SC affirms Dinagat Island separation from Surigao del NorteBy Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court affirmed the legality of Republic Act 9355 or the law creating Dinagat Islands as a separate province from Surigao del Norte.
In a one-page resolution dated Sept. 11 but released to the media Thursday, the high court denied with finality the appeal filed by Rodolfo Navarro, Victor Bernal and Rene Medina.
“The Court resolved to deny with finality the said motion for reconsideration as no substantial arguments were presented to warrant the reversal of the questioned resolution,” the high court said.
On February 2010, the high court declared as unconstitutional RA 9355 as well as Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991.
It ruled that its land area of 802.12 square kilometer failed to comply with the land area requirement of 2,000 square kilometers to allow the creation of a new province.
The high court said Dinagat Islands also failed to comply with the population requirement of not less than 250,000 inhabitants as certified by the National Statistics Office. A Census Population conducted by the NSO showed that the Dinagat Islands population as of May 2000 was only 106,951.
However, on April 12, 2011, the high court reversed the February 2010 ruling and said that the law creating Dinagat Islands is legal saying it is exempted from the minimum land area requirement being an island province.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in his dissenting opinion said the high court’s majority “skirted around these minimum statutory requirements by the simple expedient of exempting Dinagat Islands from the minimum land area requirement.”
He also took note of the fact that Dinagat is underpopulated, not complying with the 250,000 population requirement.
“The legislative district of Dinagat Islands fails the constitutional test by a mile. Nearly one year after its creation, the district’s population under the 2007 census stood only at 120,813 less than half of the constitutional minimum…The representative from this highly favored legislative district now joins the congressman from the other severely malapportioned First Legislative District of Camarines Sur (which had a population only of 176,383 at its creation) as members of an ever growing elite club of congressmen representing constitutionally aberrant pygmy districts created at the expense of the Bill of Rights and core democratic republican values,” Carpio said.
“Undoubtedly, the people of Dinagat Islands are entitled to aspire for provincehood. This coveted status, however, with its concomitant
responsibilities and benefits, must be attained in accordance with the law and the Constitution… Currently, the law and the Constitution bar Dinagat Islands from attaining such status,” Carpio added.