EN BANC

 

 

BAI SANDRA S. A. SEMA,                      G.R. No. 177597

                              Petitioner,

                                                                      

 

 

      - versus -                                           

         

 

                                                                

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS                

and DIDAGEN P. DILANGALEN,                   

                               Respondents.                    

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

 

PERFECTO F. MARQUEZ,                 G.R. No. 178628   

                               Petitioner,

                                                                     Present:

 

                                                                     PUNO, C.J.,                                                              

                                                                     QUISUMBING,

                                                                     YNARES-SANTIAGO,

                                                                  CARPIO,

                                                                  AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,

                                                                      CORONA,

                                                                      CARPIO MORALES,

              - versus -                                         AZCUNA,

                                                                      TINGA,

                                                                  CHICO-NAZARIO,

                                                                  VELASCO, JR.,

                                                                  NACHURA,

                                                                      REYES,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO, and

BRION, JJ.  

 

 

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,          Promulgated:

                                Respondent.               July 16, 2008

 

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

 

 

D E C I S I O N

 

 

CARPIO, J.:

 

 

The Case

 

 

          These consolidated petitions[1] seek to annul Resolution No. 7902, dated 10 May 2007, of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) treating Cotabato City as part of the legislative district of the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan.[2]

 

The Facts

 

 

          The Ordinance appended to the 1987 Constitution apportioned two legislative districts for the Province of Maguindanao. The first legislative district consists of Cotabato City and eight municipalities.[3]  Maguindanao forms part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), created under its Organic Act, Republic Act No. 6734 (RA 6734), as amended by Republic Act No. 9054  (RA 9054).[4] Although under the Ordinance, Cotabato City forms part of Maguindanao’s first legislative district, it is not part of the ARMM but of Region XII, having voted against its inclusion in the ARMM in the plebiscite held in November 1989.

 

          On 28 August 2006, the ARMM’s legislature, the ARMM Regional Assembly, exercising its power to create provinces under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054,[5] enacted Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 201 (MMA Act 201) creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan composed of the eight municipalities in the first district of Maguindanao.  MMA Act 201 provides:

               

          Section 1. The Municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, and Upi are hereby separated from the Province of Maguindanao and constituted into a distinct and independent province, which is hereby created, to be known as the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan.

 

 

           x x x x

 

Sec. 5.  The corporate existence of this province shall commence upon the appointment by the Regional Governor or election of the governor and majority of the regular members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.

 

            The incumbent elective provincial officials of the Province of Maguindanao shall continue to serve their unexpired terms in the province that they will choose or where they are residents:  Provided, that where an elective position in both provinces becomes vacant as a consequence of the creation of the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan, all incumbent elective provincial officials shall have preference for appointment to a higher elective vacant position and for the time being be appointed by the Regional Governor, and shall hold office until their successors shall have been elected and qualified in the next local elections; Provided, further, that they shall continue to receive the salaries they are receiving at the time of the approval of this Act until the new readjustment of salaries in accordance with law.  Provided, furthermore, that there shall be no diminution in the number of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the mother province.

 

            Except as may be provided by national law, the existing legislative district, which includes Cotabato as a part thereof, shall remain. 

 

 

Later, three new municipalities[6] were carved out of the original nine municipalities constituting Shariff Kabunsuan, bringing its total number of municipalities to 11. Thus, what was left of Maguindanao were the municipalities constituting its second legislative district. Cotabato City, although part of Maguindanao’s first legislative district, is not part of the Province of Maguindanao.

 

The voters of Maguindanao ratified Shariff Kabunsuan’s creation in a plebiscite held on 29 October 2006.

         

On 6 February 2007, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cotabato City passed Resolution No. 3999 requesting the COMELEC to “clarify the status of Cotabato City in view of the conversion of the First District of Maguindanao into a regular province” under MMA Act 201.

 

          In answer to Cotabato City’s query, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 07-0407 on 6 March 2007 "maintaining the status quo with Cotabato City as part of Shariff Kabunsuan in the First Legislative District of Maguindanao.” Resolution No. 07-0407, which adopted the recommendation of the COMELEC’s Law Department under a Memorandum dated 27 February 2007,[7] provides in pertinent parts:

 

            Considering the foregoing, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby resolves, to adopt the recommendation of the Law Department that pending the enactment of the appropriate law by Congress, to maintain the status quo with Cotabato City as part of Shariff Kabunsuan in the First Legislative District of Maguindanao.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

However, in preparation for the 14 May 2007 elections, the COMELEC promulgated on 29 March 2007 Resolution No. 7845 stating that Maguindanao’s first legislative district is composed only of Cotabato City because of the enactment of MMA Act 201.[8] 

 

          On 10 May 2007, the COMELEC issued Resolution No. 7902, subject of these petitions, amending Resolution No. 07-0407 by renaming the legislative district in question as “Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City (formerly First District of Maguindanao with Cotabato City).”[9]

 

          In G.R. No. 177597, Sema, who was a candidate in the 14 May 2007 elections for Representative of “Shariff Kabunsuan with Cotabato City,” prayed for the nullification of COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 and the exclusion from canvassing of the votes cast in Cotabato City for that office. Sema contended that Shariff Kabunsuan is entitled to one representative in Congress under Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution[10] and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution.[11] Thus, Sema asserted that the COMELEC acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction in issuing Resolution No. 7902 which maintained the status quo in Maguindanao’s first legislative district despite the COMELEC’s earlier directive in Resolution No. 7845 designating Cotabato City as the lone component of Maguindanao’s reapportioned first legislative district.[12] Sema further claimed that in issuing Resolution No. 7902, the COMELEC usurped Congress’ power to create or reapportion legislative districts.

