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Abbas vs. COMELEC 1.

WON certain provisions of RA 6734 conflict with the Tripoli Agreement 1 (see
G.R. No.89651 and 89965/ November 10 1989 / Cortes, J./LOCGOV-Local governments, notes)- NO
Administrative regions, Autonomous regions/JMQAquino
Petitioner: The Tripoli Agreement is part of the law of the land, being a binding international
NATURE Petition to review COMELEC decision agreement.
PETITIONERS (GR 89651) Datu Firdausi I.Y. Abbas, Datu Blo Umpar Adiong, Datu
Macalimpowac Delangalen, Celso Palma, Ali Montaha Babao, Julmunir Jannaral, Rashid Respondent: The Tripoli Agreement is neither a binding treaty, not having been entered into
Saber, And Datu Jamal Ashley Abbas, representing the other taxpayers Of Mindanao (GR by the Republic of the Philippines with a sovereign state and ratified according to the
89965) Atty. Abdullah D. Mama-O provisions of the 1973 or 1987 Constitutions, nor a binding international agreement.
RESPONDENTS (GR 89651) Honorable Guillermo C. Carague, Department Secretary Of
Budget And Management (GR 89965) Hon. Guillermo Carague, In His Capacity As The SC: It is neither necessary nor determinative of the case to rule on the nature of the Tripoli
Secretary Of The Budget, And The Commission On Elections Agreement and its binding effect on the Philippine Government whether under public
international or internal Philippine law. In the first place, it is now the Constitution itself that
SUMMARY. Petitioners assail the validity and constitutionality of RA6734 (Organic Act provides for the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. The standard for
for ARMM) on the grounds that: (a) it conflicts with the Tripoli Agreement; (b) it any inquiry into the validity of R.A. No. 6734 would therefore be what is so provided in the
unconditionally creates an autonomous region ; (c) it violates the constitutional Constitution. Thus, any conflict between the provisions of R.A. No. 6734 and the
requirement that only areas which share common characteristics shall be included; (d) it provisions of the Tripoli Agreement will not have the effect of enjoining the
is violative of equal protection ;(e) it violates religious freedom; (f) that the president may implementation of the Organic Act. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Tripoli
choose to merge existing regions without conducting a plebiscite contrary to the Agreement is a binding treaty or international agreement, it would then constitute part of the
constitution; (g) that the organization of an Oversight Committee would delay the law of the land. But as internal law it would not be superior to R.A. No. 6734, an enactment of
creation of an autonomous region which, according to the Constitution, shall take effect the Congress of the Philippines, rather it would be in the same class as the latter. Thus, if at
upon the conduct of a plebiscite all, R.A. No. 6734 would be amendatory of the Tripoli Agreement, being a subsequent law.
Only a determination by this Court that R.A. No. 6734 contravenes the Constitution would
FACTS. result in the granting of the reliefs sought.
In implementation of Republic Act No. 6734, entitled An Act Providing for an
Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao., plebiscite in 2. WON RA 6734, or parts thereof violates the Constitution- NO
thirteen (13) provinces and nine (9) cities in Mindanao and Palawan was scheduled
for November 19, 1989 Based on the grounds raised by petitioners to challenge the constitutionality of R.A. No.
These consolidated petitions pray that the Court: 6734, Petitioners have failed to overcome the presumption.
(1) enjoin the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from conducting the
plebiscite and the Secretary of Budget and Management from releasing funds to a. Petitioner: R.A. No. 67342 unconditionally creates an autonomous region in Mindanao,
the COMELEC for that purpose and contrary to the provisions of the Constitution 3 on the autonomous region which make
(2) declare R.A. No. 6734, or parts thereof, unconstitutional. the creation of such region dependent upon the outcome of the plebiscite.

SC: First, the questioned provision itself in RA6734 refers to Sec. 18, Art. X 4 of the
ISSUES & RATIO. Constitution which sets forth the conditions for the creation of the autonomous region.
Second, the transitory provisions of the Organic Act 5 incorporates the same
constitutional requirements and fills in the details.

