Dinagat wins in new SC flip-flop

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, March 29, flip-flopped again, this time on the issue of whether or not Dinagat Island is a province.

Voting 9 in favor and 6 against, the high court reversed an earlier ruling which declared unconstitutional Republic Act No. 9355, the law that created the Province of Dinagat Island.

Before today’s verdict, the Supreme Court already affirmed its earlier decision on the subject with finality, having denied motions for reconsideration filed separately by the Office of the Solicitor General and Dinagat Island Governor Geraldine Ecleo Villaroman in relation to the case.

It is unclear why the SC reopened the case.

Newsbreak learned from court insiders that Justice Antonio Eduardo Nachura penned the new decision. The original decision was penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta. Incidentally, the original decision also got 9 votes in favor and 6 against.

Failed to meet requirements

In its earlier ruling in February 2010, the court said Dinagat failed 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, the province of Dinagat Island is composed of 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.

Concession to the Ecleos

Dinagat is one of the two provinces created under the Arroyo administration. The other one is Shariff Kabunsuan, whose creation was declared null and void by SC when it clipped the power of the ARMM’s Regional Legislative Assembly to create provinces.

Dinagat lone district Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr.

Both provinces are said to be created to favor Arroyo’s allies: the Ecleos and Ampatuans of Maguindanao. (The creation of Shariff Kabunsuan was seen as a way to prevent a possible rivalry in the gubernatorial race between the Ampatuans and other clans in Maguindanao, Shariff Kabunsuan’s mother LGU)

Both provinces were created less than a year before the 2007 elections.

The creation of Dinagat province resulted in the creation of a lone district represented by Ruben Ecleo Jr. and prevented the possible clash between the Ecleos and other prominent clans in Surigao del Norte like the Matugases and the Navarros. -Newsbreak

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