Saturday, July 7, 2012

macalintal v. pet (2010)

EN BANC

G.R. No. 191618 November 23, 2010

ATTY. ROMULO B. MACALINTAL, Petitioner,
vs.
PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL, Respondent.

D E C I S I O N

NACHURA, J.:

Confronting us is an undesignated petition1 filed by Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal (Atty. Macalintal), that questions the constitution of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) as an illegal and unauthorized progeny of Section 4,2 Article VII of the Constitution:

The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.

While petitioner concedes that the Supreme Court is "authorized to promulgate its rules for the purpose," he chafes at the creation of a purportedly "separate tribunal" complemented by a budget allocation, a seal, a set of personnel and confidential employees, to effect the constitutional mandate. Petitioner’s averment is supposedly supported by the provisions of the 2005 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (2005 PET Rules),3 specifically:

(1) Rule 3 which provides for membership of the PET wherein the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices are designated as "Chairman and Members," respectively;

(2) Rule 8(e) which authorizes the Chairman of the PET to appoint employees and confidential employees of every member thereof;

(3) Rule 9 which provides for a separate "Administrative Staff of the Tribunal" with the appointment of a Clerk and a Deputy Clerk of the Tribunal who, at the discretion of the PET, may designate the Clerk of Court (en banc) as the Clerk of the Tribunal; and

(4) Rule 11 which provides for a "seal" separate and distinct from the Supreme Court seal.

Grudgingly, petitioner throws us a bone by acknowledging that the invoked constitutional provision does allow the "appointment of additional personnel."

Further, petitioner highlights our decision in Buac v. COMELEC4 which peripherally declared that "contests involving the President and the Vice-President fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the PET, x x x in the exercise of quasi-judicial power." On this point, petitioner reiterates that the constitution of the PET, with the designation of the Members of the Court as Chairman and Members thereof, contravenes Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution, which prohibits the designation of Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), as directed in our Resolution dated April 6, 2010, filed a Comment5 thereon. At the outset, the OSG points out that the petition filed by Atty. Macalintal is unspecified and without statutory basis; "the liberal approach in its preparation x x x is a violation of the well known rules of practice and pleading in this jurisdiction."

In all, the OSG crystallizes the following issues for resolution of the Court:

I

WHETHER x x x PETITIONER HAS LOCUS STANDI TO FILE THE INSTANT PETITION.

II

WHETHER x x x THE CREATION OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR BEING A VIOLATION OF PARAGRAPH 7, SECTION 4 OF ARTICLE VII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION.

III

WHETHER x x x THE DESIGNATION OF MEMBERS OF THE SUPREME COURT AS MEMBERS OF THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL FOR BEING A VIOLATION OF SECTION 12, ARTICLE VIII OF THE 1987 CONSTITUTION.6

In his Reply,7 petitioner maintains that:

1. He has legal standing to file the petition given his averment of transcendental importance of the issues raised therein;

2. The creation of the PET, a separate tribunal from the Supreme Court, violates Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution; and

3. The PET, being a separate tribunal, exercises quasi-judicial functions contrary to Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution.

We winnow the meanderings of petitioner into the singular issue of whether the constitution of the PET, composed of the Members of this Court, is unconstitutional, and violates Section 4, Article VII and Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution.

But first, we dispose of the procedural issue of whether petitioner has standing to file the present petition.

The issue of locus standi is derived from the following requisites of a judicial inquiry:

1. There must be an actual case or controversy;

2. The question of constitutionality must be raised by the proper party;

3. The constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and

4. The decision of the constitutional question must be necessary to the determination of the case itself.8

On more than one occasion we have characterized a proper party as one who has sustained or is in immediate danger of sustaining an injury as a result of the act complained of.9 The dust has long settled on the test laid down in Baker v. Carr:10 "whether the party has alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult questions."11 Until and unless such actual or threatened injury is established, the complainant is not clothed with legal personality to raise the constitutional question.

Our pronouncements in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo12 illuminate:

The difficulty of determining locus standi arises in public suits. Here, the plaintiff who asserts a "public right" in assailing an allegedly illegal official action, does so as a representative of the general public. He may be a person who is affected no differently from any other person. He could be suing as a "stranger," or in the category of a "citizen," or "taxpayer." In either case, he has to adequately show that he is entitled to seek judicial protection. In other words, he has to make out a sufficient interest in the vindication of the public order and the securing of relief as a" citizen" or "taxpayer."

x x x x

However, to prevent just about any person from seeking judicial interference in any official policy or act with which he disagreed with, and thus hinders the activities of governmental agencies engaged in public service, the United States Supreme Court laid down the more stringent "direct injury" test in Ex Parte Levitt, later reaffirmed in Tileston v. Ullman. The same Court ruled that for a private individual to invoke the judicial power to determine the validity of an executive or legislative action, he must show that he has sustained a direct injury as a result of that action, and it is not sufficient that he has a general interest common to all members of the public.

This Court adopted the "direct injury" test in our jurisdiction. In People v. Vera, it held that the person who impugns the validity of a statute must have "a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain direct injury as a result." The Vera doctrine was upheld in a litany of cases, such as, Custodio v. President of the Senate, Manila Race Horse Trainers’ Association v. De la Fuente, Pascual v. Secretary of Public Works and Anti-Chinese League of the Philippines v. Felix.

