Supreme Court erred in computation—House

Published by rudy Date posted on April 24, 2009

THE Supreme Court erred in its computation when it added 32 more party-list congressmen, exceeding the 250 limit set by the Constitution on the number of House representatives, House leaders said yesterday.

Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte said the high tribunal based its computation on 17 existing party-list congressmen, when the correct number of sitting sectoral representatives in the present 238-member House was 22. Adding 32 would make 54, or four more seats in excess of the constitutional limit.

The high court also used 220 total districts as against the existing 216, thus theoretically increasing the total number of sectoral seats to 49, he said.

“The Supreme Court made an arithmetical error,” Villafuerte said.

“With 17 as basis, the additional 32 would come well within the 50 seats allowed by the Constitution, representing the 20 percent of the 250-member limit.”

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said the 32 additional sectoral representatives would increase the House’s total number of members to 270, or 20 more than what was allowed.

Because of the differing computations, the House would likely file a petition with the Supreme Court for a “declaratory relief” to resolve the issue, Speaker Prospero Nograles said.

The constitutional question aside, the House would also need to supplement its budget because the 32 new congressmen would mean an additional P330 million in salaries for the remaining eight months of 2009, he said, excluding provisions for new offices, electricity and other operating expenses.

“My other problem is where to put these new party-list congressmen and where to get new funding for their staff and day-to-day operations, because they have no allocation under the 2009 General Appropriations Act,” Nograles said.

Even with the budget and constitutional questions still hanging, the House committee on revision of laws yesterday approved a bill, filed by Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez Jr., which seeks to create 50 new congressional districts and increase the House membership to 300 seats.

Over at the Senate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had also filed a bill seeking to increase the House membership by 100 seats. –Christine F. Herrera and Roy Pelovello, Manila Standard Today

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