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Not once but thrice: SC changes position again on 16 'cities'

(Article from ABS-CBNNews)


MANILA, Philippines - Not once, but thrice.


The Supreme Court (SC) has reversed itself for the third time on the issue of whether or not the Cityhood Laws, which allow 16 municipalities to be converted into cities, is constitutional or not.

The Court, during last Tuesday’s regular en banc session, reversed the decision declaring the laws unconstitutional with a vote of 7-6-2, and reinstated its earlier decision affirming the constitutionality of the said laws.


Declared as valid and constitutional -- again -- are Republic Act numbers:


1. 9389 (Baybay City in Leyte)
2. 9390 (Bogo City in Cebu)
3. 9391 (Catbalogan City in Samar)
4. 9392 (Tandag City in Surigao del Sur)
5. 9393 (Lamitan City in Basilan)
6. 9394 (Borongan City in Samar)
7. 9398 (Tayabas City in Quezon)
8. 9404 (Tabuk City in Kalinga)
9. 9405 (Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur)
10. 9407 (Batac City in Ilocos Norte)
11. 9408 (Mati City in Davao Oriental)
12. 9409 (Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental),
13. 9434 (Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte)
14. 9435 (El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental)
15. 9436 (Carcar City in Cebu)
16. 9491 (Naga City in Cebu)


The Court granted the motion for reconsideration filed by the 16 municipalities whose laws had earlier been declared unconstitutional.


The Court held that the Cityhood Laws, all enacted after the effectivity of RA 9009 or the Local Government Code, explicitly exempt respondent municipalities from the increased income requirement from P20 million to P100 million in Section 450 of the LGC.


Among the justices who voted to declare the Cityhood Laws constitutional were Chief Justice Renato Corona, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, and Jose Mendoza.

Justice Mendoza previously voted against the Cityhood Laws.


Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Martin Villarama, Jr., Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta maintained the position that the Cityhood Laws are unconstitutional.


Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Antonio Eduardo Nachura took no part anew on the resolution of the issue.


Constitutional, then unconstitutional


In a ruling on November 18, 2008, the Court, voting 6-5, granted the petition filed by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) seeking to declare as unconstitutional the Cityhood Laws.


Justice Carpio penned the November 18 decision, which held that the Cityhood Laws violate Sections 6 and 10, Article X of the Constitution.


Five months later, the Court dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by the municipalities. It voted 6-6 last April 28, 2009.


The LCP has been opposing the cityhood laws saying that the “wholesale conversion of municipalities into cities” will greatly reduce the cities share in the Internal Revenue Allotment, since more cities will partake of the internal revenue set aside for all cities.

The first reversal came on December 21, 2009. From its earlier position that the Cityhood laws are unconstitutional, the Court voted 6-4 to declare the laws as constitutional.

In effect, the Court reversed the November 18, 2008 ruling saying that a deadlock vote does not show the sentiment of the majority of the magistrates.


Justice Velasco who penned the December 21 ruling granted the second motion for reconsideration filed by the municipalities.


Velasco explained that the 6-6 vote does not reflect the majority of the members of the contemplated in Section 4 (2), Article VIII of the Constitution that requires all cases involving constitutionality of a treaty or international agreement shall be heard by the SC en banc and decided with the concurrence of a majority of the members who actually took part in the deliberations of the case.

The second reversal occurred on August 24, 2010 when the Court--again--ruled that the Cityhood laws are unconstitutional.


Voting 7-6, the Court granted the motions for reconsideration of the LCP and reinstated its November 18, 2008 decision.

The third reversal came 7 months later--on February 16, 2011.


'Unusual case'


At a press briefing, Court Administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez explained that reversal of the Court’s ruling on the Cityhood Laws should not come as a surprise considering that the case “is unusual and the vote of the justices was very tight.”




Marquez indicated that the latest ruling may not put an end on the issue since it is expected that the LCP will still file a motion for reconsideration.




“This is really a very unusual case. I have yet to hear another case which has gone this way,” Marquez said.


 

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