Ruling backfires on petitioners
By: L.N. Reklai
September 1, 2016 (Koror, Palau) “The Senate shall be composed of eleven (11) members to be popularly elected in a Single Senatorial District”, ordered the Court, in response to petition to amend the Reapportionment Plan to increase number of Senators to 14 or 15 or number of Senatorial Districts from 1 to 3 by Petitioners.
According to Court order, the Court finds Respondent’s (2016 Reapportionment Commission) argument to be stronger. It also states that based on its independent study of the case, it would have ruled in the Respondents favor but the previous ruling of the Appellate Court obliges it to rule in the Petitioners favor.
So in the upcoming general election of November 2016, the 11 highest vote getters out of 25 senatorial candidates will become Senators. The current number of 13 Senators will no longer be the number required.
The court ruling is a result of a case filed after the 2016 Reapportionment Commission published its Reapportionment Plan on June 27, 2016. The Plan stated that there will be 13 senators and one senatorial district, in other words, no change to the current set up.
Petitioners ( a group of citizens consisting of Sabo Bultedaob, Johnny Tudong, Nestralda Mechaet, Meisai Chin, Kalistus Iluches and Salvador Tellames) filed a petition which claimed that the 2016 Reapportionment and Redistricting Plan, did not change anything and therefore did not meet the definition of “Reapportionment and Redistricting” under the Constitution.
The Petitioners ask the Court to review and amend the plan to comply with the requirements of the Constitution.
2 proposals were presented by Petitioners to the Court. One is to increase the number of Senators to 14 or 15 and retaining 1 district. Two was to create 3 senatorial districts with four, seven and two senators, total of 13.
The Petitioners did not say that the Plan violated the Constitution nor did it fail the requirement that it be based on the population. They contested only that the Plan by not changing anything did not meet the definition of “reapportionment or redistricting” as used in the Constitution.
The Court reported that based on its own analysis of legal definitions of “reapportionment and redistricting” as well as the 1979 Constitution Convention’s Standing Committee Reports, that the intent was for the plan to “contain flexibility to adjust to the future” and that the “purpose is to…continuously examine population or location trends and reapportion or redistrict accordingly.”
The Court ruling, restricted by the previous Appellate Court decision, changed one aspect of the “reapportion or redistrict” decision by reducing the number of senators by 12% in accordance with CRC report that stated “citizens population has decreased by around 12% …as compared to 2005 census… and general population and relocation trends have remain constant for the past 10 years”.
Petitioners got the court to reapportion the number of senators but they were unable to get the increase in number of senators or senatorial districts they sought. The Court granted their petition by reducing the number of senators from current 13 to 11. [/restrict]