 

          In its Comment, the COMELEC, through the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), chose not to reach the merits of the case and merely contended that (1) Sema wrongly availed of the writ of certiorari to nullify COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 because the COMELEC issued the same in the exercise of its administrative, not quasi-judicial, power and (2) Sema’s prayer for the writ of prohibition in G.R. No. 177597 became moot with the proclamation of respondent Didagen P. Dilangalen (respondent Dilangalen) on 1 June 2007 as representative of the legislative district of Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City.

 

          In his Comment, respondent Dilangalen countered that Sema is estopped from questioning COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 because in her certificate of candidacy filed on 29 March 2007, Sema indicated that she was seeking election as representative of “Shariff Kabunsuan including Cotabato City.”  Respondent Dilangalen added that COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 is constitutional because it did not apportion a legislative district for Shariff Kabunsuan or reapportion the legislative districts in Maguindanao but merely renamed Maguindanao’s first legislative district. Respondent Dilangalen further claimed that the COMELEC could not reapportion Maguindanao’s first legislative district to make Cotabato City its sole component unit as the power to reapportion legislative districts lies exclusively with Congress, not to mention that Cotabato City does not meet the minimum population requirement under Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution for the creation of a legislative district within a city.[13] 

 

          Sema filed a Consolidated Reply controverting the matters raised in respondents’ Comments and reiterating her claim that the COMELEC acted ultra vires in issuing Resolution No. 7902.

 

In the Resolution of 4 September 2007, the Court required the parties in G.R. No. 177597 to comment on the issue of whether a province created by the ARMM Regional Assembly under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives without need of a national law creating a legislative district for such new province. The parties submitted their compliance as follows:

 

(1) Sema answered the issue in the affirmative on the following grounds: (a) the Court in Felwa v. Salas[14] stated that “when a province is created by statute, the corresponding representative district comes into existence neither by authority of that statute — which cannot provide otherwise — nor by apportionment, but by operation of the Constitution, without a reapportionment”; (b) Section 462 of Republic Act No. 7160 (RA 7160) “affirms” the apportionment of a legislative district incident to the creation of a province; and (c)  Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution mandate the  apportionment of a legislative district in newly created provinces.

 

(2) The COMELEC, again represented by the OSG, apparently abandoned its earlier stance on the propriety of issuing Resolution Nos. 07-0407 and 7902 and joined causes with Sema, contending that Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution is “self-executing.” Thus, every new province created by the ARMM Regional Assembly is ipso facto entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives even in the absence of a national law; and

 

(3) Respondent Dilangalen answered the issue in the negative on the following grounds: (a) the “province” contemplated in Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution is one that is created by an act of Congress taking into account the provisions in RA 7160 on the creation of provinces; (b) Section 3, Article IV of RA 9054 withheld from the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to enact measures relating to national elections, which encompasses the apportionment of legislative districts for members of the House of Representatives; (c) recognizing a legislative district in every province the ARMM Regional Assembly creates will lead to the disproportionate representation of the ARMM in the House of Representatives as the  Regional Assembly can create provinces without regard to the requirements in Section 461 of RA 7160; and (d) Cotabato City, which has a population of less than 250,000, is not entitled to a representative in the House of Representatives.

 

On 27 November 2007, the Court heard the parties in G.R.              No. 177597 in oral arguments on the following issues: (1) whether Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, delegating to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces, is constitutional; and (2) if in the affirmative, whether a province created under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives without need of a national law creating a legislative district for such new province.[15]

 

In compliance with the Resolution dated 27 November 2007, the parties in G.R. No. 177597 filed their respective Memoranda on the issues raised in the oral arguments.[16] On the question of the constitutionality of Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, the parties in G.R. No. 177597 adopted the following positions:

 

(1) Sema contended that Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is constitutional (a) as a valid delegation by Congress to the ARMM of the power to create provinces under Section 20 (9), Article X of the Constitution granting to the autonomous regions, through their organic acts, legislative powers over “other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region” and (b) as an amendment to Section 6 of RA 7160.[17] However, Sema concedes that, if taken literally, the grant in Section 19,  Article VI of RA 9054 to the ARMM Regional Assembly of the power to “prescribe standards lower than those mandated” in RA 7160 in the creation of provinces contravenes Section 10, Article X of the Constitution.[18] Thus, Sema proposed that Section 19 “should be construed as prohibiting the Regional Assembly from prescribing standards x x x that do not comply with the minimum criteria” under RA 7160.[19]

 

(2) Respondent Dilangalen contended that  Section 19,  Article VI of RA 9054 is unconstitutional on the following grounds: (a) the power to create provinces was not among those granted to the autonomous regions under Section 20, Article X of the Constitution and (b) the grant under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054  to the ARMM Regional Assembly of the power to prescribe standards lower than those mandated in Section 461 of RA 7160 on the creation of provinces contravenes Section 10, Article X of the Constitution and the Equal Protection Clause; and

 

(3) The COMELEC, through the OSG, joined causes with respondent Dilangalen (thus effectively abandoning the position the COMELEC adopted in its Compliance with the Resolution of 4 September 2007) and contended that Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is unconstitutional because (a) it contravenes Section 10 and Section 6,[20] Article X of the Constitution and (b) the power to create provinces was withheld from the autonomous regions under Section 20, Article X of the Constitution.

 

On the question of whether a province created under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives without need of a national law creating a legislative district for such new province, Sema and respondent Dilangalen reiterated in their Memoranda the positions they adopted in their Compliance with the Resolution of 4 September 2007. The COMELEC deemed it unnecessary to submit its position on this issue considering its stance that Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is unconstitutional.

 

The pendency of the petition in G.R. No. 178628 was disclosed during the oral arguments on 27 November 2007. Thus, in the Resolution of 19 February 2008, the Court ordered G.R. No. 178628 consolidated with G.R. No. 177597.  The petition in G.R. No. 178628 echoed Sema's contention that the COMELEC acted ultra vires in issuing Resolution      No. 7902 depriving the voters of Cotabato City of a representative in the House of Representatives.  In its Comment to the petition in G.R.             No. 178628, the COMELEC, through the OSG, maintained the validity of COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 as a temporary measure pending the enactment by Congress of  the “appropriate law.”

