Governors have no jurisdiction over highly-urbanized cities

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez - The Freeman

The rift between the governor and the city mayor is not good for all Cebuanos. I have the highest respect, even affection, for both Cebu Governor Gwen F. Garcia and Cebu City Mayor Mike L. Rama. Both of them are high performers, passionate, dynamic, and visionaries. I also wish to believe that both of them are my friends. In fact, I am nominating these two political titans for the Philippine Senate in next year's midterm elections, so that the five million Cebuanos will have representation in the Upper Chamber of Congress.

I just want to contribute my little research on the powers of the governor in relation to the highly-urbanized, independently-chartered city of Cebu. My little knowledge of the Local Government Code, as well as of the Charter of Cebu City, authored by Mayor Mike's illustrious grandfather, Don Vicente Rama, tells me that being highly urbanized, Cebu City enjoys autonomy in relation to the province. Autonomy means the right to self-governance, self-determination, and independence from interference. The governor, with due respect, has no mandate from the people residing in Cebu City precisely because they do not participate in the election of the governor.

When then congressman and later, senator Don Vicente Rama asked the help of President Manuel Quezon to have Rama's top advocacy approved by the Quezon-influenced Congress to grant the then municipality of Cebu city status and to precisely remove it from the control of the province, the letter and the spirit of the Cebu City Charter clearly indicated that the primordial purpose of the charter was to secure the independence of the city from the province. Don Sergio Osmeña, who was also a former governor and never a city mayor, opposed both the cityhood and autonomy of the city. Of course, the Rama proposal won over the Osmeña opposition.

The etymology of the word "autonomy" tells us that it comes from two Latin words, "auto" which means independent and "nomos" meaning law. Thus, from its linguistic significance, and in the context of Cebu, autonomy means the freedom of Cebu City of self-determination and self-governance, free from the interference of any other LGU executive, including the provincial governor of Cebu. Being highly urbanized, it means that Cebu City has proven itself, by its socio-economic growth and development and with high population levels, to be self-governing and indeed, truly autonomous.

Under our laws, there are three kinds of cities, namely: highly-urbanized cities, independent component cities, and component cities. Highly-urbanized cities are those whose populations are at least 200,000 and an annual income of at least ?50 million. In the island of Cebu, there are three highly-urbanized cities, namely, Cebu City, Mandaue City, and Lapu-Lapu City. There is no independent component city in Cebu. The following are component cities: Bogo, Carcar, Danao, Naga, Talisay, and Toledo. Naga City in Camarines is an independent component city on equal status as Santiago City in Isabela and Ormoc City in Leyte. There are only three of them in the whole Philippines.

There are 149 cities in the Philippines and 82 provinces. Out of the 149 cities, only 33 are highly urbanized including Cebu, Mandaue, Lapu-Lapu, Angeles, Bacolod, Baguio, Cagayan de Oro, Caloocan, Davao, General Santos, Iligan, Iloilo, Las Piñas, Lucena, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Manila, Makati, Muntinlupa, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig, Puerto Princesa, Quezon, San Juan, Tacloban, Taguig, Valenzuela, and Zamboanga.

The governors of the provinces where these cities are located do not have power or jurisdiction over these cities. The city mayors are the highest executive officials therein.

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