16 new cities legal, says Supreme Court final judgment

Subscribe Now April 13, 2011 at 01:46am

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declared final its February 15, 2011 decision upholding the constitutionality of the laws that converted 16 municipalities into cities. In a session held in Baguio City, the Supreme Court (SC) en banc denied an appeal by the influential League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) seeking to block the conversion of the 16 towns into cities, citing as reason the municipalities' failure to comply the P100 million annual income requirement imposed by the Local Government Code.

Voting 7-6, the SC upheld the conversion of 16 towns as "constitutional."

The 16 new cities are Lamitan in Basilan, Baybay in Leyte, Bogo in Cebu, Catbalogan in Samar, Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Borongan in Samar, Tayabas in Quezon, Tabuk in Kalinga, Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Batac in Ilocos Norte, Mati in Davao Oriental, Guihulngan in Negros Oriental, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, El Salvador in Misamis Oriental, Carcar in Cebu, and Naga also in Cebu.

Chief Justice Renato Corona was among the seven magistrates who voted in favor of the cityhood laws. The six others include Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Lucas Bersamin. Bersamin penned the latest decision denying the LCP's latest appeal.

Mendoza, on the other hand, had previously voted against the cityhood laws.

The dissenters are Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta and Antonio Carpio. Carpio penned the November 18, 2008 decision that declared the cityhood laws unconstitutional.

Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Antonio Eduardo Nachura inhibited themselves in the resolution of the issue.

Mati City Mayor Michelle Rabat heaved a sigh of relief on the final decision of the Supreme Court, saying the latest development in the case will allow the people of Mati to move on and face their future with better perspective.

Rabat said the increase in their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of about P240 million annually will greatly help their local economy as well as the delivery of basic services to their people.

When Mati was still receiving its IRA as a city, the City Government had allocated P1 million to each of the barangays for their projects. This was however stopped when the Supreme Court decided to declare the cityhood laws as unconstitutional.

The 122 current cities' league members feared that the creation of the 16 new cities would reduce their IRA share from the National Government.

It is unclear though whether the LCP can file another motion for reconsideration because the Rules of Court prohibit the filing of second motions for reconsideration once a ruling becomes final.

In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled that the cityhood laws were unconstitutional and stood its ground despite two motions for reconsideration filed by the then 16 municipalities. The SC said that the 16 municipalities should not be exempted from Republic Act 9009, which required a P100-million income for cityhood.

On December 21, 2009, the Supreme Court reversed itself and voted 6-4 in favor of the 16 new cities even after the case had already been closed. The LCP has alleged in media interviews that the legal counsel for the 16 municipalities, Estelito Mendoza, had written the court and asked it to re-open the case.

The Supreme Court affirmed its 2009 resolution on June 28, 2010. But on August 24, 2010, the Court again reversed itself and struck down the constitutionality of the 16 cityhood laws.

The LCP's victory was short-lived though when on February 15, 2011, the Court flip-flopped for the third time and declared the 16 cityhood laws lawful and valid.

Source: sunstar.com.ph

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