Chavez vs. Judicial and Bar Council, G.R. No.
202242, July 17, 2012 By LLBe:LawLifeBuzzEtcetera Facts: In 1994, instead of having only seven members, an eighth member was added to the JBC as two representatives from Congress began sitting in the JBC – one from the House of Representatives and one from the Senate, with each having one-half (1/2) of a vote. Then, the JBC En Banc, in separate meetings held in 2000 and 2001, decided to allow the representatives from the Senate and the House of Representatives one full vote each. At present, Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero and Congressman Niel C. Tupas, Jr. (respondents) simultaneously sit in the JBC as representatives of the legislature. It is this practice that petitioner has questioned in this petition. Respondents argued that the crux of the controversy is the phrase “a representative of Congress.” It is their theory that the two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, are permanent and mandatory components of “Congress,” such that the absence of either divests the term of its substantive meaning as expressed under the Constitution. Bicameralism, as the system of choice by the Framers, requires that both houses exercise their respective powers in the performance of its mandated duty which is to legislate. Thus, when Section 8(1), Article VIII of the Constitution speaks of “a representative from Congress,” it should mean one representative each from both Houses which comprise the entire Congress. Respondents further argue that petitioner has no “real interest” in questioning the constitutionality of the JBC’s current composition. The respondents also question petitioner’s belated filing of the petition. Issues: (1) Whether or not the conditions sine qua non for the exercise of the power of judicial review have been met in this case; and (2) Whether or not the current practice of the JBC to perform its functions with eight (8) members, two (2) of whom are members of Congress, runs counter to the letter and spirit of the 1987 Constitution. Held:
(2) Yes. The word “Congress” used in Article VIII, Section 8(1) of the Constitution is used in its generic sense. No particular allusion whatsoever is made on whether the Senate or the House of Representatives is being referred to, but that, in either case, only a singular representative may be allowed to sit in the JBC. The seven-member composition of the JBC serves a practical purpose, that is, to provide a solution should there be a stalemate in voting. It is evident that the definition of “Congress” as a bicameral body refers to its primary function in government – to legislate. In the passage of laws, the Constitution is explicit in the distinction of the role of each house in the process. The same holds true in Congress’ non-legislative powers. An inter-play between the two houses is necessary in the realization of these powers causing a vivid dichotomy that the Court cannot simply discount. This, however, cannot be said in the case of JBC representation because no liaison between the two houses exists in the workings of the JBC. Hence, the term
They are not nullified. voting separately. Under the doctrine of operative facts. the bicameral nature of Congress was recognized and. by sheer inadvertence. Respondents cannot just lean on plain oversight to justify a conclusion favorable to them. Every word employed in the Constitution must be interpreted to exude its deliberate intent which must be maintained inviolate against disobedience and defiance. clearly. the corresponding adjustments were made as to how a matter would be handled and voted upon by its two Houses. Thus. It is very clear that the Framers were not keen on adjusting the provision on congressional representation in the JBC because it
. voting separately. The Constitution mandates that the JBC be composed of seven (7) members only."20 Another is Section 8 thereof which requires the nominee to replace the VicePresident to be confirmed "by a majority of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress. is not persuasive enough. to say that the Framers simply failed to adjust Section 8. A reading of the 1987 Constitution would reveal that several provisions were indeed adjusted as to be in tune with the shift to bicameralism." the Filipino people through the Framers intended that Congress be entitled to only one (1) seat in the JBC. the proclamation of martial law or the suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus may be revoked or continued by the Congress. Thus. the Constitution could have. compels acceptance and bars modification even by the branch tasked to interpret it. Notwithstanding its finding of unconstitutionality in the current composition of the JBC. to their decision to shift to a bicameral form of the legislature.“Congress” must be taken to mean the entire legislative department. the Court firmly relies on the basic postulate that the Framers mean what they say. voting separately. Article VII. For this reason. the Court cannot accede to the argument of plain oversight in order to justify constitutional construction. in no uncertain terms. as can be read in its other provisions. Article VIII. by a vote of at least a majority of all its Members. One example is Section 4.
Ratio Legis in Jurisprudence The Constitution evinces the direct action of the Filipino people by which the fundamental powers of government are established. What the Constitution clearly says. The language used in the Constitution must be taken to have been deliberately chosen for a definite purpose. Had the intention been otherwise. which provides that a tie in the presidential election shall be broken "by a majority of all the Members of both Houses of the Congress. 2012 Decision. so provided. actions previous to the declaration of unconstitutionality are legally recognized.19 The Framers reposed their wisdom and vision on one suprema lex to be the ultimate expression of the principles and the framework upon which government and society were to operate. under Section 18. in opting to use the singular letter "a" to describe "representative of Congress."21 Similarly."22 In all these provisions. limited and defined and by which those powers are distributed among the several departments for their safe and useful exercise for the benefit of the body politic. all its prior official actions are nonetheless valid. in the interpretation of the constitutional provisions. according to its text. As stated in the July 17.