However, being a mere procedural technicality, the requirement of locus standi may be waived by the Court in the exercise of its discretion. This was done in the 1949 Emergency Powers Cases, Araneta v. Dinglasan, where the "transcendental importance" of the cases prompted the Court to act liberally. Such liberality was neither a rarity nor accidental. In Aquino v. Comelec, this Court resolved to pass upon the issues raised due to the "far-reaching implications" of the petition notwithstanding its categorical statement that petitioner therein had no personality to file the suit. Indeed, there is a chain of cases where this liberal policy has been observed, allowing ordinary citizens, members of Congress, and civic organizations to prosecute actions involving the constitutionality or validity of laws, regulations and rulings.

x x x x

By way of summary, the following rules may be culled from the cases decided by this Court. Taxpayers, voters, concerned citizens, and legislators may be accorded standing to sue, provided that the following requirements are met:

(1) cases involve constitutional issues;

(2) for taxpayers, there must be a claim of illegal disbursement of public funds or that the tax measure is unconstitutional;

(3) for voters, there must be a showing of obvious interest in the validity of the election law in question;

(4) for concerned citizens, there must be a showing that the issues raised are of transcendental importance which must be settled early; and

(5) for legislators, there must be a claim that the official action complained of infringes upon their prerogatives as legislators.

Contrary to the well-settled actual and direct injury test, petitioner has simply alleged a generalized interest in the outcome of this case, and succeeds only in muddling the issues. Paragraph 2 of the petition reads:

2. x x x Since the creation and continued operation of the PET involves the use of public funds and the issue raised herein is of transcendental importance, it is petitioner’s humble submission that, as a citizen, a taxpayer and a member of the BAR, he has the legal standing to file this petition.

But even if his submission is valid, petitioner’s standing is still imperiled by the white elephant in the petition, i.e., his appearance as counsel for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Macapagal-Arroyo) in the election protest filed by 2004 presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal,13 because judicial inquiry, as mentioned above, requires that the constitutional question be raised at the earliest possible opportunity.14 Such appearance as counsel before the Tribunal, to our mind, would have been the first opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the Tribunal’s constitution.

Although there are recognized exceptions to this requisite, we find none in this instance. Petitioner is unmistakably estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the PET before which tribunal he had ubiquitously appeared and had acknowledged its jurisdiction in 2004. His failure to raise a seasonable constitutional challenge at that time, coupled with his unconditional acceptance of the Tribunal’s authority over the case he was defending, translates to the clear absence of an indispensable requisite for the proper invocation of this Court’s power of judicial review. Even on this score alone, the petition ought to be dismissed outright.

Prior to petitioner’s appearance as counsel for then protestee Macapagal-Arroyo, we had occasion to affirm the grant of original jurisdiction to this Court as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal in the auspicious case of Tecson v. Commission on Elections.15 Thus -

Petitioners Tecson, et al., in G.R. No. 161434, and Velez, in G.R. No. 161634, invoke the provisions of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution in assailing the jurisdiction of the COMELEC when it took cognizance of SPA No. 04-003 and in urging the Supreme Court to instead take on the petitions they directly instituted before it. The Constitutional provision cited reads:

"The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose."

The provision is an innovation of the 1987 Constitution. The omission in the 1935 and the 1973 Constitution to designate any tribunal to be the sole judge of presidential and vice-presidential contests, has constrained this Court to declare, in Lopez vs. Roxas, as "not (being) justiciable" controversies or disputes involving contests on the elections, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President. The constitutional lapse prompted Congress, on 21 June 1957, to enact Republic Act No. 1793, "An Act Constituting an Independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal to Try, Hear and Decide Protests Contesting the Election of the President-Elect and the Vice-President-Elect of the Philippines and Providing for the Manner of Hearing the Same." Republic Act 1793 designated the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court to be the members of the tribunal. Although the subsequent adoption of the parliamentary form of government under the 1973 Constitution might have implicitly affected Republic Act No. 1793, the statutory set-up, nonetheless, would now be deemed revived under the present Section 4, paragraph 7, of the 1987 Constitution.

Former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his separate opinion, was even more categorical:

The Court is unanimous on the issue of jurisdiction. It has no jurisdiction on the Tecson and Valdez petitions. Petitioners cannot invoke Article VII, Section 4, par. 7 of the Constitution which provides:

"The Supreme Court, sitting en banc shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice President and may promulgate its rules for the purpose."

The word "contest" in the provision means that the jurisdiction of this Court can only be invoked after the election and proclamation of a President or Vice President. There can be no "contest" before a winner is proclaimed.16

Similarly, in her separate opinion, Justice Alicia Austria-Martinez declared:

G.R. Nos. 161434 and 161634 invoke the Court’s exclusive jurisdiction under the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution. I agree with the majority opinion that these petitions should be dismissed outright for prematurity. The Court has no jurisdiction at this point of time to entertain said petitions.

The Supreme Court, as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) are electoral tribunals, each specifically and exclusively clothed with jurisdiction by the Constitution to act respectively as "sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications" of the President and Vice-President, Senators, and Representatives. In a litany of cases, this Court has long recognized that these electoral tribunals exercise jurisdiction over election contests only after a candidate has already been proclaimed winner in an election. Rules 14 and 15 of the Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal provide that, for President or Vice-President, election protest or quo warranto may be filed after the proclamation of the winner.17

Petitioner, a prominent election lawyer who has filed several cases before this Court involving constitutional and election law issues, including, among others, the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9189 (The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003),18 cannot claim ignorance of: (1) the invocation of our jurisdiction under Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution; and (2) the unanimous holding thereon. Unquestionably, the overarching framework affirmed in Tecson v. Commission on Elections19 is that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to decide presidential and vice-presidential election protests while concurrently acting as an independent Electoral Tribunal.

