Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban has deplored the evolution of the party-list system from a way to give representation to the marginalized into a “cheaper” backdoor to Congress for the rich and powerful.
In his November 4 column for the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Panganiban called the party-list system an “experiment that has gone berserk” after the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 in Atong Paglaum vs. Commission on Elections that party-lists need not represent any marginalized and undderrepresented sector.
The Supreme Court said it was enough that the members of a party-list advocate common ideologies or governance principles, “regardless of their economic status as citizens.”
For Panganiban, the Supreme Court interpreted “marginalized and underrepresented” in the electoral sense, rather than through the lens of social justice, which was the spirit of the law creating the party-list system.
“This new ‘verba legis’ interpretation, in my humble view, has enabled the rich, the powerful and the dynasties to corner the party-list as an easier and cheaper backdoor to Congress. Ironically, they elbowed out the truly poor and powerless from being veritable lawmakers themselves,” he said.
With rich and powerful party-list lawmakers now in Congress thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, Panganiban believes Charter change is the only way to amend the law on the party-list system to give representation to the marginalized and underrepresented.
“[T]hese amendatory clarities may no longer be feasible, except possibly through a Charter change crafted by a constitutional convention, not a constituent assembly,” he said.