League of Cities v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 176951, February 15, 2011

Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

G.R. No. 176951               February 15, 2011

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), Represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; Municipality of Baybay, Province of Leyte; Municipality of Bogo, Province of Cebu; Municipality of Catbalogan, Province of Western Samar; Municipality of Tandag, Province of Surigao del Sur; Municipality of Borongan, Province of Eastern Samar; and Municipality of Tayabas, Province of Quezon, Respondents.

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G.R. No. 177499

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), Represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; Municipality of Lamitan, Province of Basilan; Municipality of Tabuk, Province of Kalinga; Municipality of Bayugan, Province of Agusan del Sur; Municipality of Batac, Province of Ilocos Norte; Municipality of Mati, Province of Davao Oriental; and Municipality of Guihulngan, Province of Negros Oriental, Respondents.

x – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -x

G.R. No. 178056

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), Represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; Municipality of Cabadbaran, Province of Agusan del Norte; Municipality of Carcar, Province of Cebu; Municipality of El Salvador, Province of Misamis Oriental; Municipality of Naga, Cebu; and Department of Budget and Management, Respondents.

R E S O L U T I O N

BERSAMIN, J.:

For consideration of this Court are the following pleadings:

1. Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010 dated and filed on September 14, 2010 by respondents Municipality of Baybay, et al.; and

2. Opposition [To the "Motion for Reconsideration of the ‘Resolution’ dated August 24, 2010"].

Meanwhile, respondents also filed on September 20, 2010 a Motion to Set “Motion for Reconsideration of the ‘Resolution’ dated August 24, 2010″ for Hearing. This motion was, however, already denied by the Court En Banc.

A brief background—

These cases were initiated by the consolidated petitions for prohibition filed by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), City of Iloilo, City of Calbayog, and Jerry P. Treñas, assailing the constitutionality of the sixteen (16) laws,1 each converting the municipality covered thereby into a component city (Cityhood Laws), and seeking to enjoin the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from conducting plebiscites pursuant to the subject laws.

In the Decision dated November 18, 2008, the Court En Banc, by a 6-5 vote,2 granted the petitions and struck down the Cityhood Laws as unconstitutional for violating Sections 10 and 6, Article X, and the equal protection clause.

In the Resolution dated March 31, 2009, the Court En Banc, by a 7-5 vote,3 denied the first motion for reconsideration.

On April 28, 2009, the Court En Banc issued a Resolution, with a vote of 6-6,4 which denied the second motion for reconsideration for being a prohibited pleading.

In its June 2, 2009 Resolution, the Court En Banc clarified its April 28, 2009 Resolution in this wise—

As a rule, a second motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading pursuant to Section 2, Rule 52 of the Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that: “No second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final resolution by the same party shall be entertained.” Thus, a decision becomes final and executory after 15 days from receipt of the denial of the first motion for reconsideration.

However, when a motion for leave to file and admit a second motion for reconsideration is granted by the Court, the Court therefore allows the filing of the second motion for reconsideration. In such a case, the second motion for reconsideration is no longer a prohibited pleading.

In the present case, the Court voted on the second motion for reconsideration filed by respondent cities. In effect, the Court allowed the filing of the second motion for reconsideration. Thus, the second motion for reconsideration was no longer a prohibited pleading. However, for lack of the required number of votes to overturn the 18 November 2008 Decision and 31 March 2009 Resolution, the Court denied the second motion for reconsideration in its 28 April 2009 Resolution.5

Then, in another Decision dated December 21, 2009, the Court En Banc, by a vote of 6-4,6 declared the Cityhood Laws as constitutional.

On August 24, 2010, the Court En Banc, through a Resolution, by a vote of 7-6,7 resolved the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration and Motion to Annul the Decision of December 21, 2009, both filed by petitioners, and the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners-in-intervention Batangas City, Santiago City, Legazpi City, Iriga City, Cadiz City, and Oroquieta City, reinstating the November 18, 2008 Decision. Hence, the aforementioned pleadings.

Considering these circumstances where the Court En Banc has twice changed its position on the constitutionality of the 16 Cityhood Laws, and especially taking note of the novelty of the issues involved in these cases, the Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010 deserves favorable action by this Court on the basis of the following cogent points:

1.

The 16 Cityhood Bills do not violate Article X, Section 10 of the Constitution.

Article X, Section 10 provides—

Section 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay may 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 tenor of the ponencias of the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution is that the exemption clauses in the 16 Cityhood Laws are unconstitutional because they are not written in the Local Government Code of 1991 (LGC), particularly Section 450 thereof, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9009, which took effect on June 30, 2001, viz.—

Section 450. Requisites for Creation. –a) A municipality or a cluster of barangays may be converted into a component city if it has a locally generated annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least One Hundred Million Pesos (P100,000,000.00) for at least two (2) consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites:

x x x x

(c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, transfers, and non-recurring income. (Emphasis supplied)

Prior to the amendment, Section 450 of the LGC required only an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least P20,000,000.00 for the last two (2) consecutive years, based on 1991 constant prices.

Before Senate Bill No. 2157, now R.A. No. 9009, was introduced by Senator Aquilino Pimentel, there were 57 bills filed for conversion of 57 municipalities into component cities. During the 11th Congress (June 1998-June 2001), 33 of these bills were enacted into law, while 24 remained as pending bills. Among these 24 were the 16 municipalities that were converted into component cities through the Cityhood Laws.

The rationale for the enactment of R.A. No. 9009 can be gleaned from the sponsorship speech of Senator Pimentel on Senate Bill No. 2157, to wit—

Senator Pimentel. Mr. President, I would have wanted this bill to be included in the whole set of proposed amendments that we have introduced to precisely amend the Local Government Code. However, it is a fact that there is a mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities. Whereas in 1991, when the Local Government was approved, there were only 60 cities, today the number has increased to 85 cities, with 41 more municipalities applying for conversion to the same status. At the rate we are going, I am apprehensive that before long this nation will be a nation of all cities and no municipalities.

It is for that reason, Mr. President, that we are proposing among other things, that the financial requirement, which, under the Local Government Code, is fixed at P20 million, be raised to P100 million to enable a municipality to have the right to be converted into a city, and the P100 million should be sourced from locally generated funds.

What has been happening, Mr. President, is, the municipalities aspiring to become cities say that they qualify in terms of financial requirements by incorporating the Internal Revenue share of the taxes of the nation on to their regularly generated revenue. Under that requirement, it looks clear to me that practically all municipalities in this country would qualify to become cities.

It is precisely for that reason, therefore, that we are seeking the approval of this Chamber to amend, particularly Section 450 of Republic Act No. 7160, the requisite for the average annual income of a municipality to be converted into a city or cluster of barangays which seek to be converted into a city, raising that revenue requirement from P20 million to P100 million for the last two consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices.8

While R.A. No. 9009 was being deliberated upon, Congress was well aware of the pendency of conversion bills of several municipalities, including those covered by the Cityhood Laws, desiring to become component cities which qualified under the P20 million income requirement of the old Section 450 of the LGC. The interpellation of Senate President Franklin Drilon of Senator Pimentel is revealing, thus—

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would like to ask for some clarificatory point.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. This is just on the point of the pending bills in the Senate which propose the conversion of a number of municipalities into cities and which qualify under the present standard.

