Thursday, April 8, 2010

Elbridge Gerry Must Be Laughing Now

Last year I anticipated that Sen. Noynoy Aquino will have trouble with the second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution in his bid to have Republic Act No. 9716, the law that creates a new legislative district in my home province, declared as unconstitutional. Well, my fears have been realized—yesterday the Supreme Court of the Philippine upheld the validity of R.A. 9716. 

In dismissing Sen. Aquino's petition, the Court, speaking through Associate Justice Jose Perez, said in part:
As already mentioned, the petitioners rely on the second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, coupled with what they perceive to be the intent of the framers of the Constitution to adopt a minimum population of 250,000 for each legislative district.

The second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, succinctly provides: “Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.

The provision draws a plain and clear distinction between the entitlement of a city to a district on one hand, and the entitlement of a province to a district on the other. For while a province is entitled to at least a representative, with nothing mentioned about population, a city must first meet a population minimum of 250,000 in order to be similarly entitled.

The use by the subject provision of a comma to separate the phrase “each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand” from the phrase “or each province” point to no other conclusion than that the 250,000 minimum population is only required for a city, but not for a province.

Plainly read, Section 5(3) of the Constitution requires a 250,000 minimum population only for a city to be entitled to a representative, but not so for a province.

Full decision …
I think I shall end here before I write something I would later regret.

[11 April 2010 Edit]

On this issue former Chief Justice of the Philippines Artemio V. Panganiban says that "the administration flexed its brawns again when it convinced the Court to legitimize legislative gerrymandering thereby assuring another GMA son, Rep. Dato Arroyo, of his continued stay in Congress."

Legal luminary Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., however, is more emphatic: "What we have here is a Supreme Court approved assault on the equal protection clause. It is an assault which inflicts a deep wound on our democratic system."

[18 April 2010 Edit]

Fr. Bernas really feels strongly about this issue. In a second article he writes: "R.A. 9176 is not an attempt to implement the Constitutional command that the distribution of districts should be reviewed periodically. It is not even an attempt to balance the numbers among the different districts within Camarines Sur. It is a simple case of doing political allies a favor. But, alas, the Arroyo Court blessed it."

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