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Comelec needs to reform and strengthen party-list system

/ 05:01 AM June 17, 2019

I was one of the many voters who “undervoted” for the party list post. Since voters are allowed to choose only one party list group, undervoting here means a voter did not shade an oval in the ballot.

In the case of the recently concluded polls where party list candidates were printed on the back of the ballots, undervoting could be a result of any of the following: (1) the voter did not know about the party list; (2) he/she did not have a preferred organization; (3) he/she did not know or notice that the list of organizations was on the back of the ballot and, therefore, undervoted inadvertently. My undervoting was due to the third item.

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The dismal party list voting results (only 27 million votes, or 57.5 percent out of the total 46.94 million votes cast) could not have been due to a lack of awareness among the voting population. A Pulse Asia survey conducted a month before the May 13 polls showed that 76 percent of Filipinos were aware of the party list system.

The most likely reason for the low party list votes was the ballot layout. Party list elections are considered national in scope and, therefore, voters, especially those who know the distinction between national and local elective positions, would logically assume that the party list portion in the ballot would be placed on the first page, as was done in previous elections.

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The Commission on Elections (Comelec), in its decision to adopt an otherwise “weird” ballot design, should have exhausted all means to make the public fully aware of it, as lack of awareness could lead to accidental undervotes. What seemed like a simple lapse in decision-making (ballot design) and lack of information dissemination efforts led to the unintended disenfranchisement of a sizable segment of the electorate and lost votes for some party list groups.

The winning party list groups have already been proclaimed, but issues continue to hound the Comelec. A total of 51 groups were proclaimed winners, an increase from 46 in 2016. While this may seem like an indication of growing diversity in the composition of party list representatives, a scrutiny of the profiles of the nominees of newbie groups reveals that most of them are former government officials, businessmen or people affiliated with powerful clans or individuals.

To prevent the erosion of the system’s efficacy, the Comelec should take it upon itself to strengthen the system and institute reforms, if needed, in partnership with Congress. At the very least, in the next elections, it should endeavor to increase awareness among the electorate, improve voter participation through user-friendly ballot design and proper education, and judiciously apply election laws in approving the list of nominees and resolving electoral protests.

RANDY RENIER I. ESPINOZA, MBA

[email protected]

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TAGS: Comelec, Inquirer letters, party-list system, Randy Renier I. Espinoza
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