 

 

The Issues

 

         

The petitions raise the following issues:

 

          I. In G.R. No. 177597:

          (A) Preliminarily –

(1) whether the writs of Certiorari, Prohibition, and Mandamus are proper to test the constitutionality of COMELEC Resolution No. 7902; and

(2) whether the proclamation of respondent Dilangalen as representative of Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City mooted the petition in G.R. No. 177597.

 

 

 

 

 

(B) On the merits –

(1)  whether Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, delegating to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, is constitutional; and

(2) if in the affirmative, whether a province created by the ARMM Regional Assembly under MMA Act 201 pursuant to Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is entitled to one representative in the House of Representatives without need of a national law creating a legislative district for such province.

 

II. In G.R No.  177597 and G.R No.  178628, whether COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 is valid for maintaining the status quo in the first legislative district of Maguindanao (as “Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City [formerly First District of Maguindanao with Cotabato City]”), despite the creation of the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan out of such district (excluding Cotabato City).

 

 

The Ruling of the Court

 

          The petitions have no merit.  We rule that (1) Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054 is unconstitutional insofar as it grants to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces and cities; (2) MMA Act 201 creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan is void; and (3) COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 is valid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the Preliminary Matters

 

 

The Writ of Prohibition is Appropriate

to Test the Constitutionality of

Election Laws, Rules and Regulations

 

         

The purpose of the writ of Certiorari is to correct grave abuse of discretion by “any tribunal, board, or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions.”[21] On the other hand, the writ of Mandamus will issue to compel a tribunal, corporation, board, officer, or person to perform an act “which the law specifically enjoins as a duty.”[22] True, the COMELEC did not issue Resolution No. 7902 in the exercise of its judicial or quasi-judicial functions.[23] Nor is there a law which specifically enjoins the COMELEC to exclude from canvassing the votes cast in Cotabato City for representative of “Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City.” These, however, do not justify the outright dismissal of the petition in G.R. No. 177597 because Sema also prayed for the issuance of the writ of Prohibition and we have long recognized this writ as proper for testing the constitutionality of election laws, rules, and regulations.[24]

 

 

Respondent Dilangalen’s Proclamation

Does Not Moot the Petition

 

 

          There is also no merit in the claim that respondent Dilangalen’s proclamation as winner in the 14 May 2007 elections for representative of “Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City” mooted this petition. This case does not concern respondent Dilangalen’s election. Rather, it involves an inquiry into the validity of COMELEC Resolution No. 7902, as well as the constitutionality of MMA Act 201 and Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054.  Admittedly, the outcome of this petition, one way or another, determines whether the votes cast in Cotabato City for representative of the district of “Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City” will be included in the canvassing of ballots.   However, this incidental consequence is no reason for us not to proceed with the resolution of the novel issues raised here.  The Court’s ruling in these petitions affects not only the recently concluded elections but also all the other succeeding elections for the office in question, as well as the power of the ARMM Regional Assembly to create in the future additional provinces.

 

 

On the Main Issues

 

 

Whether the ARMM Regional Assembly

Can Create the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan 

 

 

          The creation of local government units is governed by Section 10, Article X of the Constitution, which provides:

 

Sec. 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished or its boundary substantially altered except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.

 

 

Thus, the creation of any of the four local government units – province, city, municipality or barangay – must comply with three conditions. First, the creation of a local government unit must follow the criteria fixed in the Local Government Code.   Second, such creation must not conflict with any provision of the Constitution.  Third, there must be a plebiscite in the political units affected.

 

          There is neither an express prohibition nor an express grant of authority in the Constitution for Congress to delegate to regional or local legislative bodies the power to create local government units. However, under its plenary legislative powers, Congress can delegate to local legislative bodies the power to create local government units, subject to reasonable standards and provided no conflict arises with any provision of the Constitution.  In fact, Congress has delegated to provincial boards, and city and municipal councils, the power to create barangays within their jurisdiction,[25] subject to compliance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code, and the plebiscite requirement in Section 10, Article X of the Constitution.   However, under the Local Government Code, “only x x x an Act of Congress” can create provinces, cities or municipalities.[26]

 

          Under Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, Congress delegated to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays within the ARMM.   Congress made the delegation under its plenary legislative powers because the power to create local government units is not one of the express legislative powers granted by the Constitution to regional legislative bodies.[27] In the present case, the question arises whether the delegation to the ARMM Regional Assembly of the power to create provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays conflicts with any provision of the Constitution. 

 

          There is no provision in the Constitution that conflicts with the delegation to regional legislative bodies of the power to create municipalities and barangays, provided Section 10, Article X of the Constitution is followed.  However, the creation of provinces and cities is another matter.  Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution provides, “Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative” in the House of Representatives. Similarly, Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution provides, “Any province that may hereafter be created, or any city whose population may hereafter increase to more than two hundred fifty thousand shall be entitled in the immediately following election to at least one Member x x x.” 

 

Clearly, a province cannot be created without a legislative district because it will violate Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution as well as Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution. For the same reason, a city with a population of 250,000 or more cannot also be created without a legislative district. Thus, the power to create a province, or a city with a population of 250,000 or more, requires also the power to create a legislative district. Even the creation of a city with a population of less than 250,000 involves the power to create a legislative district because once the city’s population reaches 250,000, the city automatically becomes entitled to one representative under Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution. Thus, the power to create a province or city inherently involves the power to create a legislative district. 

