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Sanidad vs.

Commission on Elections

Facts:
On 2 September 1976, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued PD 991 calling for a national referendum on 16 October 1976 for the Citizens Assemblies ("barangays") to resolve 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. On 22 September 1976, the President issued another PD 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. The President also issued PD 1033, stating the questions to be 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. Pablo C. Sanidad and Pablito V. Sanidad, father and son, commenced for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction seeking to enjoin the COMELEC from holding and conducting the Referendum Plebiscite on October 16; to declare without force and effect PD 991, 1033 and 1031. 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. On 30 September 1976, another action for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction, 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. Another petition for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction was filed by Raul M. Gonzales, his son, and Alfredo Salapantan, to restrain the implementation of Presidential Decrees.

Issue:
W/N the power of the incumbent President (Marcos) to propose amendments to the present Constitution in the absence of the interim National Assembly which has not convened, a valid one?

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." The power to legislate is constitutionally consigned to the interim National Assembly during the transition period. However, the initial convening of that Assembly is a matter fully addressed to the judgment of the incumbent President. And, in the exercise of that judgment, the President opted to defer convening of that body in utter recognition of the people's preference. Likewise, in the period of transition, the power to propose amendments to the Constitution lies in the interim National Assembly upon special call by the President (See. 15 of the Transitory Provisions). Again, harking to the dictates of the sovereign will, the President decided not to call the interim National Assembly. Would it then be within the bounds of the Constitution and of law for the President to assume that constituent power of the interim Assembly vis-a-vis his assumption of that body's legislative functions? The answer is yes. If the President has been legitimately discharging the legislative functions of the interim Assembly, there is no reason why he cannot validly discharge the function of that Assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution, which is but adjunct, although peculiar, to its gross legislative power. This, of course, is not to say that the President has converted his office into a constituent assembly of that nature normally constituted by the legislature. Rather, with the interim National Assembly not convened and only the Presidency and the Supreme Court in operation, the urges of absolute necessity render it imperative upon the President to act as agent for and in behalf of the people to propose amendments to the Constitution. Parenthetically, by its very constitution, the Supreme Court possesses no capacity to propose amendments without constitutional infractions. For the President to shy away from that actuality and decline to undertake the amending process would leave the governmental machineries at a stalemate or create in the powers of the State a destructive vacuum, thereby impeding the objective of a crisis government "to end the crisis and restore normal times." In these parlous times, that Presidential initiative to reduce into concrete forms the constant voices of the people

reigns supreme. After all, constituent assemblies or constitutional conventions, like the President now, are mere agents of the people . The President's action is not a unilateral move. As early as the referendums of January 1973 and February 1975, the people had already rejected the calling of the interim National Assembly. The Lupong Tagapagpaganap of the Katipunan ng mga Sanggunian, the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Barangay, and the Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Barangay, representing 42,000 barangays, about the same number of Kabataang Barangay organizations, Sanggunians in 1,458 municipalities, 72 provinces, 3 sub-provinces, and 60 cities had informed the President that the prevailing sentiment of the people is for the abolition of the interim National Assembly. Other issues concerned the lifting of martial law and amendments to the Constitution .27 The national organizations of Sangguniang Bayan presently proposed to settle the issues of martial law, the interim Assembly, its replacement, the period of its existence, the length of the period for the exercise by the President of its present powers in a referendum to be held on October 16. The Batasang Bayan (legislative council) created under Presidential Decree 995 of September 10, 1976, composed of 19 cabinet members, 9 officials with cabinet rank, 91 members of the Lupong Tagapagpaganap (executive committee) of the Katipunan ng mga Sangguniang Bayan voted in session to submit directly to the people in a plebiscite on October 16, the previously quoted proposed amendments to the Constitution, including the issue of martial law. Similarly, the "barangays" and the "sanggunians" endorsed to the President the submission of the proposed amendments to the people on October 16. All the foregoing led the President to initiate the proposal of amendments to the Constitution and the subsequent issuance of Presidential Decree No, 1033 on September 22, 1976 submitting the questions (proposed amendments) to the people in the National Referendum-Plebiscite on October 16. In general, the governmental powers in crisis government-the Philippines is a crisis government today-are more or less concentrated in the President. According to Rossiter, (t)he concentration of government power in a democracy faced by an emergency is a corrective to the crisis inefficiencies inherent in the doctrine of the separation of powers. There are moments in the life of any government when all powers must work together in unanimity of purpose and action, even if this means the temporary union of executive, legislative, and judicial power in the hands of one man. The more complete the separation of powers in a constitutional system, the more difficult and yet the more necessary will be their fusion in times of crisis. The power of the state in crisis must not only be concentrated and expanded; it must also be freed from the normal system of constitutional and legal limitations. The rationale behind such broad emergency of the Executive is the release of the government from the the paralysis of constitutional restraints so that the crisis may be ended and normal times restored. This petition is dismissed. The President can propose amendments to the Constitution and he was able to present those proposals to the people in sufficient time.