Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guihulngan is a city no more

Guihulngan’s bid to be the sixth and newest city of Negros Oriental has been thwarted after the Supreme Court last Tuesday (November 18) voided the town’s cityhood law.
The biggest setback suffered by Guihulngan is the reduciton of its share in the Internal Revenue Allotments.
Guihulngan stood to receive a much larger IRA share had it remained a city.
According to Director Terry Domugho, a native of neighbroing La Libertad, and our go-to-guy when it comes to local government data, information and issues, a town stands to receive about three times its I.R.A. share (as a town) if it is converted into a city.
He promised to provide the data for Guihulngan, particularly comparative figures on its I.R.A. share.
The high court in an en banc ruling (G.R. No. 177499) Tuesday declared as unconstitutional Republic Act No. 9409, the law that converted the municipality of Guihulngan into a city.
It became law on March 24, 2007.
However, subsequently, the League of cities filed a petition in the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional such “cityhood law”, along with fifteen other similar laws that converted towns into cities.
According to the league of cities, the “cityhood” laws violated the constitution because it exempted Guilhulngan and other similar towns from complying with the income requirement in the local government code.
The local government code Section 450, requires that in order for a town to be eligible to become a city, it must have an income of at least P100-million.
The local government code also prescribes minimum size and population for an applicant town.
But when the Guihulngan “cityhood” law was enacted, it contained a provision (Section 61) that exempted the town from complying with the income requirement in the local government code.
The League of cities, represented by the cities of Bais and Bayawan for Negros Oriental, protested the unfairness.
The leagues argued there is no basis for making such exemptions from compliance with the income requirement.
The Supreme Court agreed saying that the constitution specifically requires that the criteria prescribed in the local government code in order for a town to become a city must be followed.
The Supreme Court cited Section 10 Article X of the 1987 constitution which provides that: “No …city…shall be created,… except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code.
“Congress cannot create a city through a law that does not comply with the criteria or exemption found in the Local Government Code,” the Supreme Court declared.
The creation of cities must be through a general law, meaning the local government code, and not “cityhood” laws, the court noted.
But the policy protest of the league of cities is that they don’t want towns to become cities, and eventually share in the internal revenue allotments for cities, by making short-cuts (not complying with the income threshold requirement).
The Supreme court also cited Section 6 Article X of the constitution which provides that: “Local government units shall have a just share in the national taxes”
If towns are allowed to become cities without complying with the prescribed criteria in the local government code, then it would subvert the constitutional mandate for cities to have a “just share” share in the national taxes.

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