In an “unusual” instance, the Supreme Court has reversed for the second time its decision on the upgrading of the status of local governments.
In a 16-page resolution dated Aug. 24, the full high court declared as “unconstitutional” the 16 so-called cityhood laws, which converted municipalities to cities during the 14th Congress, including one for Lamitan, Basilan, .
The cityhood bills automatically lapsed into law on various dates between March and July 2007.
The laws covered the municipalities of Baybay, Leyte; Bogo, Carcar and Naga in Cebu province; Catbalogan, Samar; Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Borongan, Eastern Samar; Tayabas, Quezon; Lamitan, Basilan; Tabuk, Kalinga; Bayuga, Agusan del Sur; Batac, Ilocos Norte; Mati, Davao Oriental; Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte; and El Salvador, Misamis Oriental.
Voting 7-6, with two justices not taking part, the high court said its decision dated Dec. 21, 2009 was void since “a tie-vote cannot result in any court order or directive.”
The decision made last December, reached through a 6-6 vote, was a reversal of the “final and executory” judgment of the high court dated April 28, 2009.
The April decision turned down the second appeal from the respondents in the case, who asked the high court to uphold the constitutionality of the 16 cityhood laws.
Prior to that, the respondents appeal the case for the first time, resulting in a high court decision dated March 21, 2009.
“Undeniably, the 6-6 vote did not overrule the [original] majority en banc decision of 18 November 2008, as well, as the prior majority en banc resolution of 31 March 2009,” the latest decision stated.
Jose Midas P. Marquez, court administrator and spokesman, said a second reversal of the decision is not a “first time, but is very unusual for the high court.”
“The issuance of an entry of judgment in the final and executory decision is an SOP (standard operating procedure). But the [high court] realized that there are still pending motions left unresolved, so the deliberations for the case continued,”Marquez said in an interview.
He said the latest decision made no mention of an entry in judgment, which could mean “that the case may still be appealed.”
In its latest decision, the high court reiterated that the cityhood laws violated Section 10, Article X of the Constitution, which stated that creation of cities will be “in accordance with the Local Government Code.”
The cityhood laws exempted the upgraded municipalities from the income requirement in the amended Local Government Code. Republic Act No. 9009, which took effect on June 30, 2001, which reset the minimum income requirement before a municipality could be converted to a city from P20 million to P100 million.
“Such exemption violates... the Constitution, and is thus patently unconstitutional. To be valid, such exemption must be written in the Local Government Code, and not in any other law, including the cityhood laws,” the decision stated.
Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio penned the decision with Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Arturo D. Brion, Diosdado M. Peralta, Martin S. Villarama, Jr., Jose C. Mendoza, and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, concurring.
Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, who wrote the December ruling, dissented together with Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, and Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas P. Bersamin, Roberto A. Abad, and Jose P. Perez.
Justices Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura and Mariano C. del Castillo took no part in the voting.
San Fernando, Pampanga Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, president of the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), welcomed the decision.
“We are elated. In the first place, it is not wrong to correct a mistake. [The decision] should have been that way, not only in the interest of the cities, but also in the interest of law,” Mr. Rodriguez said by phone. The LCP was one of the petitioners in the case.