Wenceslao: Party-list polls

WITH the surfacing of political ads on TV as the May 13 elections draw near, I also got to notice the political exercise that is at the fringes of the deluge of personality-oriented talk in the political campaign. Some groups seeking the vote in the part-list polls seem to have learned the trapo game and are pouring their resources, no matter how limited, to expensive pol ads on nationwide television. Even then, it showed how inherently different the party-list game is.

Okay. There are currently complaints of how the party-list polls are being hijacked by rich trapos and even by government forces to gain advantage in the House of Representatives, the only chamber in Congress opened to this kind of political exercise. Still, the party-list polls can’t truly be overwhelmed by trapo practices in the campaign because the party is the one to be voted on.

Compare the content of the political ads. Candidates for senator, for example, settle for catching words or phrases and throw away substance. One has the repetitive line “-- is a good man” with the entire spot wasted on images of popular trapos pointing to the candidate. Another played on the Tagalog phrase “Salamat po” using her family name.

Contrast that with, for example, the political ad of a pro-environment party-list group. It introduces itself with lines from the song “Masdan Mo ang Kapaligiran” by my all-time favorite band Asin. The haunting and raspy voice of Lolita Carbon, plus the song’s message, draws the line between mere trapo ramblings and party-list substance.

We have heard about those federalist proposals to lure us into what could be a damaging shift in the political setup, but there has been no talk about a shift in the electoral process, which ensures that a Philippines broken into several federal states would still be a trapo enclave. Even presidential daughter Sara Duterte noted that, thus her hesitance to join the federalist push.

I have actually proposed this in previous columns. Party-list lawmakers represent a negligible portion of the House of Representatives because the 1987 Constitution, which was drafted in the most progressive phase of our history, made the party-list polls but a token homage to the sectoral forces that played a major part in the 1986 Edsa people power uprising.

The Constitutional Commission, whose members the late former president Cory Aquino handpicked and which had progressive elements in it, could only go as far as providing for what has largely become a minor irritant to trapo politics. The best thing that it could have done was to make the party-list polls determine the composition of Congress. That would have been a radical move. Instead, it went back to the pre-martial law setup dominated by trapos. And we are paying dearly for that lapse.

I try to imagine turning the current setup in the House on its head by making party-list reps the majority instead of those trapos representing congressional districts. What a change it would be.


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