By Kontra Daya
August 12, 2017
QUEZON CITY – Latest data on the net worth of the members of the House of Representatives (HOR) show that the party-list system is rich in contradiction and poor in execution.
Given that three party-list representatives are among the 10 richest legislators, it is clear traditional politicians and political dynasties have benefited most from a Supreme Court decision four years ago. It may be recalled that on April 5, 2013, the SC, voting 10-2-1, said that "National parties or organizations and regional parties or organizations do not need to organize along sectoral lines and do not need to represent 'any marginalized and underrepresented' sector."
In a statement last year prior to the 2016 elections, Kontra Daya already stressed that this SC decision “makes it even harder for grassroots based party-list groups to gain entry into Congress as they face further marginalization.”
That the richest legislator is currently Rep. Michael Odylon Romero (1-PACMAN) with a staggering net worth of P7.01 billion makes a mockery of the Party-list System Act (Republic Act No. 7941) enacted in 1995. The law, after all, is supposed to “enable Filipino citizens belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented 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 (Sec. 2, Declaration of Principles).”
Even if Kontra Daya also observes that nine out of the 10 poorest legislators are also party-list representatives, it is imperative for the SC to review its 2013 decision and reaffirm what then Justice Artemio Panganiban wrote as regards Bagong Bayani v. Comelec in 2001.
Sixteen years ago, Panganiban stressed that the Party-list System Act which was “crafted to address the peculiar disadvantages of Payatas hovel dwellers cannot be appropriated by the mansion owners of Forbes Park.”
The ruling elite, especially the political dynasties, should not appropriate the party-list system to add more seats among themselves, paying lip service to representing the marginalized and underrepresented. The party-list system belongs not to them but to those they claim to represent but continue to exploit.