We would like to know the view of the sponsor: Assuming that this bill becomes a law, will the Chamber apply the standard as proposed in this bill to those bills which are pending for consideration?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, it might not be fair to make this bill, on the assumption that it is approved, retroact to the bills that are pending in the Senate conversion from municipalities to cities.

THE PRESIDENT. Will there be an appropriate language crafted to reflect that view? Or does it not become a policy of the Chamber, assuming that this bill becomes a law tomorrow, that it will apply to those bills which are already approved by the House under the old version of the Local Government Code and are now pending in the Senate? The Chair does not know if we can craft a language which will limit the application to those which are not yet in the Senate. Or is that a policy that the Chamber will adopt?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, personally, I do not think it is necessary to put that provision because what we are saying here will form part of the interpretation of this bill. Besides, if there is no retroactivity clause, I do not think that the bill would have any retroactive effect.

THE PRESIDENT. So the understanding is that those bills which are already pending in the Chamber will not be affected.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. These will not be affected, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you Mr. Chairman.9

Clearly, based on the above exchange, Congress intended that those with pending cityhood bills during the 11th Congress would not be covered by the new and higher income requirement of P100 million imposed by R.A. No. 9009. When the LGC was amended by R.A. No. 9009, the amendment carried with it both the letter and the intent of the law, and such were incorporated in the LGC by which the compliance of the Cityhood Laws was gauged.

Notwithstanding that both the 11th and 12th Congress failed to act upon the pending cityhood bills, both the letter and intent of Section 450 of the LGC, as amended by R.A. No. 9009, were carried on until the 13th Congress, when the Cityhood Laws were enacted. The exemption clauses found in the individual Cityhood Laws are the express articulation of that intent to exempt respondent municipalities from the coverage of R.A. No. 9009.

Even if we were to ignore the above quoted exchange between then Senate President Drilon and Senator Pimentel, it cannot be denied that Congress saw the wisdom of exempting respondent municipalities from complying with the higher income requirement imposed by the amendatory R.A. No. 9009. Indeed, these municipalities have proven themselves viable and capable to become component cities of their respective provinces. It is also acknowledged that they were centers of trade and commerce, points of convergence of transportation, rich havens of agricultural, mineral, and other natural resources, and flourishing tourism spots. In this regard, it is worthy to mention the distinctive traits of each respondent municipality, viz—

Batac, Ilocos Norte – It is the biggest municipality of the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte, 2nd largest and most progressive town in the province of Ilocos Norte and the natural convergence point for the neighboring towns to transact their commercial ventures and other daily activities. A growing metropolis, Batac is equipped with amenities of modern living like banking institutions, satellite cable systems, telecommunications systems. Adequate roads, markets, hospitals, public transport systems, sports, and entertainment facilities. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5941, introduced by Rep. Imee R. Marcos.]

El Salvador, Misamis Oriental – It is located at the center of the Cagayan-Iligan Industrial Corridor and home to a number of industrial companies and corporations. Investment and financial affluence of El Salvador is aptly credited to its industrious and preserving people. Thus, it has become the growing investment choice even besting nearby cities and municipalities. It is home to Asia Brewery as distribution port of their product in Mindanao. The Gokongwei Group of Companies is also doing business in the area. So, the conversion is primarily envisioned to spur economic and financial prosperity to this coastal place in North-Western Misamis Oriental. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 6003, introduced by Rep. Augusto H. Bacullo.]

Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte – It is the largest of the eleven (11) municipalities in the province of Agusan del Norte. It plays strategic importance to the administrative and socio-economic life and development of Agusan del Norte. It is the foremost in terms of trade, commerce, and industry. Hence, the municipality was declared as the new seat and capital of the provincial government of Agusan del Norte pursuant to Republic Act No. 8811 enacted into law on August 16, 2000. Its conversion will certainly promote, invigorate, and reinforce the economic potential of the province in establishing itself as an agro-industrial center in the Caraga region and accelerate the development of the area. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3094, introduced by Rep. Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante.]

Borongan, Eastern Samar – It is the capital town of Eastern Samar and the development of Eastern Samar will depend to a certain degree of its urbanization. It will serve as a catalyst for the modernization and progress of adjacent towns considering the frequent interactions between the populace. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 2640, introduced by Rep. Marcelino C. Libanan.]

Lamitan, Basilan – Before Basilan City was converted into a separate province, Lamitan was the most progressive part of the city. It has been for centuries the center of commerce and the seat of the Sultanate of the Yakan people of Basilan. The source of its income is agro-industrial and others notably copra, rubber, coffee and host of income generating ventures. As the most progressive town in Basilan, Lamitan continues to be the center of commerce catering to the municipalities of Tuburan, Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5786, introduced by Rep. Gerry A. Salapuddin.]

Catbalogan, Samar – It has always been the socio-economic-political capital of the Island of Samar even during the Spanish era. It is the seat of government of the two congressional districts of Samar. Ideally located at the crossroad between Northern and Eastern Samar, Catbalogan also hosts trade and commerce activates among the more prosperous cities of the Visayas like Tacloban City, Cebu City and the cities of Bicol region. The numerous banks and telecommunication facilities showcases the healthy economic environment of the municipality. The preeminent and sustainable economic situation of Catbalogan has further boosted the call of residents for a more vigorous involvement of governance of the municipal government that is inherent in a city government. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 2088, introduced by Rep. Catalino V. Figueroa.]

Bogo, Cebu – Bogo is very qualified for a city in terms of income, population and area among others. It has been elevated to the Hall of Fame being a five-time winner nationwide in the clean and green program. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3042, introduced by Rep. Clavel A. Martinez.]

Tandag, Surigao del Sur – This over 350 year old capital town the province has long sought its conversion into a city that will pave the way not only for its own growth and advancement but also help in the development of its neighboring municipalities and the province as a whole. Furthermore, it can enhance its role as the province’s trade, financial and government center. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5940, introduced by Rep. Prospero A. Pichay, Jr.]

Bayugan, Agusan del Sur – It is a first class municipality and the biggest in terms of population in the entire province. It has the most progressive and thickly populated area among the 14 municipalities that comprise the province. Thus, it has become the center for trade and commerce in Agusan del Sur. It has a more developed infrastructure and facilities than other municipalities in the province. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 1899, introduced by Rep. Rodolfo "Ompong" G. Plaza.]

Carcar, Cebu – Through the years, Carcar metamorphosed from rural to urban and now boast of its manufacturing industry, agricultural farming, fishing and prawn industry and its thousands of large and small commercial establishments contributing to the bulk of economic activities in the municipality. Based on consultation with multi-sectoral groups, political and non-government agencies, residents and common folk in Carcar, they expressed their desire for the conversion of the municipality into a component city. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3990, introduced by Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas.]

