CASE DIGEST: Aquino III vs. COMELEC (G.R. No. 189793; April 7, 2010)

CASE DIGEST: SENATOR BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III and MAYOR JESSE ROBREDO, Petitioners, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS represented by its Chairman JOSE A.R. MELO and its Commissioners, RENE V. SARMIENTO, NICODEMO T. FERRER, LUCENITO N. TAGLE, ARMANDO VELASCO, ELIAS R. YUSOPH AND GREGORIO LARRAZABAL, Respondents.

FACTS: Republic Act No. 9716 was signed into law by President Arroyo on 12 October 2009. It took effect on 31 October 2009, or fifteen (15) days following its publication in the Manila Standard, a newspaper of general circulation. In substance, the said law created an additional legislative district for the Province of Camarines Sur by reconfiguring the existing first and second legislative districts of the province.

Prior to Republic Act No. 9716, the Province of Camarines Sur was estimated to have a population of 1,693,821, distributed among four (4) legislative districts.

Following the enactment of Republic Act No. 9716, the first and second districts of Camarines Sur were reconfigured in order to create an additional legislative district for the province. Hence, the first district municipalities of Libmanan, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao, and San Fernando were combined with the second district municipalities of Milaor and Gainza to form a new second legislative district.

Petitioners contend that the reapportionment introduced by Republic Act No. 9716, runs afoul of the explicit constitutional standard that requires a minimum population of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) for the creation of a legislative district.The petitioners claim that the reconfiguration by Republic Act No. 9716 of the first and second districts of Camarines Sur is unconstitutional, because the proposed first district will end up with a population of less than 250,000 or only 176,383.

Petitioners rely on Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution as basis for the cited 250,000 minimum population standard.

ISSUE: Is the population of 250,000 an indispensable constitutional requirement for the creation of a new legislative district in a province?

HELD: Yes, it is an indispensable constitutional requirement. The second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, succinctly provides: "Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative."

The provision draws a plain and clear distinction between the entitlement of a city to a district on one hand, and the entitlement of a province to a district on the other. For while a province is entitled to at least a representative, with nothing mentioned about population, a city must first meet a population minimum of 250,000 in order to be similarly entitled.

The use by the subject provision of a comma to separate the phrase "each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand" from the phrase "or each province" point to no other conclusion than that the 250,000 minimum population is only required for a city, but not for a province.

Plainly read, Section 5(3) of the Constitution requires a250,000 minimum population only for a city to be entitled to a representative, but not so for a province. DISMISSED.
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