POSTSCRIPT / April 30, 2009 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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A tough job sorting out Party-List alphabet soup

CONFUSION: That the April 21 decision of the Supreme Court on the Party-List system of congressional representation sowed confusion is an understatement.

In its “Banat vs Comelec” decision, the tribunal increased the Party-List seats in the House of Representatives from 22 to 55, thus raising the total number of congressmen from 238 (216 districts plus 22 PL representatives) to 271.

Did the high court amend Article VI of the Constitution saying: “Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than 250 members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts xxx and those who xxx shall be elected through a party-list system….”?

Has the constitutional limit of “not more than 250 members” been thrown out?

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LEGAL SUMMIT: Adding to the confusion, the Commission on Elections poked its finger into the Party-List pie being sliced. It said only 54 representatives — not 55 as the Court had decreed — would be accommodated.

The Comelec said the cancellation last July 2008 of the PL registration of “Filipinos for Peace, Justice and Progress Movement” has changed the rankings. While the SC said the “Philippine Coconut Producers Federation Inc.” is entitled to the 55th seat, the Comelec said there was no more room for it.

The poll body explained that since Shariff Kabunsuan is no longer a province, the legislative districts have been reduced from 220 to 219, and the PL seats that may be allocated also cut from 55 to 54.

Maybe a Legal Summit is in order. The Supreme Court should defer to the Congress in refining the Party-List System Act (RA 7941). And, before the confusion worsens, the Comelec and affected parties better ask the court for clarification.

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AMBIGUOUS TERMS: While they are at it, the Congress should make clearer the policy on Party-List representation and define in detail the “marginalized and underrepresented sectors.”

RA 7941, Section 5, elaborated on these sectors by specifying “labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.” As election results have shown, however, the law is not clear enough.

To start with, what does it take to run for Party-List seats? How “marginalized and underrepresented” must a sector be to merit registration? And who are qualified to be nominated by a PL group?

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NOT DESCRIPTIVE: Are small occupational groups, such as sidewalk vendors, which are obviously marginalized and underrepresented entitled to seats? If teachers are, should not members of other professions also be?

What about battered husbands? We are convincing dzBB’s Jimmy Gil, founder and lifetime president of UHAW (Union of Husbands Afraid of their Wives) to make a go for it. He said he would think about it after he is done with the laundry.

Reading the registry of Party-List sectors, we cannot say who or what groups are represented. The PL names are not descriptive of their membership and advocacies.

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WHO THEY?: Pardon my ignorance, but based merely on their names (as I have not fully absorbed their random propaganda), let me guess who these PL groups represent:

  • Buhay — Maybe a pro-life group opposing abortion and such threats to life?
  • APEC — How did the Asian-Pacific Economic Council get into the picture?
  • A Teacher — They must be teachers. For balance, can students above 18 years old form their own PL group?
  • Alagad — I suppose these are policemen (alagad ng batas). Don’t look now, but victims of police brutality might decide to organize and mix it up in the polls.
  • Butil — Nice name. Are these small rice and corn farmers? Mabuhay kayo! Or are these rice millers?
  • BatasSina Mel “Batas” Mauricio ba ito? Or a bunch of lawyers? I know lawyers are never out-talked, but are they marginalized or under-represented?
  • Anak Pawis — Must be a sweaty labor party. Isn’t there one already? If it fails to win a seat, does that make labor marginalized?
  • Abono — Either this is a gathering of relatives of Homobono Adaza or a cartel of fertilizer traders.
  • Amin Siempre, pag “amin” yan, okey siya! Baka naman mga priests yanor followers of Mike Velarde shouting “Amin” to everything he says.
  • AgapMabuti ang maaga na, maagap pa. Pero sino kaya sila?
  • An Waray — I don’t think Warays are underrepresented. Many competent Warays are already holding key government positions.
  • YacapOkey yang yakapan. Good for national unity. Have you hugged or made yakap to your neighbor lately?
  • ABS — Now, why did they drop the -CBN part? What will GMA-7 do now to even up their reach and influence?
  • Kakusa — Are we sure this is not a Cosa Nostra type? But it’s better that they operate in the open, than go underground.
  • Kabataan — Mabuhay kayo, mga “Hopes of the Fatherland” — as George Washington called the youth in his famous Gettysburg address.
  • Aba-Ako — Aba, kayo pala! Kumusta na? Bakit, marginalized pa ba kayo?
  • BanatIngat! Don’t let fire-breathing radio kumaintators and newspaper calumnists push you to perdition.
  • Ang Kasangga — I was told this is the fourth Arroyo in the House. But I still can’t understand why this dynasty thinks it is marginalized or underrepresented.
  • Bantay — I agree security guards are underrepresented. They deserve a seat or two, and a wage hike.
  • Abakada — Aren’t kinder and grade schoolers who are still learning the alphabet a bit too young to run for public office?
  • 1-Utak – We need them, I mean congressmen with brains (utak). Unless “1-Utak” means mastermind.
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(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 30, 2009)

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