Comelec to delay printing of ballots for Dinagat Islands, Special polls also likely if Supreme Court dissolves province with finality

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will try to delay as long as practicable the printing of ballots for Dinagat Islands, the province dissolved by the Supreme Court last week, to reflect any revisions in the list of candidates.

Consequently, the printing of ballots for Surigao del Norte, the mother province of Dinagat Islands, will be delayed, too, in the event that the high court decides with finality that the two units merge again.

The Supreme Court decided on February 10 that Dinagat Islands, which was carved out of Surigao del Norte’s 1st district to become a separate province, was created unconstitutionally. It didn’t meet the requirements for minimum population and land area.

The decision came more than 2 months after aspirants for governor, vice governor, board member, and congressman filed their certificates of candidacy.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told Newsbreak on Thursday that the poll body will likely address the matter the same way it did Malolos City in Bulacan.

Same as Malolos
The Supreme Court in January voided the creation of a separate congressional district for Malolos City, citing insufficient population. Eleven days later, on February 15, the Comelec issued a resolution that in the event the court finalizes reverses its decision, then the results of the election for congressman of the city will be upheld.

In the event that the Supreme Court finalizes its decision voiding the new district, the results in Malolos and the mother district (from which it was carved) would be voided as well. This is because the part of the constituencies shall have been unable to cast votes based on a common set of congressional candidates. Thus, a special election.

The same thing may happen to Dinagat Islands if the SC will uphold its earlier decision and deny the appeals by proponents of its creation.

Gov. Robert Ace Barbers of Surigao del Norte—the mother province of Dinagat Islands—told Newsbreak that the SC decision will cause political complications and problems in the preparations for the local elections.

“The candidates for the provincial positions [in Dinagat Islands] have already filed their certificate of candidacies,” Barbers said, adding that a final decision should be made soonest so politicians will still have time for “political realignments.”

Barbers added that there will also be problems with the allocation of seats for the board member of the first district of Surigao del Norte.

Before the separation of Dinagat Islands from the 1st district of Surigao del Norte, it was entitled to 2 out the 5 seats for the board members of the 1st district. The remaining 3 seats are allocated for the remaining towns from Siargao Island.

Comelec’s option
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told Newsbreak that since the case can be appealed the poll body’s option is to delay the printing of ballots for the province.

Asked if there is a possibility that a special election will also be held in Surigao del Norte once the SC deny any appeal or uphold its decision, Jimenez said, “It is possible.”

The Supreme Court, by a vote of 9-6, voided the creation of Dinagat Islands by declaring the law that created it unconstitutional.

In a 30-page decision penned by Justice Diosdado Peralta, the high tribunal nullified the creation of the province by declaring Republic Act 9355—the law that separated Dinagat Island from Surigao del Norte—for failing to meet both the land area and population requirement for the creation of the province.

Under Section 461 of the Local Government Code, a province may be created if it has an average annual income of not less than P20 million and a population of 250,000 or a contiguous territory of 2,000 sq. kilometers.

“R.A. 9355 expressly states the Province of Dinagat Islands ‘contains an approximate land area of 80,212 has or 802.12 sq. kms, R.A. No. 9355, therefore, failed to comply with the land area requirement of 2,000 sq. kilometers,” the SC decision read.

“The Province of Dinagat Islands also failed to comply with the population requirement of not less than 250,000 inhabitants as certified by the NSO [National Statistics Office].Based on the 2000 Census of Population conducted by NSO, the population of the Province of Dinagat Islands as of May 2000 was only 106,951,” it added.

Created in 2006, Dinagat Islands is composed four 4th class and three 5th class municipalities and has 68,856 voters. Its population as of 2007 is 120,812, which is still below the minimum population requirement for the creation of a new province. (Newsbreak)


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