On the eve of the swearing-in of the 32 new congressmen, the House of Representatives tossed to the Supreme Court the question of who among the 32 party-list nominees should be dropped from the roster of Congress members.
Speaker Prospero Nograles, representing the House, asked the high court to remove 20 of the party-list nominees in an “urgent motion for clarification in intervention” to compel the high tribunal to clarify its “erroneous computation.”
The high court ruling raised the House membership to 270, way beyond the 250 maximum set by the Constitution, according to Nograles.
“The use of an erroneous base number necessarily alters the figures,” Nograles said in his appeal.
“The Supreme Court decision, in effect, declares as winners of the 2007 National Elections 32 new Party-List representatives who, once enrolled in the Roll of Members of the House, will increase the total membership to 270.”
Nograles said the high court needed to explain who should be included in the Roll of Members because it “allocated an excess” and left the agencies that would implement the decision—the Commission on Elections and the House—no discretion.
“In the event that it is ordered to admit all 32, will this act not violate the above-cited constitutional provision considering that the total members would now rise to 270?” Nograles’ said.
The high court used as basis for its computation 220 congressional districts as against the existing 216 and 22 party-list groups.
As a result, Nograles said, the membership had grown to 270, or 20 members more than that fixed by the Constitution.
“There is yet no national law passed by Congress to allow for such an increase in its membership,” Nograles said, adding that the bills adding 50 to the number of existing districts were still at the committee level.
Bayan Muna-elect Neri Colmenares said the party-list law was clear that the ceiling was 20 percent of the 238-member House.
It was the legislative districts, he said, that did not have a specific law on their ceiling, hence the 20 congressmen that would be dropped from the roster should be the district congressmen.
“The party-list percentage is consummated because there is a specific law requiring the 20 percent of the total membership,” Colmenares said.
“As for the legislative districts, there is no specific law, so the 20 congressmen should be dropped from those in the legislative districts, not party-list groups.”
Nograles said the high court declared as unconstitutional the 2-percent threshold only in relation to the distribution of additional seats.
Yet, he said, it distributed “first seats” to party-list groups, which did not attain the minimum number of votes that would entitle them to a seat.
“While saying that the filling up of all available seats for party-list representatives is merely a ceiling, the Honorable Court proceeded to fill up all available seats without setting a minimum vote requirement to ensure that the candidate has the mandate of a sufficient number of people,” Nograles said.–Christine Herrera, Manila Standard Today