Residents of Davao Oriental hail SC’s reconsideration of cityhood decision

December 24, 2009 11:00 am 

MATI CITY, Davao Oriental, Dec. 24 — Residents and several groups of this eastcoast province of Davao Region hailed the latest decision of the Supreme Court (SC) declaring valid and constitutional its cityhood, along with 15 others.

Mati Mayor Michelle Rabat said the latest SC decision is a big break the people of Mati deserve.

The Supreme Court (SC), by a vote of 6-4, reversed on Tuesday its Nov. 18, 2008 ruling and declared as "constitutional" the Cityhood Laws or Republic Acts (RAs) converting 16 municipalities into cities.

In a 35-page ruling, penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., the SC declared as valid and constitutional Republic Act (RA) Nos. 9389 (Baybay City in Leyte), 9390 (Bogo City in Cebu), 9391 (Catbalogan City in Samar), 9392 (Tandag City in Surigao del Sur), 9393 (Lamitan City in Basilan), 9394 (Borongan City in Samar);

RA 9398 (Tayabas City in Quezon), 9404 (Tabuk City in Kalinga), 9405 (Bayugan City in Agusan del Sur), 9407 (Batac City in Ilocos Norte), 9408 (Mati City in Davao Oriental), 9409 (Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental), 9434 (Cabadbaran City in Agusan del Norte), 9435 (El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental), 9436 (Carcar City in Cebu) and 9491 (Naga City in Cebu).

"God is really great. With Him, everything is possible. People of Mati deserve this break," she said.

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon also welcomed the SC decision, saying the progress of Mati as a city would surely have ripple effect on all other towns of her province.

"It's high time for Davao Oriental to have a city considering that we have one of the oldest towns in the country. I congratulate the people of Mati for their restored cityhood and this is indeed a very merry Christmas for us all and we are looking forward to more bountiful years for Mati City," Malanyaon said.

"Mati cityhood is meant to be. It was delivered as your Christmas gift this time. Merry Cityhood," said Annie Sandalo of Code-NGO based here in Davao City.

"I am happy of the reversion of the Supreme Court's decision because it will bring bounty to everyone. Mati's cityhood will bring new investors because they will be less hesitant to invest in a city as compared to a municipality. Also, Mati's Cityhood will bring in more employment, more buildings and paved streets," Floro Caral, vice chair of MCLDC Cooperative in Mati, said.

"We are very happy. The Supreme Court's decision was just right because the rule of law has prevailed," added Narcisa Reancho, city budget officer of Mati.

Few months ago before the latest SC decision reverting the towns to city, Mati officials were already hopeful of a favorable decision on their case since the High Court already ordered that the cityhood status be restored to the 160 towns while they are still hearing its petition.

Mayor Rabat said they are now just waiting for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to acknowledge the SC decision and restore their Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) from P180 million being a town to P450 million as a city.

"As soon as DBM confirms and assures us that we can again enjoy our city IRA, I will just continue where we left off. All casuals that are considered essential to the operation of the unit will be recalled. The subsidy to the elementary public schools continues. Our health programs and so on and so forth," Rabat said.

On April 28, 2009, the SC upheld the nullification of the 16 laws because of a common provision exempting them from the annual-income requirement as it supposedly violated the equal-protection clause.

The tribunal said in its April ruling that all issues in the motion for reconsideration had already been resolved when it rendered its November 2008 decision.

However, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, the SC ruled that a deadlocked vote did not reflect the majority of the tribunal members and went on to decide that there was no violation of the equal protection clause in the cityhood laws. (PNA)

LBV/Ferdinand O. Zuasola/lvp

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