This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition filed by Romulo B. Macalintal, a member of the Philippine Bar, seeking a declaration that certain provisions of Republic Act No. 9189 (The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003) suffer from constitutional infirmity. Claiming that he has actual and material legal interest in the subject matter of this case in seeing to it that public funds are properly and lawfully used and appropriated, petitioner filed the instant petition as a taxpayer and as a lawyer.
Petitioner posits that Section 5(d) is unconstitutional because it violates Section 1, Article V of the 1987 Constitution which requires that the voter must be a resident in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place where he proposes to vote for at least six months immediately preceding an election. Petitioner cites the ruling of the Court in Caasi vs. Court of Appeals to support his claim. In that case, the Court held that a green card holder immigrant to the United States is deemed to have abandoned his domicile and residence in the Philippines.
Petitioner further argues that Section 1, Article V of the Constitution does not allow provisional registration or a promise by a voter to perform a condition to be qualified to vote in a political exercise; that the legislature should not be allowed to circumvent the requirement of the Constitution on the right of suffrage by providing a condition thereon which in effect amends or alters the aforesaid residence requirement to qualify a Filipino abroad to vote. He claims that the right of suffrage should not be granted to anyone who, on the date of the election, does not possess the qualifications provided for by Section 1, Article V of the Constitution.
Is RA 9189 [Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003], valid & constitutional?
Contrary to petitioner’s claim that Section 5(d) circumvents the Constitution, Congress enacted the law prescribing a system of overseas absentee voting in compliance with the constitutional mandate. Such mandate expressly requires that Congress provide a system of absentee voting that necessarily presupposes that the “qualified citizen of the Philippines abroad” is not physically present in the country.
The petition was partly GRANTED. The following portions of R.A. No. 9189 are declared VOID for being UNCONSTITUTIONAL:
- a) The phrase in the first sentence of the first paragraph of Section 17.1, to wit: “subject to the approval of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee;”
- b) The portion of the last paragraph of Section 17.1, to wit: “only upon review and approval of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee;”
- c) The second sentence of the first paragraph of Section 19, to wit: “The Implementing Rules and Regulations shall be submitted to the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee created by virtue of this Act for prior approval;” and
- d) The second sentence in the second paragraph of Section 25, to wit: “It shall review, revise, amend and approve the Implementing Rules and Regulations promulgated by the Commission” of the same law;
for being repugnant to Section 1, Article IX-A of the Constitution mandating the independence of constitutional commission, such as COMELEC.
Pursuant to Section 30 of R.A. No. 9189, the rest of the provisions of said law continues to be in full force and effect.