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G.R. No.

118303 January 31, 1996

SENATOR HEHERSON T. ALVAREZ, SENATOR JOSE D. LINA, JR., MR. NICASIO B. BAUTISTA, MR. JESUS
P. GONZAGA, MR. SOLOMON D. MAYLEM, LEONORA C. MEDINA, CASIANO S. ALIPON, petitioners,
vs.
HON. TEOFISTO T. GUINGONA, JR., in his capacity as Executive Secretary, HON. RAFAEL ALUNAN, in his
capacity as Secretary of Local Government, HON. SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ, in his capacity as Secretary of
Budget, THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT, HON. JOSE MIRANDA, in his capacity as Municipal Mayor of
Santiago and HON. CHARITO MANUFAY, HON. VICTORINO MIRANDA, JR., HON. ARTEMIO ALVAREZ, HON.
DANILO VERGARA, HON. PETER DE JESUS, HON. NELIA NATIVIDAD, HON. CELSO CALEON and HON.
ABEL MUSNGI, in their capacity as SANGGUNIANG BAYAN MEMBERS, MR. RODRIGO L. SANTOS, in his
capacity as Municipal Treasurer, and ATTY. ALFREDO S. DIRIGE, in his capacity as Municipal
Administrator,respondents.

DECISION

HERMOSISIMA, JR., J.:

Of main concern to the petitioners is whether Republic Act No. 7720, just recently passed by Congress and signed
by the President into law, is constitutionally infirm.

Indeed, in this Petition for Prohibition with prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Prohibitory
Injunction, petitioners assail the validity of Republic Act No. 7720, entitled, "An Act Converting the Municipality of
Santiago, Isabela into an Independent Component City to be known as the City of Santiago," mainly because the
Act allegedly did not originate exclusively in the House of Representatives as mandated by Section 24, Article VI of
the 1987 Constitution.

Also, petitioners claim that the Municipality of Santiago has not met the minimum average annual income required
under Section 450 of the Local Government Code of 1991 in order to be converted into a component city.

Undisputed is the following chronicle of the metamorphosis of House Bill No. 8817 into Republic Act No. 7720:

On April 18, 1993, HB No. 8817, entitled "An Act Converting the Municipality of Santiago into an Independent
Component City to be known as the City of Santiago," was filed in the House of Representatives with
Representative Antonio Abaya as principal author. Other sponsors included Representatives Ciriaco Alfelor, Rodolfo
Albano, Santiago Respicio and Faustino Dy. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Local Government
and the House Committee on Appropriations on May 5, 1993.

On May 19, 1993, June 1, 1993, November 28, 1993, and December 1, 1993, public hearings on HB No. 8817 were
conducted by the House Committee on Local Government. The committee submitted to the House a favorable
report, with amendments, on December 9, 1993.

On December 13, 1993, HB No. 8817 was passed by the House of Representatives on Second Reading and was
approved on Third Reading on December 17, 1993. On January 28, 1994, HB No. 8817 was transmitted to the
Senate.

Meanwhile, a counterpart of HB No. 8817, Senate Bill No. 1243, entitled, "An Act Converting the Municipality of
Santiago into an Independent Component City to be Known as the City of Santiago," was filed in the Senate. It was
introduced by Senator Vicente Sotto III, as principal sponsor, on May 19, 1993. This was just after the House of
Representatives had conducted its first public hearing on HB No. 8817.

On February 23, 1994, or a little less than a month after HB No. 8817 was transmitted to the Senate, the Senate
Committee on Local Government conducted public hearings on SB No. 1243. On March 1, 1994, the said committee
submitted Committee Report No. 378 on HB No. 8817, with the recommendation that it be approved without
amendment, taking into consideration the reality that H.B. No. 8817 was on all fours with SB No. 1243. Senator
Heherson T. Alvarez, one of the herein petitioners, indicated his approval thereto by signing said report as member
of the Committee on Local Government.
On March 3, 1994, Committee Report No. 378 was passed by the Senate on Second Reading and was approved on
Third Reading on March 14, 1994. On March 22, 1994, the House of Representatives, upon being apprised of the
action of the Senate, approved the amendments proposed by the Senate.

The enrolled bill, submitted to the President on April 12, 1994, was signed by the Chief Executive on May 5, 1994 as
Republic Act No. 7720. When a plebiscite on the Act was held on July 13, 1994, a great majority of the registered
voters of Santiago voted in favor of the conversion of Santiago into a city.

The question as to the validity of Republic Act No. 7720 hinges on the following twin issues: (I) Whether or not the
Internal Revenue Allotments (IRAs) are to be included in the computation of the average annual income of a
municipality for purposes of its conversion into an independent component city, and (II) Whether or not, considering
that the Senate passed SB No. 1243, its own version of HB No. 8817, Republic Act No. 7720 can be said to have
originated in the House of Representatives.

The annual income of a local


government unit includes the IRAs

Petitioners claim that Santiago could not qualify into a component city because its average annual income for the
last two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices falls below the required annual income of Twenty
Million Pesos (P20,000,000.00) for its conversion into a city, petitioners having computed Santiago's average annual
income in the following manner:

Total income (at 1991 constant prices) for 1991 P 20,379,057.07


Total income (at 1991 constant prices) for 1992 P 21,570,106.87
Total income for 1991 and 1992 P 41,949,163.94
Minus:
IRAs for 1991 and 1992 P 15,730,043.00
Total income for 1991 and 1992 P 26,219,120.94
Average Annual Income P 13,109,560.47
===============

By dividing the total income of Santiago for calendar years 1991 and 1992, after deducting the IRAs, the average
annual income arrived at would only be P13,109,560.47 based on the 1991 constant prices. Thus, petitioners claim
that Santiago's income is far below the aforesaid Twenty Million Pesos average annual income requirement.

The certification issued by the Bureau of Local Government Finance of the Department of Finance, which indicates
Santiago's average annual income to be P20,974,581.97, is allegedly not accurate as the Internal Revenue
Allotments were not excluded from the computation. Petitioners asseverate that the IRAs are not actually income
but transfers and/or budgetary aid from the national government and that they fluctuate, increase or decrease,
depending on factors like population, land and equal sharing.

In this regard, we hold that petitioners asseverations are untenable because Internal Revenue Allotments form part
of the income of Local Government Units.

It is true that for a municipality to be converted into a component city, it must, among others, have an average
annual income of at least Twenty Million Pesos for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant
prices.1 Such income must be duly certified by the Department of Finance.

Resolution of the controversy regarding compliance by the Municipality of Santiago with the aforecited income
requirement hinges on a correlative and contextual explication of the meaning of internal revenue allotments
(IRAs) vis-a-vis the notion of income of a local government unit and the principles of local autonomy and
decentralization underlying the institutionalization and intensified empowerment of the local government system.
A Local Government Unit is a political subdivision of the State which is constituted by law and possessed of
substantial control over its own affairs.3 Remaining to be an intra sovereign subdivision of one sovereign nation, but
not intended, however, to be an imperium in imperio,4 the local government unit is autonomous in the sense that it is
given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources.5 Power which used to be highly centralized in Manila,
is thereby deconcentrated, enabling especially the peripheral local government units to develop not only at their own
pace and discretion but also with their own resources and assets.

The practical side to development through a decentralized local government system certainly concerns the matter of
financial resources. With its broadened powers and increased responsibilities, a local government unit must now
operate on a much wider scale. More extensive operations, in turn, entail more expenses. Understandably, the
vesting of duty, responsibility and accountability in every local government unit is accompanied with a provision for
reasonably adequate resources to discharge its powers and effectively carry out its functions.7 Availment of such
resources is effectuated through the vesting in every local government unit of (1) the right to create and broaden its
own source of revenue; (2) the right to be allocated a just share in national taxes, such share being in the form of
internal revenue allotments (IRAs); and (3) the right to be given its equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization
and development of the national wealth, if any, within its territorial boundaries.8

The funds generated from local taxes, IRAs and national wealth utilization proceeds accrue to the general fund of
the local government and are used to finance its operations subject to specified modes of spending the same as
provided for in the Local Government Code and its implementing rules and regulations. For instance, not less than
twenty percent (20%) of the IRAs must be set aside for local development projects.9 As such, for purposes of budget
preparation, which budget should reflect the estimates of the income of the local government unit, among others, the
IRAs and the share in the national wealth utilization proceeds are considered items of income. This is as it should
be, since income is defined in the Local Government Code to be all revenues and receipts collected or received
forming the gross accretions of funds of the local government unit.10

The IRAs are items of income because they form part of the gross accretion of the funds of the local government
unit. The IRAs regularly and automatically accrue to the local treasury without need of any further action on the part
of the local government unit.11 They thus constitute income which the local government can invariably rely upon as
the source of much needed funds.

For purposes of converting the Municipality of Santiago into a city, the Department of Finance certified, among
others, that the municipality had an average annual income of at least Twenty Million Pesos for the last two (2)
consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices. This, the Department of Finance did after including the IRAs in its
computation of said average annual income.

Furthermore, Section 450 (c) of the Local Government Code provides that "the average annual income shall include
the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, transfers, and non-recurring income." To
reiterate, IRAs are a regular, recurring item of income; nil is there a basis, too, to classify the same as a special fund
or transfer, since IRAs have a technical definition and meaning all its own as used in the Local Government Code
that unequivocally makes it distinct from special funds or transfers referred to when the Code speaks of "funding
support from the national government, its instrumentalities and government-owned-or-controlled corporations".12

Thus, Department of Finance Order No. 35-9313 correctly encapsulizes the full import of the above disquisition when
it defined ANNUAL INCOME to be "revenues and receipts realized by provinces, cities and municipalities from
regular sources of the Local General Fund including the internal revenue allotment and other shares provided for in
Sections 284, 290 and 291 of the Code, but exclusive of non-recurring receipts, such as other national aids, grants,
financial assistance, loan proceeds, sales of fixed assets, and similar others" (Emphasis ours).14 Such order,
constituting executive or contemporaneous construction of a statute by an administrative agency charged with the
task of interpreting and applying the same, is entitled to full respect and should be accorded great weight by the
courts, unless such construction is clearly shown to be in sharp conflict with the Constitution, the governing statute,
or other laws.15
II

In the enactment of RA No. 7720,


there was compliance with Section 24,
Article VI of the 1987 Constitution

Although a bill of local application like HB No. 8817 should, by constitutional prescription,16 originate exclusively in
the House of Representatives, the claim of petitioners that Republic Act No. 7720 did not originate exclusively in the
House of Representatives because a bill of the same import, SB No. 1243, was passed in the Senate, is untenable
because it cannot be denied that HB No. 8817 was filed in the House of Representatives first before SB No. 1243
was filed in the Senate. Petitioners themselves cannot disavow their own admission that HB No. 8817 was filed on
April 18, 1993 while SB No. 1243 was filed on May 19, 1993. The filing of HB No. 8817 was thus precursive not only
of the said Act in question but also of SB No. 1243. Thus, HB No. 8817, was the bill that initiated the legislative
process that culminated in the enactment of Republic Act No. 7720. No violation of Section 24, Article VI, of the
1987 Constitution is perceptible under the circumstances attending the instant controversy.

Furthermore, petitioners themselves acknowledge that HB No. 8817 was already approved on Third Reading and
duly transmitted to the Senate when the Senate Committee on Local Government conducted its public hearing on
HB No. 8817. HB No. 8817 was approved on the Third Reading on December 17, 1993 and transmitted to the
Senate on January 28, 1994; a little less than a month thereafter, or on February 23, 1994, the Senate Committee
on Local Government conducted public hearings on SB No. 1243. Clearly, the Senate held in abeyance any action
on SB No. 1243 until it received HB No. 8817, already approved on the Third Reading, from the House of
Representatives. The filing in the Senate of a substitute bill in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the House,
does not contravene the constitutional requirement that a bill of local application should originate in the House of
Representatives, for as long as the Senate does not act thereupon until it receives the House bill.

We have already addressed this issue in the case of Tolentino vs. Secretary of Finance.17 There, on the matter of
the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT) Law, which, as a revenue bill, is nonetheless constitutionally required to
originate exclusively in the House of Representatives, we explained:

. . . To begin with, it is not the law but the revenue bill which is required by the Constitution to "originate
exclusively" in the House of Representatives. It is important to emphasize this, because a bill originating in
the House may undergo such extensive changes in the Senate that the result may be a rewriting of the
whole. . . . as a result of the Senate action, a distinct bill may be produced. To insist that a revenue statute
and not only the bill which initiated the legislative process culminating in the enactment of the law must
substantially be the same as the House bill would be to deny the Senate's power not only to "concur with
amendments" but also to "propose amendments." It would be to violate the coequality of legislative power of
the two houses of Congress and in fact make the House superior to the Senate.

It is insisted, however, that S. No. 1630 was passed not in substitution of H. No. 11197 but of another
Senate bill (S. No. 1129) earlier filed and that what the Senate did was merely to "take [H. No. 11197] into
consideration" in enacting S. No. 1630. There is really no difference between the Senate preserving H. No.
11197 up to the enacting clause and then writing its own version following the enacting clause (which, it
would seem petitioners admit is an amendment by substitution), and, on the other hand, separately
presenting a bill of its own on the same subject matter. In either case the result are two bills on the same
subject.

Indeed, what the Constitution simply means is that the initiative for filing revenue, tariff, or tax bills, bills
authorizing an increase of the public debt, private bills and bills of local application must come from the
House of Representatives on the theory that, elected as they are from the districts, the members of the
House can be expected to be more sensitive to the local needs and problems. On the other hand, the
senators, who are elected at large, are expected to approach the same problems from the national
perspective. Both views are thereby made to bear on the enactment of such laws.

Nor does the Constitution prohibit the filing in the Senate of a substitute bill in anticipation of its receipt of the
bill from the House, so long as action by the Senate as a body is withheld pending receipt of the House bill. .
. .18
III

Every law, including RA No. 7720,


has in its favor the presumption
of constitutionality

It is a well-entrenched jurisprudential rule that on the side of every law lies the presumption of
constitutionality.19Consequently, for RA No. 7720 to be nullified, it must be shown that there is a clear and
unequivocal breach of the Constitution, not merely a doubtful and equivocal one; in other words, the grounds for
nullity must be clear and beyond reasonable doubt.20 Those who petition this court to declare a law to be
unconstitutional must clearly and fully establish the basis that will justify such a declaration; otherwise, their petition
must fail. Taking into consideration the justification of our stand on the immediately preceding ground raised by
petitioners to challenge the constitutionality of RA No. 7720, the Court stands on the holding that petitioners have
failed to overcome the presumption. The dismissal of this petition is, therefore, inevitable.

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit with costs against petitioners.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 176951 November 18, 2008

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY
OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN
S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY,
CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA,
CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO,
CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY
OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF
TAGUM, petitioners-in-intervention.

x-----------------------------x

G.R. No. 177499 November 18, 2008

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY
OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN
S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY,
CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA,
CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO,
CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY
OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF
TAGUM, petitioners-in-intervention.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - --x

G.R. No. 178056 November 18, 2008

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY
OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN
S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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; and MUNICIPALITY OF EL SALVADOR, MISAMIS
ORIENTAL, respondents.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY,
CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA,
CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO,
CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY
OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF
TAGUM, petitioners-in-intervention.

DECISION

CARPIO, J.:

The Case
1
These are consolidated petitions for prohibition with prayer for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction or
temporary restraining order filed by the League of Cities of the Philippines, City of Iloilo, City of Calbayog, and Jerry P.
2
Treas assailing the constitutionality of the subject Cityhood Laws and enjoining the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) and respondent municipalities from conducting plebiscites pursuant to the Cityhood Laws.

The Facts

th 3
During the 11 Congress, Congress enacted into law 33 bills converting 33 municipalities into cities. However, Congress
did not act on bills converting 24 other municipalities into cities.

th 4 5
During the 12 Congress, Congress enacted into law Republic Act No. 9009 (RA 9009), which took effect on 30 June
2001. RA 9009 amended 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 rationale for the amendment was to restrain,
in the words of Senator Aquilino Pimentel, "the mad rush" of municipalities to convert into cities solely to secure a larger
6
share in the Internal Revenue Allotment despite the fact that they are incapable of fiscal independence.

th 7
After the effectivity of RA 9009, the House of Representatives of the 12 Congress adopted Joint Resolution No.
8
29, which sought to exempt from the P100 million income requirement in RA 9009 the 24 municipalities whose cityhood
th th
bills were not approved in the 11 Congress. However, the 12 Congress ended without the Senate approving Joint
Resolution No. 29.

th 9
During the 13 Congress, the House of Representatives re-adopted Joint Resolution No. 29 as Joint Resolution No. 1
and forwarded it to the Senate for approval. However, the Senate again failed to approve the Joint Resolution. Following
the advice of Senator Aquilino Pimentel, 16 municipalities filed, through their respective sponsors, individual cityhood bills.
The 16 cityhood bills contained a common provision exempting all the 16 municipalities from the P100 million income
requirement in RA 9009.

On 22 December 2006, the House of Representatives approved the cityhood bills. The Senate also approved the cityhood
bills in February 2007, except that of Naga, Cebu which was passed on 7 June 2007. The cityhood bills lapsed into law
10 11
(Cityhood Laws ) on various dates from March to July 2007 without the President's signature.

The Cityhood Laws direct the COMELEC to hold plebiscites to determine whether the voters in each respondent
municipality approve of the conversion of their municipality into a city.

Petitioners filed the present petitions to declare the Cityhood Laws unconstitutional for violation of Section 10, Article X of
12
the Constitution, as well as for violation of the equal protection clause. Petitioners also lament that the wholesale
conversion of municipalities into cities will reduce the share of existing cities in the Internal Revenue Allotment because
more cities will share the same amount of internal revenue set aside for all cities under Section 285 of the Local
13
Government Code.

The Issues

The petitions raise the following fundamental issues:

1. Whether the Cityhood Laws violate Section 10, Article X of the Constitution; and

2. Whether the Cityhood Laws violate the equal protection clause.

The Ruling of the Court

We grant the petitions.

The Cityhood Laws violate Sections 6 and 10, Article X of the Constitution, and are thus unconstitutional.

First, applying the P100 million income requirement in RA 9009 to the present case is a prospective, not a retroactive
application, because RA 9009 took effect in 2001 while the cityhood bills became law more than five years later.
Second, the Constitution requires that Congress shall prescribe all the criteria for the creation of a city in the Local
Government Code and not in any other law, including the Cityhood Laws.

Third, the Cityhood Laws violate Section 6, Article X of the Constitution because they prevent a fair and just distribution of
the national taxes to local government units.

Fourth, the criteria prescribed in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009, for converting a
municipality into a city are clear, plain and unambiguous, needing no resort to any statutory construction.

th
Fifth, the intent of members of the 11 Congress to exempt certain municipalities from the coverage of RA 9009 remained
an intent and was never written into Section 450 of the Local Government Code.

th th
Sixth, the deliberations of the 11 or 12 Congress on unapproved bills or resolutions are not extrinsic aids in interpreting
th
a law passed in the 13 Congress.

Seventh, even if the exemption in the Cityhood Laws were written in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, the
exemption would still be unconstitutional for violation of the equal protection clause.

Preliminary Matters

14
Prohibition is the proper action for testing the constitutionality of laws administered by the COMELEC, like the Cityhood
Laws, which direct the COMELEC to hold plebiscites in implementation of the Cityhood Laws. Petitioner League of Cities
of the Philippines has legal standing because Section 499 of the Local Government Code tasks the League with the
"primary purpose of ventilating, articulating and crystallizing issues affecting city government administration and securing,
15 16
through proper and legal means, solutions thereto." Petitioners-in-intervention, which are existing cities, have legal
standing because their Internal Revenue Allotment will be reduced if the Cityhood Laws are declared constitutional. Mayor
Jerry P. Treas has legal standing because as Mayor of Iloilo City and as a taxpayer he has sufficient interest to prevent
the unlawful expenditure of public funds, like the release of more Internal Revenue Allotment to political units than what
the law allows.

Applying RA 9009 is a Prospective Application of the Law

th
RA 9009 became effective on 30 June 2001 during the 11 Congress. This law specifically amended Section 450 of the
Local Government Code, which now provides:

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 average annual income, as certified by the Department of
Finance, of at least One hundred million pesos (P100,000,000.00) for the last two (2) consecutive years
based on 2000 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites:

(i) a contiguous territory of at least one hundred (100) square kilometers, as certified by the Land
Management Bureau; or

(ii) a population of not less than one hundred fifty thousand (150,000) inhabitants, as certified by the
National Statistics Office.

The creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population and income of the original unit or units at the time
of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein.

(b) The territorial jurisdiction of a newly-created city shall be properly identified by metes and bounds. The
requirement on land area shall not apply where the city proposed to be created is composed of one (1) or more
islands. The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands.

(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)

Thus, RA 9009 increased the income requirement for conversion of a municipality into a city from P20 million to P100
million. Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009, does not provide any exemption from the
increased income requirement.
Prior to the enactment of RA 9009, a total of 57 municipalities had cityhood bills pending in Congress. Thirty-three
cityhood bills became law before the enactment of RA 9009. Congress did not act on 24 cityhood bills during the
th
11 Congress.

th
During the 12 Congress, the House of Representatives adopted Joint Resolution No. 29, exempting from the income
requirement of P100 million in RA 9009 the 24 municipalities whose cityhood bills were not acted upon during the
th th
11 Congress. This Resolution reached the Senate. However, the 12 Congress adjourned without the Senate
approving Joint Resolution No. 29.

th
During the 13 Congress, 16 of the 24 municipalities mentioned in the unapproved Joint Resolution No. 29 filed
between November and December of 2006, through their respective sponsors in Congress, individual cityhood bills
containing a common provision, as follows:

Exemption from Republic Act No. 9009. - The City of x x x shall be exempted from the income requirement
prescribed under Republic Act No. 9009.

This common provision exempted each of the 16 municipalities from the income requirement of P100 million
prescribed in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009. These cityhood bills lapsed into
law on various dates from March to July 2007 after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo failed to sign them.

Indisputably, Congress passed the Cityhood Laws long after the effectivity of RA 9009. RA 9009 became effective on 30
th th
June 2001 or during the 11 Congress. The 13 Congress passed in December 2006 the cityhood bills which
17
became law only in 2007. Thus, respondent municipalities cannot invoke the principle of non-retroactivity of laws. This
basic rule has no application because RA 9009, an earlier law to the Cityhood Laws, is not being applied retroactively but
prospectively.

Congress Must Prescribe in the Local Government Code All Criteria

Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides:

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
18
Government Code and not in any other law. There is only one Local Government Code. 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.

The criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code govern exclusively the creation of a city. No other law, not even the
charter of the city, can govern such creation. The clear intent of the Constitution is to insure that the creation of cities and
other political units must follow the same uniform, non-discriminatory criteria found solely in the Local Government
Code. Any derogation or deviation from the criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code violates Section 10, Article
X of the Constitution.

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 the Local
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.
Cityhood Laws Violate Section 6, Article X of the Constitution

Uniform and non-discriminatory criteria as prescribed in the Local Government Code are essential to implement a fair and
equitable distribution of national taxes to all local government units. Section 6, Article X of the Constitution provides:

Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be
automatically released to them. (Emphasis supplied)

If the criteria in creating local government units are not uniform and discriminatory, there can be no fair and just
distribution of the national taxes to local government units.

A city with an annual income of only P20 million, all other criteria being equal, should not receive the same share in
national taxes as a city with an annual income of P100 million or more. The criteria of land area, population and income,
as prescribed in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, must be strictly followed because such criteria, prescribed by
law, are material in determining the "just share" of local government units in national taxes. Since the Cityhood Laws do
not follow the income criterion in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, they prevent the fair and just distribution of
the Internal Revenue Allotment in violation of Section 6, Article X of the Constitution.

Section 450 of the Local Government Code is Clear,


Plain and Unambiguous

There can be no resort to extrinsic aids like deliberations of Congress if the language of the law is plain, clear and
19
unambiguous. Courts determine the intent of the law from the literal language of the law, within the law's four corners. If
the language of the law is plain, clear and unambiguous, courts simply apply the law according to its express terms. If a
literal application of the law results in absurdity, impossibility or injustice, then courts may resort to extrinsic aids of
20
statutory construction like the legislative history of the law.

Congress, in enacting RA 9009 to amend Section 450 of the Local Government Code, did not provide any exemption from
the increased income requirement, not even to respondent municipalities whose cityhood bills were then pending when
Congress passed RA 9009. Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009, contains no exemption
whatsoever. Since the law is clear, plain and unambiguous that any municipality desiring to convert into a city must meet
the increased income requirement, there is no reason to go beyond the letter of the law in applying Section 450 of the
Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009.

th
The 11 Congress' Intent was not Written into the Local Government Code

True, members of Congress discussed exempting respondent municipalities from RA 9009, as shown by the various
th
deliberations on the matter during the 11 Congress. However, Congress did not write this intended exemption into law.
Congress could have easily included such exemption in RA 9009 but Congress did not. This is fatal to the cause of
respondent municipalities because such exemption must appear in RA 9009 as an amendment to Section 450 of the
Local Government Code. The Constitution requires that the criteria for the conversion of a municipality into a city,
including any exemption from such criteria, must all be written in the Local Government Code. Congress cannot prescribe
such criteria or exemption from such criteria in any other law. In short, Congress cannot create a city through a law
that does not comply with the criteria or exemption found in the Local Government Code.

Section 10 of Article X is similar to Section 16, Article XII of the Constitution prohibiting Congress from creating private
corporations except by a general law. Section 16 of Article XII provides:

The Congress shall not, except by general law, provide for the formation, organization, or regulation of
private corporations. Government-owned or controlled corporations may be created or established by special
charters in the interest of the common good and subject to the test of economic viability. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, Congress must prescribe all the criteria for the "formation, organization, or regulation" of private corporations in
21
a general law applicable to all without discrimination. Congress cannot create a private corporation through a
special law or charter.

th
Deliberations of the 11 Congress on Unapproved Bills Inapplicable
22 th
Congress is not a continuing body. The unapproved cityhood bills filed during the 11 Congress became mere scraps
th
of paper upon the adjournment of the 11 Congress. All the hearings and deliberations conducted during the
th th
11 Congress on unapproved bills also became worthless upon the adjournment of the 11 Congress. These hearings
th
and deliberations cannot be used to interpret bills enacted into law in the 13 or subsequent Congresses.

The members and officers of each Congress are different. All unapproved bills filed in one Congress become functus
officio upon adjournment of that Congress and must be re-filed anew in order to be taken up in the next Congress. When
th
their respective authors re-filed the cityhood bills in 2006 during the 13 Congress, the bills had to start from square one
again, going through the legislative mill just like bills taken up for the first time, from the filing to the approval. Section 123,
Rule XLIV of the Rules of the Senate, on Unfinished Business, provides:

Sec. 123. x x x

All pending matters and proceedings shall terminate upon the expiration of one (1) Congress, but may be
taken by the succeeding Congress as if presented for the first time. (Emphasis supplied)

Similarly, Section 78 of the Rules of the House of Representatives, on Unfinished Business, states:

Section 78. Calendar of Business. The Calendar of Business shall consist of the following:

a. Unfinished Business. This is business being considered by the House at the time of its last
adjournment. Its consideration shall be resumed until it is disposed of. The Unfinished Business at the
end of a session shall be resumed at the commencement of the next session as if no adjournment has
taken place. At the end of the term of a Congress, all Unfinished Business are deemed
terminated. (Emphasis supplied)

th
Thus, the deliberations during the 11 Congress on the unapproved cityhood bills, as well as the deliberations during the
th th
12 and 13 Congresses on the unapproved resolution exempting from RA 9009 certain municipalities, have no legal
significance. They do not qualify as extrinsic aids in construing laws passed by subsequent Congresses.

Applicability of Equal Protection Clause

If Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA 9009, contained an exemption to the P100 million
annual income requirement, the criteria for such exemption could be scrutinized for possible violation of the equal
protection clause. Thus, the criteria for the exemption, if found in the Local Government Code, could be assailed on the
ground of absence of a valid classification. However, Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as amended by RA
9009, does not contain any exemption. The exemption is contained in the Cityhood Laws, which are unconstitutional
because such exemption must be prescribed in the Local Government Code as mandated in Section 10, Article X of the
Constitution.

Even if the exemption provision in the Cityhood Laws were written in Section 450 of the Local Government Code, as
amended by RA 9009, such exemption would still be unconstitutional for violation of the equal protection clause. The
exemption provision merely states, "Exemption from Republic Act No. 9009 The City of x x x shall be exempted
from the income requirement prescribed under Republic Act No. 9009." This one sentence exemption provision
contains no classification standards or guidelines differentiating the exempted municipalities from those that are not
exempted.

th
Even if we take into account the deliberations in the 11 Congress that municipalities with pending cityhood bills should
be exempt from the P100 million income requirement, there is still no valid classification to satisfy the equal protection
clause. The exemption will be based solely on the fact that the 16 municipalities had cityhood bills pending in the
th
11 Congress when RA 9009 was enacted. This is not a valid classification between those entitled and those not
entitled to exemption from the P100 million income requirement.

To be valid, the classification in the present case must be based on substantial distinctions, rationally related to a
23
legitimate government objective which is the purpose of the law, not limited to existing conditions only, and applicable to
all similarly situated. Thus, this Court has ruled:

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

24
4. The classification must apply equally to all members of the same class.

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

th
Municipalities that did not have pending cityhood bills were not informed that a pending cityhood bill in the 11 Congress
would be a condition for exemption from the increased P100 million income requirement. Had they been informed, many
municipalities would have caused the filing of their own cityhood bills. These municipalities, even if they have bigger
annual income than the 16 respondent municipalities, cannot now convert into cities if their income is less than P100
million.

th
The fact of pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11 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. This requirement is illustrated in Mayflower Farms, Inc. v. Ten
25
Eyck, where the challenged law allowed milk dealers engaged in business prior to a fixed date to sell at a price lower
than that allowed to newcomers in the same business. In Mayflower, the U.S. Supreme Court held:

We are referred to a host of decisions to the effect that a regulatory law may be prospective in operation and may
except from its sweep those presently engaged in the calling or activity to which it is directed. Examples are
statutes licensing physicians and dentists, which apply only to those entering the profession subsequent to the
passage of the act and exempt those then in practice, or zoning laws which exempt existing buildings, or laws
forbidding slaughterhouses within certain areas, but excepting existing establishments. The challenged
provision is unlike such laws, since, on its face, it is not a regulation of a business or an activity in the
interest of, or for the protection of, the public, but an attempt to give an economic advantage to those
engaged in a given business at an arbitrary date as against all those who enter the industry after that
date. The appellees do not intimate that the classification bears any relation to the public health or welfare
generally; that the provision will discourage monopoly; or that it was aimed at any abuse, cognizable by law, in the
milk business. In the absence of any such showing, we have no right to conjure up possible situations which
might justify the discrimination. The classification is arbitrary and unreasonable and denies the appellant the equal
protection of the law. (Emphasis supplied)

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

Furthermore, 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.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the petitions and declare UNCONSTITUTIONAL the Cityhood Laws, namely: Republic Act
Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 176951 December 21, 2009

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

G.R. No. 177499 December 21, 2009

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

G.R. No. 178056 December 21, 2009

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS in his personal capacity as taxpayer, Petitioners,
vs.
PROVINCE OF AGUSAN DEL NORTE; MUNICIPALITY OF CARCAR, PROVINCE OF CEBU; and
MUNICIPALITY OF EL SALVADOR, MISAMIS ORIENTAL, COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; MUNICIPALITY OF
CABADBARAN, Respondents.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR. J.:


Ratio legis est anima. The spirit rather than the letter of the law. A statute must be read according to its spirit or
intent,1 for what is within the spirit is within the statute although it is not within its letter, and that which is within the
letter but not within the spirit is not within the statute.2 Put a bit differently, that which is within the intent of the
lawmaker is as much within the statute as if within the letter; and that which is within the letter of the statute is not
within the statute unless within the intent of the lawmakers.3 Withal, courts ought not to interpret and should not
accept an interpretation that would defeat the intent of the law and its legislators.4

So as it is exhorted to pass on a challenge against the validity of an act of Congress, a co-equal branch of
government, it behooves the Court to have at once one principle in mind: the presumption of constitutionality of
statutes.5 This presumption finds its roots in the tri-partite system of government and the corollary separation of
powers, which enjoins the three great departments of the government to accord a becoming courtesy for each
others acts, and not to interfere inordinately with the exercise by one of its official functions. Towards this end,
courts ought to reject assaults against the validity of statutes, barring of course their clear unconstitutionality. To
doubt is to sustain, the theory in context being that the law is the product of earnest studies by Congress to ensure
that no constitutional prescription or concept is infringed.6 Consequently, before a law duly challenged is nullified, an
unequivocal breach of, or a clear conflict with, the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative one, must be
demonstrated in such a manner as to leave no doubt in the mind of the Court.7

BACKGROUND

The consolidated petitions for prohibition commenced by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), City of Iloilo,
City of Calbayog, and Jerry P. Treas8 assail the constitutionality of the sixteen (16) laws,9 each converting the
municipality covered thereby into a city (cityhood laws, hereinafter) and seek to enjoin the Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) from conducting plebiscites pursuant to subject laws.

By Decision10 dated November 18, 2008, the Court en banc, by a 6-5 vote, granted the petitions and nullified the
sixteen (16) cityhood laws for being violative of the Constitution, specifically its Section 10, Article X and the equal
protection clause.

Subsequently, respondent local government units (LGUs) moved for reconsideration, raising, as one of the issues,
the validity of the factual premises not contained in the pleadings of the parties, let alone established, which became
the bases of the Decision subject of reconsideration.11 By Resolution of March 31, 2009, a divided Court denied the
motion for reconsideration.

A second motion for reconsideration followed in which respondent LGUs prayed as follows:

WHEREFORE, respondents respectfully pray that the Honorable Court reconsider its "Resolution" dated March 31,
2009, in so far as it denies for "lack of merit" respondents "Motion for Reconsideration" dated December 9, 2008
and in lieu thereof, considering that new and meritorious arguments are raised by respondents "Motion for
Reconsideration" dated December 9, 2008 to grant afore-mentioned "Motion for Reconsideration" dated December
9, 2008 and dismiss the "Petitions For Prohibition" in the instant case.

Per Resolution dated April 28, 2009, the Court, voting 6-6, disposed of the motion as follows:

By a vote of 6-6, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of 31 March 2009 is DENIED for lack of merit.
The motion is denied since there is no majority that voted to overturn the Resolution of 31 March 2009.

The Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision of 18 November 2008 is DENIED for being a prohibited
pleading, and the Motion for Leave to Admit Attached Petition in Intervention x x x filed by counsel for Ludivina T.
Mas, et al. are also DENIED. No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let entry of judgment be made in due
course. x x x

On May 14, 2009, respondent LGUs filed a Motion to Amend the Resolution of April 28, 2009 by Declaring Instead
that Respondents "Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of March 31, 2009" and "Motion for Leave to File
and to Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain
Unresolved and to Conduct Further Proceedings Thereon."
Per its Resolution of June 2, 2009, the Court declared the May 14, 2009 motion adverted to as expunged in light of
the entry of judgment made on May 21, 2009. Justice Leonardo-De Castro, however, taking common cause with
Justice Bersamin to grant the motion for reconsideration of the April 28, 2009 Resolution and to recall the entry of
judgment, stated the observation, and with reason, that the entry was effected "before the Court could act on the
aforesaid motion which was filed within the 15-day period counted from receipt of the April 28, 2009 Resolution."12

Forthwith, respondent LGUs filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009 to which some of
the petitioners and petitioners-in-intervention filed their respective comments. The Court will now rule on this
incident. But first, we set and underscore some basic premises:

(1) The initial motion to reconsider the November 18, 2008 Decision, as Justice Leonardo-De Castro noted,
indeed raised new and substantial issues, inclusive of the matter of the correctness of the factual premises
upon which the said decision was predicated. The 6-6 vote on the motion for reconsideration per the
Resolution of March 31, 2009, which denied the motion on the sole ground that "the basic issues have
already been passed upon" reflected a divided Court on the issue of whether or not the underlying Decision
of November 18, 2008 had indeed passed upon the basic issues raised in the motion for reconsideration of
the said decision;

(2) The aforesaid May 14, 2009 Motion to Amend Resolution of April 28, 2009 was precipitated by the tie
vote which served as basis for the issuance of said resolution. This May 14, 2009 motionwhich mainly
argued that a tie vote is inadequate to declare a law unconstitutional remains unresolved; and

(3) Pursuant to Sec. 4(2), Art. VIII of the Constitution, all cases involving the constitutionality of a law shall
be heard by the Court en banc and decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually
took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon.

The basic issue tendered in this motion for reconsideration of the June 2, 2009 Resolution boils down to whether or
not the required vote set forth in the aforesaid Sec. 4(2), Art. VIII is limited only to the initial vote on the petition or
also to the subsequent voting on the motion for reconsideration where the Court is called upon and actually votes on
the constitutionality of a law or like issuances. Or, as applied to this case, would a minute resolution dismissing, on a
tie vote, a motion for reconsideration on the sole stated groundthat the "basic issues have already been passed"
suffice to hurdle the voting requirement required for a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the cityhood laws in
question?

The 6-6 vote on the motion to reconsider the Resolution of March 31, 2009, which denied the initial motion on the
sole ground that "the basic issues had already been passed upon" betrayed an evenly divided Court on the issue of
whether or not the underlying Decision of November 18, 2008 had indeed passed upon the issues raised in the
motion for reconsideration of the said decision. But at the end of the day, the single issue that matters and the vote
that really counts really turn on the constitutionality of the cityhood laws. And be it remembered that 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. Accordingly, the motions of the respondent LGUs, in light of the 6-6 vote, 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.

It ought to be clear that a deadlocked vote does not reflect the "majority of the Members" contemplated in Sec. 4 (2)
of Art. VIII of the Constitution, which requires that:

All cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law shall be heard by the
Supreme Court en banc, x x x shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually
took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon. (Emphasis added.)

Webster defines "majority" as "a number greater than half of a total."13 In plain language, this means 50% plus one.
In Lambino v. Commission on Elections, Justice, now Chief Justice, Puno, in a separate opinion, expressed the view
that "a deadlocked vote of six (6) is not a majority and a non-majority cannot write a rule with precedential value."14

As may be noted, the aforequoted Sec. 4 of Art. VIII, as couched, exacts a majority vote in the determination of a
case involving the constitutionality of a statute, without distinguishing whether such determination is made on the
main petition or thereafter on a motion for reconsideration. This is as it should be, for, to borrow from the late Justice
Ricardo J. Francisco: "x x x [E]ven assuming x x x that the constitutional requirement on the concurrence of the
majority was initially reached in the x x x ponencia, the same is inconclusive as it was still open for review by way
of a motion for reconsideration."15

To be sure, the Court has taken stock of the rule on a tie-vote situation, i.e., Sec. 7, Rule 56 and the complementary
A.M. No. 99-1-09- SC, respectively, providing that:

SEC. 7. Procedure if opinion is equally divided. Where the court en banc is equally divided in opinion, or the
necessary majority cannot be had, the case shall again be deliberated on, and if after such deliberation no decision
is reached, the original action commenced in the court shall be dismissed; in appealed cases, the judgment or order
appealed from shall stand affirmed; and on all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied.

A.M. No. 99-1-09-SC x x x A motion for reconsideration of a decision or resolution of the Court En Banc or of a
Division may be granted upon a vote of a majority of the En Banc or of a Division, as the case may be, who actually
took part in the deliberation of the motion.

If the voting results in a tie, the motion for reconsideration is deemed denied.

But since the instant cases fall under Sec. 4 (2), Art. VIII of the Constitution, the aforequoted provisions ought to be
applied in conjunction with the prescription of the Constitution that the cases "shall be decided with the concurrence
of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the instant cases and voted
thereon." To repeat, the last vote on the issue of the constitutionality of the cityhood bills is that reflected in the April
28, 2009 Resolutiona 6-6 deadlock.

On the postulate then that first, the finality of the November 18, 2008 Decision has yet to set in, the issuance of the
precipitate16 entry of judgment notwithstanding, and second, the deadlocked vote on the second motion for
reconsideration did not definitely settle the constitutionality of the cityhood laws, the Court is inclined to take another
hard look at the underlying decision. Without belaboring in their smallest details the arguments for and against the
procedural dimension of this disposition, it bears to stress that the Court has the power to suspend its own rules
when the ends of justice would be served thereby.17 In the performance of their duties, courts should not be
shackled by stringent rules which would result in manifest injustice. Rules of procedure are only tools crafted to
facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application must be eschewed, if they result in technicalities
that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice. Substantial rights must not be prejudiced by a rigid and
technical application of the rules in the altar of expediency. When a case is impressed with public interest, a
relaxation of the application of the rules is in order.18 Time and again, this Court has suspended its own rules or
excepted a particular case from their operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require.19

While perhaps not on all fours with the case, because it involved a purely business transaction, what the Court said
in Chuidian v. Sandiganbayan20 is most apropos:

To reiterate what the Court has said in Ginete vs. Court of Appeals and other cases, the rules of procedure should
be viewed as mere instruments designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They are not to be applied with
severity and rigidity when such application would clearly defeat the very rationale for their conception and existence.
Even the Rules of Court reflects this principle. The power to suspend or even disregard rules, inclusive of the one-
motion rule, can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court has already declared to be
final. The peculiarities of this case impel us to do so now.

The Court, by a vote of 6-4, grants the respondent LGUs motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2,
2009, as well as their May 14, 2009 motion to consider the second motion for reconsideration of the November 18,
2008 Decision unresolved, and also grants said second motion for reconsideration.

This brings us to the substantive aspect of the case.

The Undisputed Factual Antecedents in Brief

During the 11th Congress,21 fifty-seven (57) cityhood bills were filed before the House of Representatives.22 Of the
fifty-seven (57), thirty-three (33) eventually became laws. The twenty-four (24) other bills were not acted upon.
Later developments saw the introduction in the Senate of Senate Bill (S. Bill) No. 215723 to amend Sec. 450 of
Republic Act No. (RA) 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991. The proposed
amendment sought to increase the income requirement to qualify for conversion into a city from PhP 20 million
average annual income to PhP 100 million locally generated income.

In March 2001, S. Bill No. 2157 was signed into law as RA 9009 to take effect on June 30, 2001. As thus amended
by RA 9009, Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 now provides that "[a] municipality x x x may be converted into a
component city if it has a [certified] locally generated average annual income x x x of at least [PhP 100 million] for
the last two (2) consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices."

After the effectivity of RA 9009, the Lower House of the 12th Congress adopted in July 2001 House (H.) Joint
Resolution No. 2924 which, as its title indicated, sought to exempt from the income requirement prescribed in RA
9009 the 24 municipalities whose conversions into cities were not acted upon during the previous Congress. The
12th Congress ended without the Senate approving H. Joint Resolution No. 29.

Then came the 13th Congress (July 2004 to June 2007), which saw the House of Representatives re-adopting H.
Joint Resolution No. 29 as H. Joint Resolution No. 1 and forwarding it to the Senate for approval.

The Senate, however, again failed to approve the joint resolution. During the Senate session held on November 6,
2006, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. asserted that passing H. Resolution No. 1 would, in net effect, allow a
wholesale exemption from the income requirement imposed under RA 9009 on the municipalities. For this reason,
he suggested the filing by the House of Representatives of individual bills to pave the way for the municipalities to
become cities and then forwarding them to the Senate for proper action.25

Heeding the advice, sixteen (16) municipalities filed, through their respective sponsors, individual cityhood bills.
Common to all 16 measures was a provision exempting the municipality covered from the PhP 100 million income
requirement.

As of June 7, 2007, both Houses of Congress had approved the individual cityhood bills, all of which eventually
lapsed into law on various dates. Each cityhood law directs the COMELEC, within thirty (30) days from its approval,
to hold a plebiscite to determine whether the voters approve of the conversion.

