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[G.R. No. 163783. June 22, 2004] PIMENTEL vs.

CONGRESS EN BANC
Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated JUN 22 2004. G. R. No. 163783 (Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. vs. Joint Committee of Congress to Canvass the Votes Cast for President and Vice-President in the May 10, 2004 Elections.) RESOLUTION By the present Petition for Prohibition, petitioner Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. seeks a judgment declaring null and void the continued existence of the Joint Committee of Congress (Joint Committee) to determine the authenticity and due execution of the certificates of canvass and preliminarily canvass the votes cast for Presidential and Vice-Presidential candidates in the May 10, 2004 elections following the adjournment of Congress sine die on June 11, 2004. The petition corollarily prays for the issuance of a writ of prohibition directing the Joint Committee to cease and desist from conducting any further proceedings pursuant to the Rules of the Joint Public Session of Congress on Canvassing. Petitioner posits that with "the adjournment sine die on June 11, 2004 by the Twelfth Congress of its last regular session, [its] term ... terminated and expired on the said day and the said Twelfth Congress serving the term 2001 to 2004 passed out of legal existence." Henceforth, petitioner goes on, "all pending matters and proceedings terminate upon the expiration of ... Congress." To advance this view, he relies on legislative procedure, precedent or practice [as] borne [out] by the rules of both Houses of Congress. Given the importance of the constitutional issue raised and to put to rest all questions regarding the regularity, validity or constitutionality of the canvassing of votes fro President and Vice-President in the recently concluded national elections, this Court assumes jurisdiction over the instant petition pursuant to its power and duty 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 under Section

1 of Article VIII of the Constitution and its original jurisdiction over petitions for prohibition under Section 5 of the same Article. After a considered and judicious examination of the arguments raised by petitioner as well as those presented in the Comments filed by the Solicitor General and respondent Joint Committee, this Court finds that the petition has absolutely no basis under the Constitution and must, therefore, be dismissed. Petitioners claim that his arguments are buttressed by legislative procedure, precedent or practice [as] borne [out] by the rules of both Houses of Congress is directly contradicted by Section 42 of Rule XIV of the Rules adopted by the Senate, of which he is an incumbent member. This section clearly provides that the Senate shall convene in joint session during any voluntary orcompulsory recess to canvass the votes for President and Vice-President not later than thirty days after the day of the elections in accordance with Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution. Moreover, as pointed out in the Comment filed by the Senate Panel for respondent Joint Committee and that of the Office of the Solicitor General, the precedents set by the 1992 and 1998 Presidential Elections do not support the move to stop the ongoing canvassing by the Joint Committee, they citing the observations of former Senate President Jovito Salonga. Thus, during the 1992 Presidential elections, both Houses of Congress adjourned sine die on May 25, 1992. On June 16, 1992, the Joint Committee finished tallying the votes for President and Vice-President. Thereafter, on June 22, 1992, the Eighth Congress convened in joint public session as the National Board of Canvassers, and on even date proclaimed Fidel V. Ramos and Joseph Ejercito Estrada as President and Vice-President, respectively.
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Upon the other hand, during the 1998 Presidential elections, both Houses of Congress adjourned sine die on May 25, 1998. The Joint Committee completed the counting of the votes for President and Vice-President on May 27, 1998. The Tenth Congress then convened in joint public session on May 29, 1998 as the National Board of Canvassers and proclaimed Joseph Ejercito Estrada as President and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as President and Vice-President, respectively.
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As for petitioner's argument that "the [e]xistence and [p]roceedings [o]f the Joint Committee of Congress [a]re [i]nvalid, [i]llegal and [u]nconstitutional [f]ollowing the [a]djournment [s]ine [d]ie [o]f [b]oth Houses of Congress [o]f [t]heir [r]egular [s]essions on June 11, 2004," he cites in support thereof Section 15, Article VI of the Constitution which reads:

Sec. 15. The Congress shall convene once every year on the fourth Monday of July for its regular session, unless a different date is fixed by law, and shall continue to be in session for such number of days as it may determine until thirty days before the opening of its next regular session, exclusive of Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays. The President may call a special session at any time. Contrary to petitioner's argument, however, the term of the present Twelfth Congress did not terminate and expire upon the adjournment sine die of the regular session of both Houses on June 11, 2004. Section 15, Article VI of the Constitution cited by petitioner does not pertain to the term of Congress, but to its regular annuallegislative sessions and the mandatory 30-day recess before the opening of its next regular session (subject to the power of the President to call a special session at any time). Section 4 of Article VIII also of the Constitution clearly provides that "[t]he term of office of the Senators shall be six years and shall commence, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following their election." Similarly, Section 7 of the same Article provides that "[t]he Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected for a term of three years which shall begin, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next following their election." Consequently, there being no law to the contrary, until June 30, 2004, the present Twelfth Congress to which the present legislators belong cannot be said to have "passed out of legal existence." The legislative functions of the Twelfth Congress may have come to a close upon the final adjournment of its regular sessions on June 11, 2004, but this does not affect its non-legislative functions, such as that of being the National Board of Canvassers. In fact, the joint public session of both Houses of Congress convened by express directive of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution to canvass the votes for and to proclaim the newly elected President and Vice-President has not, and cannot, adjourn sine die until it has accomplished its constitutionally mandated tasks. For only when a board of canvassers has completed its functions is it renderedfunctus officio. Its membership may change, but it retains its authority as a board until it has accomplished its purposes. (Pelayo v. Commission on Elections, 23 SCRA 1374, 1385 [1968], citing Bautista v. Fugoso, 60 Phil. 383, 389 [1934] and Aquino v. Commission on Elections, L-28392, January 29 1968) Since the Twelfth Congress has not yet completed its non-legislative duty to canvass the votes and proclaim the duly elected President and VicePresident, its existence as the National Board of Canvassers, as well as that

of the Joint Committee to which it referred the preliminary tasks of authenticating and canvassing the certificates of canvass, has not become functus officio. In sum, despite the adjournment sine die of Congress, there is no legal impediment to the Joint Committee completing the tasks assigned to it and transmitting its report for the approval of the joint public session of both Houses of Congress, which may reconvene without need of call by the President to a special session. WHEREFORE, the instant Petition is hereby DISMISSED