The Party List System

The party list system was copied from the Dutch model. The idea behind the system is that, in a congressional district, there are voters who, as a group, cannot elect a representative.  But, on a nationwide basis, their number is large enough to elect a representative.

For example, there are not enough Social Security System retirees in any district to elect a congressman.  But, nationwide, there are over one and a half million retirees.  The party list system is supposed to give a chance to the retirees to elect their own congressman.

The Constitution says that the House must be composed of 80 percent district representatives and 20 party list representatives. But, like other constitutional provisions, Congress had to enact an implementing law.

When the implementing law was enacted, there were 200 district representatives.  To achieve the 80-20 ratio, the law said that there should be 50 party list representatives. The law went on to say that to win a seat, each party list candidate must garner two percent of the total votes cast in the party list system.  Keep this two-percent threshold in mind as we go along.

If the votes cast in the party list system total 10,000,000, each of the 50 winning candidates must garner exactly 200,000, no more, no less, to fill up the 50 seats.  This is a mathematical improbability.

If one candidate garners 200,001 votes, one other candidate garners only 199,999 votes. As a result, only 49 seats will be filled.

Then, what made matters worse, the district representatives were increased later to 216.  To maintain the 80-20 rate, the party list seats had to be increased to 54.  But with the 2 percent threshold, the 54 winning candidates must garner a total of 108 percent of the total votes cast. This is the mathematical impossibility.

As the National President of the Philippine Association of Retired Persons (PARP), I petitioned the Supreme Court to declare the party list implementing law as unconstitutional, mainly because of the mathematical impossibility.

The petition was turned down. My guess was that the good Justices could not understand the mathematical argument, although it was written on third grade arithmetic.

Today, the Supreme Court skirted the problem of mathematical impossibility by coming up with a formula to fill the required number of party list seats. I agree with Senator Joker Arroyo that, what the Court did was to usurp the legislative powers of Congress.

The party list system has been emasculated beyond recognition. Originally meant to empower the poor, marginalized and underprivileged sectors, it now costs as much as P20,000,000 to win the maximum three seats allowed per party.

While I accept a tricycle driver need not represent fellow drivers, there is not a single party list representative that can honestly claim that he has done anything good for the underprivileged class he is supposed to represent.

Worst of all, the party list system has allowed the communists to sashay into the corridors of power.

If I had my way, I would excise the entire party list system from the Constitution.


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