The Long View: Inheritance battle before Supreme Court

The Long View
Inheritance battle before Supreme Court
By Manuel L. Quezon III
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:04:00 10/29/2009

Senator Benigno Aquino III, together with Mayor Jesse Robredo, filed two days ago a petition before the Supreme Court – to nullify the law creating a new congressional district in Camarines Sur. The basis of their objection is a simple one: the enacted new district fails to meet the basic population requirement for House representation.

During the deliberations in Congress, Sen. Joker Arroyo and Rep. Luis Villafuerte both argued that the law was valid because the Constitution stipulates a population requirement only for city districts, but does not specify non-city districts.

So it seems there are two interpretations of the Constitution duking it out, which suggests a valid case has been filed; but is it a case that ought to have arisen at all?

The Constitution provides that every province, no matter how small or tiny the population, will always have at least one congressman; furthermore, every city with a population of at least 250,000 people, gets at least one congressman.

This means every legislative district should cover a population of 250,000. This is an innovation in the present Constitution. In 2010 we will have a population of 93.7 million people and if you adopt the 250k to 1 ratio, we should have 375 congressmen in 2010! However, the Constitution also says the lower house should have a maximum of 250 members, until and unless Congress passes a law changing that number.

If Congress decides to create new districts, then it has to do so bearing in mind the following parameters: every province is entitled to representation, each district should meet a population requirement, and the total composition of the House has to fit within the maximum number of seats provided by law.

What this means is that when Congress embarks on redistricting, it has to do so on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. This is what’s called proportional representation. The Constitution actually tells Congress to reapportion legislative districts within three years of the release of census results.

We have had four censuses since 1987: in 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2007. Another one’s due to take place in 2010. That means Congress ought to have redistricted the country in 1993, 1998, 2003 and 2007. But it has only done so piecemeal: which means each enacted new district could conceivably represent a violation of the right to representation of everyone else; or by means of turning established constitutional principles upside down, something Villafuerte is pretty good at.

If all politics is local, then a local need will result in a way being found to satisfy that need.

Some months ago, seeing that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has a brother-in-law as a congressman, and that her eldest son is a congressman in Pampanga, and her younger son represents a district in Camarines Sur, I thought it would be interesting to look at the latter provinces four congressional districts.

The first district has a population of 417,304 and is represented by the President’s youngest son, Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, currently on his first term.

The second district comprises Naga City and has 474,899 people and is represented by the President’s loyal ally, Luis Villafuerte, currently on his second term.

The third district has a population of 372,548 and is represented by former Speaker Arnulfo P. Fuentebella, currently on his second term.

The fourth district, comprising Iriga City with 429,070 people, is represented by Felix R. Alfelor Jr., currently on his third term.

Villafuerte’s House Bill 4264 (successfully) sought to split the existing first district into two districts. But as you may have noticed, at 417,304 residents, the first district is shy of the number required for it to be entitled to two representatives (one for every 250,000 residents).

Simple, said the Villafuerte bill. Take away some barangays from, say, Villafuerte’s own second district, and add them to the territory of the first district. Politics is addition, after all.

But then why not take away from the first and add to the second, splitting the latter then?

Well, it’s because Villafuerte’s happy with his district, while there’s a specific political problem in the first district: a potential spoiler to the continued political happiness of the President’s son.

That spoiler is the President’s current budget secretary, Rolando Andaya Jr. He was on his third term as the first district’s representative when he joined the Cabinet, leaving his seat in Congress empty, and perfect for the President’s son to warm it. In 2010, Andaya would be out of the Cabinet, and eligible to run for congressman again.

That would pit him, a three-termer son of a three-termer, against Dato, a first termer whose mother, theoretically, would either be out of office or a mere representative for Pampanga in 2010.

So why not find a Ramos-like win-win solution? Split the district, give one to Andaya and the other to Dato. Everybody happy! The new district was approved in the House on June 11, 2008. In the Senate, it was approved on Sept. 27, 2009. Among those being eyed as presidential or vice presidential contenders, only Senators Noynoy Aquino and Kiko Pangilinan voted against it; Mar Roxas came in late; Loren Legarda was absent; Chiz Escudero, Dick Gordon, and Manny Villar voted for it.

