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SANIDAD vs.

COMELEC
(G.R. No. L-44640, October 12, 1976)

Facts: On 2 September 1976, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential Decree 991
calling for a national referendum on 16 October 1976 for the Citizens Assemblies ("barangays") to
resolve, among other things, the issues of martial law, the interim assembly, its replacement, the
powers of such replacement, the period of its existence, the length of the period for the exercise by
the President of his present powers.

20 days after or on 22 September 1976, the President issued another related decree, Presidential
Decree 1031, amending the previous Presidential Decree 991, by declaring the provisions of
Presidential Decree 229 providing for the manner of voting and canvass of votes in "barangays"
(Citizens Assemblies) applicable to the national referendum-plebiscite of 16 October 1976. Quite
relevantly, Presidential Decree 1031 repealed inter alia, Section 4, of Presidential Decree 991.

On the same date of 22 September 1976, the President issued Presidential Decree 1033, stating the
questions to he submitted to the people in the referendum-plebiscite on 16 October 1976. The
Decree recites in its "whereas" clauses that the people's continued opposition to the convening of
the interim National Assembly evinces their desire to have such body abolished and replaced thru a
constitutional amendment, providing for a new interim legislative body, which will be submitted
directly to the people in the referendum-plebiscite of October 16.

The Commission on Elections was vested with the exclusive supervision and control of the October
1976 National Referendum-Plebiscite. On 27 September 1976, Pablo C. Sanidad and Pablito V.
Sanidad, father and son, commenced L-44640 for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction seeking to
enjoin the Commission on Elections from holding and conducting the Referendum Plebiscite on
October 16; to declare without force and effect Presidential Decree Nos. 991 and 1033, insofar as
they propose amendments to the Constitution, as well as Presidential Decree 1031, insofar as it
directs the Commission on Elections to supervise, control, hold, and conduct the Referendum-
Plebiscite scheduled on 16 October 1976. They contend that under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions
there is no grant to the incumbent President to exercise the constituent power to propose
amendments to the new Constitution.

As a consequence, the Referendum-Plebiscite on October 16 has no constitutional or legal basis.


On 30 September 1976, another action for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction, docketed as L-
44684, was instituted by Vicente M. Guzman, a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention,
asserting that the power to propose amendments to, or revision of the Constitution during the
transition period is expressly conferred on the interim National Assembly under action 16, Article
XVII of the Constitution. Still another petition for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction was filed on 5
October 1976 by Raul M. Gonzales, his son Raul Jr., and Alfredo Salapantan, docketed as L-44714,
to restrain the implementation of Presidential Decrees relative to the forthcoming Referendum-
Plebiscite of October 16.

Issue: Whether the President may call upon a referendum for the amendment of the Constitution.

Held: Section 1 of Article XVI of the 1973 Constitution on Amendments ordains that "(1) Any
amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by the National Assembly upon a
vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or by a constitutional convention. (2) The National Assembly
may, by a vote of two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention or, by a majority vote
of all its Members, submit the question of calling such a convention to the electorate in an election."
Section 2 thereof provides that "Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution shall be valid
when ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not later than three
months a after the approval of such amendment or revision." In the present period of transition, the
interim National Assembly instituted in the Transitory Provisions is conferred with that amending
power. Section 15 of the Transitory Provisions reads "The interim National Assembly, upon special
call by the interim Prime Minister, may, by a majority vote of all its Members, propose amendments
to this Constitution. Such amendments shall take effect when ratified in accordance with Article
Sixteen hereof." There are, therefore, two periods contemplated in the constitutional life of the
nation, i.e., period of normalcy and period of transition. In times of normalcy, the amending process
may be initiated by the proposals of the (1) regular National Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of
all its members; or (2) by a Constitutional Convention called by a vote of two-thirds of all the
Members of the National Assembly. However the calling of a Constitutional Convention may be
submitted to the electorate in an election voted upon by a majority vote of all the members of the
National Assembly. In times of transition, amendments may be proposed by a majority vote of all the
Members of the interim National Assembly upon special call by the interim Prime Minister. The Court
in Aquino v. COMELEC, had already settled that the incumbent President is vested with that
prerogative of discretion as to when he shall initially convene the interim National Assembly. The
Constitutional Convention intended to leave to the President the determination of the time when he
shall initially convene the interim National Assembly, consistent with the prevailing conditions of
peace and order in the country. When the Delegates to the Constitutional Convention voted on the
Transitory Provisions, they were aware of the fact that under the same, the incumbent President was
given the discretion as to when he could convene the interim National Assembly. The President's
decision to defer the convening of the interim National Assembly soon found support from the people
themselves. In the plebiscite of January 10-15, 1973, at which the ratification of the 1973
Constitution was submitted, the people voted against the convening of the interim National
Assembly. In the referendum of 24 July 1973, the Citizens Assemblies ("bagangays") reiterated their
sovereign will to withhold the convening of the interim National Assembly. Again, in the referendum
of 27 February 1975, the proposed question of whether the interim National Assembly shall be
initially convened was eliminated, because some of the members of Congress and delegates of the
Constitutional Convention, who were deemed automatically members of the interim National
Assembly, were against its inclusion since in that referendum of January, 1973 the people had
already resolved against it. In sensu striciore, when the legislative arm of the state undertakes the
proposals of amendment to a Constitution, that body is not in the usual function of lawmaking. It is
not legislating when engaged in the amending process. Rather, it is exercising a peculiar power
bestowed upon it by the fundamental charter itself. In the Philippines, that power is provided for in
Article XVI of the 1973 Constitution (for the regular National Assembly) or in Section 15 of the
Transitory Provisions (for the interim National Assembly). While ordinarily it is the business of the
legislating body to legislate for the nation by virtue of constitutional conferment, amending of the
Constitution is not legislative in character. In political science a distinction is made between
constitutional content of an organic character and that of a legislative character. The distinction,
however, is one of policy, not of law. Such being the case, approval of the President of any proposed
amendment is a misnomer. The prerogative of the President to approve or disapprove applies only
to the ordinary cases of legislation. The President has nothing to do with proposition or adoption of
amendments to the Constitution.