VOLUME 16 | NO. 55 | 03-JUNE-2009
Lawmakers push remedial legislation on cityhood income requirement
FOURTEEN lawmakers, who have jurisdiction over 16 municipalities whose conversion into cities had been nullified by the Supreme Court, propose to amend anew the Local Government Code of 1991 to correct the infirmities in the “cityhood” laws as cited by the highest court of the land.
They filed House Bill 6303 seeking to amend Section 450 of the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160), as amended by Republic Act 9009, which imposes a P100 million annual income requirement for a municipality or a cluster of barangays to be converted into a city. Before the effectivity of RA 9009 on June 30, 2001, the income requirement under the Code was only P20 million.
The amendment proposed under HB 6303 is presented in one paragraph to be inserted in Section 450 of the law which states: “The income requirement prescribed herein shall not apply to municipalities which were sought to be converted into cities as embodied in Bills filed before June 30, 2001 and whose Charters have already been approved by the Senate and the House of Representatives.”
Through this amendment, the authors believe that the 16 cityhood laws earlier junked by the Supreme Court will be given due recourse.
Given the task of studying the bill and making appropriate recommendations to the plenary, the Committee on Local Government, chaired by Representative George Arnaiz (2nd district, Negros Oriental), conducted a meeting on the matter where lawmakers present argued for or against the legislative proposal.
Reps. Carmen Cari (5th District, Leyte) and Edelmiro Amante (2nd District, Agusan del Norte) were on hand to defend the bill as authors.
The other co-authors of the bill are Reps. Eduardo Gullas (1st District, Cebu), Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza (Agusan del Sur), Philip Pichay (1st District, Surigao del Sur), Thelma Almario (2nd District, Davao Oriental), Wilfrido Mark Enverga (1st District, Quezon), Manuel Agyao (Kalinga), Sharee Ann Tan (2nd District, Western Samar), Mujiv Hataman (Party-List, Anak Mindanao), Jocelyn Limkaichong (1st District, Negros Oriental), Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (2nd District, Ilocos Norte), Teodulo Coquilla (Eastern Samar) and Yevgeny Vincent Emano (2nd District, Misamis Oriental).
Clarify law’s applicability
In presenting the rationale for filing HB 6303 to the Committee, Rep. Cari read the bill’s explanatory note. “This Bill seeks to clarify the applicability of Republic Act No. 9009, a literal application of which resulted in absurdity, impossibility and injustice,” she started.
She proceeded to give a background of the issue starting from the past deliberations on Senate Bill 2157, the bill which became RA 9009. In the 12th Congress, she said, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed into law RA 9009, amending 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.
Quoting Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the principal author of Senate Bill 2157, Rep. Cari said bills seeking conversion of certain municipalities to cities pending before the law’s enactment would not be covered by the increased minimum income requirement.
This legislative intent became the basis of the passage by both Houses of Congress of 16 cityhood bills that “lapsed into law” on various dates from March to July 2007 without President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signature.
A bill automatically becomes a law if after 30 days the President does not act on a proposed measure as approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives.
However, the Supreme Court, acting on the petition filed by the League of Cities of the Philippines and several others for the issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order against the 16 cityhood laws, recently declared the 16 cityhood laws unconstitutional.
The affected municipalities seeking cityhood are: Baybay, Leyte; Carcar, Naga and Bogo, Cebu; Bayugan, Agusan del Sur; Tandag, Surigao del Sur; Mati, Davao Oriental; Tayabas, Quezon; Tabuk, Kalinga; Catbalogan, Western Samar; Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte; Lamitan, Province of Basilan; Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Batac, Ilocos Norte; Borongan, Eastern Samar; and El Salvador, Misamis Oriental.
During the discussions on the bill, Rep. Cari emphasized that RA 9009 is “inhuman and unfair” to the people affected as only municipalities in Luzon and Metro Manila which have the capacity to generate an income of P100 million in two consecutive years could qualify for cityhood and those in the Visayas and Mindanao could not be able to meet such a requirement.
Exempt 16 municipalities
Former Cebu Rep. Clavel Martinez, who was present in the meeting of the Committee, voiced out her support for HB 6303 which she said clearly provides for the exemption of certain municipalities from the increased minimum income requirement for cityhood, to comply with the requirement of the Supreme Court.
The ruling of the Supreme Court cited, among others, that the municipalities covered by these laws did not meet the income requirement for their conversion into cities. The High Court said that when Congress enacted RA 9009, it did not provide any exemption from the increased income requirement.
“The intent of members of the 11th 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,” the Supreme Court stated.
Martinez lamented that existing cities do not want other municipalities to become cities, and develop in the process, because of a possible reduction in their share of the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). She said this is “pure greed” on the part of the existing cities.
“What will happen to the employees that were hired by these new cities who are protected by civil service laws? ... to the contractual obligations entered into by the new cities which are protected by the law on the inviolability of contracts?” she asked.
Martinez also claimed that if the 16 cities will revert back to being municipalities, the League of Municipalities will lose P3 billion in IRA.
“We must find a win-win solution to prevent disastrous effects and a chaotic situation,” Martinez appealed to the Committee.
Better to revisit law
Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio (1st District, South Cotabato), who earlier manifested her objection to HB 6303, took exception to the charge of Martinez that the existing cities are “greedy.” She maintained that it is better to revisit the law and determine what best must be done rather than propose exemptions to the law’s provision on the minimum income requirement.
She added that the Committee should study the computation of the IRA so that this is distributed equitably among the municipalities and cities and the possible reduction of the income requirement prescribed in the Code, as amended by RA 9009.
Reacting to Rep. Antonino-Custodio’s remarks, Martinez stated that repealing RA 9009 or reducing the income requirement is not the issue but the failure to incorporate in the Code the intent of both Houses of Congress of exempting certain municipalities from the coverage of RA 9009, which is the point of contention by the Supreme Court.
Likewise, Rep. Cari opined that reducing the income requirement will be met with stiff opposition by the League of Cities because this means accommodating more municipalities to become cities.
She recalled Senator Pimentel’s rationale for increasing the minimum income requirement for cityhood, and this was to restrain the “mad rush” of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities solely to secure a larger share in the Internal Revenue Allotment even if they are incapable of fiscal independence.
Rep. Amante also appealed to the Committee for understanding saying that if the Supreme Court’s decision will be implemented, 200 personnel employed by a newly created city in his district will lose their jobs.
Joining those who object HB 6303, Iloilo City Rep. Raul Gonzalez, Jr. moved for the deferment of the approval of the bill saying that such action needs further discussion. However, he clarified, he is not against the principle of creating new cities as long as the requirements set in the LGC as amended are followed.
Former mayor Jane Ortega, who now serves as a consultant to the League of Cities, echoed the statement of Rep. Gonzales, adding that she has already submitted to the Committee the league’s position paper on the bill. She further commented that the word “greed” should “not be imputed to mayors who are fighting for their (cities’) rights.”
SC ruling final, executory
Rep. Gonzales stressed that once a law is declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, it is dead and Congress has to live by that decision.
However, former Rep. Martinez countered that there are adverse decisions by the Supreme Court citing defects in legislation but are cured by the passage of a remedial legislation.
Upon the query of the Chair if the 16 cities in question are still receiving their respective share in the IRA, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Director Carmencita Delantar replied that since the Supreme Court’s judgment is final and executory, it is incumbent upon the department to implement this decision. She informed the Committee that she was directed by the Budget Secretary to “recompute” the IRA of the 16 cities.