The result was Republic Act 9716, creating a new second district from the old first district (retaining the latter’s designation as such); and renaming the existing second, third and fourth districts the third, fourth and fifth districts, respectively, while retaining their current size and territory.

At stake is the political inheritance of Diosdado Arroyo.

Manuel L. Quezon III.

24 thoughts on “The Long View: Inheritance battle before Supreme Court

  1. Making a little molehill into a mountain, literally speaking…what next, move the seat of power from Malacanang to Pampanga?

  2. aaah, at a time when the people is claiming for “nation-building”, the infulentials take time in “nation-dividing” (or segreggating districts) just for power and money.

  3. Of course they will just say its their prerogative, and we should respect it. Its true, we put those people in congress, they seem to be able to do everything they want to do and its all perfectly legal…those who complain will be labeled ignorant to the constitution…

  4. ‘until and unless Congress passes a law changing that number’

    Congress passing a law creating a new city or new district satisfies that requirement. According to the Supreme Court there are now 220 members of HOR elected by district and 55 elected by partylist for a total of 275.

  5. In the US the GOP and the Democrats are partners in crime in determining the boundaries of congressional districts. At least the people in those gerrymandered districts still retain their freedom. In the Philippines a congressional district is the personal property of the political family in power.

  6. In the 2007 election of Australia, the opposite thing happened. The then conservative PM John Howard became only the second sitting PM to lose his seat because the election commission changed the margins of his electorate making it notionally Labor. He lost to a prominent television newsreader.

  7. “In the Philippines a congressional district is the personal property of the political family in power.”


    Yes, it’s like an heirloom that is to be passed from generation to generation. Better than gold, huh?

  8. In the Philippines a congressional district is the personal property of the political family in power.

    Oh, so this is happening everywhere, I thought this only happens in Cebu province?

  9. The constituents in these districts couldn’t give a fuck. My analogy of the whole situation is this:

    That district is a guy who’s about to get fucked in the ass by humongous gay dick. But then the guy thought of a brilliant idea…instead of getting your ass ripped by a big schlong, why not just let two little gay dicks do you instead? One in the ass and one in the mouth. That way, the damage is less. But either way, you’re still someone else’s bitch.

  10. Why can’t the concerned district vote their fate in a referendum? Let them decide whether they want to be gerrymandered or not.

  11. District is all about inheritance and only the strong can take it.

    The Ecleos of Surigao had played second banana to the Barbers in power struggle in the Surigao Del Norte province. To chart the future for her sons following the death of the PBMA founder, the matriarch of cultist PBMA Glenda Ecleo joined Arroyo’s party and passed a bill to carved Dinagat as separate province from the Surigao Del Norte for her sons.

    Never mind that the population of Dinagat Island did not even met half of the 250,000 population requirement, RA9355 was passed followed by a plebiscite – the final hurdle for the claim.

    See, there is an agreement among thieves after all – you cannot take what is mine. The plebiscite is a fair game and the Barbers were confident that the people of Surigao del Norte especially the Catholic bishop are opposed to the cultists.

    That was the 1st time there was plebiscite in the province. The cultists went massively out to vote for yes with 92% turnout in cultist controlled areas. In Surigao City and in other areas, the turnout is less than 44%. Even though the NO votes won outside the cultist areas but when all the votes were tallied, the cultist YES votes made the difference edging the NO votes by only 6,914 votes.

    The cultist finally had their own province.

  12. Plus get the pork barrel too.

    See, when Dinagat was made a province, it comes with pork barrel and projects were poured into it – airport, schools, highways, etc… that is the advantage in the new district.

    The loser is the old district with lesser pork share – which happens to be the Surigao City in Caraga Region. Since Congressman Matugas is arch enemy of the Barbers of Surigao City, Matugas spend the pork less in Surigao City but in Butuan City where he resided. There is only one airline going to Surigao City while Butuan City enjoyed the air traffic with different carriers.

