Oct 23, 2020

SC junks petition against law dividing Palawan

The 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr., promulgated on March 10 but was only disclosed to the public on Thursday (July 30), dismissed the petition for prohibition filed by the civil society group One Palawan Movement.

The Supreme Court, voting 15-0, dismissed a petition assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act 11259, or the law dividing Palawan into three provinces.

The 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr., promulgated on March 10 but was only disclosed to the public on Thursday (July 30), dismissed the petition for prohibition filed by the civil society group One Palawan Movement.

Constitutionality of RA 11259

The high court dismissed the petitioners’ main argument challenging the constitutionality of RA 11259, and upheld the position of the solicitor general that the question was “premature” since the law has yet to take effect.

“It is premature for this Court to make any declaration on the constitutionality of the law in toto, when most of the provisions of the law have yet to take effect,” the ruling stated.

The high court also ruled that some of the petitioners who are registered voters of Puerto Princesa City had “no standing to file the petition”. They were Cynthia Sumagaysay-Del Rosario, Federico Virgo Jr., Renato Baladad, Beatriz Dioso, and Corazon Davila.

“As residents of Puerto Princesa, they have become residents of entity separate, distinct, and autonomous from the province of Palawan when Puerto Princesa became a highly urbanized city (HUC),” the decision said.

No public consultation

The Court dismissed the petitioners’ claim that there was no public consultation that justified the crafting of the law, pointing out that consultations were made with duly elected representatives of the people of Palawan.

“The records of the case reveal that the proposed division of Palawan, as reflected in the assailed statute, was in fact made in consultation with the people of Palawan, through their elected representatives,” the ruling stated.

The ruling added that public consultation was not a “pre-requisite” to having a statue.

“Constitution does not establish prior public consultation as a prerequisite for validity of a statute,” the decision said.

City residents can’t vote

The Supreme Court also upheld the provision in the law barring residents of Puerto Princesa City from participating in the plebiscite, citing its status as an independent administrative entity being a “highly urbanized city”.

“Puerto Princesa has become a distinct political entity independent and autonomous from the province of Palawan, by virtue of its conversion into a highly urbanized city in 2007. Hence it can no longer be considered a “political unit directly affected” by the proposed division of Palawan into three provinces,” the ruling stated.

No ruling on wealth sharing

However, the high court refrained from ruling on the alteration of natural resources and “wealth sharing” contentions by the petitioners, stressing that certain provisions remained “inoperative” until ratified by the Palawan residents.

“It is premature for this Court to make any declaration on the unconstitutionality of the law, when most of the provisions of the law have yet to take effect,” the decision said.

Winston Arzaga, the provincial information officer (PIO) said that the provincial government was “happy that the Court confirmed being at the right position” to divide the Palawan province.

“We’re just waiting for Commission on Election (COMELEC) to issue a new date for the plebiscite,” Arzaga said.

Save Palawan Movement to appeal ruling

The Save Palawan Movement has issued a statement stating they intend to file a motion for reconsideration before the Supreme Court.

“The fight is not yet over… there are important issues that, with due respect, have not been addressed by the Court,” SPM said in a statement furnished to Palawan News.

They added they have yet to receive a copy of the SC ruling.

“We filed a manifestation and motion and also there are still intervenors who filed a motion for intervention, and, sadly, these efforts have not been considered as of now,” they added.

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