MANILA, Philippines—The Province of Dinagat Islands is now back to being a municipality after the Supreme Court declared as unconstitutional the law separating it from Surigao del Norte.
In a 30-page decision, the high tribunal said Dinagat Islands failed to comply with the land area and population size requirements to become a province.
“The Constitution clearly mandates that the creation of local government units must follow the criteria established in the Local Government Code,” said the court.
The island on the south side of Leyte Gulf was part of the first district of Surigao del Norte until it became a separate province on December 2, 2006 through Republic Act No. 9355 or An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands.
The Supreme Court, in a decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, annulled the law as well as Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991.
Dinagat only has a total of 802.12 square kilometer land area while the law requires a minimum of 2,000 square kilometers for a municipality to become a province.
At the same time, the Dinagat Islands failed to comply with the population requirement of not less than 250,000 inhabitants. A May 2000 population census by the National Statistics Office showed that Dinagat only has 106,951 residents.
The case stemmed from a taxpayers’ suit filed by Surigao del Norte residents Rodolfo G. Navarro, Victor F. Bernal, and Rene O. Medina who argued that the creation of the Dinagat Islands as a new province was an illegal act of Congress and has unjustly deprived the people of Surigao del Norte a large chunk of its territory, Internal Revenue Allocation, and natural resources.
In 2008, the Supreme Court also nullified the law creating Shariff Kabunsuan as a province within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.