Reapportionment lack of consultation

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LINGAYEN—-For lack of consultation and thorough study and due to what is called as “gerrymandering,” the House Bill on the reapportioning of Pangasinan was shelved pending further discussion of the local officials of Pangasinan.

The decision was made last Monday’s Senate committee hearing on House Bill 4267 known as “an act of reapportioning of the province of Pangasinan into seven legislative districts”.

Sen. Aquino, chair on local government, said the committee had to suspend the hearing of the Bill on the grounds that “major reshufflings of components in the first, second and third legislative districts would mean a mess in geographical position, and might open to questions of gerrymandering.”

Pangasinan 2nd District Rep. Victor Agbayani and 3rd District Rep. Rachel Arenas, who were seated together during the hearing, co-authored House Bill 4267.

Under the proposed bill, the first district will comprise the towns of Bolinao, Anda, Bani, Alaminos City, Agno and Burgos while second district will be composed of Binmaley, Dasol, Infanta, Labrador, Mabini and Sual.

The new third district will comprise San Carlos City, Aguilar, Basista, Bugallon, Mangatarem, Bayambang and Urbiztondo while the towns of Calasiao, Malasiqui, Mapandan and Sta. Barbara will become  fourth district.

The components in the fourth, fifth and sixth district shall maintain its status quo and would only be renamed fifth, sixth and seventh district.

During the hearing, Espino, a two-termer Congressman of the second district questioned  the proposed bill saying the reapportionment of the province of Pangasinan must be done provincewide and not only on selected  districts.

“The bill is illogical and is only tantamount to gerrymandering,” he stressed even as he added that it was done in haste and bypassed the usual manner of legal procedure which is “to carry out first a thorough study and proper consultation with the provincial officials.”

“We are not against the proposed reapportionment of the province and in fact, Pangasinan, having a current population of 2.7 million, is already qualified to even 10 legislative districts and this would mean an additional development funds for the province,” he added.

However, he emphasized, the maximum number of 250, 000 as population requirement for a district should not only be the basis in the redistricting saying that “culture, economy, tourism program attachments and even dialect must be strongly considered.”

For her part, Vice Gov. Marlyn Primicias said  “The first time we heard about the House Bill 4267 was when it was approved in the third reading at the House of Representatives and was already filed at the Senate for concurrence last August 11, 2008.”

“We are not against the reapportionment of Pangasinan into seven districts, only we are questioning here is the manner of procedure,” Primicias said, even as she pointed out, that “we should have also consulted on this matter as courtesy dictates.”

“Until now, no consultation was made with the provincial officials, with due respect to the Congressman,” the lady vice governor noted.

Agabas added the provincial officials are wondering as to what is really the intention or the basis of the said apportionment, saying that “we could have arrived to a better apportionment to the best interest of our constituents if only we are consulted on this matter.”

Likewise, Gov. Espino further added that there will be a disparity in the number of  barangays per district wherein the first district  will have 282,606 populations with 143 barangays while the second district would have a population of 275,029 with 141 barangays.

He said the third district will have 317,058 population from its original number of  598,000 while its barangays will be reduced  to 141 from previous 304 barangays.

Furthermore, Gov. Espino said that the new creation of new district, once approved, would become the biggest district in Pangasinan having a 527, 310 population with 319 barangays..

“Thus, the proposed division was made only to favor or prefer candidates in the next elections,” Agabas said.

Rep. Arthur Celeste of the Pangasinan First District, co-author the House Bill 4267 but later withdrew his authorship, said he signed the bill “with some reservations” saying that he still needs to study the bill and need further consultations first to the leaders of the first district.

Celeste said he withdrew his co-authorship and strongly opposed the creation of the said bill for some reasons that it was opposed by majority of  leaders from his district.

Laktaw-laktaw ang pagkahilera  ng mga bayan sa proposed redistricting,” Celeste said as he concluded that the bill violates the constitution.

Stating the Article VI Section 5 Number 3 of the constitutional provision, Vice Gov. Primicias said that “each legislative district should comprise practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory.”

“At this juncture, your honor, the House Bill 4267 apparently violates the constitution for lack of proper thorough consultation with local officials and it is not the best interest of the district in particular and the province in general. And we, the provincial officials of the province of Pangasinan would like to request this august committee that the present status quo of Pangasinan of being apportioned of six legislative districts should be maintained,” Vice Gov. Primicias stressed.

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