Guihulngan, Negros Oriental – Its population is second highest in the province, next only to the provincial capital and higher than Canlaon City and Bais City. Agriculture contributes heavily to its economy. There are very good prospects in agricultural production brought about by its favorable climate. It has also the Tanon Strait that provides a good fishing ground for its numerous fishermen. Its potential to grow commercially is certain. Its strategic location brought about by its existing linkage networks and the major transportation corridors traversing the municipality has established Guihulngan as the center of commerce and trade in this part of Negros Oriental with the first congressional district as its immediate area of influence. Moreover, it has beautiful tourist spots that are being availed of by local and foreign tourists. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3628, introduced by Rep. Jacinto V. Paras.]

Tayabas, Quezon – It flourished and expanded into an important politico-cultural center in [the] Tagalog region. For 131 years (1179-1910), it served as the cabecera of the province which originally carried the cabecera’s own name, Tayabas. The locality is rich in culture, heritage and trade. It was at the outset one of the more active centers of coordination and delivery of basic, regular and diverse goods and services within the first district of Quezon Province. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3348, introduced by Rep. Rafael P. Nantes.]

Tabuk, Kalinga – It not only serves as the main hub of commerce and trade, but also the cultural center of the rich customs and traditions of the different municipalities in the province. For the past several years, the income of Tabuk has been steadily increasing, which is an indication that its economy is likewise progressively growing. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3068, introduced by Rep. Laurence P. Wacnang.]

Available information on Baybay, Leyte; Mati, Davao Oriental; and Naga, Cebu shows their economic viability, thus:

Covering an area of 46,050 hectares, Baybay [Leyte] is composed of 92 barangays, 23 of which are in the poblacion. The remaining 69 are rural barangays. Baybay City is classified as a first class city. It is situated on the western coast of the province of Leyte. It has a Type 4 climate, which is generally wet. Its topography is generally mountainous in the eastern portion as it slopes down west towards the shore line. Generally an agricultural city, the common means of livelihood are farming and fishing. Some are engaged in hunting and in forestall activities. The most common crops grown are rice, corn, root crops, fruits, and vegetables. Industries operating include the Specialty Products Manufacturing, Inc. and the Visayan Oil Mill. Various cottage industries can also be found in the city such as bamboo and rattan craft, ceramics, dress-making, fiber craft, food preservation, mat weaving, metal craft, fine Philippine furniture manufacturing and other related activities. Baybay has great potential as a tourist destination, especially for tennis players. It is not only rich in biodiversity and history, but it also houses the campus of the Visayas State University (formerly the Leyte State University/Visayas State College of Agriculture/Visayas Agricultural College/Baybay National Agricultural School/Baybay Agricultural High School and the Jungle Valley Park.) Likewise, it has river systems fit for river cruising, numerous caves for spelunking, forests, beaches, and marine treasures. This richness, coupled with the friendly Baybayanos, will be an element of a successful tourism program. Considering the role of tourism in development, Baybay City intends to harness its tourism potential. (<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baybay City> visited September 19, 2008)

Mati [Davao Oriental] is located on the eastern part of the island of Mindanao. It is one hundred sixty-five (165) kilometers away from Davao City, a one and a half-hour drive from Tagum City. Visitors can travel from Davao City through the Madaum diversion road, which is shorter than taking the Davao-Tagum highway. Travels by air and sea are possible, with the existence of an airport and seaport. Mati boasts of being the coconut capital of Mindanao if not the whole country. A large portion of its fertile land is planted to coconuts, and a significant number of its population is largely dependent on it. Other agricultural crops such as mango, banana, corn, coffee and cacao are also being cultivated, as well as the famous Menzi pomelo and Valencia oranges. Mati has a long stretch of shoreline and one can find beaches of pure, powder-like white sand. A number of resorts have been developed and are now open to serve both local and international tourists. Some of these resorts are situated along the coast of Pujada Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Along the western coast of the bay lies Mt. Hamiguitan, the home of the pygmy forest, where bonsai plants and trees grow, some of which are believed to be a hundred years old or more. On its peak is a lake, called “Tinagong Dagat,” or hidden sea, so covered by dense vegetation a climber has to hike trails for hours to reach it. The mountain is also host to rare species of flora and fauna, thus becoming a wildlife sanctuary for these life forms. (<http://mati.wetpain.com/?t=anon> accessed on September 19, 2008.)

Mati is abundant with nickel, chromite, and copper. Louie Rabat, Chamber President of the Davao Oriental Eastern Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized the big potential of the mining industry in the province of Davao Oriental. As such, he strongly recommends Mati as the mining hub in the Region.

(<http://www.pia.gov.ph/default.asp?m=12&sec=reader&rp=1&fi=p080115.htm&no.=9&date, accessed on September 19, 2008)

Naga [Cebu]: Historical Background—In the early times, the place now known as Naga was full of huge trees locally called as “Narra.” The first settlers referred to this place as Narra, derived from the huge trees, which later simply became Naga. Considered as one of the oldest settlements in the Province of Cebu, Naga became a municipality on June 12, 1829. The municipality has gone through a series of classifications as its economic development has undergone changes and growth. The tranquil farming and fishing villages of the natives were agitated as the Spaniards came and discovered coal in the uplands. Coal was the first export of the municipality, as the Spaniards mined and sent it to Spain. The mining industry triggered the industrial development of Naga. As the years progressed, manufacturing and other industries followed, making Naga one of the industrialized municipalities in the Province of Cebu.

Class of Municipality 1st class

Province Cebu

Distance from Cebu City 22 kms.

Number of Barangays 28

No. of Registered Voters 44,643 as of May 14, 2007

Total No. of Precincts 237 (as of May 14, 2007)

Ann. Income (as of Dec. 31, 2006) Php112,219,718.35 Agricultural, Industrial, Agro-Industrial, Mining Product

(<http://www.nagacebu.com/index.php?option=com.content&view=article id=53:naga-facts-and-figures&catid=51:naga-facts-and-figures&Itemid=75> visited September 19, 2008)

The enactment of the Cityhood Laws is an exercise by Congress of its legislative power. Legislative power is the authority, under the Constitution, to make laws, and to alter and repeal them.10 The Constitution, as the expression of the will of the people in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity, has vested this power in the Congress of the Philippines. The grant of legislative power to Congress is broad, general, and comprehensive. The legislative body possesses plenary powers for all purposes of civil government. Any power, deemed to be legislative by usage and tradition, is necessarily possessed by Congress, unless the Constitution has lodged it elsewhere. In fine, except as limited by the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly, legislative power embraces all subjects, and extends to matters of general concern or common interest.11

Without doubt, the LGC is a creation of Congress through its law-making powers. Congress has the power to alter or modify it as it did when it enacted R.A. No. 9009. Such power of amendment of laws was again exercised when Congress enacted the Cityhood Laws. When Congress enacted the LGC in 1991, it provided for quantifiable indicators of economic viability for the creation of local government units—income, population, and land area. Congress deemed it fit to modify the income requirement with respect to the conversion of municipalities into component cities when it enacted R.A. No. 9009, imposing an amount of P100 million, computed only from locally-generated sources. However, Congress deemed it wiser to exempt respondent municipalities from such a belatedly imposed modified income requirement in order to uphold its higher calling of putting flesh and blood to the very intent and thrust of the LGC, which is countryside development and autonomy, especially accounting for these municipalities as engines for economic growth in their respective provinces.

