SC on Party-List

UPDATE: Gloating Speaking about the SC decision on the Party-List nominees, Akbayan’s Walden Bello had this to say:

Akbayan second nominee Walden Bello criticized the Comelec for “wasting a lot of time” owing to its “obstructionist policies.” He also hinted their fears may have come true that many party-list nominees are closely identified with the Arroyo administration.

It appears that “Save time. See it our way” is Mr. Bello’s motto. Sad, really, since this implies that government agencies should fear taking unpopular stands, or that a position contrary to that supported by a few can be presumed erroneous simply because it is not universally accepted. This thinking I consider to be the waste product of bulls.

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The Supreme Court has ordered the Commission on Elections to immediately disclose the partylist nominees, invoking the people’s right to information on matters of public concern.

The Court also affirmed that “determining the qualifications dealt with factual issues, which the Comelec was in a position to decide.”

The COMELEC will, of course, respect the Court’s ruling.

I can only hope that this doesn’t signal the beginning of the end of the party-list system as an alternative to personality politics. I mean, we can pontificate all we want about informed consent but the fact of the matter is, now, party-list groups will begin to realize that if they can attract a big enough celebrity to their cause, they can snare voters regardless of how shallow their advocacy actually is.

And think of what this ruling will do to the PL organizations that haven’t yet achieved celebrity status because of their militancy or skillful use of the media. With big names being attracted only to ‘big’ PL orgs, and with voters remembering or being impressed only with those big names, just how many elections will it take before smaller – less famous – groups start getting sucked into that whole ‘winnability’ mentality? And once they start thinking in such terms, how much longer will the integrity of the  party-list system of representation survive?

While I must agree that people do have the right to be informed, and that an informed choice is the only kind of choice that is palatable, I must nevertheless express my belief that if we are ever to progress beyond personality politics, we must be brave enough to insist that – in the realm of party-list representation at least – personalities are insignificant. Certainly there will be those who abuse that kind of emphasis on PL org advocacies (isn’t that the bogeyman being bandied about nowadays?) but then again, what system is ever free of abuse? Are we not in a democracy where the very freedoms we cherish so much are the very same freedoms being exploited by those who desire nothing more than the obliteration of our democratic way of life?  We must believe that the idea of personality-free politics is worth sacrificing some entitlements for the greater good that we are trying to achieve? We must trust that the system we put in place will work, and we must give it a chance to work.

Instead, we frustrate that system by introducing rules that undermine it’s raison d’etre. And in so doing, we create a new category of personality politics – one that is worse because of its self-delusion and hypocrisy. Sheep who, in aiming to protect the flock, begin acting wolfishly while loudly proclaiming that they are still sheep.

But of course, there must be respect for the wisdom of the Court.

And while un-surprised, I am sure that we are grateful that the Court recognized the COMELEC’s authority to decide the issue of qualification.

12 Responses

  1. I agree in general with your points about the PL not being about personalities, but I have a question: Is it the mandate of the COMELEC to raise the level of discernment of the voters so that they will be able to freely judge for themselves? Or is that something for some other agency like DECS, for example.

    I ask because the reason you gave on why the COMELEC withheld the PL nominees is because it wanted the PL to be about advocacies and not about people and I was wondering if this advocacy of the COMELEC’s–a discerning electorate–is part of its mandate. Frankly, I was a bit confused as to why the SC even had to issue the order since the people have a right to this information. It seems the COMELEC wanted to ‘protect the people from themselves’ thereby acting as their nanny, so to speak.

  2. sandali lang, may sinabi kung kailan i-disclose, anyway, mas i-disclose pa siguro kung sino ang hairstylist ni james, kasi nasa national tv, tapos minsan masyadong stressed out ang dating mo james, take it from the father of james jr. who just checked out from makati med. dapat may dating para people would listen or probably SC would listen. pati ba SC stressed out na rin, nalilito sila kung sino ang ilaglag nila, ha ha ha, laglag ladlad pareho lang yan.

  3. hi leod. haha. My hairstylist is mr. hand. Hehe. At sino ba naman ang hindi dadapa ang buhok sa stress sa trabaho na to?

