ConCom adopts provisions strengthening political parties

MANILA President Rodrigo R. Duterte's Consultative Committee (Concom) to review the 1987 Constitution on Wednesday voted to unanimously adopt its proposed provisions meant to strengthen the Philippine political party system in the new Constitution it is drafting.

During its en banc session, the Concom voted to adopt three proposed provisions namely provisions on Political Party Registration (Section 3), Party Candidate Selection and Nomination (Section 4), and Party-Switching Ban (Section 5).

These sections constitute a proposed new article in the Constitution to be called "Political Rights, Suffrage, and Political Parties", Concom member Prof. Julio Cabral Teehankee said.

Fourteen Concom members voted an absolute yes to the proposed provisions while four voted yes with reservations.

Members who voted an absolute yes include Concom chairman and chief justice Reynato Puno, Arthur Aguilar, professor Eddie Alih, lawyer Antonio Arellano, lawyer Ali Pangalian Balindong, doctor Virgilio Bautista, lawyer Ferdinand Bocobo, retired associate justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura, lawyer Susan Ubalde-Ordinario, retired associate justice Bienvenido Reyes, retired Commo. Rex Robles, professor Edmund Tayao, dean Julio Teehankee, and lawyer Laurence Wacnang.

On the other hand, members who voted with reservations include lawyers Roan Libarios, Jose Martin Loon, Randolph Parcasio, and former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.

Among the most striking reservations was the one made by Libarios who was concerned that the proposed Section 5 provision which bans party switching was a draconian measure and would make members think twice before taking a different stand from the party.

There are those leaving their parties, not because of political convenience but because they sincerely believe that their political parties no longer represent the interest of the people and when that happens an elected official should not be subjected to such draconian measures, Libarios said in explaining his vote.

In an interview with reporters after the session, Concom chairman and former chief justice Reynato Puno said that Libarios seemed to be the only one in the committee who had the impression that the section was draconian.

If you join a political party, it means that you have already studied their platform and you already know the consequences for joining it, Puno said.

If you don't want to lose your individual autonomy or freedom, then the simple thing to do is not join a political party, he added.

Two-party system

Puno, meanwhile, expressed hope that the reforms on political parties would develop a strong two-party system to compete in electoral processes.

He acknowledged that a two-party system cannot be compelled by legislation but stressed that it was equally true that it can be nurtured and developed by properly supporting genuine political parties.

We prefer a two-party system over a uni-party or a multi-party system, Puno said in explaining his vote in favor of proposed provisions meant to strengthen the Philippine political party system.

Puno noted that a two-party system has two advantagesit offers voters a clear choice between two alternative sets of public policy and it has a moderating influence because the two main parties have to compete for the swing voters in the center of the political spectrum.

By these reforms, we are instituting reforms that will transform our political parties as vital instruments of democracy, he added.

Sections 3, 4, 5

Teehankee, who is also chair of the ConCom subcommitee on political reforms and leveling the political field, said that Section 3 requires every political party to be registered in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and ensure that they have a clear democratic program and platform.

It also prohibits religious denominations or sects, those that seek to achieve their goals through violence or unlawful means, those that refuse to uphold and adhere to the Constitution, and those that are supported by foreign government from registering as political parties, Teehankee said.

Section 4 is envisioned to compel political parties to be freely established and at the same time open to all citizens who share the same party (ideology, principles) program, adhere to its constitution and practice party discipline, he said.

It also requires political parties to provide for equal representation of women among their candidates as well as include the marginalized (farmers, fisherfolk, indigenous peoples, labor and urban poor) and underrepresented sectors (for instance, youth and persons with disability).

Finally, Section 5 prohibits elected members of a political party from changing parties during their term. Any candidate for public office or any official of a political party is prohibited from changing political parties within two years immediately after an election and two years before the succeeding election.

It also penalizes candidates to public office who violate these provisions by losing their position to which they were elected, being barred from being immediately appointed to a public office, being prohibited from running in the next election and if the party provided funds for their election, by returning these funds. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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