Friday, 12 February 2010 00:00 [ manilatimes.net ]
BY WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL Reporter
Dinagat Islands is again a municipality after the Supreme Court has declared the law separating it from the province of Surigao del Norte as unconstitutional.
In a 30-page decision written by Justice Diosdado Peralta, the High Court said the Dinagat Islands did not comply with land area and population requirement before it could become a province.
"The Constitution clearly mandates that the creation of local government units must follow the criteria established in the Local Government Code. Any derogation of or deviation from the criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code violates Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution," the Court said.
In the same decision, the Court also declared null and void the provision in Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991, which states "the land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one or more islands."
The High Tribunal noted that Republic Act (R.A.) 9355, or An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands states that Dinagat Islands is approximately 802.12 square kilometers, which is far short of the 2,000 square kilometer land area requirement.
The Supreme Court also pointed out that Dinagat Islands failed to comply with the population requirement of not less than 250,000 inhabitants as certified by the National Statistics Office (NSO).
Based on the May 2000 census by the NSO, Dinagat Islands has only a population of 106,951.
Dinagat Islands is one of the three main groups of islands composing Surigao del Norte. The other two are mainland and Surigao City and Siargao Island and Bucas Grande. It became a separate province on December 2, 2006 through R.A. 9355.
The case stemmed from the taxpayersÕ suit filed by Surigao del Norte residents Rodolfo Navarro, Victor Bernal and Rene Medina who argued that the creation of the Dinagat Islands as a new province was an illegal act of Congress and has unjustly deprived the people of Surigao del Norte a large chunk of its territory, internal revenue allocation, and rich resources from the area.