THEN congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz filed House Bill 5007, which then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law (Republic Act 9276) in 2009, creating the lone district of Lapu-Lapu City.
A year later, in the 2010 elections, Nerissa ran for mayor in Mandaue City while her husband ran to fill the congressional seat his spouse created. The new district would’ve fitted snugly into the conjugal political plan had they won. Both lost but in the new district, Lito Ruiz lost to Arturo “Boy” Radaza who at the time had consumed his three consecutive terms as city mayor and needed another post to get around the term limit.
Jonas’s plan for Mandaue
Last May, President Duterte signed into law (RA 11257) the House Bill filed by Rep. Jonas Cortes, which creates the lone district of Mandaue City. Its first House member will be elected in 2022.
Jonas must have intended it for his plan in 2019, which was to swap places with Mayor Luigi Quisumbing and return to City Hall. That didn’t happen. The old sixth district was won by Lollypop Ouano, former bitter enemy and new ally of Cortes. Jonas beat Luigi. And there’s the new lone district to spare.
The two lone districts of Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City were carved out of the sixth district, leaving after the cut-up with only two LGUs, which are so far apart that it would take two cities and a bridge in shuttling from one town to the other. No matter, the redistricting served the purposes of the incumbent House member controlling the district.
Reap what you sow
During the last campaign, Councilor Joy Pesquera, Barug aspirant for congresswoman in Cebu City south, pitched her plan for redistricting the city’s two districts, which in 2015 recorded a population of 922, 611 (requirement for one district is only 250,000). She said that unavoidably people will suspect personal motives. Reaping from what one sows is a given factor in redistricting.
Joy lost May. But if third-termers who keep their seats in the 18th Congress will pick up her plan on creating new districts, personal and party interest necessarily will be considered.
Rep. Raul Del Mar in the north and Rep. Bebot Abellanosa in the south won’t be unlike other politicians elsewhere in the country. Impact of redistricting on the seats they control will be prime consideration. In 2010, of the 10 House members who authored redistricting bills, six ran in the new districts they created; the four others had relatives vying for the additional seats. “Reap from what you sow.”
No exception to ban
But here’s one thing they can’t do. Third-term House members are disqualified from running in the new district they created or any other district for that matter.
The reason is not just “it’s in bad taste.” The ban provides no exception: wherever the seat of congressman or congresswoman is, if the three-term limit is reached.
The prohibition is as generalized and encompassing as it can get: No member of the House of Representatives “shall serve for more than three consecutive terms” (Sec. 7, Art. VI of the Constitution: Sec. 5, Rule II of the Rules of the 17th Congress”). There is no qualifier, like “in the same district.” If the threshold is reached, whatever the congressional district, old or new, it’s the same office that is being closed: the House of Representatives.
There may be a few who will try to beat the law or, at least, its spirit. The political reality, a U.P. Diliman professor said, “is ‘ang mga politico natin hangga’t makalusot, lulusot.”
There may be a need to plug actual loopholes and not rely on the politicians to follow the letter and intent of the law.
They may also enforce the mechanism provided in the Constitution for a general, country-wide redistricting.
Required within three years after each national census, the general re-districting will correct such an anomaly of a situation as Consolacion and Cordova, two non-contiguous towns, comprising Cebu’s mangled sixth district.