#TheFilipinoDecides2016: Apportionment, an utterly forgotten clause to rearrange Congress

The House of Representatives is the lower house of the Congress of the Philippines. But, does the house membership really represent the people?

The House of Representatives is the lower house of the Congress of the Philippines. But, does the house membership really represent the people?

ON TUESDAY, February 2, our Constitution will turn 29 years old. Almost every provision of the fundamental law of the land is followed literally and/or spiritually.

However, not all provisions in the present Constitution have been fulfilled or exercised.

No, we will not tackle on our restrictive economic provisions.

The Turf will focus on one broken promise of an internal picture of the legislative branch, one of the elected branches of government.

Let’s talk about apportionment.

Apportionment is the allocation of seats in the legislature of which a chamber is divided to sub-national units based on their population in order to ensure proper representation for the said unit. For bicameral legislatures, like our own Congress, the apportionment is applied to the lower house in order to represent the people.

In the official language, the apportionment clauses are located in Article VI, Section 5, subsections 3-4 of the 1987 Constitution:

(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.

(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section.

Sadly, despite the return of five censuses — made by Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the former National Statistics Office (NSO) — since the ratification of the Constitution, there is no general (i.e. nationwide) redistricting law reflecting the change of population over time: through birth, death and migration. Not only that, the malapportionment caused by deviating growth rate between Metro Manila cities and provinces where some earned a rapid growth rate while some underwent a slower rate.

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill 3930, seeking to reapportion the whole Congress. However, he wasn't oriented that the bill was based on 2007 census and not the recent one (2010).

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez filed House Bill 3930, seeking to reapportion the whole Congress. However, he wasn’t oriented that the bill was based on 2007 census and not the recent one (2010).

However, the outgoing 16th Congress already filed a general re-apportionment bill that will affect all legislative districts (House Bill 3930), authored by Cagayan de Oro Representative Rufus Rodriguez. However, he was not oriented that the authored bill is based on 2007 census and not on the recent return in 2010. However, with the longest recess of the session of Congress is coming and come their lame-duck session in May, the said bill will certainly be killed in the committee with the members’ irrational and lamest excuses.

Reasons why Congress haven’t reapportion its lower house

To be honest, there are three reasons why apportionment is not fulfilled unlike our big brother, the United States where they regularly apportion their House of Representatives after every decennial census.

First, members of the lower house of Congress would snub the change of population of their district and would rather make alibis (palusot). Among of them include “serving their constituents” (where some of them are actually craving for wealth rather than serving the people), using plenary session time to contemplate for securing their seat for another term or if they’re term-limited (after three consecutive terms), they’ll use their time for campaigning for his or her relative (parents, brothers, sisters or child).

Second, they want more representatives but they should realize that such increase won’t fit in the maximum office capacity in the Batasan Pambansa Complex in Quezon City. If we follow only Section 3 of Article VI, the maximum number for district representatives in this election would be 369 out of 461 members of the whole body. Adding up more representatives in this example would translates opportunity for newer political dynasties rather than new representatives based on merits.

Of course, third, if national apportionment really happens as it fulfills the mandate of the Constitution; some representatives will lose their political fortunes on one place as they gave it to another. In addition, it will also mark a nightmare for an apportionment when provinces or cities lose any seats that have the less percentage of political dynasties and give it to another with more percentage.

A case of malapportionment

Let’s look at the case of two geographical boundaries.

According to the 2010 census, the City of Manila occupies 1.65 million people while the province of Pampanga (including the administratively independent Angeles City) resides 2.34 million people. For a child, it would be obvious that Pampanga is more populous than Manila and therefore, the said province should have more representatives than the capital city but instead, Manila actually chooses six (6) representatives to Batasan while Pampanga returns four (4).

In fact, they haven’t touched their legislative district borders since 1987.

Doing the simple arithmetic, a solon of Manila will be held accountable by 275,000 people while 585,000 Kapampangans will hold the same representative in their province. Does this count as fair and representative? Definitely not.

What SHOULD we get? How much is their discrepancy?

As of press time, 238 district representatives will get into play this May 9th. Eighty-one (81) provinces and 16 Metro Manila cities (The “forever alone” town of Pateros will join Taguig City) will guarantee one seat each. Thus, subtracting 97 from 238 will get 141 remaining seats to be distributed according to population.

The Turf provided a read-only Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on how many representatives they should be allocated based on the population and they will actually elect this year with the discrepancy.

On that spreadsheet, on the case of two areas we tackled earlier, Manila should have four representatives (two less than they get) and Pampanga should have five (one more than they get).

With 238 district representatives to take part, Congress has a laundry list of provinces and cities with representative deficits and surpluses.

With 238 district representatives to take part, Congress has a laundry list of provinces and cities with representative deficits and surpluses.

In the representative discrepancy infographic, Cebu, the “Queen Province of the South” leads the over-represented column (by three seats) with 13 other provinces and two Metro cities (Manila and Quezon City). Twenty-one areas (14 provinces and 7 Metro cities) are each underrepresented by one seat.

However, the tabulation prepared was based on the population of the province and Metro cities it handles. The figures of independent cities outside the Metro Manila are included in the province it geographically resides.

Recommendations

The Turf recommends the following actions from their lazy action to national reapportionment:

  • The PSA should extend the census-taking interval from five to ten years. This should ensure that the lower house has enough ample time to re-apportion their body.
  • District representatives should not have the power to carve their own congressional districts of the province or city they represent. Such power shall be vested to a specially mandated independent legislative boundary body. Such independent body will notify the House of Representatives on the proposed numbers and if the re-apportionment bill becomes law, they will notify to the provincial governments or city government if it’s in Metro Manila and let them apportion the said boundaries. This requires an enabling law and amendments to the Local Government Code.
  • If carving congressional districts based on the preceding recommendation didn’t work, abolish the legislative districts and let the provinces and the cities of Metro Manila elect their allocated representatives at-large. It not only saves time in transmitting the results but it saves expenditure on the local campaign. Nevertheless, this measure needs amendment to the Constitution.

Credits:

  • Batasan Pambansa Photo courtesy of Manila Bulletin
  • Rep. Rufus Rodriguez photo courtesy of Politics.com.ph
  • Microsoft Excel spreadsheet created by timowp17
  • Over/Underrepresented graphic made by timowp17 through Inkscape
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2 comments

  1. I don’t get why you have some overrepresented provinces. Isn’t Cebu, Cavite and other provinces you mentioned should be part of the underrepresented provinces? Because the maximum population for a congressional district is 250,000 and if you each divide their populations over 250,000, they are entitled for more representatives.

    1. Well, that’s the minimal requirement. In theory, we would have 400+ district representatives.

      Not all provinces reached the 250k to secure a congressional seat, such as Batanes or Biliran. If we do comply, no one will represent such provinces as the most populous provinces will be rewarded with more seats to fill. Thanks to uncontrollable birth rate, if we follow that calculation, they might not have enough room in Batasan.

      Second, the overrepresented and underrepresented provinces and Metro cities is based on the fixed number of representatives as an aid of constraint of working space. The discrepancy happened when recent census data is released as population growth varies from province to province. Yet, they won’t buy it as they’re either too lazy and too concerning of their fortunes in their respective bastion.

      Both cases, in reality, will be easily dismissed.

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