Despite the foregoing, petitioner is adamant on his contention that the provision, as worded, does not authorize the constitution of the PET. And although he concedes that the Supreme Court may promulgate its rules for this purpose, petitioner is insistent that the constitution of the PET is unconstitutional. However, petitioner avers that it allows the Court to appoint additional personnel for the purpose, notwithstanding the silence of the constitutional provision.

Petitioner’s pastiche arguments are all hurled at the Court, hopeful that at least one might possibly stick. But these arguments fail to elucidate on the scope of the rules the Supreme Court is allowed to promulgate. Apparently, petitioner’s concept of this adjunct of judicial power is very restrictive. Fortunately, thanks in no part to petitioner’s opinion, we are guided by well-settled principles of constitutional construction.

Verba legis dictates that wherever possible, the words used in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed, in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails. This Court, speaking through former Chief Justice Enrique Fernando, in J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration20 instructs:

As the Constitution is not primarily a lawyer’s document, it being essential for the rule of law to obtain that it should ever be present in the people’s consciousness, its language as much as possible should be understood in the sense they have in common use. What it says according to the text of the provision to be construed compels acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the postulate that the framers and the people mean what they say. Thus these are cases where the need for construction is reduced to a minimum.

However, where there is ambiguity or doubt, the words of the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of its framers or ratio legis et anima. A doubtful provision must be examined in light of the history of the times, and the condition and circumstances surrounding the framing of the Constitution.21 In following this guideline, courts should bear in mind the object sought to be accomplished in adopting a doubtful constitutional provision, and the evils sought to be prevented or remedied.22 Consequently, the intent of the framers and the people ratifying the constitution, and not the panderings of self-indulgent men, should be given effect.

Last, ut magis valeat quam pereat – the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole. We intoned thus in the landmark case of Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary:23

It is a well-established rule in constitutional construction that no one provision of the Constitution is to be separated from all the others, to be considered alone, but that all the provisions bearing upon a particular subject are to be brought into view and to be so interpreted as to effectuate the great purposes of the instrument. Sections bearing on a particular subject should be considered and interpreted together as to effectuate the whole purpose of the Constitution and one section is not to be allowed to defeat another, if by any reasonable construction, the two can be made to stand together.

In other words, the court must harmonize them, if practicable, and must lean in favor of a construction which will render every word operative, rather than one which may make the words idle and nugatory.

We had earlier expounded on this rule of construction in Chiongbian v. De Leon, et al., 24 to wit:

[T]he members of the Constitutional Convention could not have dedicated a provision of our Constitution merely for the benefit of one person without considering that it could also affect others. When they adopted subsection 2, they permitted, if not willed, that said provision should function to the full extent of its substance and its terms, not by itself alone, but in conjunction with all other provisions of that great document.

On its face, the contentious constitutional provision does not specify the establishment of the PET. But neither does it preclude, much less prohibit, otherwise. It entertains divergent interpretations which, though unacceptable to petitioner, do not include his restrictive view – one which really does not offer a solution.

Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, the provision under scrutiny, should be read with other related provisions of the Constitution such as the parallel provisions on the Electoral Tribunals of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Before we resort to the records of the Constitutional Commission, we discuss the framework of judicial power mapped out in the Constitution. Contrary to petitioner’s assertion, the Supreme Court’s constitutional mandate to act as sole judge of election contests involving our country’s highest public officials, and its rule-making authority in connection therewith, is not restricted; it includes all necessary powers implicit in the exercise thereof.

We recall the unprecedented and trailblazing case of Marcos v. Manglapus:25

The 1987 Constitution has fully restored the separation of powers of the three great branches of government. To recall the words of Justice Laurel in Angara v. Electoral Commission, "the Constitution has blocked but with deft strokes and in bold lines, allotment of power to the executive, the legislative and the judicial departments of the government." Thus, the 1987 Constitution explicitly provides that "[t]he legislative power shall be vested in the Congress of the Philippines" [Art. VI, Sec. 1], "[t]he executive power shall be vested in the President of the Philippines" [Art. VII, Sec. 1], and "[t]he judicial power shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law" [Art. VIII, Sec. 1]. These provisions not only establish a separation of powers by actual division but also confer plenary legislative, executive and judicial powers subject only to limitations provided in the Constitution. For as the Supreme Court in Ocampo v. Cabangis pointed out "a grant of the legislative power means a grant of all legislative power; and a grant of the judicial power means a grant of all the judicial power which may be exercised under the government."

The Court could not have been more explicit then on the plenary grant and exercise of judicial power. Plainly, the abstraction of the Supreme Court acting as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal from the unequivocal grant of jurisdiction in the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution is sound and tenable.

The mirabile dictu of the grant of jurisdiction to this Court, albeit found in the Article on the executive branch of government, and the constitution of the PET, is evident in the discussions of the Constitutional Commission. On the exercise of this Court’s judicial power as sole judge of presidential and vice-presidential election contests, and to promulgate its rules for this purpose, we find the proceedings in the Constitutional Commission most instructive:

MR. DAVIDE. On line 25, after the words "Vice-President," I propose to add AND MAY PROMULGATE ITS RULES FOR THE PURPOSE. This refers to the Supreme Court sitting en banc. This is also to confer on the Supreme Court exclusive authority to enact the necessary rules while acting as sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

MR. REGALADO. My personal position is that the rule-making power of the Supreme Court with respect to its internal procedure is already implicit under the Article on the Judiciary; considering, however, that according to the Commissioner, the purpose of this is to indicate the sole power of the Supreme Court without intervention by the legislature in the promulgation of its rules on this particular point, I think I will personally recommend its acceptance to the Committee.26

x x x x

MR. NOLLEDO. x x x.

