Wake Up, Philippines!

Partylist ruling stirs constitutional crisis

Posted in house of representatives, Partylist by Erineus on April 22, 2009

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
First Posted 15:12:00 04/22/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Politics, Constitution

MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE) The Supreme Court decision to increase the House seats for partylist representatives to 55 could stir a “mini constitutional crisis” in the House of Representatives, a lawmaker said.

Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tanada III said that with the high tribunal’s order, the number of lawmakers would now total to 270, exceeding the limit allowed by law.

Speaker Prospero Nograles called for the immediate passage of the bill increasing congressional representatives to 300 as a way out of the possible quandary. He also said that the House would seek clarification clarification from the high tribunal on the ruling.

The Constitution fixes the composition of the House at not more than 250 members, “unless otherwise fixed by law.”

The Constitution also provides that 20 percent of the House members should be elected through a partylist system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations.

”It may have created a mini constitutional crisis in the House because the number of representatives from the House of Representatives has been fixed to be 250, now if we include the 32 party list representatives that the Supreme Court says are eligible to join the House, that would bring our number to 270,” Tanada said in an interview after the Ayes and Nays forum in Quezon City Wednesday.

”I’m not saying I’m against the inclusion of additional party list but we have to reconcile this with what is stated in the Constitution that members of the House of Representatives should not be more than 250 including partylist,” he added.

Tanada said a clarification should be sought on the tribunal’s ruling.

Nograles said the ruling was a “legal question,” even as he said that the additional partylist representatives had “breached” the allowed number of House seats.

He said the passage of the bill increasing the number of House seats might “cure any possible legal infirmity in the Constitution.”

Nograles said the House was “exploring the option of filing a petition with the Supreme Court for a declaratory relief on the issue of constitutionality as the bigger chamber of Congress is only limited to 250 members with 20 percent partylist members.”

He also said the House leadership was not in a hurry to administer the oath to the new representatives “until the constitutional issue is clarified.”

The committee on revision of laws on Wednesday approved the bills of Nograles and Iloilo Representative Raul Gonzalez Jr. to increase the number of House seats from 250 to 300.

”Meantime, it may be prudent to take things easy and wait a while for some clarification from the Supreme Court,” Nograles said.

He also said the House leadership was not in a hurry to administer the oath to the new representatives “until the constitutional issue is clarified.”

Bayan Muna partylist Representative Satur Ocampo said that while he welcomed the high tribunal’s ruling, he said the implication could be dangerous because this would mean that “special interest groups” could just organize a partylist group and join the elections if there were more slots to be filled up.

Ocampo said the Commission on Election should be “very strict” in ensuring that only marginalized groups are accredited into the partylist system.


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