Undeniably, R.A. No. 9009 amended the LGC. But it is also true that, in effect, the Cityhood Laws amended R.A. No. 9009 through the exemption clauses found therein. Since the Cityhood Laws explicitly exempted the concerned municipalities from the amendatory R.A. No. 9009, such Cityhood Laws are, therefore, also amendments to the LGC itself. For this reason, we reverse the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution on their strained and stringent view that the Cityhood Laws, particularly their exemption clauses, are not found in the LGC.

2.

The Cityhood Laws do not violate Section 6, Article X and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Both the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution impress that the Cityhood Laws violate the equal protection clause enshrined in the Constitution. Further, it was also ruled that Section 6, Article X was violated because the Cityhood Laws infringed on the “just share” that petitioner and petitioners-in-intervention shall receive from the national taxes (IRA) to be automatically released to them.

Upon more profound reflection and deliberation, we declare that there was valid classification, and the Cityhood Laws do not violate the equal protection clause.

As this Court has ruled, the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution permits a valid classification, provided that it: (1) rests on substantial distinctions; (2) is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) is not limited to existing conditions only; and (4) applies equally to all members of the same class.12

The petitioners argue that there is no substantial distinction between municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress and municipalities that did not have pending bills, such that the mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress is not a material difference to distinguish one municipality from another for the purpose of the income requirement. This contention misses the point.

It should be recalled from the above quoted portions of the interpellation by Senate President Drilon of Senator Pimentel that the purpose of the enactment of R.A. No 9009 was merely to stop the “mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities” and the apprehension that before long the country will be a country of cities and without municipalities. It should be pointed out that the imposition of the P100 million average annual income requirement for the creation of component cities was arbitrarily made. To be sure, there was no evidence or empirical data, such as inflation rates, to support the choice of this amount. The imposition of a very high income requirement of P100 million, increased from P20 million, was simply to make it extremely difficult for municipalities to become component cities. And to highlight such arbitrariness and the absurdity of the situation created thereby, R.A. No. 9009 has, in effect, placed component cities at a higher standing than highly urbanized cities under Section 452 of the LGC, to wit—

Section 452. Highly Urbanized Cities. – (a) Cities with a minimum population of two hundred thousand (200,000) inhabitants, as certified by the National Statistics Office, and with the latest annual income of at least Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00) based on 1991 constant prices, as certified by the city treasurer, shall be classified as highly urbanized cities.

(b) Cities which do not meet above requirements shall be considered component cities of the province in which they are geographically located. (Emphasis supplied)

The P100 million income requirement imposed by R.A. No. 9009, being an arbitrary amount, cannot be conclusively said to be the only amount “sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and services and special functions commensurate with the size of its population,” per Section 713 of the LGC. It was imposed merely because it is difficult to comply with. While it could be argued that P100 million, being more than P20 million, could, of course, provide the essential government facilities, services, and special functions vis-à-vis the population of a municipality wanting to become a component city, it cannot be said that the minimum amount of P20 million would be insufficient. This is evident from the existing cities whose income, up to now, do not comply with the P100 million income requirement, some of which have lower than the P20 million average annual income. Consider the list14 below—

CITY

AVERAGE ANNUAL INCOME

1. Marawi City 5,291,522.10
2. Palayan City 6,714,651.77
3. Sipalay City 9,713,120.00
4. Canlaon City 13,552,493.79
5. Himamaylan City 15,808,530.00
6. Isabela City 16,811,246.79
7. Munoz City 19,693,358.61
8. Dapitan City 20,529,181.08
9. Tangub City 20,943,810.04
10. Bayawan City 22,943,810.04
11. Island Garden City of Samal 23,034,731.83
12. Tanjay City 23,723,612.44
13. Tabaco City 24,152,853.71
14. Oroquieta City 24,279,966.51
15. Ligao City 28,326,745.86
16. Sorsogon City 30,403,324.59
17. Maasin City 30,572,113.65
18. Escalante City 32,113,970.00
19. Iriga City 32,757,871.44
20. Gapan City 34,254,986.47
21. Candon City 36,327,705.86
22. Gingoog City 37,327,705.86
23. Masbate City 39,454,508.28
24. Passi City 40,314,620.00
25. Calbayog City 40,943,128.73
26. Calapan City 41,870,239.21
27. Cadiz City 43,827,060.00
28. Alaminos City 44,352,501.00
29. Bais City 44, 646,826.48
30. San Carlos City 46,306,129.13
31. Silay City 47,351,730.00
32. Bislig City 47,360,716.24
33. Tacurong City 49,026,281.56
34. Talisay City (Negros Occidental) 52,609,790.00
35. Kabankalan City 53,560,580.00
36. Malaybalay City 54,423,408.55
37. La Carlota City 54,760,290.00
38. Vigan City 56,831,797.19
39. Balanga City 61,556,700.49
40. Sagay City 64,266,350.00
41. Cavite City 64,566,079.05
42. Koronadal City 66,231,717.19
43. Cotabato City 66,302,114.52
44. Toledo City 70,157,331.12
45. San Jose City 70,309,233.43
46. Danao City 72,621,955.30
47. Bago City 74,305,000.00
48. Valencia City 74,557,298.92
49. Victorias City 75,757,298.92
50. Cauayan City 82,949,135.46
51. Santiago City 83,816,025.89
52. Roxas City 85,397,830.00
53. Dipolog City 85,503,262.85
54. Trece Martires City 87,413,786.64
55. Talisay City (Cebu) 87,964,972.97
56. Ozamis city 89,054,056.12
57. Surigao City 89,960,971.33
58. Panabo City 91,425,301.39
59. Digos City 92,647,699.13

The undeniable fact that these cities remain viable as component cities of their respective provinces emphasizes the arbitrariness of the amount of P100 million as the new income requirement for the conversion of municipalities into component cities. This arbitrariness can also be clearly gleaned from the respective distinctive traits and level of economic development of the individual respondent municipalities as above submitted.

Verily, the determination of the existence of substantial distinction with respect to respondent municipalities does not simply lie on the mere pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress. This Court sees the bigger picture. The existence of substantial distinction with respect to respondent municipalities covered by the Cityhood Laws is measured by the purpose of the law, not by R.A. No. 9009, but by the very purpose of the LGC, as provided in its Section 2 (a), thus—

SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy.—(a) It is hereby declared the policy of the State that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end, the State shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. The process of decentralization shall proceed from the National Government to the local government units.

Indeed, substantial distinction lies in the capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces. Congress, by enacting the Cityhood Laws, recognized this capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become the State’s partners in accelerating economic growth and development in the provincial regions, which is the very thrust of the LGC, manifested by the pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress and their relentless pursuit for cityhood up to the present. Truly, the urgent need to become a component city arose way back in the 11th Congress, and such condition continues to exist.

