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MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will develop criteria to screen party-list groups that want to be accredited for the 2013 mid-term elections.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said the agency is already attending to such matter as the number of party- list applicants for next year's polls already ballooned to 299 groups consisting of 127 existing ones and 172 new organizations.
”There are simply too many applicants - we must identify which of these truly represent the country’s marginalized and underpriviledged,” he said during Saturday's Forum at Annabel’s in Quezon City.
Both marginalized and underpriviledged people are target beneficiaries of the party-list system that Republic Act No. 7941 provides for.
Brillantes raised urgency for the screening criteria, noting the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides that party-list representatives in the House can come not only from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women and youth sectors but from “such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.”
R.A. 7941 authorizes House representation for sectors that include labor, peasant, fisherfolk, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, elderly, handicapped, women, youth, veterans, overseas workers and professionals.
The government came up with the party-list system to open up opportunity for the marginalized, underprivileged and small political parties to obtain possible representation in the House of Representatives which well-oiled political groups traditionally dominate.
The 1987 Constitution provides that party-list representatives constitute 20 percent of the House’s total membership.
Brillantes reported trying to convince his colleagues at Comelec to trim down the number of accredited party-list organizations for the 2013 polls.
”These should be less than the 187 party-list groups that ran in 2010,” he said.
He's optimistic the target criteria will enable Comelec to identify and accredit, for next year's polls, between 130 and 140 party-list groups only.
"We can even remove existing party-list groups if necessary," he stressed.
Earlier this year, reports surfaced that the Comelec aims having only about 150 accredited party-list groups for 2013.
Brillantes hopes the Comelec can issue as soon as possible its official list of 2013 accredited party-list groups.
Aside from looking into the matter, Comelec is busy with other preparations for next year's all-out automated elections.
"We're preparing to bid out related services for the elections next year," Brillantes said.
He hopes the bidding can conclude by October.
Comelec and its detractors are also due to meet next week to discuss how the latter can help the agency conduct clean elections next year, he added.
Brillantes further said that Comelec will have a busy schedule ahead as the agency will already resume inspecting the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to be used in 2013 since the Supreme Court (SC) earlier upheld the legality of the government's plan to purchase the equipment.
SC's decision dismissed various groups' petitions that sought to prevent the Comelec from purchasing the 82,000 PCOS machines used in the 2010 polls.
Such decision lifted the temporary restraining order on the Comelec-Smartmatic transaction for such matter.