Supreme Court voids creation of Shariff Kabunsuan

Posted at 07/17/2008 11:35 AM

By Jesus F. Llanto
abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak


The
Supreme Court has declared the creation of the province of Shariff
Kabunsuan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao void and ruled
that the power of ARMM’s legislature to create provinces and cities is
unconstitutional.

The SC, in an 8-6 vote, declared void Muslim
Mindanao Autonomy Act 201, which created the province of Shariff
Kabunsuan, which was carved out of Maguindanao province.

“Only
Congress can create provinces and cities because the creation of
provinces and cities necessarily includes the creation of legislative
districts,” the 33-page decision penned by Justice Antonio Carpio reads.

The
SC ruling said that creation of province or a city “inherently involves
the power to create a legislative district.”  Creating a province or a
city without creating a legislative district, the decision said, is
unconstitutional because the Constitution mandates that a province or a
city with at least 250,000 inhabitants is entitled to at least one
representative.

The ruling said that only Congress can create or
reapportion a legislative district. “Congress exercises these powers
through a law that the Congress itself enacts and not through a law
that a regional or local legislative bodies enact.”

The Regional
Legislative Assembly, ARMM’s law-making body enacted on Aug. 28, 2006
MMAA 201, which created Shariff Kabunsuan by separating eight
municipalities from the first district of Maguindanao-- Barira, Buldon,
Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan
Mastura and Upi. It was ratified in a plebiscite on October 29, 2006.

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More LGUs

The now-defunct province of Shariff
Kabunsuan was composed of 11 towns after RLA created three new
towns—Sultan Mastura, Northern Kabuntalan and Datu Blah Sinsuat—from
the province’s three existing plan.

The SC decision also
declared unconstitutional the RLA’s power to create provinces and
cities in the region but it did not pass upon the constitutionality of
the creation of new municipalities and barangays.

“The creation of such municipalities and barangays does not involve the creation of legislative district,” the ruling reads.

Under
Republic Act No. 9140 or the Expanded ARMM Law, the RLA has the power
to create new LGUs and to set its own criteria in creating, dividing,
merging, or abolishing LGUs. LGUs created by the Expanded ARMM Law that
do not meet the standards of the LGC are not entitled to the share in
the national taxes collected by the national government and depend only
on the general funds of the ARMM regional government.

This
provision of the ARMM law has been criticized because it results in the
creation of smaller and non-viable local government units. In recent
years, the number of LGUs in the region has swelled. In December 2005,
the region was composed only of 5 provinces, 101 municipalities, and
2,461 barangays. Since then, one province (Shariff Kabunsuan), 12
municipalities, and nine barangays have been created.

Local
officials in the region said that this process has improved the peace
situation because it helps avoid rido or clan wars by giving every
political family a territory to govern.