Local Government


Jan 16, 2023, 4:24 AM
Miguel Raymundo

Miguel Raymundo


As an old saying goes, taxation without representation is tyranny.

And with the designation of San Pedro City as the “sole” remaining member of the Laguna’s first legislative district in the May 2022 elections, a serious issue has arisen regarding a basic question: How many members should its Sangguniang Panlungsod have?

Some sectors argue that the rapid growth of San Pedro City in the past years had meant that its Sangguniang Panlungsod, which (by law) consists of 10 members, has become too small to effectively govern the city.

After all, the city’s population recorded a significant rise from 294,310 residents (according to the 2010 census) to 326,001 in 2020.

The issue has now morphed into a legal and political battle, which some officials in the city are now trying to resolve through appropriate legislation at the national Congress.


According to the San Pedro City Charter (Republic Act 10420) that was signed by the late President Benigno Aquino III in 2013, the city, as per its classification as a “component” city, is entitled to have ten members in its Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Meanwhile, other legal experts, noting the changes in the legislative districts in Laguna province in past years, have cited RA 6636, which said that any city comprising a single legislative district should have 12 councilors.

However, despite the fact that San Pedro City is now considered as a de facto legislative district on its own (after the cities of Biñan and Sta. Rosa gained their own seats at the House of Representatives in 2013 and 2022, respectively), the current designation of San Pedro City is still as a member of Laguna’s first legislative district.

And this loophole has caused a legal battle in San Pedro City that has threatened to undermine efforts to “unify” the city’s rival factions.

Legal Battle

As reported by OpinYon Laguna last July 2022, two city councilors, Iryne Vierneza and Marion Acierto, are now battling for recognition of their places at the Sangguniang Panlungsod after a complaint filed against their tenure at the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Citing the San Pedro City Charter, the complainant claimed that Vierneza and Acierto, who placed 11th and 12th in the May 2022 elections, should not be included in the list of winning candidates.

Eventually, Vierneza and Acierto were proclaimed as winners by the Comelec, although sources told OpinYon Laguna that the case is still under litigation.

Meanwhile, the two councilors have continued to attend regular sessions and other activities of the Sangguniang Panlungsod, as they have been advised by their lawyers that failure to perform their duties could become grounds for their removal from office.


This issue has been taken up by Laguna 1st District Representative Ann Matibag, who has filed two measures rectifying the loophole that has caused division and uncertainty in the city council.

Recently, House Bills 4497 and 4498, which aim to rename the current 1st District of Laguna into the lone legislative district of San Pedro City and increase the number of councilors in the city from the current 10 to 12 members, were approved at the committee level at the House of Representatives.

“This bill [HB 4498] seeks to correct the confusion in the City Charter of San Pedro by amending it to reflect the membership of the Sangguniang Panlungsod which should now have 12 members, consistent with RA 6636 and with other cities in the Philippines comprising their own legislative districts, especially in the Cities of Biñan and Sta. Rosa,” the solon said in her speech before the House Committee on Local Government.

In an interview with OpinYon Laguna, Matibag emphasized that the renaming of the 1st District of Laguna, while simply a “formality,” is long overdue considering that the city has met its population and income qualifications.

“Wala naming magbabago sa ating benefits or sa budgeting natin – it’s really just the name and the title na tinatama natin under the law,” she explained.

The district renaming will also automatically enable San Pedro City to have 12 members at the Sangguniang Panlungsod, Matibag added.

So why the need for another house bill increasing the number of city councilors?

“Tag-team kasi sila, just to correct the incongruity na bine-base natin sa prior laws,” Matibag explained, adding that these two bills are part of her legislative priorities and were crafted even before she heard of the current conflict at the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Conflicting Stances

These two measures, which are now pending at the plenary level at the House of Representatives, are seen by some political analysts as the “tie-breaker” that could once and for all resolve the conflict at the Sangguniang Panlungsod.

It should be noted that the official position of the current administration of Mayor Art Mercado is that Congress, not Comelec, has the authority to increase the number of councilors in the city.

"Our position is that hindi nababago ang Charter ng San Pedro, therefore sampu pa rin ang councilors. Also, according to the charter, San Pedro is still part of the first district ng Laguna," was how Atty. Job Gesmundo of the San Pedro City Legal Office put it in an interview with OpinYon Laguna.

Gesmundo also cited Section 5, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which gave Congress the authority to reapportion legislative districts, as their basis.

“That’s why we supported Cong. Matibag’s bills, because we believe that Congress has the right to amend the charter,” he added. “The Charter of San Pedro is a law, and only Congress can change a law.”

However, Councilors Vierneza and Acierto have continued to assert the legality of the Comelec's decision regarding their legitimacy.

“Ang sabi sa amin ng abogado namin ay legal ang pagkaka-proklama sa amin dahil bago kami iproklama, inaaral na iyan ng Comelec. At ang Comelec ang sole body na nag-aayos ng all election conduct, so sila ang may final say kung madi-disqualify kami o hindi,” Acierto told OpinYon Laguna.

Vierneza also cited RA 6636 as their basis for their claim for legitimacy at the Sangguniang Panglungsod.

“Noong humiwalay ang mga lungsod ng Biñan at Sta. Rosa, by virtue of law, hindi na kailangang idaan sa Congress kasi nagsosolo na [ang San Pedro]. At saka more than 300,000 na ang population ng San Pedro, and according to law, once you reach a population of 250,000, dapat lone district na tayo,” she said.

(With reports from Catherine Go and Jai Duena)

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