Party-list system is still being abused
INTROSPECTIVE - Tony Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2018 - 12:00am

If there was ever an outdated concept in Philippine politics it’s the party-list system. Let’s be honest, it’s not the only one (of course), but it is one of many and should be addressed if we really want to make the House of Representatives what it was truly meant to be – a government with representatives for every Filipino and not just the rich and powerful.

Former President Corazon Aquino formed the party-list system in the 1987 Constitutional Convention. At the time, she was hoping that this would allow for more representation in the House and allow smaller marginalized groups to have a voice. Let’s face it; this has always been a problem in Philippine politics, because those who get duly elected are usually the ones with the money needed to invest in an expensive campaign and even “buy” the loyalty of the masses who desperately need the money.

However, this in no way sets up a fair government and one that will properly represent the will of all the people in the country. That is why party-list representatives were so important – so they could represent the farmers, the women, the laborers, and so much more. Through this political system they would be allowed to have a voice – someone who could speak for them amidst the oligarchs and the rich and powerful political dynasties.

Unfortunately that has all gone south since 1987. I suppose it was only a matter of time before politicians realized that they could abuse this system to gain power if they couldn’t find their way into the House through election by the people. All they would have to do is claim to represent a marginalized sector and become a party-list candidate. Then they could sail into a seat of power without the hassle of a campaign that would be heavy on the pocket and on the clock.

It has seriously become such a big joke. Imagine a multi-millionaire claiming to represent the poor or the son of a former president claiming to represent tricycle drivers? What do they even know about the underprivileged and the lives they need? How could they even begin to know what laws to pass to help uplift the lives of the people who can barely eat every day due to extreme poverty? We all know that once these “party-list candidates” are in office they will quickly forget the people they are supposed to represent in favor of their own interests and intentions.

There needs to be a better way to do this. The marginalized sectors need a voice in the government but it should be a voice that truly understands their plight and their needs and works hard to help them. Not just another politician wanting to get his or her hands in the proverbial honeypot.

In this upcoming election I think it is important for all of us to be more discerning of the people we give the power to govern us. No more shortcuts into the political arena and power gained at the price of the poor people. We have to do more than just vote like robots – picking the very same people we do year in and year out and then complaining when we don’t see a difference in the way the country is run. Let’s study the background of candidates, see what bills they have passed or are pushing (these are all readily available online), and find out who they truly represent.

If we wind up right back where we are now after all the votes have been cast then we have nobody to blame but ourselves.

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By the time this column is printed, Sister Patricia Fox will be back in Australia. Despite nearly six months of battling government efforts to have her deported, Fox will leave willingly and give herself the option of returning by not overstaying and being blacklisted by the Bureau of Immigration. It is the right option for her legally, but it’s so sad that it has come to this and while many Filipinos (and many troll accounts online) appear to be happy she is going there are also many sad to see the missionary, who has dedicated the past 27 years of her life to helping underprivileged Filipinos, leave.

I personally think it’s sad and somewhat hypocritical for this to have reached this point. Sister Fox found herself in trouble and was labeled an “undesirable alien” by the current administration because she was allegedly engaging in “partisan politics.” The “proof” of this being photos of her in the company of protesting farmers, prisoners, and indigenous people. I guess it was okay for her to help Filipinos but not okay for her to speak up when she thinks something is going wrong.

It’s just another example of Filipinos wanting to and even gladly accepting other peoples’ help but denying them a voice when they say something those in power don’t like. Many Filipinos are unhappy with the current human rights situation in the country but since they can’t all be deported I suppose it’s only natural those in power focus on the one who can.

Will she come back? I guess we’ll wait and see. Should she come back though is probably the question that is more important to ask. Tolerance for differing opinions is at an all-time low in the Philippines at the moment and that could easily present problems for people who do not agree with the current status quo. These days it’s easy to misconstrue disagreeing with dissent.

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