‘86 Con-Com Delegate Says Party-List System Hasn’t Served its Avowed Purpose


Has the Philippine party-list system served its avowed purpose of providing representation for the country’s “marginalized and under-represented” sectors? Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution’s party-list provision, together with Christian Monsod, does not think so. His views are expressed in this interview with Bulatlat.

BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
Bulatlat

Has the Philippine party-list system served its avowed purpose of providing representation for the country’s “marginalized and under-represented” sectors?

The inclusion of a provision for a party-list system was one of the hotly-contested issues during the sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. This provision was so bitterly opposed by some delegates of the Commission that its proponents considered its inclusion in the 1987 Constitution as a miracle.

This provision is Art. VI, Sec. 5, which states that:

The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.

The intent behind this provision was to provide a space in which “marginalized and under-represented” sectors of society could have congressional representation.

In accordance with the said provision, from 1987 to 1998, 10 percent of the seats at the House of Representatives were occupied by representatives either selected or elected from the sectors enumerated.

In 1995, Republic Act No. 7941 (An Act Providing for the Election of Party-List Representatives through the Party-list System, and Appropriating Funds Therefore) was passed. It serves as the enabling law for Art. VI, Sec. 5 of the Constitution.

Under the party-list system, a party-list group can have a maximum of three seats in the House of Representatives. Sec. 11 of RA 7941 provides that:

The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each; provided, that those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes; provided, finally, that each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats

.

The first party-list election was held in 1998. Since then, voters have been allowed to fill their ballots with one district representative and one party-list group.

Ten years after the first party-list elections were held, has the party-list system served its avowed purpose of giving voice to the voiceless?

Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution’s party-list provision together with Christian Monsod, does not think so. His views are expressed in this interview with Bulatlat.

The interview was conducted after a Nov. 18 forum on ten years of the Philippine party-list system, organized by the Center for People Empowerment in Governance, in which he was the keynote speaker.

Villacorta, aside from being a delegate to the 1986 Constitutional Commission, is a former secretary-general of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). He is professor emeritus of political science and international relations at De La Salle University (DLSU), where he was the dean of the College of Liberal Arts from 1983 to 1986 and senior vice president from 1987 to 1992.

Following is the full text of the interview:

What is the intent behind the constitutional provision for a party-list system?

Our objectives were:

(a) to empower and articulate the interests of the marginalized sectors of Philippine society who don’t have the political base nor the financial resources to be represented in our legislature;

(b) to strengthen the party system and make Philippine politics more issue-oriented;

(c) to consolidate the national consensus and genuine democratization of the electoral process by bringing to the legislature the marginalized and the under-represented groups of our country; and

(d) to ensure peace and unity throughout our nation by reinforcing people’s trust in peaceful change.

What hurdles did the advocates of the party-list system go through during the sessions of the 1986 Constitutional Commission?

It was difficult to persuade our conservative colleagues that the party-list proportional representation system was not a wild innovation but one that has been adopted by such developed democracies as Germany, Spain, Israel and New Zealand.

What, in your view, are the factors behind the successful inclusion of the party-list provision in the 1987 Constitution?

Like in any deliberative body, the party-list provision was one of the compromises reached in the Constitutional Commission.

Representatives of people’s organizations held vigil inside and outside the halls of the Batasan Pambansa and actively campaigned for their advocacies. The media were also very supportive. Of course, the progressive group of Constitutional Commissioners asserted themselves and upheld their principles.

We were only 12—one fourth of the Commission, but we succeeded, with God’s grace, in pushing for pro-people provisions.

Do you think the present Party-List Law reflects the intent of the constitutional provision on the party-list system?

No. The Party-List Law does not mirror the intent of the Constitution. Party-list representatives are regarded as second-class legislators and not all of them are bona fide representatives of marginalized and under-represented sectors.

Ten years after it came into being, do you think the party-list system has served its avowed purpose?

For the reasons I mentioned, my answer is “No.”

What do you think are the reasons behind the failure of the party-list system?

Most district representatives do not or pretend not to understand the concept of party-list. Neither do voters nor much of the media.

Many party-list representatives are not doing their job well.

They are divided among themselves.

What are your recommendations for the improvement of the party-list system?

Amend the Party-List Law to make it live up to the spirit of the 1987 Constitution. The Comelec (Commission on Elections) should be more earnest in promoting voter awareness on the party-list system. It should be strict in accrediting party-list groups to make sure that those who qualify are truly deserving. (Bulatlat.com)

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