‘Joke of the century’ (2)
JUSTICE CONCHITA Carpio-Morales whacked a Supreme Court decision that blinked at Eduardo Cojuangco pocketing 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares by dipping into levies squeezed from indigent coconut farmers. “The biggest joke to hit the century,” she wrote before retiring.
Did the same Court crack the “second biggest joke to hit the century?” Voting 7-6-2, the tribunal ruled “with finality” that the creation of 16 new cities didn’t fracture the Constitution. All 16 flunked the tax collection criterion of P100 million average for two consecutive years set by the Local Government Code (LGC). The Court cart-wheeled repeatedly, within three years, over a “final decision” that had become, in its own words, “executory.” “Oh no! Not again!” the Inquirer headlined February’s flip-flop.
“Justices call the 16 cities’ case one of the most contentious issues the Supreme Court has ruled on,” the Sun Star noted. The Court changed its mind three times after ruling on Nov. 18, 2008 that the 16 didn’t meet constitutional criteria. The Court reversed itself on Dec. 31, 2009, saying the 16 cityhood laws were constitutional. No, they are not, the Court said in a ruling handed down on Aug. 24, 2010. And on Feb. 15, 2011, it somersaulted and said the laws were constitutional.
By then, vertigo afflicted everybody. That includes the League of Cities. Its 120 members protested the 16 “upstarts” siphoning their Internal Revenue Allotments.
“League of 16” members were also strapped to this “judicial yoyo.” The 16 include Baybay, Leyte; Naga, Bogo and Carcar in Cebu; Catbalogan, Samar; Borongan, Eastern Samar; Tandag, Surigao del Sur; and Lamitan, Basilan. The others are: Tayabas, Quezon; Tabuk, Kalinga; Bayugan, Agusan del Sur; Batac, Ilocos Norte; Mati, Davao Oriental; Guihulngan, Negros Oriental; Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte; and El Salvador, Misamis Oriental.
The line-up of those who backed the 16 was predictable: Chief Justice Renato Corona, Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Roberto Abad, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza switched vote this time around.
“This Court made history with its repeated flip-flopping in this case,” Justice Antonio Carpio led in his dissenting opinion. He had written the original ponencia that “defrocked” the 16.
Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales also dissented. So did Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Ma. Lourdes Sereno, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta.
“There is absolutely nothing in the  Cityhood Laws to support the majority decision that [they] amended the Local Government Code,” Carpio wrote. Thus, the 16 must generate P100 million income, not merely P20 million. And the “Separability Clause” in each cityhood bill provides that the LGC prevails in case of inconsistency.
The majority committed a “glaring error” by claiming the P100-million minimum income standard was “arbitrarily made” or “extremely difficult” to comply with. San Juan, Navotas, Sta. Rosa (Laguna), Dasmariñas (Cavite) and Biñan (Laguna) “were created in full compliance with the P100 million income criterion.”
There are, in fact, 21 towns in Luzon that generate P100 million incomes. The League of Cities endorsed their cityhood applications. The qualified towns are: Cabuyao and San Pedro in Laguna; Cainta, Taytay and Binangonan in Rizal; Bacoor, General Trias, Imus, Carmona, and Silang in Cavite; San Pedro, Laguna; Pantabangan in Nueva Ecija; Calaca, Sto. Tomas, Bauan and Nasugbu in Batangas; Mauban in Quezon; Marilao, Sta. Maria and Norzagaray in Bulacan; and Limay in Bataan.
“The majority does not state that the P100 million income requirement is unconstitutional,” Carpio pointed out. They simply refused to apply the prevailing law. Instead, they applied a repealed law. “There is neither law nor logic in the majority decision.”
The 16 “stick out like a sore thumb … as distinctly privileged cities with only P20-million annual income.” This discriminates against cities that meet the law’s criteria. More basic, this bias “violates the equal protection clause” of the Constitution.
The Majority in the Court also made short shrift of the League of Cities complaint, saying it “all boils down to money.” No, Carpio wrote. “It boils down to equity and fairness… and faithful compliance with an express mandatory provision of the Constitution.”
Internal Revenue Allotments of League of Cities members would be sapped to meet the claims of 16 additional cities. “For every peso that each Davaoeño receives, his counterpart in the respondent municipality [one of the 16] will receive more than two pesos.”
“The majority gravely loses sight of the fact that ‘the members of petitioner League of Cities are also in need of the same resources’.” These resources were meant “for almost 40 million Filipinos, as compared to only 1.3 million Filipinos in the  respondent municipalities.”
In his concurring opinion for the majority, Justice Roberto A. Abad claimed the Court substantially complied with the Constitution. That’s not enough, Carpio snapped. “There must be strict, not only substantial, compliance with the constitutional requirement.”
The economic lifeline of existing cities may be seriously affected, he warned. There is an P80-million gap between what the 16 earn and what the law requires.
To deem that as “substantial compliance” is like saying that those who obtain a general average of 20 percent in the bar examinations are in “substantial compliance” with requirements for admission to the bar where the highest possible score is 100 percent.
So, are we all the butt of the “second biggest joke to hit the century?”
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