Reining in the party-list

Reining in the party-list

With the lack of relevant legislation, the Commission on Elections has been trying to rationalize and prevent abuses in party-list representation in Congress. In several cases, the Comelec’s efforts have been stymied by the Supreme Court. Several framers of the Constitution have said the intent of the party-list experiment is to give marginalized groups a voice in Congress, and the Comelec has tried to promote this objective.

The Supreme Court, however, has sided with petitioners who argued that there is no specific provision in the Charter requiring representation only for the marginalized under the party list. Petitioners have also successfully argued that there is no provision requiring that a party-list nominee should belong to the group being represented. The only prohibition specified in the Constitution is against religious groups participating in the party list.

For the general elections in 2022, the Comelec is again trying to tighten the rules on the party-list. In a resolution dated Aug. 18, the poll body said any losing candidate in the 2019 mid-term elections is barred from nomination to a party-list seat in the 2022 race.

Under the new rules, a candidate can be nominated by only one party-list group. Each group may nominate up to five persons. Changes in the names or order of nominees will be allowed only in case of death, incapacity, or withdrawal of a nominee and submission of the name of the substitute nominee no later than Nov. 15 this year. Those whose names have been withdrawn cannot be nominated again by any group.

The rules apparently aim to prevent a repeat of the controversy in 2019, when the Duterte Youth party-list was able to substitute nominees several times and even beyond the deadline, and amid questions over the group’s compliance with publication requirements. Under the new rules, a party-list group that has substituted nominees must publish its new and complete list of nominees in two national newspapers of general circulation within five days from filing of the substitute list.

The Comelec has fought a losing battle against premature campaigning, opaque campaign finance and party-list abuses. If its latest move regarding the party-list faces another legal challenge, the Comelec must invoke its own constitutional mandate, which makes it duty-bound to work for a credible vote.