 

For Congress to delegate validly the power to create a province or city, it must also validly delegate at the same time the power to create a legislative district.  The threshold issue then is, can Congress validly delegate to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create legislative districts for the House of Representatives?  The answer is in the negative.

 

Legislative Districts are Created or Reapportioned

Only by an Act of Congress

 

Under the present Constitution, as well as in past[28] Constitutions, the power to increase the allowable membership in the House of Representatives, and to reapportion legislative districts, is vested exclusively in Congress.  Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution provides:

 

SECTION 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

 

             x x x x

 

(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.

 

(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section. (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

Section 5 (1), Article VI of the Constitution vests in Congress the power to increase, through a law, the allowable membership in the House of Representatives.  Section 5 (4) empowers Congress to reapportion legislative districts.  The power to reapportion legislative districts necessarily includes the power to create legislative districts out of existing ones. Congress exercises these powers through a law that Congress itself enacts, and not through a law that regional or local legislative bodies enact.  The allowable membership of the House of Representatives can be increased, and new legislative districts of Congress can be created, only through a national law passed by Congress.  In Montejo v. COMELEC,[29] we held that the “power of redistricting x x x is traditionally regarded as part of the power (of Congress) to make laws,” and thus is vested exclusively in Congress.

 

This textual commitment to Congress of the exclusive power to create or reapportion legislative districts is logical. Congress is a national legislature and any increase in its allowable membership or in its incumbent membership through the creation of legislative districts must be embodied in a national law. Only Congress can enact such a law.  It would be anomalous for regional or local legislative bodies to create or reapportion legislative districts for a national legislature like Congress. An inferior legislative body, created by a superior legislative body, cannot change the membership of the superior legislative body. 

 

The creation of the ARMM, and the grant of legislative powers to its Regional Assembly under its organic act, did not divest Congress of its exclusive authority to create legislative districts. This is clear from the Constitution and the ARMM Organic Act, as amended. Thus, Section 20, Article X of the Constitution provides:

 

SECTION 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over:

(1)        Administrative organization;

(2)        Creation of sources of revenues;

(3)        Ancestral domain and natural resources;

(4)        Personal, family, and property relations;

(5)        Regional urban and rural planning development;

(6)        Economic, social, and tourism development;

(7)        Educational policies;

(8)        Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and

(9)        Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region.

 

Nothing in Section 20, Article X of the Constitution authorizes autonomous regions, expressly or impliedly, to create or reapportion legislative districts for Congress.  

 

On the other hand, Section 3, Article IV of RA 9054 amending the ARMM Organic Act, provides, “The Regional Assembly may exercise legislative power x x x  except on the following matters: x x x (k) National elections. x x x.”  Since the ARMM Regional Assembly has no legislative power to enact laws relating to national elections, it cannot create a legislative district whose representative is elected in national elections. Whenever Congress enacts a law creating a legislative district, the first representative is always elected in the “next national elections” from the effectivity of the law.[30] 

Indeed, the office of a legislative district representative to Congress is a national office, and its occupant, a Member of the House of Representatives, is a national official.[31]  It would be incongruous for a regional legislative body like the ARMM Regional Assembly to create a national office when its legislative powers extend only to its regional territory.  The office of a district representative is maintained by national funds and the salary of its occupant is paid out of national funds.  It is a self-evident inherent limitation on the legislative powers of every local or regional legislative body that it can only create local or regional offices, respectively, and it can never create a national office. 

 

To allow the ARMM Regional Assembly to create a national office is to allow its legislative powers to operate outside the ARMM’s territorial jurisdiction.   This violates Section 20, Article X of the Constitution which expressly limits the coverage of the Regional Assembly’s legislative powers “[w]ithin its territorial jurisdiction x x x.” 

 

The ARMM Regional Assembly itself, in creating Shariff Kabunsuan, recognized the exclusive nature of Congress’ power to create or reapportion legislative districts by abstaining from creating a legislative district for Shariff Kabunsuan. Section 5 of MMA Act 201 provides that:

 

Except as may be provided by national law, the existing legislative district, which includes Cotabato City as a part thereof, shall remain.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

However, a province cannot legally be created without a legislative district because the Constitution mandates that “each province shall have at least one representative.”   Thus, the creation of the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan without a legislative district is unconstitutional. 

 

          Sema, petitioner in G.R. No. 177597, contends that Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution, which provides:

 

Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative. (Emphasis supplied)

 

and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution, which states:

 

Any province that may hereafter be created, or any city whose population may hereafter increase to more than two hundred fifty thousand shall be entitled in the immediately following election to at least one Member or such number of Members as it may be entitled to on the basis of the number of its inhabitants and according to the standards set forth in paragraph (3), Section 5 of Article VI of the Constitution.  The number of Members apportioned to the province out of which such new province was created or where the city, whose population has so increased, is geographically located shall be correspondingly adjusted by the Commission on Elections but such adjustment shall not be made within one hundred and twenty days before the election. (Emphasis supplied)

 

serve as bases for the conclusion that the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan, created on 29 October 2006, is automatically entitled to one member in the House of Representatives in the 14 May 2007 elections. As further support for her stance, petitioner invokes the statement in Felwa that “when a province is created by statute, the corresponding representative district comes into existence neither by authority of that statute — which cannot provide otherwise — nor by apportionment, but by operation of the Constitution, without a reapportionment.” 

 

          The contention has no merit.

 

          First. The issue in Felwa, among others, was whether Republic Act No. 4695 (RA 4695), creating the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, and Kalinga-Apayao and providing for congressional representation in the old and new provinces, was unconstitutional for “creati[ng] congressional districts without the apportionment provided in the Constitution.” The Court answered in the negative, thus:

 

The Constitution ordains:

 

            “The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than one hundred and twenty Members who shall be apportioned among the several provinces as nearly as may be according to the number of their respective inhabitants, but each province shall have at least one Member. The Congress shall by law make an apportionment within three years after the return of every enumeration, and not otherwise. Until such apportionment shall have been made, the House of Representatives shall have the same number of Members as that fixed by law for the National Assembly, who shall be elected by the qualified electors from the present Assembly districts. Each representative district shall comprise as far as practicable, contiguous and compact territory.”

