In the long drawn out fight about the validity of the Cityhood Laws which granted cityhood status to sixteen municipalities, there were two initial central issues: (1) whether the laws violated the constitutional provision on the requirements for the creation of cities, and (2) whether the laws violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The initial decision affirmed that, yes, both provisions of the Constitution were violated.
This was followed by a motion for reconsideration. which was denied. A second motion for reconsideration was also denied on the basis of the Rule of Court which says: “No second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final resolution by the same party shall be entertained.”
The beneficiaries of the cityhood laws, however, persisted in asking for another reconsideration until the Supreme Court eventually relented. Last February 15 the Court finally decided that the cityhood laws were valid after all.
Whether or not the two cited provisions of the Constitution were violated is a question which will continue to be debated by lawyers. But an interesting question is whether another motion for reconsideration might be entertained.
The current attitude of the Court towards the rule against multiple reconsideration was expressed in the February 15 decision thus: “Finally, we should not be restricted by technical rules of procedure at the expense of the transcendental interest of justice and equity. While it is true that litigation must end, even at the expense of errors in judgment, it is nobler rather for this Court of last resort, as vanguard of truth, to toil in order to dispel apprehensions and doubt . . .” A concurring opinion also said: “At any rate, the Court has under extraordinary circumstances reconsidered its ruling despite an entry of judgment. It will not allow the technical rules to hinder it from rendering just and equitable relief.”
We are all forewarned!
But what considerations of justice and equity did the Court say should not be obstructed by a mere Rule of Court? Some of it were folksy wisdom and others simple facts.
For instance, when the new law requiring a higher financial status before a municipality could become a city was deliberated on and passed, the municipalities involved already had a pending application under the old and less demanding requirement. In other words, the game had already started. The Court accepted the view that the rules should not be changed in mid-game or, if they are, the new rule should not be applied to a game already ongoing.
To the claim of petitioner cities that the cityhood laws would mean a reduction of their respective Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares, the Court pointed out that what the cities were really saying was not that they would receive less than what they had been currently receiving but that they would not get more if the new cities were created. Wryly the Court observed, “it all boils down to money.”
It was noted in fact that “the feared reduction proved to be false when, after the implementation of the Cityhood Laws, their respective shares increased, not decreased,” as shown by IRA records!
The Court used a cruel analogy. The cities were like older children who would dispose of younger siblings who could reduce their share in the inheritance!
Incidentally, what is the rationale behind the new P100 million income requirement imposed by R.A. No. 9009 for a municipality to become a city? Senate deliberations clearly indicate that it was intended to put a stop to the mad rush to become cities. The rush, if not stopped, the deliberations said, would end in a nation without municipalities but only cities. I am not sure what difference that would make.
As a means for stopping the rush, R.A. 9009 was effective. But the amount prescribed seems arbitrary. As the Court said, it “cannot be conclusively said to be the only amount sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and services and special functions commensurate with the size of its population. . . It was imposed merely because it is difficult to comply with. While it could be argued that P100 million, being more than the old P20 million requirement, could, of course, provide the essential government facilities, services, and special functions vis-à-vis the population of a municipality wanting to become a component city, it cannot be said that the minimum amount of P20 million would be insufficient. This is evident from the existing cities whose income, up to now, do not comply with the P100 million income requirement, some of which have lower than the P20 million average annual income.”
This last, of course, is no longer a matter of law but already a matter of practical wisdom which belongs to the domain of Congress. But, on the whole, out of the long disquisition of the Court, the complaining League of Cities do not emerge as wronged victims.
6 February 2011