With respect to Sections 10 and 11 on page 8, I understand that the Committee has also created an Electoral Tribunal in the Senate and a Commission on Appointments which may cover membership from both Houses. But my question is: It seems to me that the committee report does not indicate which body should promulgate the rules that shall govern the Electoral Tribunal and the Commission on Appointments. Who shall then promulgate the rules of these bodies?

MR. DAVIDE. The Electoral Tribunal itself will establish and promulgate its rules because it is a body distinct and independent already from the House, and so with the Commission on Appointments also. It will have the authority to promulgate its own rules.27

On another point of discussion relative to the grant of judicial power, but equally cogent, we listen to former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion:

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.

Would the Commissioner not consider that violative of the doctrine of separation of powers?

MR. CONCEPCION. I think Commissioner Bernas explained that this is a contest between two parties. This is a judicial power.

MR. SUAREZ. We know, but practically the Committee is giving to the judiciary the right to declare who will be the President of our country, which to me is a political action.

MR. CONCEPCION. There are legal rights which are enforceable under the law, and these are essentially justiciable questions.

MR. SUAREZ. If the election contest proved to be long, burdensome and tedious, practically all the time of the Supreme Court sitting en banc would be occupied with it considering that they will be going over millions and millions of ballots or election returns, Madam President.28

Echoing the same sentiment and affirming the grant of judicial power to the Supreme Court, Justice Florenz D. Regalado29 and Fr. Joaquin Bernas30 both opined:

MR. VILLACORTA. Thank you very much, Madam President.

I am not sure whether Commissioner Suarez has expressed his point. On page 2, the fourth paragraph of Section 4 provides:

The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

May I seek clarification as to whether or not the matter of determining the outcome of the contests relating to the election returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President is purely a political matter and, therefore, should not be left entirely to the judiciary. Will the above-quoted provision not impinge on the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and the judicial departments of the government?

MR. REGALADO. No, I really do not feel that would be a problem. This is a new provision incidentally. It was not in the 1935 Constitution nor in the 1973 Constitution.

MR. VILLACORTA. That is right.

MR. REGALADO. We feel that it will not be an intrusion into the separation of powers guaranteed to the judiciary because this is strictly an adversarial and judicial proceeding.

MR. VILLACORTA. May I know the rationale of the Committee because this supersedes Republic Act 7950 which provides for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal?

FR. BERNAS. Precisely, this is necessary. Election contests are, by their nature, judicial. Therefore, they are cognizable only by courts. If, for instance, we did not have a constitutional provision on an electoral tribunal for the Senate or an electoral tribunal for the House, normally, as composed, that cannot be given jurisdiction over contests.

So, the background of this is really the case of Roxas v. Lopez. The Gentleman will remember that in that election, Lopez was declared winner. He filed a protest before the Supreme Court because there was a republic act which created the Supreme Court as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The question in this case was whether new powers could be given the Supreme Court by law. In effect, the conflict was actually whether there was an attempt to create two Supreme Courts and the answer of the Supreme Court was: "No, this did not involve the creation of two Supreme Courts, but precisely we are giving new jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, as it is allowed by the Constitution. Congress may allocate various jurisdictions."

Before the passage of that republic act, in case there was any contest between two presidential candidates or two vice-presidential candidates, no one had jurisdiction over it. So, it became necessary to create a Presidential Electoral Tribunal. What we have done is to constitutionalize what was statutory but it is not an infringement on the separation of powers because the power being given to the Supreme Court is a judicial power.31

Unmistakable from the foregoing is that the exercise of our power to judge presidential and vice-presidential election contests, as well as the rule-making power adjunct thereto, is plenary; it is not as restrictive as petitioner would interpret it. In fact, former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., who proposed the insertion of the phrase, intended the Supreme Court to exercise exclusive authority to promulgate its rules of procedure for that purpose. To this, Justice Regalado forthwith assented and then emphasized that the sole power ought to be without intervention by the legislative department. Evidently, even the legislature cannot limit the judicial power to resolve presidential and vice-presidential election contests and our rule-making power connected thereto.

To foreclose all arguments of petitioner, we reiterate that the establishment of the PET simply constitutionalized what was statutory before the 1987 Constitution. The experiential context of the PET in our country cannot be denied.32

Consequently, we find it imperative to trace the historical antecedents of the PET.

Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7 of the 1987 Constitution is an innovation. The precursors of the present Constitution did not contain similar provisions and instead vested upon the legislature all phases of presidential and vice-presidential elections – from the canvassing of election returns, to the proclamation of the president-elect and the vice-president elect, and even the determination, by ordinary legislation, of whether such proclamations may be contested. Unless the legislature enacted a law creating an institution that would hear election contests in the Presidential and Vice-Presidential race, a defeated candidate had no legal right to demand a recount of the votes cast for the office involved or to challenge the ineligibility of the proclaimed candidate. Effectively, presidential and vice-presidential contests were non-justiciable in the then prevailing milieu.

The omission in the 1935 Constitution was intentional. It was mainly influenced by the absence of a similar provision in its pattern, the Federal Constitution of the United States. Rather, the creation of such tribunal was left to the determination of the National Assembly. The journal of the 1935 Constitutional Convention is crystal clear on this point:

Delegate Saguin. – For an information. It seems that this Constitution does not contain any provision with respect to the entity or body which will look into the protests for the positions of the President and Vice-President.