As earlier stated, the instant petitions seek to declare the cityhood laws unconstitutional for violation of Sec. 10, Art.
X of the Constitution, as well as for violation of the equal-protection clause. The wholesale conversion of
municipalities into cities, the petitioners bemoan, will reduce the share of existing cities in the Internal Revenue
Allotment (IRA), since more cities will partake of the internal revenue set aside for all cities under Sec. 285 of the
LGC of 1991.26

Petitioners-in-intervention, LPC members themselves, would later seek leave and be allowed to intervene.

Aside from their basic plea to strike down as unconstitutional the cityhood laws in question, petitioners and
petitioners-in-intervention collectively pray that an order issue enjoining the COMELEC from conducting plebiscites
in the affected areas. An alternative prayer would urge the Court to restrain the poll body from proclaiming the
plebiscite results.

On July 24, 2007, the Court en banc resolved to consolidate the petitions and the petitions-in-intervention. On March
11, 2008, it heard the parties in oral arguments.

The Issues

In the main, the issues to which all others must yield pivot on whether or not the cityhood laws violate (1) Sec. 10.
Art. X of the Constitution and (2) the equal protection clause.

In the November 18, 2008 Decision granting the petitions, Justice Antonio T. Carpio, for the Court, resolved the twin
posers in the affirmative and accordingly declared the cityhood laws unconstitutional, deviating as they do from the
uniform and non-discriminatory income criterion prescribed by the LGC of 1991. In so doing, the ponencia veritably
agreed with the petitioners that the Constitution, in clear and unambiguous language, requires that all the criteria for
the creation of a city shall be embodied and written in the LGC, and not in any other law.

After a circumspect reflection, the Court is disposed to reconsider.

Petitioners threshold posture, characterized by a strained interpretation of the Constitution, if accorded cogency,
would veritably curtail and cripple Congress valid exercise of its authority to create political subdivisions.

By constitutional design27 and as a matter of long-established principle, the power to create political subdivisions or
LGUs is essentially legislative in character.28 But even without any constitutional grant, Congress can, by law,
create, divide, merge, or altogether abolish or alter the boundaries of a province, city, or municipality. We said as
much in the fairly recent case, Sema v. CIMELEC.29 The 1987 Constitution, under its Art. X, Sec. 10, nonetheless
provides for the creation of LGUs, thus:

Section 10. 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.)

As may be noted, the afore-quoted provision specifically provides for the creation of political subdivisions "in
accordance with the criteria established in the local government code," subject to the approval of the voters in the
unit concerned. The criteria referred to are the verifiable indicators of viability, i.e., area, population, and income,
now set forth in Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991, as amended by RA 9009. The petitioners would parlay the thesis that
these indicators or criteria must be written only in the LGC and not in any other statute. Doubtless, the code they are
referring to is the LGC of 1991. Pushing their point, they conclude that the cityhood laws that exempted the
respondent LGUs from the income standard spelled out in the amendatory RA 9009 offend the Constitution.

Petitioners posture does not persuade.

The supposedly infringed Art. X, Sec. 10 is not a new constitutional provision. Save for the use of the term "barrio" in
lieu of "barangay," "may be" instead of "shall," the change of the phrase "unit or units" to "political unit" and the
addition of the modifier "directly" to the word "affected," the aforesaid provision is a substantial reproduction of Art.
XI, Sec. 3 of the 1973 Constitution, which reads:

Section 3. No province, city, municipality, or barrio 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 unit or units affected. (Emphasis supplied.)

It bears notice, however, that the "code" similarly referred to in the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions is clearly but a law
Congress enacted. This is consistent with the aforementioned plenary power of Congress to create political units.
Necessarily, since Congress wields the vast poser of creating political subdivisions, surely it can exercise the lesser
authority of requiring a set of criteria, standards, or ascertainable indicators of viability for their creation. Thus, the
only conceivable reason why the Constitution employs the clause "in accordance with the criteria established in the
local government code" is to lay stress that it is Congress alone, and no other, which can impose the criteria. The
eminent constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., in his treatise on Constitutional Law, specifically on the
subject provision, explains:

Prior to 1965, there was a certain lack of clarity with regard to the power to create, divide, merge, dissolve, or
change the boundaries of municipal corporations. The extent to which the executive may share in this power was
obscured by Cardona v. Municipality of Binangonan.30 Pelaez v. Auditor General subsequently clarified the Cardona
case when the Supreme Court said that "the authority to create municipal corporations is essentially legislative in
nature."31 Pelaez, however, conceded that "the power to fix such common boundary, in order to avoid or settle
conflicts of jurisdiction between adjoining municipalities, may partake of an administrative nature-involving as it
does, the adoption of means and ways to carry into effect the law creating said municipalities."32 Pelaez was silent
about division, merger, and dissolution of municipal corporations. But since division in effect creates a new
municipality, and both dissolution and merger in effect abolish a legal creation, it may fairly be inferred that these
acts are also legislative in nature.
Section 10 [Art. X of the 1987 Constitution], which is a legacy from the 1973 Constitution, goes further than the
doctrine in the Pelaez case. It not only makes creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of
boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities x x x subject to "criteria established in the local government
code," thereby declaring these actions properly legislative, but it also makes creation, division, merger, abolition
or substantial alteration of boundaries "subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the
political units directly affected."33 x x x (Emphasis added.)

It remains to be observed at this juncture that when the 1987 Constitution speaks of the LGC, the reference cannot
be to any specific statute or codification of laws, let alone the LGC of 1991.34 Be it noted that at the time of the
adoption of the 1987 Constitution, Batas Pambansa Blg. (BP) 337, the then LGC, was still in effect. Accordingly, had
the framers of the 1987 Constitution intended to isolate the embodiment of the criteria only in the LGC, then they
would have actually referred to BP 337. Also, they would then not have provided for the enactment by Congress of a
new LGC, as they did in Art. X, Sec. 335 of the Constitution.

Consistent with its plenary legislative power on the matter, Congress can, via either a consolidated set of laws or a
much simpler, single-subject enactment, impose the said verifiable criteria of viability. These criteria need not be
embodied in the local government code, albeit this code is the ideal repository to ensure, as much as possible, the
element of uniformity. Congress can even, after making a codification, enact an amendatory law, adding to the
existing layers of indicators earlier codified, just as efficaciously as it may reduce the same. In this case, the
amendatory RA 9009 upped the already codified income requirement from PhP 20 million to PhP 100 million. At the
end of the day, the passage of amendatory laws is no different from the enactment of laws, i.e., the cityhood laws
specifically exempting a particular political subdivision from the criteria earlier mentioned. Congress, in enacting the
exempting law/s, effectively decreased the already codified indicators.

Petitioners theory that Congress must provide the criteria solely in the LGC and not in any other law strikes the
Court as illogical. For if we pursue their contention to its logical conclusion, then RA 9009 embodying the new and
increased income criterion would, in a way, also suffer the vice of unconstitutionality. It is startling, however, that
petitioners do not question the constitutionality of RA 9009, as they in fact use said law as an argument for the
alleged unconstitutionality of the cityhood laws.

As it were, Congress, through the medium of the cityhood laws, validly decreased the income criterion vis--vis the
respondent LGUs, but without necessarily being unreasonably discriminatory, as shall be discussed shortly, by
reverting to the PhP 20 million threshold what it earlier raised to PhP 100 million. The legislative intent not to subject
respondent LGUs to the more stringent requirements of RA 9009 finds expression in the following uniform provision
of the cityhood laws:

Exemption from Republic Act No. 9009. The City of x x x shall be exempted from the income requirement
prescribed under Republic Act No. 9009.

In any event, petitioners constitutional objection would still be untenable even if we were to assume purely ex
hypothesi the correctness of their underlying thesis, viz: that the conversion of a municipality to a city shall be in
accordance with, among other things, the income criterion set forth in the LGC of 1991, and in no other; otherwise,
the conversion is invalid. We shall explain.

Looking at the circumstances behind the enactment of the laws subject of contention, the Court finds that the LGC-
amending RA 9009, no less, intended the LGUs covered by the cityhood laws to be exempt from the PhP 100
million income criterion. In other words, the cityhood laws, which merely carried out the intent of RA 9009, adhered,
in the final analysis, to the "criteria established in the Local Government Code," pursuant to Sec. 10, Art. X of the
1987 Constitution. We shall now proceed to discuss this exemption angle.36

Among the criteria established in the LGC pursuant to Sec.10, Art. X of the 1987 Constitution are those detailed in
Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 under the heading "Requisites for Creation." The section sets the minimum income
qualifying bar before a municipality or a cluster of barangays may be considered for cityhood. Originally, Sec. 164 of
BP 337 imposed an average regular annual income "of at least ten million pesos for the last three consecutive
years" as a minimum income standard for a municipal-to-city conversion. The LGC that BP 337 established was
superseded by the LGC of 1991 whose then Sec. 450 provided that "[a] municipality or cluster of barangays may be
converted into a component city if it has an average annual income, x x x of at least twenty million pesos
(P20,000,000.00) for at least two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices x x x." RA 9009 in turn
amended said Sec. 450 by further increasing the income requirement to PhP 100 million, thus:

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 average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at
least One Hundred Million Pesos (P100,000,000.00) for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 2000
constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites:

xxxx

(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.)

The legislative intent is not at all times accurately reflected in the manner in which the resulting law is couched.
Thus, applying a verba legis37 or strictly literal interpretation of a statute may render it meaningless and lead to
inconvenience, an absurd situation or injustice.38 To obviate this aberration, and bearing in mind the principle that
the intent or the spirit of the law is the law itself,39 resort should be to the rule that the spirit of the law controls its
letter.40

It is in this respect that the history of the passage of RA 9009 and the logical inferences derivable therefrom assume
relevancy in discovering legislative intent.41

The rationale behind the enactment of RA 9009 to amend Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 can reasonably be deduced
from Senator Pimentels sponsorship speech on S. Bill No. 2157. Of particular significance is his statement
regarding the basis for the proposed increase from PhP 20 million to PhP 100 million in the income requirement for
municipalities wanting to be converted into cities, viz:

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 [LGC]. However, it is a fact that there is a mad rush of
municipalities wanting to be converted into cities. Whereas in 1991, when the [LGC] was approved, there were only
60 cities, today the number has increased to 85 cities, with 41 more municipalities applying for conversion x x x. 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 [LGC], 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.

Congress to be sure knew, when RA 9009 was being deliberated upon, of the pendency of several bills on cityhood,
wherein the applying municipalities were qualified under the then obtaining PhP 20 million-income threshold. These
included respondent LGUs. Thus, equally noteworthy is the ensuing excerpts from the floor exchange between then
Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Pimentel, the latter stopping short of saying that the income threshold
of PhP 100 million under S. Bill No. 2157 would not apply to municipalities that have pending cityhood bills, 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 [if] 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.42 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

What the foregoing Pimental-Drilon exchange eloquently indicates are the following complementary legislative
intentions: (1) the then pending cityhood bills would be outside the pale of the minimum income requirement of PhP
100 million that S. Bill No. 2159 proposes; and (2) RA 9009 would not have any retroactive effect insofar as the
cityhood bills are concerned.

Given the foregoing perspective, it is not amiss to state that the basis for the inclusion of the exemption clause of the
cityhood laws is the clear-cut intent of Congress of not according retroactive effect to RA 9009. Not only do the
congressional records bear the legislative intent of exempting the cityhood laws from the income requirement of PhP
100 million. Congress has now made its intention to exempt express in the challenged cityhood laws.

Legislative intent is part and parcel of the law, the controlling factor in interpreting a statute. In construing a statute,
the proper course is to start out and follow the true intent of the Legislature and to adopt the sense that best
harmonizes with the context and promotes in the fullest manner the policy and objects of the legislature.43 In fact,
any interpretation that runs counter to the legislative intent is unacceptable and invalid.44 Torres v. Limjap could not
have been more precise:

The intent of a Statute is the Law. If a statute is valid, it is to have effect according to the purpose and intent of the
lawmaker. The intent is x x x the essence of the law and the primary rule of construction is to ascertain and
give effect to that intent. The intention of the legislature in enacting a law is the law itself, and must be enforced
when ascertained, although it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute. Courts will not follow
the letter of a statute when it leads away from the true intent and purpose of the legislature and to conclusions
inconsistent with the general purpose of the act. Intent is the spirit which gives life to a legislative enactment. In
construing statutes the proper course is to start out and follow the true intent of the legislature x x x.45 (Emphasis
supplied.)

As emphasized at the outset, behind every law lies the presumption of constitutionality.46 Consequently, to him who
would assert the unconstitutionality of a statute belongs the burden of proving otherwise. Laws will only be declared
invalid if a conflict with the Constitution is beyond reasonable doubt.47 Unfortunately for petitioners and petitioners-
in-intervention, they failed to discharge their heavy burden.

It is contended that the deliberations on the cityhood bills and the covering joint resolution were undertaken in the
11th and/or the 12th Congress. Accordingly, so the argument goes, such deliberations, more particularly those on
the unapproved resolution exempting from RA 9009 certain municipalities, are without significance and would not
qualify as extrinsic aids in construing the cityhood laws that were passed during the 13th Congress, Congress not
being a continuing body.

The argument is specious and glosses over the reality that the cityhood billswhich were already being deliberated
upon even perhaps before the conception of RA 9009were again being considered during the 13th Congress after
being tossed around in the two previous Congresses. And specific reference to the cityhood bills was also made
during the deliberations on RA 9009. At the end of the day, it is really immaterial if Congress is not a continuing
legislative body. What is important is that the debates, deliberations, and proceedings of Congress and the steps
taken in the enactment of the law, in this case the cityhood laws in relation to RA 9009 or vice versa, were part of its
legislative history and may be consulted, if appropriate, as aids in the interpretation of the law.48 And of course the
earlier cited Drilon-Pimentel exchange on whether or not the 16 municipalities in question would be covered by RA
9009 is another vital link to the historical chain of the cityhood bills. This and other proceedings on the bills are
spread in the Congressional journals, which cannot be conveniently reduced to pure rhetoric without meaning
whatsoever, on the simplistic and non-sequitur pretext that Congress is not a continuing body and that unfinished
business in either chamber is deemed terminated at the end of the term of Congress.

This brings us to the challenge to the constitutionality of cityhood laws on equal protection grounds.

To the petitioners, the cityhood laws, by granting special treatment to respondent municipalities/LGUs by way of
exemption from the standard PhP 100 million minimum income requirement, violate Sec.1, Art. III of the
Constitution, which in part provides that no person shall "be denied the equal protection of the laws."

Petitioners challenge is not well taken. At its most basic, the equal protection clause proscribes undue favor as well
as hostile discrimination. Hence, a law need not operate with equal force on all persons or things to be conformable
with Sec. 1, Art. III of the Constitution.

The equal protection guarantee is embraced in the broader and elastic concept of due process, every unfair
discrimination being an offense against the requirements of justice and fair play. It has nonetheless come as a
separate clause in Sec. 1, Art. III of the Constitution to provide for a more specific protection against any undue
discrimination or antagonism from government. Arbitrariness in general may be assailed on the basis of the due
process clause. But if a particular challenged act partakes of an unwarranted partiality or prejudice, the sharper
weapon to cut it down is the equal protection clause.49 This constitutional protection extends to all persons, natural
or artificial, within the territorial jurisdiction. Artificial persons, as the respondent LGUs herein, are, however, entitled
to protection only insofar as their property is concerned.50

In the proceedings at bar, petitioner LCP and the intervenors cannot plausibly invoke the equal protection clause,
precisely because no deprivation of property results by virtue of the enactment of the cityhood laws. The LCPs
claim that the IRA of its member-cities will be substantially reduced on account of the conversion into cities of the
respondent LGUs would not suffice to bring it within the ambit of the constitutional guarantee. Indeed, it is
presumptuous on the part of the LCP member-cities to already stake a claim on the IRA, as if it were their property,
as the IRA is yet to be allocated. For the same reason, the municipalities that are not covered by the uniform
exemption clause in the cityhood laws cannot validly invoke constitutional protection. For, at this point, the
conversion of a municipality into a city will only affect its status as a political unit, but not its property as such.

As a matter of settled legal principle, the fundamental right of equal protection does not require absolute equality. It
is enough that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights or privileges conferred
and responsibilities or obligations imposed. The equal protection clause does not preclude the state from
recognizing and acting upon factual differences between individuals and classes. It recognizes that inherent in the
right to legislate is the right to classify,51 necessarily implying that the equality guaranteed is not violated by a
legislation based on reasonable classification. Classification, to be reasonable, must (1) rest on substantial
distinctions; (2) be germane to the purpose of the law; (3) not be limited to existing conditions only; and (4) apply
equally to all members of the same class.52 The Court finds that all these requisites have been met by the laws
challenged as arbitrary and discriminatory under the equal protection clause.

As things stand, the favorable treatment accorded the sixteen (16) municipalities by the cityhood laws rests on
substantial distinction. Indeed, respondent LGUs, which are subjected only to the erstwhile PhP 20 million income
criterion instead of the stringent income requirement prescribed in RA 9009, are substantially different from other
municipalities desirous to be cities. Looking back, we note that respondent LGUs had pending cityhood bills before
the passage of RA 9009. There lies part of the tipping difference. And years before the enactment of the
amendatory RA 9009, respondents LGUs had already met the income criterion exacted for cityhood under the LGC
of 1991. Due to extraneous circumstances, however, the bills for their conversion remained unacted upon by
Congress. As aptly observed by then Senator, now Manila Mayor, Alfredo Lim in his speech sponsoring H. Joint
Resolution No. 1, or the cityhood bills, respondent LGUs saw themselves confronted with the "changing of the rules
in the middle of the game." Some excerpts of Senator Lims sponsorship speech:

x x x [D]uring the Eleventh Congress, fifty-seven (57) municipalities applied for city status, confident that each has
met the requisites for conversion under Section 450 of the [LGC], particularly the income threshold of P20 million. Of
the 57 that filed, thirty-two (32) were enacted into law; x x x while the rest twenty-four (24) in all failed to pass
through Congress. Shortly before the long recess of Congress in February 2001, to give way to the May elections x
x x, Senate Bill No. 2157, which eventually became [RA] 9009, was passed into law, effectively raising the income
requirement for creation of cities to a whooping P100 million x x x. Much as the proponents of the 24 cityhood bills
then pending struggled to beat the effectivity of the law on June 30, 2001, events that then unfolded were swift and
overwhelming that Congress just did not have the time to act on the measures.

Some of these intervening events were x x x the impeachment of President Estrada x x x and the May 2001
elections.

The imposition of a much higher income requirement for the creation of a city x x x was unfair; like any sport
changing the rules in the middle of the game.

Undaunted, they came back during the [12th] Congress x x x. They filed House Joint Resolution No. 29 seeking
exemption from the higher income requirement of RA 9009. For the second time, [however], time ran out from them.

For many of the municipalities whose Cityhood Bills are now under consideration, this year, at the closing days of
the [13th] Congress, marks their ninth year appealing for fairness and justice. 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
[LGC] prior to its amendment by RA 9009. Hence, when House Joint Resolution No. 1 reached the Senate x x x I
immediately set the public hearing x x x. On July 25, 2006, I filed Committee Report No. 84 x x x. On September 6, I
delivered the sponsorship x x x.

x x x By November 14, the measure had reverted to the period of individual amendments. This was when the then
acting majority leader, x x x informed the Body that Senator Pimentel and the proponents of House Joint Resolution
No. 1 have agreed to the proposal of the Minority Leader for the House to first approve the individual Cityhood Bills
of the qualified municipalities, along with the provision exempting each of them from the higher income requirement
of RA 9009. x x x This led to the certification issued by the proponents short-listing fourteen (14) municipalities
deemed to be qualified for city-status.

Acting on the suggestion of Senator Pimentel, the proponents lost no time in working for the approval by the House
of Representatives of their individual Cityhood Bills, each containing a provision of exemption from the higher
income requirement of RA 9009. On the last session day of last year, December 21, the House transmitted to the
Senate the Cityhood Bills of twelve out of the 14 pre-qualified municipalities. Your Committee immediately
conducted the public hearing x x x.

The whole process I enumerated [span] three Congresses 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 RA 9009. The
proponents are invoking the exemption on the basis of justice and fairness.

Each of the 12 municipalities has all the requisites for conversion into a component city based on the old
requirements set forth under Section 450 of the [LGC], prior to its amendment by RA 9009, namely: x x
x53(Emphasis supplied.)

In hindsight, the peculiar conditions, as depicted in Senator Lims speech, which respondent LGUs found
themselves in were unsettling. They were qualified cityhood applicants before the enactment of RA 009. Because of
events they had absolutely nothing to do with, a spoiler in the form of RA 9009 supervened. Now, then, to impose on
them the much higher income requirement after what they have gone through would appear to be indeed "unfair," to
borrow from Senator Lim. Thus, the imperatives of fairness dictate that they should be given a legal remedy by
which they would be allowed to prove that they have all the necessary qualifications for city status, using the criteria
set forth under the LGC of 1991 prior to its amendment by RA 9009. Truly, the peculiar conditions of respondent
LGUs, which are actual and real, provide sufficient grounds for legislative classification.

To be sure, courts, regardless of doubts they might be entertaining, cannot question the wisdom of the
congressional classification, if reasonable, or the motivation underpinning the classification.54 By the same token,
they do not sit to determine the propriety or efficacy of the remedies Congress has specifically chosen to extend.
That is its prerogative. The power of the Legislature to make distinctions and classifications among persons is, to
reiterate, neither curtailed nor denied by the equal protection clause. A law can be violative of the constitutional
limitation only when the classification is without reasonable basis.

The classification is also germane to the purpose of the law. The exemption of respondent LGUs/municipalities from
the PhP 100 million income requirement was meant to reduce the inequality occasioned by the passage of the
amendatory RA 9009. From another perspective, the exemption was unquestionably designed to insure that
fairness and justice would be accorded respondent LGUs. Let it be noted that what were then the cityhood bills
covering respondent LGUs were part and parcel of the original 57 conversion bills filed in the 11th Congress, 33 of
those became laws before the adjournment of that Congress. The then bills of the challenged cityhood laws were
not acted upon due, inter alia, to the impeachment of then President Estrada, the related jueteng scandal
investigations conducted before, and the EDSA events that followed the aborted impeachment.

While the equal protection guarantee frowns upon the creation of a privileged class without justification, inherent in
the equality clause is the exhortation for the Legislature to pass laws promoting equality or reducing existing
inequalities. The enactment of the cityhood laws was in a real sense an attempt on the part of Congress to address
the inequity dealt the respondent LGUs. These laws positively promoted the equality and eliminated the inequality,
doubtless unintended, between respondent municipalities and the thirty-three (33) other municipalities whose
cityhood bills were enacted during the 11th Congress. Respondent municipalities and the 33 other municipalities,
which had already been elevated to city status, were all found to be qualified under the old Sec. 450 of the LGC of
1991 during the 11th Congress. As such, both respondent LGUs and the 33 other former municipalities are under
like circumstances and conditions. There is, thus, no rhyme or reason why an exemption from the PhP 100 million
requirement cannot be given to respondent LGUs. Indeed, to deny respondent LGUs/municipalities the same rights
and privileges accorded to the 33 other municipalities when, at the outset they were similarly situated, is tantamount
to denying the former the protective mantle of the equal protection clause. In effect, petitioners and petitioners-in-
intervention are creating an absurd situation in which an alleged violation of the equal protection clause of the
Constitution is remedied by another violation of the same clause. The irony is not lost to the Court.

Then too the non-retroactive effect of RA 9009 is not limited in application only to conditions existing at the time of
its enactment. It is intended to apply for all time, as long as the contemplated conditions obtain. To be more precise,
the legislative intent underlying the enactment of RA 9009 to exclude would-be-cities from the PhP 100 million
criterion would hold sway, as long as the corresponding cityhood bill has been filed before the effectivity of RA 9009
and the concerned municipality qualifies for conversion into a city under the original version of Sec. 450 of the LGC
of 1991.

Viewed in its proper light, the common exemption clause in the cityhood laws is an application of the non-retroactive
effect of RA 9009 on the cityhood bills. It is not a declaration of certain rights, but a mere declaration of prior
qualification and/or compliance with the non-retroactive effect of RA 9009.

Lastly and in connection with the third requisite, the uniform exemption clause would apply to municipalities that had
pending cityhood bills before the passage of RA 9009 and were compliant with then Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991,
which prescribed an income requirement of PhP 20 million. It is hard to imagine, however, if there are still
municipalities out there belonging in context to the same class as the sixteen (16) respondent LGUs. Municipalities
that cannot claim to belong to the same class as the 16 cannot seek refuge in the cityhood laws. The former have to
comply with the PhP 100 million income requirement imposed by RA 9009.

A final consideration. The existence of the cities consequent to the approval of the creating, but challenged, cityhood
laws in the plebiscites held in the affected LGUs is now an operative fact. New cities appear to have been organized
and are functioning accordingly, with new sets of officials and employees. Other resulting events need not be
enumerated. The operative fact doctrine provides another reason for upholding the constitutionality of the cityhood
laws in question.

In view of the foregoing discussion, the Court ought to abandon as it hereby abandons and sets aside the Decision
of November 18, 2008 subject of reconsideration. And by way of summing up the main arguments in support of this
disposition, the Court hereby declares the following:
(1) Congress did not intend the increased income requirement in RA 9009 to apply to the cityhood bills
which became the cityhood laws in question. In other words, Congress intended the subject cityhood laws to
be exempted from the income requirement of PhP 100 million prescribed by RA 9009;

(2) The cityhood laws merely carry out the intent of RA 9009, now Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991, to exempt
respondent LGUs from the PhP 100 million income requirement;

(3) The deliberations of the 11th or 12th Congress on unapproved bills or resolutions are extrinsic aids in
interpreting a law passed in the 13th Congress. It is really immaterial if Congress is not a continuing body.
The hearings and deliberations during the 11th and 12th Congress may still be used as extrinsic reference
inasmuch as the same cityhood bills which were filed before the passage of RA 9009 were being considered
during the 13th Congress. Courts may fall back on the history of a law, as here, as extrinsic aid of statutory
construction if the literal application of the law results in absurdity or injustice.

(4) The exemption accorded the 16 municipalities is based on the fact that each had pending cityhood bills
long before the enactment of RA 9009 that substantially distinguish them from other municipalities aiming for
cityhood. On top of this, each of the 16 also met the PhP 20 million income level exacted under the original
Sec. 450 of the 1991 LGC.

And to stress the obvious, the cityhood laws are presumed constitutional. As we see it, petitioners have not
overturned the presumptive constitutionality of the laws in question.

WHEREFORE, respondent LGUs Motion for Reconsideration dated June 2, 2009, their "Motion to Amend the
Resolution of April 28, 2009 by Declaring Instead that Respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of
March 31, 2009 and Motion for Leave to File and to Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration of the
Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain Unresolved and to Conduct Further Proceedings," dated May 14,
2009, and their second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision dated November 18, 2008 are GRANTED. The
June 2, 2009, the March 31, 2009, and April 31, 2009 Resolutions are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The entry of
judgment made on May 21, 2009 must accordingly be RECALLED.

The instant consolidated petitions and petitions-in-intervention are DISMISSED. The cityhood laws, namely Republic
Act Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491
are declared VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 176951 August 24, 2010

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 177499

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS,CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 178056

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS,
CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR
MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS 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; and MUNICIPALITY OF EL SALVADOR, MISAMIS
ORIENTAL, Respondents.
CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF
TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF
ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY
OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA,
CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY
OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention.

RESOLUTION

CARPIO, J.:
For resolution are (1) the ad cautelam motion for reconsideration and (2) motion to annul the Decision of 21
December 2009 filed by petitioners League of Cities of the Philippines, et al. and (3) the ad cautelam motion for
reconsideration filed by petitioners-in-intervention Batangas City, Santiago City, Legazpi City, Iriga City, Cadiz City,
and Oroquieta City.

On 18 November 2008, the Supreme Court En Banc, by a majority vote, struck down the subject 16 Cityhood Laws
for violating Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution and the equal protection clause. On 31 March 2009, the
Supreme Court En Banc, again by a majority vote, denied the respondents first motion for reconsideration. On 28
April 2009, the Supreme Court En Banc, by a split vote, denied the respondents second motion for reconsideration.
Accordingly, the 18 November 2008 Decision became final and executory and was recorded, in due course, in the
Book of Entries of Judgments on 21 May 2009.

However, after the finality of the 18 November 2008 Decision and without any exceptional and compelling reason,
the Court En Banc unprecedentedly reversed the 18 November 2008 Decision by upholding the constitutionality of
the Cityhood Laws in the Decision of 21 December 2009.

Upon reexamination, the Court finds the motions for reconsideration meritorious and accordingly reinstates the 18
November 2008 Decision declaring the 16 Cityhood Laws unconstitutional.

A. Violation of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution

Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides:

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.1 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.

The clear intent of the Constitution is to insure that the creation of cities and other political units must follow the
same uniform, non-discriminatory criteria found solely in the Local Government Code. Any derogation or deviation
from the criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code violates Section 10, Article X of the Constitution.

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 the Local
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.

RA 9009 is not a law different from the Local Government Code. Section 1 of RA 9009 pertinently provides: "Section
450 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, is hereby amended to read
as follows: x x x." RA 9009 amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code. RA 9009, by amending Section
450 of the Local Government Code, embodies the new and prevailing Section 450 of the Local Government Code.
Considering the Legislatures primary intent to curtail "the mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into
cities," RA 9009 increased the income requirement for the creation of cities. To repeat, RA 9009 is not a law
different from the Local Government Code, as it expressly amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code.
The language of RA 9009 is plain, simple, and clear. Nothing is unintelligible or ambiguous; not a single word or
phrase admits of two or more meanings. RA 9009 amended Section 450 of the Local Government Code of 1991 by
increasing the income requirement for the creation of cities. There are no exemptions from this income requirement.
Since the law is clear, plain and unambiguous that any municipality desiring to convert into a city must meet the
increased income requirement, there is no reason to go beyond the letter of the law. Moreover, where the law does
not make an exemption, the Court should not create one.2

B. Operative Fact Doctrine

Under the operative fact doctrine, the law is recognized as unconstitutional but the effects of the unconstitutional
law, prior to its declaration of nullity, may be left undisturbed as a matter of equity and fair play. In fact, the
invocation of the operative fact doctrine is an admission that the law is unconstitutional.

However, the minoritys novel theory, invoking the operative fact doctrine, is that the enactment of the Cityhood
Laws and the functioning of the 16 municipalities as new cities with new sets of officials and employees operate to
contitutionalize the unconstitutional Cityhood Laws. This novel theory misapplies the operative fact doctrine and sets
a gravely dangerous precedent.

Under the minoritys novel theory, an unconstitutional law, if already implemented prior to its declaration of
unconstitutionality by the Court, can no longer be revoked and its implementation must be continued despite being
unconstitutional. This view will open the floodgates to the wanton enactment of unconstitutional laws and a mad
rush for their immediate implementation before the Court can declare them unconstitutional. This view is an open
invitation to serially violate the Constitution, and be quick about it, lest the violation be stopped by the Court.

The operative fact doctrine is a rule of equity. As such, it must be applied as an exception to the general rule that an
unconstitutional law produces no effects. It can never be invoked to validate as constitutional an unconstitutional act.
In Planters Products, Inc. v. Fertiphil Corporation,3 the Court stated:

The general rule is that an unconstitutional law is void. It produces no rights, imposes no duties and affords no
protection. It has no legal effect. It is, in legal contemplation, inoperative as if it has not been passed. Being void,
Fertiphil is not required to pay the levy. All levies paid should be refunded in accordance with the general civil code
principle against unjust enrichment. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the Civil Code, which provides:

ART. 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall not be excused by
disuse or custom or practice to the contrary.

When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall
govern.

The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule, only applies as a matter of equity and fair
play. It nullifies the effects of an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a
determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have consequences which cannot always
be ignored. The past cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.

The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have
relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was applied to a criminal case when a declaration of unconstitutionality would put
the accused in double jeopardy or would put in limbo the acts done by a municipality in reliance upon a law creating
it. (Emphasis supplied)

The operative fact doctrine never validates or constitutionalizes an unconstitutional law. Under the operative fact
doctrine, the unconstitutional law remains unconstitutional, but the effects of the unconstitutional law, prior to its
judicial declaration of nullity, may be left undisturbed as a matter of equity and fair play. In short, the operative fact
doctrine affects or modifies only the effects of the unconstitutional law, not the unconstitutional law itself.

Thus, applying the operative fact doctrine to the present case, the Cityhood Laws remain unconstitutional because
they violate Section 10, Article X of the Constitution. However, the effects of the implementation of the Cityhood
Laws prior to the declaration of their nullity, such as the payment of salaries and supplies by the "new cities" or their
issuance of licenses or execution of contracts, may be recognized as valid and effective. This does not mean that
the Cityhood Laws are valid for they remain void. Only the effects of the implementation of these unconstitutional
laws are left undisturbed as a matter of equity and fair play to innocent people who may have relied on the
presumed validity of the Cityhood Laws prior to the Courts declaration of their unconstitutionality.

C. Equal Protection Clause

As the Court held in the 18 November 2008 Decision, 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 11th Congress 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 11th Congress is not rationally related to
the purpose of the law which is to prevent fiscally non-viable municipalities from converting 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. In fact, the minority
concedes that "the conditions (pendency of the cityhood bills) adverted to can no longer be repeated."

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.

D. Tie-Vote on a Motion for Reconsideration

Section 7, Rule 56 of the Rules of Court provides:

SEC. 7. Procedure if opinion is equally divided. Where the court en banc is equally divided in opinion, or the
necessary majority cannot be had, the case shall again be deliberated on, and if after such deliberation no decision
is reached, the original action commenced in the court shall be dismissed; in appealed cases, the judgment or order
appealed from shall stand affirmed; and on all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be
denied. (Emphasis supplied)

The En Banc Resolution of 26 January 1999 in A.M. No. 99-1-09-SC, reads:

A MOTION FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF A DECISION OR RESOLUTION OF THE COURT EN BANC OR OF A


DIVISION MAY BE GRANTED UPON A VOTE OF A MAJORITY OF THE MEMBERS OF THE EN BANC OR OF A
DIVISION, AS THE CASE MAY BE, WHO ACTUALLY TOOK PART IN THE DELIBERATION OF THE MOTION.

IF THE VOTING RESULTS IN A TIE, THE MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION IS DEEMED DENIED. (Emphasis
supplied)

The clear and simple language of the clarificatory en banc Resolution requires no further explanation. If the voting of
the Court en banc results in a tie, the motion for reconsideration is deemed denied. The Courts prior majority
action on the main decision stands affirmed.4 This clarificatory Resolution applies to all cases heard by the
Court en banc, which includes not only cases involving the constitutionality of a law, but also, as expressly stated in
Section 4(2), Article VIII of the Constitution, "all other cases which under the Rules of Court are required to be
heard en banc."
The 6-6 tie-vote by the Court en banc on the second motion for reconsideration necessarily resulted in the denial of
the second motion for reconsideration. Since the Court was evenly divided, there could be no reversal of the 18
November 2008 Decision, for a tie-vote cannot result in any court order or directive.5 The judgment stands in full
force.6 Undeniably, the 6-6 tie-vote did not overrule the prior majority en banc Decision of 18 November
2008, as well as the prior majority en banc Resolution of 31 March 2009 denying reconsideration. The tie-
vote on the second motion for reconsideration is not the same as a tie-vote on the main decision where there is no
prior decision. Here, the tie-vote plainly signifies that there is no majority to overturn the prior 18 November 2008
Decision and 31 March 2009 Resolution, and thus the second motion for reconsideration must be denied.

Further, the tie-vote on the second motion for reconsideration did not mean that the present cases were left
undecided because there remain the Decision of 18 November 2008 and the Resolution of 31 March 2009 where a
majority of the Court en banc concurred in declaring the unconstitutionality of the sixteen Cityhood Laws. In short,
the 18 November 2008 Decision and the 31 March 2009 Resolution, which were both reached with the
concurrence of a majority of the Court en banc, are not reconsidered but stand affirmed.7 These prior
majority actions of the Court en banc can only be overruled by a new majority vote, not a tie-vote because a
tie-vote cannot overrule a prior affirmative action.

The denial, by a split vote, of the second motion for reconsideration inevitably rendered the 18 November 2008
Decision final. In fact, in its Resolution of 28 April 2009, denying the second motion for reconsideration, the Court en
banc reiterated that no further pleadings shall be entertained and stated that entry of judgment be made in due
course.1wphi1

The dissenting opinion stated that "a deadlocked vote of six is not a majority and a non-majority does not constitute
a rule with precedential value."8

Indeed, a tie-vote is a non-majority a non-majority which cannot overrule a prior affirmative action, that is the 18
November 2008 Decision striking down the Cityhood Laws. In short, the 18 November 2008 Decision stands
affirmed. And assuming a non-majority lacks any precedential value, the 18 November 2008 Decision, which was
unreversed as a result of the tie-vote on the respondents second motion for reconsideration, nevertheless remains
binding on the parties.9

Conclusion

Section 10, Article X of the Constitution expressly provides that "no x x x city shall be created x x x 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.

Adhering to the explicit prohibition in Section 10, Article X of the Constitution does not cripple Congress power to
make laws. In fact, Congress is not prohibited from amending the Local Government Code itself, as what Congress
did by enacting RA 9009. Indisputably, the act of amending laws comprises an integral part of the Legislatures law-
making power. The unconstitutionality of the Cityhood Laws lies in the fact that Congress provided an exemption
contrary to the express language of the Constitution that "[n]o x x x city x x x shall be created except in accordance
with the criteria established in the local government code." In other words, Congress exceeded and abused its law-
making power, rendering the challenged Cityhood Laws void for being violative of the Constitution.

WHEREFORE, we GRANT the motions for reconsideration of the 21 December 2009 Decision and REINSTATE the
18 November 2008 Decision declaring UNCONSTITUTIONAL the Cityhood Laws, namely: Republic Act Nos. 9389,
9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491.

We NOTE petitioners motion to annul the Decision of 21 December 2009.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 176951 February 15, 2011

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), Represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treas;
City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treas, 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.

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -x

G.R. No. 177499

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), Represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treas;
City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treas, 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. Treas;
City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treas, 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.

RESOLUTION

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. Treas, 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:

xxxx

(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 provinces 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 cabeceras 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 BackgroundIn 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 unitsincome, 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--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 States 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
1avvphi1

CY 2006 IRA CY 2008


CITY (Before Implementation of Sixteen [16] Cityhood (Actual Release After Implementation of S
Laws) 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
182,320,356.00 204,140,940.00
Fernando

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 knowexpand 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 days 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 hours 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 LawsRepublic Acts Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393,
9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491are declared CONSTITUTIONAL.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 176951 April 12, 2011

LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP), represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treas;
City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treas, 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.

RESOLUTION

BERSAMIN, J.:

We consider and resolve the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration filed by the petitioners vis--vis the
Resolution promulgated on February 15, 2011.

To recall, the Resolution promulgated on February 15, 2011 granted the Motion for Reconsideration of the
respondents presented against the Resolution dated August 24, 2010, reversed the Resolution dated August 24,
2010, and declared the 16 Cityhood Laws Republic Acts Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404,
9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491 constitutional.

Now, the petitioners anchor their Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration upon the primordial ground that the Court
could no longer modify, alter, or amend its judgment declaring the Cityhood Laws unconstitutional due to such
judgment having long become final and executory. They submit that the Cityhood Laws violated Section 6 and
Section 10 of Article X of the Constitution, as well as the Equal Protection Clause.

The petitioners specifically ascribe to the Court the following errors in its promulgation of the assailed February 15,
2011 Resolution, to wit:

I. THE HONORABLE COURT HAS NO JURISDICTION TO PROMULGATE THE RESOLUTION OF 15


FEBRUARY 2011 BECAUSE THERE IS NO LONGER ANY ACTUAL CASE OR CONTROVERSY TO SETTLE.

II. THE RESOLUTION CONTRAVENES THE 1997 RULES OF CIVIL PROCEDURE AND RELEVANT
SUPREME COURT ISSUANCES.

III. THE RESOLUTION UNDERMINES THE JUDICIAL SYSTEM IN ITS DISREGARD OF THE PRINCIPLES OF
RES JUDICATA AND THE DOCTRINE OF IMMUTABILITY OF FINAL JUDGMENTS.

IV. THE RESOLUTION ERRONEOUSLY RULED THAT THE SIXTEEN (16) CITYHOOD BILLS DO NOT
VIOLATE ARTICLE X, SECTIONS 6 AND 10 OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION.

V. THE SIXTEEN (16) CITYHOOD LAWS VIOLATE THE EQUAL PROTECTION CLAUSE OF THE
CONSTITUTION AND THE RIGHT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TO A JUST SHARE IN THE NATIONAL
TAXES.

Ruling

Upon thorough consideration, we deny the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration for its lack of merit.

I.
Procedural Issues

With respect to the first, second, and third assignments of errors, supra, it appears that the petitioners assail the
jurisdiction of the Court in promulgating the February 15, 2011 Resolution, claiming that the decision herein had long
become final and executory. They state that the Court thereby violated rules of procedure, and the principles of res
judicata and immutability of final judgments.

The petitioners posit that the controversy on the Cityhood Laws ended with the April 28, 2009 Resolution denying
the respondents second motion for reconsideration vis--vis the November 18, 2008 Decision for being a prohibited
pleading, and in view of the issuance of the entry of judgment on May 21, 2009.

The Court disagrees with the petitioners.

In the April 28, 2009 Resolution, the Court ruled:

By a vote of 6-6, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of 31 March 2009 is DENIED for lack of merit.
The motion is denied since there is no majority that voted to overturn the Resolution of 31 March 2009.

The Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision of 18 November 2008 is DENIED for being a prohibited
pleading, and the Motion for Leave to Admit Attached Petition in Intervention dated 20 April 2009 and the Petition in
Intervention dated 20 April 2009 filed by counsel for Ludivina T. Mas, et al. are also DENIED in view of the denial of
the second motion for reconsideration. No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let entry of judgment be made in
due course.

Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. wrote a Dissenting Opinion, joined by Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Renato
C. Corona, Minita Chico-Nazario, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Lucas P. Bersamin. Chief Justice Reynato S.
Puno and Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura took no part. Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing is on leave.1

Within 15 days from receipt of the April 28, 2009 Resolution, the respondents filed a Motion To Amend Resolution
Of April 28, 2009 By Declaring Instead That Respondents "Motion for Reconsideration Of the Resolution Of March
31, 2009" And "Motion For Leave To File, And To Admit Attached Second Motion For Reconsideration Of The
Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain Unresolved And To Conduct Further Proceedings Thereon, arguing
therein that a determination of the issue of constitutionality of the 16 Cityhood Laws upon a motion for
reconsideration by an equally divided vote was not binding on the Court as a valid precedent, citing the separate
opinion of then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno in Lambino v. Commission on Elections.2

Thus, in its June 2, 2009 Resolution, the Court issued the following clarification of the April 28, 2009 Resolution, viz:

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.3

As the result of the aforecited clarification, the Court resolved to expunge from the records several pleadings and
documents, including respondents Motion To Amend Resolution Of April 28, 2009 etc.

The respondents thus filed their Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009, asseverating that
their Motion To Amend Resolution Of April 28, 2009 etc. was not another motion for reconsideration of the
November 18, 2008 Decision, because it assailed the April 28, 2009 Resolution with respect to the tie-vote on the
respondents Second Motion For Reconsideration. They pointed out that the Motion To Amend Resolution Of April
28, 2009 etc. was filed on May 14, 2009, which was within the 15-day period from their receipt of the April 28, 2009
Resolution; thus, the entry of judgment had been prematurely made. They reiterated their arguments with respect to
a tie-vote upon an issue of constitutionality.

In the September 29, 2009 Resolution,4 the Court required the petitioners to comment on the Motion for
Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009 within 10 days from receipt.

As directed, the petitioners filed their Comment Ad Cautelam With Motion to Expunge.

The respondents filed their Motion for Leave to File and to Admit Attached "Reply to Petitioners Comment Ad
Cautelam With Motion to Expunge", together with the Reply.

On November 17, 2009, the Court resolved to note the petitioners Comment Ad Cautelam With Motion to Expunge,
to grant the respondents Motion for Leave to File and Admit Reply to Petitioners Comment Ad Cautelam with
Motion to Expunge, and to note the respondents Reply to Petitioners Comment Ad Cautelam with Motion to
Expunge.

On December 21, 2009, the Court, resolving the Motion To Amend Resolution Of April 28, 2009 etc. and voting
anew on the Second Motion For Reconsideration in order to reach a concurrence of a majority, promulgated its
Decision granting the motion and declaring the Cityhood Laws as constitutional,5 disposing thus:

WHEREFORE, respondent LGUs Motion for Reconsideration dated June 2, 2009, their "Motion to Amend the
Resolution of April 28, 2009 by Declaring Instead that Respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of
March 31, 2009 and Motion for Leave to File and to Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration of the
Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain Unresolved and to Conduct Further Proceedings," dated May 14,
2009, and their second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision dated November 18, 2008 are GRANTED. The
June 2, 2009, the March 31, 2009, and April 31, 2009 Resolutions are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The entry of
judgment made on May 21, 2009 must accordingly be RECALLED.

The instant consolidated petitions and petitions-in-intervention are DISMISSED. The cityhood laws, namely Republic
Act Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491
are declared VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL.

SO ORDERED.

On January 5, 2010, the petitioners filed an Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration against the December 21,
2009 Decision.6 On the same date, the petitioners also filed a Motion to Annul Decision of 21 December 2009.7

On January 12, 2010, the Court directed the respondents to comment on the motions of the petitioners. 8

On February 4, 2010, petitioner-intervenors City of Santiago, City of Legazpi, and City of Iriga filed their separate
Manifestations with Supplemental Ad Cautelam Motions for Reconsideration.9 Similar manifestations with
supplemental motions for reconsideration were filed by other petitioner-intervenors, specifically: City of Cadiz on
February 15, 2010;10 City of Batangas on February 17, 2010;11 and City of Oroquieta on February 24, 2010.12 The
Court required the adverse parties to comment on the motions.13 As directed, the respondents complied.

On August 24, 2010, the Court issued its Resolution reinstating the November 18, 2008 Decision.14

On September 14, 2010, the respondents timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the "Resolution" Dated August
24, 2010.15 They followed this by filing on September 20, 2010 a Motion to Set "Motion for Reconsideration of the
Resolution dated August 24, 2010" for Hearing.16 On November 19, 2010, the petitioners sent in their Opposition
[To the "Motion for Reconsideration of Resolution dated August 24, 2010"].17 On November 30, 2010,18 the Court
noted, among others, the petitioners Opposition.

On January 18, 2011,19 the Court denied the respondents Motion to Set "Motion for Reconsideration of the
Resolution dated August 24, 2010" for Hearing.

Thereafter, on February 15, 2011, the Court issued the Resolution being now challenged.
It can be gleaned from the foregoing that, as the June 2, 2009 Resolution clarified, the respondents Second Motion
For Reconsideration was not a prohibited pleading in view of the Courts voting and acting on it having the effect of
allowing the Second Motion For Reconsideration; and that when the respondents filed their Motion for
Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009 questioning the expunging of their Motion To Amend Resolution
Of April 28, 2009 etc. (which had been filed within the 15-day period from receipt of the April 28, 2009 Resolution),
the Court opted to act on the Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009 by directing the adverse
parties through its September 29, 2009 Resolution to comment. The same permitting effect occurred when the
Court, by its November 17, 2009 Resolution, granted the respondents Motion for Leave to File and Admit Reply to
Petitioners Comment Ad Cautelam with Motion to Expunge, and noted the attached Reply.

Moreover, by issuing the Resolutions dated September 29, 2009 and November 17, 2009, the Court: (a) rendered
ineffective the tie-vote under the Resolution of April 28, 2009 and the ensuing denial of the Motion for
Reconsideration of the Resolution of March 31, 2009 for lack of a majority to overturn; (b), re-opened the Decision of
November 18, 2008 for a second look under reconsideration; and (c) lifted the directive that no further pleadings
would be entertained. The Court in fact entertained and acted on the respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the
Resolution of June 2, 2009. Thereafter, the Court proceeded to deliberate anew on the respondents Second Motion
for Reconsideration and ended up with the promulgation of the December 21, 2009 Decision (declaring the Cityhood
Laws valid and constitutional).

It is also inaccurate for the petitioners to insist that the December 21, 2009 Decision overturned the November 18,
2008 Decision on the basis of the mere Reflections of the Members of the Court. To be sure, the Reflections were
the legal opinions of the Members and formed part of the deliberations of the Court. The reference in the December
21, 2009 Decision to the Reflections pointed out that there was still a pending incident after the April 28, 2009
Resolution that had been timely filed within 15 days from its receipt,20 pursuant to Section 10, Rule 51,21 in relation to
Section 1, Rule 52,22 of the Rules of Court. Again, the Court did act and deliberate upon this pending incident,
leading to the issuance of the December 21, 2009 Decision (declaring the Cityhood Laws free from constitutional
infirmity). It was thereafter that the Court rendered its August 24, 2010 Resolution (reinstating the November 18,
2008 Decision), to correct which the respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the "Resolution" Dated August 24,
2010 was filed. And, finally, the Court issued its February 15, 2011 Resolution, reversing and setting aside the
August 24, 2010 Resolution.

It is worth repeating that the actions taken herein were made by the Court en banc strictly in accordance with the
Rules of Court and its internal procedures. There has been no irregularity attending or tainting the proceedings.

It also relevant to state that the Court has frequently disencumbered itself under extraordinary circumstances from
the shackles of technicality in order to render just and equitable relief.23

On whether the principle of immutability of judgments and bar by res judicata apply herein, suffice it to state that the
succession of the events recounted herein indicates that the controversy about the 16 Cityhood Laws has not yet
been resolved with finality. As such, the operation of the principle of immutability of judgments did not yet come into
play. For the same reason is an adherence to the doctrine of res judicata not yet warranted, especially considering
that the precedential ruling for this case needed to be revisited and set with certainty and finality.

II.
Substantive Issues

The petitioners reiterate their position that the Cityhood Laws violate Section 6 and Section 10 of Article X of the
Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause, and the right of local governments to a just share in the national taxes.

The Court differs.

Congress clearly intended that the local government units covered by the Cityhood Laws be exempted from the
coverage of R.A. No. 9009. The apprehensions of the then Senate President with respect to the considerable
disparity between the income requirement of P20 million under the Local Government Code (LGC) prior to its
amendment, and the P100 million under the amendment introduced by R.A. No. 9009 were definitively articulated in
his interpellation of Senator Pimentel during the deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2157. The then Senate President
was cognizant of the fact that there were municipalities that then had pending conversion bills
during the 11th Congress prior to the adoption of Senate Bill No. 2157 as R.A. No. 9009,24 including the
municipalities covered by the Cityhood Laws. It is worthy of mention that the pertinent deliberations on Senate Bill
No. 2157 occurred on October 5, 2000 while the 11th Congress was in session, and the conversion bills were then
pending in the Senate. Thus, the responses of Senator Pimentel made it obvious that R.A. No. 9009 would not apply
to the conversion bills then pending deliberation in the Senate during the 11th Congress.

R.A. No. 9009 took effect on June 30, 2001, when the 12th Congress was incipient. By reason of the clear
legislative intent to exempt the municipalities covered by the conversion bills pending during the 11th

Congress, the House of Representatives adopted 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. However, the Senate failed to act on Joint Resolution No. 29. Even so, the House of Representatives
readopted Joint Resolution No. 29 as

Joint Resolution No. 1 during the 12th Congress,25 and forwarded Joint Resolution No. 1 to the Senate for approval.
Again, the Senate failed to approve Joint Resolution No. 1.

At this juncture, it is worthwhile to consider the manifestation of Senator Pimentel with respect to Joint Resolution
No. 1, to wit:

MANIFESTATION OF SENATOR PIMENTEL

House Joint Resolution No. 1 seeks to exempt certain municipalities seeking conversion into cities from the
requirement that they must have at least P100 million in income of locally generated revenue, exclusive of the
internal revenue share that they received from the central government as required under Republic Act No. 9009.

The procedure followed by the House is questionable, to say the least. The House wants the Senate to do away
with the income requirement of P100 million so that, en masse, the municipalities they want exempted could now file
bills specifically converting them into cities. The reason they want the Senate to do it first is that Cong. Dodo Macias,
chair of the House Committee on Local Governments, I am told, will not entertain any bill for the conversion of
municipalities into cities unless the issue of income requirement is first hurdled. The House leadership therefore
wants to shift the burden of exempting certain municipalities from the income requirement to the Senate rather than
do it itself.

That is most unusual because, in effect, the House wants the Senate to pass a blanket resolution that would qualify
the municipalities concerned for conversion into cities on the matter of income alone. Then, at a later date, the
House would pass specific bills converting the municipalities into cities. However, income is not only the requirement
for municipalities to become cities. There are also the requirements on population and land area.

In effect, the House wants the Senate to tackle the qualification of the municipalities they want converted into cities
piecemeal and separately, first is the income under the joint resolution, then the other requirements when the bills
are file to convert specific municipalities into cities. To repeat, this is a most unusual manner of creating cities.

My respectful suggestion is for the Senate to request the House to do what they want to do regarding the
applications of certain municipalities to become cities pursuant to the requirements of the Local Government Code.
If the House wants to exempt certain municipalities from the requirements of the Local Government Code to become
cities, by all means, let them do their thing. Specifically, they should act on specific bills to create cities and cite the
reasons why the municipalities concerned are qualified to become cities. Only after the House shall have completed
what they are expected to do under the law would it be proper for the Senate to act on specific bills creating cities.

In other words, the House should be requested to finish everything that needs to be done in the matter of converting
municipalities into cities and not do it piecemeal as they are now trying to do under the joint resolution.

In my long years in the Senate, this is the first time that a resort to this subterfuge is being undertaken to favor the
creation of certain cities. I am not saying that they are not qualified. All I am saying is, if the House wants to pass
and create cities out of certain municipalities, by all means let them do that. But they should do it following the
requirements of the Local Government Code and, if they want to make certain exceptions, they can also do that too.
But they should not use the Senate as a ploy to get things done which they themselves should do.

Incidentally, I have recommended this mode of action verbally to some leaders of the House. Had they followed the
recommendation, for all I know, the municipalities they had envisioned to be covered by House Joint Resolution No.
1 would, by now if not all, at least some have been converted into cities. House Joint Resolution No. 1, the
House, in effect, caused the delay in the approval in the applications for cityhood of the municipalities concerned.

Lastly, I do not have an amendment to House Joint Resolution No. 1. What I am suggesting is for the Senate to
request the House to follow the procedure outlined in the Local Government Code which has been respected all
through the years. By doing so, we uphold the rule of law

and minimize the possibilities of power play in the approval of bills converting municipalities into cities.26

Thereafter, the conversion bills of the respondents were individually filed in the House of Representatives, and were
all unanimously and

favorably voted upon by the Members of the House of Representatives.27 The bills, when forwarded to the Senate,
were likewise unanimously approved by the Senate.28 The acts of both Chambers of Congress show that the
exemption clauses ultimately incorporated in the Cityhood Laws are but the express articulations of the clear
legislative intent to exempt the respondents, without exception, from the coverage of R.A. No. 9009. Thereby, R.A.
No. 9009, and, by necessity, the LGC, were amended, not by repeal but by way of the express exemptions being
embodied in the exemption clauses.

The petitioners further contend that the new income requirement of P100 million from locally generated sources is
not arbitrary because it is not difficult to comply with; that there are several municipalities that have already complied
with the requirement and have, in fact, been converted into cities, such as Sta. Rosa in Laguna (R.A. No 9264),
Navotas (R.A. No. 9387) and San Juan (R.A. No. 9388) in Metro Manila, Dasmarias in Cavite (R.A. No. 9723), and
Bian in Laguna (R.A. No. 9740); and that several other municipalities have supposedly reached the income
of P100 million from locally generated sources, such as Bauan in Batangas, Mabalacat in Pampanga, and Bacoor in
Cavite.

The contention of the petitioners does not persuade.

As indicated in the Resolution of February 15, 2011, fifty-nine (59) existing cities had failed as of 2006 to post an
average annual income of P100 million based on the figures contained in the certification dated December 5, 2008
by the Bureau of Local Government. The large number of existing cities, virtually 50% of them, still unable to comply
with the P100 million threshold income five years after R.A. No. 9009 took effect renders it fallacious and probably
unwarranted for the petitioners to claim that the P100 million income requirement is not difficult to comply with.

In this regard, the deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2157 may prove enlightening, thus:

Senator Osmea III. And could the gentleman help clarify why a municipality would want to be converted into a city?

Senator Pimentel. There is only one reason, Mr. President, and it is not hidden. It is the fact that once converted into
a city, the municipality will have roughly more than three times the share that it would be receiving over the internal
revenue allotment than it would have if it were to remain a municipality. So more or less three times or more.

Senator Osmea III. Is it the additional funding that they will be able to enjoy from a larger share from the internal
revenue allocations?

Senator Pimentel. Yes, Mr. President.

Senator Osmea III. Now, could the gentleman clarify, Mr. President, why in the original Republic Act No. 7160,
known as the Local Government Code of 1991, such a wide gap was made between a municipalitywhat a
municipality would earnand a city? Because essentially, to a persons mind, even with this new requirement, if
approved by Congress, if a municipality is earning P100 million and has a population of more than 150,000
inhabitants but has less than 100 square kilometers, it would not qualify as a city.

Senator Pimentel. Yes.

Senator Osmea III. Now would that not be quite arbitrary on the part of the municipality?

Senator Pimentel. In fact, Mr. President, the House version restores the "or". So, this is a matter that we can very
well take up as a policy issue. The chair of the committee does not say that we should, as we know, not listen to
arguments for the restoration of the word "or" in the population or territorial requirement.

Senator Osmea III. Mr. President, my point is that, I agree with the gentlemans "and", but perhaps we should bring
down the area. There are certainly very crowded places in this country that are less than 10,000 hectares100
square kilometers is 10,000 hectares. There might only be 9,000 hectares or 8,000 hectares. And it would be unfair
if these municipalities already earning P100,000,000 in locally generated funds and have a population of over
150,000 would not be qualified because of the simple fact that the physical area does not cover 10,000 hectares.

Senator Pimentel. Mr. President, in fact, in Metro Manila there are any number of municipalities. San Juan is a
specific example which, if we apply the present requirements, would not qualify: 100 square kilometers and a
population of not less than 150,000.

But my reply to that, Mr. President, is that they do not have to become a city?

Senator Osmea III. Because of the income.

Senator Pimentel. But they are already earning a lot, as the gentleman said. Otherwise, the danger here, if we
become lax in the requirements, is the metropolis-located local governments would have more priority in terms of
funding because they would have more qualifications to become a city compared to far-flung areas in Mindanao or
in the Cordilleras, or whatever.

Therefore, I think we should not probably ease up on the requirements. Maybe we can restore the word "or" so that
if they do not have the 100 square kilometers of territory, then if they qualify in terms of population and income, that
would be all right, Mr. President.

Senator Osmea III. Mr. President, I will not belabor the point at this time. I know that the distinguished gentleman is
considering several amendments to the Local Government Code. Perhaps this is something that could be further
refined at a later time, with his permission.

So I would like to thank the gentleman for his graciousness in answering our questions.

Senator Pimentel. I also thank the gentleman, Mr. President.29

The Court takes note of the fact that the municipalities cited by the petitioners as having generated the threshold
income of P100 million from local sources, including those already converted into cities, are either in Metro Manila or
in provinces close to Metro Manila. In comparison, the municipalities covered by the Cityhood Laws are spread out
in the different provinces of the Philippines, including the Cordillera and Mindanao regions, and are considerably
very distant from Metro Manila. This reality underscores the danger the enactment of R.A. No. 9009 sought to
prevent, i.e., that "the metropolis-located local governments would have more priority in terms of funding because
they would have more qualifications to become a city compared to the far-flung areas in Mindanao or in the
Cordilleras, or whatever," actually resulting from the abrupt increase in the income requirement. Verily, this result is
antithetical to what the Constitution and LGC have nobly envisioned in favor of countryside development and
national growth. Besides, this result should be arrested early, to avoid the unwanted divisive effect on the entire
country due to the local government units closer to the National Capital Region being afforded easier access to the
bigger share in the national coffers than other local government units.

There should also be no question that the local government units covered by the Cityhood Laws belong to a class of
their own. They have proven themselves viable and capable to become component cities of their respective
provinces. They are and have been centers of trade and commerce, points of convergence of transportation, rich
havens of agricultural, mineral, and other natural resources, and flourishing tourism spots. In his speech delivered
on the floor of the Senate to sponsor House Joint Resolution No. 1, Senator Lim recognized such unique traits,30viz:

It must be noted that except for Tandag and Lamitan, which are both second-class municipalities in terms of income,
all the rest are categorized by the Department of Finance as first-class municipalities with gross income of at least
P70 million as per Commission of Audit Report for 2005. Moreover, Tandag and Lamitan, together with Borongan,
Catbalogan, and Tabuk, are all provincial capitals.

The more recent income figures of the 12 municipalities, which would have increased further by this time, indicate
their readiness to take on the responsibilities of cityhood.

Moreover, the municipalities under consideration are leading localities in their respective provinces. Borongan,
Catbalogan, Tandag, Batac and Tabuk are ranked number one in terms of income among all the municipalities in
their respective provinces; Baybay and Bayugan are number two; Bogo and Lamitan are number three; Carcar,
number four; and Tayabas, number seven. Not only are they pacesetters in their respective provinces, they are also
among the frontrunners in their regions Baybay, Bayugan and Tabuk are number two income-earners in Regions
VIII, XIII, and CAR, respectively; Catbalogan and Batac are number three in Regions VIII and I, respectively; Bogo,
number five in Region VII; Borongan and Carcar are both number six in Regions VIII and VII, respectively. This
simply shows that these municipalities are viable.

Petitioner League of Cities argues that there exists no issue with respect to the cityhood of its member cities,
considering that they became cities in full compliance with the criteria for conversion at the time of their creation.

The Court considers the argument too sweeping. What we pointed out was that the previous income requirement
of P20 million was definitely not insufficient to provide the essential government facilities, services, and special
functions vis--vis the population of a component city. We also stressed that the increased income requirement
of P100 million was not the only conclusive indicator for any municipality to survive and remain viable as a
component city. These observations were unerringly reflected in the respective incomes of the fifty-nine (59)
members of the League of Cities that have still failed, remarkably enough, to be compliant with the new requirement
of the P100 million threshold income five years after R.A. No. 9009 became law.

Undoubtedly, the imposition of the income requirement of P100 million from local sources under R.A. No. 9009 was
arbitrary. When the sponsor of the law chose the specific figure of P100 million, no research or empirical data
buttressed the figure. Nor was there proof that the proposal took into account the after-effects that were likely to
arise. As already mentioned, even the danger the passage of R.A. No. 9009 sought to prevent might soon become a
reality. While the Constitution mandates that the creation of local government units must comply with the criteria laid
down in the LGC, it cannot be justified to insist that the Constitution must have to yield to every amendment to the
LGC despite such amendment imminently producing effects contrary to the original thrusts of the LGC to promote
autonomy, decentralization, countryside development, and the concomitant national growth.

Moreover, if we were now to adopt the stringent interpretation of the Constitution the petitioners are espousing, we
may have to apply the same restrictive yardstick against the recently converted cities cited by the petitioners, and
find two of them whose conversion laws have also to be struck down for being unconstitutional. The two laws are
R.A. No. 938731 and R.A. No. 9388,32 respectively converting the municipalities of San Juan and Navotas into highly
urbanized cities. A cursory reading of the laws indicates that there is no indication of compliance with the
requirements imposed by the LGC, for, although the two local government units concerned presumably complied
with the income requirement of P50 million under Section 452 of the LGC and the income requirement of P100
million under the amended Section 450 of the LGC, they obviously did not meet the requirements set forth under
Section 453 of the LGC, to wit:

Section 453. Duty to Declare Highly Urbanized Status.It shall be the duty of the President to declare a city as
highly urbanized within thirty (30) days after it shall have met the minimum requirements prescribed in the
immediately preceding Section, upon proper application therefor and ratification in a plebiscite by the qualified
voters therein.

Indeed, R.A. No. 9387 and R.A. No. 9388 evidently show that the President had not classified San Juan and
Navotas as highly urbanized cities upon proper application and ratification in a plebiscite by the qualified voters
therein. A further perusal of R.A. No. 9387 reveals that San Juan did not qualify as a highly urbanized city because it
had a population of only 125,558, contravening the required minimum population of 200,000 under Section 452 of
the LGC. Such non-qualification as a component city was conceded even by Senator Pimentel during the
deliberations on Senate Bill No. 2157.

The petitioners contention that the Cityhood Laws violated their right to a just share in the national taxes is not
acceptable.

In this regard, it suffices to state that the share of local government units is a matter of percentage under Section
285 of the LGC, not a specific amount. Specifically, the share of the cities is 23%, determined on the basis of
population (50%), land area (25%), and equal sharing (25%). This share is also dependent on the number of
existing cities, such that when the number of cities increases, then more will divide and share the allocation for
cities. However, we have to note that the allocation by the National Government is not a constant, and can either
increase or decrease. With every newly converted city becoming entitled to share the allocation for cities, the
percentage of internal revenue allotment (IRA) entitlement of each city will decrease, although the actual amount
received may be more than that received in the preceding year. That is a necessary consequence of Section 285
and Section 286 of the LGC.

As elaborated here and in the assailed February 15, 2011 Resolution, the Cityhood Laws were not violative of the
Constitution and the LGC. The respondents are thus also entitled to their just share in the IRA allocation for cities.
They have demonstrated their viability as component cities of their respective provinces and are developing
continuously, albeit slowly, because they had previously to share the IRA with about 1,500 municipalities. With their
conversion into component cities, they will have to share with only around 120 cities.

Local government units do not subsist only on locally generated income, but also depend on the IRA to support their
development. They can spur their own developments and thereby realize their great potential of encouraging trade
and commerce in the far-flung regions of the country. Yet their potential will effectively be stunted if those already
earning more will still receive a bigger share from the national coffers, and if commercial activity will be more or less
concentrated only in and near Metro Manila.

III.
Conclusion

We should not ever lose sight of the fact that the 16 cities covered by the Cityhood Laws not only had conversion
bills pending during the 11th Congress, but have also complied with the requirements of the LGC prescribed prior to
its amendment by R.A. No. 9009. Congress undeniably gave these cities all the considerations that justice and fair
play demanded. Hence, this Court should do no less by stamping its imprimatur to the clear and unmistakable
legislative intent and by duly recognizing the certain collective wisdom of Congress.

WHEREFORE, the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration (of the Decision dated 15 February 2011) is denied
with finality.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 183591 October 14, 2008

THE PROVINCE OF NORTH COTABATO, duly represented by GOVERNOR JESUS SACDALAN and/or VICE-
GOVERNOR EMMANUEL PIOL, for and in his own behalf, petitioners,
vs.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE PANEL ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
(GRP), represented by SEC. RODOLFO GARCIA, ATTY. LEAH ARMAMENTO, ATTY. SEDFREY
CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN and/or GEN. HERMOGENES ESPERON, JR., the latter in his capacity
as the present and duly-appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) or the so-called
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. 183752 October 14, 2008

CITY GOVERNMENT OF ZAMBOANGA, as represented by HON. CELSO L. LOBREGAT, City Mayor of


Zamboanga, and in his personal capacity as resident of the City of Zamboanga, Rep. MA. ISABELLE G.
CLIMACO, District 1, and Rep. ERICO BASILIO A. FABIAN, District 2, City of Zamboanga, petitioners,
vs.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL (GRP), as
represented by RODOLFO C. GARCIA, LEAH ARMAMENTO, SEDFREY CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN
SULLIVAN and HERMOGENES ESPERON, in his capacity as the Presidential Adviser on Peace
Process,respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. 183893 October 14, 2008

THE CITY OF ILIGAN, duly represented by CITY MAYOR LAWRENCE LLUCH CRUZ, petitioner,
vs.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE PANEL ON ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
(GRP), represented by SEC. RODOLFO GARCIA, ATTY. LEAH ARMAMENTO, ATTY. SEDFREY
CANDELARIA, MARK RYAN SULLIVAN; GEN. HERMOGENES ESPERON, JR., in his capacity as the present
and duly appointed Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process; and/or SEC. EDUARDO ERMITA, in his
capacity as Executive Secretary. respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. 183951 October 14, 2008

THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE, as represented by HON. ROLANDO E.


YEBES, in his capacity as Provincial Governor, HON. FRANCIS H. OLVIS, in his capacity as Vice-Governor
and Presiding Officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, HON. CECILIA JALOSJOS CARREON,
Congresswoman, 1st Congressional District, HON. CESAR G. JALOSJOS, Congressman, 3rd Congressional
District, and Members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Zamboanga del Norte, namely,
HON. SETH FREDERICK P. JALOSJOS, HON. FERNANDO R. CABIGON, JR., HON. ULDARICO M.
MEJORADA II, HON. EDIONAR M. ZAMORAS, HON. EDGAR J. BAGUIO, HON. CEDRIC L. ADRIATICO, HON.
FELIXBERTO C. BOLANDO, HON. JOSEPH BRENDO C. AJERO, HON. NORBIDEIRI B. EDDING, HON.
ANECITO S. DARUNDAY, HON. ANGELICA J. CARREON and HON. LUZVIMINDA E. TORRINO, petitioners,
vs.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL [GRP], as
represented by HON. RODOLFO C. GARCIA and HON. HERMOGENES ESPERON, in his capacity as the
Presidential Adviser of Peace Process, respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

G.R. No. 183962 October 14, 2008


ERNESTO M. MACEDA, JEJOMAR C. BINAY, and AQUILINO L. PIMENTEL III, petitioners,
vs.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES PEACE NEGOTIATING PANEL, represented
by its Chairman RODOLFO C. GARCIA, and the MORO ISLAMIC LIBERATION FRONT PEACE NEGOTIATING
PANEL, represented by its Chairman MOHAGHER IQBAL, respondents.

x--------------------------------------------x

FRANKLIN M. DRILON and ADEL ABBAS TAMANO, petitioners-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

SEN. MANUEL A. ROXAS, petitioners-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUNICIPALITY OF LINAMON duly represented by its Municipal Mayor NOEL N. DEANO, petitioners-in-
intervention,

x--------------------------------------------x

THE CITY OF ISABELA, BASILAN PROVINCE, represented by MAYOR CHERRYLYN P. SANTOS-


AKBAR,petitioners-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

THE PROVINCE OF SULTAN KUDARAT, rep. by HON. SUHARTO T. MANGUDADATU, in his capacity as
Provincial Governor and a resident of the Province of Sultan Kudarat, petitioner-in-intervention.

x-------------------------------------------x

RUY ELIAS LOPEZ, for and in his own behalf and on behalf of Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao Not
Belonging to the MILF, petitioner-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

CARLO B. GOMEZ, GERARDO S. DILIG, NESARIO G. AWAT, JOSELITO C. ALISUAG and RICHALEX G.
JAGMIS, as citizens and residents of Palawan, petitioners-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MARINO RIDAO and KISIN BUXANI, petitioners-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUSLIM LEGAL ASSISTANCE FOUNDATION, INC (MUSLAF), respondent-in-intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

MUSLIM MULTI-SECTORAL MOVEMENT FOR PEACE & DEVELOPMENT (MMMPD), respondent-in-


intervention.

x--------------------------------------------x

DECISION
CARPIO MORALES, J.:

Subject of these consolidated cases is the extent of the powers of the President in pursuing the peace
process.While the facts surrounding this controversy center on the armed conflict in Mindanao between the
government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the legal issue involved has a bearing on all areas in the
country where there has been a long-standing armed conflict. Yet again, the Court is tasked to perform a delicate
balancing act. It must uncompromisingly delineate the bounds within which the President may lawfully exercise her
discretion, but it must do so in strict adherence to the Constitution, lest its ruling unduly restricts the freedom of
action vested by that same Constitution in the Chief Executive precisely to enable her to pursue the peace process
effectively.

I. FACTUAL ANTECEDENTS OF THE PETITIONS

On August 5, 2008, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the MILF, through the
Chairpersons of their respective peace negotiating panels, were scheduled to sign a Memorandum of Agreement on
the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of 2001 in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia.

The MILF is a rebel group which was established in March 1984 when, under the leadership of the late Salamat
Hashim, it splintered from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) then headed by Nur Misuari, on the ground,
among others, of what Salamat perceived to be the manipulation of the MNLF away from an Islamic basis towards
Marxist-Maoist orientations.1

The signing of the MOA-AD between the GRP and the MILF was not to materialize, however, for upon motion of
petitioners, specifically those who filed their cases before the scheduled signing of the MOA-AD, this Court issued a
Temporary Restraining Order enjoining the GRP from signing the same.

The MOA-AD was preceded by a long process of negotiation and the concluding of several prior agreements
between the two parties beginning in 1996, when the GRP-MILF peace negotiations began. On July 18, 1997, the
GRP and MILF Peace Panels signed the Agreement on General Cessation of Hostilities. The following year, they
signed the General Framework of Agreement of Intent on August 27, 1998.

The Solicitor General, who represents respondents, summarizes the MOA-AD by stating that the same contained,
among others, the commitment of the parties to pursue peace negotiations, protect and respect human rights,
negotiate with sincerity in the resolution and pacific settlement of the conflict, and refrain from the use of threat or
force to attain undue advantage while the peace negotiations on the substantive agenda are on-going.2

Early on, however, it was evident that there was not going to be any smooth sailing in the GRP-MILF peace
process. Towards the end of 1999 up to early 2000, the MILF attacked a number of municipalities in Central
Mindanao and, in March 2000, it took control of the town hall of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte.3 In response, then
President Joseph Estrada declared and carried out an "all-out-war" against the MILF.

When President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed office, the military offensive against the MILF was suspended
and the government sought a resumption of the peace talks. The MILF, according to a leading MILF member,
initially responded with deep reservation, but when President Arroyo asked the Government of Malaysia through
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad to help convince the MILF to return to the negotiating table, the MILF convened
its Central Committee to seriously discuss the matter and, eventually, decided to meet with the GRP.4

The parties met in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2001, with the talks being facilitated by the Malaysian government,
the parties signing on the same date the Agreement on the General Framework for the Resumption of Peace Talks
Between the GRP and the MILF. The MILF thereafter suspended all its military actions.5

Formal peace talks between the parties were held in Tripoli, Libya from June 20-22, 2001, the outcome of which
was the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace (Tripoli Agreement 2001) containing the basic principles and
agenda on the following aspects of the negotiation: Security Aspect, Rehabilitation Aspect, and Ancestral
Domain Aspect. With regard to the Ancestral Domain Aspect, the parties in Tripoli Agreement 2001 simply agreed
"that the same be discussed further by the Parties in their next meeting."
A second round of peace talks was held in Cyberjaya, Malaysia on August 5-7, 2001 which ended with the signing
of the Implementing Guidelines on the Security Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement 2001 leading to a ceasefire status
between the parties. This was followed by the Implementing Guidelines on the Humanitarian Rehabilitation and
Development Aspects of the Tripoli Agreement 2001, which was signed on May 7, 2002 at Putrajaya, Malaysia.
Nonetheless, there were many incidence of violence between government forces and the MILF from 2002 to 2003.

Meanwhile, then MILF Chairman Salamat Hashim passed away on July 13, 2003 and he was replaced by Al Haj
Murad, who was then the chief peace negotiator of the MILF. Murad's position as chief peace negotiator was taken
over by Mohagher Iqbal.6

In 2005, several exploratory talks were held between the parties in Kuala Lumpur, eventually leading to the crafting
of the draft MOA-AD in its final form, which, as mentioned, was set to be signed last August 5, 2008.

II. STATEMENT OF THE PROCEEDINGS

Before the Court is what is perhaps the most contentious "consensus" ever embodied in an instrument - the MOA-
AD which is assailed principally by the present petitions bearing docket numbers 183591, 183752, 183893, 183951
and 183962.

Commonly impleaded as respondents are the GRP Peace Panel on Ancestral Domain7 and the Presidential Adviser
on the Peace Process (PAPP) Hermogenes Esperon, Jr.

On July 23, 2008, the Province of North Cotabato8 and Vice-Governor Emmanuel Piol filed a petition, docketed
as G.R. No. 183591, for Mandamus and Prohibition with Prayer for the Issuance of Writ of Preliminary Injunction
and Temporary Restraining Order.9 Invoking the right to information on matters of public concern, petitioners seek to
compel respondents to disclose and furnish them the complete and official copies of the MOA-AD including its
attachments, and to prohibit the slated signing of the MOA-AD, pending the disclosure of the contents of the MOA-
AD and the holding of a public consultation thereon. Supplementarily, petitioners pray that the MOA-AD be declared
unconstitutional.10

This initial petition was followed by another one, docketed as G.R. No. 183752, also for Mandamus and
Prohibition11 filed by the City of Zamboanga,12 Mayor Celso Lobregat, Rep. Ma. Isabelle Climaco and Rep. Erico
Basilio Fabian who likewise pray for similar injunctive reliefs. Petitioners herein moreover pray that the City of
Zamboanga be excluded from the Bangsamoro Homeland and/or Bangsamoro Juridical Entity and, in the
alternative, that the MOA-AD be declared null and void.

By Resolution of August 4, 2008, the Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order commanding and directing public
respondents and their agents to cease and desist from formally signing the MOA-AD.13 The Court also required the
Solicitor General to submit to the Court and petitioners the official copy of the final draft of the MOA-AD,14 to which
she complied.15

Meanwhile, the City of Iligan16 filed a petition for Injunction and/or Declaratory Relief, docketed as G.R. No. 183893,
praying that respondents be enjoined from signing the MOA-AD or, if the same had already been signed, from
implementing the same, and that the MOA-AD be declared unconstitutional. Petitioners herein additionally implead
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita as respondent.

The Province of Zamboanga del Norte,17 Governor Rolando Yebes, Vice-Governor Francis Olvis, Rep. Cecilia
Jalosjos-Carreon, Rep. Cesar Jalosjos, and the members18 of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Zamboanga del
Norte filed on August 15, 2008 a petition for Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition,19 docketed as G.R. No. 183951.
They pray, inter alia, that the MOA-AD be declared null and void and without operative effect, and that respondents
be enjoined from executing the MOA-AD.

On August 19, 2008, Ernesto Maceda, Jejomar Binay, and Aquilino Pimentel III filed a petition for
Prohibition,20docketed as G.R. No. 183962, praying for a judgment prohibiting and permanently enjoining
respondents from formally signing and executing the MOA-AD and or any other agreement derived therefrom or
similar thereto, and nullifying the MOA-AD for being unconstitutional and illegal. Petitioners herein additionally
implead as respondent the MILF Peace Negotiating Panel represented by its Chairman Mohagher Iqbal.
Various parties moved to intervene and were granted leave of court to file their petitions-/comments-in-intervention.
Petitioners-in-Intervention include Senator Manuel A. Roxas, former Senate President Franklin Drilon and Atty. Adel
Tamano, the City of Isabela21 and Mayor Cherrylyn Santos-Akbar, the Province of Sultan Kudarat22 and Gov.
Suharto Mangudadatu, the Municipality of Linamon in Lanao del Norte,23 Ruy Elias Lopez of Davao City and of the
Bagobo tribe, Sangguniang Panlungsod member Marino Ridao and businessman Kisin Buxani, both of Cotabato
City; and lawyers Carlo Gomez, Gerardo Dilig, Nesario Awat, Joselito Alisuag, Richalex Jagmis, all of Palawan City.
The Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (Muslaf) and the Muslim Multi-Sectoral Movement for Peace and
Development (MMMPD) filed their respective Comments-in-Intervention.

By subsequent Resolutions, the Court ordered the consolidation of the petitions. Respondents filed Comments on
the petitions, while some of petitioners submitted their respective Replies.

Respondents, by Manifestation and Motion of August 19, 2008, stated that the Executive Department shall
thoroughly review the MOA-AD and pursue further negotiations to address the issues hurled against it, and thus
moved to dismiss the cases. In the succeeding exchange of pleadings, respondents' motion was met with vigorous
opposition from petitioners.

The cases were heard on oral argument on August 15, 22 and 29, 2008 that tackled the following principal issues:

1. Whether the petitions have become moot and academic

(i) insofar as the mandamus aspect is concerned, in view of the disclosure of official copies of the
final draft of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA); and

(ii) insofar as the prohibition aspect involving the Local Government Units is concerned, if it is
considered that consultation has become fait accompli with the finalization of the draft;

2. Whether the constitutionality and the legality of the MOA is ripe for adjudication;

3. Whether respondent Government of the Republic of the Philippines Peace Panel committed grave abuse
of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction when it negotiated and initiated the MOA vis--vis
ISSUES Nos. 4 and 5;

4. Whether there is a violation of the people's right to information on matters of public concern (1987
Constitution, Article III, Sec. 7) under a state policy of full disclosure of all its transactions involving public
interest (1987 Constitution, Article II, Sec. 28) including public consultation under Republic Act No. 7160
(LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991)[;]

If it is in the affirmative, whether prohibition under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is an
appropriate remedy;

5. Whether by signing the MOA, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines would be BINDING itself

a) to create and recognize the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) as a separate state, or a juridical,
territorial or political subdivision not recognized by law;

b) to revise or amend the Constitution and existing laws to conform to the MOA;

c) to concede to or recognize the claim of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front for ancestral domain in
violation of Republic Act No. 8371 (THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES RIGHTS ACT OF 1997),
particularly Section 3(g) & Chapter VII (DELINEATION, RECOGNITION OF ANCESTRAL
DOMAINS)[;]

If in the affirmative, whether the Executive Branch has the authority to so bind the Government of the
Republic of the Philippines;
6. Whether the inclusion/exclusion of the Province of North Cotabato, Cities of Zamboanga, Iligan and
Isabela, and the Municipality of Linamon, Lanao del Norte in/from the areas covered by the projected
Bangsamoro Homeland is a justiciable question; and

7. Whether desistance from signing the MOA derogates any prior valid commitments of the Government of
the Republic of the Philippines.24

The Court, thereafter, ordered the parties to submit their respective Memoranda. Most of the parties submitted their
memoranda on time.

III. OVERVIEW OF THE MOA-AD

As a necessary backdrop to the consideration of the objections raised in the subject five petitions and six petitions-
in-intervention against the MOA-AD, as well as the two comments-in-intervention in favor of the MOA-AD, the Court
takes an overview of the MOA.

The MOA-AD identifies the Parties to it as the GRP and the MILF.

Under the heading "Terms of Reference" (TOR), the MOA-AD includes not only four earlier agreements between the
GRP and MILF, but also two agreements between the GRP and the MNLF: the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, and the
Final Peace Agreement on the Implementation of the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, signed on September 2, 1996 during
the administration of President Fidel Ramos.

The MOA-AD also identifies as TOR two local statutes - the organic act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim
Mindanao (ARMM)25 and the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act (IPRA),26 and several international law instruments - the
ILO Convention No. 169 Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries in relation to the UN
Declaration on the Rights of the Indigenous Peoples, and the UN Charter, among others.

The MOA-AD includes as a final TOR the generic category of "compact rights entrenchment emanating from the
regime of dar-ul-mua'hada (or territory under compact) and dar-ul-sulh (or territory under peace agreement) that
partakes the nature of a treaty device."

During the height of the Muslim Empire, early Muslim jurists tended to see the world through a simple dichotomy:
there was the dar-ul-Islam (the Abode of Islam) and dar-ul-harb (the Abode of War). The first referred to those lands
where Islamic laws held sway, while the second denoted those lands where Muslims were persecuted or where
Muslim laws were outlawed or ineffective.27 This way of viewing the world, however, became more complex through
the centuries as the Islamic world became part of the international community of nations.

As Muslim States entered into treaties with their neighbors, even with distant States and inter-governmental
organizations, the classical division of the world into dar-ul-Islam and dar-ul-harb eventually lost its meaning. New
terms were drawn up to describe novel ways of perceiving non-Muslim territories. For instance, areas like dar-ul-
mua'hada (land of compact) and dar-ul-sulh (land of treaty) referred to countries which, though under a secular
regime, maintained peaceful and cooperative relations with Muslim States, having been bound to each other by
treaty or agreement. Dar-ul-aman (land of order), on the other hand, referred to countries which, though not bound
by treaty with Muslim States, maintained freedom of religion for Muslims.28

It thus appears that the "compact rights entrenchment" emanating from the regime of dar-ul-mua'hada and dar-ul-
sulh simply refers to all other agreements between the MILF and the Philippine government - the Philippines being
the land of compact and peace agreement - that partake of the nature of a treaty device, "treaty" being broadly
defined as "any solemn agreement in writing that sets out understandings, obligations, and benefits for both parties
which provides for a framework that elaborates the principles declared in the [MOA-AD]."29

The MOA-AD states that the Parties "HAVE AGREED AND ACKNOWLEDGED AS FOLLOWS," and starts with its
main body.

The main body of the MOA-AD is divided into four strands, namely, Concepts and Principles, Territory,
Resources, and Governance.
A. CONCEPTS AND PRINCIPLES

This strand begins with the statement that it is "the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to
identify themselves and be accepted as Bangsamoros.'" It defines "Bangsamoro people" as the natives or original
inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time of conquest
or colonization, and their descendants whether mixed or of full blood, including their spouses.30

Thus, the concept of "Bangsamoro," as defined in this strand of the MOA-AD, includes not only "Moros" as
traditionally understood even by Muslims,31 but all indigenous peoples of Mindanao and its adjacent islands. The
MOA-AD adds that the freedom of choice of indigenous peoples shall be respected. What this freedom of choice
consists in has not been specifically defined.

The MOA-AD proceeds to refer to the "Bangsamoro homeland," the ownership of which is vested exclusively in
the Bangsamoro people by virtue of their prior rights of occupation.32 Both parties to the MOA-AD acknowledge
that ancestral domain does not form part of the public domain.33

The Bangsamoro people are acknowledged as having the right to self-governance, which right is said to be rooted
on ancestral territoriality exercised originally under the suzerain authority of their sultanates and the Pat a
Pangampong ku Ranaw. The sultanates were described as states or "karajaan/kadatuan" resembling a body politic
endowed with all the elements of a nation-state in the modern sense.34

The MOA-AD thus grounds the right to self-governance of the Bangsamoro people on the past suzerain authority of
the sultanates. As gathered, the territory defined as the Bangsamoro homeland was ruled by several sultanates and,
specifically in the case of the Maranao, by the Pat a Pangampong ku Ranaw, a confederation of independent
principalities (pangampong) each ruled by datus and sultans, none of whom was supreme over the others.35

The MOA-AD goes on to describe the Bangsamoro people as "the First Nation' with defined territory and with a
system of government having entered into treaties of amity and commerce with foreign nations."

The term "First Nation" is of Canadian origin referring to the indigenous peoples of that territory, particularly those
known as Indians. In Canada, each of these indigenous peoples is equally entitled to be called "First Nation," hence,
all of them are usually described collectively by the plural "First Nations."36 To that extent, the MOA-AD, by
identifying the Bangsamoro people as "the First Nation" - suggesting its exclusive entitlement to that designation -
departs from the Canadian usage of the term.

