If there’s one thing that the recently concluded party-list elections has shown us it’s that the Philippine party-list system has definitely, and undoubtedly, been usurped by traditional politics.
The fact that the party-list system was intended to provide under-represented groups and sectors in society with a window, albeit a very small one, for their voices to be heard in the House of Representatives did not deter traditional politicians from imposing control over the party-list system.
The recent “sprouting” of party-list organizations, many of questionable origin and integrity, and the seeming eagerness of the Commission on Election (COMELEC) to accredit every single one of them does nothing to assuage the suspicion that, indeed, the party-list arena has already been targeted for domination by the Arroyo administration.
It is obvious that the government is leaving nothing to chance when it comes to preventing the opposition from getting the required number of votes with which to mount a successful impeachment attempt. Twice, the opposition tried, but failed to get the needed 74 votes to automatically send any impeachment complaint to the Senate, where Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s chances are relatively dimmer; more so now that 8 of the 12 newly elected senators are avowed oppositionists, including two – Antonio Trillanes IV and Gregorio Honasan – who had initiated (failed) coup attempts against her in the past.
Controlling Congress is Gloria’s key to survival; and if she plays her cards right, it may also the key to her remaining in power even beyond 2010, where current constitutional prohibitions prevent her from running for president again.
Encouraged by the good showing of “friendly” party-lists and by the victories of pro-GMA candidates in the congressional, gubernatorial and mayoralty races, administration spin doctors are already floating the idea of resurrecting the charter change (Cha-Cha) initiative, which was successfully opposed by the previous Senate and which drew scathing criticism from the church, civil society groups, and progressive party-lists, Akbayan included.
Now, it seems certain that Gloria has the numbers in Congress to ensure 1) the successful blocking of another impeachment attempt, and 2) the railroading of a new Cha-Cha resolution. Again, like before, it will be the Senate that will stand as the only institutional impediment against such a brazen attempt to mangle the Philippine Constitution.
And what about the progressive party-lists? What, indeed, can they hope to do considering that their bloc has been drastically reduced and, worse, diluted by many party-list representatives who are, at the very least, conservative and, at worst, blatantly pro-Gloria?
Barring any radical reforms made to the party-list law this 14th Congress (2007 to 2010) – a very improbable event given the much diminished number of progressive representatives – the dismal performance of progressive party-lists during the 2007 elections will, sadly, only be a preview of what will transpire come 2010.