President Recto. – Neither does the American constitution contain a provision over the subject.

Delegate Saguin. – But then, who will decide these protests?

President Recto. – I suppose that the National Assembly will decide on that.33

To fill the void in the 1935 Constitution, the National Assembly enacted R.A. No. 1793, establishing an independent PET to try, hear, and decide protests contesting the election of President and Vice-President. The Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court were tasked to sit as its Chairman and Members, respectively. Its composition was extended to retired Supreme Court Justices and incumbent Court of Appeals Justices who may be appointed as substitutes for ill, absent, or temporarily incapacitated regular members.

The eleven-member tribunal was empowered to promulgate rules for the conduct of its proceedings. It was mandated to sit en banc in deciding presidential and vice-presidential contests and authorized to exercise powers similar to those conferred upon courts of justice, including the issuance of subpoena, taking of depositions, arrest of witnesses to compel their appearance, production of documents and other evidence, and the power to punish contemptuous acts and bearings. The tribunal was assigned a Clerk, subordinate officers, and employees necessary for the efficient performance of its functions.

R.A. No. 1793 was implicitly repealed and superseded by the 1973 Constitution which replaced the bicameral legislature under the 1935 Constitution with the unicameral body of a parliamentary government.

With the 1973 Constitution, a PET was rendered irrelevant, considering that the President was not directly chosen by the people but elected from among the members of the National Assembly, while the position of Vice-President was constitutionally non-existent.

In 1981, several modifications were introduced to the parliamentary system. Executive power was restored to the President who was elected directly by the people. An Executive Committee was formed to assist the President in the performance of his functions and duties. Eventually, the Executive Committee was abolished and the Office of Vice-President was installed anew.

These changes prompted the National Assembly to revive the PET by enacting, on December 3, 1985, Batas Pambansa Bilang (B.P. Blg.) 884, entitled "An Act Constituting an Independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal to Try, Hear and Decide Election Contests in the Office of the President and Vice-President of the Philippines, Appropriating Funds Therefor and For Other Purposes." This tribunal was composed of nine members, three of whom were the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and two Associate Justices designated by him, while the six were divided equally between representatives of the majority and minority parties in the Batasang Pambansa.

Aside from the license to wield powers akin to those of a court of justice, the PET was permitted to recommend the prosecution of persons, whether public officers or private individuals, who in its opinion had participated in any irregularity connected with the canvassing and/or accomplishing of election returns.

The independence of the tribunal was highlighted by a provision allocating a specific budget from the national treasury or Special Activities Fund for its operational expenses. It was empowered to appoint its own clerk in accordance with its rules. However, the subordinate officers were strictly employees of the judiciary or other officers of the government who were merely designated to the tribunal.

After the historic People Power Revolution that ended the martial law era and installed Corazon Aquino as President, civil liberties were restored and a new constitution was formed.

With R.A. No. 1793 as framework, the 1986 Constitutional Commission transformed the then statutory PET into a constitutional institution, albeit without its traditional nomenclature:

FR. BERNAS. x x x.

x x x. So it became necessary to create a Presidential Electoral Tribunal. What we have done is to constitutionalize what was statutory but it is not an infringement on the separation of powers because the power being given to the Supreme Court is a judicial power.34

Clearly, petitioner’s bete noire of the PET and the exercise of its power are unwarranted. His arguments that: (1) the Chief Justice and Associate Justices are referred to as "Chairman" and "Members," respectively; (2) the PET uses a different seal; (3) the Chairman is authorized to appoint personnel; and (4) additional compensation is allocated to the "Members," in order to bolster his claim of infirmity in the establishment of the PET, are too superficial to merit further attention by the Court.

Be that as it may, we hasten to clarify the structure of the PET as a legitimate progeny of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, composed of members of the Supreme Court, sitting en banc. The following exchange in the 1986 Constitutional Commission should provide enlightenment:

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you. Let me proceed to line 23, page 2, wherein it is provided, and I quote:

The Supreme Court, sitting en banc[,] shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

Are we not giving enormous work to the Supreme Court especially when it is directed to sit en banc as the sole judge of all presidential and vice-presidential election contests?

MR. SUMULONG. That question will be referred to Commissioner Concepcion.

MR. CONCEPCION. This function was discharged by the Supreme Court twice and the Supreme Court was able to dispose of each case in a period of one year as provided by law. Of course, that was probably during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I do not know how the present Supreme Court would react to such circumstances, but there is also the question of who else would hear the election protests.

MR. SUAREZ. We are asking this question because between lines 23 to 25, there are no rules provided for the hearings and there is not time limit or duration for the election contest to be decided by the Supreme Court. Also, we will have to consider the historical background that when R.A. 1793, which organized the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, was promulgated on June 21, 1957, at least three famous election contests were presented and two of them ended up in withdrawal by the protestants out of sheer frustration because of the delay in the resolution of the cases. I am referring to the electoral protest that was lodged by former President Carlos P. Garcia against our "kabalen" former President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961 and the vice-presidential election contest filed by the late Senator Gerardo Roxas against Vice-President Fernando Lopez in 1965.

MR. CONCEPCION. I cannot answer for what the protestants had in mind. But when that protest of Senator Roxas was withdrawn, the results were already available. Senator Roxas did not want to have a decision adverse to him. The votes were being counted already, and he did not get what he expected so rather than have a decision adverse to his protest, he withdrew the case.

x x x x

MR. SUAREZ. I see. So the Commission would not have any objection to vesting in the Supreme Court this matter of resolving presidential and vice-presidential contests?

