Partylist system decrees inequality before the law
This refers to the column titled “The new party-list decision” (Inquirer, 4/15/13) of eminent Philippine Constitution framer Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J.
As a layman, I saw Father Bernas’ explanation of the Supreme Court ruling slip into a case of “Catch 22.” Father Bernas explains that according to the ruling, the phrase “marginalized and underrepresented” refers only to those which by nature are economically marginalized; but then he justifies the inclusion of registered national, regional parties under “eiusdem generis,” but not necessarily in the sense of being economically disadvantaged. Curiosity getting the better of me, I looked up the phrase, which means “of the same kind.” The father’s conclusion seems to negate the premise. How does “only” suddenly aggregates with the rest—the poor with the LPG dealers or gay activists, for example?
Not a fan of the party-list system, I have always thought that laws should apply equally to all citizens regardless of economic status, ethnicity, dialect (language), ability, religion or creed, among other differences. Party-list groups, especially sectoral representations, seek to advance special interests that polarize society. The general good is diminished in favor of a few.
As an example, take the Kasambahay Law which is generally regarded as a victory for household help. I see it differently—as a magnification of the inequity in the application of law. There already exist laws on minimum wage, Social Security System and Pag-Ibig Fund. Why does the implementation of these laws exclude household help? Construction workers also suffer the same exclusion. Another law directs cognizance of indigents when arrested. Does this mean that nonindigents are excluded from being extended the benefit of this law? Or does this mean that for a long time, indigents have been treated differently?
I am for equality and the common interest, not special interest. The party-list system should be abolished.
For placing the party-list system under scrutiny, I commend Commission on Elections Chair Sixto Brillantes. The Supreme Court, meanwhile, again successfully managed to muddle and confuse the issue with its untenable ruling.
—BENIGNO T. CALANTUAN III,
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