Carlo's Think Pieces

Reflections of a Filipino in the Netherlands

Posts Tagged ‘House of Representatives’

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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GMA running for Congress

Posted by butalidnl on 3 December 2009

It is the talk of the town. GMA is running to be Representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga.  People are scandalized, worried, confused. Surely, this has to be part of a plot to keep her in power. Surely, she plans to become prime minister and unseat the president. For, why else would she do such a thing?

Prime Minister?
The idea that GMA wants to become prime minister, and that she is going to use her Congress seat to do this is rather far fetched. In the first place, the Constitution has to be changed. And our experience in the last few years shows that this is not that easy to do. And not only that, the Constitution not only has to be changed from presidential to parliamentary, but that transitory provisions would be written allowing those already serving in Congress to become the parliament.  And don’t forget the president and vice-president, and even senators, who need to serve their full terms. Will the transitory provisions also push them aside? Well, in short, I think the idea that from a Congress seat to Prime Minister in the same term will be rather unachievable.

Then Prime Minister in a second term as Congressman. Well, this is possible, but then the resources open to her will be those of a Congressman, so there should be nothing wrong with this.

Speaker?
Becoming Speaker after having become Representative is within the realm of the possible. But not of the probable. The speaker will most probably come from the majority party, or of the party of the president. From the way things are going, the president will come either from the LP or the NP, and the majority in the House of Representatives will align behind either of these two parties. Lakas-Kampi-NUCD is doing bad at the polls, even with a preponderance of resources. So, unless a big upset will happen, GMA could not become Speaker of the House of Representatives.

No Lame Duck
Then why is she running for a seat in Congress? Well, for one thing, she probably reckons that she is too young to retire.  And parliamentary immunity is another thing that may come in handy. She has no plans to be either a Prime Minister or even Speaker, but neither is she going to deny either of these . This way, she will be able to keep the myth that she may have power after May 2010. And by doing so, she can avoid becoming a lame duck president in her last months in office.  Also, if things go right, the idea of power after 2010 is kept alive enough long enough to keep Lakas-Kampi members in line till the elections. This way, the party will not disintegrate, and may even retain a decent number of Representatives and perhaps Senators.  As party head, she will constitute a significant minority, and will be able to negotiate for power within the new Congress.

As for those who think it is immoral or even unconstitutional, well this may  seem so to you. But having lived under a parliamentary democracy all this years, I have a healthy regard for a country’s leaders who seek “low” positions in parliament after their stint in office.

Posted in politics, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Elect parliamentarians based on the proportional representation system

Posted by butalidnl on 18 September 2006

I agree with the GMA government when it says that the Philippines needs a change in the government system, and even that the constitution needs to be amended as part of this process of change. However, I differ with it in that I feel that the constitutional proposals they have put forward are ineffective. We need real changes, not cosmetic ones.

The proposal to change from a presidential system with a bicameral legislature, to a parliamentary system with a unicameral legislature is not automatically going to address the big problems with the present system. Gridlock in the making of laws, corruption, weak party system – all these features will not only be maintained by the proposed changes in the constitution, they will even grow worse.

The key change that needs to be made is not on what we elect, but on how we elect our representatives.
The proposed changes to the constitution will  keep the basic workings of the system intact. Under the current charter change proposal, the parliament members will be elected on the basis of whoever gets the most votes (note, not the majority of the votes, but a “plurality”) in the present congressional districts.  This means that the present system of patronage and pork barrel will likely be maintained.

In order to abolish the system of patronage and pork barrel, we need to cut the link between local interests and national policymaking. Thus, representatives should no longer be elected on the basis of constituencies, or districts. Under the proportional representation system of electing parliament, the voters choose the party that they like (hopefully, on the basis of the party platform) and the seats are allocated on the basis of the percentage of the overall national votes that the various parties get. This means that if a party gets 10% of the votes, it is entitled to 10% of the seats (which, in a 200 member parliament, means that it would get 20 seats).

