Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Supreme Court Rules on Party List System

In a tectonic en banc decision, -- "immediately executory" --  the Supreme Court of the Philippines (SCoRP) has promulgated Banat v. Comelec -- a Decision that will force a major increase in the number of Party List Representatives  actually seated in the House of Representatives of the 14th Congress from 17 to 55.   In addition to the present 220 District Congressmen there will now be 55 Party List Reps instead of 17 for a grand total of 275 Members of the House of Representatives.  

The numerical implications for chacha are these. Since there are now 275 Members of the Lower House and 24 Members of the Upper House, there are 299 Members of the Congress. Three fourths of 299 is 224.25.  This means that 225 is now the magic number by which Nograles, Villafuerte et al hope to trigger a "justiciable case" that can again be decided by SCoRP later this year and in time to discombobulate the 2010 elections.

I am not familiar with the profile of the 48 new Congress members that SCoRP is judicially installing in Congress, nor am I privy to the arithmetic of Villafuerte's listahan in a purported resolution to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly.  But at the moment that the button was pushed for SCoRP to so peremptorily and heavy-handedly tell Congress and Comelec how to discharge their duties and exercise their discretion, I wager that the chacha supporters in the Lower House, even now, do not have the 196 votes required to ignite the so called justiciable case by producing a Con-Ass House Resolution with the required three fourths of all the present 220+17+24=261 Members of the Congress. Of wide interest today is: what percentage of the 48 new Party List Members of the Lower House need to be pro-chacha for House Speaker Nograles and Rep. Luis Villafuerte to create their much sought after "justiciable issue."?  

An interesting aspect of  Banat v. Comelec is how it deals with the following 1987 Constitutional provisions:
Article VI Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth, and such other sectors as may be provided by law, except the religious sector.
In the present ruling, SCoRP applies the formula twenty percent formula given in its earlier ruling Veterans v. Comelec and states that, 
This formula allows for the corresponding increase in the number of seats available for party-list representatives whenever a legislative district is created by law.
SCoRP in effect declares that the increase in the maximum number of Members of the Lower House is automatic or implied, whenever Congress creates a new Legislative District.  In other words, that the Congress does not in fact have to pass a separate law explicitly changing the 250 Member ceiling found in the Constitution.  Every time five new Congressional Districts are created because of population growth,  we are now to assume that one new Lower House seat has been created as well and made available to the Party List System.

As Manuel L. Quezon notes in a Facebook posting, the renowned Blogger, Mong Palatino, has made history  as the first Blogger ever to become a Member of the Lower House courtesy of the SCoRP ruling, (although surely not the First Leftist.)   This is a most welcome development since the tribes of the Bloggers and the Congressmen are bound to  both be improved thereby! 

I have only just now read through the SCoRP ruling (skipping much that may be important to a compleat understanding of its import and consequences.)  But I get the general impression of a Heavy Hand on Congress and Comelec and possibly a Grave Abuse of Discretion by SCoRP in this ruling.  It is replete also with arithmetic formulas and mathematical principles that will undergo fine examination in the weeks and months ahead.  There better not be any outright innumeracies, logical and mathematical fallacies, or absurd implications of the ruling, which literally rewrites a Law passed by Congress as well as the implementing rules and regulations developed by the Comelec, a Constitutionally independent commission.  

More to come, for sure...

1 comment:

Orlando R said...

But the Supreme Court cannot be declared to have committed grave abuse of discretion, unless perhaps through vacatur. This is because the Court is the final arbiter of such kind of grave abuse.