Thursday, May 21, 2009

Positive Development on Redistricting Bill

I have it from a reliable source that the Committee on Local Government in the Senate had approved this week the bill adding another congressional district in the province of Camarines Sur. While this development is seemingly unrelated to Iloilo City, it nonetheless bodes well for the other redistricting bills languishing in the Upper Chamber. With the approval of the Camarines Sur bill, this means that all the other redistricting bills will now have to be acted upon also by the said Committee chaired by Senator Noynoy Aquino, among which is the bill redistricting Iloilo City.

I recall that Senator Aquino was at first adamant to pass bills creating new legislative districts, arguing that Congress might already be violating the Constitution if it continues to add districts well over the 250-members limitation stipulated in the Charter. So just to be safe, he requested both the House and Senate leadership to first enact a law increasing the membership of the House of Representatives from 250 to 350. Only then, Noynoy insisted, will he act on the various redistricting bills pending in his Committee.

But the recent Supreme Court ruling on the 32 party-list representatives (which effectively increased the House membership from 238 to 270) brought a new dimension to the issue. The same SC decision is now being interpreted by legislators as a tacit permission or go-signal for them to add more districts. Many feel it is no longer necessary to enact a law increasing their number to 350, as Senator Noynoy earlier requested. This is because the Constitution states that the House membership is limited to 250 "unless otherwise fixed by law." Therefore, if a new law or a Republic Act creating say, a new district in Iloilo City is enacted that will bring to 271 the total number of congressmen, then that new R.A. effectively changes the set up and now fixes the membership of the House to 271.

With this positive development in the Senate, Ilonggos can continue to hope that come 2010 Iloilo City will already have two congressmen.


Speaking of the party-list, the victory of the 32 new representatives has inspired me into establishing my own party-list group to rival groups such us ANAKPAWIS. I'm thinking of calling it AMOY-PAWIS and the only condition for membership is for the aspiring member to only take a bath twice a week!

On a more serious note, I was surprised to learn that the real intention of the party-list system when it was enacted by Congress was not only to give the marginalized sectors a chance to participate in the policy-making process but ultimately to make them grow strong enough to challenge the "mainstream" political parties like the Lakas-Kampi, Liberal Party, NPC and Nacionalista parties. This is according to a study paper sponspored by the Ateneo School of Government/Konrad Adenauer Stiftung entitled "Is There a Party in the House?" by Edna Estifania Co. In her paper, Co recommends that the three-seat cap be scrapped to allow popular party-list groups to become large enough to challenge the traditional power blocs in Congress and maybe even field their own presidential/senatorial candidates in future elections.

No comments: