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Apr 23, 2008

G.R. No. 73155, July 11, 1986

NOTA BENE: This case is relevant to the current buzz regarding the "Sugbuak." The issue in this case, however, is a bit on the technical side.

- when the boundaries of a LGU is substantially altered, there are necessarily more than one unit affected -- the parent LGU and the new LGU that was created as a result of the alteration


This case was prompted by the enactment of Batas Pambansa Blg. 885, An Act Creating a New Province in the Island of Negros to be known as the Province of Negros del Norte, effective Dec. 3, 1985. (Cities of Silay, Cadiz and San Carlos and the municipalities of Calatrava, Taboso, Escalante, Sagay, Manapla, Victorias, E.R. Magalona, and Salvador Benedicto.

Pursuant to and in implementation of this law, the COMELEC scheduled a plebiscite for January 3, 1986. Petitioners opposed, filing a case for Prohibition and contending that the B.P. 885 is unconstitutional and not in complete accord with the Local Government Code because:

(1) The voters of the parent province of Negros Occidental, other than those living within the territory of the new province of Negros del Norte, were not included in the plebiscite
(2) The area which would comprise the new provinc of Negros del Norte would only be about 2,856.56 sq. km., which is lesser than the minimum area prescribed by the governing statute

The Supreme Court was in recess at the time so the petition was not timely considered. Consequently, petitioners filed a supplemental pleading on January 4, 1986, after the plebiscite sought to be restrained was held the previous day, January 3.


W/N the plebiscite was legal and complied with the constitutional requisites under Article XI, Sec. 3 of the Consititution, which states that --

"Sec. 3. No province, city, municipality or barrio may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered except in accordance with the criteria established in the Local Government Code, and subject to the approval by a majority of the votes in a plebiscite in the unit or units affected."


In interpreting the above provision, the Supreme Court held that whenever a province is created, divided or merged and there is substantial alteration of the boundaries, "the approval of a majority of votes in the plebiscite in the unit or units affected" must first be obtained.

The creation of the proposed new province of Negros del Norte will necessarily result in the division and alteration of the existing boundaries of Negros Occidental.

"Plain and simple logic will demonstrate that two political units would be affected. The first would be the parent province of Negros Occidental because its boundaries would be substantially altered. The other affected entity would be composed of those in the area subtracted from the mother province to constitute the proposed province of Negros del Norte."

The Supreme Court further held that the case of Governor Zosimo Paredes versus the Honorable Executive Secretary to the President, et al., G.R. No. 55628, March 2, 1984 (128 SCRA 6), which the respondents used to support their case, should not be taken as a doctrinal or compelling precedent. Rather, it held that the dissenting view of Justice Vicente Abad Santos in the aforementioned case is the forerunner of the applicable ruling, quoting that:

"...when the Constitution speaks of "the unit or units affected" it means all of the people of the municipality if the municipality is to be divided such as in the case at bar or of the people of two or more municipalities if there be a merger. I see no ambiguity in the Constitutional provision."

It appeared that when Parliamentary Bill NO. 3644 which proposed the creation of the new province of Negros del Norte was passed for approval, it recited therein that "the plebiscite shall be conducted in the areas affected within a period of one hundred and twenty days from the approval of this Act." However, when the bill was enacted into B.P. 885, tehre was an unexplained change from "areas affecte" to "the proposed new province, which are the areas affected." The Supreme Court held that it was a self-serving phrase to state that the new province constitutes the area affected.

"Such additional statement serves no useful purpose for the same is misleading, erroneous, and far from truth. The remaining portion of the parent province is as much an area affected. The substantial alteration of the boundaries of the parent province, not to mention the adverse economic effects it might suffer, eloquently argue the points raised by the petitioners."

Consequently, the Supreme Court pronounced that the plebscite held on January 3, 1986 has no legal effect for being a patent nullity.

"WHEREFORE, Batas Pambansa Blg. 885 is hereby declared unconstitutional. The proclamation of the new province of Negros del Norte, as well as the appointment of the officials thereof are also declared null and void.



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