The MOA-AD then mentions for the first time the "Bangsamoro Juridical Entity" (BJE) to which it grants the
authority and jurisdiction over the Ancestral Domain and Ancestral Lands of the Bangsamoro.37

B. TERRITORY

The territory of the Bangsamoro homeland is described as the land mass as well as the maritime, terrestrial, fluvial
and alluvial domains, including the aerial domain and the atmospheric space above it, embracing the Mindanao-
Sulu-Palawan geographic region.38

More specifically, the core of the BJE is defined as the present geographic area of the ARMM - thus constituting the
following areas: Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Marawi City. Significantly, this core
also includes certain municipalities of Lanao del Norte that voted for inclusion in the ARMM in the 2001 plebiscite.39

Outside of this core, the BJE is to cover other provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, which are grouped
into two categories, Category A and Category B. Each of these areas is to be subjected to a plebiscite to be held on
different dates, years apart from each other. Thus, Category A areas are to be subjected to a plebiscite not later
than twelve (12) months following the signing of the MOA-AD.40 Category B areas, also called "Special Intervention
Areas," on the other hand, are to be subjected to a plebiscite twenty-five (25) years from the signing of a separate
agreement - the Comprehensive Compact.41

The Parties to the MOA-AD stipulate that the BJE shall have jurisdiction over all natural resources within its
"internalwaters," defined as extending fifteen (15) kilometers from the coastline of the BJE area;42 that the BJE shall
also have "territorial waters," which shall stretch beyond the BJE internal waters up to the baselines of the Republic
of the Philippines (RP) south east and south west of mainland Mindanao; and that within these territorial waters, the
BJE and the "Central Government" (used interchangeably with RP) shall exercise joint jurisdiction, authority and
management over all natural resources.43 Notably, the jurisdiction over the internal waters is not similarly described
as "joint."

The MOA-AD further provides for the sharing of minerals on the territorial waters between the Central Government
and the BJE, in favor of the latter, through production sharing and economic cooperation agreement.44 The activities
which the Parties are allowed to conduct on the territorial waters are enumerated, among which are the exploration
and utilization of natural resources, regulation of shipping and fishing activities, and the enforcement of police and
safety measures.45 There is no similar provision on the sharing of minerals and allowed activities with respect to
the internal waters of the BJE.

C. RESOURCES

The MOA-AD states that the BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade relations with foreign
countries and shall have the option to establish trade missions in those countries. Such relationships and
understandings, however, are not to include aggression against the GRP. The BJE may also enter into
environmental cooperation agreements.46

The external defense of the BJE is to remain the duty and obligation of the Central Government. The Central
Government is also bound to "take necessary steps to ensure the BJE's participation in international meetings and
events" like those of the ASEAN and the specialized agencies of the UN. The BJE is to be entitled to participate in
Philippine official missions and delegations for the negotiation of border agreements or protocols for environmental
protection and equitable sharing of incomes and revenues involving the bodies of water adjacent to or between the
islands forming part of the ancestral domain.47

With regard to the right of exploring for, producing, and obtaining all potential sources of energy, petroleum, fossil
fuel, mineral oil and natural gas, the jurisdiction and control thereon is to be vested in the BJE "as the party having
control within its territorial jurisdiction." This right carries the proviso that, "in times of national emergency, when
public interest so requires," the Central Government may, for a fixed period and under reasonable terms as may be
agreed upon by both Parties, assume or direct the operation of such resources.48

The sharing between the Central Government and the BJE of total production pertaining to natural resources is to
be 75:25 in favor of the BJE.49

The MOA-AD provides that legitimate grievances of the Bangsamoro people arising from any unjust dispossession
of their territorial and proprietary rights, customary land tenures, or their marginalization shall be acknowledged.
Whenever restoration is no longer possible, reparation is to be in such form as mutually determined by the Parties.50

The BJE may modify or cancel the forest concessions, timber licenses, contracts or agreements, mining
concessions, Mineral Production and Sharing Agreements (MPSA), Industrial Forest Management Agreements
(IFMA), and other land tenure instruments granted by the Philippine Government, including those issued by the
present ARMM.51

D. GOVERNANCE

The MOA-AD binds the Parties to invite a multinational third-party to observe and monitor the implementation of
the Comprehensive Compact. This compact is to embody the "details for the effective enforcement" and "the
mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation" of the MOA-AD. The MOA-AD explicitly provides that the
participation of the third party shall not in any way affect the status of the relationship between the Central
Government and the BJE.52

The "associative" relationship


between the Central Government
and the BJE
The MOA-AD describes the relationship of the Central Government and the BJE as "associative," characterized by
shared authority and responsibility. And it states that the structure of governance is to be based on executive,
legislative, judicial, and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in the Comprehensive
Compact.

The MOA-AD provides that its provisions requiring "amendments to the existing legal framework" shall take effect
upon signing of the Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the aforesaid amendments, with due regard to
the non-derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the
Comprehensive Compact. As will be discussed later, much of the present controversy hangs on the legality
of this provision.

The BJE is granted the power to build, develop and maintain its own institutions inclusive of civil service, electoral,
financial and banking, education, legislation, legal, economic, police and internal security force, judicial system and
correctional institutions, the details of which shall be discussed in the negotiation of the comprehensive compact.

As stated early on, the MOA-AD was set to be signed on August 5, 2008 by Rodolfo Garcia and Mohagher Iqbal,
Chairpersons of the Peace Negotiating Panels of the GRP and the MILF, respectively. Notably, the penultimate
paragraph of the MOA-AD identifies the signatories as "the representatives of the Parties," meaning the GRP and
MILF themselves, and not merely of the negotiating panels.53 In addition, the signature page of the MOA-AD states
that it is "WITNESSED BY" Datuk Othman Bin Abd Razak, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Malaysia,
"ENDORSED BY" Ambassador Sayed Elmasry, Adviser to Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Secretary
General and Special Envoy for Peace Process in Southern Philippines, and SIGNED "IN THE PRESENCE OF" Dr.
Albert G. Romulo, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of RP and Dato' Seri Utama Dr. Rais Bin Yatim, Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Malaysia, all of whom were scheduled to sign the Agreement last August 5, 2008.

Annexed to the MOA-AD are two documents containing the respective lists cum maps of the provinces,
municipalities, and barangays under Categories A and B earlier mentioned in the discussion on the strand on
TERRITORY.

IV. PROCEDURAL ISSUES

A. RIPENESS

The power of judicial review is limited to actual cases or controversies.54 Courts decline to issue advisory opinions or
to resolve hypothetical or feigned problems, or mere academic questions.55 The limitation of the power of judicial
review to actual cases and controversies defines the role assigned to the judiciary in a tripartite allocation of power,
to assure that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government.56

An actual case or controversy involves a conflict of legal rights, an assertion of opposite legal claims, susceptible of
judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. There must be a contrariety
of legal rights that can be interpreted and enforced on the basis of existing law and jurisprudence.57 The Court can
decide the constitutionality of an act or treaty only when a proper case between opposing parties is submitted for
judicial determination.58

Related to the requirement of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness. A question is ripe for
adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it.59 For a
case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a prerequisite that something had then been accomplished or
performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture,60 and the petitioner must allege the existence
of an immediate or threatened injury to itself as a result of the challenged action.61 He must show that he has
sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of the act complained of.62

The Solicitor General argues that there is no justiciable controversy that is ripe for judicial review in the present
petitions, reasoning that

The unsigned MOA-AD is simply a list of consensus points subject to further negotiations and legislative
enactments as well as constitutional processes aimed at attaining a final peaceful agreement. Simply put,
the MOA-AD remains to be a proposal that does not automatically create legally demandable rights and
obligations until the list of operative acts required have been duly complied with. x x x

xxxx

In the cases at bar, it is respectfully submitted that this Honorable Court has no authority to pass upon
issues based on hypothetical or feigned constitutional problems or interests with no concrete bases.
Considering the preliminary character of the MOA-AD, there are no concrete acts that could possibly violate
petitioners' and intervenors' rights since the acts complained of are mere contemplated steps toward the
formulation of a final peace agreement. Plainly, petitioners and intervenors' perceived injury, if at all, is
merely imaginary and illusory apart from being unfounded and based on mere conjectures. (Underscoring
supplied)

The Solicitor General cites63 the following provisions of the MOA-AD:

TERRITORY

xxxx

2. Toward this end, the Parties enter into the following stipulations:

xxxx

d. Without derogating from the requirements of prior agreements, the Government stipulates to conduct and
deliver, using all possible legal measures, within twelve (12) months following the signing of the MOA-AD, a
plebiscite covering the areas as enumerated in the list and depicted in the map as Category A attached
herein (the "Annex"). The Annex constitutes an integral part of this framework agreement. Toward this end,
the Parties shall endeavor to complete the negotiations and resolve all outstanding issues on the
Comprehensive Compact within fifteen (15) months from the signing of the MOA-AD.

xxxx

GOVERNANCE

xxxx

7. The Parties agree that mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA-AD shall be
spelt out in the Comprehensive Compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

Any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into
force upon the signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal
framework with due regard to non-derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be
contained in the Comprehensive Compact.64 (Underscoring supplied)

The Solicitor General's arguments fail to persuade.

Concrete acts under the MOA-AD are not necessary to render the present controversy ripe. In Pimentel, Jr. v.
Aguirre,65 this Court held:

x x x [B]y the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged action, the dispute is
said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. Indeed, even a singular
violation of the Constitution and/or the law is enough to awaken judicial duty.

xxxx
By the same token, when an act of the President, who in our constitutional scheme is a coequal of
Congress, is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution and the laws x x x settling the dispute
becomes the duty and the responsibility of the courts.66

In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe,67 the United States Supreme Court held that the challenge to the
constitutionality of the school's policy allowing student-led prayers and speeches before games was ripe for
adjudication, even if no public prayer had yet been led under the policy, because the policy was being challenged as
unconstitutional on its face.68

That the law or act in question is not yet effective does not negate ripeness. For example, in New York v. United
States,69 decided in 1992, the United States Supreme Court held that the action by the State of New York
challenging the provisions of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act was ripe for adjudication even if the
questioned provision was not to take effect until January 1, 1996, because the parties agreed that New York had to
take immediate action to avoid the provision's consequences.70

The present petitions pray for Certiorari,71 Prohibition, and Mandamus. Certiorari and Prohibition are remedies
granted by law when any tribunal, board or officer has acted, in the case of certiorari, or is proceeding, in the case of
prohibition, without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction.72 Mandamus is a remedy granted by law when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person
unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office,
trust, or station, or unlawfully excludes another from the use or enjoyment of a right or office to which such other is
entitled.73 Certiorari, Mandamus and Prohibition are appropriate remedies to raise constitutional issues and to
review and/or prohibit/nullify, when proper, acts of legislative and executive officials.74

The authority of the GRP Negotiating Panel is defined by Executive Order No. 3 (E.O. No. 3), issued on February
28, 2001.75 The said executive order requires that "[t]he government's policy framework for peace, including the
systematic approach and the administrative structure for carrying out the comprehensive peace process x x x be
governed by this Executive Order."76

The present petitions allege that respondents GRP Panel and PAPP Esperon drafted the terms of the MOA-AD
without consulting the local government units or communities affected, nor informing them of the proceedings. As
will be discussed in greater detail later, such omission, by itself, constitutes a departure by respondents from their
mandate under E.O. No. 3.

Furthermore, the petitions allege that the provisions of the MOA-AD violate the Constitution. The MOA-AD provides
that "any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force
upon the signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework,"
implying an amendment of the Constitution to accommodate the MOA-AD. This stipulation, in effect, guaranteed to
the MILF the amendment of the Constitution. Such act constitutes another violation of its authority. Again, these
points will be discussed in more detail later.

As the petitions allege acts or omissions on the part of respondent that exceed their authority, by violating their
duties under E.O. No. 3 and the provisions of the Constitution and statutes, the petitions make a prima facie case for
Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus, and an actual case or controversy ripe for adjudication exists. When an act
of a branch of government is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the
right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute.77

B. LOCUS STANDI

For a party to have locus standi, one must allege "such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to
assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely
depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions."78

Because constitutional cases are often public actions in which the relief sought is likely to affect other persons, a
preliminary question frequently arises as to this interest in the constitutional question raised.79
When suing as a citizen, the person complaining must allege that he has been or is about to be denied some right or
privilege to which he is lawfully entitled or that he is about to be subjected to some burdens or penalties by reason of
the statute or act complained of.80 When the issue concerns a public right, it is sufficient that the petitioner is a
citizen and has an interest in the execution of the laws.81

For a taxpayer, one is allowed to sue where there is an assertion that public funds are illegally disbursed or
deflected to an illegal purpose, or that there is a wastage of public funds through the enforcement of an invalid or
unconstitutional law.82 The Court retains discretion whether or not to allow a taxpayer's suit.83

In the case of a legislator or member of Congress, an act of the Executive that injures the institution of Congress
causes a derivative but nonetheless substantial injury that can be questioned by legislators. A member of the House
of Representatives has standing to maintain inviolate the prerogatives, powers and privileges vested by the
Constitution in his office.84

An organization may be granted standing to assert the rights of its members,85 but the mere invocation by
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines or any member of the legal profession of the duty to preserve the rule of law
does not suffice to clothe it with standing.86

As regards a local government unit (LGU), it can seek relief in order to protect or vindicate an interest of its own, and
of the other LGUs.87

Intervenors, meanwhile, may be given legal standing upon showing of facts that satisfy the requirements of the law
authorizing intervention,88 such as a legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success of either of the parties.

In any case, the Court has discretion to relax the procedural technicality on locus standi, given the liberal attitude it
has exercised, highlighted in the case of David v. Macapagal-Arroyo,89 where technicalities of procedure were
brushed aside, the constitutional issues raised being of paramount public interest or of transcendental importance
deserving the attention of the Court in view of their seriousness, novelty and weight as precedents.90 The Court's
forbearing stance on locus standi on issues involving constitutional issues has for its purpose the protection of
fundamental rights.

In not a few cases, the Court, in keeping with its duty under the Constitution to determine whether the other
branches of government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution and the laws and have not
abused the discretion given them, has brushed aside technical rules of procedure.91

In the petitions at bar, petitioners Province of North Cotabato (G.R. No. 183591) Province of Zamboanga del
Norte (G.R. No. 183951), City of Iligan (G.R. No. 183893) and City of Zamboanga (G.R. No. 183752) and
petitioners-in-intervention Province of Sultan Kudarat, City of Isabela and Municipality of Linamon have locus
standi in view of the direct and substantial injury that they, as LGUs, would suffer as their territories, whether in
whole or in part, are to be included in the intended domain of the BJE. These petitioners allege that they did not vote
for their inclusion in the ARMM which would be expanded to form the BJE territory. Petitioners' legal standing is thus
beyond doubt.

In G.R. No. 183962, petitioners Ernesto Maceda, Jejomar Binay and Aquilino Pimentel III would have no
standing as citizens and taxpayers for their failure to specify that they would be denied some right or privilege or
there would be wastage of public funds. The fact that they are a former Senator, an incumbent mayor of Makati City,
and a resident of Cagayan de Oro, respectively, is of no consequence. Considering their invocation of the
transcendental importance of the issues at hand, however, the Court grants them standing.

Intervenors Franklin Drilon and Adel Tamano, in alleging their standing as taxpayers, assert that government
funds would be expended for the conduct of an illegal and unconstitutional plebiscite to delineate the BJE territory.
On that score alone, they can be given legal standing. Their allegation that the issues involved in these petitions are
of "undeniable transcendental importance" clothes them with added basis for their personality to intervene in these
petitions.

With regard to Senator Manuel Roxas, his standing is premised on his being a member of the Senate and a citizen
to enforce compliance by respondents of the public's constitutional right to be informed of the MOA-AD, as well as
on a genuine legal interest in the matter in litigation, or in the success or failure of either of the parties. He thus
possesses the requisite standing as an intervenor.

With respect to Intervenors Ruy Elias Lopez, as a former congressman of the 3rd district of Davao City, a taxpayer
and a member of the Bagobo tribe; Carlo B. Gomez, et al., as members of the IBP Palawan chapter, citizens and
taxpayers; Marino Ridao, as taxpayer, resident and member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cotabato City;
and Kisin Buxani, as taxpayer, they failed to allege any proper legal interest in the present petitions. Just the same,
the Court exercises its discretion to relax the procedural technicality on locus standi given the paramount public
interest in the issues at hand.

Intervening respondents Muslim Multi-Sectoral Movement for Peace and Development, an advocacy group for
justice and the attainment of peace and prosperity in Muslim Mindanao; and Muslim Legal Assistance Foundation
Inc., a non-government organization of Muslim lawyers, allege that they stand to be benefited or prejudiced, as the
case may be, in the resolution of the petitions concerning the MOA-AD, and prays for the denial of the petitions on
the grounds therein stated. Such legal interest suffices to clothe them with standing.

B. MOOTNESS

Respondents insist that the present petitions have been rendered moot with the satisfaction of all the reliefs prayed
for by petitioners and the subsequent pronouncement of the Executive Secretary that "[n]o matter what the Supreme
Court ultimately decides[,] the government will not sign the MOA."92

In lending credence to this policy decision, the Solicitor General points out that the President had already disbanded
the GRP Peace Panel.93

In David v. Macapagal-Arroyo,94 this Court held that the "moot and academic" principle not being a magical formula
that automatically dissuades courts in resolving a case, it will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if it finds
that (a) there is a grave violation of the Constitution;95 (b) the situation is of exceptional character and paramount
public interest is involved;96 (c) the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide
the bench, the bar, and the public;97 and (d) the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.98

Another exclusionary circumstance that may be considered is where there is a voluntary cessation of the activity
complained of by the defendant or doer. Thus, once a suit is filed and the doer voluntarily ceases the challenged
conduct, it does not automatically deprive the tribunal of power to hear and determine the case and does not render
the case moot especially when the plaintiff seeks damages or prays for injunctive relief against the possible
recurrence of the violation.99

The present petitions fall squarely into these exceptions to thus thrust them into the domain of judicial review. The
grounds cited above in David are just as applicable in the present cases as they were, not only in David, but also
in Province of Batangas v. Romulo100 and Manalo v. Calderon101 where the Court similarly decided them on the
merits, supervening events that would ordinarily have rendered the same moot notwithstanding.

Petitions not mooted

Contrary then to the asseverations of respondents, the non-signing of the MOA-AD and the eventual dissolution of
the GRP Peace Panel did not moot the present petitions. It bears emphasis that the signing of the MOA-AD did not
push through due to the Court's issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order.

Contrary too to respondents' position, the MOA-AD cannot be considered a mere "list of consensus points,"
especially given its nomenclature, the need to have it signed or initialed by all the parties concerned on August
5, 2008, and the far-reaching Constitutional implications of these "consensus points," foremost of which is the
creation of the BJE.

In fact, as what will, in the main, be discussed, there is a commitment on the part of respondents to amend and
effect necessary changes to the existing legal framework for certain provisions of the MOA-AD to take
effect. Consequently, the present petitions are not confined to the terms and provisions of the MOA-AD, but to
other on-going and future negotiations and agreements necessary for its realization. The petitions have not,
therefore, been rendered moot and academic simply by the public disclosure of the MOA-AD,102 the manifestation
that it will not be signed as well as the disbanding of the GRP Panel not withstanding.

Petitions are imbued with paramount public interest

There is no gainsaying that the petitions are imbued with paramount public interest, involving a significant part of the
country's territory and the wide-ranging political modifications of affected LGUs. The assertion that the MOA-AD is
subject to further legal enactments including possible Constitutional amendments more than ever provides
impetus for the Court to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, in this
case, the government and its negotiating entity.

Respondents cite Suplico v. NEDA, et al.103 where the Court did not "pontificat[e] on issues which no longer
legitimately constitute an actual case or controversy [as this] will do more harm than good to the nation as a whole."

The present petitions must be differentiated from Suplico. Primarily, in Suplico, what was assailed and eventually
cancelled was a stand-alone government procurement contract for a national broadband network involving a one-
time contractual relation between two parties-the government and a private foreign corporation. As the issues
therein involved specific government procurement policies and standard principles on contracts, the majority opinion
in Suplico found nothing exceptional therein, the factual circumstances being peculiar only to the transactions and
parties involved in the controversy.

The MOA-AD is part of a series of agreements

In the present controversy, the MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the
Tripoli Agreement 2001. The MOA-AD which dwells on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of said Tripoli Agreement is
the third such component to be undertaken following the implementation of the Security Aspect in August 2001 and
the Humanitarian, Rehabilitation and Development Aspect in May 2002.

Accordingly, even if the Executive Secretary, in his Memorandum of August 28, 2008 to the Solicitor General, has
stated that "no matter what the Supreme Court ultimately decides[,] the government will not sign the MOA[-
AD]," mootness will not set in in light of the terms of the Tripoli Agreement 2001.

Need to formulate principles-guidelines

Surely, the present MOA-AD can be renegotiated or another one will be drawn up to carry out the Ancestral
Domain Aspect of the Tripoli Agreement 2001, in another or in any form, which could contain similar or
significantly drastic provisions. While the Court notes the word of the Executive Secretary that the government "is
committed to securing an agreement that is both constitutional and equitable because that is the only way that long-
lasting peace can be assured," it is minded to render a decision on the merits in the present petitions to formulate
controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, the public and, most especially, the government in
negotiating with the MILF regarding Ancestral Domain.

Respondents invite the Court's attention to the separate opinion of then Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban
in Sanlakas v. Reyes104 in which he stated that the doctrine of "capable of repetition yet evading review" can
override mootness, "provided the party raising it in a proper case has been and/or continue to be prejudiced or
damaged as a direct result of their issuance." They contend that the Court must have jurisdiction over the subject
matter for the doctrine to be invoked.

The present petitions all contain prayers for Prohibition over which this Court exercises original jurisdiction. While
G.R. No. 183893 (City of Iligan v. GRP) is a petition for Injunction and Declaratory Relief, the Court will treat it as
one for Prohibition as it has far reaching implications and raises questions that need to be resolved.105 At all events,
the Court has jurisdiction over most if not the rest of the petitions.

Indeed, the present petitions afford a proper venue for the Court to again apply the doctrine immediately referred to
as what it had done in a number of landmark cases.106 There is a reasonable expectation that petitioners, particularly
the Provinces of North Cotabato, Zamboanga del Norte and Sultan Kudarat, the Cities of Zamboanga, Iligan and
Isabela, and the Municipality of Linamon, will again be subjected to the same problem in the future as respondents'
actions are capable of repetition, in another or any form.

It is with respect to the prayers for Mandamus that the petitions have become moot, respondents having, by
Compliance of August 7, 2008, provided this Court and petitioners with official copies of the final draft of the MOA-
AD and its annexes. Too, intervenors have been furnished, or have procured for themselves, copies of the MOA-
AD.

V. SUBSTANTIVE ISSUES

As culled from the Petitions and Petitions-in-Intervention, there are basically two SUBSTANTIVE issues to be
resolved, one relating to the manner in which the MOA-AD was negotiated and finalized, the other relating to its
provisions, viz:

1. Did respondents violate constitutional and statutory provisions on public consultation and the right to information
when they negotiated and later initialed the MOA-AD?

2. Do the contents of the MOA-AD violate the Constitution and the laws?

ON THE FIRST SUBSTANTIVE ISSUE

Petitioners invoke their constitutional right to information on matters of public concern, as provided in Section 7,
Article III on the Bill of Rights:

Sec. 7. The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to
official records, and to documents, and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well
as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject
to such limitations as may be provided by law.107

As early as 1948, in Subido v. Ozaeta,108 the Court has recognized the statutory right to examine and inspect public
records, a right which was eventually accorded constitutional status.

The right of access to public documents, as enshrined in both the 1973 Constitution and the 1987 Constitution, has
been recognized as a self-executory constitutional right.109

In the 1976 case of Baldoza v. Hon. Judge Dimaano,110 the Court ruled that access to public records is predicated
on the right of the people to acquire information on matters of public concern since, undoubtedly, in a democracy,
the pubic has a legitimate interest in matters of social and political significance.

x x x The incorporation of this right in the Constitution is a recognition of the fundamental role of free exchange of
information in a democracy. There can be no realistic perception by the public of the nation's problems, nor a
meaningful democratic decision-making if they are denied access to information of general interest. Information is
needed to enable the members of society to cope with the exigencies of the times. As has been aptly observed:
"Maintaining the flow of such information depends on protection for both its acquisition and its dissemination since, if
either process is interrupted, the flow inevitably ceases." x x x111

In the same way that free discussion enables members of society to cope with the exigencies of their time, access
to information of general interest aids the people in democratic decision-making by giving them a better perspective
of the vital issues confronting the nation112 so that they may be able to criticize and participate in the affairs of the
government in a responsible, reasonable and effective manner. It is by ensuring an unfettered and uninhibited
exchange of ideas among a well-informed public that a government remains responsive to the changes desired by
the people.113

The MOA-AD is a matter of public concern

That the subject of the information sought in the present cases is a matter of public concern114 faces no serious
challenge. In fact, respondents admit that the MOA-AD is indeed of public concern.115 In previous cases, the Court
found that the regularity of real estate transactions entered in the Register of Deeds,116 the need for adequate notice
to the public of the various laws,117 the civil service eligibility of a public employee,118 the proper management of
GSIS funds allegedly used to grant loans to public officials,119 the recovery of the Marcoses' alleged ill-gotten
wealth,120 and the identity of party-list nominees,121 among others, are matters of public concern. Undoubtedly, the
MOA-AD subject of the present cases is of public concern, involving as it does the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of the State, which directly affects the lives of the public at large.

Matters of public concern covered by the right to information include steps and negotiations leading to the
consummation of the contract. In not distinguishing as to the executory nature or commercial character of
agreements, the Court has categorically ruled:

x x x [T]he right to information "contemplates inclusion of negotiations leading to the consummation of


the transaction." Certainly, a consummated contract is not a requirement for the exercise of the right to
information. Otherwise, the people can never exercise the right if no contract is consummated, and if one is
consummated, it may be too late for the public to expose its defects.

Requiring a consummated contract will keep the public in the dark until the contract, which may be grossly
disadvantageous to the government or even illegal, becomes fait accompli. This negates the State policy of
full transparency on matters of public concern, a situation which the framers of the Constitution could not
have intended. Such a requirement will prevent the citizenry from participating in the public discussion of
any proposed contract, effectively truncating a basic right enshrined in the Bill of Rights. We can allow
neither an emasculation of a constitutional right, nor a retreat by the State of its avowed "policy of full
disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest."122 (Emphasis and italics in the original)

Intended as a "splendid symmetry"123 to the right to information under the Bill of Rights is the policy of public
disclosure under Section 28, Article II of the Constitution reading:

Sec. 28. Subject to reasonable conditions prescribed by law, the State adopts and implements a policy of full
public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest.124

The policy of full public disclosure enunciated in above-quoted Section 28 complements the right of access to
information on matters of public concern found in the Bill of Rights. The right to information guarantees the right of
the people to demand information, while Section 28 recognizes the duty of officialdom to give information even if
nobody demands.125

The policy of public disclosure establishes a concrete ethical principle for the conduct of public affairs in a genuinely
open democracy, with the people's right to know as the centerpiece. It is a mandate of the State to be accountable
by following such policy.126 These provisions are vital to the exercise of the freedom of expression and essential to
hold public officials at all times accountable to the people.127

Whether Section 28 is self-executory, the records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission so disclose:

MR. SUAREZ. And since this is not self-executory, this policy will not be enunciated or will not be in force
and effect until after Congress shall have provided it.

MR. OPLE. I expect it to influence the climate of public ethics immediately but, of course, the implementing
law will have to be enacted by Congress, Mr. Presiding Officer.128

The following discourse, after Commissioner Hilario Davide, Jr., sought clarification on the issue, is enlightening.

MR. DAVIDE. I would like to get some clarifications on this. Mr. Presiding Officer, did I get the Gentleman
correctly as having said that this is not a self-executing provision? It would require a legislation by Congress
to implement?

MR. OPLE. Yes. Originally, it was going to be self-executing, but I accepted an amendment from
Commissioner Regalado, so that the safeguards on national interest are modified by the clause "as may be
provided by law"
MR. DAVIDE. But as worded, does it not mean that this will immediately take effect and Congress may
provide for reasonable safeguards on the sole ground national interest?

MR. OPLE. Yes. I think so, Mr. Presiding Officer, I said earlier that it should immediately influence the
climate of the conduct of public affairs but, of course, Congress here may no longer pass a law revoking
it, or if this is approved, revoking this principle, which is inconsistent with this policy.129 (Emphasis supplied)

Indubitably, the effectivity of the policy of public disclosure need not await the passing of a statute. As
Congress cannot revoke this principle, it is merely directed to provide for "reasonable safeguards." The complete
and effective exercise of the right to information necessitates that its complementary provision on public disclosure
derive the same self-executory nature. Since both provisions go hand-in-hand, it is absurd to say that the
broader130 right to information on matters of public concern is already enforceable while the correlative duty of the
State to disclose its transactions involving public interest is not enforceable until there is an enabling
law. Respondents cannot thus point to the absence of an implementing legislation as an excuse in not effecting
such policy.

An essential element of these freedoms is to keep open a continuing dialogue or process of communication
between the government and the people. It is in the interest of the State that the channels for free political
discussion be maintained to the end that the government may perceive and be responsive to the people's
will.131Envisioned to be corollary to the twin rights to information and disclosure is the design for feedback
mechanisms.

MS. ROSARIO BRAID. Yes. And lastly, Mr. Presiding Officer, will the people be able to participate? Will
the government provide feedback mechanisms so that the people can participate and can react
where the existing media facilities are not able to provide full feedback mechanisms to the
government? I suppose this will be part of the government implementing operational mechanisms.

MR. OPLE. Yes. I think through their elected representatives and that is how these courses take place.
There is a message and a feedback, both ways.

xxxx

MS. ROSARIO BRAID. Mr. Presiding Officer, may I just make one last sentence?

I think when we talk about the feedback network, we are not talking about public officials but also
network of private business o[r] community-based organizations that will be reacting. As a matter of
fact, we will put more credence or credibility on the private network of volunteers and voluntary community-
based organizations. So I do not think we are afraid that there will be another OMA in the
making.132(Emphasis supplied)

The imperative of a public consultation, as a species of the right to information, is evident in the "marching orders" to
respondents. The mechanics for the duty to disclose information and to conduct public consultation regarding the
peace agenda and process is manifestly provided by E.O. No. 3.133 The preambulatory clause of E.O. No. 3 declares
that there is a need to further enhance the contribution of civil society to the comprehensive peace process by
institutionalizing the people's participation.

One of the three underlying principles of the comprehensive peace process is that it "should be community-based,
reflecting the sentiments, values and principles important to all Filipinos" and "shall be defined not by the
government alone, nor by the different contending groups only, but by all Filipinos as one community."134 Included as
a component of the comprehensive peace process is consensus-building and empowerment for peace, which
includes "continuing consultations on both national and local levels to build consensus for a peace agenda and
process, and the mobilization and facilitation of people's participation in the peace process."135

Clearly, E.O. No. 3 contemplates not just the conduct of a plebiscite to effectuate "continuing"
consultations, contrary to respondents' position that plebiscite is "more than sufficient consultation."136
Further, E.O. No. 3 enumerates the functions and responsibilities of the PAPP, one of which is to "[c]onduct regular
dialogues with the National Peace Forum (NPF) and other peace partners to seek relevant information, comments,
recommendations as well as to render appropriate and timely reports on the progress of the comprehensive peace
process."137 E.O. No. 3 mandates the establishment of the NPF to be "the principal forum for the PAPP to consult
with and seek advi[c]e from the peace advocates, peace partners and concerned sectors of society on both national
and local levels, on the implementation of the comprehensive peace process, as well as for government[-]civil
society dialogue and consensus-building on peace agenda and initiatives."138

In fine, E.O. No. 3 establishes petitioners' right to be consulted on the peace agenda, as a corollary to the
constitutional right to information and disclosure.

PAPP Esperon committed grave abuse of discretion

The PAPP committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry out the pertinent consultation. The furtive
process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the legal authority,
and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof.

The Court may not, of course, require the PAPP to conduct the consultation in a particular way or manner. It may,
however, require him to comply with the law and discharge the functions within the authority granted by the
President.139

Petitioners are not claiming a seat at the negotiating table, contrary to respondents' retort in justifying the denial of
petitioners' right to be consulted. Respondents' stance manifests the manner by which they treat the salient
provisions of E.O. No. 3 on people's participation. Such disregard of the express mandate of the President is not
much different from superficial conduct toward token provisos that border on classic lip service.140 It illustrates a
gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined.

As for respondents' invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege, it is not tenable under the premises. The
argument defies sound reason when contrasted with E.O. No. 3's explicit provisions on continuing consultation and
dialogue on both national and local levels. The executive order even recognizes the exercise of the public's
right even before the GRP makes its official recommendations or before the government proffers its definite
propositions.141 It bear emphasis that E.O. No. 3 seeks to elicit relevant advice, information, comments and
recommendations from the people through dialogue.

AT ALL EVENTS, respondents effectively waived the defense of executive privilege in view of their unqualified
disclosure of the official copies of the final draft of the MOA-AD. By unconditionally complying with the Court's
August 4, 2008 Resolution, without a prayer for the document's disclosure in camera, or without a manifestation that
it was complying therewith ex abundante ad cautelam.

Petitioners' assertion that the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991 declares it a State policy to "require all
national agencies and offices to conduct periodic consultations with appropriate local government units, non-
governmental and people's organizations, and other concerned sectors of the community before any project or
program is implemented in their respective jurisdictions"142 is well-taken. The LGC chapter on intergovernmental
relations puts flesh into this avowed policy:

Prior Consultations Required. - No project or program shall be implemented by government


authorities unlessthe consultations mentioned in Sections 2 (c) and 26 hereof are complied with, and prior
approval of the sanggunian concerned is obtained: Provided, That occupants in areas where such projects
are to be implemented shall not be evicted unless appropriate relocation sites have been provided, in
accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.143 (Italics and underscoring supplied)

In Lina, Jr. v. Hon. Pao,144 the Court held that the above-stated policy and above-quoted provision of the LGU
apply only to national programs or projects which are to be implemented in a particular local community. Among the
programs and projects covered are those that are critical to the environment and human ecology including those
that may call for the eviction of a particular group of people residing in the locality where these will be
implemented.145 The MOA-AD is one peculiar program that unequivocally and unilaterally vests ownership of
a vast territory to the Bangsamoro people,146 which could pervasively and drastically result to the diaspora
or displacement of a great number of inhabitants from their total environment.
With respect to the indigenous cultural communities/indigenous peoples (ICCs/IPs), whose interests are
represented herein by petitioner Lopez and are adversely affected by the MOA-AD, the ICCs/IPs have, under the
IPRA, the right to participate fully at all levels of decision-making in matters which may affect their rights, lives and
destinies.147 The MOA-AD, an instrument recognizing ancestral domain, failed to justify its non-compliance with the
clear-cut mechanisms ordained in said Act,148 which entails, among other things, the observance of the free and
prior informed consent of the ICCs/IPs.

Notably, the IPRA does not grant the Executive Department or any government agency the power to delineate and
recognize an ancestral domain claim by mere agreement or compromise. The recognition of the ancestral domain is
the raison d'etre of the MOA-AD, without which all other stipulations or "consensus points" necessarily must fail. In
proceeding to make a sweeping declaration on ancestral domain, without complying with the IPRA, which is cited as
one of the TOR of the MOA-AD, respondents clearly transcended the boundaries of their authority. As it
seems, even the heart of the MOA-AD is still subject to necessary changes to the legal framework. While paragraph
7 on Governance suspends the effectivity of all provisions requiring changes to the legal framework, such clause is
itself invalid, as will be discussed in the following section.

Indeed, ours is an open society, with all the acts of the government subject to public scrutiny and available always to
public cognizance. This has to be so if the country is to remain democratic, with sovereignty residing in the people
and all government authority emanating from them.149

ON THE SECOND SUBSTANTIVE ISSUE

With regard to the provisions of the MOA-AD, there can be no question that they cannot all be accommodated under
the present Constitution and laws. Respondents have admitted as much in the oral arguments before this Court, and
the MOA-AD itself recognizes the need to amend the existing legal framework to render effective at least some of its
provisions. Respondents, nonetheless, counter that the MOA-AD is free of any legal infirmity because any
provisions therein which are inconsistent with the present legal framework will not be effective until the necessary
changes to that framework are made. The validity of this argument will be considered later. For now, the Court shall
pass upon how

The MOA-AD is inconsistent with the Constitution and laws as presently worded.

In general, the objections against the MOA-AD center on the extent of the powers conceded therein to the BJE.
Petitioners assert that the powers granted to the BJE exceed those granted to any local government under present
laws, and even go beyond those of the present ARMM. Before assessing some of the specific powers that would
have been vested in the BJE, however, it would be useful to turn first to a general idea that serves as a unifying link
to the different provisions of the MOA-AD, namely, the international law concept of association. Significantly, the
MOA-AD explicitly alludes to this concept, indicating that the Parties actually framed its provisions with it in mind.

Association is referred to in paragraph 3 on TERRITORY, paragraph 11 on RESOURCES, and paragraph 4 on


GOVERNANCE. It is in the last mentioned provision, however, that the MOA-AD most clearly uses it to describe
the envisioned relationship between the BJE and the Central Government.

4. The relationship between the Central Government and the Bangsamoro juridical entity shall
be associative characterized by shared authority and responsibility with a structure of governance
based on executive, legislative, judicial and administrative institutions with defined powers and functions in
the comprehensive compact. A period of transition shall be established in a comprehensive peace compact
specifying the relationship between the Central Government and the BJE. (Emphasis and underscoring
supplied)

The nature of the "associative" relationship may have been intended to be defined more precisely in the still to be
forged Comprehensive Compact. Nonetheless, given that there is a concept of "association" in international law,
and the MOA-AD - by its inclusion of international law instruments in its TOR- placed itself in an international legal
context, that concept of association may be brought to bear in understanding the use of the term "associative" in the
MOA-AD.

Keitner and Reisman state that


[a]n association is formed when two states of unequal power voluntarily establish durable links. In the basic
model, one state, the associate, delegates certain responsibilities to the other, the principal, while
maintaining its international status as a state. Free associations represent a middle ground between
integration and independence. x x x150 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

For purposes of illustration, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM),
formerly part of the U.S.-administered Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands,151 are associated states of the U.S.
pursuant to a Compact of Free Association. The currency in these countries is the U.S. dollar, indicating their very
close ties with the U.S., yet they issue their own travel documents, which is a mark of their statehood. Their
international legal status as states was confirmed by the UN Security Council and by their admission to UN
membership.

According to their compacts of free association, the Marshall Islands and the FSM generally have the capacity to
conduct foreign affairs in their own name and right, such capacity extending to matters such as the law of the sea,
marine resources, trade, banking, postal, civil aviation, and cultural relations. The U.S. government, when
conducting its foreign affairs, is obligated to consult with the governments of the Marshall Islands or the FSM on
matters which it (U.S. government) regards as relating to or affecting either government.

In the event of attacks or threats against the Marshall Islands or the FSM, the U.S. government has the authority
and obligation to defend them as if they were part of U.S. territory. The U.S. government, moreover, has the option
of establishing and using military areas and facilities within these associated states and has the right to bar the
military personnel of any third country from having access to these territories for military purposes.

It bears noting that in U.S. constitutional and international practice, free association is understood as an international
association between sovereigns. The Compact of Free Association is a treaty which is subordinate to the associated
nation's national constitution, and each party may terminate the association consistent with the right of
independence. It has been said that, with the admission of the U.S.-associated states to the UN in 1990, the UN
recognized that the American model of free association is actually based on an underlying status of
independence.152

In international practice, the "associated state" arrangement has usually been used as a transitional device of
former colonies on their way to full independence. Examples of states that have passed through the status of
associated states as a transitional phase are Antigua, St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla, Dominica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and
Grenada. All have since become independent states.153

Back to the MOA-AD, it contains many provisions which are consistent with the international legal concept
of association, specifically the following: the BJE's capacity to enter into economic and trade relations with foreign
countries, the commitment of the Central Government to ensure the BJE's participation in meetings and events in
the ASEAN and the specialized UN agencies, and the continuing responsibility of the Central Government over
external defense. Moreover, the BJE's right to participate in Philippine official missions bearing on negotiation of
border agreements, environmental protection, and sharing of revenues pertaining to the bodies of water adjacent to
or between the islands forming part of the ancestral domain, resembles the right of the governments of FSM and the
Marshall Islands to be consulted by the U.S. government on any foreign affairs matter affecting them.

These provisions of the MOA indicate, among other things, that the Parties aimed to vest in the BJE the status of
an associated state or, at any rate, a status closely approximating it.

The concept of association is not recognized under the present Constitution

No province, city, or municipality, not even the ARMM, is recognized under our laws as having an "associative"
relationship with the national government. Indeed, the concept implies powers that go beyond anything ever granted
by the Constitution to any local or regional government. It also implies the recognition of the associated entity as a
state. The Constitution, however, does not contemplate any state in this jurisdiction other than the Philippine State,
much less does it provide for a transitory status that aims to prepare any part of Philippine territory for
independence.

Even the mere concept animating many of the MOA-AD's provisions, therefore, already requires for its validity the
amendment of constitutional provisions, specifically the following provisions of Article X:
SECTION 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the provinces,
cities, municipalities, and barangays. There shall be autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the
Cordilleras as hereinafter provided.

SECTION 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras
consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive
historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the
framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the
Republic of the Philippines.

The BJE is a far more powerful


entity than the autonomous region
recognized in the Constitution

It is not merely an expanded version of the ARMM, the status of its relationship with the national government being
fundamentally different from that of the ARMM. Indeed, BJE is a state in all but name as it meets the criteria of a
state laid down in the Montevideo Convention,154 namely, a permanent population, a defined territory,
a government, and a capacity to enter into relations with other states.

Even assuming arguendo that the MOA-AD would not necessarily sever any portion of Philippine territory, the spirit
animating it - which has betrayed itself by its use of the concept of association - runs counter to the national
sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic.

The defining concept underlying the relationship between the national government and the BJE being itself
contrary to the present Constitution, it is not surprising that many of the specific provisions of the MOA-AD
on the formation and powers of the BJE are in conflict with the Constitution and the laws.

Article X, Section 18 of the Constitution provides that "[t]he creation of the autonomous region shall be effective
when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose,
provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be
included in the autonomous region." (Emphasis supplied)

As reflected above, the BJE is more of a state than an autonomous region. But even assuming that it is covered by
the term "autonomous region" in the constitutional provision just quoted, the MOA-AD would still be in conflict with it.
Under paragraph 2(c) on TERRITORY in relation to 2(d) and 2(e), the present geographic area of the ARMM and, in
addition, the municipalities of Lanao del Norte which voted for inclusion in the ARMM during the 2001 plebiscite -
Baloi, Munai, Nunungan, Pantar, Tagoloan and Tangkal - are automatically part of the BJE without need of another
plebiscite, in contrast to the areas under Categories A and B mentioned earlier in the overview. That the present
components of the ARMM and the above-mentioned municipalities voted for inclusion therein in 2001, however,
does not render another plebiscite unnecessary under the Constitution, precisely because what these areas voted
for then was their inclusion in the ARMM, not the BJE.

The MOA-AD, moreover, would not


comply with Article X, Section 20 of
the Constitution

since that provision defines the powers of autonomous regions as follows:

SECTION 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national
laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over:

(1) Administrative organization;

(2) Creation of sources of revenues;

(3) Ancestral domain and natural resources;


(4) Personal, family, and property relations;

(5) Regional urban and rural planning development;

(6) Economic, social, and tourism development;

(7) Educational policies;

(8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and

(9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of
the region. (Underscoring supplied)

Again on the premise that the BJE may be regarded as an autonomous region, the MOA-AD would require an
amendment that would expand the above-quoted provision. The mere passage of new legislation pursuant to sub-
paragraph No. 9 of said constitutional provision would not suffice, since any new law that might vest in the BJE the
powers found in the MOA-AD must, itself, comply with other provisions of the Constitution. It would not do, for
instance, to merely pass legislation vesting the BJE with treaty-making power in order to accommodate paragraph 4
of the strand on RESOURCES which states: "The BJE is free to enter into any economic cooperation and trade
relations with foreign countries: provided, however, that such relationships and understandings do not include
aggression against the Government of the Republic of the Philippines x x x." Under our constitutional system, it is
only the President who has that power. Pimentel v. Executive Secretary155 instructs:

In our system of government, the President, being the head of state, is regarded as the sole organ and
authority in external relations and is the country's sole representative with foreign nations. As the
chief architect of foreign policy, the President acts as the country's mouthpiece with respect to international
affairs. Hence, the President is vested with the authority to deal with foreign states and governments,
extend or withhold recognition, maintain diplomatic relations, enter into treaties, and otherwise
transact the business of foreign relations. In the realm of treaty-making, the President has the sole
authority to negotiate with other states. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Article II, Section 22 of the Constitution must also be amended if the scheme envisioned in the MOA-AD is
to be effected. That constitutional provision states: "The State recognizes and promotes the rights of indigenous
cultural communities within the framework of national unity and development." (Underscoring
supplied) An associative arrangement does not uphold national unity. While there may be a semblance of unity
because of the associative ties between the BJE and the national government, the act of placing a portion of
Philippine territory in a status which, in international practice, has generally been a preparation for independence, is
certainly not conducive to national unity.

