By Vanne Elaine Terrazola
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said it is incumbent within the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to sanitize the country’s party-list system and remove the groups that pose as representatives to the marginalized sectors.
Although he was constrained to admit, Sotto shared the sentiment that the country’s party-list system is being “abused” by some political clans to rise to power when they do not really belong to marginalized groups.
“The ball is in the Comelec. The Comelec can motu propio disqualify a group that is not really marginalized,” Sotto said during a news forum in Manila on Wednesday.
He put the burden on the poll body as he admitted that as much as the Senate wanted a new law on the matter, such legislation might not hurdle Congress.
“Kasi kapag legislation ang ginawa natin (if we do it through legislation), do you think papasa sa House of Representatives na alisin ang partylist? Eh napakaraming party-list doon. (Several party-list groups are there),” he said.
“I was in the Senate already when they passed the law on the party list, hirap na hirap kami noon (we had a hard time debating on it),” he recalled, referring to Republic Act 7941, which was enacted in 1995.
Sotto said the law, which provides for the election of party-list representatives, was originally intended for marginalized sectors such as farmers, laborers, and women. What the Senate then wanted was to specify at least six marginalized groups, he said.
The Supreme Court, he added, also allowed party-list representations of any advocacy, and any individual. “Palagay ko (I think) there should be a different debate on the matter. Pag-usapan ulit (we discuss it again). There should be a new petition to the Supreme Court,” Sotto said.
But pending the debates, Sotto said the Comelec should act on it especially with the upcoming elections. “I’m just saying that its part of their mandate,” he said.
Elections watchdog Kontra Daya earlier made the same appeal to Comelec after they found out that more 182 party-list groups participating in the 2019 elections either have links to incumbent congressmen, political clans or those already in government positions; or maybe representing “special business interests”; or have “questionable” advocacies and nominees.
Kontra Daya said the country’s party-list system has been “bastardized” and has strayed from its original intention of representing to the marginalized.
Instead, it has become an “extension” of political dynasties, the group said.