  4. It is everybody’s mandate I think, Jeg, to uplift those around them if they can.

    The Constitution’s provisions on the right to information are not self-executory. Otherwise, government agencies would be required to publish every single public document in their possession, including your ITR. The right to information is subject to reasonable regulation, which means that if the agency possessing the information determines that some procedures must be followed before the info is released, or that witholding the information for a time is justified, then it is not in violation of the right.

    Remember, we never said we would NEVER release it. Just that we would wait until after the elections. We can argue about the wisdom of releasing the info before or after the elections, but the fact remains that we never intended to keep it secret.

    As for protecting the integrity of elections, if I were to follow your logic then the COMELEC should also not bother with voter education, eh? Because voter education precisely aims to raise the voters’ level of discernment. Forget all the campaigns encouraging people to vote wisely, for instance. I think we can both agree that that is something we cannot allow.

  5. Yes, but, in an interview YOU said that we shouldnt assume the people are stupid–you were talking about command votes at the time. But in the entry above, that is exactly what you were assuming when you said people would go for celebrities instead of advocacies if the PL nominees were released. Knowing the nominees of the PLs would help me, a voter, make an informed decision. Halimbawa, hindi nga sya celebrity pero hindi naman pwedeng pagkatiwalaan ang kumakatawan sa PL.

    At sino ba naman ang hindi dadapa ang buhok sa stress sa trabaho na to?😀

  6. sir james,

    ano nga pala ang reaction mo sa fact na ilan sa mga partylist groups ay technically parang family business dahil lahat ng nominees ay magkakamag-anak? kung hindi na disclosed ang names ng mga nominees eh di pa malalaman ng mga tao na kamag-anak incorporated pala ang ilang mga partylist groups. di ba malaking kabalintunaan ito sa intent ng patylist system?

    anong action na nga po pala ng comelec ang ginawa na sa reports ng “partylist for sale” na affiliated with OEA? may investigation na po ba ng nangyayari or kung may result na po ba?

    my thoughts lang po sa isyu, yes dapat po na ang partylist system ay alternative sa personality politics. pero baka po ang missing ay ano ba ang ‘spirit’ behind the partylist law? sa pagkakaunawa ko po ay ang partylist law ay para sa mga marginalized and under represented, i mean kung di pa na release ang mga names ng nominees di natin malalaman na yung mga anal, nanay, kamag-anak ng mga malalaking pulitiko ay lalahukan na rin ang partylist system. hay…

  7. you said:

    “It appears that “Save time. See it our way” is Mr. Bello’s motto. Sad, really, since this implies that government agencies should fear taking unpopular stands, or that a position contrary to that supported by a few can be presumed erroneous simply because it is not universally accepted. This thinking I consider to be the waste product of bulls.”

    but how do you explain the implementation of this non-disclosure policy at a time when the chair of the comelec has a brother running under the party-list system? i agree with you, the party-list system isn’t about personalities. but you miss the point. there is a clamor not just from akbayan or a few people, but just about anybody who has heard of the issue — precisely because it is those personalities which is the problem.

    you say you want to raise the level of awareness of the public on the PL system, but i am at a loss as to how exactly you can do this by denying the public the right to know who exactly are the people behind these party-list organizations. non-disclosure of the nominees’ names doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have an informed electorate, mr. jimenez. the comelec did no such thing back in 1998, 2001 and 2004. only now, under questionable circumstances, under very dreadful times.

    the comelec, furthermore, had been lacking in pursuing its duties — to be transparent and efficient in accrediting PL orgs and managing the PL system. you’ve done some good work, but where you’ve failed, you’ve really grated on people’s nerves. remember please, that in 2001, you let MAD run despite protestations that it was ineligible to run in the PL system. as a result of its subsequent disqualification, more than a million voters were disenfranchised from having a PL voice in Congress.

    “Save time. See it our way.” is right. Because your way sucks big time. It is high time your institution shapes up, if you’re interested in any way in regaining public confidence in the COMELEC and restoring the dignity of our elections.

  8. “Save time. See the law the way the SC interpreted it.”