Besides being irreconcilable with the Constitution, the MOA-AD is also inconsistent with prevailing statutory law,
among which are R.A. No. 9054156 or the Organic Act of the ARMM, and the IPRA.157

Article X, Section 3 of the Organic Act of the ARMM is a bar to the adoption of the definition of
"Bangsamoro people" used in the MOA-AD. Paragraph 1 on Concepts and Principles states:

1. It is the birthright of all Moros and all Indigenous peoples of Mindanao to identify themselves and be
accepted as "Bangsamoros". The Bangsamoro people refers to those who are natives or original
inhabitants of Mindanao and its adjacent islands including Palawan and the Sulu archipelago at the time
of conquest or colonization of its descendants whether mixed or of full blood. Spouses and their
descendants are classified as Bangsamoro. The freedom of choice of the Indigenous people shall be
respected. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

This use of the term Bangsamoro sharply contrasts with that found in the Article X, Section 3 of the Organic Act,
which, rather than lumping together the identities of the Bangsamoro and other indigenous peoples living in
Mindanao, clearly distinguishes between Bangsamoro people and Tribal peoples, as follows:
"As used in this Organic Act, the phrase "indigenous cultural community" refers to Filipino citizens residing
in the autonomous region who are:

(a) Tribal peoples. These are citizens whose social, cultural and economic conditions distinguish them from
other sectors of the national community; and

(b) Bangsa Moro people. These are citizens who are believers in Islam and who have retained some or
all of their own social, economic, cultural, and political institutions."

Respecting the IPRA, it lays down the prevailing procedure for the delineation and recognition of ancestral domains.
The MOA-AD's manner of delineating the ancestral domain of the Bangsamoro people is a clear departure from that
procedure. By paragraph 1 of Territory, the Parties simply agree that, subject to the delimitations in the agreed
Schedules, "[t]he Bangsamoro homeland and historic territory refer to the land mass as well as the maritime,
terrestrial, fluvial and alluvial domains, and the aerial domain, the atmospheric space above it, embracing the
Mindanao-Sulu-Palawan geographic region."

Chapter VIII of the IPRA, on the other hand, lays down a detailed procedure, as illustrated in the following provisions
thereof:

SECTION 52. Delineation Process. - The identification and delineation of ancestral domains shall be done in
accordance with the following procedures:

xxxx

b) Petition for Delineation. - The process of delineating a specific perimeter may be initiated by the NCIP
with the consent of the ICC/IP concerned, or through a Petition for Delineation filed with the NCIP, by a
majority of the members of the ICCs/IPs;

c) Delineation Proper. - The official delineation of ancestral domain boundaries including census of all
community members therein, shall be immediately undertaken by the Ancestral Domains Office upon filing
of the application by the ICCs/IPs concerned. Delineation will be done in coordination with the community
concerned and shall at all times include genuine involvement and participation by the members of the
communities concerned;

d) Proof Required. - Proof of Ancestral Domain Claims shall include the testimony of elders or community
under oath, and other documents directly or indirectly attesting to the possession or occupation of the area
since time immemorial by such ICCs/IPs in the concept of owners which shall be any one (1) of the following
authentic documents:

1) Written accounts of the ICCs/IPs customs and traditions;

2) Written accounts of the ICCs/IPs political structure and institution;

3) Pictures showing long term occupation such as those of old improvements, burial grounds, sacred
places and old villages;

4) Historical accounts, including pacts and agreements concerning boundaries entered into by the
ICCs/IPs concerned with other ICCs/IPs;

5) Survey plans and sketch maps;

6) Anthropological data;

7) Genealogical surveys;

8) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional communal forests and hunting grounds;
9) Pictures and descriptive histories of traditional landmarks such as mountains, rivers, creeks,
ridges, hills, terraces and the like; and

10) Write-ups of names and places derived from the native dialect of the community.

e) Preparation of Maps. - On the basis of such investigation and the findings of fact based thereon, the
Ancestral Domains Office of the NCIP shall prepare a perimeter map, complete with technical descriptions,
and a description of the natural features and landmarks embraced therein;

f) Report of Investigation and Other Documents. - A complete copy of the preliminary census and a report of
investigation, shall be prepared by the Ancestral Domains Office of the NCIP;

g) Notice and Publication. - A copy of each document, including a translation in the native language of the
ICCs/IPs concerned shall be posted in a prominent place therein for at least fifteen (15) days. A copy of the
document shall also be posted at the local, provincial and regional offices of the NCIP, and shall be
published in a newspaper of general circulation once a week for two (2) consecutive weeks to allow other
claimants to file opposition thereto within fifteen (15) days from date of such publication: Provided, That in
areas where no such newspaper exists, broadcasting in a radio station will be a valid substitute: Provided,
further, That mere posting shall be deemed sufficient if both newspaper and radio station are not available;

h) Endorsement to NCIP. - Within fifteen (15) days from publication, and of the inspection process, the
Ancestral Domains Office shall prepare a report to the NCIP endorsing a favorable action upon a claim that
is deemed to have sufficient proof. However, if the proof is deemed insufficient, the Ancestral Domains
Office shall require the submission of additional evidence: Provided, That the Ancestral Domains Office shall
reject any claim that is deemed patently false or fraudulent after inspection and verification: Provided,
further, That in case of rejection, the Ancestral Domains Office shall give the applicant due notice, copy
furnished all concerned, containing the grounds for denial. The denial shall be appealable to the NCIP:
Provided, furthermore, That in cases where there are conflicting claims among ICCs/IPs on the boundaries
of ancestral domain claims, the Ancestral Domains Office shall cause the contending parties to meet and
assist them in coming up with a preliminary resolution of the conflict, without prejudice to its full adjudication
according to the section below.

xxxx

To remove all doubts about the irreconcilability of the MOA-AD with the present legal system, a discussion of not
only the Constitution and domestic statutes, but also of international law is in order, for

Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution states that the Philippines "adopts the generally accepted principles
of international law as part of the law of the land."

Applying this provision of the Constitution, the Court, in Mejoff v. Director of Prisons,158 held that the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights is part of the law of the land on account of which it ordered the release on bail of a
detained alien of Russian descent whose deportation order had not been executed even after two years. Similarly,
the Court in Agustin v. Edu159 applied the aforesaid constitutional provision to the 1968 Vienna Convention on Road
Signs and Signals.

International law has long recognized the right to self-determination of "peoples," understood not merely as the
entire population of a State but also a portion thereof. In considering the question of whether the people of Quebec
had a right to unilaterally secede from Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court in REFERENCE RE SECESSION OF
QUEBEC160 had occasion to acknowledge that "the right of a people to self-determination is now so widely
recognized in international conventions that the principle has acquired a status beyond convention' and is
considered a general principle of international law."

Among the conventions referred to are the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights161 and the
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights162 which state, in Article 1 of both covenants, that all
peoples, by virtue of the right of self-determination, "freely determine their political status and freely pursue their
economic, social, and cultural development."
The people's right to self-determination should not, however, be understood as extending to a unilateral right of
secession. A distinction should be made between the right of internal and external self-determination. REFERENCE
RE SECESSION OF QUEBEC is again instructive:

"(ii) Scope of the Right to Self-determination

126. The recognized sources of international law establish that the right to self-determination of a people
is normally fulfilled through internal self-determination - a people's pursuit of its political, economic,
social and cultural development within the framework of an existing state. A right to external self-
determination (which in this case potentially takes the form of the assertion of a right to unilateral
secession) arises in only the most extreme of cases and, even then, under carefully defined
circumstances. x x x

External self-determination can be defined as in the following statement from the Declaration on
Friendly Relations, supra, as

The establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an
independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by
a peopleconstitute modes of implementing the right of self-determination by that people. (Emphasis added)

127. The international law principle of self-determination has evolved within a framework of respect
for the territorial integrity of existing states. The various international documents that support the
existence of a people's right to self-determination also contain parallel statements supportive of the
conclusion that the exercise of such a right must be sufficiently limited to prevent threats to an existing
state's territorial integrity or the stability of relations between sovereign states.

x x x x (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)

The Canadian Court went on to discuss the exceptional cases in which the right to external self-determination can
arise, namely, where a people is under colonial rule, is subject to foreign domination or exploitation outside a
colonial context, and - less definitely but asserted by a number of commentators - is blocked from the meaningful
exercise of its right to internal self-determination. The Court ultimately held that the population of Quebec had no
right to secession, as the same is not under colonial rule or foreign domination, nor is it being deprived of the
freedom to make political choices and pursue economic, social and cultural development, citing that Quebec is
equitably represented in legislative, executive and judicial institutions within Canada, even occupying prominent
positions therein.

The exceptional nature of the right of secession is further exemplified in the REPORT OF THE INTERNATIONAL
COMMITTEE OF JURISTS ON THE LEGAL ASPECTS OF THE AALAND ISLANDS QUESTION.163 There, Sweden
presented to the Council of the League of Nations the question of whether the inhabitants of the Aaland Islands
should be authorized to determine by plebiscite if the archipelago should remain under Finnish sovereignty or be
incorporated in the kingdom of Sweden. The Council, before resolving the question, appointed an International
Committee composed of three jurists to submit an opinion on the preliminary issue of whether the dispute should,
based on international law, be entirely left to the domestic jurisdiction of Finland. The Committee stated the rule as
follows:

x x x [I]n the absence of express provisions in international treaties, the right of disposing of national
territory is essentially an attribute of the sovereignty of every State. Positive International Law does
not recognize the right of national groups, as such, to separate themselves from the State of which
they form part by the simple expression of a wish, any more than it recognizes the right of other States
to claim such a separation. Generally speaking, the grant or refusal of the right to a portion of its
population of determining its own political fate by plebiscite or by some other method, is,
exclusively, an attribute of the sovereignty of every State which is definitively constituted. A dispute
between two States concerning such a question, under normal conditions therefore, bears upon a question
which International Law leaves entirely to the domestic jurisdiction of one of the States concerned. Any other
solution would amount to an infringement of sovereign rights of a State and would involve the risk of creating
difficulties and a lack of stability which would not only be contrary to the very idea embodied in term "State,"
but would also endanger the interests of the international community. If this right is not possessed by a large
or small section of a nation, neither can it be held by the State to which the national group wishes to be
attached, nor by any other State. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The Committee held that the dispute concerning the Aaland Islands did not refer to a question which is left by
international law to the domestic jurisdiction of Finland, thereby applying the exception rather than the rule
elucidated above. Its ground for departing from the general rule, however, was a very narrow one, namely, the
Aaland Islands agitation originated at a time when Finland was undergoing drastic political transformation. The
internal situation of Finland was, according to the Committee, so abnormal that, for a considerable time, the
conditions required for the formation of a sovereign State did not exist. In the midst of revolution, anarchy, and civil
war, the legitimacy of the Finnish national government was disputed by a large section of the people, and it had, in
fact, been chased from the capital and forcibly prevented from carrying out its duties. The armed camps and the
police were divided into two opposing forces. In light of these circumstances, Finland was not, during the relevant
time period, a "definitively constituted" sovereign state. The Committee, therefore, found that Finland did not
possess the right to withhold from a portion of its population the option to separate itself - a right which sovereign
nations generally have with respect to their own populations.

Turning now to the more specific category of indigenous peoples, this term has been used, in scholarship as well as
international, regional, and state practices, to refer to groups with distinct cultures, histories, and connections to land
(spiritual and otherwise) that have been forcibly incorporated into a larger governing society. These groups are
regarded as "indigenous" since they are the living descendants of pre-invasion inhabitants of lands now dominated
by others. Otherwise stated, indigenous peoples, nations, or communities are culturally distinctive groups that find
themselves engulfed by settler societies born of the forces of empire and conquest.164 Examples of groups who have
been regarded as indigenous peoples are the Maori of New Zealand and the aboriginal peoples of Canada.

As with the broader category of "peoples," indigenous peoples situated within states do not have a general right to
independence or secession from those states under international law,165 but they do have rights amounting to what
was discussed above as the right to internal self-determination.

In a historic development last September 13, 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations
Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UN DRIP) through General Assembly Resolution 61/295. The
vote was 143 to 4, the Philippines being included among those in favor, and the four voting against being Australia,
Canada, New Zealand, and the U.S. The Declaration clearly recognized the right of indigenous peoples to self-
determination, encompassing the right to autonomy or self-government, to wit:

Article 3

Indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their
political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

Article 4

Indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-
government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for
financing their autonomous functions.

Article 5

Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinct political, legal, economic, social
and cultural institutions, while retaining their right to participate fully, if they so choose, in the political,
economic, social and cultural life of the State.

Self-government, as used in international legal discourse pertaining to indigenous peoples, has been understood as
equivalent to "internal self-determination."166 The extent of self-determination provided for in the UN DRIP is more
particularly defined in its subsequent articles, some of which are quoted hereunder:

Article 8
1. Indigenous peoples and individuals have the right not to be subjected to forced assimilation or destruction
of their culture.

2. States shall provide effective mechanisms for prevention of, and redress for:

(a) Any action which has the aim or effect of depriving them of their integrity as distinct peoples, or
of their cultural values or ethnic identities;

(b) Any action which has the aim or effect of dispossessing them of their lands, territories or
resources;

(c) Any form of forced population transfer which has the aim or effect of violating or undermining
any of their rights;

(d) Any form of forced assimilation or integration;

(e) Any form of propaganda designed to promote or incite racial or ethnic discrimination directed
against them.

Article 21

1. Indigenous peoples have the right, without discrimination, to the improvement of their economic and
social conditions, including, inter alia, in the areas of education, employment, vocational training and
retraining, housing, sanitation, health and social security.

2. States shall take effective measures and, where appropriate, special measures to ensure continuing
improvement of their economic and social conditions. Particular attention shall be paid to the rights and
special needs of indigenous elders, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities.

Article 26

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have
traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

2. Indigenous peoples have the right to own, use, develop and control the lands, territories and resources
that they possess by reason of traditional ownership or other traditional occupation or use, as well as those
which they have otherwise acquired.

3. States shall give legal recognition and protection to these lands, territories and resources. Such
recognition shall be conducted with due respect to the customs, traditions and land tenure systems of the
indigenous peoples concerned.

Article 30

1. Military activities shall not take place in the lands or territories of indigenous peoples, unless justified by a
relevant public interest or otherwise freely agreed with or requested by the indigenous peoples concerned.

2. States shall undertake effective consultations with the indigenous peoples concerned, through appropriate
procedures and in particular through their representative institutions, prior to using their lands or territories
for military activities.

Article 32

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development
or use of their lands or territories and other resources.
2. States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own
representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any
project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the
development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

3. States shall provide effective mechanisms for just and fair redress for any such activities, and appropriate
measures shall be taken to mitigate adverse environmental, economic, social, cultural or spiritual impact.

Article 37

1. Indigenous peoples have the right to the recognition, observance and enforcement of treaties,
agreements and other constructive arrangements concluded with States or their successors and to have
States honour and respect such treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

2. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as diminishing or eliminating the rights of indigenous
peoples contained in treaties, agreements and other constructive arrangements.

Article 38

States in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples, shall take the appropriate measures,
including legislative measures, to achieve the ends of this Declaration.

Assuming that the UN DRIP, like the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, must now be regarded as embodying
customary international law - a question which the Court need not definitively resolve here - the obligations
enumerated therein do not strictly require the Republic to grant the Bangsamoro people, through the instrumentality
of the BJE, the particular rights and powers provided for in the MOA-AD. Even the more specific provisions of the
UN DRIP are general in scope, allowing for flexibility in its application by the different States.

There is, for instance, no requirement in the UN DRIP that States now guarantee indigenous peoples their own
police and internal security force. Indeed, Article 8 presupposes that it is the State which will provide protection for
indigenous peoples against acts like the forced dispossession of their lands - a function that is normally performed
by police officers. If the protection of a right so essential to indigenous people's identity is acknowledged to be the
responsibility of the State, then surely the protection of rights less significant to them as such peoples would also be
the duty of States. Nor is there in the UN DRIP an acknowledgement of the right of indigenous peoples to the aerial
domain and atmospheric space. What it upholds, in Article 26 thereof, is the right of indigenous peoples to the lands,
territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

Moreover, the UN DRIP, while upholding the right of indigenous peoples to autonomy, does not obligate States to
grant indigenous peoples the near-independent status of an associated state. All the rights recognized in that
document are qualified in Article 46 as follows:

1. Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, people, group or person any
right to engage in any activity or to perform any act contrary to the Charter of the United Nations
or construed as authorizing or encouraging any action which would dismember or impair, totally or
in part, the territorial integrity or political unity of sovereign and independent States.

Even if the UN DRIP were considered as part of the law of the land pursuant to Article II, Section 2 of the
Constitution, it would not suffice to uphold the validity of the MOA-AD so as to render its compliance with other laws
unnecessary.

It is, therefore, clear that the MOA-AD contains numerous provisions that cannot be reconciled with the
Constitution and the laws as presently worded. Respondents proffer, however, that the signing of the MOA-AD
alone would not have entailed any violation of law or grave abuse of discretion on their part, precisely because it
stipulates that the provisions thereof inconsistent with the laws shall not take effect until these laws are amended.
They cite paragraph 7 of the MOA-AD strand on GOVERNANCE quoted earlier, but which is reproduced below for
convenience:
7. The Parties agree that the mechanisms and modalities for the actual implementation of this MOA-AD shall
be spelt out in the Comprehensive Compact to mutually take such steps to enable it to occur effectively.

Any provisions of the MOA-AD requiring amendments to the existing legal framework shall come into force
upon signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon effecting the necessary changes to the legal
framework with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be
contained in the Comprehensive Compact.

Indeed, the foregoing stipulation keeps many controversial provisions of the MOA-AD from coming into force until
the necessary changes to the legal framework are effected. While the word "Constitution" is not mentioned in
the provision now under consideration or anywhere else in the MOA-AD, the term "legal framework" is
certainly broad enough to include the Constitution.

Notwithstanding the suspensive clause, however, respondents, by their mere act of incorporating in the MOA-AD
the provisions thereof regarding the associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government, have
already violated the Memorandum of Instructions From The President dated March 1, 2001, which states that the
"negotiations shall be conducted in accordance with x x x the principles of the sovereignty and territorial integrityof
the Republic of the Philippines." (Emphasis supplied) Establishing an associative relationship between the BJE and
the Central Government is, for the reasons already discussed, a preparation for independence, or worse, an implicit
acknowledgment of an independent status already prevailing.

Even apart from the above-mentioned Memorandum, however, the MOA-AD is defective because the suspensive
clause is invalid, as discussed below.

The authority of the GRP Peace Negotiating Panel to negotiate with the MILF is founded on E.O. No. 3, Section
5(c), which states that there shall be established Government Peace Negotiating Panels for negotiations with
different rebel groups to be "appointed by the President as her official emissaries to conduct negotiations, dialogues,
and face-to-face discussions with rebel groups." These negotiating panels are to report to the President, through the
PAPP on the conduct and progress of the negotiations.

It bears noting that the GRP Peace Panel, in exploring lasting solutions to the Moro Problem through its negotiations
with the MILF, was not restricted by E.O. No. 3 only to those options available under the laws as they presently
stand. One of the components of a comprehensive peace process, which E.O. No. 3 collectively refers to as the
"Paths to Peace," is the pursuit of social, economic, and political reforms which may require new legislation or even
constitutional amendments. Sec. 4(a) of E.O. No. 3, which reiterates Section 3(a), of E.O. No. 125,167 states:

SECTION 4. The Six Paths to Peace. - The components of the comprehensive peace process comprise the
processes known as the "Paths to Peace". These component processes are interrelated and not mutually
exclusive, and must therefore be pursued simultaneously in a coordinated and integrated fashion. They shall
include, but may not be limited to, the following:

a. PURSUIT OF SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL REFORMS. This component involves the vigorous
implementation of various policies, reforms, programs and projects aimed at addressing the root
causes of internal armed conflicts and social unrest. This may require administrative action, new
legislation or even constitutional amendments.

x x x x (Emphasis supplied)

The MOA-AD, therefore, may reasonably be perceived as an attempt of respondents to address, pursuant to this
provision of E.O. No. 3, the root causes of the armed conflict in Mindanao. The E.O. authorized them to "think
outside the box," so to speak. Hence, they negotiated and were set on signing the MOA-AD that included various
social, economic, and political reforms which cannot, however, all be accommodated within the present legal
framework, and which thus would require new legislation and constitutional amendments.

The inquiry on the legality of the "suspensive clause," however, cannot stop here, because it must be
asked whether the President herself may exercise the power delegated to the GRP Peace Panel under E.O.
No. 3, Sec. 4(a).
The President cannot delegate a power that she herself does not possess. May the President, in the course of
peace negotiations, agree to pursue reforms that would require new legislation and constitutional amendments, or
should the reforms be restricted only to those solutions which the present laws allow? The answer to this question
requires a discussion of the extent of the President's power to conduct peace negotiations.

That the authority of the President to conduct peace negotiations with rebel groups is not explicitly mentioned in the
Constitution does not mean that she has no such authority. In Sanlakas v. Executive Secretary,168 in issue was the
authority of the President to declare a state of rebellion - an authority which is not expressly provided for in the
Constitution. The Court held thus:

"In her ponencia in Marcos v. Manglapus, Justice Cortes put her thesis into jurisprudence. There, the Court,
by a slim 8-7 margin, upheld the President's power to forbid the return of her exiled predecessor. The
rationale for the majority's ruling rested on the President's

. . . unstated residual powers which are implied from the grant of executive power and which
are necessary for her to comply with her duties under the Constitution. The powers of the
President are not limited to what are expressly enumerated in the article on the Executive
Department and in scattered provisions of the Constitution. This is so, notwithstanding the
avowed intent of the members of the Constitutional Commission of 1986 to limit the powers of the
President as a reaction to the abuses under the regime of Mr. Marcos, for the result was a limitation
of specific powers of the President, particularly those relating to the commander-in-chief clause, but
not a diminution of the general grant of executive power.

Thus, the President's authority to declare a state of rebellion springs in the main from her powers as
chief executive and, at the same time, draws strength from her Commander-in-Chief powers. x x x
(Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Similarly, the President's power to conduct peace negotiations is implicitly included in her powers as Chief Executive
and Commander-in-Chief. As Chief Executive, the President has the general responsibility to promote public peace,
and as Commander-in-Chief, she has the more specific duty to prevent and suppress rebellion and lawless
violence.169

As the experience of nations which have similarly gone through internal armed conflict will show, however, peace is
rarely attained by simply pursuing a military solution. Oftentimes, changes as far-reaching as a fundamental
reconfiguration of the nation's constitutional structure is required. The observations of Dr. Kirsti Samuels are
enlightening, to wit:

x x x [T]he fact remains that a successful political and governance transition must form the core of any post-
conflict peace-building mission. As we have observed in Liberia and Haiti over the last ten years, conflict
cessation without modification of the political environment, even where state-building is undertaken through
technical electoral assistance and institution- or capacity-building, is unlikely to succeed. On average, more
than 50 percent of states emerging from conflict return to conflict. Moreover, a substantial proportion of
transitions have resulted in weak or limited democracies.

The design of a constitution and its constitution-making process can play an important role in the political
and governance transition. Constitution-making after conflict is an opportunity to create a common vision of
the future of a state and a road map on how to get there. The constitution can be partly a peace agreement
and partly a framework setting up the rules by which the new democracy will operate.170

In the same vein, Professor Christine Bell, in her article on the nature and legal status of peace agreements,
observed that the typical way that peace agreements establish or confirm mechanisms for demilitarization and
demobilization is by linking them to new constitutional structures addressing governance, elections, and legal and
human rights institutions.171

In the Philippine experience, the link between peace agreements and constitution-making has been recognized by
no less than the framers of the Constitution. Behind the provisions of the Constitution on autonomous regions172 is
the framers' intention to implement a particular peace agreement, namely, the Tripoli Agreement of 1976 between
the GRP and the MNLF, signed by then Undersecretary of National Defense Carmelo Z. Barbero and then MNLF
Chairman Nur Misuari.

MR. ROMULO. There are other speakers; so, although I have some more questions, I will reserve my right
to ask them if they are not covered by the other speakers. I have only two questions.

I heard one of the Commissioners say that local autonomy already exists in the Muslim region; it is
working very well; it has, in fact, diminished a great deal of the problems. So, my question is: since that
already exists, why do we have to go into something new?

MR. OPLE. May I answer that on behalf of Chairman Nolledo. Commissioner Yusup Abubakar is right
that certain definite steps have been taken to implement the provisions of the Tripoli Agreement with
respect to an autonomous region in Mindanao. This is a good first step, but there is no question that
this is merely a partial response to the Tripoli Agreement itself and to the fuller standard of regional
autonomy contemplated in that agreement, and now by state policy.173(Emphasis supplied)

The constitutional provisions on autonomy and the statutes enacted pursuant to them have, to the credit of their
drafters, been partly successful. Nonetheless, the Filipino people are still faced with the reality of an on-going
conflict between the Government and the MILF. If the President is to be expected to find means for bringing this
conflict to an end and to achieve lasting peace in Mindanao, then she must be given the leeway to explore, in the
course of peace negotiations, solutions that may require changes to the Constitution for their implementation. Being
uniquely vested with the power to conduct peace negotiations with rebel groups, the President is in a singular
position to know the precise nature of their grievances which, if resolved, may bring an end to hostilities.

The President may not, of course, unilaterally implement the solutions that she considers viable, but she may not be
prevented from submitting them as recommendations to Congress, which could then, if it is minded, act upon them
pursuant to the legal procedures for constitutional amendment and revision. In particular, Congress would have the
option, pursuant to Article XVII, Sections 1 and 3 of the Constitution, to propose the recommended amendments or
revision to the people, call a constitutional convention, or submit to the electorate the question of calling such a
convention.

While the President does not possess constituent powers - as those powers may be exercised only by Congress, a
Constitutional Convention, or the people through initiative and referendum - she may submit proposals for
constitutional change to Congress in a manner that does not involve the arrogation of constituent powers.

In Sanidad v. COMELEC,174 in issue was the legality of then President Marcos' act of directly submitting proposals
for constitutional amendments to a referendum, bypassing the interim National Assembly which was the body
vested by the 1973 Constitution with the power to propose such amendments. President Marcos, it will be recalled,
never convened the interim National Assembly. The majority upheld the President's act, holding that "the urges of
absolute necessity" compelled the President as the agent of the people to act as he did, there being no interim
National Assembly to propose constitutional amendments. Against this ruling, Justices Teehankee and Muoz
Palma vigorously dissented. The Court's concern at present, however, is not with regard to the point on which it was
then divided in that controversial case, but on that which was not disputed by either side.

Justice Teehankee's dissent,175 in particular, bears noting. While he disagreed that the President may directly submit
proposed constitutional amendments to a referendum, implicit in his opinion is a recognition that he would have
upheld the President's action along with the majority had the President convened the interim National Assembly and
coursed his proposals through it. Thus Justice Teehankee opined:

"Since the Constitution provides for the organization of the essential departments of government, defines
and delimits the powers of each and prescribes the manner of the exercise of such powers, and the
constituent power has not been granted to but has been withheld from the President or Prime Minister, it
follows that the President's questioned decrees proposing and submitting constitutional amendments directly
to the people (without the intervention of the interim National Assembly in whom the power is
expressly vested) are devoid of constitutional and legal basis."176 (Emphasis supplied)

From the foregoing discussion, the principle may be inferred that the President - in the course of conducting peace
negotiations - may validly consider implementing even those policies that require changes to the Constitution, but
she may not unilaterally implement them without the intervention of Congress, or act in any way as if the
assent of that body were assumed as a certainty.

Since, under the present Constitution, the people also have the power to directly propose amendments through
initiative and referendum, the President may also submit her recommendations to the people, not as a formal
proposal to be voted on in a plebiscite similar to what President Marcos did in Sanidad, but for their independent
consideration of whether these recommendations merit being formally proposed through initiative.

These recommendations, however, may amount to nothing more than the President's suggestions to the people, for
any further involvement in the process of initiative by the Chief Executive may vitiate its character as a genuine
"people's initiative." The only initiative recognized by the Constitution is that which truly proceeds from the people.
As the Court stated in Lambino v. COMELEC:177

"The Lambino Group claims that their initiative is the people's voice.' However, the Lambino Group
unabashedly states in ULAP Resolution No. 2006-02, in the verification of their petition with the COMELEC,
that ULAP maintains its unqualified support to the agenda of Her Excellency President Gloria Macapagal-
Arroyo for constitutional reforms.' The Lambino Group thus admits that their people's' initiative is an
unqualified support to the agenda' of the incumbent President to change the Constitution. This forewarns
the Court to be wary of incantations of people's voice' or sovereign will' in the present initiative."

It will be observed that the President has authority, as stated in her oath of office,178 only to preserve and defend the
Constitution. Such presidential power does not, however, extend to allowing her to change the Constitution, but
simply to recommend proposed amendments or revision. As long as she limits herself to recommending these
changes and submits to the proper procedure for constitutional amendments and revision, her mere
recommendation need not be construed as an unconstitutional act.

The foregoing discussion focused on the President's authority to propose constitutional amendments, since her
authority to propose new legislation is not in controversy. It has been an accepted practice for Presidents in this
jurisdiction to propose new legislation. One of the more prominent instances the practice is usually done is in the
yearly State of the Nation Address of the President to Congress. Moreover, the annual general appropriations bill
has always been based on the budget prepared by the President, which - for all intents and purposes - is a proposal
for new legislation coming from the President.179

The "suspensive clause" in the MOA-AD viewed in light of the above-discussed standards

Given the limited nature of the President's authority to propose constitutional amendments, she cannot
guaranteeto any third party that the required amendments will eventually be put in place, nor even be submitted to
a plebiscite. The most she could do is submit these proposals as recommendations either to Congress or the
people, in whom constituent powers are vested.

Paragraph 7 on Governance of the MOA-AD states, however, that all provisions thereof which cannot be reconciled
with the present Constitution and laws "shall come into force upon signing of a Comprehensive Compact and upon
effecting the necessary changes to the legal framework." This stipulation does not bear the marks of a suspensive
condition - defined in civil law as a future and uncertain event - but of a term. It is not a question of whether the
necessary changes to the legal framework will be effected, but when. That there is no uncertainty being
contemplated is plain from what follows, for the paragraph goes on to state that the contemplated changes shall be
"with due regard to non derogation of prior agreements and within the stipulated timeframe to be contained in the
Comprehensive Compact."

Pursuant to this stipulation, therefore, it is mandatory for the GRP to effect the changes to the legal framework
contemplated in the MOA-AD - which changes would include constitutional amendments, as discussed earlier. It
bears noting that,

By the time these changes are put in place, the MOA-AD itself would be counted among the "prior
agreements" from which there could be no derogation.
What remains for discussion in the Comprehensive Compact would merely be the implementing details for these
"consensus points" and, notably, the deadline for effecting the contemplated changes to the legal framework.

Plainly, stipulation-paragraph 7 on GOVERNANCE is inconsistent with the limits of the President's authority to
propose constitutional amendments, it being a virtual guarantee that the Constitution and the laws of the
Republic of the Philippines will certainly be adjusted to conform to all the "consensus points" found in the MOA-
AD. Hence, it must be struck down as unconstitutional.

A comparison between the "suspensive clause" of the MOA-AD with a similar provision appearing in the 1996 final
peace agreement between the MNLF and the GRP is most instructive.

As a backdrop, the parties to the 1996 Agreement stipulated that it would be implemented in two phases. Phase
Icovered a three-year transitional period involving the putting up of new administrative structures through Executive
Order, such as the Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) and the Southern Philippines Council for
Peace and Development (SPCPD), while Phase II covered the establishment of the new regional autonomous
government through amendment or repeal of R.A. No. 6734, which was then the Organic Act of the ARMM.

The stipulations on Phase II consisted of specific agreements on the structure of the expanded autonomous region
envisioned by the parties. To that extent, they are similar to the provisions of the MOA-AD. There is, however, a
crucial difference between the two agreements. While the MOA-AD virtually guarantees that the "necessary
changes to the legal framework" will be put in place, the GRP-MNLF final peace agreement states thus:
"Accordingly, these provisions [on Phase II] shall be recommended by the GRP to Congress for incorporation in the
amendatory or repealing law."

Concerns have been raised that the MOA-AD would have given rise to a binding international law obligation on the
part of the Philippines to change its Constitution in conformity thereto, on the ground that it may be considered either
as a binding agreement under international law, or a unilateral declaration of the Philippine government to the
international community that it would grant to the Bangsamoro people all the concessions therein stated. Neither
ground finds sufficient support in international law, however.

The MOA-AD, as earlier mentioned in the overview thereof, would have included foreign dignitaries as signatories.
In addition, representatives of other nations were invited to witness its signing in Kuala Lumpur. These
circumstances readily lead one to surmise that the MOA-AD would have had the status of a binding international
agreement had it been signed. An examination of the prevailing principles in international law, however, leads to the
contrary conclusion.

The Decision on Challenge to Jurisdiction: Lom Accord Amnesty180 (the Lom Accord case) of the Special Court of
Sierra Leone is enlightening. The Lom Accord was a peace agreement signed on July 7, 1999 between the
Government of Sierra Leone and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF), a rebel group with which the Sierra Leone
Government had been in armed conflict for around eight years at the time of signing. There were non-contracting
signatories to the agreement, among which were the Government of the Togolese Republic, the Economic
Community of West African States, and the UN.

On January 16, 2002, after a successful negotiation between the UN Secretary-General and the Sierra Leone
Government, another agreement was entered into by the UN and that Government whereby the Special Court of
Sierra Leone was established. The sole purpose of the Special Court, an international court, was to try persons who
bore the greatest responsibility for serious violations of international humanitarian law and Sierra Leonean law
committed in the territory of Sierra Leone since November 30, 1996.

Among the stipulations of the Lom Accord was a provision for the full pardon of the members of the RUF with
respect to anything done by them in pursuit of their objectives as members of that organization since the conflict
began.

In the Lom Accord case, the Defence argued that the Accord created an internationally binding obligation not to
prosecute the beneficiaries of the amnesty provided therein, citing, among other things, the participation of foreign
dignitaries and international organizations in the finalization of that agreement. The Special Court, however, rejected
this argument, ruling that the Lome Accord is not a treaty and that it can only create binding obligations and rights
between the parties in municipal law, not in international law. Hence, the Special Court held, it is ineffective in
depriving an international court like it of jurisdiction.

"37. In regard to the nature of a negotiated settlement of an internal armed conflict it is easy to assume
and to argue with some degree of plausibility, as Defence counsel for the defendants seem to have
done, that the mere fact that in addition to the parties to the conflict, the document formalizing the
settlement is signed by foreign heads of state or their representatives and representatives of
international organizations, means the agreement of the parties is internationalized so as to create
obligations in international law.

xxxx

40. Almost every conflict resolution will involve the parties to the conflict and the mediator or facilitator of the
settlement, or persons or bodies under whose auspices the settlement took place but who are not at all
parties to the conflict, are not contracting parties and who do not claim any obligation from the contracting
parties or incur any obligation from the settlement.

41. In this case, the parties to the conflict are the lawful authority of the State and the RUF which has
no status of statehood and is to all intents and purposes a faction within the state. The non-
contracting signatories of the Lom Agreement were moral guarantors of the principle that, in the
terms of Article XXXIV of the Agreement, "this peace agreement is implemented with integrity and in
good faith by both parties". The moral guarantors assumed no legal obligation. It is recalled that the
UN by its representative appended, presumably for avoidance of doubt, an understanding of the extent of
the agreement to be implemented as not including certain international crimes.

42. An international agreement in the nature of a treaty must create rights and obligations regulated by
international law so that a breach of its terms will be a breach determined under international law which will
also provide principle means of enforcement. The Lom Agreement created neither rights nor
obligations capable of being regulated by international law. An agreement such as the Lom
Agreement which brings to an end an internal armed conflict no doubt creates a factual situation of
restoration of peace that the international community acting through the Security Council may take
note of. That, however, will not convert it to an international agreement which creates an obligation
enforceable in international, as distinguished from municipal, law. A breach of the terms of such a
peace agreement resulting in resumption of internal armed conflict or creating a threat to peace in the
determination of the Security Council may indicate a reversal of the factual situation of peace to be visited
with possible legal consequences arising from the new situation of conflict created. Such consequences
such as action by the Security Council pursuant to Chapter VII arise from the situation and not from the
agreement, nor from the obligation imposed by it. Such action cannot be regarded as a remedy for the
breach. A peace agreement which settles an internal armed conflict cannot be ascribed the same
status as one which settles an international armed conflict which, essentially, must be between two
or more warring States. The Lom Agreement cannot be characterised as an international
instrument. x x x" (Emphasis, italics and underscoring supplied)

Similarly, that the MOA-AD would have been signed by representatives of States and international organizations not
parties to the Agreement would not have sufficed to vest in it a binding character under international law.

In another vein, concern has been raised that the MOA-AD would amount to a unilateral declaration of the Philippine
State, binding under international law, that it would comply with all the stipulations stated therein, with the result that
it would have to amend its Constitution accordingly regardless of the true will of the people. Cited as authority for
this view is Australia v. France,181 also known as the Nuclear Tests Case, decided by the International Court of
Justice (ICJ).

In the Nuclear Tests Case, Australia challenged before the ICJ the legality of France's nuclear tests in the South
Pacific. France refused to appear in the case, but public statements from its President, and similar statements from
other French officials including its Minister of Defence, that its 1974 series of atmospheric tests would be its last,
persuaded the ICJ to dismiss the case.182 Those statements, the ICJ held, amounted to a legal undertaking
addressed to the international community, which required no acceptance from other States for it to become
effective.
Essential to the ICJ ruling is its finding that the French government intended to be bound to the international
community in issuing its public statements, viz:

43. It is well recognized that declarations made by way of unilateral acts, concerning legal or factual
situations, may have the effect of creating legal obligations. Declarations of this kind may be, and often are,
very specific. When it is the intention of the State making the declaration that it should become bound
according to its terms, that intention confers on the declaration the character of a legal undertaking,
the State being thenceforth legally required to follow a course of conduct consistent with the
declaration. An undertaking of this kind, if given publicly, and with an intent to be bound, even though not
made within the context of international negotiations, is binding. In these circumstances, nothing in the
nature of a quid pro quo nor any subsequent acceptance of the declaration, nor even any reply or reaction
from other States, is required for the declaration to take effect, since such a requirement would be
inconsistent with the strictly unilateral nature of the juridical act by which the pronouncement by the State
was made.

44. Of course, not all unilateral acts imply obligation; but a State may choose to take up a certain
position in relation to a particular matter with the intention of being bound-the intention is to be
ascertained by interpretation of the act. When States make statements by which their freedom of action
is to be limited, a restrictive interpretation is called for.

xxxx

51. In announcing that the 1974 series of atmospheric tests would be the last, the French
Government conveyed to the world at large, including the Applicant, its intention effectively to
terminate these tests. It was bound to assume that other States might take note of these statements
and rely on their being effective. The validity of these statements and their legal consequences must
be considered within the general framework of the security of international intercourse, and the
confidence and trust which are so essential in the relations among States. It is from the actual substance
of these statements, and from the circumstances attending their making, that the legal implications
of the unilateral act must be deduced. The objects of these statements are clear and they were
addressed to the international community as a whole, and the Court holds that they constitute an
undertaking possessing legal effect. The Court considers *270 that the President of the Republic, in
deciding upon the effective cessation of atmospheric tests, gave an undertaking to the international
community to which his words were addressed. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)

As gathered from the above-quoted ruling of the ICJ, public statements of a state representative may be construed
as a unilateral declaration only when the following conditions are present: the statements were clearly addressed to
the international community, the state intended to be bound to that community by its statements, and that not to give
legal effect to those statements would be detrimental to the security of international intercourse. Plainly, unilateral
declarations arise only in peculiar circumstances.

The limited applicability of the Nuclear Tests Case ruling was recognized in a later case decided by the ICJ
entitled Burkina Faso v. Mali,183 also known as the Case Concerning the Frontier Dispute. The public declaration
subject of that case was a statement made by the President of Mali, in an interview by a foreign press agency, that
Mali would abide by the decision to be issued by a commission of the Organization of African Unity on a frontier
dispute then pending between Mali and Burkina Faso.

Unlike in the Nuclear Tests Case, the ICJ held that the statement of Mali's President was not a unilateral act with
legal implications. It clarified that its ruling in the Nuclear Tests case rested on the peculiar circumstances
surrounding the French declaration subject thereof, to wit:

40. In order to assess the intentions of the author of a unilateral act, account must be taken of all the factual
circumstances in which the act occurred. For example, in the Nuclear Tests cases, the Court took the
view that since the applicant States were not the only ones concerned at the possible continuance of
atmospheric testing by the French Government, that Government's unilateral declarations had
conveyed to the world at large, including the Applicant, its intention effectively to terminate these
tests (I.C.J. Reports 1974, p. 269, para. 51; p. 474, para. 53). In the particular circumstances of those
cases, the French Government could not express an intention to be bound otherwise than by
unilateral declarations. It is difficult to see how it could have accepted the terms of a negotiated
solution with each of the applicants without thereby jeopardizing its contention that its conduct was
lawful. The circumstances of the present case are radically different. Here, there was nothing to
hinder the Parties from manifesting an intention to accept the binding character of the conclusions
of the Organization of African Unity Mediation Commission by the normal method: a formal
agreement on the basis of reciprocity. Since no agreement of this kind was concluded between the
Parties, the Chamber finds that there are no grounds to interpret the declaration made by Mali's head of
State on 11 April 1975 as a unilateral act with legal implications in regard to the present case. (Emphasis
and underscoring supplied)

Assessing the MOA-AD in light of the above criteria, it would not have amounted to a unilateral declaration on the
part of the Philippine State to the international community. The Philippine panel did not draft the same with the clear
intention of being bound thereby to the international community as a whole or to any State, but only to the MILF.
While there were States and international organizations involved, one way or another, in the negotiation and
projected signing of the MOA-AD, they participated merely as witnesses or, in the case of Malaysia, as facilitator. As
held in the Lom Accord case, the mere fact that in addition to the parties to the conflict, the peace settlement is
signed by representatives of states and international organizations does not mean that the agreement is
internationalized so as to create obligations in international law.

Since the commitments in the MOA-AD were not addressed to States, not to give legal effect to such commitments
would not be detrimental to the security of international intercourse - to the trust and confidence essential in the
relations among States.

In one important respect, the circumstances surrounding the MOA-AD are closer to that of Burkina Faso wherein, as
already discussed, the Mali President's statement was not held to be a binding unilateral declaration by the ICJ. As
in that case, there was also nothing to hinder the Philippine panel, had it really been its intention to be bound to
other States, to manifest that intention by formal agreement. Here, that formal agreement would have come about
by the inclusion in the MOA-AD of a clear commitment to be legally bound to the international community, not just
the MILF, and by an equally clear indication that the signatures of the participating states-representatives would
constitute an acceptance of that commitment. Entering into such a formal agreement would not have resulted in a
loss of face for the Philippine government before the international community, which was one of the difficulties that
prevented the French Government from entering into a formal agreement with other countries. That the Philippine
panel did not enter into such a formal agreement suggests that it had no intention to be bound to the international
community. On that ground, the MOA-AD may not be considered a unilateral declaration under international law.

