28 January 2010

Malolos City is short, however one looks at it

INTRIGUED by the close 7-6 vote by the Supreme Court on the voided law creating a separate Malolos City congressional district, I checked the dissenting opinion penned by Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad.

I have a feeling these are more or less the arguments that were invoked or will be invoked by Rep. Dato Arroyo and his PALAKA cohorts in support of their reapportionment of Camarines Sur's former 1st and 2nd congressional districts.

The money quotes (underscoring mine):

The Court has always been reluctant to act like a third chamber of Congress and second guess its work. Only when the lawmakers commit grave abuse of discretion in their passage of the law can the Court step in. But the lawmakers must not only abuse this discretion, they must do so with grave consequences.

Here, nothing in Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits the use of estimates or population projections in the creation of legislative districts. As argued by the Solicitor General, the standard to be adopted in determining compliance with the population requirement involves a political question. In the absence of grave abuse of discretion or patent violation of established legal parameters, the Court cannot intrude into the wisdom of the standard adopted by the legislature.


R.A. 9591 is based on a “legislative” finding of fact that Malolos will have a population of over 250,000 by the year 2010. The rules of legislative inquiry or investigation are unique to each house of Congress. Neither the Supreme Court nor the Executive Department can dictate on Congress the kind of evidence that will satisfy its law-making requirement. It would be foolhardy for the Court to suggest that the legislature consider only evidence admissible in a court of law or under the rules passed by the Office of the President. Obviously, the Judicial Department will resist a mandate from Congress on what evidence its courts may receive to support its decisions.
It is however Paragraph (c) of Justice Abad's disquisition as to why a Ramos-issued executive order governing the use of NSO demographic projections that I find flawed mathematically. It relies on the annual application of the 1995-2000 population growth rate (PGR) of Malolos City (certified at 3.78% annually by NSO Region III Director Alberto Miranda) from 2001 to 2010, which would conveniently yield a projected population of 254,036 this year -- enough to meet the minimum 250,000 threshhold.

But it is not an accurate projection for two reasons:

1. It does not square with the actual 2007 NSO count. The 2007 NSO census for Malolos (223,069), which is available here, is 4,208 lower than the projected count of 227,277 -- putting the 3.78% certified PGR at the high side.

2. The PGR between 2000 and 2007 should have been used. It would have yielded a more accurate projection, being closer to the year in question. Demographers and city planners can easily compute this, using either geometric or exponential formulas.

I plugged these formulas and the basic data in this spreadsheet, which I uploaded to Google Docs. I will urge you to check it for accuracy. In sum, my computations yielded a PGR between 3.44% (geometric) and 3.5% (exponential), significantly lower than what Director Miranda certified.

In both instances, Malolos City falls short of the threshhold by a low of around 3,600 to a high of around 4,000.

They only reinforce the majority decision penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, which spells trouble ahead for the PALAKA coalition in Camarines Sur.


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