Party-list (mis)representatives

(BULATLAT FILE PHOTO) President Benigno Simeon Aquino III delivers his 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA) during the joint Senate and House session of Congress at the Plenary Hall, House of Representatives Complex, Constitution Hills, Quezon City Monday July 25, 2011. (Photo by Robert Vinas/ Malacanang Photo Bureau)

By KIANA CARDENO, NICA RHIANA HANOPOL, JM CASINO and FERDIN SANCHEZ
(Part one of three)

The House of Representatives (HOR) is hardly representative.

In not so many words, a non-representative HOR is the reason for the enactment of the Party-list System Act in 1995 and the first party-list election held three years after. No less than the framers of the 1987 Constitution saw the need to establish a party-list system to ensure representation of the marginalized and underrepresented.

While its 2001 decision helped define what is meant by marginalized and underrepresented, the Supreme Court practically reversed itself 12 years later. On April 5, 2013, the highest court of the land decided that party-list groups do not need to represent any marginalized or underrepresented sector.

“In effect, anyone actually by that decision can join the party-list,” said Alicor Panao, a researcher on party-list systems and a political science professor from the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman.

From two dominant parties in the 1950s, Nacionalista Party and Liberal Party, Republic Act (RA) 7941, or the Party-list System Act, sought to provide the broadest possible representation for the Filipino people, most especially the poor and marginalized.

Over the last decade, the trends of proportionality in the House of Representatives have favored regional and workers groups, holding the most number of seats.

At present, more than 40 of active party-lists are now seated in Congress supposedly on behalf of laborers, peasants, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.

Many of those claiming to represent these marginalized sectors do not belong to these sectors and are members of well-entrenched political dynasties and special interest groups. Some have been implicated in corruption investigations while others have been known to promote special business interests. They are among the 59 party-list representatives occupying seats in Congress today.

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