Monday, March 23, 2009

Arithmetic Problem with the Party List System

I will be guesting on The Explainer With Manolo Quezon on Tuesday, 24 March to discuss proposed legislation to increase the maximum membership of the House of Representatives to 350 from the present 250. This increase has become necessary because of population growth and the fact that there are already 220 district representatives in Congress, and 31 party list representatives according to Senate Bill 3123.

But I think there is a problem. (There is always a problem!)

It has to do with the 1987 Constitutional provision that allocates 20 percent of the maximum House Membership (or 50 seats out of the present 250) to the Party List System with its enabling law RA 7941. The latter states that party list organizations getting at least 2% of the vote win a seat in Congress, two seats at 4%, up to a maximum of three seats at 6% or more. Under the present maximum of 250 House seats, it is mathematically possible to have 50 party list representatives in Congress, if for example 50 separate party list organizations garner <b>exactly</b> 2% of the party list votes each -- an outcome whose improbability of actually occurring is astronomical. But it gets worse. If the House membership is increased to 350, then there will be up to 70 House seats available to the party list system. But RA 7941 will have to be amended to accomodate them in a manner to which I must strenuously object: Congress will have to LOWER the threshold of admission to 1.42857 percent (100 divided by 70) percent thus allowing even less popular and/or deserving party list organizations to get into Congress. If the House Membership is set at 500 max, one only needs 1% of the votes to get in!

I would appreciate being shown any flaws in my logic or conclusions by Philippine Commentary readers.

The 1987 Constitution provides in Legislature Art. VI

Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.
RA 7941 The Party List Law reads ...

Section 11. Number of Party-List Representatives. The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum (20%) of the total number of the members of the House of Representatives including those under the party-list.

For purposes of the May 1998 elections, the first five (5) major political parties on the basis of party representation in the House of Representatives at the start of the Tenth Congress of the Philippines shall not be entitled to participate in the party-list system. In determining the allocation of seats for the second vote, the following procedure shall be observed:

(a) The parties, organizations, and coalitions shall be ranked from the highest to the lowest based on the number of votes they garnered during the elections.

(b) The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one seat each: Provided, That those garnering more than two percent (2%) of the votes shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes : Provided, finally, That each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats.

Section 12.
Procedure in Allocating Seats for Party-List Representatives. The COMELEC shall tally all the votes for the parties, organizations, or coalitions on a nationwide basis, rank them according to the number of votes received and allocate party-list representatives proportionately according to the percentage of votes obtained by each party, organization, or coalition as against the total nationwide votes cast for the party-list system.

My interpretation of these provisions is that every party list seat in Congress requires at least 2% of the total number of votes cast for a party list candidate. This means that there is an ARITHMETIC MAXIMUM of 50 seats that can be won, with up to three seats going to any one party list organization. That this is also equal to the CONSTITUTIONAL MAXIMUM of 50 seats (20% of 250) is well and good. But if the maximum number of House seats become 350, the Constitution would allocate up to 70 seats to the party lists. However, I cannot imagine any scenario under which that number of 70 seats could be filled without changing the 2% minimum percentage threshold for each such seat. The 2% threshold does not allow more than 50 party list representatives to be seated in Congress. It will have to be revised downward to 100/70 or about 1.42857%.

The party-list system is another example of the folly of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, which truly is a knee-thigh-leg-toe-jerk reaction to martial law with hideous ambiguities and such Rule of the Minority provisions as one-third to impeach the President and other Constitutional officers, and now this built in degradation imposed by a fixed percentage allocated to the party lists (20% of the House set in the Constitution) with the allocation procedure left to enabling laws.

1 comment:

siyetehan said...


Whatever has the Partylist Groups done in Congress?

Mayroon na bang significant contributions?