This system is not that new to the Philippines. We have it already in the form of the party-list system.  At present, though, the party-list system only applies (at most) to 50 seats out of 250 in the House of Representatives. It is also only open to parties which represent the “underrepresented sectors of society” – and thus excludes the main political parties. What we need to do is to expand the party-list system to include all the seats in parliament, and to include all parties.

Since, with this system of electing parliament, there is no longer a direct link between a constituency area and the individual seats, there will be no need to develop patronage in one’s “base” in order to get elected. It will also mean that “pork barrel” as a way of developing patronage will also no longer be needed. What will instead develop will be a party system – since representation will be thru parties.  It will also mean that the parliamentarians will need to concentrate on their main work, which is to make national policies.

We should also adopt the rule in the present party-list law, wherein the lawmakers represent their parties, and when they leave the party, they automatically lose their seat in parliament. This will make it impossible for one to shift party affiliation in between elections. The list of party candidates will be the official list of succession for party seats in parliament, and this list is filed before the elections. And nobody is allowed to be in more than one list.
This system forces parties to form coalitions in order to get a working majority. It means that the ruling coalition will grow on the basis of inter-party negotiations, and not on recruiting members from other parties.

The proportional representation system also ensures that a majority of the population gets represented in the government. Since the parliamentarians’ seats are apportioned according to the votes their parties get in the elections, a majority in parliament will need to represent the majority of voters.
With this system, it would be possible for parties which represent a wide variety of views and interests to run for parliament. This is good for democracy, in that no significant group of voters would be left out of the political life.

The proportional representation system also would improve party discipline among parliamentarians. If a parliamentarian is consistently absent during sessions, this would be bad for the party, and thus the party could expel the delinquent parliamentarian from the party – meaning that he/she loses the seat. In many parliaments, this system ensures good attendance in parliament sessions. It also means that if a member of parliament regularly votes contrary to the party’s position she/he risks being thrown out.

Posted in charter change, Philippine politics, Philippines, politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Constitution’s “national patrimony” provisions should be strengthened

Posted by butalidnl on 26 August 2006

One of the “charter change” proposals of the House of Representatives and the Consultative Commission (ConCom) is the opening up of most of the Philippine economy to foreign investors. And unlike the other, more debated, proposals e.g. federalism or the parliamentary form of government, the proposal to open the economy to foreigners does not seem too controversial. It seems that the majority of Filipinos accept the need for additional investment funds from outside the country, and assume that foreigners are the only source of such funds. Even some progressive groups are trying to tiptoe around this issue because they are afraid of getting marginalized if they defend the 1987 Constitution’s “national patrimony” provisions too energetically.

I disagree with the proposal to drop the “national patrimony” provisions. In fact, I think we can even strengthen these.
I believe that what the Philippines needs is not the money from foreigners, but rather their technology and market access. There is enough money from rich Filipinos in the Philippines, as well as from Overseas Filipinos to fund most investment projects. Of course, if a foreign company wants to set up a large airplane assembly plant or something as big as that, perhaps this would be a bit beyond the capacity of local and overseas Filipinos; but this kind of project will be so rare that the government could be authorized to allow this kind of exceptional projects. What the country needs is a good system to tap Overseas Filipinos’ investment funds.
As for accessing foreign technology, this is still best done through licensing, franchising, joint ventures or management contracts.
And access to foreign markets are a matter of trade negotiations. This could be exchanged for market access to the Philippines on a reciprocal basis. This is different from opening sectors to foreign ownership.

At present, with the government is doing all it can to get foreign investments, it is relegating Overseas Filipinos to minor development roles. Filipinos abroad who have other passports are treated worse than “white” foreigners, when it comes to investment incentives. This should be corrected, and Overseas Filipinos should be treated the same way as Philippine-based Filipinos when it comes to the rules that govern their investments.

Posted in charter change, Overseas Filipinos | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »