HB 4267 A GERRYMANDERING
LINGAYEN–Governor Amado Espino Jr. has slammed the proposed redistricting of the province, saying House Bill 4267, which contains the move, is tinted with gerrymandering.
The proposed law, authored jointly by Reps. Victor Agbayani of the second district and Rachel Arenas of the third district, is not based on public consultation and a thorough study, according to Espino.
Gerrymandering, with roots in American political history, refers to the division of a geographic area into separate voting districts in order to give undue advantage to one political group or party.
Under the proposal, the first district will be comprised of Bolinao, Anda, Bani, Alaminos City, Agno and Burgos; second district: Binmaley, Dasol, Infanta, Labrador, Lingayen, Mabini and Sual; third district (a new district): San Carlos City, Aguilar, Basista, Bugallon, Mangatarem, Bayambang and Urbiztondo; District IV: Malasiqui, Calasiao, Mapandan and Sta. Barbara; District V: Dagupan City, Manaoag, Mangaldan, San Fabian and San Jacinto; District VI: Urdaneta City, Alcala, Bautista, Binalonan, Laoac, Pozorrubio, Sison, Sto. Tomas and Villasis; and District VII: Asingan, Balungao, Natividad, Rosales, San Manuel, San Nicolas, San Quintin, Sta. Maria, Tayug and Umingan.
The proposal, seeking the reapportionment of Pangasinan to comprise seven legislative districts from the present six districts, was put on hold by the Senate Committee on Local Government last Monday.
The deferment was made by Senator Benigno Aquino III, chairman on the Senate committee on Local Government, together with committee members Senators Manuel Roxas III and Richard Gordon.
Espino hailed this development saying had the Senate committee not made the deferment, “I would have to go the Supreme Court and use my own money to question it.”
Espino, speaking at a news conference last week, stressed that he favors the reapportionment of Pangasinan, which now has a population of 2.67 million people into possibly eight to 10 legislative districts, but not in the manner and procedure with which it was apportioned under HB 4267.
Article V of the Constitution decrees that each legislative district in the Philippines shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory and that each district shall have a population of at least 250,000.
In endorsing the reapportionment of Pangasinan into eight to 10 districts, Espino said he will talk to all the congressmen of Pangasinan to get a consensus.
He also pointed out that more districts will translate to more funding for development projects in the province.
“Imagine if one legislative district is entitled to a minimum of P70 million development fund yearly, consider Pangasinan having eight to 10 congressional districts,” Espino said.
“That is just the minimum. Look at Congresswoman Arenas. She already brought more than P1 B of development to her district in just two years. We should have more Congresswoman Arenases in Pangasinan,” Espino added.
Vice Governor Marlyn Primicias Agabas echoed the governor’s concern maintaining that no provincial official was consulted on the matter.
“The first time we heard about House Bill No. 4267 was when it was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives and when it was already filed at the Senate for concurrence last August 11, 2008,” said Agabas who chairs the provincial board.
“Until now, no consultation was made with the provincial officials we could have arrived at a better apportionment for the best interests of our constituents if only we were consulted on the matter,” she added.
Under the house bill, only three of the six legislative districts of Pangasinan will be affected as three congressmen, namely: Jose de Venecia Jr. of the fourth district, Mark Cojuangco of the fifth district, and Conrado Estrella III of the sixth district insisted on keeping their respective areas intact.
Rep. Arthur Celeste of the first district initially joined Agbayani and Arenas as co-author of the house bill but later withdrew his participation, though by then the bill was already approved for third and final reading at the House of Representatives and filed at the Senate for concurrence.
Espino also questioned the proposed configuration because municipalities that do not have road links between them would be lumped in one district. An example is the towns of Infanta, Dasol and Mabini will be grouped with Binmaley, Labrador and Lingayen and Sual.
Celeste himself later admitted that it would have been more appropriate if Alaminos City would be removed from his district instead of Infanta, Dasol and Mabini.
Espino said the people of Infanta led by Mayor Ruperto Martinez are protesting their proposed inclusion in the second district.
Infanta, together with the minicipalities of Mabini and Dasol, has threatened to secede from Pangasinan and join Zambales instead, which is geographically nearer than Lingayen, or Binmaley.
Espino further said the proposed redistricting did not consider language as a factor for reapportionment.
He noted that the people of Infanta, Dasol, Mabini and Sual speak Ilocano while the people of Lingayen, Labrador and Binmaley speak Pangasinan.
Espino also questioned why the proposed new third legislative district will be bigger than any of the six other congressional districts.
“The offspring should not be made bigger than the parent districts,” he said.—LM
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