            Pursuant to this Section, a representative district may come into existence: (a) indirectly, through the creation of a province — for “each province shall have at least one member” in the House of Representatives; or (b) by direct creation of several representative districts within a province. The requirements concerning the apportionment of representative districts and the territory thereof refer only to the second method of creation of representative districts, and do not apply to those incidental to the creation of provinces, under the first method. This is deducible, not only from the general tenor of the provision above quoted, but, also, from the fact that the apportionment therein alluded to refers to that which is made by an Act of Congress. Indeed, when a province is created by statute, the corresponding representative district, comes into existence neither by authority of that statute — which cannot provide otherwise — nor by apportionment, but by operation of the Constitution, without a reapportionment.

           

            There is no constitutional limitation as to the time when, territory of, or other conditions under which a province may be created, except, perhaps, if the consequence thereof were to exceed the maximum of 120 representative districts prescribed in the Constitution, which is not the effect of the legislation under consideration. As a matter of fact, provinces have been created or subdivided into other provinces, with the consequent creation of additional representative districts, without complying with the aforementioned requirements.[32]  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

          Thus, the Court sustained the constitutionality of RA 4695 because  (1) it validly created legislative districts “indirectly” through a special law enacted by Congress creating a province and (2) the creation of the legislative districts will not result in breaching the maximum number of legislative districts provided under the 1935 Constitution.   Felwa does not apply to the present case because in Felwa the new provinces were created by a national law enacted by Congress itself.  Here, the new province was created merely by a regional law enacted by the ARMM Regional Assembly. 

 

What Felwa teaches is that the creation of a legislative district by Congress does not emanate alone from Congress’ power to reapportion legislative districts, but also from Congress’ power to create provinces which cannot be created without a legislative district.  Thus, when a province is created, a legislative district is created by operation of the Constitution because the Constitution provides that “each province shall have at least one representative” in the House of Representatives. This does not detract from the constitutional principle that the power to create legislative districts belongs exclusively to Congress.  It merely prevents any other legislative body, except Congress, from creating provinces because for a legislative body to create a province such legislative body must have the power to create legislative districts.  In short, only an act of Congress can trigger the creation of a legislative district by operation of the Constitution. Thus, only Congress has the power to create, or trigger the creation of, a legislative district. 

 

Moreover, if as Sema claims MMA Act 201 apportioned a legislative district to Shariff Kabunsuan upon its creation, this will leave Cotabato City as the lone component of the first legislative district of Maguindanao.  However, Cotabato City cannot constitute a legislative district by itself because as of the census taken in 2000, it had a population of only 163,849.  To constitute Cotabato City alone as the surviving first legislative district of Maguindanao will violate Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution which requires that “[E]ach city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand x x x, shall have at least one representative.” 

 

Second. Sema’s theory also undermines the composition and independence of the House of Representatives. Under Section 19,[33] Article VI of RA 9054, the ARMM Regional Assembly can create provinces and cities within the ARMM with or without regard to the criteria fixed in Section 461 of RA 7160, namely:  minimum annual income of P20,000,000, and minimum contiguous territory of 2,000 square kilometers or minimum population of 250,000.[34]  The following scenarios thus become distinct possibilities:

 

(1) An inferior legislative body like the ARMM Regional Assembly can create 100 or more provinces and thus increase the membership of a superior legislative body, the House of      Representatives, beyond the maximum limit of 250 fixed in the Constitution (unless a national law provides otherwise);

 

(2) The proportional representation in the House of   Representatives based on one representative for at least every 250,000 residents will be negated because the ARMM Regional Assembly need not comply with the requirement in Section 461(a)(ii) of RA 7160 that every province created must have a population of at least 250,000; and

 

(3) Representatives from the ARMM provinces can become the majority in the House of Representatives through the ARMM Regional Assembly’s continuous creation of provinces or cities within the ARMM.

 

 

The following exchange during the oral arguments of the petition in G.R. No. 177597 highlights the absurdity of Sema’s position that the ARMM Regional Assembly can create provinces:

 

 

Justice Carpio:

So, you mean to say [a] Local Government can create legislative district[s] and pack Congress with their own representatives [?]

 

Atty. Vistan II:[35]  

          Yes, Your Honor, because the Constitution allows that.

Justice Carpio:

So, [the] Regional Assembly of [the] ARMM can create and create x x x provinces  x x x  and, therefore, they can have thirty-five (35) new representatives in the House of Representatives without Congress agreeing to it, is that what you are saying? That can be done, under your theory[?]

 

            Atty. Vistan II:

 

Yes, Your Honor, under the correct factual circumstances.

 

Justice Carpio:

Under your theory, the ARMM legislature can create thirty-five (35) new provinces, there may be x x x [only] one hundred thousand (100,000) [population], x x x, and they will each have one representative x x x to Congress without any national law, is that what you are saying?

 

            Atty. Vistan II:

 

Without law passed by Congress, yes, Your Honor, that is what we are saying.

 

            x x x x     

Justice Carpio:

So, they can also create one thousand (1000) new provinces, sen[d] one thousand (1000) representatives to the House of Representatives without a national law[,] that is legally possible, correct?

 

            Atty. Vistan II:

 

                        Yes, Your Honor.[36]    (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

Neither the framers of the 1987 Constitution in adopting the provisions in Article X on regional autonomy,[37] nor Congress in enacting RA 9054, envisioned or intended these disastrous consequences that certainly would wreck the tri-branch system of government under our Constitution.  Clearly, the power to create or reapportion legislative districts cannot be delegated by Congress but must be exercised by Congress itself.  Even the ARMM Regional Assembly recognizes this.