MR. CONCEPCION. Personally, I would not have any objection.

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.

Would the Commissioner not consider that violative of the doctrine of separation of powers?

MR. CONCEPCION. I think Commissioner Bernas explained that this is a contest between two parties. This is a judicial power.

MR. SUAREZ. We know, but practically the Committee is giving to the judiciary the right to declare who will be the President of our country, which to me is a political action.

MR. CONCEPCION. There are legal rights which are enforceable under the law, and these are essentially justiciable questions.

MR. SUAREZ. If the election contest proved to be long, burdensome and tedious, practically all the time of the Supreme Court sitting en banc would be occupied with it considering that they will be going over millions and millions of ballots or election returns, Madam President.

MR. CONCEPCION. The time consumed or to be consumed in this contest for President is dependent upon they key number of teams of revisors. I have no experience insofar as contests in other offices are concerned.

MR. SUAREZ. Although there is a requirement here that the Supreme Court is mandated to sit en banc?

MR. CONCEPCION. Yes.

MR. SUAREZ. I see.

MR. CONCEPCION. The steps involved in this contest are: First, the ballot boxes are opened before teams of three, generally, a representative each of the court, of the protestant and of the "protestee." It is all a questions of how many teams are organized. Of course, that can be expensive, but it would be expensive whatever court one would choose. There were times that the Supreme Court, with sometimes 50 teams at the same time working, would classify the objections, the kind of problems, and the court would only go over the objected votes on which the parties could not agree. So it is not as awesome as it would appear insofar as the Court is concerned. What is awesome is the cost of the revision of the ballots because each party would have to appoint one representative for every team, and that may take quite a big amount.

MR. SUAREZ. If we draw from the Commissioner’s experience which he is sharing with us, what would be the reasonable period for the election contest to be decided?

MR. CONCEPCION. Insofar as the Supreme Court is concerned, the Supreme Court always manages to dispose of the case in one year.

MR. SUAREZ. In one year. Thank you for the clarification.35

Obvious from the foregoing is the intent to bestow independence to the Supreme Court as the PET, to undertake the Herculean task of deciding election protests involving presidential and vice-presidential candidates in accordance with the process outlined by former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion. It was made in response to the concern aired by delegate Jose E. Suarez that the additional duty may prove too burdensome for the Supreme Court. This explicit grant of independence and of the plenary powers needed to discharge this burden justifies the budget allocation of the PET.

The conferment of additional jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, with the duty characterized as an "awesome" task, includes the means necessary to carry it into effect under the doctrine of necessary implication.36 We cannot overemphasize that the abstraction of the PET from the explicit grant of power to the Supreme Court, given our abundant experience, is not unwarranted.

A plain reading of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, readily reveals a grant of authority to the Supreme Court sitting en banc. In the same vein, although the method by which the Supreme Court exercises this authority is not specified in the provision, the grant of power does not contain any limitation on the Supreme Court’s exercise thereof. The Supreme Court’s method of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, through the PET, is actually a derivative of the exercise of the prerogative conferred by the aforequoted constitutional provision. Thus, the subsequent directive in the provision for the Supreme Court to "promulgate its rules for the purpose."

The conferment of full authority to the Supreme Court, as a PET, is equivalent to the full authority conferred upon the electoral tribunals of the Senate and the House of Representatives, i.e., the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET),37 which we have affirmed on numerous occasions.38

Particularly cogent are the discussions of the Constitutional Commission on the parallel provisions of the SET and the HRET. The discussions point to the inevitable conclusion that the different electoral tribunals, with the Supreme Court functioning as the PET, are constitutional bodies, independent of the three departments of government – Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary – but not separate therefrom.

MR. MAAMBONG. x x x.

My questions will be very basic so we can go as fast as we can. In the case of the electoral tribunal, either of the House or of the Senate, is it correct to say that these tribunals are constitutional creations? I will distinguish these with the case of the Tanodbayan and the Sandiganbayan which are created by mandate of the Constitution but they are not constitutional creations. Is that a good distinction?

x x x x

MR. MAAMBONG. Could we, therefore, say that either the Senate Electoral Tribunal or the House Electoral Tribunal is a constitutional body?

MR. AZCUNA. It is, Madam President.

MR. MAAMBONG. If it is a constitutional body, is it then subject to constitutional restrictions?

MR. AZCUNA. It would be subject to constitutional restrictions intended for that body.

MR. MAAMBONG. I see. But I want to find out if the ruling in the case of Vera v. Avelino, 77 Phil. 192, will still be applicable to the present bodies we are creating since it ruled that the electoral tribunals are not separate departments of the government. Would that ruling still be valid?

MR. AZCUNA. Yes, they are not separate departments because the separate departments are the legislative, the executive and the judiciary; but they are constitutional bodies.39

The view taken by Justices Adolfo S. Azcuna40 and Regalado E. Maambong41 is schooled by our holding in Lopez v. Roxas, et al.:42

Section 1 of Republic Act No. 1793, which provides that:

"There shall be an independent Presidential Electoral Tribunal x x x which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the president-elect and the vice-president-elect of the Philippines."

has the effect of giving said defeated candidate the legal right to contest judicially the election of the President-elect of Vice-President-elect and to demand a recount of the votes case for the office involved in the litigation, as well as to secure a judgment declaring that he is the one elected president or vice-president, as the case may be, and that, as such, he is entitled to assume the duties attached to said office. And by providing, further, that the Presidential Electoral Tribunal "shall be composed of the Chief Justice and the other ten Members of the Supreme Court," said legislation has conferred upon such Court an additional original jurisdiction of an exclusive character.

