The Supreme Court’s en banc decision on the allocation of seats in the country’s partylist system is a historical marker on various counts.
First, the decision finally enabled partylist representatives to occupy the twenty percent seats in the Lower House allocated to them by the Constitution.
Second, by setting aside the two percent threshold for any partylist group to qualify for a seat, the Court has effectively broadened partylist representation in Congress giving smaller partylists bigger chances to land a seat.
Third, by maintaining the three-seat cap, it has prevented any one group from dominating the partylist system. And, fourth, it has reaffirmed the ban on major political parties from participating in the partylist system.
Having made its calculations right this time thereby correcting a glaring mathematical flaw in the allocation of seats, the Supreme Court’s decision would have made everyone happy. Not so, it would seem, if initial reactions are to be believed.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles, for one, has been reported to be questioning the constitutionality of the Court’s decision, claiming that the addition of 32 partylist representatives would exceed the 250-members limit set by law as the House has now 238 members including 22 partylist representatives. What he does not mention, of course, is that limit can be changed by passing an amendatory law as the Constitution itself provides.
Then there is the reported move of Rep. Liza Maza of Gabriela partylist to question the qualifications of retired Major General Jovito Palparan to assume a seat in Congress as BANTAY first nominee on account of his alleged involvement in human rights violations in the country.
It is public knowledge that it was the membership of Gabriela, together with Bayan Muna and Anakpawis that borne the brunt of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances over the past few years in which Palparan’s name is closely associated with.
We can also expect the major political parties to question their exclusion from the partylist system since there is no explicit provision in law prohibiting them from participating in this kind of electoral exercise.
Then, again, it is common knowledge that many winning partylist groups are actually the creation of various political dynasties which are the pillars of the major political parties. While the Supreme Court justices were unanimous in the partylist seat allocation, it was a close vote at 8-7 in the case of the ban on major political parties, with Chief Justice Reynato Puno Jr. leading the majority vote.
Perhaps, it is still too early to predict how this Supreme Court decision would play out as the election season approaches. But one thing is certain. There would be a flurry of partylist organizing as the floodgates have been opened to both marginalized and non-marginalized (read: elite) sectors of our country to take a crack at the 54 seats now currently available for their pet agenda.
Do not wonder, then, why the Party List System is not really working as envisioned by the framers of our Constitution. What was conceded to the poor and marginalized in the aftermath of People Power I is now being taken back by the powers-that-be. # nordis.net