Another burden for taxpayers
Updated February 25, 2009 12:00 AM
While governments around the world are tightening their belts in this year of recession, the Philippines’ House of Representatives looks bent on increasing public expenditures for the chamber. Members of the House of Representatives want 50 seats added to the chamber. The explanation: a booming population needs a corresponding boom in congressional representation.
So far the Senate does not seem to be keen on adopting the same reasoning to boost its smaller membership. Between the two chambers, it is the House, which has the power of the purse, that should have greater awareness of the need for belt-tightening as the global economy slumps. Perhaps the House is bent on proving to the world what President Arroyo has been crowing about to anyone who cares to listen: due to her competent fiscal management, the Philippine economy is doing relatively well amid the global slowdown.
The House currently has 238 seats: 216 for congressional districts and the remaining 22 for party-list representation. The party-list system is supposed to give marginalized sectors a voice in Congress. But the system has been used by political parties to increase their seats and their voting power in the House, making taxpayers wonder if their money is simply being wasted on some of the party-list lawmakers.
As for the regular members of the chamber, their preoccupation with their pork barrel and the ongoing scandal over fat commissions from infrastructure projects are enough to make taxpayers think twice about the need for 50 more pork-hungry representatives. There isn’t even enough money for the full automation of the 2010 elections or for the much-touted pump-priming program.
The House also faces questions about the constitutionality of adding more seats. The Constitution limits the number of House seats to 250. Can the House use a mere resolution to go around a constitutional provision? Congressmen can include this among the provisions that they intend to amend in case they succeed in convening the chamber into a constituent assembly to revise the Charter. Until that constitutional provision is amended, congressmen should attend instead to more urgent matters that require their attention. Taxpayers don’t need an additional burden.