Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Fixing the Partylist System

Posted by butalidnl on 27 March 2010

The partylist system is supposed to give underrepresented sectors in Philippine society a voice in the House of Representatives. It allocates 20% of total House seats for the partylist representatives, who are elected on the basis of proportional representation.  The partylist law limits the partylist system in various ways:
– parties have to have a minimum of 2% of the vote to get 1 seat, and multiples of this to get additional seats;
– parties can get at most 3 seats.

With these limitations, it became mathematically impossible to fill up the original 50 seats allocated for partylists (now 54 seats). Thus, the Supreme Court decided in April 2009 on the Carpio formula, which waives the 2% minimum for seat allocation, and upholds the principle of filling the 20% of seats reserved for partylists.

The Carpio formula gave seats to 18 parties which had not obtained 2% of the vote.  The lowest percentage needed to get a seat was obtained by Agham, with 146,062 votes (or 0.9523% of the votes).

I think that the Carpio formula worked well, in that it not only filled the seats alloted for partylists, but it gave a wider number of parties a seat in Congress. Some problems remain with the partylist system, though.

More than 6%
Parties that get more than 6% of the vote still get only 3 seats. This is unfair, since it effectively disenfranchises the people who voted for the “additional” seats. Bayan Muna, one of those which got more than 6% solved the problem by setting up additional parties: Gabriela and Anakpawis. So now, the vote is divided among these parties, and there is little “excess”.  However, this option is not open to many parties which do not have satellite sectoral organizations. I think that the 6% limit should be lifted.

Proliferation of Parties
The proliferation of partylist groups vying for a seat in the 2010 elections is due to a number of reasons. First, there is no real definition of “underrepresented sectors”. Thus, you get regional groups running – which theoretically ARE well represented by their regular district congressmen. Or groups that do not have any real roots with the sector they represent. Or groups that are proxies for established parties.

Then, the effective threshold for entry has  been lowered from 2% to 1%. This means that parties do not need to get as many votes as before to get a seat. Where it used to be that a party would need about 300,000 votes to get a seat, only about 150,000 will be needed this time around.  This number is within the reach of more groups, encouraging them to participate.

I think that it is not a bad idea to have many parties participating in the partylist vote. However, in order to make the system fair, better rules should be made to weed out groups which are mere proxies of existing parties, or which do not represent underrepresented sectors.

The Mad Rush to the A’s
And there seems to be a mad rush to be the first in the list; and since the list is alphabetical, everyone wants their party’s names to start with “A” or even “1”.  I think that there is a simple way to stop this mad rush to the “A’s”.  First, that parties are listed on the basis of the number of votes which they got in the previous elections (that is the system that they have here in the Netherlands).  And for those which are new, for them to be listed in the order of registration (thus, the first registered appears first). Then, the parties are given numbers so that their supporters can easily find them on the list.

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