Saturday, April 25, 2009

The New Party List Rule: Painting the Town Red, in More Ways Than One?

The Supreme Court recently rendered a major decision (Banat v. COMELEC ), setting forth a new doctrine (for the nth time) regarding the party list system in our country. The Court abolished the two percent rule (wherein only those parties who garner at least two percent of the votes cast shall be allowed a seat), thereby allowing more parties to participate in the circus that we know as the House of Representatives.
The decision has yielded mixed reactions. The resounding nay comes from speaker Prospero Nograles himself, who said that increasing the number of representatives is going to be a logistical nightmare. Also (and ironically), some incumbent party list representatives bemoan the decision, since an increase in the number of congressmen would necessarily lead to increase in government expenditures, by way of pork barrel.
Those who applaud the decision point to the fact that an increase in the number of congressmen will mean that it would be harder to get the required number for a charter change. That, it is argued, is good enough a reason  to give kudos to the Supreme Court.
The increase in the number of representatives will benefit "The Butcher" Jovito Palparan  and a sister of the "first" "gentleman", among others. But it will also give seats to somewhat deserving party list groups.
Evidently, the Supreme Court decision is a double-edged sword. At present, party list representatives are some of the more active members of the house. They point out every inequity and illegality committed by the government and their peers, despite the perception that their acts are futile. But the party list system can also be abused. It can be infiltrated by incompetent or undeserving people. Or it can be taken advantage of by some groups, who are not at all marginalized (thereby defeating the purpose of the party list scheme), but who can easily win seats by their clout alone. 
We may have a good thing going with the party list system. But in five or ten years, who knows? In the Philippines, anything can happen,especially when it comes to politics.

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