The MOA-AD not being a document that can bind the Philippines under international law notwithstanding,
respondents' almost consummated act of guaranteeing amendments to the legal framework is, by itself,
sufficient to constitute grave abuse of discretion. The grave abuse lies not in the fact that they considered, as a
solution to the Moro Problem, the creation of a state within a state, but in their brazen willingness to guarantee
that Congress and the sovereign Filipino people would give their imprimatur to their solution. Upholding
such an act would amount to authorizing a usurpation of the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a
Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves through the process of initiative, for the only way that the
Executive can ensure the outcome of the amendment process is through an undue influence or interference with
that process.

The sovereign people may, if it so desired, go to the extent of giving up a portion of its own territory to the Moros for
the sake of peace, for it can change the Constitution in any it wants, so long as the change is not inconsistent with
what, in international law, is known as Jus Cogens.184 Respondents, however, may not preempt it in that decision.

SUMMARY

The petitions are ripe for adjudication. The failure of respondents to consult the local government units or
communities affected constitutes a departure by respondents from their mandate under E.O. No. 3. Moreover,
respondents exceeded their authority by the mere act of guaranteeing amendments to the Constitution. Any alleged
violation of the Constitution by any branch of government is a proper matter for judicial review.
As the petitions involve constitutional issues which are of paramount public interest or of transcendental importance,
the Court grants the petitioners, petitioners-in-intervention and intervening respondents the requisite locus standi in
keeping with the liberal stance adopted in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo.

Contrary to the assertion of respondents that the non-signing of the MOA-AD and the eventual dissolution of the
GRP Peace Panel mooted the present petitions, the Court finds that the present petitions provide an exception to
the "moot and academic" principle in view of (a) the grave violation of the Constitution involved; (b) the exceptional
character of the situation and paramount public interest; (c) the need to formulate controlling principles to guide the
bench, the bar, and the public; and (d) the fact that the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

The MOA-AD is a significant part of a series of agreements necessary to carry out the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement
on Peace signed by the government and the MILF back in June 2001. Hence, the present MOA-AD can be
renegotiated or another one drawn up that could contain similar or significantly dissimilar provisions compared to the
original.

The Court, however, finds that the prayers for mandamus have been rendered moot in view of the respondents'
action in providing the Court and the petitioners with the official copy of the final draft of the MOA-AD and its
annexes.

The people's right to information on matters of public concern under Sec. 7, Article III of the Constitution is
in splendid symmetry with the state policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest
under Sec. 28, Article II of the Constitution. The right to information guarantees the right of the people to demand
information, while Section 28 recognizes the duty of officialdom to give information even if nobody demands. The
complete and effective exercise of the right to information necessitates that its complementary provision on public
disclosure derive the same self-executory nature, subject only to reasonable safeguards or limitations as may be
provided by law.

The contents of the MOA-AD is a matter of paramount public concern involving public interest in the highest order.
In declaring that the right to information contemplates steps and negotiations leading to the consummation of the
contract, jurisprudence finds no distinction as to the executory nature or commercial character of the agreement.

An essential element of these twin freedoms is to keep a continuing dialogue or process of communication between
the government and the people. Corollary to these twin rights is the design for feedback mechanisms. The right to
public consultation was envisioned to be a species of these public rights.

At least three pertinent laws animate these constitutional imperatives and justify the exercise of the people's right to
be consulted on relevant matters relating to the peace agenda.

One, E.O. No. 3 itself is replete with mechanics for continuing consultations on both national and local levels and for
a principal forum for consensus-building. In fact, it is the duty of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process to
conduct regular dialogues to seek relevant information, comments, advice, and recommendations from peace
partners and concerned sectors of society.

Two, Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 requires all national offices to conduct
consultations before any project or program critical to the environment and human ecology including those that may
call for the eviction of a particular group of people residing in such locality, is implemented therein. The MOA-AD is
one peculiar program that unequivocally and unilaterally vests ownership of a vast territory to the Bangsamoro
people, which could pervasively and drastically result to the diaspora or displacement of a great number of
inhabitants from their total environment.

Three, Republic Act No. 8371 or the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 provides for clear-cut procedure for the
recognition and delineation of ancestral domain, which entails, among other things, the observance of the free and
prior informed consent of the Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples. Notably, the statute does not
grant the Executive Department or any government agency the power to delineate and recognize an ancestral
domain claim by mere agreement or compromise.
The invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege as a defense to the general right to information or the specific
right to consultation is untenable. The various explicit legal provisions fly in the face of executive secrecy. In any
event, respondents effectively waived such defense after it unconditionally disclosed the official copies of the final
draft of the MOA-AD, for judicial compliance and public scrutiny.

In sum, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process committed grave abuse of discretion when he failed to carry
out the pertinent consultation process, as mandated by E.O. No. 3, Republic Act No. 7160, and Republic Act No.
8371. The furtive process by which the MOA-AD was designed and crafted runs contrary to and in excess of the
legal authority, and amounts to a whimsical, capricious, oppressive, arbitrary and despotic exercise thereof. It
illustrates a gross evasion of positive duty and a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined.

The MOA-AD cannot be reconciled with the present Constitution and laws. Not only its specific provisions but the
very concept underlying them, namely, the associative relationship envisioned between the GRP and the
BJE, are unconstitutional, for the concept presupposes that the associated entity is a state and implies that the
same is on its way to independence.

While there is a clause in the MOA-AD stating that the provisions thereof inconsistent with the present legal
framework will not be effective until that framework is amended, the same does not cure its defect. The inclusion of
provisions in the MOA-AD establishing an associative relationship between the BJE and the Central Government is,
itself, a violation of the Memorandum of Instructions From The President dated March 1, 2001, addressed to the
government peace panel. Moreover, as the clause is worded, it virtually guarantees that the necessary amendments
to the Constitution and the laws will eventually be put in place. Neither the GRP Peace Panel nor the President
herself is authorized to make such a guarantee. Upholding such an act would amount to authorizing a usurpation of
the constituent powers vested only in Congress, a Constitutional Convention, or the people themselves through the
process of initiative, for the only way that the Executive can ensure the outcome of the amendment process is
through an undue influence or interference with that process.

While the MOA-AD would not amount to an international agreement or unilateral declaration binding on the
Philippines under international law, respondents' act of guaranteeing amendments is, by itself, already a
constitutional violation that renders the MOA-AD fatally defective.

WHEREFORE, respondents' motion to dismiss is DENIED. The main and intervening petitions are GIVEN DUE
COURSE and hereby GRANTED.

The Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain Aspect of the GRP-MILF Tripoli Agreement on Peace of
2001 is declared contrary to law and the Constitution.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 133064 September 16, 1999

JOSE C. MIRANDA, ALFREDO S. DIRIGE, MANUEL H. AFIADO, MARIANO V. BABARAN and ANDRES R.
CABUYADAO, petitioners,
vs.
HON. ALEXANDER AGUIRRE, In his capacity as Executive Secretary; HON. EPIMACO VELASCO, in his
capacity as Secretary of Local Government, HON. SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ, in his capacity as Secretary of
Budget, THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT, THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, HON. BENJAMIN G. DY, in his
capacity as Governor of Isabela, THE HONORABLE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF ISABELA, ATTY.
BALTAZAR PICIO, in his capacity as Provincial Administrator, and MR. ANTONIO CHUA, in his capacity as
Provincial Treasurer, respondents, GIORGIDI B. AGGABAO, intervenor.

PUNO, J.:

This is a petition for a writ of prohibition with prayer for preliminary injunction assailing the constitutionality of
Republic Act No. 8528 converting the city of Santiago, Isabela from an independent component city to a component
city.

On May 5, 1994, Republic Act No. 7720 which converted the municipality of Santiago, Isabela into an independent
component city was signed into law. On July 4, 1994, the people of Santiago ratified R.A. No. 7720 in a plebiscite. 1

On February 14, 1998, Republic Act No. 8528 was enacted. It amended R.A. No. 7720. Among others, it changed
the status of Santiago from an independent component city to a component city, viz.:

AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN SECTIONS OF REPUBLIC ACT NUMBERED 7720 AN ACT


CONVERTING THE MUNICIPALITY OF SANTIAGO INTO AN INDEPENDENT COMPONENT CITY
TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF SANTIAGO.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress


assembled:

Sec. 1. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7720 is hereby amended by deleting the words "an
independent" thereon so that said Section will read as follows:

Sec. 2. The City of Santiago. The Municipality of Santiago shall be converted into
a component city to be known as the City of Santiago, hereinafter referred to as the
City, which shall comprise of the present territory of the Municipality of Santiago,
Isabela. The territorial jurisdiction of the City shall be within the present metes and
bounds of the Municipality of Santiago.

Sec. 2. Section 51 of Republic Act No. 7720 is hereby amended deleting the entire section and in its
stead substitute the following:

Sec. 51. Election of Provincial Governor, Vice-Governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan


Members, and any Elective Provincial Position for the Province of Isabela. The
voters of the City of Santiago shall be qualified to vote in the elections of the
Provincial Governor, Vice-Governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan members and other
elective provincial positions of the Province of Isabela, and any such qualified voter
can be a candidate for such provincial positions and any elective provincial office.

Sec. 3. Repealing Clause. All existing laws or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this
Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly.

Sec. 4. Effectivity. This Act shall take effect upon its approval.

Approved.
Petitioners assail the constitutionality of R.A. No. 8528. 2 They alleged as ground the lack of provision in R.A. No. 8528
submitting the law for ratification by the people of Santiago City in a proper plebiscite. Petitioner Miranda was the mayor of
Santiago at the time of the filing of the petition at bar. Petitioner Afiado is the President of the Liga ng mga Barangay ng
Santiago City. Petitioners Dirige, Cabuyadao and Babaran are residents of Santiago City.

In their Comment, respondent provincial officials of Isabela defended the constitutionality of R.A. No. 8528. They
assailed the standing of petitioners to file the petition at bar. They also contend that the petition raises a political
question over which this Court lacks jurisdiction.

Another Comment was filed by the Solicitor General for the respondent public officials. The Solicitor General also
contends that petitioners are not real parties in interest. More importantly, it is contended that R.A. No. 8528
merely reclassified Santiago City from an independent component city to a component city. It allegedly did not
involve any "creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units,"
hence, a plebiscite of the people of Santiago is unnecessary.

A third Comment similar in tone was submitted by intervenor Giorgidi B. Aggabao, 3 a member of the provincial board
of Isabela. 4 He contended that both the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 do not require a plebiscite
"to approve a law that merely allowed qualified voters of a city to vote in provincial elections. The rules implementing the
Local Government Code cannot require a plebiscite. He also urged that petitioners lacked locus standi.

Petitioners filed a Reply to meet the arguments of the respondents and the intervenor. They defended their
standing. They also stressed the changes that would visit the city of Santiago as a result of its reclassification.

We find merit in the petition.

First. The challenge to the locus standi of petitioners cannot succeed. It is now an ancient rule that the
constitutionality of law can be challenged by one who will sustain a direct injury as a result of its
enforcement. 5Petitioner Miranda was the mayor of Santiago City when he filed the present petition in his own right as
mayor and not on behalf of the city, hence, he did not need the consent of the city council of Santiago. It is also
indubitable that the change of status of the city of Santiago from independent component city to a mere component city
will affect his powers as mayor, as will be shown hereafter. The injury that he would sustain from the enforcement of R.A.
No. 8528 is direct and immediate and not a mere generalized grievance shared with the people of Santiago City. Similarly,
the standing of the other petitioners rests on a firm foundation. They are residents and voters in the city of Santiago. They
have the right to be heard in the conversion of their city thru a plebiscite to be conducted by the COMELEC. The denial of
this right in R.A. No. 8528 gives them proper standing to strike the law as unconstitutional.
1wphi1.nt

Second. The plea that this court back off from assuming jurisdiction over the petition at bar on the ground that it
involves a political question has to be brushed aside. This plea has long lost its appeal especially in light of Section
1 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which defines judicial power as including "the duty of the courts of justice to
settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether
or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any
branch or instrumentality of the government." To be sure, the cut between a political and justiciable issue has been
made by this Court in many cases and need no longer mystify us. In Taada v. Cuenco, 6 we held:

xxx xxx xxx

The term "political question" connotes what it means in ordinary parlance, namely, a question of
policy. It refers "to those questions which under the Constitution are to be decided by the people in
their sovereign capacity; or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the
legislative or executive branch of the government." It is concerned with issues dependent upon the
wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure.

In Casibang v. Aquino, 7 we defined a justiciable issue as follows:

A purely justiciable issue implies a given right, legally demandable and enforceable, an act or
omission violative of such right, and a remedy granted and sanctioned by law, for said breach of
right.
Clearly, the petition at bar presents a justiciable issue. Petitioners claim that under Section 10, Article X of
the 1987 Constitution they have a right to approve or disapprove R.A. No. 8528 in a plebiscite before it can
be enforced. It ought to be self-evident that whether or not petitioners have the said right is a legal not a
political question. For whether or not laws passed by Congress comply with the requirements of the
Constitution pose questions that this Court alone can decide. The proposition that this Court is the ultimate
arbiter of the meaning and nuances of the Constitution need not be the subject of a prolix explanation.

Third. The threshold issue is whether R.A. No. 8528 is unconstitutional for its failure to provide that the conversion of
the city of Santiago from an independent component city to a component city should be submitted to its people in a
proper plebiscite. We hold that the Constitution requires a plebiscite. Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution
provides:

No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, or 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.

This constitutional requirement is reiterrated in Section 10, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code (R.A.
No. 7160), thus:

Sec. 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 power to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of local government units belongs to
Congress. 8 This power is part of the larger power to enact laws which the Constitution vested in Congress. 9 The
exercise of the power must be in accord with the mandate of the Constitution. In the case at bar, the issue is whether the
downgrading of Santiago City from an independent component city to a mere component city requires the approval of the
people of Santiago City in a plebiscite. The resolution of the issue depends on whether or not the downgrading falls within
the meaning of creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of municipalities per Section 10,
Article X of the Constitution. A close analysis of the said constitutional provision will reveal that the creation, division,
merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units involve a common denominator
material change in the political and economic rights of the local government units directly affected as well as the people
therein. It is precisely for this reason that the Constitution requires the approval of the people "in the political
units directly affected." It is not difficult to appreciate the rationale of this constitutional requirement. The 1987
Constitution, more than any of our previous Constitutions, gave more reality to the sovereignty of our people for it was
borne out of the people power in the 1986 EDSA revolution. Its Section 10, Article X addressed the undesirable practice in
the past whereby local government units were created, abolished, merged or divided on the basis of the vagaries of
politics and not of the welfare of the people. Thus, the consent of the people of the local government unit directly affected
was required to serve as a checking mechanism to any exercise of legislative power creating, dividing, abolishing,
merging or altering the boundaries of local government units. It is one instance where the people in their sovereign
capacity decide on a matter that affects them direct democracy of the people as opposed to democracy thru people's
representatives. This plebiscite requirement is also in accord with the philosophy of the Constitution granting more
autonomy to local government units.

The changes that will result from the downgrading of the city of Santiago from an independent component city to a
component city are many and cannot be characterized as insubstantial. For one, the independence of the city as a
political unit will be diminished. The city mayor will be placed under the administrative supervision of the provincial
governor. The resolutions and ordinances of the city council of Santiago will have to be reviewed by the Provincial
Board of Isabela. Taxes that will be collected by the city will now have to be shared with the province. Petitioners
pointed out these far reaching changes on the life of the people of the city of Santiago, viz.: 10

Although RESPONDENTS would like to make it appear that R.A. No. 8528 had "merely re-classified"
Santiago City from an independent component city into a component city, the effect when
challenged (sic) the Act were operational would be, actually, that of conversion. Consequently, there
would be substantial changes in the political culture and administrative responsibilities of Santiago
City, and the Province of Isabela. Santiago City from an independent component city will revert to
the Province of Isabela, geographically, politically, and administratively. Thus, the territorial land area
of Santiago City will be added to the land area comprising the province of Isabela. This will be to the
benefit or advantage of the Provincial Government of Isabela on account of the subsequent increase
of its share from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the National Government (Section 285,
R.A. No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991). The IRA is based on land area and
population of local government units, provinces included.

The nature or kinds, and magnitude of the taxes collected by the City Government, and which taxes
shall accrue solely to the City Government, will be redefined (Section 151, R.A. No. 7160), and may
be shared with the province such as taxes on sand, gravel and other quarry resources (Section 138,
R.A. No. 7160), professional taxes (Section 139, R.A. No. 7160), or amusement taxes (Section 140,
R.A. No. 7160). The Provincial Government will allocate operating funds for the City. Inarguably,
there would be a (sic) diminished funds for the local operations of the City Government because of
reduced shares of the IRA in accordance with the schedule set forth by Section 285 of R.A. No.
7160. The City Government's share in the proceeds in the development and utilization of national
wealth shall be diluted since certain portions shall accrue to the Provincial Government (Section 292,
R.A. No. 7160).

The registered voters of Santiago City will vote for and can be voted as provincial officials (Section
451 and 452 [c], R.A. No. 7160).

The City Mayor will now be under the administrative supervision of the Provincial Governor who is
tasked by law to ensure that every component city and municipality within the territorial jurisdiction of
the province acts within the scope of its prescribed powers and functions (Section 29 and 465 (b) (2)
(i), R.A. No. 7160), and to review (Section 30, R.A. No. 7160) all executive orders submitted by the
former (Section 455 (b) (1) (xii), R.A. No. 7160) and (R)eportorial requirements with respect to the
local governance and state of affairs of the city (Section 455 (b) (1) (xx), R.A. No. 7160). Elective city
officials will also be effectively under the control of the Provincial Governor (Section 63, R.A. No.
7160). Such will be the great change in the state of the political autonomy of what is now Santiago
City where by virtue of R.A. No. 7720, it is the Office of the President which has supervisory
authority over it as an independent component city (Section 25, R.A. No. 7160; Section 4 (ARTICLE
X), 1987 Constitution).

The resolutions and ordinances adopted and approved by the Sangguniang Panlungsod will be
subject to the review of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Sections 56, 468, (a) (1) (i), 468 (a) (2) (vii),
and 469 (c) (4), R.A. No. 7160). Likewise, the decisions in administrative cases by the former could
be appealed and acted upon by the latter (Section 67 R.A. No. 7160).

It is markworthy that when R.A. No. 7720 upgraded the status of Santiago City from a municipality to an
independent component city, it required the approval of its people thru a plebiscite called for the purpose.
There is neither rhyme nor reason why this plebiscite should not be called to determine the will of the people
of Santiago City when R.A. No. 8528 downgrades the status of their city. Indeed, there is more reason to
consult the people when a law substantially diminishes their right. Rule II, Article 6, paragraph (f) (1) of the
Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code is in accord with the Constitution when
it provides that:

(f) Plebiscite (1) no creation, conversion, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of
boundaries of LGUS shall take effect unless approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite
called for the purpose in the LGU or LGUs affected. The plebiscite shall be conducted by the
Commission on Elections (COMELEC) within one hundred twenty (120) days from the effectivity of
the law or ordinance prescribing such action, unless said law or ordinance fixes another date.

xxx xxx xxx

The rules cover all conversions, whether upward or downward in character, so long as they result in a
material change in the local government unit directly affected, especially a change in the political and
economic rights of its people.
A word on the dissenting opinions of our esteemed brethren. Mr. Justice Buena justifies R.A. No. 8528 on the
ground that Congress has the power to amend the charter of Santiago City. This power of amendment, however, is
limited by Section 10, Article X of the Constitution. Quite clearly, when an amendment of a law involves the creation,
merger, division, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units, a plebiscite in the
political units directly affected is mandatory. He also contends that the amendment merely caused a transition in the
status of Santiago as a city. Allegedly, it is a transition because no new city was created nor was a former city
dissolved by R.A. No. 8528. As discussed above, the spirit of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution calls for the
people of the local government unit directly affected to vote in a plebiscite whenever there is a material change in
their rights and responsibilities. They may call the downgrading of Santiago to a component city as a mere transition
but they cannot blink away from the fact that the transition will radically change its physical and political
configuration as well as the rights and responsibilities of its people.

On the other hand, our esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Mendoza, posits the theory that "only if the classification
involves changes in income, population, and land area of the local government unit is there a need for such changes
to be approved by the people . . . ."

With due respect, such an interpretation runs against the letter and spirit of Section 10, Article X of the 1987
Constitution which, to repeat, states: "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." It is clear that the Constitution imposes two conditions first, the creation, division, merger, abolition or
substantial alteration of boundary of a local government unit must meet the criteria fixed by the Local Government
Code on income, population and land area and second, the law must be approved by the people "by a majority of
the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected."

In accord with the Constitution, sections 7, 8, and 9 of the Local Government Code fixed the said criteria and they
involve requirements on income, population and land area. These requirements, however, are imposed to help
assure the economic viability of the local government unit concerned. They were not imposed to determine the
necessity for a plebiscite of the people. Indeed, the Local Government Code does not state that there will be no
more plebiscite after its requirements on income, population and land area have been satisfied. On the contrary,
section 10, Chapter 2 of the Code provides: "No creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of
boundaries of local government units shall take effect unless approved by a majority of the votes casts in a
plebiscite called for the purpose in the political unit or units directly affected. Said plebiscite shall be conducted by
the COMELEC within one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of the effectivity of the law or ordinance effecting
such action, unless said law or ordinance fixes another
date. 11 Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the principal author of the Local Government Code of 1991, opines that the plebiscite
is absolute and mandatory. 12

It cannot be overstressed that the said two requirements of the Constitution have different purposes. The criteria
fixed by the Local Government Code on income, population and land area are designed to achieve an economic
purpose. They are to be based on verified indicators, hence, section 7, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code
requires that these "indicators shall be attested by the Department of Finance, the National Statistics Office, and the
Lands Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources." In contrast, the people's
plebiscite is required to achieve a political purpose to use the people's voice as a check against the pernicious
political practice of gerrymandering. There is no better check against this excess committed by the political
representatives of the people themselves than the exercise of direct people power. As well-observed by one
commentator, as the creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries are ". . . basic to
local government, it is also imperative that these acts be done not only by Congress but also be approved by the
inhabitants of the locality concerned. . . . By giving the inhabitants a hand in their approval, the provision will also
eliminate the old practice of gerrymandering and minimize legislative action designed for the benefit of a few
politicians. Hence, it promotes the autonomy of local government units." 13

The records show that the downgrading of Santiago City was opposed by certain segments of its people. In the
debates in Congress, it was noted that at the time R.A. No. 8528 was proposed, Santiago City has been converted
to an independent component city barely two and a half (2 1/2) years ago and the conversion was approved by a
majority of 14,000 votes. Some legislators expressed surprise for the sudden move to downgrade the status of
Santiago City as there had been no significant change in its socio-economic-political status. The only reason given
for the downgrading is to enable the people of the city to aspire for the leadership of the province. To say the least,
the alleged reason is unconvincing for it is the essence of an independent component city that its people can no
longer participate or be voted for in the election of officials of the province. The people of Santiago City were aware
that they gave up that privilege when they voted to be independent from the province of Isabela. There was an
attempt on the part of the Committee on Local Government to submit the downgrading of Santiago City to its people
via a plebiscite. The amendment to this effect was about to be voted upon when a recess was called. After the
recess, the chairman of the Committee announced the withdrawal of the amendment "after a very enlightening
conversion with the elders of the Body." We quote the debates, viz.: 14

BILL ON SECOND READING

H.B. No. 8729 City of Santiago

Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I move that we consider


House Bill No. 8729 as reported out under Committee
Report No. 971.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] there


being none, the motion is approved.

Consideration of House Bill No. 8729 is now in order. With the permission of the Body, the Secretary
will read only the title of the bill without prejudice to inserting in the Record the whole text thereof.

The Acting Secretary [Atty. Raval]. House Bill No. 8729, entitled:

AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN SECTIONS OF R.A. NO. 7720


ENTITLED "AN ACT CONVERTING THE MUNICIPALITY OF
SANTIAGO INTO AN INDEPENDENT COMPONENT CITY TO BE
KNOWN AS THE CITY OF SANTIAGO

The following is the full text of H.B. No. 8729

Insert

Senator Tatad. Mr. President, for the sponsorship, I


ask that the distinguished Chairman of the Committee
on Local Government be recognized.

The President. Senator Sotto is recognized.

SPONSORSHIP SPEECH OF SENATOR SOTTO

Mr. President. House Bill No. 8729, which was


introduced in the House by Congressman Antonio M.
Abaya as its principal author, is a simple measure
which merely seeks to convert the City of Santiago
into a component city of the Province of Isabela.

The City of Santiago is geographically located within, and is physically an integral part of the
Province of Isabela. As an independent component city, however, it is completely detached and
separate from the said province as a local political unit. To use the language of the Explanatory Note
of the proposed bill, the City of Santiago is an "island in the provincial milieu.

The residents of the city no longer participate in the elections, nor are they qualified to run for any
elective positions in the Province of Isabela.
The Province of Isabela, on the other hand, is no longer vested with the power and authority of
general supervision over the city and its officials, which power and authority are now exercised by
the Office of the President, which is very far away from Santiago City.

Being geographically located within the Province of Isabela, the City of Santiago is affected, one way
or the other, by the happenings in the said province, and is benefited by its progress and
development. Hence, the proposed bill to convert the City of Santiago into a component city of
Isabela.

Mr. President, it is my pleasure, therefore, to present for consideration of this august Body
Committee Report No. 971 of the Committee on Local Government, recommending approval, with
our proposed committee amendment, of House Bill No. 8729.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. The Majority Leader is recognized.

Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I moved (sic) that we


close the period of interpellations.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There


being none, the period of interpellations is closed.

Senator Tatad. I move that we now consider the


committee amendments.

Senator Roco. Mr. President.

The President. What is the pleasure of Senator Roco?

Senator Roco. Mr. President, may I ask for a


reconsideration of the ruling on the motion to close
the period of interpellations just to be able to ask a
few questions?

Senator Tatad. May I move for a reconsideration of


my motion, Mr. President.

The President. Is there any objection to the


reconsideration of the closing of the period of
interpellations? [Silence] There being none, the
motion is approved.

Senator Roco is recognized.

Senator Roco. Will the distinguished gentlemen yield


for some questions?

Senator Sotto. Willingly, Mr. President.

Senator Roco. Mr. President, together with the


Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, we
were with the sponsors when we approved this bill to
make Santiago a City. That was about two and a half
years ago. At that time, I remember it was the cry of
the city that it be "independent." Now we are deleting
that word "independent."
Mr. President, only because I was a co-author and a co-sponsor, for the Record, I want some
explanation on what happened between then and now that has made us decided that the City of
Santiago should cease to be independent and should now become a component city.

Senator Sotto. Mr. President, the officials of the


province said during the public hearing that they are
no longer vested with the power and authority of
general supervision over the city. The power and
authority is now being exercised by the Office of the
President and it is quite far from the City of Santiago.

In the public hearing, we also gathered that there is a clamor from some sectors that they want to
participate in the provincial elections.

Senator Roco. Mr. President, I did not mean to delay


this. I did want it on record, however. I think there was
a majority of 14,000 who approved the charter, and
maybe we owe it to those who voted for that charter
some degree of respect. But if there has been a
change of political will, there has been a change of
political will, then so be it.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Senator Sotto. Mr. President, to be very frank about it,


that was a very important point raised by Senator
Roco, and I will have to place it on the Record of the
Senate that the reason why we are proposing a
committee amendment is that, originally, there was an
objection on the part of the local officials and those
who oppose it by incorporating a plebiscite in this bill.
That was the solution. Because there were some
sectors in the City of Santiago who were opposing the
reclassification or reconversion of the city into a
component city.

Senator Roco. All I wanted to say, Mr. President


because the two of us had special pictures (sic) in the
city is that I thought it should be put on record that
we have supported originally the proposal to make it
an independent city. But now if it is their request,
then, on the manifestation of the Chairman, let it be
so.

Thank you.

Senator Drilon. Mr. President.

Senator Drilon. Will the gentleman yield for a few


questions, Mr. President.

Senator Sotto. Yes, Mr. President.

Senator Drilon. Mr. President, further to the


interpellation of our good friend, the Senator from
Bicol, on the matter of the opinion of the citizens of
Santiago City, there is a resolution passed by the
Sanggunian on January 30, 1997 opposing the
conversion of Santiago from an independent city.

This opposition was placed on records during the committee hearings. And that is the reason why,
as mentioned by the good sponsor, one of the amendments is that a plebiscite be conducted before
the law takes effect.

The question I would like to raise and I would like to recall the statement of our Minority Leader
is that, at this time we should not be passing it for a particular politician.

In this particular case, it is obvious that this bill is being passed in order that the additional territory
be added to the election of the provincial officials of the province of Isabela.

Now, is this for the benefit of any particular politician, Mr. President.

Senator Sotto. If it is, I am not aware of it, Mr.


President.

Senator Alvarez. Mr. President.

The President. With the permission of the two


gentlemen on the Floor, Senator Alvarez is
recognized.

Senator Alvarez. As a born inbred citizen of this city,


Mr. President, may I share some information.

Mr. President, if we open up the election of the city to the provincial leadership, it will not be to the
benefit of the provincial leadership, because the provincial leadership will then campaign in a bigger
territory.

As a matter of fact, the ones who will benefit from this are the citizens of Santiago who will now be
enfranchised in the provincial electoral process, and whose children will have the opportunity to grow
into provincial leadership. This is one of the prime reasons why this amendment is being put forward.

While it is true that there may have been a resolution by the city council, those who signed the
resolution were not the whole of the council. This bill was sponsored by the congressman of that
district who represents a constituency, the voice of the district.

I think, Mr. President, in considering which interest is paramount, whose voice must be heard, and if
we have to fathom the interest of the people, the law which has been crafted here in accordance
with the rules should be given account, as we do give account to many of the legislations coming
from the House on local issues.

Senator Drilon. Mr. President, the reason why I am


raising this question is that, as Senator Roco said,
just two and-a-half years ago we passed a bill which
indeed disenfranchized if we want to use that
phrase the citizens of the City of Santiago in the
matter of the provincial election. Two-and-a-half years
after, we are changing the rule.

In the original charter, the citizens of the City of Santiago participated in a plebiscite in order to
approve the conversion of the city into an independent city. I believe that the only way to resolve this
issue raised by Senator Roco is again to subject this issue to another plebiscite as part of the
provision of this proposed bill and as will be proposed by the Committee Chairman as an
amendment.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Senator Alvarez. Mr. President, the Constitution does


not require that the change from an independent to a
component city be subjected to a plebiscite.

Secs. 10, 11, 12 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides as follows:

Sec. 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.

This change from an independent city into a component city is none of those enumerated. So the
proposal coming from the House is in adherence to this constitutional mandate which does not
require a plebiscite.

Senator Sotto. Mr. President, the key word here is


"conversion". The word "conversion" appears in that
provision wherein we must call a plebiscite. During
the public hearing, the representative of
Congressman Abaya was insisting that this is not a
conversion; this is merely a reclassification. But it is
clear in the bill.

We are amending a bill that converts, and we are converting it into a component city. That is how the
members of the committee felt. That is why we have proposed an amendment to this, and this is to
incorporate a plebiscite in as much as there is no provision on incorporating a plebiscite. Because
we would like not only to give the other people of Santiago a chance or be enfranchised as far as the
leadership of the province is concerned, but also we will give a chance to those who are opposing it.
To them, this is the best compromise. Let the people decide, instead of the political leaders of
Isabela deciding for them.

Senator Tatad. Mr. President.

The President. The Majority Leader is recognized.

Senator Tatad. At this point, Mr. President, I think we


can move to close the period of interpellations.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There


being none, the motion is approved.

Senator Tatad. I move that we now consider the


committee amendments, Mr. President.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There


being none the motion is approved.

Senator Sotto. On page 2, after line 13, insert a new


Section 3, as follows:

Sec 3. SECTION 49 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7720 IS HEREBY AMENDED BY DELETING THE
ENTIRE SECTION AND IN ITS STEAD SUBSTITUTE THE FOLLOWING:

Sec. 49. PLEBISCITE. THE CONVERSION OF THE CITY OF SANTIAGO INTO


A COMPONENT CITY OF THE PROVINCE OF ISABELA SHALL TAKE EFFECT
UPON THE RETIFICATION OF THIS ACT BY A MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE OF
SAID CITY IN A PLEBISCITE WHICH SHALL BE HELD FOR THE PURPOSE
WITHIN SIXTY (60) DAYS FROM THE APPROVAL OF THIS ACT. THE
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS SHALL CONDUCT AND SUPERVISE SUCH
PLEBISCITE.

The President. Is there any objection?

Senator Enrile. Mr. President.

The President. Senator Enrile is recognized.

Senator Enrile. I object to this committee amendment,


Mr. President.

SUSPENSION OF SESSION

Senator Tatad. May I ask for a one-minute


suspension of the session.

The President. The session is suspended for a few


minutes if there is no objection. [There was none].

It was 7:54 p.m.

RESUMPTION OF SESSION

At 7:57 p.m., the session was resumed.

The President. The session is resumed.

Senator Sotto is recognized.

Senator Sotto. Mr. President, after a very enlightening


conversation with the elders of the Body, I withdraw
my amendment.

The President. The amendment is withdrawn.

Senator Maceda. Mr. President.

The President. Senator Maceda is recognized.

Senator Maceda. We wish to thank the sponsor for


the withdrawal of the amendment.

Mr. President, with due respect to the Senator from Isabela I am no great fan of the Senator from
Isabela but it so happens that this is a local bill affecting not only his province but his own city
where he is a resident and registered voter.

So, unless the issue is really a matter of life and death and of national importance, senatorial
courtesy demands that we, as much as possible, accommodate the request of the Senator from
Isabela as we have done on matters affecting the district of other senators. I need not remind them.

Thank you anyway, Mr. President.


Senator Alvarez. Mr. President.

The President. Senator Alvarez is recognized.

Senator Alvarez. Mr. President, may I express my


deepest appreciation for the statement of the
gentleman from Ilocos and Laguna. Whatever he may
have said, the feeling is not mutual. At least for now, I
have suddenly become his great fan for the evening.

May I put on record, Mr. President, that I campaigned against the cityhood of Santiago not because I
do not want it to be a city but because it had disenfranchised the young men of my city from aspiring
for the leadership of the province. The town is the gem of the province. How could we extricate the
town from the province?

But I would like to thank the gentleman, Mr. President, and also the Chairman of the Committee.

Senator Tatad. Mr. President.

The President. The Majority Leader is recognized.

Senator Tatad. There being no committee


amendments, I move that the period of committee
amendments be closed.

The President. Shall we amend the title of this bill by


removing the word "independent" preceding
"component city"?

Senator Sotto. No, Mr. President. We are merely


citing the title. The main title of this House Bill No.
8729 is "An Act Amending Certain Sections of
Republic Act 7720". The title is the title of Republic
Act 7720. So, I do not think that we should amend
that anymore.

The President. What is the pending motion? Will the


gentleman kindly state the motion?

Senator Tatad. I move that we close the period of


committee amendments.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There


being none, the motion is approved.

Senator Tatad. Unless there are any individual


amendments, I move that we close the period of
individual amendments.

The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There


being none, the period of individual amendments is
closed.

APPROVAL OF H.B. NO. 8729 ON SECOND READING

Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I move that we vote on


Second Reading on House Bill No. 8729.
The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There
being none, we shall now vote on Second Reading on
House Bill No. 8729.

As many as are in favor of the bill, say aye.

Several Members. Aye.

As many as are against the bill, say nay. [Silences]

House Bill No. 8279 is approved on Second Reading.

The debates cannot but raise some quizzical eyebrows on the real purpose for the downgrading of the city
of Santiago. There is all the reason to listen to the voice of the people of the city via a plebiscite.

In the case of Tan, et al. v. COMELEC, 15 BP 885 was enacted partitioning the province of Negros Occidental without
consulting its people in a plebiscite. In his concurring opinion striking down the law as unconstitutional, Chief Justice
Teehankee cited the illicit political purpose behind its enactment, viz:

The scenario, as petitioners urgently asserted, was "to have the creation of the new Province a fait
accompli by the time elections are held on February 7, 1986. The transparent purpose is
unmistakably so that the new Governor and other officials shall by then have been installed in office,
ready to function for purposes of the election for President and Vice-President." Thus, the petitioners
reported after the event: "With indecent haste, the plebiscite was held; Negros del Norte was set up
and proclaimed by President Marcos as in existence; a new set of government officials headed by
Governor Armando Gustilo was appointed; and, by the time the elections were held on February 7,
1986, the political machinery was in place to deliver the "solid North" to ex-President Marcos. The
rest is history. What happened in Negros del Norte during the elections the unashamed use of
naked power and resources contributed in no small way to arousing "people's power" and steel
the ordinary citizen to perform deeds of courage and patriotism that makes one proud to be a Filipino
today.

The challenged Act is manifestly void and unconstitutional. Consequently, all the implementing acts
complained of, viz., the plebiscite, the proclamation of a new province of Negros del Norte and the
appointment of its officials are equally void. The limited holding of the plebiscite only in the areas of
the proposed new province (as provided by Section 4 of the Act) to the exclusion of the voters of the
remaining areas of the integral province of Negros Occidental (namely, the three cities of Bacolod,
Bago and La Carlota and the Municipalities of Las Castellana, Isabela, Moises Padilla, Pontevedra,
Hinigaran, Himamaylan, Kabankalan, Murcia, Valladoid, San Enrique, Ilog, Cauayan, Hinoba-an and
Sipalay and Candoni), grossly contravenes and disregards the mandate of Article XI, section 3 of the
then prevailing 1973 Constitution that no province may be created or divided or its boundary
substantially altered without "the approval of a majority of the votes in a plebiscite in the unit or units
affected." It is plain that all the cities and municipalities of the province of Negros Occidental, not
merely those of the proposed new province, comprise the units affected. It follows that the voters of
the whole and entire province of Negros Occidental have to participate and give their approval in the
plebiscite, because the whole is affected by its proposed division and substantial alteration of its
boundary. To limit the plebiscite to only the voters of the areas to be partitioned and seceded from
the province is as absurd and illogical as allowing only the secessionists to vote for the secession
that they demanded against the wishes of the majority and to nullify the basic principle of majority
rule.

Mr. Justice Mendoza and Mr. Justice Buena also cite two instances when allegedly independent component cities
were downgraded into component cities without need of a plebiscite. They cite the City of Oroquieta, Misamis
Occidental, 16 and the City of San Carlos, Pangasinan 17 whose charters were amended to allow their people to vote and
be voted upon in the election of officials of the province to which their city belongs without submitting the amendment to a
plebiscite. With due respect, the cities of Oroquieta and San Carlos are not similarly situated as the city of Santiago. The
said two cities then were not independent component cities unlike the city of Santiago. The two cities were chartered but
were not independent component cities for both were not highly urbanized cities which alone were considered
independent cities at that time. Thus, when the case of San Carlos City was under consideration by the Senate, Senator
Pimentel explained: 18

. . . Senator Pimentel. The bill under consideration, Mr. President, merely empowers the voters of
San Carlos to vote in the elections of provincial officials. There is no intention whatsoever to
downgrade the status of the City of San Carlos and there is no showing whatsoever that the
enactment of this bill will, in any way, diminish the powers and prerogatives already enjoyed by the
City of San Carlos. In fact, the City of San Carlos as of now, is a component city. It is not a highly
urbanized city. Therefore, this bill merely, as we said earlier, grants the voters of the city, the power
to vote in provincial elections, without in any way changing the character of its being a component
city. It is for this reason that I vote in favor of this bill.

It was Senator Pimentel who also sponsored the bill 19 allowing qualified voters of the city of Oroquieta to vote
in provincial elections of the province of Misamis Occidental. In his sponsorship speech, he explained that the
right to vote being given to the people of Oroquieta City was consistent with its status as a component
city. 20 Indeed, during the debates, former Senator Neptali Gonzales pointed out the need to remedy the
anomalous situation then obtaining". . . where voters of one component city cannot vote simply because their
charters so provide." 21 Thus, Congress amended other charters of component cities prohibiting their people from
voting in provincial elections.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is granted. Republic Act No. 8528 is declared unconstitutional and the writ of
prohibition is hereby issued commanding the respondents to desist from implementing said law.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 203974 April 22, 2014

AURELIO M. UMALI, Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, JULIUS CESAR V. VERGARA, and THE CITY GOVERNMENT OF
CABANATUAN, Respondents.

x-----------------------x

G.R. No. 204371

J.V. BAUTISTA, Petitioner,


vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, Respondent.

DECISION

VELASCO, JR., J.:

Before the Court is the consolidated case for Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with prayer for injunctive relief,
docket as G.R. No. 203974, assailing Minute Resolution No. 12-07971 and Minute Resolution No. 12-09252 dated
September 11, 2012 and October 16, 2012, respectively, both promulgated by public respondent Commission on
Elections (COMELEC), and Petition for Mandamus, docketed G.R. No. 204371, seeking to compel public
respondent to implement the same.

The Facts

On July 11, 2011, the Sangguniang Panglungsod of Cabanatuan City passed Resolution No. 183-2011, requesting
the President to declare the conversion of Cabanatuan City from a component city of the province of Nueva Ecija
into a highly urbanized city (HUC). Acceding to the request, the President issued Presidential Proclamation No. 418,
Series of 2012, proclaiming the City of Cabanatuan as an HUC subject to "ratification in a plebiscite by the qualified
voters therein, as provided for in Section 453 of the Local Government Code of 1991."

Respondent COMELEC, acting on the proclamation, issued the assailed Minute Resolution No. 12-0797 which
reads:

WHEREFORE, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, that for purposes of the plebiscite for the
conversion of Cabanatuan City from component city to highly-urbanized city, only those registered residents of
Cabanatuan City should participate in the said plebiscite.

The COMELEC based this resolution on Sec. 453 of the Local Government Code of 1991 (LGC), citing conversion
cases involving Puerto Princesa City in Palawan, Tacloban City in Southern Leyte, and Lapu-Lapu City in Cebu,
where only the residents of the city proposed to be converted were allowed to vote in the corresponding plebiscite.

In due time, petitioner Aurelio M. Umali, Governor of Nueva Ecija, filed a Verified Motion for Reconsideration,
maintaining that the proposed conversion in question will necessarily and directly affect the mother province of
Nueva Ecija. His main argument is that Section 453 of the LGC should be interpreted in conjunction with Sec. 10,
Art. X of the Constitution. He argues that while the conversion in question does not involve the creation of a new or
the dissolution of an existing city, the spirit of the Constitutional provision calls for the people of the local government
unit (LGU) directly affected to vote in a plebiscite whenever there is a material change in their rights and
responsibilities. The phrase "qualified voters therein" used in Sec. 453 of the LGC should then be interpreted to refer
to the qualified voters of the units directly affected by the conversion and not just those in the component city
proposed to be upgraded. Petitioner Umali justified his position by enumerating the various adverse effects of the
Cabanatuan Citys conversion and how it will cause material change not only in the political and economic rights of
the city and its residents but also of the province as a whole.
To the Verified Motion for Reconsideration, private respondent Julius Cesar Vergara, city mayor of Cabanatuan,
interposed an opposition on the ground that Sec. 10, Art. X does not apply to conversions, which is the meat of the
matter. He likewise argues that a specific provision of the LGC, Sec. 453, as couched, allows only the qualified
voters of Cabanatuan City to vote in the plebiscite. Lastly, private respondent pointed out that when Santiago City
was converted in 1994 from a municipality to an independent component city pursuant to Republic Act No. (RA)
7720, the plebiscite held was limited to the registered voters of the then municipality of Santiago.

Following a hearing conducted on October 4, 2012,3 the COMELEC En Banc on October 16, 2012, in E.M No. 12-
045 (PLEB), by a vote of 5-24 ruled in favor of respondent Vergara through the assailed Minute Resolution 12-0925.
The dispositive portion reads:

The Commission, taking into consideration the arguments of counsels including the Reply-memorandum of
Oppositor, after due deliberation, RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, as follows:

1) To DENY the Motion for Reconsideration of oppositor Governor Aurelio M. Umali; and

2) To SCHEDULE the conduct of Plebiscite for the conversion of Cabanatuan City from component city into
highly-urbanized city with registered residents only of Cabanatuan City to participate in said plebiscite.

