Supreme Court Strikes Down Unqualified Cities

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Finally, an institution that knows how to count numbers and read statutes put a stop to the indiscriminate conversion of ambitious but unqualified municipalities into ragtag cities. The Philippines’ Supreme Court, with a vote of 7-5, with two abstentions and one on leave, declared that 16 separate laws creating 16 cities that did not pass the requirements are unconstitutional.

The following “cities” are affected by this decision: Batac in Ilocos Norte; Tabuk, the capital of Kalinga; Tayabas in Quezon; Catbalogan, the capital of (Western) Samar; Borongan, the capital of Eastern Samar; Baybay in Leyte; Bogo, Naga and Carcar in Cebu; Guihulngan in Negros Oriental; Tandag, the capital of Surigao del Sur; Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte; Bayugan in Agusan del Sur; Mati, the capital of Davao Oriental; El Salvador in Misamis Oriental and Lamitan in Basilan.

It was the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) which raised the case before the Supreme Court. Cities in the Philippines partake from the same portion of the pie called Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). Therefore creation of new cities correspondingly reduce the allotment of the old cities and they begrudge it if the former town is unqualified to be a city. The city mayor of Davao even warned Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of political consequences if the said laws are passed since P180 million will be lost by his city with the creation of the new cities.

The 16 cities argued that since they first applied to be cities before the income requirement was changed from P20 million to P100 million then they should be exempted from the said standard. Congress bit into this argument because of political considerations. However, the Supreme Court ruled that nobody, even Congress, is exempt from the Local Government Code which set the said standards.

The Local Government Code sets the following standard for the creation of cities:
1. An income of at least P100 million for the last two years; and,
2. A population of 150,000 OR a contiguous land area of 100 square kilometers.

The 16 cities did not meet the income requirement. And not one of them also met the population requirement. It is probable that the only requirement that they met was the land area. But then a lot of obscure and remote towns will also meet that criteria.

Actually, the critical feature of a city is its urbanization. And this is best reflected in the income and in the population. To submit a town just because it meets the old requirement of P20 million is preposterous since a town earning just that will just be classified a 4th-class town. In the old days, a town must be a first-class town before it applies for cityhood.

This is not to denigrate these towns but just to show the absurdity of the 16 laws. Among Bicol’s 4th-class towns are Malinao, Malilipot and Manito in Albay and Del Gallego, Minalabac and Garchitorena in Camarines Sur. Tinambac and Pio Duran will then be “over-qualified” since both are 3rd class towns.

Some of the “promoted” towns barely had population of 50,000. 50,000 inhabitants is even below the average of towns between Naga and Legazpi. I have been to the majority of the 16 towns and I know that in some of these “cities” the primary motive power are still the legs of a man. That means the pedicab is still the main form of transport around town. In one of these “cities”, and a provincial capital at that, the prevailing monthly salary for a maid is P600 a month

It will be hard on the “cities” affected but as lawyers say “Dura lex, sed lex“.

(The images above are taken from the said “cities”.)

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