1 the Agreement Between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and Moro vote in favor of autonomy, an autonomous region would still be created composed of the
National Liberation Front with the Participation of the Quadripartite Ministerial Commission two provinces where the favorable votes were obtained.
3 Sec. 18. xxxx The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by
Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic
Conference majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose,
2 Petitioner cites Article II, section 1(1) of R.A. No. 6734 which declares that [t]here is hereby provided that only the provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such
created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to be composed of provinces and plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region.
4 supra
cities voting favorably in the plebiscite called for the purpose, in accordance with Section 18,
5 SEC. 13. The creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall take effect
Article X of the Constitution. Petitioner contends that the tenor of the above provision
makes the creation of an autonomous region absolute, such that even if only two provinces when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units provided in
Thus, under the Constitution and R.A. No. 6734, the creation of the autonomous region shall SC: The ascertainment by Congress of the areas that share common attributes is within
take effect only when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a the exclusive realm of the legislatures discretion. Any review of this ascertainment
plebiscite, and only those provinces and cities where a majority vote in favor of the Organic would have to go into the wisdom of the law.
Act shall be included in the autonomous region. The provinces and cities wherein such a
majority is not attained shall not be included in the autonomous region. It may be that even if c. Petitioner Mama-O: Since the Organic Act covers several non-Muslim areas, its scope
an autonomous region is created, not all of the thirteen (13) provinces and nine (9) cities should be further broadened to include the rest of the non-Muslim areas in Mindanao in
mentioned in Article II, section 1(2) of R.A. No. 6734 shall be included therein. The single order for the others to similarly enjoy the benefits of autonomy. The failure of R.A. No.
plebiscite contemplated by the Constitution and R.A. No. 6734 will therefore be 6734 to include the other non-Muslim areas denies said areas equal protection of the law,
determinative of (1) whether there shall be an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and therefore is violative of the Constitution.
and (2) which provinces and cities, among those enumerated in R.A. No. 6734, shall
comprise it. SC: Again, such determination by Congress of which areas should be covered by the
organic act for the autonomous region constitutes a recognized legislative prerogative,
Obiter: Whether majority refers to majority of the total votes cast in the whose wisdom may not be inquired into by this Court. Moreover, equal protection
plebiscite in all the constituent units, or a majority in each of the constituent units, permits of reasonable classification. The guarantee of equal protection is not infringed
or both? - majority in each of the constituent units in this case, the classification having been made by Congress on the basis of substantial
distinctions as set forth by the Constitution itself.
SC: If the Constitutional framers intended to require approval by a majority of all
the votes cast in the plebiscite, they would have so indicated. Comparing Art. d. Petitioners: RA6734 violates the constitutional guarantee on free exercise of religion.
XVIII, Sec. 28 with Art. X, Sec. 18 the provision on the creation of the autonomous Under which, Shariah courts are mandated to apply national law should there be any
region, it will be seen that the creation of the autonomous region depends on the conflict between the Muslim Code/Tribal ode and the national law. The Islamic Law,
will of the majority in each of the constituent units and the proviso underscores which is derived from the Koran and thus part of divine law, cannot be subjected to
this. They could have simply adopted the same phraseology as that used for the manmade national law.
ratification of the Constitution, i.e. creation of autonomous region shall be
effective when approved by majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the SC: In the present case, no actual controversy between real litigants exists. There are
purpose. What is required by the Constitution is a simple majority of votes no conflicting claims involving the application of national law resulting in an alleged
approving the Organic Act in individual constituent units and not a double violation of religious freedom. This being so, the Court in this case may not be called
majority of the votes in all constituent units put together, as well as in the upon to resolve what is merely a perceived potential conflict between the provisions of
individual constituent units. the Muslim Code and national law.

b. Petitioner Mama-O: According to the Constitution, only those areas which share e. Petitioner: Sec. 13 of RA 67346 grants the President the power to merge regions, a power
common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, which is not conferred by the Constitution upon the President. That the President may
and other relevant characteristics should be properly included within the coverage of the choose to merge existing regions pursuant to the Organic Act is contrary to Art. X of the
autonomous region. R.A. No. 6734 is unconstitutional because only the provinces of Constitution7.
Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao and the cities
of Marawi and Cotabato possess such concurrence in historical and cultural heritage and SC: What is referred to in R.A. No. 6734 is the merger of administrative regions, i.e.
other relevant characteristics. Regions I to XII and the National Capital Region, which are mere groupings of
contiguous provinces for administrative purposes 8 . Administrative regions are not

paragraph (2) of Sec. 1 of Article II of this Act in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier the plebiscite do not vote for inclusion in the Autonomous Region shall remain in the
than ninety (90) days or later than one hundred twenty (120) days after the approval of this existing administrative regions: Provided, however, that the President may, by
Act: Provided, That only the provinces and cities voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be administrative determination, merge the existing regions
included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The provinces and cities which in 7 No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or

the plebiscite do not vote for inclusion in the Autonomous Region shall remain in the its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the
existing administrative regions: Provided, however, That the President may, by local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite
administrative determination, merge the existing regions. in the political units directly affected
6 ... Provided, That only the provinces and cities voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be 8 [Integrated Reorganization Plan (1972), which was made as part of the law of the land by
included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The provinces and cities which in Pres. Dec. No. 1 Presidential Decree No. 742
territorial and political subdivisions like provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays.
While the power to merge administrative regions is not expressly provided for in the
Constitution, it is a power which has traditionally been lodged with the President to
facilitate the exercise of the power of general supervision over local governments.
There is no conflict between the power of the President to merge administrative regions
with the constitutional provision requiring a plebiscite in the merger of local
government units because the requirement of a plebiscite in a merger expressly
applies only to provinces, cities, municipalities or barangays, not to administrative
regions

f. Petitioner: The provisions in the Organic Act which create an Oversight Committee to
supervise the transfer to the autonomous region of powers, appropriations, and
properties vested upon the regional government are unconstitutional. While the
Constitution states that the creation of the autonomous region shall take effect upon
approval in a plebiscite, the requirement of organizing an Oversight Committee would in
effect delay the creation of the autonomous region.

SC: Under the Constitution, the creation of the autonomous region hinges only on the
result of the plebiscite. If the Organic Act is approved by majority of the votes cast by
constituent units in the scheduled plebiscite, the creation of the autonomous region
immediately takes effect. The questioned provisions in R.A. No. 6734 requiring an
Oversight Committee to supervise the transfer do not provide for a different date of
effectivity. Much less would the organization of the Oversight Committee cause an
impediment to the operation of the Organic Act, for such is evidently aimed at effecting
a smooth transition period for the regional government.

DECISION. Petition Denied

NOTES.
December 23 1976: The Tripoli Agreement took effect. It provided for [t]he establishment
of Autonomy in the Southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of the Republic of the Philippines and enumerated the thirteen (13) provinces
comprising the areas of autonomy.
1987: Constitution was ratified, which for the first time provided for regional autonomy.
August 1 1989: RA 6734 was enacted and signed into law pursuant to the constitutional
mandate