PARTY-LIST LEGISLATION IN THE 13TH CONGRESS
The party-list system was envisioned by its advocates as purportedly a counter-current to the dominance of pro-foreign and elite interests in Philippine traditional politics. How have the party-list groups done in terms of their legislative work? Have they fulfilled the mandate of legislating particularly for the marginalized and underrepresented sectors? A look at the bills filed by party-list groups during the 13th Congress can give one an idea.
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN REMOLLINO
The party-list system makes it possible for groups representing the country’s marginalized and underrepresented sectors to have seats at the House of Representatives. It was envisioned by its advocates as purportedly a counter-current to the dominance of pro-foreign and elite interests in Philippine traditional politics.
The 1987 Constitution has a provision that representatives from party-list groups are to be allotted 20 percent of the total number of seats at the House of Representatives. For three consecutive terms under the 1987 Constitution, representatives from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and other sectors as may be provided by law –- except the religious sector –- were selected or elected to fill half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives.
Republic Act No. 7941, passed in 1995, served as the enabling law for the constitutional provision for a party-list system. It also adds the elderly, the handicapped, veterans, overseas workers, and professionals to the list of sectors that party-list groups are supposed to represent.
As representatives of marginalized and underrepresented groups, party-list lawmakers are expected to contribute legislation that would benefit their immediate constituency and the nation in general. As the Supreme Court stated in its landmark decision on Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW v. Comelec, et al, “while lacking a well-defined political constituency, the (party-list) nominee must likewise be able to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole.”
How have the party-list groups done in terms of their legislative work? Have they fulfilled the mandate of legislating particularly for the marginalized and underrepresented sectors? A look at the bills they filed can give one an idea.
The party-list groups that won seats in the 13th Congress are: Bayan Muna (People First), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Akbayan, Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (APEC), Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (Buhay or Let Life Grow), Anakpawis (Toiling Masses), Gabriela Women’s Party (GWP), Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), Butil (Grain) Farmer Party, Veterans Freedom Party, Cooperative-National Confederation of Cooperatives (Coop-Natcco), An Waray (literally, Those Who Have Nothing), Anak Mindanao (AMIN or Children of Mindanao), Ang Laban ng Indiginong Filipino (ALIF or The Struggle of Indigenous Filipino), and Alagad (literally, Agent).
Based on the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey last March, six of these party-list groups could expect to maintain, if not increase, their seats at the House of Representatives: Bayan Muna, Akbayan, Anakpawis, GWP, AMIN and Cibac. Four of them, meanwhile, fell short of the statistical requirement for congressional representation but are close to the threshold: APEC, Partido ng Manggagawa, Buhay, and Coop-Natcco.
Their performance during the 13th Congress may be taken as a measure of how they may be expected to do if they all manage to win seats in the 14th Congress.
Bayan Muna was represented by Satur Ocampo, Teddy Casiño, and Joel Virador. The three filed more than 200 bills and resolutions in all during the 13th Congress, based on data from the House of Representatives.
Ocampo’s bills dealt primarily with human rights and foreign debt. Among his human rights bills are those repealing Batas Pambansa Blg. 880 and strengthening the right to free expression and peaceable assembly, defining and penalizing the crime of forced disappearance and declaring torture as a crime and prescribing penalties for acts of torture. He also has bills repealing the Automatic Appropriations Act, cancelling “fraudulent” loans incurred during the Marcos regime as well as those that resulted from onerous contracts.
Casiño, a former student leader, had a number of bills seeking to regulate tuition and other fee increases in private colleges and universities and mandating them to allow a certain number of students as scholarship grantees. Virador, meanwhile, is known for his bill repealing the Mining Act of 1995.
Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran –- who has been confined under police custody at the Philippine Heart Center since February 2006 following his warrantless arrest on rebellion charges –- is best known for his bills providing for wage increases for private-sector workers and government employees. He also filed a bill seeking to repeal the Downstream Oil Industry Deregulation Act of 1998.
The other Anakpawis representative, Rafael Mariano –- a farmer from Nueva Ecija and a long-time peasant leader before being elected to Congress –- had bills focusing mainly on land rights for farmers.
GWP’s Liza Maza filed a bill providing for equal rights for husbands and wives by amending Articles 333, 334, and 344 of the Revised Penal Code. Her bills have dealt mostly with the promotion of women’s and children’s rights.
Akbayan’s bills dealt mainly with the promotion of human rights education and international humanitarian law, and amendments to the country’s tax and labor laws.
APEC filed a few bills dealing with extending tax exemptions to electric cooperatives. Meanwhile, Coop-Natcco’s Guillermo Cua had bills seeking to strengthen cooperatives and give them representation in certain government agencies.
Buhay’s Hans Christian Señeres and Rene Velarde filed a few bills dealing with child pornography and abortion. Cibac’s Joel Villanueva filed bills against corruption, marital infidelity, and pornography.
AMIN’s Mujiv Hataman filed bills which provide for the mandatory study of Moro and Lumad history, culture and identity in all levels of education in the Philippines. Many of his other bills, however, are particular to certain legislative districts in Mindanao.
Partido ng Manggagawa represents workers. It is represented in Congress by Renato Magtubo. The House of Representatives website has no listing for bills under Magtubo’s name, but the Partido ng Manggagawa website lists, among other measures, a bill establishing a New Labor Code of the Philippines as well as bills providing for salary increases for public school teachers. Magtubo co-sponsored Beltran’s bills on wage increases for private-sector workers and government employees.
Having identified the major bills they filed, it remains another matter altogether as to why most of them have not been approved by the House of Representatives. Bulatlat