I don’t think it needs further discussion that RA 7941 is a poor implementation of the constitutional directive for Congress to enact a law on party-list representation. Basically, the criticisms zero down on the following:
- The 3 seat limitation – some groups want more because they argue that voters are being disenfranchised because some votes do not translate into seats , e.g. if 10% should get 5 seats, the votes beyond 6% are disregarded
- The 2 % threshold – the difference between 2% of 100,000 and 10,000,000 is about 198,000 votes. How representation referred to in Constitution be based on a number which relies on the number of votes cast on the party-list elections?
- The Panganiban Formula – the criticism on the so-called Panganiban Formula is that it awards party-list seats so niggardly. The thing is, it is RA 7941 that does so. The SC cannot go around and interpret RA 7941 as independent of legislative intent. That would be judicial legislation. Contrary to the criticism, the Panganiban Formula actually sets the bar lower for additional seats. Under it, if the first party is entitled 2 additional seats, a party must get at least 50% of the votes of the first party. But if it is to be really proportional, 50% should only get 1.5 seat. To my mind, a party should get at least 66% of the votes of the first party to be entitled to an additional seat.
Given this, an alternative to RA 7941 needs to be figured out. Am not talking of refashioning RA 7941 out of its flaws. What is needed is something that reorients the qualifications and parameters for selection of party-list representatives.
The only thing that will remain is the 20% threshold because that is stated in the Constitution.
First, I would do away with the 3-seat limit. Not that it means a party-list would be entitled to a number of seats relative to its share of votes, what I mean is that each party-list can only be entitled to one seat. How many voices do you need to be heard in Congress, by the way?
To my mind, a party-list group should be distinguished from district representation because its constituency should be based on its grassroots organization and should not grovel for votes like their counterparts. Their advocacy should not be based on popularity but organization. Consequently, their qualification to file a certificate of candidacy, aside from the fact that they should represent a marginal sector of our society, is the claim that they have a substantial membership base.
Thus, to those in the party-list, the election is merely a confirmation of what they claim in their certificate of candidacy.
The next repercussion to this is the avoidance of groups who merely represent an advocacy and not a marginalized sector. Thus, we find in the present dispensation the election of groups who are mere shells of an organization. They get elected by prostituting themselves for votes to the general public or by paying the “smooth operators” in Comelec.
Thus, we also avoid a very annoying sight where party-list groups competing and campaigning for votes during election time. Should it not follow that when they claim that they represent a constituency when they filed with the COMELEC, such constituency is already existing and not to be squeezed out of the general public come election time? Party-list representation should not fall under popular representation. That should be left strictly to district representation.
For qualification, the 2% threshold should be discarded. Taking into consideration the deliberations of Congress for RA 7941, the solons chose 2% because they assumed that such percentage would show that a party-list group that obtained such percentage would show that they indeed have a solid constituency. However, as several critics pointed out, basing it on the total votes cast would result in absurdity. Thus, if only 100,000 people voted for the party-list election, a measly vote of 2,000 would entitle a party-list to a congressional seat.
I suggest basing it on a real number. If Congress wants a benchmark of constituency, why not use the numbers we use for district representation. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Under this, we might use two figures:
- a number based on the average number of voters per congressional district (total number of voters nationwide divided by the number of congressional districts)
- a majority based on the mean number alluded to above
Thus, if we have 40 million voters and 200 congressional districts, the number required for qualification in the first case would be 200,000. In the second case, it would be 100,001.
In the current set-up, if 40 million participated in the party-list elections, a party-list groups needs 800,000 votes to qualify. If only 20 million voted, 400,000. If only 100,000 voted, a measly 2,000 would entitle a party-list group to a seat. It is absurd that as the number dwindles, it becomes easier to obtain a seat in Congress.
Theoretically, the number of party-list groups that can qualify equals that of district representation. How do we trim that so that the 20% threshold is met?
That is why the initial qualification should be further subjected to another threshold. A party-list who obtains this initial qualifying criteria should rank in the list of top vote-getters within the number of seats allocated for the party-list. Thus, if 50 seats have been allotted for them, a party-list group should rank within 1-50 of the top vote-getters to be finally entitled to a seat in Congress.