Supreme Court draws flak over ‘judicial legislation’

Published by rudy Date posted on April 28, 2009

SENATORS said yesterday the Supreme Court went beyond its constitutional bounds and engaged in “judicial legislation” when it upheld the validity of the election of 32 more party-list representatives.

Senator Joker Arroyo said the justices erred when they ruled, in last week’s Banat v. Comelec decision, that there should be 55 seats for party-list representatives and then provided the formula for filling up the entire 55 seats.

“The high court has invaded the legislative domain of Congress. It substituted its formula instead of waiting for Congress to correct it,” Arroyo said in a privilege speech.

He cited a constitutional provision that the House of Representatives “shall be composed of not more than 250 members, unless otherwise provided by law” and out of the membership “the party-list representatives shall constitute 20 percent.” He said that means 200 district representatives and 50 party-list representatives or an 80-20 ratio.

Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the court’s ruling would create a big headache for the bureaucracy and questioned why it had to take effect immediately instead of waiting for the 2010 elections.

“Where is the urgent necessity of having this new system or formula implemented immediately? Is there something that is extremely dangerous to our government, is there something that is not beneficial if we do not have these people right now?” Santiago said. “The Supreme Court solved one question but opened an entire Pandora’s box.”

The government, she said, is completely unprepared for the influx of a large number of party-list representatives.

She said the House does not have the physical facilities, much less the appropriations, to accommodate the new members, and their staff.

Senator Richard Gordon argued the justices should have dismissed the Banat petition and left it entirely to Congress to determine its membership through legislation.

Gordon, former chairman of the committee on constitutional amendments, said there is no need for party-list representation in Congress since the various sectors are already represented by senators and congressmen.

“The idea of having party-list representatives is superfluity because it made the law-making process more complicated. The more members Congress has, the longer are the debates,” he said.

He added that party-list representation is suited to a parliamentary system, not a presidential system of government.

Arroyo said that over the years, the House has been creating additional legislative districts so that it now has 220 district representatives and 22 party-list representatives or a total of 242 members.

Although the House has not exceeded the 250-member limit, the creation of additional congressional districts has encroached on the 20-percent membership allotted for party-list representatives, he said.

Arroyo said the latest ruling contradicts the court’s July l6, 2008 decision, in the Sema v. Comelec case, “that there is a need now for Congress to increase by law the allowable membership of the House, even before Congress can create new provinces.” –Fel V. Maragay, Manila Standard Today

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