Petitioners in these cases complain about the purported reduction of their “just share” in the IRA. To be sure, petitioners are entitled to a “just share,” not a specific amount. But the feared reduction proved to be false when, after the implementation of the Cityhood Laws, their respective shares increased, not decreased. Consider the table15 below—

CITY

CY 2006 IRA
(Before Implementation of Sixteen [16] Cityhood Laws)

CY 2008 IRA
(Actual Release After Implementation of Sixteen [16] Cityhood Laws)

Bais 219,338,056.00 242,193,156.00
Batangas 334,371,984.00 388,871,770.00
Bayawan 353,150,158.00 388,840,062.00
Cadiz 329,491,285.00 361,019,211.00
Calapan 227,772,199.00 252,587,779.00
Calbayog 438,603,378.00 485,653,769.00
Cauayan 250,477,157.00 277,120,828.00
Gen. Santos 518,388,557.00 631,864,977.00
Gingoog 314,425,637.00 347,207,725.00
Himamaylan 248,154,381.00 277,532,458.00
Iloilo 358,394,268.00 412,506,278.00
Iriga 183,132,036.00 203,072,932.00
Legaspi 235,314,016.00 266,537,785.00
Ligao 215,608,112.00 239,696,441.00
Oroquieta 191,803,213.00 211,449,720.00
Pagadian 292,788,255.00 327,401,672.00
San Carlos 239,524,249.00 260,515,711.00
San Fernando 182,320,356.00 204,140,940.00
Santiago 508,326,072.00 563,679,572.00
Silay 216,372,314.00 241,363,845.00
Surigao 233,968,119.00 260,708,071.00
Tacurong 179,795,271.00 197,880,665.00
Tagaytay 130,159,136.00 152,445,295.00
Tarlac 348,186,756.00 405,611,581.00
Tangub 162,248,610.00 180,640,621.00
Urdaneta 187,721,031.00 207,129,386.00
Victorias 176,367,959.00 194,162,687.00
Zamboanga 918,013,016.00 1,009,972,704.00

What these petitioner cities were stating as a reduction of their respective IRA shares was based on a computation of what they would receive if respondent municipalities were not to become component cities at all. Of course, that would mean a bigger amount to which they have staked their claim. After considering these, it all boils down to money and how much more they would receive if respondent municipalities remain as municipalities and not share in the 23% fixed IRA from the national government for cities.

Moreover, the debates in the Senate on R.A. No. 9009, should prove enlightening:

SENATOR SOTTO. Mr. President, we just want to be enlightened again on the previous qualification and the present one being proposed. Before there were three…

SENATOR PIMENTEL. There are three requisites for a municipality to become a city. Let us start with the finance.

SENATOR SOTTO. Will the distinguished sponsor please refresh us? I used to be the chairman of the Committee on Local Government, but the new job that was given to me by the Senate has erased completely my memory as far as the Local Government Code is concerned.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes, Mr. President, with pleasure. There are three requirements. One is financial.

SENATOR SOTTO. All right. It used to be P20 million.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. It is P20 million. Now we are raising it to P100 million of locally generated funds.

SENATOR SOTTO. In other words, the P20 million before includes the IRA.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. No, Mr. President.

SENATOR SOTTO. It should not have been included?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. The internal revenue share should never have been included. That was not the intention when we first crafted the Local Government Code. The financial capacity was supposed to be demonstrated by the municipality wishing to become a city by its own effort, meaning to say, it should not rely on the internal revenue share that comes from the government. Unfortunately, I think what happened in past conversions of municipalities into cities was, the Department of Budget and Management, along with the Department of Finance, had included the internal revenue share as a part of the municipality, demonstration that they are now financially capable and can measure up to the requirement of the Local Government Code of having a revenue of at least P20 million.

SENATOR SOTTO. I am glad that the sponsor, Mr. President, has spread that into the Record because otherwise, if he did not mention the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management, then I would have been blamed for the misinterpretation. But anyway, the gentleman is correct. That was the interpretation given to us during the hearings.

So now, from P20 million, we make it P100 million from locally generated income as far as population is concerned.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. As far as population is concerned, there will be no change, Mr. President. Still 150,000.

SENATOR SOTTO. Still 150,000?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes.

SENATOR SOTTO. And then the land area?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. As to the land area, there is no change; it is still 100 square kilometers.

SENATOR SOTTO. But before it was “either/or”?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. That is correct. As long as it has one of the three requirements, basically, as long as it meets the financial requirement, then it may meet the territorial requirement or the population requirement.

SENATOR SOTTO. So, it remains “or”?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. We are now changing it into AND.

SENATOR SOTTO. AND?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes.

SENATOR SOTTO. I see.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. That is the proposal, Mr. President. In other words…

SENATOR SOTTO. Does the gentleman not think there will no longer be any municipality that will qualify, Mr. President?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. There may still be municipalities which can qualify, but it will take a little time. They will have to produce more babies. I do not know—expand their territories, whatever, by reclamation or otherwise. But the whole proposal is geared towards making it difficult for municipalities to convert into cities.

On the other hand, I would like to advert to the fact that in the amendments that we are proposing for the entire Local Government Code, we are also raising the internal revenue share of the municipalities.

SENATOR SOTTO. I see.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. So that, more or less, hindi naman sila dehado in this particular instance.

SENATOR SOTTO. Well, then, because of that information, Mr. President, I throw my full support behind the measure.

Thank you, Mr. President.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Emphasis supplied)16

From the foregoing, the justness in the act of Congress in enacting the Cityhood Laws becomes obvious, especially considering that 33 municipalities were converted into component cities almost immediately prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 9009. In the enactment of the Cityhood Laws, Congress merely took the 16 municipalities covered thereby from the disadvantaged position brought about by the abrupt increase in the income requirement of R.A. No. 9009, acknowledging the “privilege” that they have already given to those newly-converted component cities, which prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 9009, were undeniably in the same footing or “class” as the respondent municipalities. Congress merely recognized the capacity and readiness of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces.

Petitioners complain of the projects that they would not be able to pursue and the expenditures that they would not be able to meet, but totally ignored the respondent municipalities’ obligations arising from the contracts they have already entered into, the employees that they have already hired, and the projects that they have already initiated and completed as component cities. Petitioners have completely overlooked the need of respondent municipalities to become effective vehicles intending to accelerate economic growth in the countryside. It is like the elder siblings wanting to kill the newly-borns so that their inheritance would not be diminished.

Apropos is the following parable:

There was a landowner who went out at dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard. After reaching an agreement with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them out to his vineyard. He came out about midmorning and saw other men standing around the marketplace without work, so he said to them, “You too go along to my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is fair.” They went. He came out again around noon and mid-afternoon and did the same. Finally, going out in late afternoon he found still others standing around. To these he said, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “No one has hired us,” they told him. He said, “You go to the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workmen and give them their pay, but begin with the last group and end with the first.” When those hired late in the afternoon came up they received a full day’s pay, and when the first group appeared they thought they would get more, yet they received the same daily wage. Thereupon they complained to the owner, “This last group did only an hour’s work, but you have paid them on the same basis as us who have worked a full day in the scorching heat.” “My friend,” he said to one in reply, “I do you no injustice. You agreed on the usual wage, did you not? Take your pay and go home. I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay as you. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?”17

Congress, who holds the power of the purse, in enacting the Cityhood Laws, only sought the well-being of respondent municipalities, having seen their respective capacities to become component cities of their provinces, temporarily stunted by the enactment of R.A. No. 9009. By allowing respondent municipalities to convert into component cities, Congress desired only to uphold the very purpose of the LGC, i.e., to make the local government units “enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals,” which is the very mandate of the Constitution.

