Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Archive for June, 2012

Raffle for Partylist Groups

Posted by butalidnl on 24 June 2012

The Comelec will be holding a raffle of partylist groups to determine their order in the ballot. The poll body had approved Resolution No. 9467 mandating a raffle of accredited party-list groups “for purposes of determining their order of listing in the official ballot” for the May 13, 2013 national and local midterm elections.

The rationale for this is that partylist groups are striving to be the first in the alphabetical order, resulting in a large number of partylist groups’ names starting with the letter ‘A’, and even some starting with ‘1’ (which comes before ‘A’). So now, Comelec wants to just hold a raffle to make the listing ‘fair’.

The problem is that the raffle is not that fair either. If we follow the logic that many people will just vote for the first party on the list of partylist groups, a raffle will mean that the party which gets drawn for the first position would probably get seats for free – simply as a result of pure luck. While more deserving parties with a much better parliamentary record may get less seats than otherwise.

All this sounds like Comelec is earnestly seeking to reinvent the wheel. After all, very many countries have party list systems for their whole parliament. Comelec could have studied how they approach such a problem (and other problems regarding party lists).
In the Netherlands, the whole parliament is elected using the partylist system. Parties are listed based on the votes they got in the preceding elections. New parties then are added at the end of the list, and ordered based on the order of their registration. The system is fair and rather simple. The system ensures that the more significant parties get top ranking, and that new unproved parties start off at the bottom of the list.
Many other countries have similar systems.

A party’s ranking is important. For instance, election debates are open only to the top parties on the list – up to six parties at times. And it does have something like a bandwagon effect – if your party is Nr 1, it convinces some people to vote for it. So, when parties split, there are bitter court cases to determine which faction ‘inherits’ the party identity and its ranking – the loser ends up being ranked as a new party.

The Comelec raffle is scheduled to be held on 14 December. There is still time to scrap the raffle idea, and adopt the Dutch solution to the ‘problem’ of ordering the partylist groups.

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Same-Sex Marriage and the Philippines

Posted by butalidnl on 2 June 2012

President Obama recently declared his support for same-sex marriage. This will undoubtably affect the results of the US elections – but exactly how, is anyone’s guess. The same-sex marriage issue has changed a lot in the US since 2004, when George Bush succesfully painted John Kerry as pro-same-sex marriage, and won the election.

One effect of Obama’s declaration has hit the Romney campaign. Bill White, a prominent gay supporter of Romney, withdrew his support and demanded to get his contribution back. He said that Romeny had “chosen to be in the wrong side of history”. He is now supporting Obama.

Prime Minister Cameron of the UK declared that his support of same-sex marriage is not despite his being a conservative, but because he is a conservative. Cameron makes an important point. Same-sex marriage is in reality a conservative demand. In an era when many people have divorces, and others decide to forego getting married in the first place; gays want to get married – and commit themselves to abide by societal conventions in the process.

Philippine Case
While same-sex marriage is not yet an immediate concern for the Philippines, it raises points which are already relevant. Among these would be the question of what to do with gays who do form lasting relationships. Even from a purely legal point of view, it would be a lot more convenient if gay couples could get into something like a ‘registered partnership’ if only for matters like inheritance, medical decisions etc.

At the same time, there should be some changes in the legal status of some heterosexual relationships. Under the principle that “consenting adults who love each other should be allowed to marry”, the country would need to pass a Divorce Law. And, together with this, there would need to be a law that allows unmarried couples who live together to formalize their relationship.

The issue of same-sex marriage also affects the public discourse about gays. Previously, gay rights meant that it is wrong to beat up gays, or to refuse to hire them. Gay rights includes their right to lead a ‘normal’ life, including marriage.

The case of Manny Pacquiao’s comments against same-sex marriage illustrates this point. He was quickly painted as being anti-gay, when all he said was that he was against same-sex marriage. Why? Because now, gay rights  includes the recognition of same-sex couples, and giving them equivalent rights to heterosexual couples. Pacquiao upheld the old version of gay rights.

There could also be an effect on the nature of same-sex relationships themselves. Today, a lot of same-sex couples in the Philippines mimic heterosexual relationships in the sense that one takes on a ‘male’ role, while the other a ‘female’ role. The development of ideas about same-sex marriage will challenge this ‘quasi-hetero’ arrangement. Same-sex partners would then increasingly adopt ‘unisex’ roles.

The whole idea that gays make up a ‘third sex’ should also fade as a result of the discourse on same-sex marriage. With the ‘third sex’ idea, some men claim that they are not gay because they take on the male role in a gay relationship, which is perfectly logical in a ‘third sex’ framework. But with same-sex marriage, the relationship is simply between two men, or two women.

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