Republic Act No. 1793 has not created a new or separate court. It has merely conferred upon the Supreme Court the functions of a Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The result of the enactment may be likened to the fact that courts of first instance perform the functions of such ordinary courts of first instance, those of court of land registration, those of probate courts, and those of courts of juvenile and domestic relations. It is, also, comparable to the situation obtaining when the municipal court of a provincial capital exercises its authority, pursuant to law, over a limited number of cases which were previously within the exclusive jurisdiction of courts of first instance.

In all of these instances, the court (court of first instance or municipal court) is only one, although the functions may be distinct and, even, separate. Thus the powers of a court of first instance, in the exercise of its jurisdiction over ordinary civil cases, are broader than, as well as distinct and separate from, those of the same court acting as a court of land registration or a probate court, or as a court of juvenile and domestic relations. So too, the authority of the municipal court of a provincial capital, when acting as such municipal court, is, territorially more limited than that of the same court when hearing the aforementioned cases which are primary within the jurisdiction of courts of first instance. In other words, there is only one court, although it may perform the functions pertaining to several types of courts, each having some characteristics different from those of the others.

Indeed, the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals and courts of first instance, are vested with original jurisdiction, as well as with appellate jurisdiction, in consequence of which they are both trial courts and, appellate courts, without detracting from the fact that there is only one Supreme Court, one Court of Appeals, and one court of first instance, clothed with authority to discharge said dual functions. A court of first instance, when performing the functions of a probate court or a court of land registration, or a court of juvenile and domestic relations, although with powers less broad than those of a court of first instance, hearing ordinary actions, is not inferior to the latter, for one cannot be inferior to itself. So too, the Presidential Electoral Tribunal is not inferior to the Supreme Court, since it is the same Court although the functions peculiar to said Tribunal are more limited in scope than those of the Supreme Court in the exercise of its ordinary functions. Hence, the enactment of Republic Act No. 1793, does not entail an assumption by Congress of the power of appointment vested by the Constitution in the President. It merely connotes the imposition of additional duties upon the Members of the Supreme Court.

By the same token, the PET is not a separate and distinct entity from the Supreme Court, albeit it has functions peculiar only to the Tribunal. It is obvious that the PET was constituted in implementation of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, and it faithfully complies – not unlawfully defies – the constitutional directive. The adoption of a separate seal, as well as the change in the nomenclature of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices into Chairman and Members of the Tribunal, respectively, was designed simply to highlight the singularity and exclusivity of the Tribunal’s functions as a special electoral court.

As regards petitioner’s claim that the PET exercises quasi-judicial functions in contravention of Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution, we point out that the issue in Buac v. COMELEC43 involved the characterization of the enforcement and administration of a law relative to the conduct of a plebiscite which falls under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections. However, petitioner latches on to the enumeration in Buac which declared, in an obiter, that "contests involving the President and the Vice-President fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the PET, also in the exercise of quasi-judicial power."

The issue raised by petitioner is more imagined than real. Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution reads:

SEC. 12. The Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.

The traditional grant of judicial power is found in Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution which provides that the power "shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law." Consistent with our presidential system of government, the function of "dealing with the settlement of disputes, controversies or conflicts involving rights, duties or prerogatives that are legally demandable and enforceable" 44 is apportioned to courts of justice. With the advent of the 1987 Constitution, judicial power was expanded to include "the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government."45 The power was expanded, but it remained absolute.

The set up embodied in the Constitution and statutes characterizes the resolution of electoral contests as essentially an exercise of judicial power.1avvphi1

At the barangay and municipal levels, original and exclusive jurisdiction over election contests is vested in the municipal or metropolitan trial courts and the regional trial courts, respectively.

At the higher levels – city, provincial, and regional, as well as congressional and senatorial – exclusive and original jurisdiction is lodged in the COMELEC and in the House of Representatives and Senate Electoral Tribunals, which are not, strictly and literally speaking, courts of law. Although not courts of law, they are, nonetheless, empowered to resolve election contests which involve, in essence, an exercise of judicial power, because of the explicit constitutional empowerment found in Section 2(2), Article IX-C (for the COMELEC) and Section 17, Article VI (for the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals) of the Constitution. Besides, when the COMELEC, the HRET, and the SET decide election contests, their decisions are still subject to judicial review – via a petition for certiorari filed by the proper party – if there is a showing that the decision was rendered with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction.46

It is also beyond cavil that when the Supreme Court, as PET, resolves a presidential or vice-presidential election contest, it performs what is essentially a judicial power. In the landmark case of Angara v. Electoral Commission,47 Justice Jose P. Laurel enucleated that "it would be inconceivable if the Constitution had not provided for a mechanism by which to direct the course of government along constitutional channels." In fact, Angara pointed out that "[t]he Constitution is a definition of the powers of government." And yet, at that time, the 1935 Constitution did not contain the expanded definition of judicial power found in Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 2 of the present Constitution.

With the explicit provision, the present Constitution has allocated to the Supreme Court, in conjunction with latter’s exercise of judicial power inherent in all courts,48 the task of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, with full authority in the exercise thereof. The power wielded by PET is a derivative of the plenary judicial power allocated to courts of law, expressly provided in the Constitution. On the whole, the Constitution draws a thin, but, nevertheless, distinct line between the PET and the Supreme Court.