Let the Deputy Executive Director for Operations implement this resolution.

SO ORDERED.

Hence, the Petition for Certiorari with prayer for injunctive relief, docketed as G.R. No. 203974, on substantially the
same arguments earlier taken by petitioner Umali before the poll body. On the other hand, public respondent
COMELEC, through the Office of the Solicitor General, maintained in its Comment that Cabanatuan City is merely
being converted from a component city into an HUC and that the political unit directly affected by the conversion will
only be the city itself. It argues that in this instance, no political unit will be created, merged with another, or will be
removed from another LGU, and that no boundaries will be altered. The conversion would merely reinforce the
powers and prerogatives already being exercised by the city, with the political units probable elevation to that of an
HUC as demanded by its compliance with the criteria established under the LGC. Thus, the participation of the
voters of the entire province in the plebiscite will not be necessary.

Private respondent will later manifest that it is adopting the Comment of the COMELEC.

Meanwhile, on October 25, 2012, respondent COMELEC promulgated Resolution No. 9543, which adopted a
calendar of activities and periods of prohibited acts in connection with the conversion of Cabanatuan City into an
HUC. The Resolution set the conduct of the plebiscite on December 1, 2012. Thereafter, a certain Dr. Rodolfo B.
Punzalan filed a Petition for Declaratory Relief which was raffled to the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 40 in
Palayan City. In the said case, Punzalan prayed that Minute Resolution No. 12-0797 be declared unconstitutional,
that the trial court decree that all qualified voters of the province of Nueva Ecija be included in the plebiscite, and
that a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) be issued enjoining public respondent from implementing the questioned
resolution. On October 19, 2012, the RTC granted the prayer for a TRO.

On November 6, 2012, public respondent through Minute Resolution No. 12-0989 suspended the preparations for
the event in view of the TRO issued by the RTC. On November 27, 2012, the plebiscite was once again rescheduled
to give way to the May 13, 2013 national, local and ARMM regional elections as per Resolution No. 9563.

After this development, petitioner J.V. Bautista, on December 3, 2012, filed a case before this Court for Mandamus,
docketed as G.R. No. 204371, praying that public respondent be ordered to schedule the plebiscite either on
December 15 or 22, 2012. Petitioner Bautista argued that since the TRO issued by the RTC has already expired,
the duty of the public respondent to hold the plebiscite has become mandatory and ministerial. Petitioner Bautista
also alleged that the delay in holding the plebiscite is inexcusable given the requirement that it should be held within
a period of 120 days form the date of the Presidents declaration.

In its Comment to the Bautista petition, public respondent justified its position by arguing that mandamus will not
issue to enforce a right which is in substantial dispute. With all the legal conflicts surrounding the case, it cannot be
said that there is a clear showing of petitioner Bautistas entitlement to the relief sought. Respondent COMELEC
likewise relied on Sec. 5 of the Omnibus Election Code to justify the postponements, citing incidents of violence that
ensued in the locality during the plebiscite period.

After the conclusion of the 2013 elections, public respondent issued Resolution No. 1353 scheduling the plebiscite
to January 25, 2014. However, a TRO was issued by this Court on January 15, 2014 in G.R. No. 203974 to suspend
the conduct of the plebiscite for Cabanatuan Citys conversion. Given the intertwining factual milieu of the two
petitions before the Court, both cases were consolidated on March 18, 2014.

The Issue

The bone of contention in the present controversy boils down to whether the qualified registered voters of the entire
province of Nueva Ecija or only those in Cabanatuan City can participate in the plebiscite called for the conversion
of Cabanatuan City from a component city into an HUC.

Resolving the Petition for Certiorari either way will necessarily render the Petition for Mandamus moot and academic
for ultimately, the public respondent will be ordered to hold the plebiscite. The only variation will be as regards its
participants.

The Courts Ruling

The Petition for Certiorari is meritorious.

Sec. 453 of the LGC should be interpreted in accordance with Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution

Petitioner Umali asseverates that Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution should be the basis for determining the qualified
voters who will participate in the plebiscite to resolve the issue. Sec. 10, Art. X reads:

Section 10, Article X. 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. (emphasis
supplied)

Petitioner Umali elucidates that the phrase "political units directly affected" necessarily encompasses not only
Cabanatuan City but the entire province of Nueva Ecija. Hence, all the registered voters in the province are qualified
to cast their votes in resolving the proposed conversion of Cabanatuan City.

On the other hand, respondents invoke Sec. 453 of the LGC to support their claim that only the City of Cabanatuan
should be allowed to take part in the voting. Sec. 453 states:

Section 453. Duty to Declare Highly Urbanized Status. It shall be the duty of the President to declare a city as
highly urbanized within thirty (30) days after it shall have met the minimum requirements prescribed in the
immediately preceding Section, upon proper application therefor and ratification in a plebiscite by the qualified
voters therein. (emphasis supplied)

Respondents take the phrase "registered voters therein" in Sec. 453 as referring only to the registered voters in the
city being converted, excluding in the process the voters in the remaining towns and cities of Nueva Ecija.

Before proceeding to unravel the seeming conflict between the two provisions, it is but proper that we ascertain first
the relationship between Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution and Sec. 453 of the LGC.

First of all, we have to restate the general principle that legislative power cannot be delegated. Nonetheless, the
general rule barring delegation is subject to certain exceptions allowed in the Constitution, namely:

(1) Delegation by Congress to the President of the power to fix "tariff rates, import and export quotas,
tonnage and wharfage dues, and other duties or imposts within the framework of the national development
program of the Government" under Section 28(2) of Article VI of the Constitution; and
(2) Delegation of emergency powers by Congress to the President "to exercise powers necessary and
proper to carry out a declared national policy" in times of war and other national emergency under Section
23(2) of Article VI of the Constitution.

The power to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities or
barangays, which is pertinent in the case at bar, is essentially legislative in nature.5 The framers of the Constitution
have, however, allowed for the delegation of such power in Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution as long as (1) the
criteria prescribed in the LGC is met and (2) the creation, division, merger, abolition or the substantial alteration of
the boundaries is subject to the approval by a majority vote in a plebiscite.

True enough, Congress delegated such power to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or Sangguniang Panlungsod to
create barangays pursuant to Sec. 6 of the LGC, which provides:

Section 6. Authority to Create Local Government Units. - A local government unit may be created, divided, merged,
abolished, or its boundaries substantially altered either by law enacted by Congress in the case of a province, city,
municipality, or any other political subdivision, or by ordinance passed by the sangguniang panlalawigan or
sangguniang panlungsod concerned in the case of a barangay located within its territorial jurisdiction, subject to
such limitations and requirements prescribed in this Code." (emphasis supplied)

The guidelines for the exercise of this authority have sufficiently been outlined by the various LGC provisions
detailing the requirements for the creation of barangays6, municipalities7, cities8, and provinces9. Moreover,
compliance with the plebiscite requirement under the Constitution has also been directed by the LGC under its Sec.
10, which reads:

Section 10. Plebiscite Requirement. No creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries
of local government units shall take effect unless approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for
the purpose in the political unit or units directly affected." (emphasis supplied)

With the twin criteria of standard and plebiscite satisfied, the delegation to LGUs of the power to create, divide,
merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries has become a recognized exception to the doctrine of non-
delegation of legislative powers.

Likewise, legislative power was delegated to the President under Sec. 453 of the LGC quoted earlier, which states:

Section 453. Duty to Declare Highly Urbanized Status. It shall be the duty of the President to declare a city as
highly urbanized within thirty (30) days after it shall have met the minimum requirements prescribed in the
immediately preceding Section, upon proper application therefor and ratification in a plebiscite by the qualified
voters therein.

In this case, the provision merely authorized the President to make a determination on whether or not the
requirements under Sec. 45210 of the LGC are complied with. The provision makes it ministerial for the President,
upon proper application, to declare a component city as highly urbanized once the minimum requirements, which
are based on certifiable and measurable indices under Sec. 452, are satisfied. The mandatory language "shall" used
in the provision leaves the President with no room for discretion.

In so doing, Sec. 453, in effect, automatically calls for the conduct of a plebiscite for purposes of conversions once
the requirements are met. No further legislation is necessary before the city proposed to be converted becomes
eligible to become an HUC through ratification, as the basis for the delegation of the legislative authority is the very
LGC.

In view of the foregoing considerations, the Court concludes that the source of the delegation of power to the LGUs
under Sec. 6 of the LGC and to the President under Sec. 453 of the same code is none other than Sec. 10, Art. X of
the Constitution.

Respondents, however, posit that Sec. 453 of the LGC is actually outside the ambit of Sec. 10, Art. X of the
Constitution, considering that the conversion of a component city to an HUC is not "creation, division, merge,
abolition or substantial alternation of boundaries" encompassed by the said constitutional provision.
This proposition is bereft of merit.

First, the Courts pronouncement in Miranda vs. Aguirre11 is apropos and may be applied by analogy. While Miranda
involves the downgrading, instead of upgrading, as here, of an independent component city into a component city,
its application to the case at bar is nonetheless material in ascertaining the proper treatment of conversions. In that
seminal case, the Court held that the downgrading of an independent component city into a component city comes
within the purview of Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution.

In Miranda, the rationale behind the afore-quoted constitutional provision and its application to cases of conversion
were discussed thusly:

A close analysis of the said constitutional provision will reveal that the creation, division, merger, abolition or
substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units involve a common denominator - - - material change in
the political and economic rights of the local government units directly affected as well as the people therein. It is
precisely for this reason that the Constitution requires the approval of the people "in the political units directly
affected." It is not difficult to appreciate the rationale of this constitutional requirement. The 1987 Constitution, more
than any of our previous Constitutions, gave more reality to the sovereignty of our people for it was borne out of the
people power in the 1986 EDSA revolution. Its Section 10, Article X addressed the undesirable practice in the past
whereby local government units were created, abolished, merged or divided on the basis of the vagaries of politics
and not of the welfare of the people. Thus, the consent of the people of the local government unit directly affected
was required to serve as a checking mechanism to any exercise of legislative power creating, dividing, abolishing,
merging or altering the boundaries of local government units. It is one instance where the people in their sovereign
capacity decide on a matter that affects them - - - direct democracy of the people as opposed to democracy thru
peoples representatives. This plebiscite requirement is also in accord with the philosophy of the Constitution
granting more autonomy to local government units.12

It was determined in the case that the changes that will result from the conversion are too substantial that there is a
necessity for the plurality of those that will be affected to approve it. Similar to the enumerated acts in the
constitutional provision, conversions were found to result in material changes in the economic and political rights of
the people and LGUs affected. Given the far-reaching ramifications of converting the status of a city, we held that
the plebiscite requirement under the constitutional provision should equally apply to conversions as well. Thus, RA
852813 was declared unconstitutional in Miranda on the ground that the law downgraded Santiago City in Isabela
without submitting it for ratification in a plebiscite, in contravention of Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution.

Second, while conversion to an HUC is not explicitly provided in Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution we nevertheless
observe that the conversion of a component city into an HUC is substantial alteration of boundaries.

As the phrase implies, "substantial alteration of boundaries" involves and necessarily entails a change in the
geographical configuration of a local government unit or units. However, the phrase "boundaries" should not be
limited to the mere physical one, referring to the metes and bounds of the LGU, but also to its political boundaries. It
also connotes a modification of the demarcation lines between political subdivisions, where the LGUs exercise of
corporate power ends and that of the other begins. And as a qualifier, the alteration must be "substantial" for it to be
within the ambit of the constitutional provision.

Pertinent is Art. 12(c) of the LGCs Implementing Rules and Regulations, which reads:

Art. 12. Conversion of a Component City into a Highly Urbanized City.

xxxx

(c) Effect of Conversion The conversion of a component city into a highly-urbanized city shall make it independent
of the province where it is geographically located. (emphasis added)

Verily, the upward conversion of a component city, in this case Cabanatuan City, into an HUC will come at a steep
price. It can be gleaned from the above-cited rule that the province will inevitably suffer a corresponding decrease in
territory brought about by Cabanatuan Citys gain of independence. With the citys newfound autonomy, it will be
free from the oversight powers of the province, which, in effect, reduces the territorial jurisdiction of the latter. What
once formed part of Nueva Ecija will no longer be subject to supervision by the province. In more concrete terms,
Nueva Ecija stands to lose 282.75 sq. km. of its territorial jurisdiction with Cabanatuan Citys severance from its
mother province. This is equivalent to carving out almost 5% of Nueva Ecijas 5,751.3 sq. km. area. This sufficiently
satisfies the requirement that the alteration be "substantial."

Needless to stress, the alteration of boundaries would necessarily follow Cabanatuan Citys conversion in the same
way that creations, divisions, mergers, and abolitions generally cannot take place without entailing the alteration.
The enumerated acts, after all, are not mutually exclusive, and more often than not, a combination of these acts
attends the reconfiguration of LGUs.

In light of the foregoing disquisitions, the Court rules that conversion to an HUC is substantial alternation of
boundaries governed by Sec. 10, Art. X and resultantly, said provision applies, governs and prevails over Sec. 453
of the LGC.

Moreover, the rules of statutory construction dictate that a particular provision should be interpreted with the other
relevant provisions in the law The Court finds that it is actually Sec. 10 of the LGC which is undeniably the
applicable provision on the conduct of plebiscites. The title of the provision itself, "Plebiscite Requirement", makes
this obvious. It requires a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose in the political unit or units
directly affected. On the other hand, Sec. 453 of the LGC, entitled "Duty to Declare Highly Urbanized Status", is only
on the duty to declare a city as highly urbanized. It mandates the Office of the President to make the declaration
after the city has met the requirements under Sec. 452, and upon proper application and ratification in a plebiscite.
The conduct of a plebiscite is then a requirement before a declaration can be made. Thus, the Court finds that Sec.
10 of the LGC prevails over Sec. 453 of the LGC on the plebiscite requirement.

We now take the bull by the horns and resolve the issue whether Sec. 453 of the LGC trenches on Sec. 10, Art. X of
the Constitution.

Hornbook doctrine is that neither the legislative, the executive, nor the judiciary has the power to act beyond the
Constitutions mandate. The Constitution is supreme; any exercise of power beyond what is circumscribed by the
Constitution is ultra vires and a nullity. As elucidated by former Chief Justice Enrique Fernando in Fernandez v.
Cuerva:14

Where the assailed legislative or executive act is found by the judiciary to be contrary to the Constitution, it is null
and void. As the new Civil Code puts it: "When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the Constitution, the
former shall be void and the latter shall govern." Administrative or executive acts, orders and regulations shall be
valid only when they are not contrary to the laws or the Constitution. The above provision of the civil Code reflects
the orthodox view that an unconstitutional act, whether legislative or executive, is not a law, confers no rights,
imposes no duties, and affords no protection. x x x

Applying this orthodox view, a law should be construed in harmony with and not in violation of the Constitution.15 In a
long line of cases, the cardinal principle of construction established is that a statute should be interpreted to assure
its being in consonance with, rather than repugnant to, any constitutional command or prescription.16 If there is doubt
or uncertainty as to the meaning of the legislative, if the words or provisions are obscure or if the enactment is fairly
susceptible of two or more constitution, that interpretation which will avoid the effect of unconstitutionality will be
adopted, even though it may be necessary, for this purpose, to disregard the more usual or apparent import of the
language used.17

Pursuant to established jurisprudence, the phrase "by the qualified voters therein" in Sec. 453 should be construed
in a manner that will avoid conflict with the Constitution. If one takes the plain meaning of the phrase in relation to
the declaration by the President that a city is an HUC, then, Sec. 453 of the LGC will clash with the explicit provision
under Sec. 10, Art. X that the voters in the "political units directly affected" shall participate in the plebiscite. Such
construction should be avoided in view of the supremacy of the Constitution. Thus, the Court treats the phrase "by
the qualified voters therein" in Sec. 453 to mean the qualified voters not only in the city proposed to be converted to
an HUC but also the voters of the political units directly affected by such conversion in order to harmonize Sec. 453
with Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution.
The Court finds that respondents are mistaken in construing Sec. 453 in a vacuum. Their interpretation of Sec. 453
of the LGC runs afoul of Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution which explicitly requires that all residents in the "political
units directly affected" should be made to vote.

Respondents make much of the plebiscites conducted in connection with the conversion of Puerto Princesa City,
Tacloban City and Lapu-Lapu City where the ratification was made by the registered voters in said cities alone. It is
clear, however, that the issue of who are entitled to vote in said plebiscites was not properly raised or brought up in
an actual controversy. The issue on who will vote in a plebiscite involving a conversion into an HUC is a novel issue,
and this is the first time that the Court is asked to resolve the question. As such, the past plebiscites in the
aforementioned cities have no materiality or relevance to the instant petition. Suffice it to say that conversion of said
cities prior to this judicial declaration will not be affected or prejudiced in any manner following the operative fact
doctrinethat the actual existence of a statute prior to such a determination is an operative fact and may have
consequences which cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.18

The entire province of Nueva Ecija will be directly


affected by Cabanatuan Citys conversion

After the Court has resolved the seeming irreconcilability of Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution and Sec. 453 of the
LGC, it is now time to elucidate the meaning of the phrase "political units directly affected" under Sec. 10, Art. X.

a. "Political units directly affected" defined

In identifying the LGU or LGUs that should be allowed to take part in the plebiscite, what should primarily be
determined is whether or not the unit or units that desire to participate will be "directly affected" by the change. To
interpret the phrase, Tan v. COMELEC19 and Padilla v. COMELEC20 are worth revisiting.

We have ruled in Tan, involving the division of Negros Occidental for the creation of the new province of Negros del
Norte, that the LGUs whose boundaries are to be altered and whose economy would be affected are entitled to
participate in the plebiscite. As held:

It can be plainly seen that the aforecited constitutional provision makes it imperative that there be first obtained "the
approval of a majority of votes in the plebiscite in the unit or units affected" whenever a province is created, divided
or merged and there is substantial alteration of the boundaries. It is thus inescapable to conclude that the
boundaries of the existing province of Negros Occidental would necessarily be substantially altered by the division
of its existing boundaries in order that there can be created the proposed new province of Negros del Norte. Plain
and simple logic will demonstrate than that two political units would be affected.

The first would be the parent province of Negros Occidental because its boundaries would be substantially altered.
The other affected entity would be composed of those in the area subtracted from the mother province to constitute
the proposed province of Negros del Norte.21

xxxx

To form the new province of Negros del Norte no less than three cities and eight municipalities will be subtracted
from the parent province of Negros Occidental. This will result in the removal of approximately 2,768.4 square
kilometers from the land area of an existing province whose boundaries will be consequently substantially altered. It
becomes easy to realize that the consequent effects of the division of the parent province necessarily will affect all
the people living in the separate areas of Negros Occidental and the proposed province of Negros del Norte. The
economy of the parent province as well as that of the new province will be inevitably affected, either for the better or
for the worse. Whatever be the case, either or both of these political groups will be affected and they are, therefore,
the unit or units referred to in Section 3 of Article XI of the Constitution which must be included in the plebiscite
contemplated therein.22 (emphasis added)

Sec. 3, Art. XI of the 1973 Constitution, as invoked in Tan, states:


SEC. 3. No province, city, municipality or barrio 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
the approval by a majority of the votes in a plebiscite in the unit or units affected. (emphasis added)

Despite the change in phraseology compared to what is now Sec. 10, Art. X, we affirmed our ruling in Tan in the
latter case of Padilla. As held, the removal of the phrase "unit or" only served to sustain the earlier finding that what
is contemplated by the phase "political units directly affected" is the plurality of political units which would participate
in the plebiscite. As reflected in the journal of the Constitutional Commission:23

Mr. Maambong: While we have already approved the deletion of "unit or," I would like to inform the Committee that
under the formulation in the present Local Government Code, the words used are actually "political unit or units."
However, I do not know the implication of the use of these words. Maybe there will be no substantial difference, but I
just want to inform the Committee about this.

Mr. Nolledo: Can we not adhere to the original "unit or units"? Will there be no objection on the part of the two
Gentlemen from the floor?

Mr. Davide: I would object. I precisely asked for the deletion of the words "unit or" because in the plebiscite to be
conducted, it must involve all the units affected. If it is the creation of a barangay plebiscite because it is affected. It
would mean a loss of a territory. (emphasis added)

The same sentiment was shared by the Senate during its deliberations on Senate Bill No. 155the predecessor of
the LGCthus:

Senator Guingona. Can we make that clearer by example? Let us assume that a province has municipalities and
there is a merger of two municipalities. Would this therefore mean that the plebiscite will be conducted within the two
merged municipalities and not in the eight other municipalities?

Senator Pimentel. The whole province, Mr. President, will be affected, and that is the reason we probably have to
involve the entire province.

Senator Guingona. So the plebiscite will not be held only in the two municipalities which are being merged, but the
entire province will now have to undergo.

Senator Pimentel. I suppose that was the ruling in the Negros del Norte case.

Senator Guingona. Supposing it refers to barangays, will the entire municipality have to vote? There are two
barangays being merged, say, out of 100 barangays. Would the entire municipality have to participate in the
plebiscite?

Senator Pimentel. Yes, Mr. President, because the municipality is affected directly by the merger of two of its
barangay.

Senator Guingona. And, if, out of 100 barangay, 51 are being merged, abolished, whatever, would the rest of the
municipality not participate in the plebiscite?

Senator Pimentel. Do all the 51 barangay that the Gentleman mentioned, Mr. President, belong to one municipality?

Senator Guingona. Yes.

Senator Pimentel. Then it will only involve the municipality where the 51 barangays belong.

Senator Guingona. Yes. So, the entire municipality will now have to undergo a plebiscite.

Senator Pimentel. That is correct, Mr. President.


Senator Guingona. In the earlier example, if it is only a merger of two municipalities, let us say, in a province with 10
municipalities the entire province will the other municipalities although not affected also have to participate in the
plebiscite?

Senator Pimentel. Yes. The reason is that the municipalities are within the territorial boundaries of the province
itself, it will have to be altered as a result of the two municipalities that the Gentleman mentioned.24

In the more recent case of Miranda, the interpretation in Tan and Padilla was modified to include not only changes in
economic but also political rights in the criteria for determining whether or not an LGU shall be considered "directly
affected." Nevertheless, the requirement that the plebiscite be participated in by the plurality of political units directly
affected remained.

b. Impact on Economic Rights

To recall, it was held in Miranda that the changes that will result in the downgrading of an LGU from an independent
component city to a component city cannot be categorized as insubstantial, thereby necessitating the conduct of a
plebiscite for its ratification. In a similar fashion, herein petitioner Umali itemized the adverse effects of Cabanatuan
Citys conversion to the province of Nueva Ecija to justify the provinces participation in the plebiscite to be
conducted.

Often raised is that Cabanatuan Citys conversion into an HUC and its severance from Nueva Ecija will result in the
reduction of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) to the province based on Sec. 285 of the LGC. The law states:

Section 285. Allocation to Local Government Units. - The share of local government units in the internal revenue
allotment shall be collected in the following manner:

(a) Provinces - Twenty-three percent (23%);

(b) Cities - Twenty-three percent (23%);

(c) Municipalities - Thirty-four percent (34%); and

(d) Barangays - Twenty percent (20%)

Provided, however, That the share of each province, city, and municipality shall be determined on the basis of the
following formula:

(a) Population - Fifty percent (50%);

(b) Land Area - Twenty-five percent (25%); and

(c) Equal sharing - Twenty-five percent (25%)

In our earlier disquisitions, we have explained that the conversion into an HUC carries the accessory of substantial
alteration of boundaries and that the province of Nueva Ecija will, without a doubt, suffer a reduction in territory
because of the severance of Cabanatuan City. The residents of the city will cease to be political constituencies of
the province, effectively reducing the latters population. Taking this decrease in territory and population in
connection with the above formula, it is conceded that Nueva Ecija will indeed suffer a reduction in IRA given the
decrease of its multipliers values. As assessed by the Regional Director of the Department of Budget and
Management (DBM) for Region III:25
Basis for IRA Province of Cabanatuan Province of
Computation Nueva Ecija City Nueva Ecija Net
of Cabanatuan
City

No. of Population 1,843,853 259,267 259,267


CY 2007 Census

Land Area 5,751.33 282.75 5,468.58


(sq. km.)

IRA Share of Actual IRA Estimated IRA Reduction


Nueva Ecija Share share excluding
Cabanatuan
City

Based on P800,772,618.45 P688,174,751.66 P112,597,866.79


Population

Based on Land P263,470,472.62 P250,517,594.56 P 12,952,878.06


Area

Total P125,550,744.85

Clear as crystal is that the province of Nueva Ecija will suffer a substantial reduction of its share in IRA once
Cabanatuan City attains autonomy. In view of the economic impact of Cabanatuan Citys conversion, petitioner
Umalis contention, that its effect on the province is not only direct but also adverse, deserves merit.

Moreover, his claim that the province will lose shares in provincial taxes imposed in Cabanatuan City is well-
founded. This is based on Sec. 151 of the LGC, which states:

SECTION 151. Scope of Taxing Powers. Except as otherwise provided in this Code, the city, may levy the taxes,
fees, and charges which the province or municipality may impose: Provided, however, That the taxes, fees and
charges levied and collected by highly urbanized and independent component cities shall accrue to them and
distributed in accordance with the provisions of this Code. (emphasis added)

Once converted, the taxes imposed by the HUC will accrue to itself. Prior to this, the province enjoys the prerogative
to impose and collect taxes such as those on sand, gravel and other quarry resources,26 professional taxes,27 and
amusement taxes28 over the component city. While, it may be argued that this is not a derogation of the provinces
taxing power because it is in no way deprived of its right to collect the mentioned taxes from the rest of its territory,
the conversion will still reduce the provinces taxing jurisdiction, and corollary to this, it will experience a
corresponding decrease in shares in local tax collections. This reduction in both taxing jurisdiction and shares poses
a material and substantial change to the provinces economic rights, warranting its participation in the plebiscite.

To further exemplify the impact of these changes, a perusal of Secs. 452(a) and 461(a) of the LGC is in order, viz:

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 within 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.
Section 461. Requisites for Creation.

(a) A province may be created if it has an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of not
less than Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) based on 1991 constant prices and either of the following
requisites:

(i) a contiguous territory of at least two thousand (2,000) square kilometers, as certified by the Lands
Management Bureau; or

(ii) a population of not less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) inhabitants as certified by the National
Statistics Office:

Provided, That, the creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population, and income of the original unit or
units at the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein.

A component citys conversion into an HUC and its resultant autonomy from the province is a threat to the latters
economic viability. Noteworthy is that the income criterion for a component city to be converted into an HUC is
higher than the income requirement for the creation of a province. The ensuing reduction in income upon separation
would clearly leave a crippling effect on the provinces operations as there would be less funding to finance
infrastructure projects and to defray overhead costs. Moreover, the quality of services being offered by the province
may suffer because of looming austerity measures. These are but a few of the social costs of the decline in the
provinces economic performance, which Nueva Ecija is bound to experience once its most progressive city of
Cabanatuan attains independence.

c. Impact on Political Rights

Aside from the alteration of economic rights, the political rights of Nueva Ecija and those of its residents will also be
affected by Cabanatuans conversion into an HUC. Notably, the administrative supervision of the province over the
city will effectively be revoked upon conversion. Secs. 4 and 12, Art. X of the Constitution read:

Sec. 4. The President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments. Provinces with
respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays
shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions.

Sec 12. Cities that are highly urbanized, as determined by law, and component cities whose charters prohibit their
voters from voting for provincial elective officials, shall be independent of the province. The voters of component
cities within a province, whose charters contain no such prohibition, shall not be deprived of their right to vote for
elective provincial officials.

Duties, privileges and obligations appertaining to HUCs will attach to Cabanatuan City if it is converted into an HUC.
This includes the right to be outside the general supervision of the province and be under the direct supervision of
the President. An HUC is not subject to provincial oversight because the complex and varied problems in an HUC
due to a bigger population and greater economic activity require greater autonomy.29 The provincial government
stands to lose the power to ensure that the local government officials of Cabanatuan City act within the scope of its
prescribed powers and functions,30 to review executive orders issued by the city mayor, and to approve resolutions
and ordinances enacted by the city council.31 The province will also be divested of jurisdiction over disciplinary cases
concerning the elected city officials of the new HUC, and the appeal process for administrative case decisions
against barangay officials of the city will also be modified accordingly.32 Likewise, the registered voters of the city will
no longer be entitled to vote for and be voted upon as provincial officials.33

In cutting the umbilical cord between Cabanatuan City and the province of Nueva Ecija, the city will be separated
from the territorial jurisdiction of the province, as earlier explained. The provincial government will no longer be
responsible for delivering basic services for the city residents benefit. Ordinances and resolutions passed by the
provincial council will no longer cover the city. Projects queued by the provincial government to be executed in the
city will also be suspended if not scrapped to prevent the LGU from performing functions outside the bounds of its
territorial jurisdiction, and from expending its limited resources for ventures that do not cater to its constituents.
1wphi1
In view of these changes in the economic and political rights of the province of Nueva Ecija and its residents, the
entire province certainly stands to be directly affected by the conversion of Cabanatuan City into an HUC. Following
the doctrines in Tan and Padilla, all the qualified registered voters of Nueva Ecija should then be allowed to
participate in the plebiscite called for that purpose.

Respondents apprehension that requiring the entire province to participate in the plebiscite will set a dangerous
precedent leading to the failure of cities to convert is unfounded. Their fear that provinces will always be expected to
oppose the conversion in order to retain the citys dependence is speculative at best. In any event, any vote of
disapproval cast by those directly affected by the conversion is a valid exercise of their right to suffrage, and our
democratic processes are designed to uphold the decision of the majority, regardless of the motive behind the vote.
It is unfathomable how the province can be deprived of the opportunity to exercise the right of suffrage in a matter
that is potentially deleterious to its economic viability and could diminish the rights of its constituents. To limit the
plebiscite to only the voters of the areas to be partitioned and seceded from the province is as absurd and illogical
as allowing only the secessionists to vote for the secession that they demanded against the wishes of the majority
and to nullify the basic principle of majority rule.34

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Petition for Certiorari, docketed as G.R. No. 203974, is hereby
GRANTED. COMELEC Minute Resolution No. 12-0797 dated September 11, 2012 and Minute Resolution No. 12-
0925 dated October 16, 2012 are hereby declared NULL and VOID. Public respondent COMELEC is hereby
enjoined from implementing the said Resolutions. Additionally, COMELEC is hereby ordered to conduct a plebiscite
for the purpose of converting Cabanatuan City into a Highly Urbanized City to be participated in by the qualified
registered voters of Nueva Ecij a within 120 days from the finality of this Decision. The Petition for Mandamus,
docketed as G.R. No. 204371, is hereby DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 118577 March 7, 1995

JUANITO MARIANO, JR. et al., petitioners,


vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, THE MUNICIPALITY OF MAKATI, HON. JEJOMAR BINAY, THE
MUNICIPAL TREASURER, AND SANGGUNIANG BAYAN OF MAKATI, respondents.

G.R. No. 118627 March 7, 1995

JOHN R. OSMEA, petitioner,


vs.
THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, THE MUNICIPALITY OF MAKATI, HON. JEJOMAR BINAY, MUNICIPAL
TREASURER, AND SANGGUNIANG BAYAN OF MAKATI, respondents.

PUNO, J.:

At bench are two (2) petitions assailing certain provisions of Republic Act No. 7854 as unconstitutional. R.A. No.
7854 as unconstitutional. R.A. No. 7854 is entitled, "An Act Converting the Municipality of Makati Into a Highly
Urbanized City to be known as the City of Makati." 1

G.R. No. 118577 involves a petition for prohibition and declaratory relief. It was filed by petitioners Juanito Mariano,
Jr., Ligaya S. Bautista, Teresita Tibay, Camilo Santos, Frankie Cruz, Ricardo Pascual, Teresita Abang, Valentina
Pitalvero, Rufino Caldoza, Florante Alba, and Perfecto Alba. Of the petitioners, only Mariano, Jr., is a resident of
Makati. The others are residents of Ibayo Ususan, Taguig, Metro Manila. Suing as taxpayers, they assail as
unconstitutional sections 2, 51, and 52 of R.A. No. 7854 on the following grounds:

1. Section 2 of R.A. No. 7854 did not properly identify the land area or territorial jurisdiction of Makati by
metes and bounds, with technical descriptions, in violation of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution, in
relation to Sections 7 and 450 of the Local Government Code;

2. Section 51 of R.A. No. 7854 attempts to alter or restart the "three consecutive term" limit for local
elective officials, in violation of Section 8, Article X and Section 7, Article VI of the Constitution.

3. Section 52 of R.A. No. 7854 is unconstitutional for:

(a) it increased the legislative district of Makati only by special law (the Charter in violation of
the constitutional provision requiring a general reapportionment law to be passed by
Congress within three (3) years following the return of every census;

(b) the increase in legislative district was not expressed in the title of the bill; and

(c) the addition of another legislative district in Makati is not in accord with Section 5 (3),
Article VI of the Constitution for as of the latest survey (1990 census), the population of
Makati stands at only 450,000.

G.R. No. 118627 was filed by the petitioner John H. Osmea as senator, taxpayer, and concerned citizen. Petitioner
assails section 52 of R.A. No. 7854 as unconstitutional on the same grounds as aforestated.

We find no merit in the petitions.

Section 2, Article I of R.A. No. 7854 delineated the land areas of the proposed city of Makati, thus:
Sec. 2. The City of Makati. The Municipality of Makati shall be converted into a highly urbanized city to
be known as the City of Makati, hereinafter referred to as the City, which shall comprise the present
territory of the Municipality of Makati in Metropolitan Manila Area over which it has jurisdiction bounded on
the northeast by Pasig River and beyond by the City of Mandaluyong and the Municipality of Pasig; on the
southeast by the municipalities of Pateros and Taguig; on the southwest by the City of Pasay and the
Municipality of Taguig; and, on the northwest, by the City of Manila.

The foregoing provision shall be without prejudice to the resolution by the appropriate agency or forum of
existing boundary disputes or cases involving questions of territorial jurisdiction between the City of Makati
and the adjoining local government units. (Emphasis supplied)

In G.R. No. 118577, petitioners claim that this delineation violates sections 7 and 450 of the Local Government
Code which require that the area of a local government unit should be made by metes and bounds with technical
descriptions. 2

The importance of drawing with precise strokes the territorial boundaries of a local unit of government cannot be
overemphasized. The boundaries must be clear for they define the limits of the territorial jurisdiction of a local
government unit. It can legitimately exercise powers of government only within the limits, its acts are ultra vires.
Needless to state, any uncertainty in the boundaries of local government units will sow costly conflicts in the
exercise of governmental powers which ultimately will prejudice the people's welfare. This is the evil sought to
avoided by the Local Government Code in requiring that the land area of a local government unit must be spelled
out in metes and bounds, with technical descriptions.

Given the facts of the cases at bench, we cannot perceive how this evil can be brought about by the description
made in section 2 of R.A. No. 7854, Petitioners have not demonstrated that the delineation of the land area of the
proposed City of Makati will cause confusion as to its boundaries. We note that said delineation did not change even
by an inch the land area previously covered by Makati as a municipality. Section 2 did not add, subtract, divide, or
multiply the established land area of Makati. In language that cannot be any clearer, section 2 stated that, the city's
land area "shall comprise the present territory of the municipality."

The deliberations of Congress will reveal that there is a legitimate reason why the land area of the proposed City of
Makati was not defined by metes and bounds, with technical descriptions. At the time of the consideration of R.A.
No. 7854, the territorial dispute between the municipalities of Makati and Taguig over Fort Bonifacio was under court
litigation. Out of a becoming sense of respect to co-equal department of government, legislators felt that the dispute
should be left to the courts to decide. They did not want to foreclose the dispute by making a legislative finding of
fact which could decide the issue. This would have ensued if they defined the land area of the proposed city by its
exact metes and bounds, with technical descriptions. 3 We take judicial notice of the fact that Congress has also
refrained from using the metes and bounds description of land areas of other local government units with unsettled
boundary disputes. 4

We hold that the existence of a boundary dispute does not per se present an insurmountable difficulty which will
prevent Congress from defining with reasonable certitude the territorial jurisdiction of a local government unit. In the
cases at bench, Congress maintained the existing boundaries of the proposed City of Makati but as an act of
fairness, made them subject to the ultimate resolution by the courts. Considering these peculiar circumstances, we
are not prepared to hold that section 2 of R.A. No. 7854 is unconstitutional. We sustain the submission of the
Solicitor General in this regard, viz.:

Going now to Sections 7 and 450 of the Local Government Code, it is beyond cavil that the requirement stated
therein, viz.: "the territorial jurisdiction of newly created or converted cities should be described by meted and
bounds, with technical descriptions" was made in order to provide a means by which the area of said cities
may be reasonably ascertained. In other words, the requirement on metes and bounds was meant merely as
tool in the establishment of local government units. It is not an end in itself. Ergo, so long as the territorial
jurisdiction of a city may be reasonably ascertained, i.e., by referring to common boundaries with neighboring
municipalities, as in this case, then, it may be concluded that the legislative intent behind the law has been
sufficiently served.

Certainly, Congress did not intends that laws creating new cities must contain therein detailed technical
descriptions similar to those appearing in Torrens titles, as petitioners seem to imply. To require such
description in the law as a condition sine qua non for its validity would be to defeat the very purpose which the
Local Government Code to seeks to serve. The manifest intent of the Code is to empower local government
units and to give them their rightful due. It seeks to make local governments more responsive to the needs of
their constituents while at the same time serving as a vital cog in national development. To invalidate R.A. No.
7854 on the mere ground that no cadastral type of description was used in the law would serve the letter but
defeat the spirit of the Code. It then becomes a case of the master serving the slave, instead of the other way
around. This could not be the intendment of the law.

Too well settled is the rule that laws must be enforced when ascertained, although it may not be consistent with
the strict letter of the statute. Courts will not follow the letter of the statute when to do so would depart from the
true intent of the legislature or would otherwise yield conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the
act. (Torres v. Limjap, 56 Phil., 141; Taada v. Cuenco, 103 Phil. 1051; Hidalgo v. Hidalgo, 33 SCRA 1105).
Legislation is an active instrument of government, which, for purposes of interpretation, means that laws have
ends to achieve, and statutes should be so construed as not to defeat but to carry out such ends and purposes
(Bocolbo v. Estanislao, 72 SCRA 520). The same rule must indubitably apply to the case at bar.

II

Petitioners in G.R. No. 118577 also assail the constitutionality of section 51, Article X of R.A. No. 7854. Section 51
states:

Sec. 51. Officials of the City of Makati. The represent elective officials of the Municipality of
Makati shall continue as the officials of the City of Makati and shall exercise their powers and
functions until such time that a new election is held and the duly elected officials shall have already
qualified and assume their offices: Provided, The new city will acquire a new corporate existence.
The appointive officials and employees of the City shall likewise continues exercising their functions
and duties and they shall be automatically absorbed by the city government of the City of Makati.

They contend that this section collides with section 8, Article X and section 7, Article VI of the Constitution which
provide:

Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be
determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three
consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered
as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.

xxx xxx xxx

Sec. 7. The Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected for a term of three years
which shall begin, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next
following their election.

No Member of the House of Representatives shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.
Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption
in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.

Petitioners stress that under these provisions, elective local officials, including Members of the House of
Representative, have a term of three (3) years and are prohibited from serving for more than three (3) consecutive
terms. They argue that by providing that the new city shall acquire a new corporate existence, section 51 of R.A. No.
7854 restarts the term of the present municipal elective officials of Makati and disregards the terms previously
served by them. In particular, petitioners point that section 51 favors the incumbent Makati Mayor, respondent
Jejomar Binay, who has already served for two (2) consecutive terms. They further argue that should Mayor Binay
decide to run and eventually win as city mayor in the coming elections, he can still run for the same position in 1998
and seek another three-year consecutive term since his previous three-year consecutive term as municipal
mayor would not be counted. Thus, petitioners conclude that said section 51 has been conveniently crafted to suit
the political ambitions of respondent Mayor Binay.
We cannot entertain this challenge to the constitutionality of section 51. The requirements before a litigant can
challenge the constitutionality of a law are well delineated. They are: 1) there must be an actual case or controversy;
(2) the question of constitutionality must be raised by the proper party; (3) the constitutional question must be raised
at the earliest possible opportunity; and (4) the decision on the constitutional question must be necessary to the
determination of the case itself. 5

Petitioners have far from complied with these requirements. The petition is premised on the occurrence of many
contingent events, i.e., that Mayor Binay will run again in this coming mayoralty elections; that he would be re-
elected in said elections; and that he would seek re-election for the same position in the 1998 elections. Considering
that these contingencies may or may not happen, petitioners merely pose a hypothetical issue which has yet to
ripen to an actual case or controversy. Petitioners who are residents of Taguig (except Mariano) are not also the
proper parties to raise this abstract issue. Worse, they hoist this futuristic issue in a petition for declaratory relief
over which this Court has no jurisdiction.

III

Finally, petitioners in the two (2) cases at bench assail the constitutionality of section 52, Article X of R.A. No. 7854.
Section 52 of the Charter provides:

Sec. 52. Legislative Districts. Upon its conversion into a highly-urbanized city, Makati shall
thereafter have at least two (2) legislative districts that shall initially correspond to the two (2) existing
districts created under Section 3(a) of Republic Act. No. 7166 as implemented by the Commission
on Elections to commence at the next national elections to be held after the effectivity of this Act.
Henceforth, barangays Magallanes, Dasmarias and Forbes shall be with the first district, in lieu of
Barangay Guadalupe-Viejo which shall form part of the second district. (emphasis supplied)

They contend. that the addition of another legislative district in Makati is unconstitutional for: (1)
reapportionment 6cannot made by a special law, (2) the addition of a legislative district is not expressed in the title of the
bill 7 and (3) Makati's population, as per the 1990 census, stands at only four hundred fifty thousand (450,000).

These issues have been laid to rest in the recent case of Tobias v. Abalos. 8 In said case, we ruled that
reapportionment of legislative districts may be made through a special law, such as in the charter of a new city. The
Constitution 9 clearly provides that Congress shall be composed of not more than two hundred fifty (250) members, unless
otherwise fixed by law. As thus worded, the Constitution did not preclude Congress from increasing its membership by
passing a law, other than a general reapportionment of the law. This is its exactly what was done by Congress in enacting
R.A. No. 7854 and providing for an increase in Makati's legislative district. Moreover, to hold that reapportionment can
only be made through a general apportionment law, with a review of all the legislative districts allotted to each local
government unit nationwide, would create an inequitable situation where a new city or province created by Congress will
be denied legislative representation for an indeterminate period of time. 10 The intolerable situations will deprive the
people of a new city or province a particle of their sovereignty. 11 Sovereignty cannot admit of any kind of subtraction. It is
indivisible. It must be forever whole or it is not sovereignty.

Petitioners cannot insist that the addition of another legislative district in Makati is not in accord with section 5(3),
Article VI 12 of the Constitution for as of the latest survey (1990 census), the population of Makati stands at only four
hundred fifty thousand (450,000). 13 Said section provides, inter alia, that a city with a population of at least two hundred
fifty thousand (250,000) shall have at least one representative. Even granting that the population of Makati as of the 1990
census stood at four hundred fifty thousand (450,000), its legislative district may still be increased since it has met the
minimum population requirement of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000). In fact, section 3 of the Ordinance appended to
the Constitution provides that a city whose population has increased to more than two hundred fifty thousand
(250,000) shall be entitled to at least one congressional representative. 14

Finally, we do not find merit in petitioners' contention that the creation of an additional legislative district in Makati
should have been expressly stated in the title of the bill. In the same case of Tobias v. Abalos, op cit., we reiterated
the policy of the Court favoring a liberal construction of the "one title-one subject" rule so as not to impede
legislation. To be sure, with Constitution does not command that the title of a law should exactly mirror, fully index,
or completely catalogue all its details. Hence, we ruled that "it should be sufficient compliance if the title expresses
the general subject and all the provisions are germane to such general subject."

