MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Sept 11, 2012 affirmed its 2011 decision upholding the constitutionality of the law creating the province of Dinagat Islands.
The High Tribunal junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Rodolfo Navarro, Victor Bernal and Rene Medina, former politicians of Surigao del Norte, and ruled that Republic Act No. 9355 – which made Dinagat Islands a separate province from Surigao del Norte – is constitutional.
Justice Antonio Carpio dissented.
The decision was promulgated less than a month before the period of filing for the certificates of candidacy for the 2013 elections.
The SC decision favors the dominant political clan of the Ecleos – allies of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – as this will enable them field a candidate for the congressional elections in 2013.
When they carved out Dinagat Islands from the Surigao del Norte province in 2006, Congress also created a separate district.
Ruben Ecleo Jr. won as representative for Dinagat Islands in 2010. Had the SC reversed its decision, Ecleo would have run against the Matugases, Navarros and Barbers for the same position in Surigao del Norte.
Ecleo was expelled from the House of Representatives in 2011 after he was convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan.
In 2011, the SC ruled that the Dinagat Islands is exempted from the population and land area requirements stated in the Local Government Code.
Under Section 461 of the Local Government Code, a province may be created if it has an average annual income of not less than P20 million and a population of 250,000 or a contiguous territory of 2,000 sq. kilometers.
Dinagat Islands only had 802.12 square meters and a population of 106, 951 when RA no. 9355 was enacted.
“The provision in Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 stating, ‘The land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands,’ is declared valid,” the SC said then in a decision penned by Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura.
The SC voted otherwise in 2010, however, and voided the creation of Dinagat Islands as a province.
The High Court’s reversal on this case, among others, was cited as one of the grounds of impeachment against then Chief Justice Renato Corona. – Rappler.com
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