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Mabanag vs.

Vito GR L-1123, 5 March 1947

Facts: Three senators and eight representatives had been proclaimed by a majority vote of the Commission on Elections as having been elected senators and representatives in the elections held on 23 April 1946. The three senators were suspended by the Senate shortly after the opening of the first session of Congress following the elections, on account of alleged irregularities in their election. The eight representatives since their election had not been allowed to sit in the lower House, except to take part in the election of the Speaker, for the same reason, although they had not been formally suspended. A resolution for their suspension had been introduced in the House of Representatives, but that resolution had not been acted upon definitely by the House when the petition for prohibition was filed. As a consequence these three senators and eight representatives did not take part in the passage of the congressional resolution, designated "Resolution of both houses proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Philippines to be appended as an ordinance thereto," nor was their membership reckoned within the computation of the necessary three-fourths vote which is required in proposing an amendment to the Constitution. If these members of Congress had been counted, the affirmative votes in favor of the proposed amendment would have been short of the necessary three-fourths vote in either branch of Congress. The petition for prohibition sought to prevent the enforcement of said congressional resolution, as it is allegedly contrary to the Constitution. The members of the Commission on Elections, the Treasurer of the Philippines, the Auditor General, and the Director of the Bureau of Printing are made defendants. Issue: Whether the Court may inquire upon the irregularities in the approval of the resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution. Held: It is a doctrine too well established to need citation of authorities, that political questions are not within the province of the judiciary, except to the extent that power to deal with such questions has been conferred upon the courts by express constitutional or statutory provision. This doctrine is predicated on the principle of the separation of powers, a principle also too well known to require elucidation or citation of authorities. The difficulty lies in determining what matters fall within the meaning of political question. The term is not susceptible of exact definition, and precedents and authorities are not always in full harmony as to the scope of the restrictions, on this ground, on the courts to meddle with the actions of the political departments of the government. If a political question conclusively binds the judges out of respect to the political departments, a duly certified law or resolution also binds the judges under the "enrolled bill rule" born of that respect. If ratification of an amendment is a political question, a proposal which leads to ratification has to be a political question. The two steps complement each other in a scheme intended to achieve a single objective. It is to be noted that the amendatory process as provided in section I of Article XV of the Philippine Constitution "consists of (only) two distinct parts: proposal and ratification." There is no logic in attaching political character to one and withholding that character from the other. Proposal to amend the Constitution is a highly political function performed by the Congress in its sovereign legislative capacity and committed to its charge by the Constitution itself. The exercise of this power is even in dependent of any intervention by the Chief Executive. If on grounds of expediency scrupulous attention of the judiciary be needed to safeguard public interest, there is less reason for judicial inquiry into the validity of a proposal then into that of ratification.