WHEREFORE, the petitions are hereby DISMISSED for lack of merit No costs.SO ORDERED.
G.R. No. 189793 April 7, 2010

SENATOR BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III and MAYOR JESSE ROBREDO, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS represented by its Chairman JOSE A.R. MELO and its Commissioners, RENE
V. SARMIENTO, NICODEMO T. FERRER, LUCENITO N. TAGLE, ARMANDO VELASCO, ELIAS R. YUSOPH
AND GREGORIO LARRAZABAL, Respondents.

DECISION

PEREZ, J.:

This case comes before this Court by way of a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court. In this original action, petitioners Senator Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and Mayor Jesse Robredo, as public
officers, taxpayers and citizens, seek the nullification as unconstitutional of Republic Act No. 9716, entitled "An Act
Reapportioning the Composition of the First (1st) and Second (2nd) Legislative Districts in the Province of
Camarines Sur and Thereby Creating a New Legislative District From Such Reapportionment." Petitioners
consequently pray that the respondent Commission on Elections be restrained from making any issuances and from
taking any steps relative to the implementation of Republic Act No. 9716.

Republic Act No. 9716 originated from House Bill No. 4264, and was signed into law by President Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo on 12 October 2009. It took effect on 31 October 2009, or fifteen (15) days following its publication in the
Manila Standard, a newspaper of general circulation.1 In substance, the said law created an additional legislative
district for the Province of Camarines Sur by reconfiguring the existing first and second legislative districts of the
province.

Prior to Republic Act No. 9716, the Province of Camarines Sur was estimated to have a population of
1,693,821,2distributed among four (4) legislative districts in this wise:

District Municipalities/Cities Population

1st District Del Gallego Libmanan 417,304


Ragay Minalabac
Lupi Pamplona
Sipocot Pasacao
Cabusao San Fernando

2nd District Gainza Canaman 474,899


Milaor Camaligan
Naga Magarao
Pili Bombon
Ocampo Calabanga

3rd District Caramoan Sangay 372,548


Garchitorena San Jose
Goa Tigaon
Lagonoy Tinamba
Presentacion Siruma

4th District Iriga Buhi 429,070


Baao Bula
Balatan Nabua
Bato

Following the enactment of Republic Act No. 9716, the first and second districts of Camarines Sur were
reconfigured in order to create an additional legislative district for the province. Hence, the first district municipalities
of Libmanan, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao, and San Fernando were combined with the second district
municipalities of Milaor and Gainza to form a new second legislative district. The following table3 illustrates the
reapportionment made by Republic Act No. 9716:

District Municipalities/Cities Population

1st District Del Gallego 176,383


Ragay
Lupi
Sipocot
Cabusao

2nd District Libmanan San Fernando 276,777


Minalabac Gainza
Pamplona Milaor
Pasacao

3rd District (formerly 2nd District) Naga Camaligan 439,043


Pili Magarao
Ocampo Bombon
Canaman Calabanga

4th District (formerly 3rd District) Caramoan Sangay 372,548


Garchitorena San Jose
Goa Tigaon
Lagonoy Tinamba
Presentacion Siruma

5th District (formerly 4th District) Iriga Buhi 429,070


Baao Bula
Balatan Nabua
Bato

Republic Act No. 9716 is a well-milled legislation. The factual recitals by both parties of the origins of the bill that
became the law show that, from the filing of House Bill No. 4264 until its approval by the Senate on a vote of thirteen
(13) in favor and two (2) against, the process progressed step by step, marked by public hearings on the sentiments
and position of the local officials of Camarines Sur on the creation of a new congressional district, as well as
argumentation and debate on the issue, now before us, concerning the stand of the oppositors of the bill that a
population of at least 250,000 is required by the Constitution for such new district.4

Petitioner Aquino III was one of two senators who voted against the approval of the Bill by the Senate. His co-
petitioner, Robredo, is the Mayor of Naga City, which was a part of the former second district from which the
municipalities of Gainza and Milaor were taken for inclusion in the new second district. No other local executive
joined the two; neither did the representatives of the former third and fourth districts of the province.

Petitioners contend that the reapportionment introduced by Republic Act No. 9716, runs afoul of the explicit
constitutional standard that requires a minimum population of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) for the creation
of a legislative district.5 The petitioners claim that the reconfiguration by Republic Act No. 9716 of the first and
second districts of Camarines Sur is unconstitutional, because the proposed first district will end up with a
population of less than 250,000 or only 176,383.

Petitioners rely on Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution as basis for the cited 250,000 minimum
population standard.6 The provision reads:

Article VI

Section 5. (1) x x x x
(2) x x x x

(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent
territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at
least one representative.

(4) x x x x (Emphasis supplied).

The petitioners posit that the 250,000 figure appearing in the above-cited provision is the minimum population
requirement for the creation of a legislative district.7 The petitioners theorize that, save in the case of a newly
created province, each legislative district created by Congress must be supported by a minimum population of at
least 250,000 in order to be valid.8 Under this view, existing legislative districts may be reapportioned and severed to
form new districts, provided each resulting district will represent a population of at least 250,000. On the other hand,
if the reapportionment would result in the creation of a legislative seat representing a populace of less than 250,000
inhabitants, the reapportionment must be stricken down as invalid for non-compliance with the minimum population
requirement.

In support of their theory, the petitioners point to what they claim is the intent of the framers of the 1987 Constitution
to adopt a population minimum of 250,000 in the creation of additional legislative seats.9 The petitioners argue that
when the Constitutional Commission fixed the original number of district seats in the House of Representatives to
two hundred (200), they took into account the projected national population of fifty five million (55,000,000) for the
year 1986.10 According to the petitioners, 55 million people represented by 200 district representatives translates to
roughly 250,000 people for every one (1) representative.11 Thus, the 250,000 population requirement found in
Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution is actually based on the population constant used by the
Constitutional Commission in distributing the initial 200 legislative seats.

Thus did the petitioners claim that in reapportioning legislative districts independently from the creation of a
province, Congress is bound to observe a 250,000 population threshold, in the same manner that the Constitutional
Commission did in the original apportionment.

Verbatim, the submission is that:

1. Republic Act 9716 is unconstitutional because the newly apportioned first district of Camarines Sur failed
to meet the population requirement for the creation of the legislative district as explicitly provided in Article
VI, Section 5, Paragraphs (1) and (3) of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended thereto;
and

2. Republic Act 9716 violates the principle of proportional representation as provided in Article VI, Section 5
paragraphs (1), (3) and (4) of the Constitution.12

The provision subject of this case states:

Article VI

Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members,
unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities
and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of
a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of
registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations.

(2) x x x x

(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory.
Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one
representative.
(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a reapportionment of
legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section.

On the other hand, the respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor General, seek the dismissal of the present
petition based on procedural and substantive grounds.

On procedural matters, the respondents argue that the petitioners are guilty of two (2) fatal technical defects: first,
petitioners committed an error in choosing to assail the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716 via the remedy of
Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court; and second, the petitioners have no locus standi to
question the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716.

On substantive matters, the respondents call attention to an apparent distinction between cities and provinces
drawn by Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution. The respondents concede the existence of a 250,000
population condition, but argue that a plain and simple reading of the questioned provision will show that the same
has no application with respect to the creation of legislative districts in provinces.13 Rather, the 250,000 minimum
population is only a requirement for the creation of a legislative district in a city.

In sum, the respondents deny the existence of a fixed population requirement for the reapportionment of districts in
provinces. Therefore, Republic Act No. 9716, which only creates an additional legislative district within the province
of Camarines Sur, should be sustained as a perfectly valid reapportionment law.

We first pass upon the threshold issues.

The respondents assert that by choosing to avail themselves of the remedies of Certiorari and Prohibition, the
petitioners have committed a fatal procedural lapse. The respondents cite the following reasons:

1. The instant petition is bereft of any allegation that the respondents had acted without or in excess of
jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion.
1avvphi1

2. The remedy of Certiorari and Prohibition must be directed against a tribunal, board, officer or person,
whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial, or ministerial functions. Respondents maintain that in
implementing Republic Act No. 9716, they were not acting as a judicial or quasi-judicial body, nor were they
engaging in the performance of a ministerial act.

3. The petitioners could have availed themselves of another plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the
ordinary course of law. Considering that the main thrust of the instant petition is the declaration of
unconstitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716, the same could have been ventilated through a petition for
declaratory relief, over which the Supreme Court has only appellate, not original jurisdiction.

The respondents likewise allege that the petitioners had failed to show that they had sustained, or is in danger of
sustaining any substantial injury as a result of the implementation of Republic Act No. 9716. The respondents,
therefore, conclude that the petitioners lack the required legal standing to question the constitutionality of Republic
Act No. 9716.

This Court has paved the way away from procedural debates when confronted with issues that, by reason of
constitutional importance, need a direct focus of the arguments on their content and substance.

The Supreme Court has, on more than one occasion, tempered the application of procedural rules, 14 as well as
relaxed the requirement of locus standi whenever confronted with an important issue of overreaching significance to
society.15

Hence, in Del Mar v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)16 and Jaworski v. PAGCOR,17 this
Court sanctioned momentary deviation from the principle of the hierarchy of courts, and took original cognizance of
cases raising issues of paramount public importance. The Jaworski case ratiocinates:

Granting arguendo that the present action cannot be properly treated as a petition for prohibition, the transcendental
importance of the issues involved in this case warrants that we set aside the technical defects and take primary
jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One cannot deny that the issues raised herein have potentially pervasive
influence on the social and moral well being of this nation, specially the youth; hence, their proper and just
determination is an imperative need. This is in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that rules of procedure
are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their
strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote substantial
justice, must always be eschewed. (Emphasis supplied)

Anent the locus standi requirement, this Court has already uniformly ruled in Kilosbayan v. Guingona,18 Tatad v.
Executive Secretary,19 Chavez v. Public Estates Authority20 and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora,21 just to
name a few, that absence of direct injury on the part of the party seeking judicial review may be excused when the
latter is able to craft an issue of transcendental importance. In Lim v. Executive Secretary,22 this Court held that in
cases of transcendental importance, the cases must be settled promptly and definitely, and so, the standing
requirements may be relaxed. This liberal stance has been echoed in the more recent decision on Chavez v.
Gonzales.23

Given the weight of the issue raised in the instant petition, the foregoing principles must apply. The beaten path
must be taken. We go directly to the determination of whether or not a population of 250,000 is an indispensable
constitutional requirement for the creation of a new legislative district in a province.

We deny the petition.

We start with the basics. Any law duly enacted by Congress carries with it the presumption of
constitutionality.24Before a law may be declared unconstitutional by this Court, there must be a clear showing that a
specific provision of the fundamental law has been violated or transgressed. When there is neither a violation of a
specific provision of the Constitution nor any proof showing that there is such a violation, the presumption of
constitutionality will prevail and the law must be upheld. To doubt is to sustain.25

There is no specific provision in the Constitution that fixes a 250,000 minimum population that must compose a
legislative district.

As already mentioned, the petitioners rely on the second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987
Constitution, coupled with what they perceive to be the intent of the framers of the Constitution to adopt a minimum
population of 250,000 for each legislative district.

The second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, succinctly provides: "Each city with a population
of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative."

The provision draws a plain and clear distinction between the entitlement of a city to a district on one hand, and the
entitlement of a province to a district on the other. For while a province is entitled to at least a representative, with
nothing mentioned about population, a city must first meet a population minimum of 250,000 in order to be similarly
entitled.

The use by the subject provision of a comma to separate the phrase "each city with a population of at least two
hundred fifty thousand" from the phrase "or each province" point to no other conclusion than that the 250,000
minimum population is only required for a city, but not for a province. 26

Plainly read, Section 5(3) of the Constitution requires a 250,000 minimum population only for a city to be entitled to
a representative, but not so for a province.

The 250,000 minimum population requirement for legislative districts in cities was, in turn, the subject of
interpretation by this Court in Mariano, Jr. v. COMELEC.27

In Mariano, the issue presented was the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7854, which was the law that converted
the Municipality of Makati into a Highly Urbanized City. As it happened, Republic Act No. 7854 created an additional
legislative district for Makati, which at that time was a lone district. The petitioners in that case argued that the
creation of an additional district would violate Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, because the resulting
districts would be supported by a population of less than 250,000, considering that Makati had a total population of
only 450,000. The Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of the law and the validity of the newly created
district, explaining the operation of the Constitutional phrase "each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty
thousand," to wit:

Petitioners cannot insist that the addition of another legislative district in Makati is not in accord with section 5(3),
Article VI of the Constitution for as of the latest survey (1990 census), the population of Makati stands at only four
hundred fifty thousand (450,000). Said section provides, inter alia, that a city with a population of at least two
hundred fifty thousand (250,000) shall have at least one representative. Even granting that the population of Makati
as of the 1990 census stood at four hundred fifty thousand (450,000), its legislative district may still be increased
since it has met the minimum population requirement of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000). In fact, Section 3 of
the Ordinance appended to the Constitution provides that a city whose population has increased to more than two
hundred fifty thousand (250,000) shall be entitled to at least one congressional representative.28 (Emphasis
supplied)

The Mariano case limited the application of the 250,000 minimum population requirement for cities only to its initial
legislative district. In other words, while Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution requires a city to have a minimum
population of 250,000 to be entitled to a representative, it does not have to increase its population by another
250,000 to be entitled to an additional district.

There is no reason why the Mariano case, which involves the creation of an additional district within a city, should
not be applied to additional districts in provinces. Indeed, if an additional legislative district created within a city is not
required to represent a population of at least 250,000 in order to be valid, neither should such be needed for an
additional district in a province, considering moreover that a province is entitled to an initial seat by the mere fact of
its creation and regardless of its population.

Apropos for discussion is the provision of the Local Government Code on the creation of a province which, by virtue
of and upon creation, is entitled to at least a legislative district. Thus, Section 461 of the Local Government Code
states:

Requisites for Creation. (a) A province may be created if it has an average annual income, as certified by the
Department of Finance, of not less than Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) based on 1991 constant prices and
either of the following requisites:

(i) a contiguous territory of at least two thousand (2,000) square kilometers, as certified by the Lands
Management Bureau; or

(ii) a population of not less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) inhabitants as certified by the National
Statistics Office.

Notably, the requirement of population is not an indispensable requirement, but is merely an alternative addition to
the indispensable income requirement.

Mariano, it would turn out, is but a reflection of the pertinent ideas that ran through the deliberations on the words
and meaning of Section 5 of Article VI.

The whats, whys, and wherefores of the population requirement of "at least two hundred fifty thousand" may be
gleaned from the records of the Constitutional Commission which, upon framing the provisions of Section 5 of Article
VI, proceeded to form an ordinance that would be appended to the final document. The Ordinance is captioned
"APPORTIONING THE SEATS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CONGRESS OF THE
PHILIPPINES TO THE DIFFERENT LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS IN PROVINCES AND CITIES AND THE
METROPOLITAN MANILA AREA." Such records would show that the 250,000 population benchmark was used for
the 1986 nationwide apportionment of legislative districts among provinces, cities and Metropolitan Manila. Simply
put, the population figure was used to determine how many districts a province, city, or Metropolitan Manila should
have. Simply discernible too is the fact that, for the purpose, population had to be the determinant. Even then, the
requirement of 250,000 inhabitants was not taken as an absolute minimum for one legislative district. And, closer to
the point herein at issue, in the determination of the precise district within the province to which, through the use of
the population benchmark, so many districts have been apportioned, population as a factor was not the sole, though
it was among, several determinants.
From its journal,29 we can see that the Constitutional Commission originally divided the entire country into two
hundred (200) districts, which corresponded to the original number of district representatives. The 200 seats were
distributed by the Constitutional Commission in this manner: first, one (1) seat each was given to the seventy-three
(73) provinces and the ten (10) cities with a population of at least 250,000;30 second, the remaining seats were then
redistributed among the provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Area "in accordance with the number of their
inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio."31 Commissioner Davide, who later became a Member
and then Chief Justice of the Court, explained this in his sponsorship remark32 for the Ordinance to be appended to
the 1987 Constitution:

Commissioner Davide: The ordinance fixes at 200 the number of legislative seats which are, in turn, apportioned
among provinces and cities with a population of at least 250, 000 and the Metropolitan Area in accordance with the
number of their respective inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. The population is based on
the 1986 projection, with the 1980 official enumeration as the point of reckoning. This projection indicates that our
population is more or less 56 million. Taking into account the mandate that each city with at least 250, 000
inhabitants and each province shall have at least one representative, we first allotted one seat for each of the 73
provinces, and each one for all cities with a population of at least 250, 000, which are the Cities of Manila, Quezon,
Pasay, Caloocan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Zamboanga. Thereafter, we then proceed[ed]
to increase whenever appropriate the number of seats for the provinces and cities in accordance with the number of
their inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio. (Emphasis supplied).

Thus was the number of seats computed for each province and city. Differentiated from this, the determination of the
districts within the province had to consider "all protests and complaints formally received" which, the records show,
dealt with determinants other than population as already mentioned.

Palawan is a case in point. Journal No. 107 of the Constitutional Commission narrates:

INTERPELLATION OF MR. NOLLEDO:

Mr. Nolledo inquired on the reason for including Puerto Princesa in the northern towns when it was more affinity with
the southern town of Aborlan, Batarasa, Brookes Point, Narra, Quezon and Marcos. He stated that the First District
has a greater area than the Second District. He then queried whether population was the only factor considered by
the Committee in redistricting.

Replying thereto, Mr. Davide explained that the Committee took into account the standards set in Section 5 of the
Article on the Legislative Department, namely: 1) the legislative seats should be apportioned among the provinces
and cities and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with their inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and
progressive ratio; and 2) the legislative district must be compact, adjacent and contiguous.

Mr. Nolledo pointed out that the last factor was not met when Puerto Princesa was included with the northern towns.
He then inquired what is the distance between Puerto Princesa from San Vicente.

xxxx

Thereupon, Mr. Nolledo stated that Puerto Princesa has a population of 75,480 and based on the apportionment, its
inclusion with the northern towns would result in a combined population of 265,000 as against only 186,000 for the
south. He added that Cuyo and Coron are very important towns in the northern part of Palawan and, in fact, Cuyo
was the capital of Palawan before its transfer to Puerto Princesa. He also pointed out that there are more potential
candidates in the north and therefore if Puerto Princesa City and the towns of Cuyo and Coron are lumped together,
there would be less candidates in the south, most of whose inhabitants are not interested in politics. He then
suggested that Puerto Princesa be included in the south or the Second District.

Mr. Davide stated that the proposal would be considered during the period of amendments. He requested that the
COMELEC staff study said proposal.33

"PROPOSED AMENDMENT OF MR. NOLLEDO


On the districting of Palawan, Mr. Nolledo pointed out that it was explained in the interpellations that District I has a
total population of 265,358 including the City of Puerto Princesa, while the Second District has a total population of
186,733. He proposed, however, that Puerto Princesa be included in the Second District in order to satisfy the
contiguity requirement in the Constitution considering that said City is nearer the southern towns comprising the
Second District.

In reply to Mr. Monsods query, Mr. Nolledo explained that with the proposed transfer of Puerto Princesa City to the
Second District, the First District would only have a total population of 190,000 while the Second District would have
262,213, and there would be no substantial changes.

Mr. Davide accepted Mr. Nolledos proposal to insert Puerto Princesa City before the Municipality of Aborlan.

There being no objection on the part of the Members the same was approved by the Body.

APPROVAL OF THE APPORTIONMENT AND DISTRICTING OF PALAWAN

There being no other amendment, on motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the apportionment and
districting for the province of Palawan was approved by the Body.34

The districting of Palawan disregarded the 250,000 population figure. It was decided by the importance of the towns
and the city that eventually composed the districts.

Benguet and Baguio are another reference point. The Journal further narrates:

At this juncture, Mr. Davide informed the Body that Mr. Regalado made a reservation with the Committee for the
possible reopening of the approval of Region I with respect to Benguet and Baguio City.

REMARKS OF MR. REGALADO

Mr. Regalado stated that in the formulation of the Committee, Baguio City and Tuba are placed in one district. He
stated that he was toying with the idea that, perhaps as a special consideration for Baguio because it is the summer
capital of the Philippines, Tuba could be divorced from Baguio City so that it could, by itself, have its own
constituency and Tuba could be transferred to the Second District together with Itogon. Mr. Davide, however,
pointed out that the population of Baguio City is only 141,149.

Mr. Regalado admitted that the regular population of Baguio may be lower during certain times of the year, but the
transient population would increase the population substantially and, therefore, for purposes of business and
professional transactions, it is beyond question that population-wise, Baguio would more than qualify, not to speak
of the official business matters, transactions and offices that are also there.

Mr. Davide adverted to Director de Limas statement that unless Tuba and Baguio City are united, Tuba will be
isolated from the rest of Benguet as the place can only be reached by passing through Baguio City. He stated that
the Committee would submit the matter to the Body.

Upon inquiry of the Chair whether he is insisting on his amendment, Mr. Regalado stated that the Body should have
a say on the matter and that the considerations he had given are not on the demographic aspects but on the fact
that Baguio City is the summer capital, the venue and situs of many government offices and functions.

On motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the Body approved the reconsideration of the earlier approval of
the apportionment and districting of Region I, particularly Benguet.

Thereafter, on motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the amendment of Mr. Regalado was put to a vote.
With 14 Members voting in favor and none against, the amendment was approved by the Body.

Mr. Davide informed that in view of the approval of the amendment, Benguet with Baguio City will have two seats.
The First District shall comprise of the municipalities of Mankayan, Buguias, Bakun, Kabayan, Kibungan, Bokod,
Atok, Kapangan, Tublay, La Trinidad, Sablan, Itogon and Tuba. The Second District shall comprise of Baguio City
alone.

There being no objection, the Body approved the apportionment and districting of Region I.35

Quite emphatically, population was explicitly removed as a factor.

It may be additionally mentioned that the province of Cavite was divided into districts based on the distribution of its
three cities, with each district having a city: one district "supposed to be a fishing area; another a vegetable and fruit
area; and the third, a rice growing area," because such consideration "fosters common interests in line with the
standard of compactness."36 In the districting of Maguindanao, among the matters discussed were "political stability
and common interest among the people in the area" and the possibility of "chaos and disunity" considering the
"accepted regional, political, traditional and sectoral leaders."37 For Laguna, it was mentioned that municipalities in
the highland should not be grouped with the towns in the lowland. For Cebu, Commissioner Maambong proposed
that they should "balance the area and population."38

Consistent with Mariano and with the framer deliberations on district apportionment, we stated in Bagabuyo v.
COMELEC39 that:

x x x Undeniably, these figures show a disparity in the population sizes of the districts. The Constitution, however,
does not require mathematical exactitude or rigid equality as a standard in gauging equality of representation. x x x.
To ensure quality representation through commonality of interests and ease of access by the representative to the
constituents, all that the Constitution requires is that every legislative district should comprise, as far as practicable,
contiguous, compact and adjacent territory. (Emphasis supplied).

This 2008 pronouncement is fresh reasoning against the uncompromising stand of petitioner that an additional
provincial legislative district, which does not have at least a 250,000 population is not allowed by the Constitution.

The foregoing reading and review lead to a clear lesson.

Neither in the text nor in the essence of Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution can, the petition find support. And
the formulation of the Ordinance in the implementation of the provision, nay, even the Ordinance itself, refutes the
contention that a population of 250,000 is a constitutional sine qua non for the formation of an additional legislative
district in a province, whose population growth has increased beyond the 1986 numbers.

Translated in the terms of the present case:

1. The Province of Camarines Sur, with an estimated population of 1,693,821 in 2007 is based on the
formula and constant number of 250,000 used by the Constitutional Commission in nationally apportioning
legislative districts among provinces and cities entitled to two (2) districts in addition to the four (4) that it
was given in the 1986 apportionment. Significantly, petitioner Aquino concedes this point.40 In other words,
Section 5 of Article VI as clearly written allows and does not prohibit an additional district for the Province of
Camarines Sur, such as that provided for in Republic Act No. 9786;

2. Based on the pith and pitch of the exchanges on the Ordinance on the protests and complaints against
strict conformity with the population standard, and more importantly based on the final districting in the
Ordinance on considerations other than population, the reapportionment or the recomposition of the first and
second legislative districts in the Province of Camarines Sur that resulted in the creation of a new legislative
district is valid even if the population of the new district is 176,383 and not 250,000 as insisted upon by the
petitioners.

3. The factors mentioned during the deliberations on House Bill No. 4264, were:

(a) the dialects spoken in the grouped municipalities;

(b) the size of the original groupings compared to that of the regrouped municipalities;
(c) the natural division separating the municipality subject of the discussion from the reconfigured
District One; and

(d) the balancing of the areas of the three districts resulting from the redistricting of Districts One and
Two.41

Each of such factors and in relation to the others considered together, with the increased population of the erstwhile
Districts One and Two, point to the utter absence of abuse of discretion, much less grave abuse of discretion,42 that
would warrant the invalidation of Republic Act No. 9716.

To be clear about our judgment, we do not say that in the reapportionment of the first and second legislative districts
of Camarines Sur, the number of inhabitants in the resulting additional district should not be considered. Our ruling
is that population is not the only factor but is just one of several other factors in the composition of the additional
district. Such settlement is in accord with both the text of the Constitution and the spirit of the letter, so very clearly
given form in the Constitutional debates on the exact issue presented by this petition. 1avvphi1

WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. Republic Act No. 9716 entitled "An Act Reapportioning the
Composition of the First (1st) and Second (2nd) Legislative Districts in the Province of Camarines Sur and Thereby
Creating a New Legislative District From Such Reapportionment" is a VALID LAW.

SO ORDERED.
[G.R. No. 105746. December 2, 1996]

MUNICIPALITY OF JIMENEZ, through its MAYOR ELEUTERIO A. QUIMBO, VICE


MAYOR ROBINSON B. LOMO, COUNCILORS TEOFILO GALORIO, CASIANO
ADORABLE, MARIO APAO, ANTONIO BIENES, VEDE SULLANO, MARIETO
TAN, SR., HERMINIO SERINO, BENJAMIN DANO, and CRISPULO MUNAR,
and ELEUTERIO A. QUIMBO, ROBINSON B. LOMO, TEOFILI GALORIO,
CASIANO ADORABLE, MARIO APAO, ANTONIO BIENES, VEDE SULLANO,
MARIETO TAN SR., HERMINI SERINO, BENJAMIN DANO, and CRISPULO
MUNAR, in their private capacities as taxpayer in the Province of Misamis
Occidental and the Municipality of Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, and
BENJAMIN C. GALINDO and BENHUR B. BAUTISTA, in their private
capacities as taxpayers in the Province of Misamis Occidental and the
Municipality of Jimenez, Misamis Occidental, petitioners, vs., HON.
VICENTE T. BAZ, JR., Presiding Judge REGIONAL TRIAL COURT, BRANCH
14, 10th JUDICIAL REGION, OROQUIETA CITY, and MUNICIPALITY OF
SINACABAN through its MAYOR EUFRACIO D. LOOD, VICE MAYOR
BASILIO M. BANAAG, COUNCILORS CONCEPCION E. LAGA-AC, MIGUEL
F. ABCEDE, JUANITO B. TIU, CLAUDIO T. REGIL, ANCIETO S. MEJARES
NAZIANCINO B. MARIQUIT, and FEDERICO QUINIMON, and THE
PROVINCE OF MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL through the PROVINCIAL BOARD
OF MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL and its members, VICE-GOVERNOR
FLORENCIO L. GARCIA, BOARD MEMBERS MARIVIC S. CHIONG, PACITA
M. YAP, ALEGRIA V. CARINO, JULIO L. TIU, LEONARDO R. REGALADO II,
CONSTACIO C. BALAIS and ERNESTO P. IRA, and THE COMMISSION ON
AUDIT, through its Chairman, HON. EUFEMIO DOMINGO, and THE
DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT through its Secretary, HON. LUIS
SANTOS (now HON. CESAR SARINO), and THE DEPARTMENT OF BUDGET
AND MANAGEMENT, through its Secretary, HON. GUILLERMO CARAGUE
(now HON. SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ), and The Hon. CATALINO MACARAOG
(now HON. FRAKLIN DRILON), EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, OFFICE OF THE
PRESIDENT, respondents.

DECISION
MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review of the decision dated March 4, 1992 of the Regional Trial
Court, Branch 14 of Oroquieta City, affirming the legal existence of the Municipality of
[1]

Sinacaban in Misamis Occidental and ordering the relocation of its boundary for the
purpose of determining whether certain areas claimed by it belong to it.
The antecedent facts are as follows:
The Municipality of Sinacaban was created by Executive Order No. 258 of then
President Elpidio Quirino, pursuant to 68 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917. The
full text of the Order reads:
EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 258

CREATING THE MUNICIPALITY OF SINACABAN,


IN THE PROVINCE OF MISAMIS OCCIDENTAL

Upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Interior, and pursuant to the provisions of Section 68 of the Revised
Administrative Code, there is hereby created, in the Province of Misamis Occidental, a municipality to be known as the
municipality of Sinacaban, which shall consist of the southern portion of the municipality of Jimenez, Misamis Occidental,
more particularly described and bounded as follows:

On the north by a line starting from point 1, the center of the lighthouse on the Tabo-o point S. 840 30W., 7,250 meters to
point 2 which is on the bank of Palilan River branch; thence following Palilan River branch 2,400 meters southwesterly 'to
point 3, thence a straight line S 870 00 W, 22,550 meters to point 4, where this intersects the Misamis Occidental-
Zamboanga boundary; on the west, by the present Misamis Occidental-Zamboanga boundary; and on the south by the
present Jimenez-Tudela boundary; and on the east, by the limits of the municipal waters which the municipality of
Sinacaban shall have pursuant to section 2321 of the Revised Administrative Code, (Description based on data shown in
Enlarged Map of Poblacion of Jimenez, Scale 1:8:000).

The municipality of Sinacabn contains the barrios of Sinacaban, which shall be the seat of the municipal government,
Sinonoc, Libertad, the southern portion of the barrio of Macabayao, and the sitios of Tipan, Katipunan, Estrella, Flores,
Senior, Adorable, San Isidro, Cagayanon, Kamanse, Kulupan and Libertad Alto.

The municipality of Jimenez shall have its present territory, minus the portion thereof included in the municipality of
Sinacaban.

The municipality of Sinacaban shall begin to exist upon the appointment and qualification of the mayor, vice-mayor, and a
majority of the councilors thereof. The new municipality shall, however, assume payment of a proportionate share of the
loan of the municipality of Jimenez with the Rehabilitation Finance Corporation as may be outstanding on the date of its
organization, the proportion of such payment to be determined by the Department of Finance.

th
Done in the City of Manila, this 30 day of August, in the year of Our Lord, nineteen hundred and forty-nine, and of
the Independence of the Philippines, the fourth.

(SGD.) ELPIDIO QUIRINO


President of the Philippines

By the President:

(SGD.) TEODORO EVANGELISTA


Executive Secretary

By virtue of Municipal Council Resolution No. 171, dated November 22, 1988, [2]

Sinacaban laid claim to a portion of Barrio Tabo-o and to Barrios Macabayao, Adorable,
Sinara Baja, and Sinara Alto, based on the technical description in E.O. No. 258. The
[3]

claim was filed with the Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental against the Municipality of
Jimenez.
In its answer, the Municipality of Jimenez, while conceding that under E.O. No. 258 the
disputed area is part of Sinacaban, nonetheless asserted jurisdiction on the basis of an
agreement it had with the Municipality of Sinacaban. This agreement was approved by the
Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental, in its Resolution No. 77, dated February 18, 1950,
which fixed the common boundary of Sinacaban and Jimenez as follows: [4]

From a point at Cagayanon Beach follow Macabayao Road until it intersects Tabangag Creek at the back of the
Macabayao Elementary school. Follow the Tabangag Creek until it intersect the Macabayao River at upper
Adorable. Follow the Macabayao River such that the barrio of Macabayao, Sitio Adorable and site will be a part of the
Jimenez down and the sitios of San Vicente, Donan, Estrella, Mapula will be a part of Sinacaban. (Emphasis added)

In its decision dated October 11, 1989, the Provincial Board declared the disputed
[5]

area to be part of Sinacaban. It held that the previous resolution approving the agreement
between the municipalities was void because the Board had no power to alter the
boundaries of Sinacaban as fixed in E.O. No. 258, that power being vested in Congress
pursuant to the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1983 (B.P. Blg. 337),
134. The Provincial Board denied in its Resolution No. 13-90 dated January 30, 1990 the
[6]

motion of Jimenez seeking reconsideration. [7]

On March 20, 1990, Jimenez filed a petition for certiorari, prohibition,


and mandamus in the Regional Trial Court of Oroquieta City, Branch 14. The suit was filed
against Sinacaban, the Province of Misamis Occidental and its Provincial Board, the
Commission on Audit, the Departments of Local Government, Budget and Management,
and the Executive Secretary. Jimenez alleged that, in accordance with the decision
in Pelaez v. Auditor General, the power to create municipalities is essentially legislative
[8]

and consequently Sinacaban, which was created by an executive order, had no legal
personality and no right to assert a territorial claim vis--vis Jimenez, of which it remains
part.Jimenez prayed that Sinacaban be enjoined from assuming control and supervision
over the disputed barrios; that the Provincial Board be enjoined from assuming jurisdiction
over the claim of Sinacaban; that E.O. No. 258 be declared null and void; that the decision
dated October 11, 1989 and Resolution No. 13-90 of the Provincial Board be set aside for
having been rendered without jurisdiction; that the Commission on Audit be enjoined from
passing in audit any expenditure of public funds by Sinacaban; that the Department of
Budget and Management be enjoined from allotting public funds to Sinacaban; and that
the Executive Secretary be enjoined from exercising control and supervision over said
municipality.
During pre-trial, the parties agreed to limit the issues to the following:
A. Whether the Municipality of Sinacaban is a legal juridical entity, duly created in accordance with
law;
B. If not, whether it is a de facto juridical entity;
C. Whether the validity of the existence of the Municipality can be properly questioned in this action
on certiorari;
D. Whether the Municipality of Jimenez which had recognized the existence of the municipality for
more than 40 years is estopped to question its existence;
E. Whether the existence of the municipality has been recognized by the laws of the land; and
F. Whether the decision of the Provincial Board had acquired finality.

On February 10, 1992, the RTC rendered its decision, the dispositive portion of which
reads:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, it is the finding of this Court that the petition must be denied and judgment is hereby
rendered declaring a STATUS QUO, that is, the municipality of Sinacaban shall continue to exist and operate as a regular
municipality; declaring the decision dated October 11, 1989 rendered by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan fixing the
boundaries between Sinacaban and Jimenez, Missamis Occi. as null and void, the same not being in accordance with the
boundaries provided for in Executive order No. 258 creating the municipality of Sinacaban; dismissing the petition for lack
of merit, without pronouncement as to cost and damages. With respect to the counterclaim, the same is hereby ordered
dismissed.

The Commissioners are hereby ordered to conduct the relocation survey of the boundary of Sinacaban within 60 days
from the time the decision shall have become final and executory and another 60 days within which to submit their report
from the completion of the said relocation survey.

SO ORDERED.

The RTC, inter alia, held that Sinacaban is a de facto corporation since it had completely
organized itself even prior to the Pelaez case and exercised corporate powers for forty
years before the existence was questioned; that Jimenez did not have the legal standing
to question the existence of Sinacaban, the same being reserved to he State as
represented by the Office of the Solicitor General in a quo warranto proceeding; that
Jimenez was estopped from questioning the legal existence of Sinacaban by entering into
an agreement with it concerning their common boundary; and that any question as to the
legal existence of Sinacaban had been rendered moot by 442 (d) of the Local Government
Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160), which provides:
Municipalities existing as of the date of the effectivity of this Code shall continue to exist and operate as
such. Existing municipal districts organized pursuant to presidential issuances or executive orders and which have
their respective set of elective municipal officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of this Code shall
henceforth be considered as regular municipalities.

On March 17, 1990, petitioner moved for a reconsideration of the decision but its
motion was denied by the RTC. Hence this petition raising the following issues: (1)
whether Sinacaban has legal personality to file a claim, and (2) if it has, whether it is the
boundary provided for in E.O. No. 258 or in resolution No. 77 of the Provincial Board of
Misamis Occidental which should be used as the basis for adjudicating Sinacabans
territorial claim.
First. The preliminary issue concerns the legal existence of Sinacaban. If Sinacaban
legally exist, then it has standing to bring a claim in the Provincial Board. Otherwise, it
cannot.
The principal basis for the view that Sinacaban was not validly created as a municipal
corporation is the ruling in Pelaez v. Auditor General that the creation of municipal
corporations is essentially a legislative matter and therefore the President was without
power to create by executive order the Municipality of Sinacaban. The ruling in this case
has been reiterated in a number of cases later decided. However, we have since held
[9]

that where a municipality created as such by executive order is later impliedly recognized
and its acts are accorded legal validity, its creation can no longer be questioned. In
Municipality of San Narciso, Quezon v. Mendez, Sr., this Court considered the following
[10]

factors as having validated the creation of a municipal corporation, which, like the
Municipallity of Sinacaban, was created by executive order of the President before the
ruling in Pelaez v. Auditor general: (1) the fact that for nearly 30 years the validity of the
creation of the municipality had never been challenged; (2) the fact that following the
ruling in Pelaez no quo warranto suit was filed to question the validity of the executive
order creating such municipality; and (3) the fact that the municipality was later classified
as a fifth class municipality, organized as part of a municipal circuit court and considered
part of a legislative district in the Constitution apportioning the seats in the House of
Representatives. Above all, it was held that whatever doubt there might be as to the de
jure character of the municipality must be deemed to have been put to rest by the local
Government Code of 1991 (R.A. no. 7160), 442 (d) of which provides that municipal
districts organized pursuant to presidential issuances or executive orders and which have
their respective sets of elective officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of this
Code shall henceforth be considered as regular municipalities.
Here, the same factors are present so as to confer on Sinacaban the status of at least
a de facto municipal corporation in the sense that its legal existence has been recognized
and acquiesced publicly and officially. Sinacaban had been in existence for sixteen years
when Pelaez v. Auditor General was decided on December 24, 1965. Yet the validity of
E.O. No. 258 creating it had never been questioned. Created in 1949, it was only 40 years
later that its existence was questioned and only because it had laid claim to an area that
apparently is desired for its revenue. This fact must be underscored because under Rule
66, 16 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto suit against a corporation for forfeiture of its
charter must be commenced within five (5) years from the time the act complained of was
done or committed. On the contrary, the State and even the municipality of Jimenez itself
have recognized Sinacabans corporate existence. Under Administrative order no. 33
dated June 13, 1978 of this Court, as reiterated by 31 of the judiciary Reorganization Act
of 1980 (B.P. Blg. 129), Sinacaban is constituted part of municipal circuit for purposes of
the establishment of Municipal Circuit Trial Courts in the country. For its part, Jimenez
had earlier recognized Sinacaban in 1950 by entering into an agreement with it regarding
their common boundary. The agreement was embodied in Resolution no. 77 of the
Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental.
Indeed Sinacaban has attained de jure status by virtue of the Ordinance appended to
the 1987 Constitution, apportioning legislative districts throughout the country, which
considered Sinacaban part of the Second District of Misamis Occidental. Moreover
following the ruling in Municipality of san Narciso, Quezon v. Mendez, Sr., 442(d) of the
Local Government Code of 1991 must be deemed to have cured any defect in the creation
of Sinacaban. This provision states:
Municipalities existing as of the date of the effectivity of this Code shall continue to exist and operate as
such. Existing municipal district organized pursuant to presidential issuances or executive orders and which have
their respective set of elective municipal officials holding office at the time of the effectivity of the Code shall
henceforth be considered as regular municipalities.

Second. Jimenez claims, however, that R.A. No. 7160, 442(d) is invalid, since it does
not conform to the constitutional and statutory requirements for the holding of plebiscites
in the creation of new municipalities. [11]

This contention will not bear analysis. Since, as previously explained, Sinacaban had
attained de facto status at the time the 1987 Constitution took effect on February 2, 1987,
it is not subject to the plebiscite requirement. This requirement applies only to new
municipalities created for the first time under the Constitution. Actually, the requirement of
plebiscite was originally contained in Art. XI, 3 of the previous Constitution which took
effect on January 17, 1973. It cannot, therefore, be applied to municipal corporations
created before, such as the municipality of Sinacaban in the case at bar.
Third. Finally Jimenez argues that the RTC erred in ordering a relocation survey of the
boundary of Sinacaban because the barangays which Sinacaban are claiming are not
enumerated in E.O. No. 258 and that in any event in 1950 the parties entered into an
agreement whereby the barangays in question were considered part of the territory of
Jimenez.
E.O. no. 258 does not say that Sinacaban comprises only the barrios (now called
Barangays) therein mentioned. What it say is that Sinacaban contains those barrios,
without saying they are the only ones comprising it. The reason for this is that the
technical description, containing the metes and bounds of its territory, is controlling. The
trial court correctly ordered a relocation and consequently the question to which the
municipality the barangays in question belong.
Now, as already stated, in 1950 the two municipalities agreed that certain barrios
bellonged to Jimenez, while certain other ones belonged to Sinacaban. This agreement
was subsequently approved by the Provincial board of Misamis Occidental. Whether this
agreement conforms to E.O. no. 258 will be determined by the result of the
survey.Jimenez contends however, that regardless of its conformity to E.O. No, 258, the
agreement as embodied in resolution No, 77 of the Provincial Board, is binding on
Sinacaban.This raises the question whether the provincial board had authority to approve
the agreement or, to put it in another way, whether it had the power to declare certain
barrios part of the one or the other municipality. We hold it did not if effect would be to
amend the area as described in E.O no. 258 creating the Municipality of Sinacaban.
At the time the Provincial Board passed Resolution No. 77 on February 18, 1950, the
applicable law was 2167 of the Revised Administrative Code of 1917 which provided:
SEC. 2167. Municipal boundary disputes. How settled. Disputes as to jurisdiction of municipal governments over places
or barrios shall be decided by the provincial boards of the provinces in which such municipalities are situated, after an
investigation at which the municipalities concerned shall be duly heard. From the decision of the provincial board appeal
may be taken by the municipality aggrieved to the Secretary of the Interior [now the Office of the Executive Secretary],
whose decision shall be final. Where the places or barrios in dispute are claimed by municipalities situated in different
provinces, the provincial boards of the provinces concerned shall come to an agreement if possible, but, in the event of
their failing to agree, an appeal shall be had to the Secretary of Interior [Executive Secretary], whose decision shall be
final.

As held in Pelaez v. Auditor General, the power of provincial boards to settle


[12]

boundary disputes is of an administrative nature involving as it does, the adoption of


means and ways to carry into effect the law creating said municipalities. It is a power to fix
common boundary, in order to avoid or settle conflicts of jurisdiction between adjoining
municipalities. It is thus limited to implementing the law creating a municipality. It is
obvious that any alteration of boundaries that is not in accordance with the law creating a
municipality is not the carrying into effect of that law but its amendment. If, therefore, [13]

Resolution No. 77 of the Provincial Board of Misamis Occidental is contrary to the


technical description of the territory of Sinacaban, it cannot be used by Jimenez as basis
for opposing the claim of Sinacaban.
Jimenez properly brought to the RTC for review the decision of October 11, 1989 and
Resolution No. 13-90 of the Provincial Board. Its action is in accordance with the local
Government Code of 1983, 79 of which provides that I case no settlement of boundary
disputes is made the dispute should be elevated to the RTC of the province. In 1989,
when the action was brought by Jimenez, this Code was the governing law. The governing
law is now the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160), 118-119.
Jimenezs contention that the RTC failed to decide the case within one year form the
start of proceeding as required by 79 of the Local Government Code of 1983 and the 90-
day period provided for in the Article VIII, 15 of the Constitution does not affect the validity
of the decision rendered. For even granting that the court failed to decide within the period
prescribed by law, its failure did not divest it of its jurisdiction to decide the case but only
makes the judge thereof liable for possible administrative sanction. [14]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the decision of


the Regional Trial Court of Oroquieta City, Branch 14 is AFFIRMED.
SO ORDERED