 

          The Constitution empowered Congress to create or reapportion legislative districts, not the regional assemblies.  Section 3 of the Ordinance to the Constitution which states, “[A]ny province that may hereafter be created x x x shall be entitled in the immediately following election to at least one Member,” refers to a province created by Congress itself through a national law. The reason is that the creation of a province increases the actual membership of the House of Representatives, an increase that only Congress can decide.  Incidentally, in the present 14th Congress, there are 219[38] district representatives out of the maximum 250 seats in the House of Representatives.  Since party-list members shall constitute 20 percent of total membership of the House, there should at least be 50 party-list seats available in every election in case 50 party-list candidates are proclaimed winners. This leaves only 200 seats for district representatives, much less than the 219 incumbent district representatives.   Thus, there is a need now for Congress to increase by law the allowable membership of the House, even before Congress can create new provinces.

 

         

         

          It is axiomatic that organic acts of autonomous regions cannot prevail over the Constitution.  Section 20, Article X of the Constitution expressly provides that the legislative powers of regional assemblies are limited “[w]ithin its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national laws, x x x.”  The Preamble of the ARMM Organic Act (RA 9054) itself states that the ARMM Government is established “within the framework of the Constitution.”   This follows Section 15, Article X of the Constitution which mandates that the ARMM “shall be created x x x within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”  

 

The present case involves the creation of a local government unit that necessarily involves also the creation of a legislative district.  The Court will not pass upon the constitutionality of the creation of municipalities and barangays that does not comply with the criteria established in Section 461 of RA 7160, as mandated in Section 10, Article X of the Constitution, because the creation of such municipalities and barangays does not involve the creation of legislative districts.  We leave the resolution of this issue to an appropriate case.

 

          In summary, we rule that Section 19, Article VI of RA 9054, insofar as it grants to the ARMM Regional Assembly the power to create provinces and cities, is void for being contrary to Section 5 of Article VI and Section 20 of Article X of the Constitution, as well as Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution.   Only Congress can create provinces and cities because the creation of provinces and cities necessarily includes the creation of legislative districts, a power only Congress can exercise under Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution.  The ARMM Regional Assembly cannot create a province without a legislative district because the Constitution mandates that every province shall have a legislative district.  Moreover, the ARMM Regional Assembly cannot enact a law creating a national office like the office of a district representative of Congress because the legislative powers of the ARMM Regional Assembly operate only within its territorial jurisdiction as provided in Section 20, Article X of the Constitution.  Thus, we rule that MMA Act 201, enacted by the ARMM Regional Assembly and creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan, is void.  

 

Resolution No. 7902 Complies with the Constitution

 

Consequently, we hold that COMELEC Resolution No. 7902, preserving the geographic and legislative district of the First District of Maguindanao with Cotabato City, is valid as it merely complies with Section 5 of Article VI and Section 20 of Article X of the Constitution, as well as Section 1 of the Ordinance appended to the Constitution.

 

          WHEREFORE, we declare Section 19, Article VI of Republic Act No. 9054 UNCONSTITUTIONAL insofar as it grants to the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao the power to create provinces and cities.   Thus, we declare VOID Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 201 creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan. Consequently, we rule that COMELEC Resolution No. 7902 is VALID.

 

 

 

Let a copy of this ruling be served on the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives. 

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

                                      ANTONIO T. CARPIO

                                             Associate Justice

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

 

LEONARDO A. QUISUMBING

Associate Justice

 

 

 

CONSUELO YNARES-SANTIAGO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MA. ALICIA AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ

                   Associate Justice

 

 

 RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

ADOLFO S. AZCUNA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

   DANTE O. TINGA

  Associate Justice

 

 

 

          MINITA V. CHICO-NAZARIO

Associate Justice

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

RUBEN T. REYES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above Decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

                                                            REYNATO S. PUNO

                                                                   Chief Justice

 

 

 

    

 



[1]              In G.R. No. 177597, for the writs of certiorari, prohibition and mandamus; in G.R. No. 178628, for declaratory relief and for the writs of prohibition and mandamus.

[2]               The petitioner in G.R. No. 177597, Bai Sandra S. A. Sema (Sema), further seeks to compel the              COMELEC to exclude from the canvassing the votes cast in Cotabato City for representative of               the legislative district in question in the 14 May 2007 elections. On the other hand, the petitioner            in G.R. No. 178628, Perfecto Marquez, prays that the Court order the COMELEC to conduct a                special election for representative of the “First District of Maguindanao with Cotabato City.”

[3]               Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, and Upi. The second legislative district is composed of 19 municipalities (Talitay, Talayan, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, South Upi, Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Buluan, Datu Paglas, Gen, S.K. Pendatun, Sultan Sa Barongis, Rajah Buayan, Pagalungan, Pagagawan and Paglat).

[4]               The enactment of the organic acts for the autonomous regions of the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao is mandated under Sections 18 and 19, Article X of the 1987 Constitution.

[5]               The provision reads:

 

   SECTION 19.         Creation, Division or Abolition of Provinces, Cities, Municipalities or Barangay. — The Regional Assembly may create, divide, merge, abolish, or substantially alter boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities, or barangay in accordance with the criteria laid down by Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, subject to the approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected. The Regional Assembly may prescribe standards lower than those mandated by Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, in the creation, division, merger, abolition, or alteration of the boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities, or barangay. Provinces, cities, municipalities, or barangay created, divided, merged, or whose boundaries are altered without observing the standards prescribed by Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, shall not be entitled to any share of the taxes that are allotted to the local governments units under the provisions of the Code.

   The financial requirements of the provinces, cities, municipalities, or barangay so created, divided, or merged shall be provided by the Regional Assembly out of the general funds of the Regional Government.

