Never-ending court case

IN a 7-6 vote with two abstentions, the Supreme Court has for the third times reversed itself again when it declared the constitutionality of the laws that converted 16 municipalities into cities. This makes an unusual case as the High Court decides on the matter fourth times, a never-ending litigation.

This time the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) is on the “losing” side after they emerged victorious when the high tribunal ruled in their favor in November 2008 declaring the city hood laws for the 16 towns as unconstitutional citing violations of Sections 6 and 10 of Article X (local government) of the Constitution.

Expectedly, the LCP now headed as chairman by Caloocan City Mayor Recom Echiverri, himself a lawyer, is again filing a motion for reconsideration. Really, it’s an endless court case, a record in the making.

With the latest SC ruling, it declared as valid and constitutional Republic Act No. 9389 (Baybay City in Leyte), RA 9390 (Bogo City in Cebu), RA 9391 (Catbalogan City in Samar), RA 9392 (Tandag City in Surigao del Sur), RA 9393 (Lamitan City in Basilan), RA 9394 (Borongan City in Samar), RA 9398 (Tayabas City in Quezon), RA 9404 (Tabuk City in Kalinga), RA 9405 (Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur), RA 9407 (Batac City in Ilocos Norte), RA 9408 (Mati City in Davao Oriental), RA 9409 (Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental), RA 9434 (Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte), RA 9435 (El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental), RA 9436 (Carcar City in Cebu), and RA 9491 (Naga City in Cebu).

The 2008 decision penned by Justice Antonio T. Carpio said primarily that the 16 towns did not meet the criteria of a P100-million income to qualify them into cities. Then on December 2009, it was reversed saying all “cityhood laws that had been enacted after the effectivity of RA 9009 which increased the income requirement for cityhood from P20 million to P100 million in Section 450 of the Local Government Code (LGC), explicitly exempt the 16 municipalities from the said increased income requirement.”

The LCP, which has 122 member-cities all over the country, resurfaced and questioned the 2009 ruling. Less than a year later or exactly on August 2010, the SC in a 7-6 vote penned again by Carpio reinstated the November 2008 decision declaring unconstitutional the 16 cityhood laws. Nonetheless, the 16 municipalities didn’t call it quits yet. It filed MR and they turn up triumphant in their quest with Justice Lucas Bersamin as the ponente of the latest ruling.

With the tight voting, it wouldn’t be surprising that there would changes in its decision. With the retirement and replacement of SC justices, there’s of course change in the composition of the court which certainly influences its decisions in the future and in all probability it’s a main point that Echiverri’s LCP will rely on in seeking another reversal in its favor.

As what the LCP pushes, I believe it’s imperative for Congress to step in by carefully reviewing R.A 9009 so as to provide enough protection to ensure its complete implementation because if it’s not, then practically all municipalities could apply to become cities and even single barangays could also claim to be a city.

In previous conversation, Echiverri and Valenzuela Mayor Win Gatchalian, LCP’s vice president for Metro Manila, clarified they’re not against municipalities that seek to become cities as they only want to assure that these towns fulfill the requirements of R.A. 9009 first.-Arlie Calalo

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