Party-list system being abused

Party-list system being abused
By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANY people worry that the automated poll machines will fail, or at least there will be glitches in some of them (Murphy’s Law: “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong”), or there will be power failure in some precincts and the batteries in the PCOS machines will run out. But the one problem many do not consider is “human.” Counting of votes has been automated, in the first place, because counting by humans is very inaccurate and prone to cheating. Also, counting by humans is very slow, and the slower the count, the more chances of cheating. Counting by machines would take only a few hours, as contrasted with human counting which takes many days, and even weeks. But even with automation, there would inevitably be counting by humans—when some machines fail for a variety of reasons.

And in the case of overseas voters.

The Commission on Elections has sent ballots to overseas voters with instructions to shade the names of candidates of their choices and then send them back to the Comelec, BY MAIL, former Sen. Francisco Tatad told a press forum last Saturday. No PCOS machine whatsoever to count the votes. Obviously, the counting of overseas votes would be manual, which opens them to cheating, as in the old days.

Estimates put the number of overseas Filipino voters at no less than half a million, enough to make a presidential candidate win or lose. And in the case of senatorial candidates, enough to make the tail-enders climb to the last four slots of winners.

The Comelec must have overlooked this angle. In fact, I am sure that computer experts hired by politicians are now plotting to defeat the automated election machines. We should not allow them to succeed.

* * *

Who is Vetallano Acosta? Before he was accredited as a presidential candidate, nobody had heard of him, not even his alleged vice presidential running mate in the KBL ticket, broadcaster Jay Sonza. Acosta himself was quoted as saying that he would not campaign, that he would leave his fate to God. Yet Comelec accredited him as a candidate, not for senator or some other lower position, but for the presidency of the Philippines no less.

The Comelec finally woke up from its stupor and disqualified Acosta—but too late. His name is already printed on the ballot; in fact, the first on the list, ahead of Noynoy Aquino.

Some say that his purpose has already been achieved, so Noynoy’s name won’t be number one. It is admitted that the first name in a list has an advantage over the others. People remember it first. Therefore, voters would remember Noynoy’s name the most, and presumably vote for him. Which would be bad for the other presidential candidates, Manny Villar in particular, his chief rival and who, because his surname starts with a “V”, would be near the tail end of the presidential list. Acosta, by being No. 1 on the list, removed that advantage from Noynoy.

And although he has been disqualified by the Comelec, his name will remain in the ballot because the ballots have been printed and it is too late to remove his name. Hence, disqualified or not, Acosta has already fulfilled his purpose.

The question is: Why was he qualified in the first place?

Comelec’s answer: Because he is a candidate of a political party, KBL. But KBL is no more. It may have been the dominant political party during the time of Ferdinand Marcos, but it has faded away in the same way that Marcos has faded away. Even Bongbong Marcos, his own son, is running as a guest senatorial candidate of Villar’s Nacionalista Party.

The Comelec has been very lenient—too lenient to the point of negligence—in accrediting candidates and political parties, especially party lists.

The purpose of party lists, to represent marginalized sectors of society, has been abused. Now anybody can concoct a name for a party and seek accreditation with the Comelec and chances are it would be accredited.

Professional politicians now seek to enter Congress through the back door by being nominees of party-list groups. The President’s own son, Rep. Mikey Arroyo, has talked about being a nominee of a party list because his mother is usurping his seat as representative of his district in Pampanga. Former Rep. (and defeated senatorial candidate) Prospero Pichay, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus and Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes also plan to run as nominees of party lists.

The Comelec does not know the members of these party lists. They only have the word of their leaders that “we have so many members of the so-and-so sector.”

The idea of party lists (which was copied from other countries) is to represent marginalized sectors of society in the House of Representatives. But in many cases, the sectors allegedly represented are not marginalized.

For example, there is a party supposedly representing media and show biz.

But media and show-biz folk are not marginalized. Media sometimes have more influence than the regular legislators, and show-biz stars have bigger incomes than regular senators and congressmen.

Party-list Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel is correct: the party-list system is being “bastardized.”

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.