    Former SC chief justice Panganiban writes in the Inquirer on the history of abuse by the COMELEC of election laws.

    By continuously so acting, the Comelec is risking more slaps from the vigilant Supreme Court. My unsolicited advice to the poll body is to follow the rule of law at all times and to obey all decisions and orders of the highest court even if it may disagree with the justices.

  9. Hi Jeg. I said voters should not be assumed to be stupid. But I didn’t say anything about how politicians see voters. I think that once PL groups see that personalities can be made to carry PL orgs instead of the other way around, they will naturally gravitate towards the big names. And if you have a big name representing your PL org, does it not follow that you are also likely to have more money to spend on a big campaign? And in a contest of big campaigns, how can a little party-list group, with a worthwhile advocacy but without the resources to attract a big name to its cause, possibly compete for hearts and minds? I am not assuming that people are stupid, Jeg. I am merely acknowledging that some campaigns tend to drown out others leading to the phenomena of ‘winnability/’

    As for the intrinsic value of knowing who the nominees are, I have no argument with that. And I’ve said so often enough.

  10. hello karl, salamat sa pagdaan mo sa blog ko.

    kamag-anak inc., pangit talaga ang ganitoong gawain ng pulitikong pilipino. hindi ito unique sa party-list. ngunit hindi porke’t parang pangkaraniwan na ang mga magkakamaganak ay tumatakbo – which, by the way, is not prohibited by law despite being prohibited by the Constitution’s anti-dynasty provisions – as ibig sabihin na ito’y okey lang. Agree ako sa iyo na hindi dapat ganyan. At katulad ng sinabi ko kay Jeg, hindi ko ipinagkakaila na meron talagang halaga ang pagbunyag ng mga pangalan ng nominado.

    Ang sa akin lamang ay mayroong mas mahalagang alituntunin o greater goal na dapat pangalagaan: at ito ay ang pagpapanatili sa PL system bilang alternatibo sa personality politics.

    Party-list for sale. Hanggang ngayon, naghihintay pa rin kami ng pormal na reklamo. Ang hirap kasi dito, puro akusasyon lang ang ibinabato sa media. E ang dali gumawa ng kwento. Kailangan may ebidensiya.

    Ang mga nominado po ay dapat na representante ng marginalized o underrepresented. Sa pagkakaintindi ko po, hindi kinakailangan na literal na ang nominado ay siya mismo marginalized. Marami kang makikitang mga party-list congressmen na hindi mo masasabing marginalized o underrepresented, ngunit sila ay tunay na kumakatawan sa mga interes ng marginalized o underrepresented.

  11. Hi vince,

    Welcome.

    The participation of Arsenio Abalos wasn’t a secret at all. I fail to see how it would benefit the COMELEC to take such a high profile and unpopular stance to suppress information already well known.

    As I said earlier, making the PL system personality driven will actually drive down awareness of that system which is, precisely an alternative to personality politics.

    The comparison to MAD is false. In that case it was the organization that was disqualified, thus disenfranchising the millions who voted for it. If a nominee, on the other hand, is found to be unfit, he can be REPLACED while the PL Organization keeps its seat, remaining therefore, the voice of the people who elected it to Congress.

    As for the joke … I suppose if I have to explain it, it isn’t a joke anymore. I was referring to Bello’s insinuation that not agreeing with them was a waste of time. Would you subscribe to that personally? Would you cave in just because someone opposed your stand long enough and loud enough? Or would you require that you be proven wrong before you reconsider? Remember, once the SC – the only entity that can ultimately decide the rightness or wrongness of a stand – said the COMELEC had to release the list, we did. But to say that we had to simply take the word of interest groups? That wouldn’t be right, would it?

  12. Hi again, Jeg.

    I read Panganiban’s article, and it isn’t really surprising. Point of information, tho., aren’t we doing what the SC said we should do? This issue of disclosure of nominees is novel, so we didn’t have the benefit of the SC’s boundless wisdom. And as I said, we NEVER said we would NEVER release the names. The right to information admits of regulation. That’s what we did: regulate. SC disagrees, we comply.

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