Share |

Party-List Elections, a Failing Democracy Project?

MANILA - Two recent news reports do not bode well for party-list elections. In February, Pulse Asia reported that its January 2010 survey revealed that only three out of 10 Filipinos are aware of the party-list system. Pulse Asia added that it is only in the National Capital Region where party-list awareness is high at 51 percent of voters. Worse, Pulse Asia also reported that awareness regarding the party-list system plunged compared to April 2007 when nearly 6 out of 10 Filipinos knew about it.

In March, media watchdog group the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility reported that only 23 of the 187 party-list groups vying for a seat in the House of Representatives were covered by the three major news programs from the three major networks.

"There was almost no coverage of the party-list process, and very few parties received airtime. There was no discussion of the importance of the party-list elections as an opportunity for the marginalized to receive representation in Congress, or stories on crucial party-list sectors such as those on labor, agricultural workers, women, indigenous peoples," CMFR said.

Worse, nine out of the 16 in the top 10 most covered party-list groups - as seven are tied in 10th place with 11 seconds of coverage each - are identified with the Arroyo government. Topping the list is 1-UTAK, with a measly one minute and 39 seconds, mainly because of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes's refusal to tender his resignation after the Supreme Court ruled that government officials running in the May 2010 elections should be considered resigned. Reyes is the first nominee of 1-UTAK.

Unless these trends are reversed, chances are participation in the party-list elections in the May 2010 elections would also be dismal.

How important is the party-list system?

Let us go back to the purpose of the party-list elections. In a November, 2008 interview with Bulatlat, Dr. Wilfrido Villacorta, a co-sponsor of the 1987 Constitution's party-list provision together with Christian Monsod, said that their objectives in pushing for a party-list system were the following:

(a) to empower and articulate the interests of the marginalized sectors of Philippine society who don't have the political base nor the financial resources to be represented in our legislature;

(b) to strengthen the party system and make Philippine politics more issue-oriented;

(c) to consolidate the national consensus and genuine democratization of the electoral process by bringing to the legislature the marginalized and the under-represented groups of our country; and to ensure peace and unity throughout our nation by reinforcing people's trust in peaceful change