The Party-List System (PLS) of representation in the House of Representatives (HoR) was envisioned to empower the people, particularly those belonging in the marginalized and underrepresented sectors of the society. As it turned out, the PLS was bastardized by those people in power.
Beginnings of the PLS
The party-list representation was a creature wrought by the 1987 Philippine Constitution. Section 5, Article VI of the said Constitution states,
“(1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.;
“(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law,except the religious sector.”
Republic Act No. 7941, popularly known as the Party-List System Act, was enacted on March 1995 to give full force and effect on the above-mentioned provisions of the Constitution. The primary purpose of the law was to “enable Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and under-represented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives.“
The Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC) topped the 1998 elections.
BayanMuna dominated the 2001 and 2004 elections while BuhayHayaangYumabong (BUHAY), a religious based party-list, got the top seats in 2007 and 2013. AkoBikol (AKB), representing the Bicol region and the Bicolano people, won the most votes in 2010 and 2016 national elections.
Mockery of the Law
A total of 46 groups won the party-list elections in 2016. AKB got the maximum three (3) seats allowed while eleven other groups got two (2) seats each.
The law in itself has not achieved its end. A cursory review of the winning organizations, and their nominees, would show that most are neither marginalized nor underrepresented. In fact, there were some groups that tend to make their constituents “over represented” in Congress (i.e. geographical “regional” party lists). A number of organizations have millionaire businessmen as nominees, yet purportedly representing citizens on the lower strata of the society (e.g. farmers, fishermen). There was even one party-list that representing cockfighters and another one that cares for one’s eyes.
Majority of the party-list nominees are relatives of existing political clans – brother of an elected Congressman, son of a former Congressman, wife of a provincial governor, outgoing Congressman, former mayor, sister of a Congressman – and the list goes on.
Understandably, President Rodrigo Duterte wanted the party-list system stricken out of the Constitution. He said, “Itong party-list. It will never come again. Bagong Consitution, I will insist no party-list.” He added, “Ang nanalo yung mga may pera. Representing the what?…Iyan talaga is a mockery of law.”
The law envisaged the party-list winners to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation, which will benefit their constituents in particular and the nation as a whole. However, most of these party list “legislators” have not successfully done their legislative jobs. How many bills have they filed? How many of these bills, if any, were enacted into laws?
Section 6 of R.A. 7941 lists down eight (8) grounds by which the registration of a party-list organization may be cancelled by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Lucidly, it is time to amend the said law and include a new ground for cancellation of a party-list registration – failure to file a bill that was enacted into a law while sitting in Congress.
Can the PLS be revisited by the Comelec? Probably not. There were allegations that Comelec played a big role in the “bastardization” of the system. Rumors abound that groups seeking accreditation and registration as a party-list cannot be granted the same by the Comelec if the group is not affiliated with the ruling party or it has not paid its “accreditation fee.” Said fee ranges in the millions of pesos. If the group wants to have a sure seat in the election, then it would be subject to a different fee, allegedly.
The Duterte administration should clamp down on this practice and pin down erring Comelec officials. Time to empower the people back and put the people in power (who used their money and political connections) down.
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Emergency Hotline 911
The emergency hotline 911 became live and operational on a nationwide scale on August 1, 2016. This was patterned after Davao City’s Central 911 and of course that of the United States of America’s Universal Emergency Number 911.
In 1967 the USA, through the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice, together with other Federal Government Agencies and in close cooperation with the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (AT&T), designated the three-digit number “911” as the Universal Emergency Number that can be used by citizens throughout the USA to report and request emergency assistance. The first completed 911 call was made by then US Senator Rankin Fite on February 16, 1968. Here in the Philippines, the first nationwide 911 call was made on August 1, 2016 – forty eight years later.
The USA chose the 911 code because it is a simple code that can be easily remembered and can be dialed quickly. More so, at that time, the three-digit number 911 has never been authorized for use as an area code, office code, or service code anywhere. Canada adopted the 911 emergency line in 1972 (from its old “999” code), to be consistent with the USA’s emergency number.
Making money out of people’s miseries
Telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Company (PLDT) and its subsidiary Smart ensured the government of their full support and cooperation in the nationwide implementation of the emergency hotline, 911.
However, based on news reports, Globe Telecom said they would charge five (5) pesos per call to the hotline. What are they thinking? You need to pay P5 for an emergency call?
What would happen if you are in an emergency situation and your Globe mobile phone does not have enough load to make the call? This is simply making money out of people’s miseries. Well, better switch to PLDT and Smart.
In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) mandates that all calls to the emergency number 911 are FREE. No toll charges. Period. In fact, telecommunications and network providers are required to route all 911 calls to the emergency service call centers, including calls from phones that never had service yet or whose service had lapsed.
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) should follow this policy of the FCC in requiring all telecommunications providers to route the 911 calls for free. It is now time for the NTC to perform its role as a regulator instead of a protector.
Training Filipinos to use 911
Inquirer.Net reported that, “on the first day of the activation of the 911 hotline nationwide, there were more dropped and prank calls than there were calls for actual emergency assistance.” It reported further that only three percent (3%) were legitimate emergency calls and twelve percent (12%) were prank calls. This clearly shows that Filipinos are not
yet trained on the use of the emergency hotline.
There should be an information campaign and citizens should be trained on the nuances and consequences of making a 911 emergency call. Some Non Government Organizations (NGO) are planning to conduct this kind of information campaign.
Related to this, a group of Grade 6 students of De La Salle Santiago Zobel (DLSZ) have written and recorded a jingle that can be used in 911 information campaigns. They plan to present it to PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa one of these days. Kudos to these kids.
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