    It is like the people at Surigao hit by 2 typhoons. The only viable solution is to get rid of the Barbers and joined the winning family -Matugas.

    Redistricting, pork barrel, etc – goes to the winning family. Democracy is only a name but jobs, projects and livelihood even temporary are more important to the residents – the art of politics.

  13. Political traditions are firmly entrenched. While most candidates for the 2010 elections will mouth adherence to a “new politics”, watch the same old tired practices take place. I’ll bet there’ll be a lot of odd bedfellows out there!

  14. “supremo on Sat, 31st Oct 2009 2:03 am
    Go forth and multiply so we can have our own congressional district.”

    This only works for districts with a sizeable middle class, which are few in the Philippines. The idea is you can tax them and use the money to pay for communal public goods.

    As it is it’s OFWs and the business community, ie you and me, that subsidizes the poor. I can sense your sarcasm but seriously, the poor have to stop breeding.

  15. Meanwhile, the country faces huge deficits, now and in the future. Too little income by way of taxes, too much spending by way of pork. We needed these calamities like a hole in the head. Without those OFW $$$ remittances, we’d be chopped liver.

  16. They’re acting as if these people own the country like personal real estate! Our Pilipinas divided into little fiefdoms. If this isn’t a feudal system, I don’t know what is.

  17. “If this isn’t a feudal system, I don’t know what is.”


    It’s been that way before any of us were born. Will stay that way for many more years to come.

  18. Naalala ko lang….

    What is it in a name that sometimes it provides a consistent measure of character? I am referring to one of the most enduring and ubiquitous names in Philippine history: Macapagal.
    One would be amazed at how often some Macapagal from Pampanga would surface periodically at critical points in Philippine history. However, the Macapagal record is not that stellar. For, anywhere and anytime that someone with that name appears, the air would always reek with the stench of treachery.

    The first Macapagal in history is a datu from Arayat, Juan Macapagal. A grandson of Lakandula, Don Juan was among the principalia during the early Spanish era. He betrayed his own people by assisting the Spaniards quell the Kapampangan and Pangasinan Revolts of 1660 and Ilocano Revolt of 1661. By his handiwork, many natives died. For his services he was handsomely compensated with an encomienda — a.k.a. license to steal, cheat and plunder — and named Maestre Campo General of the natives of Arayat, Candaba and Apalit.

    Two centuries later, the murderous tradition lived on to wreak havoc on the Philippine Revolution of 1896. This time, the Macapagal victim was none other than the venerable Supremo of the Katipunan, Andres Bonifacio. On May 10, 1897, Col. Lazaro Makapagal (Filipino derivative of the name) marched a wounded and hogtied Supremo and his brother, Procopio, up the rugged mountains of Maragondon, Cavite and shot them to death.

    Indeed, duplicity is the Macapagal trade that many decades latter, another scion of the clan, Diosdado Macapagal, even managed to double-cross a master schemer, Ferdinand Marcos. In the 1960s, Diosdado promised the young (then) Senator Marcos the Liberal Party presidential nomination. In return for Marcos’ support, Diosdado declared that he would not seek re-election in 1965 in order to give way to Marcos’ candidacy. However, he reneged on such assurances later. The scheme backfired, however, when Marcos bolted the Liberal Party, joined the Nacionalista and soundly defeated Diosdado in the presidential elections.

    Meanwhile, another Macapagal would have been in a perfect position to salvage the clan’s honor. Felicisimo Macapagal, unlike the rest of his clan, started out as a socialist revolutionary. He eventually rose to become the Partido Komunista ng Pilipinas’ (PKP) Secretary General. However, DNA proved unalterable when this Macapagal ended up as a capitulationist. In 1974 he signed a compromise with Ferdinand Marcos to cooperate with the dictatorial regime.

    Then several decades later, the same pattern continued. This time, the country is led by the daughter of Diosdado and a direct descendant of Don Juan. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became President through electoral fraud. Her administration is steeped in scandals involving plunder of the treasury and murder of innocent activists.

    Sometimes some things do not change. It is either the Macapagal name is accursed or the country is accursed by having such treacherous brood appearing and re-appearing throughout the pages of its history.

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