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Makabayan bloc files bill for genuine party-list representation in Congress

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By Charissa Luci-Atienza

The seven-man Makabayan bloc of the House of Representatives filed on Monday a bill seeking to ensure that the partylist system is reserved for the marginalized and underrepresented.

Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate led the filing of House Bill 8524, which aims to amend Republic Act 7941, otherwise known as the “Partylist System Act.”

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna Party list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate
(Bayan Muna Party-list Facebook page / MANILA BULLETIN)

“There is an urgent need to restore the Party-list system to its original purpose, which is to give the marginalized sectors representation and voice in Congress. In fact, due to the bastardization of the party-list system now, there is an even more urgent need now to strengthen and further improve it so as not to make useless and illusory the representation of marginalized and underrepresented sectors of our country,” the progressive lawmakers said in filing the resolution.

House Bill 8524, the proposed “Genuine Party-List Group and Nominee Act” provides that no group, organization or political party shall be eligible for registration as a partylist group unless it has proven in an evidentiary public hearing that shall be conducted by the Comelec that it truly represent marginalised and underrepresented sectors and its nominees truly belong to the sectors he or she seeks to represent.

Zarate noted that since the Party-list system was first instituted in 1998, the issue of whether the party-list system is for the marginalized and underrepresented “remained the main issue.”

Citing the Supreme Court decision in Bayan Muna vs. Comelec (in that consolidated case the Court dismissed the petition in “BagongBayani vs. Comelec”), he said the Supreme Court declared that only those who belong to the marginalized and underrepresented shall be allowed in the party-list election.

But, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) reversed in effect the Supreme Court when it allowed nominees to run for the party-list elections as long as she or he is a member of a supposed marginalized and underrepresented group at least “ninety days” before the party-list elections, Zarate laments.

Under the resolution, the Makabayan bloc cited the growing concern on the entry of party-lists and nominees that are not truly representatives of the marginalized and underrepresented but are coming from powerful economic, dynastic and political interests.

The group noted that the number of party-list representatives is already 20 percent of the total number of members of the House of Representatives in the 17th Congress.

“The impact of the entry of those who do not belong to the marginalized and underrepresented is disastrous because like a raging tsunami it practically obliterated the constitutional intent of reserving 20% of the seats in Congress for the party-list system by allowing those who form part of the 80% to also invade the constitutionally secured seats of the already underrepresented. It also closed off the venue for the expression of the voice and interest of the poor and the already underrepresented. Changes have to be made to make sure that the Comelec can no longer interfere with what the Constitution and Congress mandates,” the progressive lawmakers said.

Zarate said the bill is aimed at addressing the violation of the constitutional and statutory intent for the party-list system by amending the Party-List System Act.

“It proposes to provide eligibility requirements and set up mechanisms to democratize the party-list system in order to secure, what the Congress and the Constitution sought to protect,” he said.

According to him, the bill proposes that the intent and purpose of the Constitution to reserve 20 percent of the House of Representatives for the marginalized sectors be strictly complied with.

Under the measure, the Comelec shall notify all duly registered and accredited partylist group, organization or political party of the hearing at least 10 days prior to the hearing.

It added that the Comelec shall, after due notice and hearing, resolve the petition within 15 days from the date it was submitted for decision but in no case not later than 90 days before election.

The measure also proposes that the appropriate decision-making body of a party-list group be given the power to recall its representatives for violation of any provision of the party-list’s governing charter.

It also proposes that the nomination of party-list representatives be done by the highest policy-making body of the party-list group, which will enable its membership to democratically choose their nominees.

“We must fulfill our historic duty of amending the party-list law to make sure that the very law’s original intent survives,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.

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