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Digested Cases In Constitution I: Requirement for Atty. Nachura Jr. Sec.

1-H (AY 2018-2019)

TOPIC: Board of Canvassers in Election of President/Vice President

Lopez v. Senate of the Philippines [G.R. No. 163556. June 8, 2004]


 Petitioner: Cong. Ruy Elias C. Lopez
 Respondent/s: Senate of the Philippines (Represented by Franklin Drilon, Senate
President), House of Representatives, et al.
 Ponente: En Banc

Facts
On 2 June 2004, Ruy Elias C. Lopez, representative representing the 3rd
Legislative District of the City of Davao, asks this Court to declare unconstitutional
the Rules of the Joint Public Session of Congress on Canvassing the Votes Cast for
Presidential and Vice-Presidential Candidates in the May 10, 2004 Elections, which the
Senate and the House of Representatives, in joint session, approved, after much
debate, on 28 May 2004.
Petitioner alleges that the Canvassing Rules was adopted by both Houses of
Congress with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and
that he had no other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy other than this petition. He
requests the Court to issue a temporary restraining order directing Respondents to
cease and desist from implementing, executing, and/or enforcing the Canvassing Rules.
On 4 June 2004, the Court however denied the application for a temporary
restraining order, by a vote of 9-4 and required Respondents and the Solicitor General
to comment on the petition by 12nn on 7 June 2004. The Senate, the House of
Representatives and the Office of the Solicitor General seasonably filed their separate
comments.
Petitioner contends that the Canvassing Rules are unconstitutional because: 1) It
constitutes a delegation of legislative power to a Joint Committee of Congress; 2) It
constitutes an amendment of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution; 3) It deprives him
of his rights and prerogatives as a Member of Congress; and 4) By the passage of the
Canvassing Rules, Congress has neglected to perform an act which the Constitution
specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from office.
The contested provisions of the Canvassing Rules pertain to the functions of the
Joint Committee, as follows:
“SEC. 13. A Joint Committee shall be created composed of
eleven (11) members from the Senate to be appointed by the President
of the Senate and eleven (11) members from the House of
Representatives to be appointed by the Speaker. The Members of Each
House panel shall elect from among themselves their respective
Chairman in the Joint Committee. The Joint Committee may sit en
banc or, in its discretion, in two division of eleven (11) members each
Digested Cases In Constitution I: Requirement for Atty. Nachura Jr. Sec. 1-H (AY 2018-2019)

composed of a chairman, five (5) members from the Senate and five (5)
members from the House of Representatives: Provided, That a member
of Congress who is a candidate for President or Vice-President shall not
be eligible for appointment to the Joint Committee. Each division shall be
chaired by a Chairman of the Joint Committee.
The Joint Committee shall, upon determination of the authenticity
and due execution of the certificates of canvass, preliminarily canvass
the votes of candidates for the offices of the President and Vice-
President.
The Representatives of the province or city whose certificate of
canvass is being canvassed shall be an ex officiomember of the Joint
Committee, without voting rights, for the duration of the canvassing of
the aforesaid certificate of canvass.”
The Solicitor General, the Senate, and the House of Representatives, are similar in that
they agree that the adoption of the Canvassing Rules are internal matters of Congress which is
beyond this Court's scope of judicial inquiry. They are likewise unanimous in their argument
that there has been no invalid delegation to the Joint Committee of the Constitutional duties
of Congress.

Issues
a.) Whether or not the Court has jurisdiction over the issue posed by the petitioner.
b.) Whether or not it constitutes an amendment of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution.
c.) Whether or not it constitutes a delegation of legislative power to a Joint Committee of
Congress, which leads to neglect and deprivation of Congress including the petitioner to
perform an act and including their rights and prerogatives as Members of Congress.

Held
a.) Yes.
b.) No.
c.) No.

Rationale

Justiciable Question
Court's jurisdiction over the issue raised in this case is founded on Section 1 of Article
VIII of the Constitution which provides that judicial power includes the duty "to determine
whether or not there has been grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government". This duty
does not do away with the "political question" doctrine. In the landmark case of Tañada
v. Cuenco, the Court has held that political question connotes what it means in ordinary
Digested Cases In Constitution I: Requirement for Atty. Nachura Jr. Sec. 1-H (AY 2018-2019)

parlance, a question of policy. It refers to "those questions which under the Constitution,
are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity; or in regard to which full
discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of
government. It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom not legality of a
particular measure." For this reason ". . . courts will not normally interfere with the
workings of another co-equal branch unless the case shows a clear need for the courts
to step in to uphold the law and the Constitution." We have a continuous river of rulings
that the political question doctrine cannot be invoked when the issue is whether an
executive act or a law violates the Constitution. Thus, in Tatad v. Secretary of the
Department of Energy, we emphatically explained that "the principle of separation of
powers mandates that challenges on the constitutionality of a law should be resolved in
our courts of justice while doubts on the wisdom of a law should be debated in the halls
of Congress." The clarification became necessary because prior to the 1987
Constitution, as long as an act or measure was invoked as involving a political question,
the courts affirmed such invocation rather than risk the separation of powers. The result,
then, was that the legality of an act or measure was likewise left to the political branch in
question.

Issue on Amendments of Art. VII, Section 4


The assailed Rules, and the procedure laid therein, are but an offshoot of
legislative practice. Congress, as a matter of legislative practice, functions by way of
delegation towards committees. The formation of congressional committees arises from
plenary power possessed by the legislative body for all purposes of civil government.
The entire House or Senate is too large to conduct basic functions, such as to conduct
investigations in aid of legislation, and thus must always use a committee. A bill that is
filed in Congress is always referred for preliminary consideration to the particular
congressional committee which would have specialized competence to examine the
merits of the proposed law. Yet, while the final report of the congressional
committee as to the proposed bill may have persuasive effect on the body as a
whole, it is by no means binding. In fact, Congress as a whole has the power to
revive a bill that has been tabled due to unfavorable action by the congressional
committee.
The procedure outlined in the questioned Rules does not in any way contravene
Sec. 4, Article VII of the Constitution. In fact, it strictly adheres to the provision. Under
the Rules, the Senate President opens the certificates of canvass in the presence of the
Senate and the House of Representatives in joint public session. Upon approval by
Congress in joint public session of the Joint Committee report, Congress as one whole
body is deemed to have determined the authenticity and due execution of the
certificates and canvassed the certificate of votes.
Digested Cases In Constitution I: Requirement for Atty. Nachura Jr. Sec. 1-H (AY 2018-2019)

Issue on Delegation and Neglect of Legislative Powers


A reading of the questioned Rules on Canvassing shows that there has been no
delegation by Congress of its duties as the National Board of Canvassers to an entity
separate and distinct from Congress itself. To delegate means to transfer authority from
one person to another; to empower one to perform a task in behalf of another; to
transfer authority by one branch of government in which such authority is vested to
some other branch or administrative agency.
By promulgating the questioned Rules on Canvassing, all Congress has done is
refer to the Joint Committee the mechanical and ministerial tasks of namely: (1)
physically examining the certificates of canvass for irregularities or discrepancies, as
provided for in Section 30 of Republic Act 7166; and (2) tabulating the votes of the respective
candidates. However, the same Rules on Canvassing clearly provide that Congress, as a whole,
retains control over the canvassing process. Thus, any determination made by the Joint
Committee as well as the preliminary canvass itself is subject to the final approval of both
Houses of Congress, voting separately. Thus, it is clear that the Congress still has the
ultimate and final authority to proclaim the winning candidates.