Is the Malolos bill unconstitutional?
Existing data shows that the number of legislative districts allowed under the Constitution has already been reached (200) and in so far as the number of party list is concerned, it still falls short of the 50 seats allowed. Interestingly enough, more bills such as the Malolos bill now under third and final reading at the Senate are in the legislative mill – some 13 more of them.
Filed under HB 3693 and its counter part SB 1986, facts only point to at least three central issues making the proposed bill rather unconstitutional. First, the number allowed in the Constitution for 200 legislative districts has already been reached and additional of 1 would breach prescribed limit. Second, the 250,000 population requirement for a town to become a congressional district has not been satisfied, Malolos City having only a population of 223,069 as of last census. And third, it violates the constitutional requirement of compactness and contiguousness since it will amount to a dismemberment of the first district thereby cutting off certain municipalities from it. This means that the municipality of Bulacan will be separated from the other municipalities of Paombong, Hagonoy, Calumpit and Pulilan – all of the first district – if and when a new district is created.
Furthermore, it is not as if the proponents of the bill tried to justify having met the 250,000 population requirement by way of statistical projections based on the city’s annual growth rate but which Senators Pimentel and Arroyo had argued against. Truly, the senators said that laws cannot be passed based on projections as the Constitution is just too clear about it.
Isn’t it a paradox then how some 11 senators voted in favor of the bill being approved and only 3 voted against it with 1 abstained – this despite well-pointed out constitutional infirmities? Lobbyists against the bill have not been more keen to see from this bid to convert Malolos City into another congressional district as a case of “gerrymandering” – a suspicion shared by Sen. Joker Arroyo himself.
What else could it be? One over-riding observation that will result from a new congressional district is the fact that if Malolos City is removed from the 1st District, Hagonoy and Calumpit which are the hometowns of Vice-Governor Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado and his wife, Rep. Marivic Sy-Alvarado, respectively – the said conjugal partners will have the biggest number of total votes among remaining municipalities in that district come local elections.
It is not as if all such bills that seek to convert a municipality into a city, a city into a congressional district or even those that seek to create a new province from a province – are all intended to satisfy the greed of gerrymandering – don’ they?
As defined, gerrymandering is the ‘deliberate rearrangement of the boundaries of congressional districts to influence the outcome of elections’. In 1812, Massachusets Governor Elbridge Gerry crafted a district for political purposes that looked like a salamander, hence the contemporary term as applied in our politics. As a political strategy, it makes use of both packing and dilution, the former being that of concentrating opposition votes in few districts to gain more seats for the majority in the surrounding districts. On the other hand, dilution simply means diffusing minority strength across many districts.
It then behooves upon both House of Representatives and Senate to act against bills that present clear and present danger to our Constitution and of course, the traditions we hold dear. In the first place, if our Legislative Branch will erect a law that will be questioned later on in the Supreme Court for its patent violations of the Constitution, wouldn’t the whole thing be an exercise in futility?
It makes one curious why Senate has gone as far as about to approve it on third and final reading? And what about 13 other bills of the same nature – designed to produce one more district out of an existing district, one city out of an existing city, one province out of an existing province and all those possible ramifications?
There is reason to believe that the Province of Bulacan, generally speaking, is under siege by politicians who surely just want to do a work in class legislations as many other legislators before them had done. This orgy must end
PRIMER C. PAGUNURAN
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