   The holding of a plebiscite to determine the will of the majority of the voters of the areas affected by the creation, division, merger, or whose boundaries are being altered as required by Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, shall, however, be observed.

   The Regional Assembly may also change the names of local government units, public places and institutions, and declare regional holidays. (Emphasis supplied)

 

                Before the enactment of RA 9054, the power to create provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays was vested in Congress (for provinces, cities and municipalities) and in the sangguniang panlalawigan and sangguniang panlungsod (for barangays). (See Sections 384, 448, and 460 of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.)

[6]              Sultan Mastura (created from Sultan Kudarat), Northern Kabuntulan (created from Kabuntulan) and Datu Blah Sinsuat (created from Upi).

[7]               The Memorandum reads in pertinent parts:

 

                The record shows the former province of Maguindanao was divided into two new provinces (Shariff Kabunsuan and Maguindanao), in view of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act (MMAA) No. 201, which authority was conferred to under Section 17, Article VI of Republic Act No. 9054 giving the ARMM, thru its Regional Legislative Assembly, the power to legislate laws including the enactment of the Local Government Code of ARMM.

 

                The newly created province of Shariff Kabunsuan comprises the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura, Upi and Datu Blah, including Cotabato City [which] belongs to the first district of Maguindanao province.

 

                It must be emphasized that Cotabato City is not included as part of ARMM although geographically located within the first district of the former Maguindanao province.  Cotabato City is not voting for provincial officials.  This is the reason why Cotabato City was not specifically mentioned as part of the newly created province of Shariff Kabunsuan.

 

                Geographically speaking since [sic] Cotabato City is located within the newly created province of Shariff Kabunsuan having been bounded by municipalities of Sultan Kudarat, Datu Odin Sinsuat and Kabuntalan as its nearest neighbors.  Following the rule in establishing legislative district, it shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.

 

                However, legally speaking, it may arise question of legality [sic] if Cotabato City will be appended as part of the newly created Shariff Kabunsuan province.  Under our Constitution [it is] only Congress that shall make a reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided for under Section 5(1) of Article VI.

 

                x x x x     

 

                In order to avoid controversy on the matter, pending the enactment of appropriate law by Congress, it would be prudent and logically feasible to maintain status quo with Cotabato City as part of Shariff Kabunsuan in the first district of Maguindanao.

[8]              Resolution No. 7845 pertinently provides:

 

                WHEREAS, the Province of Maguindanao consists of two legislative districts, with Cotabato City as part of the first legislative district.

 

                WHEREAS, Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 201 provided for the creation of the new Province of Shariff Kabunsuan comprising the municipalities of Barira, Buldon, Datu Odin Sinsuat, Kabuntalan, Matanog, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Sultan Mastura and Upi, all of the first legislative district of the mother Province of Maguindanao, except Cotabato City which is not part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; while the remaining municipalities of Talisay, Talayan, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, South Upi, Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Buluan, Datu Paglas, Gen. S. K. Pendatun, Sultan Sa Barongis, Rajah Buayan, Pagalungan, Pagagawan, and Paglat, all of the second legislative district of the mother Province of Maguindanao, shall remain with said province;

 

                WHEREAS, the last paragraph of Section 5 of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy (MMA) Act No. 201 provides that “(e)xcept as may be provided by national law, the existing legislative district, which includes Cotabato City as a part thereof, shall remain.”;

 

                WHEREAS, by reason of said provision of  MMA Act No. 201, the first legislative district of the Province of Maguindanao is now made up of Cotabato City only, and its second legislative district, the municipalities of Talisay, Talayan, Guindulungan, Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Datu Piang, Shariff Aguak, Datu Unsay, Mamasapano, South Upi, Ampatuan, Datu Abdullah Sangki, Buluan, Datu Paglas, Gen. S. K. Pendatun, Sultan Sa Barongis, Rajah Buayan, Pagalungan, Pagagawan, and Paglat[.] (Emphasis supplied)

 

                In the earlier Resolution No. 7801, dated 11 January 2007, the COMELEC allocated one legislative seat each for the provinces of Maguindanao and Shariff Kabunsuan for the 14 May 2007 elections.

[9]               Resolution No. 7902 reads in full:

 

                This pertains to the amendment of  Minute Resolution  No. 07-0407 dated March 6, 2007, entitled, “IN THE MATTER OF THE MEMORANDUM OF ATTY. WYNNE B. ASDALA, ACTING DIRECTOR III,  LAW DEPARTMENT, RELATIVE TO THE STUDY/RECOMMENDATION OF SAID DEPARTMENT RE: CONVERSION OF THE FIRST DISTRICT OF MAGUINDANAO INTO A REGULAR PROVINCE PER MINUTE RESOLUTION NO. 07-0297 DATED FEBRUARY 20, 2007”.  The dispositive portion of which reads:

 

                “Considering the foregoing, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to adopt the recommendation of the Law Department that pending the enactment of the appropriate law by Congress, to maintain status quo with Cotabato City as part of Shariff Kabunsuan in the First District of Maguindanao.”

 

                The Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to amend the pertinent portion of Minute Resolution No. 07-0407 to now read, as follows[:]

 

[“]Considering the foregoing, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, that the district shall be known as Shariff Kabunsuan Province with Cotabato City (formerly First District of Maguindanao with Cotabato City).

 

                Let the Executive Director advise the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cotabato City accordingly. (Emphasis in the original)

[10]             “Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.”

[11]             “Any province that may hereafter be created, or any city whose population may hereafter increase to more than two hundred fifty thousand shall be entitled in the immediately following election to at least one Member or such number of Members as it may be entitled to on the basis of the number of its inhabitants and according to the standards set forth in paragraph (3), Section 5 of Article VI of the Constitution.  The number of Members apportioned to the province out of which such new province was created or where the city, whose population has so increased, is geographically located shall be correspondingly adjusted by the Commission on Elections but such adjustment shall not be made within one hundred and twenty days before the election.”

