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202242, July 17, 2012 By LLBe:LawLifeBuzzEtcetera Facts: In 1994, instead of having only seven members, an eighth member was added to the JBC as two representatives from Congress began sitting in the JBC – one from the House of Representatives and one from the Senate, with each having one-half (1/2) of a vote. Then, the JBC En Banc, in separate meetings held in 2000 and 2001, decided to allow the representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives one full vote each. At present, Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero and Congressman Niel C. Tupas, Jr. (respondents) simultaneously sit in the JBC as representatives of the legislature. It is this practice that petitioner has questioned in this petition. Respondents argued that the crux of the controversy is the phrase “a representative of Congress.” It is their theory that the two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, are permanent and mandatory components of “Congress,” such that the absence of either divests the term of its substantive meaning as expressed under the Constitution. Bicameralism, as the system of choice by the Framers, requires that both houses exercise their respective powers in the performance of its mandated duty which is to legislate. Thus, when Section 8(1), Article VIII of the Constitution speaks of “a representative from Congress,” it should mean one representative each from both Houses which comprise the entire Congress. Respondents further argue that petitioner has no “real interest” in questioning the constitutionality of the JBC’s current composition. The respondents also question petitioner’s belated filing of the petition. Issues: (1) Whether or not the conditions sine qua non for the exercise of the power of judicial review have been met in this case; and (2) Whether or not the current practice of the JBC to perform its functions with eight (8) members, two (2) of whom are members of Congress, runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1987 Constitution. Held:
(2) Yes. The word “Congress” used in Article VIII, Section 8(1) of the Constitution is used in its generic sense. No particular allusion whatsoever is made on whether the Senate or the House of Representatives is being referred to, but that, in either case, only a singular representative may be allowed to sit in the JBC. The seven-member composition of the JBC serves a practical purpose, that is, to provide a solution should there be a stalemate in voting. It is evident that the definition of “Congress” as a bicameral body refers to its primary function in government – to legislate. In the passage of laws, the Constitution is explicit in the distinction of the role of each house in the process. The same holds true in Congress’ non-legislative powers. An inter-play between the two houses is necessary in the realization of these powers causing a vivid dichotomy that the Court cannot simply discount. This, however, cannot be said in the case of JBC representation because no liaison between the two houses exists in the workings of the JBC. Hence, the term
The Constitution mandates that the JBC be composed of seven (7) members only. the Court cannot accede to the argument of plain oversight in order to justify constitutional construction. which provides that a tie in the presidential election shall be broken "by a majority of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress. all its prior official actions are nonetheless valid. actions previous to the declaration of unconstitutionality are legally recognized. in the interpretation of the constitutional provisions. Thus. Under the doctrine of operative facts. the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may be revoked or continued by the Congress."21 Similarly. compels acceptance and bars modification even by the branch tasked to interpret it. as can be read in its other provisions. 2012 Decision. the Constitution could have. is not persuasive enough."20 Another is Section 8 thereof which requires the nominee to replace the VicePresident to be confirmed "by a majority of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress. The language used in the Constitution must be taken to have been deliberately chosen for a definite purpose. clearly. Ratio Legis in Jurisprudence The Constitution evinces the direct action of the Filipino people by which the fundamental powers of government are established." the Filipino people through the Framers intended that Congress be entitled to only one (1) seat in the JBC. the corresponding adjustments were made as to how a matter would be handled and voted upon by its two Houses."22 In all these provisions. by sheer inadvertence. in opting to use the singular letter "a" to describe "representative of Congress. according to its text. Notwithstanding its finding of unconstitutionality in the current composition of the JBC. voting separately. the bicameral nature of Congress was recognized and. They are not nullified. Article VII.“Congress” must be taken to mean the entire legislative department. What the Constitution clearly says. For this reason. voting separately. the Court firmly relies on the basic postulate that the Framers mean what they say. A reading of the 1987 Constitution would reveal that several provisions were indeed adjusted as to be in tune with the shift to bicameralism. Respondents cannot just lean on plain oversight to justify a conclusion favorable to them. limited and defined and by which those powers are distributed among the several departments for their safe and useful exercise for the benefit of the body politic. It is very clear that the Framers were not keen on adjusting the provision on congressional representation in the JBC because it . As stated in the July 17. Had the intention been otherwise. in no uncertain terms. Thus. One example is Section 4. so provided. voting separately. Article VIII.19 The Framers reposed their wisdom and vision on one suprema lex to be the ultimate expression of the principles and the framework upon which government and society were to operate. Every word employed in the Constitution must be interpreted to exude its deliberate intent which must be maintained inviolate against disobedience and defiance. to their decision to shift to a bicameral form of the legislature. to say that the Framers simply failed to adjust Section 8. by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members. under Section 18.
