It's final: Dinagat Islands a separate province

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 20 2012 04:46 PM | Updated as of Sep 21 2012 12:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the legality of Repulic Act (RA) No. 9355, the law creating Dinagat Islands as a separate province from Surigao Del Norte.

In a one-page resolution by the court en banc dated Sept. 11 but released to the media on Thursday, the high court denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by petitioners Rodolfo Navarro, Victor Bernal and Rene Medina for failure to present "substantial arguments" to warrant a reversal of the ruling.

The high court declared as unconstitutional RA No. 9355 in Feb. 2010 citing Dinagat Islands' failure to comply with the land area requirement of at least 2,000 sq. kilometers and population requirement of not less than 250,000 for provinces.

Dinagat Islands only has a land area of 802.12 sq. kilometers, and population of 106,951 per the National Statistics Office (NSO) as of May 2000.

On April 12, 2011, the ruling was reversed; the high court ruled that the Dinagat Islands qualified as a province since it is exempted from the minimum land area requirement being an island province.

In the latest ruling, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio's dissent was joined by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Martin Villarama, Jr., and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

'Majority skirted around minimum statutory requirements'

In his dissenting opinion, Carpio said the majority skirted around the minimum requirements by exempting Dinagat Islands from the minimum land area requirement.

Carpio described Dinagat Islands' failure to meet the statutory requirements as a failure of the "constitutional test by a mile."

He also said the congressional representative from the new legislative district "now joins the congressman from the other severely malapportioned First Legislative District of Camarines Sur as members of an ever-growing elite club of congressmen representing constitutionally aberrant pygmy districts created at the expense of the Bill of Rights and core democratic republican values."