Fight Over 16 Cities Revived

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga - Now that the Supreme Court (SC) is without former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, the League of Cities in the Philippines (LCP) will again try to reverse the conversion of 16 municipalities into cities through a motion for reconsideration of the High Court's ruling last year.

It will be recalled that the SC ruled on Feb. 15, 2011, to allow the conversion of 16 municipalities - which the LCP contended were unqualified for cityhood - into new cities.

Then Chief Justice Corona was one of the seven justices who voted for the constitutionality of the conversion laws that paved the way for the cityhood of the 16 local government units (LGUs).

These cities in question are Mati (Davao Oriental); Naga, Bogo, and Carcar (Cebu); Baybay, (Leyte); Catbalogan and Borongan (Samar); Tandag (Surigao del Sur); Lamitan (Basilan); Tayabas (Quezon); Tabuk (Kalinga); Bayugan (Agusan del Sur); Batac (Ilocos Norte); Guihulngan (Negros Oriental); Cabadbaran (Agusan del Norte); and El Salvador (Misamis Oriental).

"Our group is considering an appeal before the Supreme Court and open the case... our opposition to the 16 'unqualified' new cities," said LCP president and mayor of this city, Oscar Rodriguez.

He said member-cities of the LCP still believe that the decision of the SC should be overturned as the new cities did not pass primary requirements like income, land area, and population, as provided for by the Local Government Code to qualify them for cityhood.

The 112 member-cities of the LCP are expected to lose at least P3.7-billion of funds from internal revenue allotment (IRA) because of the decision of the High Court.

Rodriguez said that the nationwide annual losses of its existing members because of the SC decision include the reduction of P758 million in housing funds; reduction of at least P980 million in basic services that include education, health, and social welfare; cut of some P189 million in calamity funds; and cut in their human resources budget that will translate to the possible loss of 11,855 government employees in the said 112 cities.

The mayor also warned that the alleged "flip-flopping" decision of the High Court will open the gates to indiscriminate conversion of unqualified local government units into cities.

"This will actually hurt qualified cities which are the engine of countrywide progress," the LCP president said.

The mayor insisted that the conversion is unconstitutional and that not all municipalities that have been converted to cities are qualified.

Citing the Local Government Code, Rodriguez explained that a town should have at least have P100-million income per year and about 150,000 residents to qualify to cityhood. He explained that not all the 16 towns have that requirement.

It will be recalled that LCP members said last year that they may file impeachment complaints against seven justices of the High Court for "betrayal of public trust and violation of the constitution" because of upholding the constitutionality of the laws transforming the 16 towns into cities.

LCP was referring to now ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, and Lucas Bersamin.

In 2007, the High Court upheld the constitutionality of the 16 cities. However, upon the petition of LCP, the SC declared the cityhood of these cities as unconstitutional.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 22, 2009 the High Court reversed its 2007 decision, and upheld the constitutionality of the laws that converted the said towns into cities.

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