8 proposed districts more qualified than Dato's

(First of three parts)

August 28, 2009 - In their rush to create a new congressional district in Camarines Sur, allegedly tailor-made for presidential son Dato Arroyo, senators have neglected bills that propose to give representation to really qualified groupings of localities.

Currently, 18 new legislative districts being proposed, and Newsbreak research shows that only 8 of them meet the population and geographic requirements set in the Constitution.

The proposed district in Camarines Sur is not among them.

Section 5-3, Article 6 of the Constitution requires a minimum population of 250,000 for a local government unit or clusters of LGUs to be declared a congressional district. Each district should be composed of a “contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory.”

Newsbreak used the 2007 census data from the National Statistical and Coordination Board (NSCB) and referred to the maps of the LGUs concerned to identify which of those proposed for re-apportionment or creation of new districts are qualified.

The 8 qualified new districts are:
4 in Cavite.
1 in Pangasinan.
1 in Cebu.
1 in Camarines Norte.
1 for Angeles City.

(Click here to see the table of proposed legislative districts, their population and territories, and whether they are qualified.)

Political accommodation

The proposal to create a new district in Camarines Sur is perceived to be an accommodation to Dato Arroyo, who currently represents the province’s first district, because its former congressman, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., is returning in 2010.

Splitting the first district would therefore prevent Andaya, an administration ally, and the younger Arroyo from facing each other in the elections.

Senator Benigno Aquino, chair of the committee on local government, had opposed the Camarines Sur bill because of its failure to meet the population requirement for a new district. Aquino said that if the first district would be split into two, 1 of the new districts would only have a population of 170,000, below the minimum requirement.

His opinion is shared by Camarines Sur Governor L-Ray Villafuerte.

However, the Philippine Star reported that the House of Representatives had been informed that 7 senators, including the bill’s staunchest supporter Joker Arroyo (who hails from Camarines Sur), already endorsed the bill.

The decision to endorse the bill may have been reached by these senators at the time when Senator Aquino was busy looking after her ailing mother, former President Corazon Aquino, who was in the hospital. Word about the endorsement reached the House less than 2 weeks after the senator buried his mother.

Not absolute

The 18 proposed districts are: 4 in Cavite (HB 3394); 1 for Angeles City (HB 1776); 1 for Puerto Princesa City that has been converted into a highly urbanized city (HB 4195); 1 each in the provinces of Pangasinan (HB 4140), Cagayan (HB 3701), Camarines Norte (HB 2449), Camarines Sur (HB 4264), Aklan (HB 6510), Cebu (HB 1306), Surigao del Sur (HB 1072), North Cotabato (HB 4947), Lanao del Norte (HB 2824), and the cities of Cebu (HB 5989), Iloilo (HB 4256), and Pasig (HB 3817).

Among those that failed to meet the 250, 000 population requirements are the proposed districts for Cagayan, Camarines Sur, Aklan, Surigao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Iloilo City, Cebu City, and Puerto Princesa City.

The areas covered by the proposed districts in Pasig City and North Cotabato are not contiguous.

Constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, however, recently wrote in a commentary that the requirement for a “contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory” is not absolute because it is required only “as far as practicable.”

Densely populated Cavite

Cavite, which has a population of 2.8 million, is represented by only three congressmen—Joseph Abaya (1st district), Elpidio Barzaga (2nd district), and Jesus Crispin Remulla (3rd district). Under HB 3394, which the 3 co-authored, the province would be divided into 7 legislative districts, all meeting the population and geographic requirements.

In the current first district, the municipality of Bacoor, which has 441,197 residents, will be carved out as a separate district. The rest of the towns have a combined population of 314,508.

In the second district, the municipalities of Imus and DasmariƱas will be carved out as separate districts. Imus has 253,158 residents, while Dasmarinas has 556,330. These 2 highly urbanized towns are among the 10 richest in the country.

The remaining towns in the district have a total population of 590,512.

The current third district will be divided into two. The towns composing them have a total population of 512,064 and 374,935.

Splitting districts

In Cebu, Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz wants to divide the present 6th district, which is composed of Mandaue City, Lapu-Lapu City, Consolacion and Cordoba. Her proposed 6th district will be composed of Mandaue City and Consolacion, and has a population of 406,119. The 7th district will be composed of Lapu-Lapu City and Cordoba, and has a population of 253,909.

Camarines Norte Rep. Liwayway Vinsons-Chato, meanwhile, filed HB 2444 that seeks to divide her province, a lone congressional district, into two. The two proposed districts have a population of 253,909 and 259,831 residents.

Meanwhile, HB 1776 seeks the creation of a separate district for Angeles City in Pampanga. Angeles City, which has a population of 314,493, is currently part of the province’s first district, along with the towns of Mabalacat and Magalang. The two towns, meanwhile, has a combined population of 301,902.

Regrouping towns

To create a new district for Pangasinan, House Bill 4140 regrouped the towns in the first three districts. The re-apportionment of the three districts and their population are as follow: 1st district with population of 275,616 (Agno, Alaminos City, Anda, Bani, Bolinao and Burgos); 2nd district with population of 296,516 (Binmaley, Dasol, Infanta, Labrador, Lingayen, Mabini and Sual); 3rd district with population of 397,585 (Aguilar, Basista, Bugallon, Mangatarem, San Carlos City and Urbiztondo); and 4th district with a population of 417,314 (Bayambang, Malasiqui, Calasiao, Mapandan and Sta. Barbara).

The remaining districts of Pangasinan will become the 5th, 6th and 7th district. (abs-cbnnews)

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