If the logic of petitioner is to be followed, all Members of the Court, sitting in the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals would violate the constitutional proscription found in Section 12, Article VIII. Surely, the petitioner will be among the first to acknowledge that this is not so. The Constitution which, in Section 17, Article VI, explicitly provides that three Supreme Court Justices shall sit in the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals, respectively, effectively exempts the Justices-Members thereof from the prohibition in Section 12, Article VIII. In the same vein, it is the Constitution itself, in Section 4, Article VII, which exempts the Members of the Court, constituting the PET, from the same prohibition.

We have previously declared that the PET is not simply an agency to which Members of the Court were designated. Once again, the PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent, but not separate, from the judicial department, i.e., the Supreme Court. McCulloch v. State of Maryland49 proclaimed that "[a] power without the means to use it, is a nullity." The vehicle for the exercise of this power, as intended by the Constitution and specifically mentioned by the Constitutional Commissioners during the discussions on the grant of power to this Court, is the PET. Thus, a microscopic view, like the petitioner’s, should not constrict an absolute and constitutional grant of judicial power.

One final note. Although this Court has no control over contrary people and naysayers, we reiterate a word of caution against the filing of baseless petitions which only clog the Court’s docket. The petition in the instant case belongs to that classification.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. Costs against petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA
Associate Justice

WE CONCUR:

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice

ANTONIO T. CARPIO
Associate Justice
CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES
Associate Justice
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.
Associate Justice
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice
ARTURO D. BRION
Associate Justice
DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN
Associate Justice
(On Official Leave)
MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO*
Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD
Associate Justice
MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ
Associate Justice
JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA
Associate Justice

Associate Justice

Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO
Associate Justice

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify that the conclusions in the above decision had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

RENATO C. CORONA
Chief Justice


Footnotes

* On official leave.

1 Rollo, pp. 3-9.

2 Paragraph 7.

3 On May 4, 2010, the 2010 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (2010 PET Rules) took effect.

4 465 Phil. 800, 810 (2004).

5 Rollo, pp. 12-38.

6 Id. at 15-16.

7 Id. at 42-58.

8 Cruz, Philippine Political Law, 1998 ed., p. 257.

9 Province of North Cotabato v. Government of the Republic of the Philippines Peace Panel on Ancestral Domain, G.R. Nos. 183591, 183752, 183893, 183951, and 183962, October 14, 2008, 568 SCRA 402, 456.

10 369 U.S. 186 (1962).

11 Gov. Mandanas v. Hon. Romulo, 473 Phil. 806 (2004).

12 G.R. Nos. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489, and 171424, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 160, 216-221. (Citations omitted.)

13 Poe v. Macapagal-Arroyo, P.E.T. Case No. 002, March 29, 2005, 454 SCRA 142.

14 Cruz, Philippine Politcal Law, 1998 ed., p. 263.

15 G.R. Nos. 161434, 161634, and 161824, March 3, 2004, 424 SCRA 277, 324-325. (Emphasis supplied.)

16 Id. at 363.

17 Id. at 431-432.

18 Atty. Macalintal v. COMELEC, 453 Phil. 586 (2003).

19 Supra at note 15.

20 No. L-21064, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 413, 423.

21 McCulloch v. State of Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (Wheat.), 1819.

22 In the Philippine context, see Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, G.R. Nos. 83896 and 83815, February 22, 1991, 194 SCRA 317.

23 Id. at 330-331.

24 82 Phil. 771, 775 (1949).

25 G.R. No. 88211, September 15, 1989, 177 SCRA 668, 688-689. (Emphasis supplied, citations omitted.)

26 Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 2, p. 433. (Emphasis supplied.)

27 Id. at 87-88. (Emphasis supplied.)

28 Id. at 420-421. (Emphasis supplied.)

29 Supreme Court.

30 A Roman Catholic Priest of the Jesuit Order.

31 Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 2, pp. 407-408. (Emphasis supplied.)

32 See Defensor-Santiago v. Ramos, P.E.T. Case No. 001, February 13, 1996, 253 SCRA 559; Tecson v. COMELEC, supra at note 15.

33 Constitutional Convention Record, Vol. X, pp. 471-472.

34 Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 2, p. 408.

35 Id. at 420-421. (Emphasis supplied.)

36 McCulloch v. State of Maryland, supra note 21.

37 CONSTITUTION, Art. VI, Sec. 17.

38 Sen. Defensor-Santiago v. Sen. Guingona, Jr., 359 Phil. 276, 294 (1998), citing Lazatin v. House Electoral Tribunal, 250 Phil. 390 (1988); Robles v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 86647, February 5, 1990, 181 SCRA 780.

39 Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 2, pp. 111-112. (Emphasis supplied.)

40 Supreme Court.

41 Court of Appeals.

42 No. L-25716, July 28, 1966, 17 SCRA 756, 762-765. (Emphasis supplied.)

43 Supra note 4.

44 Javellana v. Executive Secretary, et al., 151-A Phil. 36, 131 (1973).

45 CONSTITUTION, Art. VIII, Sec. 1, second paragraph.

46 See Robles v. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, supra note 38; Lazatin v. House Electoral Tribunal, supra note 38.

47 63 Phil. 139 (1936).

48 See Ynot v. Intermediate Appellate Court, G.R. No. L-74457, March 20, 1987, 148 SCRA 659, 665; Tañada and Macapagal v. Cuenco, et al., 103 Phil. 1051 (1957); Alejandrino v. Quezon, 46 Phil. 83 (1924).

49 Supra note 21.

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