with one vote each. Rather.was not in the exercise of its primary function – to legislate. In view of the foregoing. On this score. (Emphases and underscoring supplied)
. the Framers arrived at a unique system by adding to the four (4) regular members. not eight. Simeon A. to allow Congress to have two representatives in the Council. a Member of Congress. the power of appropriation. each House is constitutionally granted with powers and functions peculiar to its nature and with keen consideration to 1) its relationship with the other chamber. In all these instances. is to negate the principle of equality among the three branches of government which is enshrined in the Constitution. In so providing.26 and impeachment. Perhaps. No mechanism is required between the Senate and the House of Representatives in the screening and nomination of judicial officers. in the creation of the JBC. The aforesaid provision is clear and unambiguous and does not need any further interpretation. The total is seven (7).24 the declaration of an existence of a state of war. I vote for the proposition that the Council should adopt the rule of single representation of Congress in the JBC in order to respect and give the right meaning to the abovequoted provision of the Constitution. The underlying reason for such a limited participation can easily be discerned. but in reverence to it as a major branch of government. Congress has two (2) Houses. and 2) in consonance with the principle of checks and balances. it is apt to mention that the oft-repeated doctrine that "construction and interpretation come only after it has been demonstrated that application is impossible or inadequate without them. not because it was in the interest of a certain constituency. In checkered contrast. the Secretary of Justice (representing the Executive Department). Datumanong.the Chief Justice as ex-officio Chairman (representing the Judicial Department). Whether in the exercise of its legislative23 or its non-legislative functions such as inter alia. and Congress. Hon. there is essentially no interaction between the two Houses in their participation in the JBC. as one whole body. and a representative of the Congress (representing the Legislative Department). as to the other branches of government. The need to recognize the existence and the role of each House is essential considering that the Constitution employs precise language in laying down the functions which particular House plays. regardless of whether the two Houses consummate an official act by voting jointly or separately. Puno: I humbly reiterate my position that there should be only one representative of Congress in the JBC in accordance with Article VIII.27 the dichotomy of each House must be acknowledged and recognized considering the interplay between these two Houses. was merely assigned a contributory non-legislative function.25 canvassing of electoral returns for the President and Vice-President. from the Second District of Maguindanao. JBC was created to support the executive power to appoint. submitted his well-considered position28 to then Chief Justice Reynato S. Section 8 (1) of the 1987 Constitution x x x. three (3) representatives from the major branches of government . the Framers simply gave recognition to the Legislature." Further.
says the majority. is worth reiterating. also a JBC Consultant. therefore. the scholarly dissection on the matter by retired Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago. From the enumeration it is patent that each category of members pertained to a single individual only.31 Thus: A perusal of the records of the Constitutional Commission reveals that the composition of the JBC reflects the Commission’s desire "to have in the Council a representation for the major elements of the community. and certain terms in crafting that section and. According to them. two (2) representatives from Congress would increase the number of JBC members to eight (8).On March 14. Thus. The provision uses the indefinite article “a” signifying “one” before the word “representative” which in itself is in singular form." xxx The ex-officio members of the Council consist of representatives from the three main branches of government while the regular members are composed of various stakeholders in the judiciary.29 which reads: 8. a former JBC consultant. 2007. Dissenting opinion The majority heavily relies on the wordings of Section 8(1) above." Thus. and the understanding is that seven (7) persons will compose the JBC. the JBC is composed of seven (7) representatives coming from different sectors. the JBC was designed to have seven voting members with the three ex-officio members having equal say in the choice of judicial nominees. VIII. then Associate Justice Leonardo A. Such interpretation actually gives Congress more influence in the appointment of judges. and a clear violation of 7 enumerated members in the Constitution. a number beyond what the Constitution has contemplated. which could lead to voting deadlock by reason of even-numbered membership. Consequently. Section 8 (1) of the 1987 Constitution is explicit and specific that "Congress" shall have only "xxx a representative. the framers of the 1987 Constitution used plain. unambiguous. while we do not lose sight of the bicameral nature of our legislative department. Congress should have but
. xxx Thus. it calls for no further interpretation. The unmistakeable tenor of Article VIII. two votes for Congress would increase the number of JBC members to eight. Quisumbing. (Emphases and underscoring supplied) In this regard. Two things can be gleaned from the excerpts and citations above: the creation of the JBC is intended to curtail the influence of politics in Congress in the appointment of judges.
Abad J.30 then Secretary of Justice Agnes VST Devanadera opined: As can be gleaned from the above constitutional provision. Section 8(1) was to treat each ex-officio member as representing one co-equal branch of government. the interpretation of two votes for Congress runs counter to the intendment of the framers. Also. submitted to the Chief Justice and ex-officio JBC Chairman his opinion. (Emphases and underscoring supplied) In an undated position paper. As such. it is beyond dispute that Art.
The majority also invokes the doctrine of noscitur a sociis which states that a proper interpretation may be had by considering the words that accompany the term or phrase in question. wherever possible. without any special and specific mention of the two houses that compose it.just one representative in the JBC.
. where there is ambiguity. namely the Senate and the House of Representatives. ratio legis est anima. meaning that the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole. that is. and third. Section 8(1) uses the term “Congress” in its generic sense. second. one can readily discern that every category of membership in that body refers just to a single individual. the words used in the Constitution should be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed. ut magis valeat quam pereat. There are three well-settled principles of constitutional construction: first. meaning that the words of the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of its framers. verba legis.2 By looking at the enumeration in Section 8(1) of who the JBC members are.