Scrutinizing Baronda’s ‘redistricting’ bill

WE HAVE heard people deride the “redistricting” bill of Rep. Julienne “Jam-jam” Baronda, which would divide Iloilo City into two congressional districts.

House Bill No. 3074 – co-authored by congressmen Stephen Paduano, Raul Tupas and Michael Gorriceta – would gather Jaro, La Paz and Mandurriao into one legislative district; and the City Proper, Molo, Arevalo and Lapuz into another, with Iloilo River literally intervening as demarcation line. It has hurdled the first level, the House Committee on Local Government.

Why would she want to give up half of her representation to a second congressman?

“To maximize the economic potential of the city,” she told the committee, “through better, more proactive and responsive social services and infrastructure.”

“Two salespersons” of the city, she stressed, would invite more investors to the metropolis.

She was like echoing the popular adage “two heads are better than one.”

But there’s also an opposite, equally-popular quotation, “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

Both could be correct, though, under different circumstances. Considering the geometric economic boom that Iloilo City now enjoys, why not have two reps?

On the other hand, can we blame some people for waxing cynical about Inday Jam-jam’s motive? It’s possible that she is bracing herself against the possibility that “graduating” Sen. Franklin Drilon would do a Loren Legarda – jump from the Upper House to the Lower House. The “clash” could be avoided by running together, not against each other, for the same position in 2022.

Be that as it may, why not give the young congresswoman the benefit of the doubt? After all, many other prosperous cities today have two representatives.

Not having read the bill, however, we can only presume it is a duplication of unsuccessful “redistricting” bills of her predecessors, former congressmen Raul Gonzalez Jr. and Jerry Treñas. Those bills, too, had been criticized for being “politically motivated.”

Let us recall those days in 2009 when Treñas was approaching the end of his third straight term as mayor in 2010 while his then ally Gonzalez was still eligible for a third congressional term. 

Alas, the failure of Gonzalez’s redistricting bill to pass ended their alliance and sparked their fight for the lone city seat in 2010. Treñas won.

In 2012, Rep. Treñas filed his own version of the redistricting bill. Unfortunately, while it passed the House in third and final reading, it got stuck in the Senate after then senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III blocked it because “Iloilo City had not gone beyond the population of 500,000, hence would not meet the population requirement of at least 250,000 per district.”

Re-elected in 2016, Treñas refiled the bill, debunking the “population requirement” by citing the examples of other “Commonwealth-era” cities like Manila, Cebu, Davao, and Zamboanga that have multiple districts with less than 250,000 natives. Citing a Supreme Court ruling, Treñas said Makati City was allowed to have two legislative districts despite its population of 450,000.

By then, based on the 2015 census, Iloilo City had a population of 447,992.

Certain opposition councilors of Iloilo City nevertheless imputed “political motive” meant to avert a possible clash for congressman in 2019 between then mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and vice mayor Joe Espinosa III, who were both serving their last terms.

As it turned out, while the bill again failed to pass in the nick of time, none of the aforementioned two ran for congressman. Jed had left the country while Joe ran for mayor but lost to his bilas Jerry.

Today, we see no reason why Baronda’s version would find a hard time in the Senate. ([email protected]/PN)

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