By Genalyn Kabiling
The country’s party-list system has become “evil” after being exploited by wealthy people to hold power in government, President Duterte lamented Wednesday night.
During the oath-taking of new local government officials in Cagayan de Oro, the President denounced the abuse of the party-list system that deprives the marginalized groups a voice in Congress.
“This party-list is one evil. Everyone involved there are the rich. The rich people fund the party-list,” Duterte said in his impromptu remarks.
“They are named after laborers but their nominees are the millionaires so they stay in power there,” he added.
Duterte also bewailed the rampant corruption in government, particularly in the implementation of projects. He claimed that a portion of funds intended for infrastructure projects sometimes end up in the pockets of local government officials and contractors.
“And you know, they get 30 percent of the funds intended for a project. Out of the 100 million fund intended for a project, you’ll give 30 percent to the…” he said. “How much will be left? You have to give some to the mayor, the engineer, the barangay captain,” he added.
Duterte made the remarks following reports that 1-Pacman Rep. Michael Romero, leader of the party-list bloc in Congress, remains the richest lawmaker based on his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
Romero, president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation, reported a net worth of around P7.9 billion.
Republic Act No 7941, signed in 1995, provides the election of representatives to the Lower House through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions. The sectors include labor, peasant, fisher folk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals.
The Party-List System Act law seeks to enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations, and parties to become members of Congress.
Some groups claimed that the powerful and the rich have used the party-list system as backdoor entry to become lawmakers over the years.
With Duterte’s observation, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said it will now be up to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to review the qualifications for party-list nominees.
In his Thursday press briefing, Panelo said Duterte may be thinking of pushing for the abolition of partylists, or want their representatives to truly be from the marginalized sectors.
“Maybe he wants it abolished if that is his sentiment, or he wants the representative to really come from that sector,” he said. According to Panelo, it is now up to the Comelec to act on Duterte’s suggestion.
“Actually, it’s now up to the Comelec since they’re the ones checking the qualifications of the nominees,” he said. (With a report from Argyll Cyrus Geducos)