy-two of them ran under a different party in 2016. – With additional research by Dave Abuel and Kennedy Caacbay, ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group