Sanidad vs.

Commission on Elections

[GR L-44640, 12 October 1976]; also Guzman vs. Comelec [GR L-44684], and Gonzales vs. Commission on Elections [GR L-44714] En Banc, Martin (J): 1 concurs in result, 4 concur in separate opinions, 2 dissent in separate opinions, 2 filed separate opinions

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 Quite relevantly, Presidential Decree 1031 repealed inter alia, Section 4, of Presidential Decree 991.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.

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

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.
Occena vs. Commission on Elections

[GR 56350, 2 April 1981]; also Gonzales vs. National Treasurer [GR 56404] En Banc, Fernando (CJ): 8 concur, 1 dissents in separate opinion, 1 on official leave

The challenge in these two prohibition proceedings against the validity

of three Batasang Pambansa Resolutions proposing constitutional amendments, goes further than merely assailing their alleged constitutional infirmity. Samuel Occena and Ramon A. Gonzales, both members of the Philippine Bar and former delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention that framed the present Constitution, are suing as taxpayers. The rather

unorthodox aspect of these petitions is the assertion that the 1973 Constitution is not the fundamental law, the Javellana ruling to the contrary notwithstanding.

Whether the 1973 Constitution was valid, and in force and effect when

the Batasang Pambansa resolutions and the present petitions were promulgated and filed, respectively.

It is much too late in the day to deny the force and applicability of the

1973 Constitution. In the dispositive portion of Javellana v. The Executive Secretary, dismissing petitions for prohibition and mandamus to declare invalid its ratification, this Court stated that it did so by a vote of six to four. It then concluded: "This being the vote of the majority, there is no further judicial obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and effect." Such a statement served a useful purpose. It could even be said that there was a need for it. It served to clear the atmosphere. It made manifest that as of 17 January 1973, the present Constitution came into force and effect. With such a pronouncement by the Supreme Court and with the recognition of the cardinal postulate that what the Supreme Court says is not only entitled to respect but must also be obeyed, a factor for instability was removed. Thereafter, as a matter of law, all doubts were resolved. The 1973 Constitution is the fundamental law. It is as simple as that. What cannot be too strongly stressed is that the function of judicial review has both a positive and a negative aspect. As was so convincingly demonstrated by Professors Black and Murphy, the Supreme Court can check as well as legitimate. In declaring what the law is, it may not only nullify the acts of coordinate branches but may also sustain their validity. In the latter case, there is an affirmation that what was done cannot be stigmatized as constitutionally deficient. The mere dismissal of a suit of this character suffices. That is the meaning of the concluding statement in Javellana. Since then, this Court has invariably applied the present Constitution. The latest case in point is People v. Sola, promulgated barely two weeks ago. During the first year alone of the effectivity of the present Constitution, at least ten cases may be cited.

Tolentino vs. Commission on Elections

[GR 148334, 21 January 2004] En Banc, Carpio (J): 8 concur, 1 dissents in separate opinion to which 3 join Shortly after her succession to the Presidency in January 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated then Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. (“Senator Guingona”) as Vice-President. Congress confirmed the nomination of Senator Guingona who took his oath as Vice-President on 9 February 2001. Following Senator Guingona’s confirmation, the Senate on 8 February 2001 passed Resolution 84 certifying to the existence of a vacancy in the Senate. Resolution 84 called on COMELEC to fill the vacancy through a special election to be held simultaneously with the regular elections on 14 May 2001. Twelve Senators, with a 6-year term each, were due to be elected in that election. Resolution 84 further provided that the “Senatorial candidate garnering the 13th highest number of votes shall serve only for the unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.,” which ends on 30 June 2004. On 5 June 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the election results from all the provinces but one (Lanao del Norte), COMELEC issued Resolution 01-005 provisionally proclaiming 13 candidates as the elected Senators. Resolution 01-005 also provided that “the first twelve (12) Senators shall serve for a term of six (6) years and the thirteenth (13th) Senator shall serve the unexpired term of three (3) years of Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr. who was appointed Vice-President.” Ralph Recto (“Recto”) and Gregorio Honasan (“Honasan”) ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in Resolution 01-005. On 20 June 2001, Arturo Tolentino and Arturo Mojica, as voters and taxpayers, filed the petition for prohibition, impleading only COMELEC as respondent. Tolentino and Mojica sought to enjoin COMELEC from proclaiming with finality the candidate for Senator receiving the 13th highest number of votes as the winner in the special election for a single three-year term seat. Accordingly, Tolentino and Mojica prayed for the nullification of Resolution 01-005 in so far as it makes a proclamation to such effect. Tolentino and Mojica contend that COMELEC issued Resolution 01-005 without jurisdiction because: (1) it failed to notify the electorate of the position to be filled in the special election as required under Section 2 of RA 6645; (2) it failed to require senatorial candidates to indicate in their certificates of candidacy whether they seek election under the special or regular elections as allegedly required under Section 73 of BP 881; and, consequently, (3) it failed to specify in the Voters Information Sheet the candidates seeking election under the special or regular senatorial elections as purportedly required under Section 4, paragraph 4 of RA 6646. Tolentino and Mojica add that because of these omissions, COMELEC canvassed all the votes cast for the senatorial candidates in the 14 May 2001 elections without distinction such that “there were no two separate Senate elections held simultaneously but just a single election for thirteen seats, irrespective of term.” Tolentino and Mojica sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order during the pendency of their petition. Without issuing any restraining

order, the Supreme Court required COMELEC to Comment on the petition. Honasan questioned Tolentino’s and Mojica's standing to bring the instant petition as taxpayers and voters because they do not claim that COMELEC illegally disbursed public funds; nor claim that they sustained personal injury because of the issuance of Resolutions 01-005 and 01-006.
Issue: Held:

Whether Tolentino and Mojica have standing to litigate.

“Legal standing” or locus standi refers to a personal and substantial interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury because of the challenged governmental act. The requirement of standing, which necessarily “sharpens the presentation of issues,” relates to the constitutional mandate that this Court settle only actual cases or controversies. Thus, generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when (1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action. Applied strictly, the doctrine of standing to litigate will indeed bar the present petition. In questioning, in their capacity as voters, the validity of the special election on 14 May 2001, Tolentino and Mojica assert a harm classified as a “generalized grievance.” This generalized grievance is shared in substantially equal measure by a large class of voters, if not all the voters, who voted in that election. Neither have Tolentino and Mojica alleged, in their capacity as taxpayers, that the Court should give due course to the petition because in the special election held on 14 May 2001 “tax money [was] ‘x x x extracted and spent in violation of specific constitutional protections against abuses of legislative power’ or that there [was] misapplication of such funds by COMELEC or that public money [was] deflected to any improper purpose.” On the other hand, the Court has relaxed the requirement on standing and exercised our discretion to give due course to voters’ suits involving the right of suffrage. The Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interest is involved. In not a few cases, the court has adopted a liberal attitude on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people. Thus, when the issues raised are of paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside technicalities of procedure. The Court accords the same treatment to Tolentino and Mojica in the present case in their capacity as voters since they raise important issues involving their right of suffrage, considering that the issue raised in the petition is likely to arise again.

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