Proposals and support for the reapportionment of Bohol into four or five legislative districts continued to mount with proponents citing the province’s growing population as main consideration for the needed additional representation at the House of Representatives.
Ex-officio Provincial Board Member Romulo Cepedoza, during Sangguniang Panlalawigan’s (SP) regular session on Tuesday, said the Liga ng mga Barangay (LMB), which he leads as president, is calling for the further division of Bohol into five legislative districts from the current three districts.
LMB Bohol, which is composed of the 1,109 barangay captains of the province, passed a resolution urging the province’s three House of Representatives members to craft a bill that would establish the additional districts.
According to Cepedoza, the new districts would pave the way for additional funding for the entire province.
“This is based on the premise that adding more districts will bring more funding for various development programs and would spur further economic development for the province,” he said.
The provincial legislator added that Bohol already has a population of 1,394,329 based on the 2020 Census of Population and Housing.
Citing the Constitution, he claimed that the current population entitled the province to two more legislative districts.
“As provided for in Article VI, Section 5, Paragraph 3 of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, each city or province with a population of at least 250,000 shall have at least one representative. In other words, the population requirement is 250,000 people per district,” he said.
Not ‘sine qua non’
However, the Supreme Court (SC) in Aquino III vs. Comelec has held that the 250,000 population requirement only applies to cities seeking their first legislative district and does not apply to provinces.
“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,” the Court stated.
In this case, then-Senator Benigno Aquino III challenged the constitutionality of a law which created a new district for Camarines Sur despite the said district having a population of only 176,383.
The SC denied Aquino’s petition, ruling that a population of 250,000 is not an indispensable requirement in the creation of a new district within a province.
“Our ruling is that population is not the only factor but is just one of several other factors in the composition of the additional district. Such settlement is in accord with both the text of the Constitution and the spirit of the letter, so very clearly given form in the Constitutional debates on the exact issue presented by this petition.”
The High Court, in Mariano, Jr. vs. Comelec, also ruled that a population of 250,000 is only the minimum population requirement for a city to have “at least one” representative. Another 250,000 people are not needed for the creation of an additional district or districts. Consequently, it allowed Makati City to have two districts at the time even if it only had a population of 450,000.
“Said section [Article VI, Section 5 (3)] provides, inter alia, that a city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) shall have at least one representative. Even granting that the population of Makati as of the 1990 census stood at four hundred fifty thousand (450,000), its legislative district may still be increased since it has met the minimum population requirement of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000),” the Court stated.
Previously, the Philippine Councilors’ League (PCL) Bohol chapter also proposed through a resolution the creation of one or two new districts for Bohol.
The proposal was raised by ex-officio Provincial Board Member Gloria Gementiza, who is the PCL’s president, before the SP in bid to spur economic growth and create a “stronger representation” in Congress.
In its resolution, the PCL proposed for each legislative district of Bohol to be composed of the following:
- Tagbilaran City
- San Isidro
- Bien Unido
- San Miguel
- Pres. Carlos P. Garcia.
- Sierra Bullones
- Garcia Hernandez
Meanwhile, all three of the province’s congresspersons Rep. Edgar Chatto, Rep. Vanessa Aumentado and Rep. Alexie Tutor expressed support for the PCL”s resolution.
They however have yet to announce actual plans to craft a bill that would set the redistricting in motion. (ad)