Finally, we should not be restricted by technical rules of procedure at the expense of the transcendental interest of justice and equity. While it is true that litigation must end, even at the expense of errors in judgment, it is nobler rather for this Court of last resort, as vanguard of truth, to toil in order to dispel apprehensions and doubt, as the following pronouncement of this Court instructs:

The right and power of judicial tribunals to declare whether enactments of the legislature exceed the constitutional limitations and are invalid has always been considered a grave responsibility, as well as a solemn duty. The courts invariably give the most careful consideration to questions involving the interpretation and application of the Constitution, and approach constitutional questions with great deliberation, exercising their power in this respect with the greatest possible caution and even reluctance; and they should never declare a statute void, unless its invalidity is, in their judgment, beyond reasonable doubt. To justify a court in pronouncing a legislative act unconstitutional, or a provision of a state constitution to be in contravention of the Constitution x x x, the case must be so clear to be free from doubt, and the conflict of the statute with the constitution must be irreconcilable, because it is but a decent respect to the wisdom, the integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative body by which any law is passed to presume in favor of its validity until the contrary is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, in no doubtful case will the judiciary pronounce a legislative act to be contrary to the constitution. To doubt the constitutionality of a law is to resolve the doubt in favor of its validity.18

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010, dated and filed on September 14, 2010 by respondents Municipality of Baybay, et al. is GRANTED. The Resolution dated August 24, 2010 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Cityhood Laws—Republic Acts Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491—are declared CONSTITUTIONAL.

SO ORDERED.

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice

ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO
Associate Justice

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

Notes:

1 Republic Acts 9389 [Baybay City, Leyte], 9390 [Bogo City, Cebu], 9391 [Catbalogan City, Samar], 9392 [Tandag City, Surigao del Sur], 9393 [Lamitan City, Basilan], 9394 [Borongan City, Samar], 9398 [Tayabas City, Quezon], 9404 [Tabuk City, Kalinga], 9405 [Bayugan City, Agusan del Sur], 9407 [Batac City, Ilocos Norte], 9408 [Mati City, Davao Oriental], 9409 [Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental], 9434 [Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte], 9435 [El Salvador City, Misamis Oriental], 9436 [Carcar City, Cebu], and 9491 [Naga City, Cebu].

2 Penned by J. Carpio, with JJ. Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, Carpio-Morales, Velasco, Jr., and Brion, concurring; dissenting, J. Reyes, joined by JJ. Corona, Azcuna, Chico-Nazario, and Leonardo-De Castro; C.J. Puno, and JJ. Nachura and Tinga took no part; J. Ynares-Santiago was on leave.

3 Justice Velasco, Jr. wrote a Dissenting Opinion, joined by Justices Ynares-Santiago, Corona, Chico-Nazario, and Leonardo-De Castro. Chief Justice Puno and Justice Nachura took no part.

4 Justice Velasco, Jr. wrote a Dissenting Opinion, joined by Justices Ynares-Santiago, Corona, Chico-Nazario, Leonardo-De Castro, and Bersamin. Chief Justice Puno and Justice Nachura took no part. Justice Quisumbing was on leave.

5 Citations omitted.

6 Penned by J. Velasco, Jr., with JJ. Corona, Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Abad, and Villarama concurring; dissenting, J. Carpio, joined by JJ. Carpio-Morales, Brion, and Peralta; C.J. Puno and JJ. Nachura and Del Castillo took no part.

7 Penned by J. Carpio, with JJ. Carpio-Morales, Brion, Peralta, Villarama, Mendoza, and Sereno, concurring; dissenting,, J. Velasco, Jr., joined by C.J. Corona, and JJ. Leonardo-De Castro, Bersamin, Abad, and Perez; JJ. Nachura and Del Castillo took no part.

8 II Record, Senate, 13th Congress, p. 164 (October 5, 2000); rollo (G.R. No. 176951), Vol. 5, p. 3765.

9Id. at 167-168; id. at 3768-3769.

10 Review Center Association of the Philippines v. Ermita, G.R. No. 180046, April 2, 2009, 583 SCRA 428, 450, citing Kilusang Mayo Uno v. Director-General, National Economic Development Authority, G.R. No. 167798, April 19, 2006, 487 SCRA 623.

11Id., citing Ople v. Torres, 354 Phil. 948 (1998).

12 De Guzman, Jr. v. Commission on Elections, 391 Phil. 70, 79 (2000); Tiu v. Court of Tax Appeals, 361 Phil. 229, 242 (1999).

13 SECTION 7. Creation and Conversion. — As a general rule, the creation of a local government unit or its conversion from one level to another level shall be based on verifiable indicators of viability and projected capacity to provide services, to wit:

(a) Income. — It must be sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and services and special functions commensurate with the size of its population, as expected of the local government unit concerned;

(b) Population .— It shall be determined as the total number of inhabitants within the territorial jurisdiction of the local government unit concerned; and

(c) Land Area .— It must be contiguous, unless it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a local government unit independent of the others; properly identified by metes and bound with technical descriptions; and sufficient to provide for such basic services and facilities to meet the requirements of its populace.

Compliance with the foregoing indicators shall be attested to by the Department of Finance (DOF), the National Statistics Office (NSO), and the Lands Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). (Emphasis supplied.)

14 The figures reflect the actual income of the cities for 2006. If R.A. No. 9009 is to be applied such that the figures are expressed in 2000 constant prices, the income of the cities will even be lower. (Certification from the Bureau of Local Government Finance dated December 5, 2008; rollo [G.R. No. 176951], Vol. 5, pp. 3731-3734.)

15 Based on the letter dated December 9, 2008 of the Department of Budget and Management; rollo (G.R. No. 176951), Vol. 5, pp. 3978-3986.

16 Committee Amendments re S. No. 2157, Records of the Senate, Vol. II, No. 24, October 5, 2000, pp. 165-166; id. at 3766-3767.

17 Mat. 20: 1-15.

18 Churchill v. Rafferty, 32 Phil. 580, 584 (1915).

————————————————————————————————————————-

CONCURRING OPINION

ABAD, J.:

The Court has received flak on this case for supposed “flip-flopping.” But its shifting views are understandable because of the nearly even soundness of the opposing advocacies of the two groups of cities over the validity of the sixteen cityhood laws.1 It also does not help that the membership of the Court has been altered by retirements and replacements at various stages from when it first decided to annul the laws, to when it reconsidered and upheld their validity, and to when it reverted to the original position and declared the laws involved unconstitutional. This to me is a healthy sign of democracy at work, the members being blind to the need to conform.

In its Resolution of August 24, 2010, the Court reversed its December 21, 2009 Decision and denied the quest for cityhood of sixteen municipalities on the ground that the laws creating them violated Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution2 and the equal protection clause.3 By that resolution, the majority also held that the Court erred in setting aside its November 18, 2008 decision since this latter had attained finality after the Court’s denial of the second motion for reconsideration of the respondent cities, albeit the 6-6 deadlock vote and the corresponding entry of judgment.

