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SC says Dinagat Islands a legitimate province

The Supreme Court, voting 9-5 on Tuesday, Apr. 12 ruled that the islands of Dinagat make up a legitimate and constitutionally valid province, reversing a decision it issued in 2010.

Officials of Surigao del Norte had fought to declare Republic Act 9355, which formed the Dinagat Islands, as unconstitutional. They said Dinagat had failed to pass the prescribed 2,000-square-kilometer land area required under the law for the creation of a new province.

But the Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160) does not assert land area as an indicator of the viability of a new barangay, town or city when it involves more than one island, according to the high court ruling.

The high tribunal said groups of islands could form part of a newly created province in an archipelago, which had been the “legislative intent” of Congress when it passed RA 9355.

The Supreme Court said the Local Government Code “was amended by way of the enactment of RA 9355.”

The high court also took into account Dinagat Islands' average annual income, “which is four times more than the minimal requirement” set by the code.

Associate Justice Arturo Brion, who led the dissenting votes, said court rules should have prevented them from addressing a new motion about the issue on the creation of Dinagat Islands as a province.

But the court ruled that it was forced to reopen the case when a resolution issued by the Commission on Elections reflected on its impact on Dinagat's elected officials, led by Gov. Geraldine Ecleo. (inquirer.net)

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