[12]             Consistent with her claim that Cotabato City is not part of Shariff Kabunsuan’s legislative district, petitioner filed with the COMELEC a petition for the disqualification of respondent Dilangalen as candidate for representative of that province (docketed as SPA No. A07-0).

[13]             Respondent Dilangalen asserts, and petitioner does not dispute, that as of 2000, Cotabato City had a population of 163,849, falling short of the minimum population requirement in Section 5 (3), Article VI of the Constitution which provides: “Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one representative.” (Emphasis supplied)

[14]               124 Phil. 1226 (1966).

[15]             As provided in the Resolution of 16 October 2007.

[16]             The Court also required Sema to submit with her Memorandum the certifications from the Department of Finance, the Lands Management Bureau, the National Statistics Office, and the Department of Interior and Local Government that at the time of the creation of Shariff Kabunsuan on 28 August 2006 it met the requisites for the creation of a province under Section 461 of RA 7160.

[17]             “SEC. 6. Authority to Create Local Government Units. - A local government unit may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundaries substantially altered either by law enacted by Congress in the case of a province, city or municipality, or any other political subdivision, or by ordinance passed by the sangguniang panlalawigan or  sangguniang panlungsod concerned in the case of a barangay located within its territorial jurisdiction, subject to such limitations and requirements prescribed in this Code.”

[18]            “SECTION 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.”

[19]             Rollo, p. 229.

[20]             “SECTION 6. Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be automatically released to them.”

[21]             Section 1, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

[22]             Section 3, Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure.

[23]             See, however, Macabago v. Commission on Elections (440 Phil. 683 [2002]) where the Court held that a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 will lie to question the constitutionality of an election regulation if the COMELEC has acted capriciously or whimsically, with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

[24]             Social Weather Stations, Inc. v. COMELEC, 409 Phil. 571 (2001); Mutuc v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. L-32717, 26 November 1970, 36 SCRA 228.

[25]             Sections 385 and 386, RA 7160.

[26]             Sections 441, 449 and 460,  RA 7160.

[27]             Section 20, Article X, Constitution.

[28]             See Section 2, Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution and Section 5, Article VI of the 1935 Constitution.

[29]              312 Phil. 492, 501 (1995).

[30]             Section 48 of Republic Act No. 8507 (Charter of Parañaque City) provides:

 

                Section 48. Legislative District. — As a highly-urbanized city, the City of Parañaque shall have its own legislative district with the first representative to be elected in the next national election after the passage of this Act.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

                Section 50 of Republic Act No. 7839 (Charter of City of Pasig) provides:

 

                Section 50.  Legislative District. — As highly urbanized, the City of Pasig shall have its own legislative district with the first representative to be elected in the next national elections after the passage of this Act. (Emphasis supplied)

 

                Section 58 of Republic Act No. RA 9230 provides:

 

                Section 58. Representative District. — The City of San Jose del Monte shall have its own representative district to commence in the next national election after the  effectivity of this Act.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

 

 

                Section 7 of Republic Act No. 9355 provides:

 

                Section 7. Legislative District. — The Province of Dinagat Islands shall constitute one, separate legislative district to  commence in the next national election after the effectivity of this Act.   (Emphasis supplied)

 

[31]                             In his Concurring Opinion in Paras v. Commission on Elections (332 Phil. 56, 66   [1996]), then          Associate Justice (later Chief Justice) Hilario G. Davide, Jr. stated:

 

                The term “regular local election” must be confined to the regular election of elective local officials, as distinguished from the regular election of national officials. The elective national officials are the President, Vice-President, Senators and Congressmen. The elective local officials are Provincial Governors, Vice-Governors of provinces, Mayors and Vice-Mayors of cities and municipalities, Members of the Sanggunians of provinces, cities and municipalities, punong barangays and members of the sangguniang barangays, and the elective regional officials of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. These are the only local elective officials deemed recognized by Section 2(2) of Article IX-C of the Constitution, which provides:

 

SEC. 2.    The Commission on Elections shall exercise the following powers and functions:

                                                x x x x 

                (2) Exercise exclusive original jurisdiction over all contests relating to the elections, returns, and qualifications of all elective regional, provincial, and city officials, and appellate jurisdiction over all contests involving elective municipal officials decided by trial courts of general jurisdiction, or involving elective barangay officials decided by trial courts of limited jurisdiction.  (Emphasis supplied)

 

[32]             Supra note 13 at 1235-1236.

[33]             See note 3.

[34]             Section 461 provides: “Requisites for Creation. — (a) A province may be created if it has an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of not less than Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) based on 1991 constant prices and either of the following requisites:

                                                (i) a contiguous territory of at least two thousand (2,000) square kilometers, as                      certified by the Lands Management Bureau; or

               (ii) a population of not less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) inhabitants as certified by the National Statistics Office: Provided, That, the creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population, and income of the original unit or units at the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein. 

                                (b)  The territory need not  be  contiguous  if  it  comprise two (2) or  more  islands or           is separated by a chartered city or cities which do not contribute to the income of the  province.

                                (c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund,          exclusive of special funds, trust funds, transfers and non-recurring income.”

[35]             Atty. Edgardo Carlos B. Vistan II, counsel for petitioner in G.R. No. 177597. 

[36]             TSN (27 November 2007),  pp. 64-69.

[37]             Unlike the 1935 and the 1973 Constitutions, the 1987 Constitution mandates, in Section 15, Article X, the creation of autonomous regions in the Cordilleras and Muslim Mindanao to foster political autonomy. See Cordillera Broad Coalition v. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 79956, 29 January 1990, 181 SCRA 495.

[38]             Website of House of Representatives as of 12 May 2008.