The Supreme Court recently declared unconstitutional the grant to the Regional Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) of the power to create provinces and cities by Congress under RA 9054.
Consequently the Court voided Muslim Mindanao Autonomy (MMA) Act No. 201 passed by the aforesaid Regional Assembly creating the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan out of certain municipalities in the First District of the Province of Maguindanao as well as upheld Commission on Elections Resolution No. 7902 for maintaining the status quo in the first legislative district of Maguindanao despite the creation of the Province of Shariff Kabunsuan out of such district (excluding Cotabato City).
Voting 8-6, the Court En Banc in a 33-page decision by Justice Antonio T. Carpio held that “Only Congress can create provinces and cities because the creation of provinces and cities necessarily includes the creation of legislative districts” and that “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.”
“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 Court added.
Concurring were Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, Senior Justice Leonardo A. Quisumbing, and Justices Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato C. Corona, Conchita Carpio Morales, Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, and Ruben T. Reyes.
Justice Dante O. Tinga dissented, opining that there is nothing in the Constitution that bars Congress from delegating the power to create provinces and that “considering the constitutional mandate of local autonomy for Muslim Mindanao, it can be said that such delegation is in furtherance of the constitutional design.” He wrote that a law may later be passed by Congress to create a legislative district in the new province. He was joined by Justices Consuelo Ynares Santiago, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Minita V. Chico-Nazario, Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, and Arturo D. Brion.
Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. took no part. (GR Nos. 177597 and 178628, Sema v. Comelec and Marquez v. Comelec, July 16, 2008)