Tandag mayor to LCP: Let new cities be

BUTUAN CITY (MindaNews/14 June) – The mayor of one of the 16 new cities in the country appealed to the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) not to pursue its reported plan to revive a case questioning the constitutionality of their creation for the sake of “harmony and reconciliation.”

“Why can’t they just maintain the status quo now for the sake of harmony and reconciliation?” asked City Mayor Alexander T. Pimentel of Tandag, Surigao del Sur, adding the move was an “unfortunate development.”

Pimentel was reacting to reports quoting LCP president and Mayor Oscar Rodriguez of San Fernando, Pampanga as saying the LCP was “considering an appeal” before the Supreme Court.

LCP’s move may have been prompted by the removal of Renato C. Corona as chief justice after his conviction by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court for culpable violations of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Corona was among the seven justices who voted in favor of the laws that converted 16 towns across the country into cities.

Six of these new cities are in Mindanao namely, Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, El Salvador in Misamis Oriental, Lamitan in Basilan, and Mati in Davao Oriental.

The 10 others are Baybay in Leyte, Bogo in Cebu, Catbalogan and Borongan in Samar, Tayabas in Quezon, Tabuk in Kalinga, Batac in Ilocos Norte, Guihulngan in Negros Oriental, and Carcar and Naga in Cebu.

Pimentel, interim president of the so-called League of 16, said that until now the new cities have been denied membership in the LCP prompting them to organize a separate group.

Pimentel is set to relinquish his post to Mayor Carmen Cari of Baybay, Leyte.

“I am not a lawyer, but I believe it is impossible now for the League of Cities to overturn the decision of the Supreme Court which was rendered with finality,” said Pimentel, who also served as spokesperson of the 16 cities during the litigation period.

If the league would pursue its plan, litigants with decided cases would be encouraged to also seek for reconsideration, he cautioned.

“As a matter of fact, that flip-flopping of the Supreme Court was one of the grounds in the original case filed against Corona but the prosecution withdrew it,” he said in a phone interview.

Voting 7-5, the Supreme Court on November 18, 2008 granted the petition of the LCP seeking to declare the cityhood laws as unconstitutional.

The high court said the laws which created these cities could not claim to be exempted from Republic Act 9009, which took effect in June, 2001, amending section 450 of the Local Government Code to increase the annual income requirement for a municipality to become a city from P20 million to P100 million.

The League of 16 filed a motion for reconsideration which the Supreme Court denied on March 31, 2009.  It then sought permission to file a second motion for reconsideration, with the Supreme Court ruling on April 28, 2009 with a vote of 6-6.

On December 21, 2009, the Supreme Court, voting 6-4, granted the second motion for reconsideration filed by the League of 16 to declare as valid and constitutional the 16 cityhood laws, saying the “inconclusive 6-6 tie vote reflected in the April 28, 2009, resolution was the last vote on the issue of whether or not the cityhood laws infringe the Constitution” and that “in light of the 6-6 vote (the issue) should be deliberated anew until the required concurrence on the issue of the validity or invalidity of the laws in question is, on the merits, secured.”

On August 27, 2010, the Supreme Court in a press statement said that by a vote of  7-6 with two justices taking no part, it granted the motions for reconsideration of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and reinstated its November 18, 2008 decision “declaring unconstitutional the Cityhood Laws.”

But on February 15 last year the court again reversed its ruling.

Aside from Corona, the justices who voted to declare the cityhood laws constitutional were Associate Justices Pesbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez and Jose Mendoza.

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 while Associate jusices Mariano del Castillo and Antonio Eduardo Nachura did not participate in the resolution of the case anew.

The LCP had opposed the creation of the new cities, saying it will inevitably lead to reductions in their internal revenue allotments. They also argued that the new cities did not qualify based on income and other requirements. (Alden Pantaleon/MindaNews)