President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is correct when he said the partylist system should be scrapped.
The partylist system is the means under the 1987 Constitution by which a voter can cast his ballot for a representative from a particular sector of his choice, in addition to the one he gets to vote for in his congressional district.
Section 5(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution is the basis for the partylist system — “(2) The partylist representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the partylist.”
This system was seen by the unelected 1986 Constitutional Commission, which drafted the 1987 Charter as a means by which marginalized sectors of society (such as laborers, peasants, the urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, etc.) can elect someone to champion their cause in the House of Representatives of Congress.
The same Section 5(2), Article VI of the Constitution prohibits the religious sector from participating in the partylist system.
According to the 1986 Constitutional Commission, since marginalized sectors do not have enough resources to compete against traditional politicians running under the mainstream political parties, these sectors should be able to win seats in the House if they are able to garner enough votes under the less competitive partylist system.
Thus, an individual from a marginalized sector can cast his vote for one of many political parties registered under the partylist. If that political party garners enough votes as required by law, and depending on the total number of votes so obtained, the nominee or nominees of that political party is or are deemed elected to the House.
The system sounds good, but it turned out to be fraught with problems and defects.
Mainstream political parties used the partylist system to increase their seats in the House. Since every voter can vote for one political party registered in the partylist, the mainstream political parties created dummy organizations posing as political parties that represent marginalized sectors, and required their partisan allies and supporters to vote for those dummy organizations.
Sadly, the Supreme Court saw nothing irregular about that arrangement and upheld the practice. As a result, mainstream political parties today field candidates for House seats not only in the congressional districts, but also under the partylist system.
Eventually, the number of “marginalized sectors” mushroomed to include just about any sector that claims to be marginalized in the Philippines.
Many members of the House are women, or are very young politicians, so why are there partylist groups for women and the youth? How can one be among many similarly situated in the House and at the same time belong to a marginalized sector?
There was even a time when the son of an ex-president incredibly comported himself as the champion of security guards and got elected as their partylist representative.
Many political parties are registered under the partylist system but are organized solely for profit. Clandestinely, these political parties sell their nominations to politicians who have the money, but do not want to risk running and losing in a district-based election.
Countless big industries, factories, sugar centrals and landed estates require their employees and their employees’ families to vote for a particular party registered in the partylist system, under pain of unemployment. This is one way wealthy families obtain and retain political power.
Religious sects circumvent the constitutional ban against their involvement in partylist elections by creating a political party composed of selected brethren, usually from the family of the church leader, and require the brethren to vote for that political party. CIBAC is seen by many as one such example.
Local communists have cleverly manipulated the partylist system to suit their political agenda. They created several parties bearing different nationalistic sounding names, registered them in the partylist and, during every election, required their cadres and supporters to distribute their votes evenly among those parties in order to maximize the number of House seats they can get.
Communist congressmen, who like to describe themselves as “militant” or “makabayan,” use the discretionary funds allotted to each of them to agitate the people to go against the government.
Holy smokes! That’s akin to the government paying for the expenses of the very individuals who want to overthrow it!