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Bastard law: Lagman calls for review of partylist system in 18th Congress

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The participation of a large number of partylist groups, which are controlled by traditional politicians or large parties in the recently concluded elections, highlights the need for the incoming Congress to “seriously revisit” the Partylist System Law, a minority lawmaker at the House of Representatives said Tuesday.

In a news conference, Albay 1st District Rep. Edcel Lagman stressed that the purpose of the Partylist law is to “afford the marginalized sectors of having representation in Congress.”

“I am the principal author of this law…but that has been bastardized by the Comelec,” he said.

“Even the Supreme Court has came out with rulings which is not consistent with the spirit of the law,” Lagman said.

As originally envisioned, the partylist system was created in the 1987 Constitution with the aim of giving marginalized sectors or groups, including labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural, women, youth, and other such sectors as may be defined by law (except the religious sector), representation in Congress.

In 1995, Republic Act 7941 or the Party-List Act was enacted in order to define and prescribe the broad mechanics of this system representation. It limited the system to the marginalized and the political underclass.

However, a 2013 Supreme Court decision clarified that the partylist is a system of proportional representation open to various kinds of groups and parties, and not an exercise exclusive to marginalized sectors.

Under the new parameters set by the SC, national parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent any marginalized and underrepresented sector to qualify in the partylist system.

Lagman observed that this has allowed the participation of large
parties and traditional politicians, as well as the rich and the
powerful, to abuse the system.

“So one of the first things we probably have to do in the 18th Congress is to strengthen the partylist system and make it consistent with its collegiate intention of securing the marginalized sectors’ right of having representation in Congress,” Lagman said.

“And we should follow the formula of declaring who are the winners. There’s a two percent threshold in the bill which has not been followed anymore,” he added.

Under the previous formula, a partylist group must win at least 2 percent of all the votes cast in the partylist election to be eligible for a seat in the House.

However, the SC declared the 2-percent threshold unconstitutional, and gave a seat to a partylist group that won less than 2 percent of the votes, and one or more additional seats to a group that polled more than 2 percent.

The High Court ruled, however, that the total number of partylist representatives must remain at 20 percent of the total number of seats in the House as prescribed by the Constitution.

There are presently 134 partylist groups — from the 185 who applied — that are vying for 59 seats in Congress. (PNA)