MANILA -- The League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) asked the Supreme Court (SC) Tuesday to reconsider its recent decision upholding the constitutionality of 16 cityhood laws.
In its December 21 decision in the case of LCP represented by Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas versus the Commission on Elections (Comelec) penned by Associate Justice Presbiterio Velasco Jr., the SC voted 6-4, declaring constitutionally valid the cityhood laws converting 16 towns into cities.
The LCP, in its ad cautelam motion for reconsideration, however sought the reversal of the SC decision, meaning there is a pending petition to annul proclamation filed earlier, which is the legality of 16 cityhood laws.
The petition also states that the power of Congress to create local government units has limitations under Section 10, Article X of the Constitution.
Section 10 provides that "no province, city, municipality or barangay shall be created, divided, merged, abolished or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”
The petition argued that the Constitution mandates that a city may not be created without complying with the criteria established in the Local Government Code.
"In attempting to construe the said criteria for creation of respondent municipalities in the exemption clauses of the cityhood bills, the Honorable Court's ponencia (paper) erred in disregarding the mandatory and prohibitive language of the Constitution," the petition said.
Thus, a cityhood law that carves out an unauthorized exception to the clear language of the constitutional provision is invalid and unconstitutional, it added.
The LCP also said that the mere filing of the cityhood bills did not provide substantial distinction required under equal protection clause (Section 1, Article III) of the Constitution.
"Equal protection of the laws requires that a classification must rest on a substantial distinction. The sole and singular circumstance of having filed a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress does not constitute a substantive distinction that warrants the differential and referential treatment of the respondent municipalities," it added.
The LCP, meanwhile, questioned the increase in the 16 cities’ internal revenue allotment (IRA) shares despite the fact that they are incapable of fiscal independence.
It is assailing what it called the "mad rush" in the conversion last year of 16 -- originally 18 -- municipalities into cities without meeting the requirement for the minimum locally generated income of at least P100 million a year.
The High Court ruled that the Congress did not intend the increased income requirement in Republic Act (RA) 9009 to apply to the cityhood bills. It said the Congress intended the subject cityhood laws to be exempted from the income requirement of P100 million as prescribed under the law.
The RA 9009 took effect in June 2001 amending section 450 of the Local Government Code by increasing the annual income requirement for conversion of a municipality into a city from P20 million to P100 million.
The 16 new cities are Baybay in Leyte; Bogo in Cebu; Catbalogan in Samar; Tandag in Surigao del Sur; Borongan in Eastern Samar; Tayabas in Quezon province; Lamitan in Basilan; 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; Carcar in Cebu; El Salvador in Misamis Oriental; and Naga in Cebu.
Velasco said these cityhood laws do not violate Section 10, Article X or the equal protection clause under Section 1, Article III of the Constitution.
In setting aside its ruling on the case issued last April 28, the SC also explained that the 6-6 vote then does not reflect the majority of the members of the court as required under Section 4 (2), Article VIII of the Constitution.
The provision requires all cases involving constitutionality of a treaty, international agreement to be heard by the full court and decided with the concurrence of a majority of the members who actually took part in the deliberations of the case.
Concurring were Justices Renato Corona, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, and Martin Villarama Jr. Justice Antonio Carpio, who wrote a dissenting opinion, was joined by Justices Conchita Carpio Morales, Arturo Brion, and Diosdado Peralta. (JCV/Sunnex)