CEBU City mayor-on-leave Tomas Osmena and all eight south district councilors have opposed Rep. Antonio Cuenco’s bill creating a third legislative district in the city.
Osmena even wrote a letter to Sen. Benigo Aquino III asking him not to approve House Bill (PB) 5702, which was already approved in the House of Representatives last January.
The bill has been transmitted to the Senate and will be deliberated on by the committee on local government, which Aquino chairs.
Cebu City has two congressional districts, the north and south districts.
Cuenco, who represents the south district, want to split the district into, creating a third legislative district in the city.
In support of Osmena’s move, all eight south district councilors passed a resolution asking the Senate and the House of Representatives to refrain from passing Cuenco’s bill into law.
Cuenco, who has a long standing conflict with the mayor, is the main proponent of the measure to divide the south district, which has a population of 427,707, into two congressional districts.
Cuenco said he was shocked by the mayor’s and the councilors’ move, saying he did not expect them to withdraw their support for the bill.
He said he is saddened by the councilors’ move, because all eight councilors agreed with the creation of the third district when he consulted them about it.
”This is getting to me. Why are our councilors acting like they don’t have any backbone? They already committed to support the bill and just because the mayor said not to, they are now objecting. It’s abominable. I did not think they would do that, just because the mayor told them,” Cuenco said.
He said, though, that he will leave the councilors alone and will let them oppose the bill, saying that this is a free country.
Cebu City Councilor Gerardo Carillo said they believe that HB 5702 is unconstitutional, since it violates the provision on the equal protection clause, or Section 5 (3), article VI of the Constitution.
The provision states that “each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least 250,000, or each province, shall have at least one representative.”
They said that the creation of a third district will result in a representation where one of the two districts will be left with a population of only 173,680.
”We think a status quo is better because the City is not prepared for a new district because it will hurt our finances if we add eight councilors. Also, the required population will not be met,” Carillo said.
Cuenco said is proposing to create another district to increase the congressional district funds for the city’s barangays for more services.
The second district will have a population of around 252,000, while the third district will have around 180,000.
Although it does not meet the minimum requirement of 250,000, Cuenco believes the issue is debatable, especially after the Senate approved the split of several cities in Luzon into two districts even if their population was only 400,000 and 450,000 for some cities.
He cited the cities of San Juan, Marikina, Mandaluyog and Makati as examples of cities that were able to have a new district even if their population was less than 250,000.