The Issues Presented

The motion for reconsideration of respondent cities presents the following issues:

1. Whether or not the sixteen cityhood laws violate Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution;

2. Whether or not such laws violate the equal protection clause; and

3. Whether or not the Court could still modify its decision dated November 18, 2008.

Discussions

One. In ruling that the sixteen cityhood laws violated Section 10 of Article X, the majority in the Court held that the creation of local government units must conform to the criterion prescribed in Section 450 of the Local Government Code.4 Since those laws, which were passed after the enactment of Republic Act (R.A.) 9009,5 covered municipalities that did not comply with the amended income requirement set by the Local Government Code, their conversion into cities were constitutionally infirm. The majority held that R.A. 9009 did not provide exemptions from its application. Although the provisions in the sixteen cityhood laws established exemptions from such requirement for the subject municipalities, the same can not be considered without violating Section 10, Article X, taking into account the legislature’s primary intent in passing R.A. 9009.6

I take exception on how the majority of the Court selectively chose to focus on the sponsorship speech of Senator Aquilino Pimentel to come up with a “primary intent” theory for R.A. 9009. Surely, the intent of R.A. 9009 can not be based solely on that speech. The Court should not ignore the legislative history of R.A. 9009, including the pertinent exchanges during the interpellation of Senator Pimentel and Senate President Franklin Drilon, thus:

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would like to ask for some clarificatory point. x x x

THE PRESIDENT. This is just on the point of the pending bills in the Senate which propose the conversion of a number of municipalities into cities and which qualify under the present standard.

We would like to know the view of the sponsor: Assuming that this bill becomes a law, will the Chamber apply the standard as proposed in this bill to those bills which are pending for consideration?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, it might not be fair to make this bill x x x approved, retroact to the bills that are pending in the Senate for conversion from municipalities to cities.

THE PRESIDENT. Will there be an appropriate language crafted to reflect that view? Or does it not become a policy of the Chamber, assuming that this bill becomes a law x x x that it will apply to those bills which are already approved by the House under the old version of the [LGC] and are now pending in the Senate? The Chair does not know if we can craft a language which will limit the application to those which are not yet in the Senate. Or is that a policy that the Chamber will adopt?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, personally, I do not think it is necessary to put that provision because what we are saying here will form part of the interpretation of this bill. Besides, if there is no retroactivity clause, I do not think that the bill would have any retroactive effect.

THE PRESIDENT. So the understanding is that those bills which are already pending in the Chamber will not be affected.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. These will not be affected Mr. President.7 (Emphasis supplied)

Two things are clear from the above exchanges. First, the legislature intended to exempt from the amended income requirement of R.A. 9009 the municipalities that had pending cityhood bills during the 11th Congress. As a matter of fact, such legislative intent was carried over to the 12th and the 13th Congress when the House of Representatives adopted Joint Resolutions8 that sought the exemption of twenty-four municipalities, including the sixteen, from the application of R.A. 9009. The continuing intent of Congress culminated in the inclusion of the exemption clause in the cityhood bills and their subsequent passage.

Second, it is also clear from the above exchanges between Senators Pimentel and Drilon that Congress did not anymore insert an exemption clause from the income requirement of R.A. 9009 since such exchanges, when read by the Court, would already reveal the lawmakers’ intent regarding such matter.

Besides, the exemption clause found in each of the cityhood laws serves as an affirmation of Congress’ intent to exempt them from the increased income requirement of R.A. 9009. These new cities have not altogether been exempted from the operation of the Local Government Code covering income requirement. They have been expressly made subject to the lower income requirement of the old code. There remains, therefore, substantial compliance with the provision of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution which provides that no city may be created “except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code.”

The above interpretation accommodates the “primary” intention of Congress in preventing the mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities and the other intention of Congress to exempt the municipalities which have pending cityhood bills before the enactment of R.A. 9009.

This is not to say that the views of the majority in the Court are absolutely illogical or wrong. They are admittedly plausible. But, given the unstable footing of such views as evidenced by its shifting positions on the issue, the Court should have adopted an attitude of becoming humility, upholding the constitutionality of the acts of a co-equal branch of government regarding a matter that properly fell within its powers.

Two. The equal protection clause of the Constitution seeks to protect persons from being deprived of life, liberty, or property by the uneven application of statutes. In invoking this protection, it is incumbent on petitioner League of Cities to show, not only that the exemption granted to the sixteen cities amounted to arbitrary classification but, that the League or their members have been deprived of life, liberty or property, by reason of the exemption. The League of Cities has failed to discharge this burden.

The Court explained in Ichong v. Hernandez9the limits of the equal protection clause, thus:

The equal protection of the law clause is against undue favor and individual or class privilege, as well as hostile discrimination or the oppression of inequality. It is not intended to prohibit legislation, which is limited either in the object to which it is directed or by territory within which is to operate. It does not demand absolute equality among residents; it merely requires that all persons shall be treated alike, under like circumstances and conditions both as to privileges conferred and liabilities enforced. The equal protection clause is not infringed by legislation which applies only to those persons falling within a specified class, if it applies alike to all persons within such class, and reasonable grounds exists (sic) for making a distinction between those who fall within such class and those who do not. (Emphasis supplied)

Far from baselessly favoring the sixteen municipalities, Congress gave them exemptions from the application of R.A. 9009 based on its sense of justice and fairness. Senator Alfredo Lim explained this in his sponsorship speech on House Joint Resolution No. 1, thus:

x x x The imposition of a much higher income requirement for the creation of a city virtually delivered a lethal blow to the aspirations of the 24 municipalities to attain economic growth and progress. To them, it was unfair; like any sport—changing the rules in the middle of the game.

x x x x

I, for one, share their view that fairness dictates that they should be given a legal remedy by which they could be allowed to prove that they have all the necessary qualifications for city status using the criteria set forth under the Local Government Code prior to its amendment by R.A. 9009.

x x x x

In essence, the Cityhood bills now under consideration will have the same effect as that of House Joint Resolution No. 1 because each of the 12 bills seeks exemption from the higher income requirement of R.A. 9009. The proponents are invoking the exemption on the basis of justice and fairness. x x x10 (Emphasis supplied)

What makes the injustice quite bitter is the fact that the sixteen cities did not merely have pending cityhood bills during the 11th Congress. They also met at that time the income criteria set under Section 450 of the then Local Government Code. The Court owes to these cities the considerations that justice and fair play demands. It can not be denied that substantial distinction sets them apart from the other cities.

Further, petitioner League of Cities failed to show that the creation of the sixteen new cities discriminated against other cities. As the respondent cities point out, the majority of the present cities in our midst do not meet the P100 million minimum income requirement of the Local Government Code.11 It boggles the mind how these deficient cities can complain of denial of equal protection of the law.

Besides, assuming an improper classification in the case of the sixteen cities, petitioner League of Cities can not invoke the equal protection clause since it has failed to show that it will suffer deprivation of life, liberty, or property by reason of such classification.

Actually, the existing cities would not cease to exist nor would their liberties suffer by reason of the enactment of the sixteen cityhood laws. That their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) will be diminished does not amount to deprivation of property since the IRA is not their property until it has been automatically released.12 Mere expectancy in the receipt of IRA can not be regarded as the “property” envisioned in the Bill of Rights.

