The Supreme Court struck down the 2-percent threshold requirement for party-list representation into the House of Representatives as unconstitutional. The decision is immediate and executory. With this single act, the highest court has thrown into turmoil the politics of the lower House.
The progressive implications are the following: 1) A substantial block can be formed among genuine party-list groups critical for reform measures; 2) More than ever, sectoral groups from marginalized and underrepresented sectors will have the incentive and higher chances of entering Congress; and 3) Premium will be placed on the quality and cohesiveness of the organized constituency of aspiring party-list groups.
The SC decision adds 32 party-list representatives to the current 22 to fill up the entire 54 seats available for the party-list system. These comes from 18 party-list groups as additional or new representatives. Based on the current list, this is a mixed blessing insofar as genuine and questionable party-list groups alike qualified for these new seats. In fact, the majority of the new party-list representatives have questionable qualification to represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors.
However, their entry into Congress further complicates the already difficult task of pro-GMA cha-cha advocates of garnering ¾ of the votes for an outright “passage” of constitutional amendments under the controversial interpretation of a “joint vote” by Congress. The ruling raises to 220 the required votes for such a scenario (out of 270 congressmen + 23 senators).
The Supreme Court ruling adds urgency to the amendments of the party-list law, particularly on the tightening of the definition of “marginalized and underrepresented sectors” and on viable restrictions of groups that are only an extension of traditional political powers. Unfortunately, this will be an uphill battle considering the overwhelming number of traditional politicians in the lower House. It does not help that the major parties are banned by the SC decision from participating in the party-list system.
The Supreme Court decision is a mixed blessing.