In all these instances. the Secretary of Justice (representing the Executive Department). Perhaps. and Congress. The total is seven (7). was merely assigned a contributory non-legislative function. three (3) representatives from the major branches of government . the Framers arrived at a unique system by adding to the four (4) regular members. Whether in the exercise of its legislative23 or its non-legislative functions such as inter alia. not eight. JBC was created to support the executive power to appoint. the Framers simply gave recognition to the Legislature. No mechanism is required between the Senate and the House of Representatives in the screening and nomination of judicial officers. each House is constitutionally granted with powers and functions peculiar to its nature and with keen consideration to 1) its relationship with the other chamber. I vote for the proposition that the Council should adopt the rule of single representation of Congress in the JBC in order to respect and give the right meaning to the abovequoted provision of the Constitution. The need to recognize the existence and the role of each House is essential considering that the Constitution employs precise language in laying down the functions which particular House plays. In so providing.24 the declaration of an existence of a state of war. On this score. it is apt to mention that the oft-repeated doctrine that "construction and interpretation come only after it has been demonstrated that application is impossible or inadequate without them.27 the dichotomy of each House must be acknowledged and recognized considering the interplay between these two Houses. Section 8 (1) of the 1987 Constitution x x x. (Emphases and underscoring supplied) . Datumanong. In view of the foregoing. not because it was in the interest of a certain constituency.was not in the exercise of its primary function – to legislate. Congress has two (2) Houses. as one whole body. Puno: I humbly reiterate my position that there should be only one representative of Congress in the JBC in accordance with Article VIII. regardless of whether the two Houses consummate an official act by voting jointly or separately. Simeon A." Further. and 2) in consonance with the principle of checks and balances. but in reverence to it as a major branch of government. there is essentially no interaction between the two Houses in their participation in the JBC. Rather. from the Second District of Maguindanao.the Chief Justice as ex-officio Chairman (representing the Judicial Department). The underlying reason for such a limited participation can easily be discerned.25 canvassing of electoral returns for the President and Vice-President. the power of appropriation. in the creation of the JBC. as to the other branches of government. with one vote each. submitted his well-considered position28 to then Chief Justice Reynato S. to allow Congress to have two representatives in the Council. and a representative of the Congress (representing the Legislative Department). Hon. is to negate the principle of equality among the three branches of government which is enshrined in the Constitution. The aforesaid provision is clear and unambiguous and does not need any further interpretation. a Member of Congress. In checkered contrast.26 and impeachment.
The unmistakeable tenor of Article VIII. and the understanding is that seven (7) persons will compose the JBC.On March 14. it is beyond dispute that Art. says the majority. the interpretation of two votes for Congress runs counter to the intendment of the framers. it calls for no further interpretation. Quisumbing. Also.29 which reads: 8. then Associate Justice Leonardo A. and certain terms in crafting that section and. the framers of the 1987 Constitution used plain. Thus. a former JBC consultant. the JBC was designed to have seven voting members with the three ex-officio members having equal say in the choice of judicial nominees. xxx Thus. As such. is worth reiterating. two votes for Congress would increase the number of JBC members to eight. two (2) representatives from Congress would increase the number of JBC members to eight (8). Consequently. The provision uses the indefinite article “a” signifying “one” before the word “representative” which in itself is in singular form. Abad J. Such interpretation actually gives Congress more influence in the appointment of judges. Two things can be gleaned from the excerpts and citations above: the creation of the JBC is intended to curtail the influence of politics in Congress in the appointment of judges. According to them. unambiguous. the scholarly dissection on the matter by retired Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago. Section 8 (1) of the 1987 Constitution is explicit and specific that "Congress" shall have only "xxx a representative. Dissenting opinion The majority heavily relies on the wordings of Section 8(1) above. while we do not lose sight of the bicameral nature of our legislative department." Thus. also a JBC Consultant." xxx The ex-officio members of the Council consist of representatives from the three main branches of government while the regular members are composed of various stakeholders in the judiciary. submitted to the Chief Justice and ex-officio JBC Chairman his opinion. VIII. Section 8(1) was to treat each ex-officio member as representing one co-equal branch of government. (Emphases and underscoring supplied) In this regard. which could lead to voting deadlock by reason of even-numbered membership. From the enumeration it is patent that each category of members pertained to a single individual only.31 Thus: A perusal of the records of the Constitutional Commission reveals that the composition of the JBC reflects the Commission’s desire "to have in the Council a representation for the major elements of the community. therefore. (Emphases and underscoring supplied) In an undated position paper.30 then Secretary of Justice Agnes VST Devanadera opined: As can be gleaned from the above constitutional provision. 2007. a number beyond what the Constitution has contemplated. and a clear violation of 7 enumerated members in the Constitution. Congress should have but . the JBC is composed of seven (7) representatives coming from different sectors.
that is. the words used in the Constitution should be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed.just one representative in the JBC. meaning that the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole. ratio legis est anima. second. There are three well-settled principles of constitutional construction: first. where there is ambiguity.2 By looking at the enumeration in Section 8(1) of who the JBC members are. Section 8(1) uses the term “Congress” in its generic sense. without any special and specific mention of the two houses that compose it. one can readily discern that every category of membership in that body refers just to a single individual. wherever possible. . namely the Senate and the House of Representatives. and third. meaning that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of its framers. verba legis. The majority also invokes the doctrine of noscitur a sociis which states that a proper interpretation may be had by considering the words that accompany the term or phrase in question. ut magis valeat quam pereat.
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