The partylist system for the first few elections has been largely unnoticed by the country’s political and business elites. This had led to it being largely dominated by progressive and sectoral groups during the first few elections. However, many of the political elites and dynasties have realized the resources that can be extracted from the partylist system and have now come to dominate the system. A series of Supreme Court decisions diluting the spirit of the partylist system has also exacerbated this trend. From an important electoral reform to strengthen the voices of the marginalized inside Congress, the partylist system has sadly been hijacked and converted into a backdoor entry for political dynasts, traditional politicians, and big business.
The Partylist Watch or PLWatch is a citizen’s initiative to expose the vested interests, powerbrokers, and political operators that are behind many of the partylist organizations running this 2022. This means intensive research into the political dynasties and business interests that are backing these groups using publicly available information.
PLWatch will empower voters by ensuring they have extensive information on the partylist they are choosing. This will hopefully have the intended effect of persuading voters to discern between the fake and the real partylist organizations. There are real partylist organizations which have grassroots/sectoral membership and representing genuine policy advocacies.
Since the beginning of the Philippine republic, political parties have rarely functioned to serve as instruments for providing meaningful representation for the public’s interests. Their primary role has been to serve as conduits for patronage by national or local elites. Party affiliation is also the least consideration for Filipino voters in electing their leaders.
The worst example of this can be seen during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos when he banned all political parties in the country upon the declaration of Martial Law in 1972 and replaced it with his Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) but maintained the same function of the old political parties.
The EDSA People Power Revolution finally ended the rule of Marcos and introduced a new constitution that provided a new feature of electoral democracy called the Party-list system. This feature of the 1987 constitution served as a mechanism for challenging the dominance of traditional political parties. It provided 20% of seats in the House of Representatives for members elected through a party-list system for national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations. Between 1987 and 1995 when a law for instituting a party-list was not yet in place, the President was able to appoint sectoral representatives to the House of Representatives.
Successive elections since 1995 have seen Supreme Court decisions that altered the way by which allocation of seats in the House of Representatives has been made. These decisions were made to fulfill the mandate of filling the 20% allocation for party-list seats and to ensure that the greater part of the Filipino public had representation in a Congress long dominated by political elites.
However, we have seen the exact opposite occurring in previous party-list elections. Elite dominance of the party-list race has become more rampant and more brazen with many party-list groups being nothing more than vehicles for scions of political dynasties, business magnates, or ambitious government appointees to enter Congress and build their own network of political power and patronage. This trend has worsened in recent years and is threatening to push out party-list organizations with decades of advocacy in their causes and have real on-the-ground outreach and involvement with the communities they represent.
The PL Watch is a citizen-initiated watchdog for ensuring the integrity of the Party-list system as it was intended by the 1987 Constitution and RA 9741 or the Party-List Law. We believe that the party-list system is a strong mechanism for reforming the elite-dominated political system of the country. Members of the House of Representatives from party-list organizations have made great contributions in the passage of historic laws and among the ranks of such party-list organizations rose esteemed national leaders and public servants. The current trends in elite entry to the party-list system threaten to undermine the achievements of the party-list system.
1. Increase the public’s awareness of the importance of the party-list system in our democracy;
2. Educate the public through a transparency database of party-list running in the elections;
3. Expose efforts of political dynasties, business interests, and powerful groups and individuals to co-opt the party-list system by highlighting a “Dirty Dozen” of party-list groups that exemplify this cooptation;
4. Mobilize public support for the party-list system and enlist their support in building our database of party-list organizations;
5. Push for legal reforms in the party-list system and political party system to ensure the integrity of future party-list elections and ensure that political parties serve their purpose to represent the public’s interests.