Three. The majority maintain that the Court did not properly set aside its original decision dated November 18, 2008, which earlier invalidated the Cityhood laws since, procedurally, the Court had previously declared such decision already final.13 But a question had been raised regarding the propriety of such declaration of finality, given a pending question respecting the consequence of a 6-6 vote on the constitutionality of the cityhood laws. At any rate, the Court has under extraordinary circumstances14 reconsidered its ruling despite an entry of judgment. It will not allow the technical rules to hinder it from rendering just and equitable relief.15

The issues presented in this case do not only involve rights and obligations of some parties but the constitutionality of the exercise by Congress of its power to make laws. There is no reason to uphold the November 18, 2008 decision since the petitioner League of Cities has failed to overcome the strong presumption in favor of the cityhood laws’ constitutionality.

I vote to GRANT the motion for reconsideration of the respondent cities, REVERSE AND SET ASIDE the Resolution of the Court dated August 24, 2010, REINSTATE the Decision of the Court dated December 21, 2009, and DISMISS the Consolidated petitions of the League of Cities.

ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice

Notes:

1 Republic Acts 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9394, 9398, 9393, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9436, 9435 and 9491.

2 Section 10: No province, city, municipality, or barangay may 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.

3 Section 1, Article III: No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without due process of law nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. (Emphasis Supplied)

4 Republic Act 7160, as amended.

5An Act Amending Section 450 of Republic Act No. 7160, Otherwise Known as The Local Government Code of 1991, by Increasing the Average Annual Income Requirement for a Municipality or Cluster of Barangay to be Converted into a Component City.

6 To restrain “the mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities”. Sponsorship speech of Senator Aquilino Pimintel, October 5, 2000.

7See Justice Ruben T. Reyes’ Dissent promulgated on November 18, 2008; citing II Record, Senate, 13th Congress, pp. 167-168.

8 Joint Resolution No. 29 entitled: “Joint Resolution to Exempt Certain Municipalities Embodied in Bills Filed in Congress before June 30, 2001 from the coverage of Republic Act No. 9009″ and Joint Resolution No. 1, readopting Joint Resolution No. 29.

9 G.R. No. L-7995, 101 Phil. 1155 (1952), citing 2 Cooley, Constitutional Limitations, 824-825.

10 Journal, Senate 13th Congress, 59th Session, 1238 -1240 cited in Justice Ruben T. Reyes’ Dissent promulgated on November 18, 2008.

11 Motion for Reconsideration of respondent cities, p. 49.

12Pimentel v. Aguirre, G.R. No. 132988, July 19, 2000.

13 The Entry of Judgment of the Decision dated November 18, 2008 was made on May 21, 2009 as per Resolution of the Court dated June 2, 2009.

14 See Manotok IV v. Heirs of Barque, G.R. Nos. 162335 & 162605, December 18, 2008.

15Javier v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. L-68379-81, September 22, 1986.

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DISSENTING OPINION

CARPIO, J.:

I dissent.

In their motion for reconsideration, respondents argue that: (1) the petitions on their face do not call for the exercise of judicial power considering that the share of local government units in the Internal Revenue Allotments does not constitute rights which are legally demandable and enforceable; (2) the 16 Cityhood Laws are not unconstitutional; and (3) there was no violation of the equal protection clause.

The crux of the controversy is whether the 16 Cityhood Laws are constitutional.1

As I have consistently opined, which opinion is concurred in by the majority members of this Court in the reinstated Decision of 18 November 2008 and in the assailed Resolution of 24 August 2010, the 16 Cityhood Laws are unconstitutional.

First, the 16 Cityhood Laws violate Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution. This provision reads:

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. (Emphasis supplied)

The Constitution is clear. The creation of local government units must follow the criteria established in the Local Government Code and not in any other law. There is only one Local Government Code.2 The Constitution requires Congress to stipulate in the Local Government Code all the criteria necessary for the creation of a city, including the conversion of a municipality into a city. Congress cannot write such criteria in any other law, like the Cityhood Laws.

RA 9009 amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code to increase the income requirement from P20 million to P100 million for the creation of a city. This took effect on 30 June 2001. Hence, from that moment theLocal Government Code required that any municipality desiring to become a city must satisfy the P100 million income requirement. Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009, does not contain any exemption from this income requirement.

In enacting RA 9009, Congress did not grant any exemption to respondent municipalities, even though their cityhood bills were pending in Congress when Congress passed RA 9009. The Cityhood Laws, all enacted after the effectivity of RA 9009, explicitly exempt respondent municipalities from the increased income requirement in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009. Such exemption clearly violates Section 10, Article X of 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.

Second, the 16 Cityhood Laws violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

The equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution permits a valid classification under the following conditions:

1. The classification must rest on substantial distinctions;

2. The classification must be germane to the purpose of the law;

3. The classification must not be limited to existing conditions only; and

4. The classification must apply equally to all members of the same class.3

As I have previously stressed, there is no substantial distinction between municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress and municipalities that did not have pending bills. The mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress is not a material difference to distinguish one municipality from another for the purpose of the income requirement. The pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11thCongress does not affect or determine the level of income of a municipality. Municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress might even have lower annual income than municipalities that did not have pending cityhood bills. In short, the classification criterion—mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11thCongress—is not rationally related to the purpose of the law which is to prevent fiscally non-viable municipalities fromconverting into cities.

Moreover, the fact of pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress limits the exemption to a specific condition existing at the time of passage of RA 9009. That specific condition will never happen again. This violates the requirement that a valid classification must not be limited to existing conditions only.

Further, the exemption provision in the Cityhood Laws gives the 16 municipalities a unique advantage based on an arbitrary date—the filing of their cityhood bills before the end of the 11th Congress—as against all other municipalities that want to convert into cities after the effectivity of RA 9009.

In addition, limiting the exemption only to the 16 municipalities violates the requirement that the classification must apply to all similarly situated. Municipalities with the same income as the 16 respondent municipalities cannot convert into cities, while the 16 respondent municipalities can. Clearly, as worded, the exemption provision found in the Cityhood Laws, even if it were written in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, would still be unconstitutional for violation of the equal protection clause.

I repeat, Section 10, Article X of the Constitution expressly provides that “no x xx city shall be created x xx except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code.” This provision can only be interpreted in one way, that is, all the criteria for the creation of cities must be embodied exclusively in the Local Government Code. In this case, the Cityhood Laws, which are unmistakably laws other than the Local Government Code, provided an exemption from the increased income requirement for the creation of cities under Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009. Clearly, the Cityhood Laws contravene the letter and intent of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution.

Accordingly, I vote to DENY the motion for reconsideration of the Resolution dated 24 August 2010.

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice

Notes:

1In paragraph 93 of the motion for reconsideration, respondents state:

93. Thus, in this motion for reconsideration of the “Resolution” of August 24, 2010, what is in issue is the correctness of the ruling of the Majority on [the] merits of the case, particularly the constitutionality of the Cityhood Laws.

2Republic Act No. 7160, as amended.

3De Guzman, Jr. v. COMELEC, 391 Phil. 70, 79 (2000); Tiu v. Court of Tax Appeals, 361 Phil. 229, 242 (1999).