Many towns had become cities before without sweating out. Time wasn’t yet so strict before when there was yet no need for a cityhood plebiscite, and no need of having to pass a triad of requirements. What was needed was only the approval of the city charter by the local sanggunian.
In the past, a town can become a city by strategic consideration, say a province has really no city to boasts of like Compostela Valley now. There was no benchmark, no qualifications before. But Nabunturan, Comval’s capital town, now can no longer become a city via Congress will without the plebiscite. Most importantly, the capital town has to pass the qualifications of income, population and territory as provided by the Local Government Code of 1991.
The LGC of 1991 first provided for the cityhood requirements- an income of P20 million, a population of 150,000 and a territory of 100 square kilometers. LGC’s imposition of qualifications resulted to more cityhood bids. From more than 50 cities before the code’s enactment, their number dramatically rose to more than 140 cities as of 1984. Many towns became cities because of the small income requirement. But because a typical LGU is Internal Revenue Allotment-dependent, the appetite for cityhood to partake greater slice of the IRA sprang up.
As many more wanted to become a city, the income requirement was increased to P100 million in 2001 with the passage of Republic Act No. 9009. The law was specific to mention that the P100 million income should mean locally generated funds. Which means it should be less of the IRA, that is always the bulk of LGU revenues. The law has an either-or provision for the population and territory requirements. That makes the income as most required while aspiring towns would have also to qualify one of the two other requirements.
In effect, the law amended the cityhood provision of the LGC of 1991. Still many LGUs vied to become cities with them misinterpreting the P100 million as to be the total income composed of the IRA and the local sources. The Congress then became a basket of 16 cityhood bills, which became laws. But there was already RA 9009. The league of cities revolted, complaining of shrinking IRA share.
The group of 16 new cities asked the Supreme Court for an exemption from the raised income requirement as the league of cities pushed to revert them to town status.Included in Mindanao are Tandag in Surigao del Sur, Lamitan in Basilan, Bayugan in Agusan del Sur, Mati in Davao Oriental, Cabadbaran in Agusan del Norte, El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental. It is in this case that the Supreme Court flip-flopped in its decision. The highest court first decided the cityhood status of the 16 new cities was unconstitutional in Nov. 2008 then it reversed its decision restoring their cityhood in Dec. 2009 but it reinstated its 2008 decision in Aug. 2010 making their cityhood unconstitutional.
When Mati was declared as municipio again it could have feigned like Bacoor or Dasmarinas, whose people resisted against cityhood bids for a long time knowing that higher property taxes would be imposed after the cityhood. They had already achieved a high degree of urbanization and had an annual income that already exceeded that of many lower-income cities, but their people resisted and it was only lately that they acceded with the cityhood. Mati has a coast and vast land, forest and mineral resources as its advantages. By its rather fast urbanization tempo now, the Mati local government can sit back and relax while only feeding its own urbanization to sustain itself.
It got a legal saving grace when, thanks Heaven, the Supreme Court on April 12, 2011, finally ruled that Mati and the other 15 municipalities would be turned back into cities even without complying with the P100-million annual income requirement imposed by the Local Government Code.