Political Law

Sandoval Notes – Political Law Part II

STRUCTURE OF GOVERNMENT

 

The Doctrine of Separation of Powers

 

  1. May the Government, through the PCGG, validly bind itself to cause the dismissal of all cases against the Marcos heirs pending before the Sandiganbayan and other courts in a Compromise Agreement entered into between the former and the latter?

 

Held: This is a direct encroachment on judicial power, particularly in regard to criminal jurisdiction. Well-settled is the doctrine that once a case has been filed before a court of competent jurisdiction, the matter of its dismissal or pursuance lies within the full discretion and control of the judge. In a criminal case, the manner in which the prosecution is handled, including the matter of whom to present as witnesses, may lie within the sound discretion of the government prosecutor; but the court decides, based on the evidence proffered, in what manner it will dispose of the case. Jurisdiction, once acquired by the trial court, is not lost despite a resolution, even by the justice secretary, to withdraw the information or to dismiss the complaint. The prosecution’s motion to withdraw or to dismiss is not the least binding upon the court. On the contrary, decisional rules require the trial court to make its own evaluation of the merits of the case, because granting such motion is equivalent to effecting a disposition of the case itself.

 

Thus, the PCGG, as the government prosecutor of ill-gotten wealth cases, cannot guarantee the dismissal of all such criminal cases against the Marcoses pending in the courts, for said dismissal is not within its sole power and discretion. (Chavez v. PCGG, 299 SCRA 744, Dec. 9, 1998 [Panganiban])

 

Delegation of Powers

  1. What are the tests of a valid delegation of power?

 

Held: Empowering the COMELEC, an administrative body exercising quasi-judicial functions, to promulgate rules and regulations is a form of delegation of legislative authority x x x. However, in every case of permissible delegation, there must be a showing that the delegation itself is valid. It is valid only if the law (a) is complete in itself, setting forth therein the policy to be executed, carried out, or implemented by the delegate; and (b) fixes a standard – the limits of which are sufficiently determinate and determinable – to which the delegate must conform in the performance of his functions. A sufficient standard is one which defines legislative policy, marks its limits, maps out its boundaries and specifies the public agency to apply it. It indicates the circumstances under which the legislative command is to be effected. (Santiago v. COMELEC, 270 SCRA 106, March 19, 1997)

 

 

The Legislative Department

 

  1. May the Supreme Court properly inquire into the motives of the lawmakers in conducting legislative investigations? Can it enjoin the Congress or any of its regular and special committees from making inquiries in aid of legislation?

 

Held: In its comment, respondent Committee claims that this Court cannot properly inquire into the motives of the lawmakers in conducting legislative investigations, much less can it enjoin the Congress or any of its regular and special committees x x x from making inquiries in aid of legislation, under the doctrine of separation of powers, which obtains in our present system of government.

 

The contention is untenable. X x x

 

The “allocation of constitutional boundaries” is a task that this Court must perform under the Constitution. Moreover, as held in a recent case (Neptali A. Gonzales, et al. v. Hon. Catalino Macaraig, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 87636, 19 November 1990, 191 SCRA 452, 463), “[t]he political question doctrine neither interposes an obstacle to judicial determination of the rival claims. The jurisdiction to delimit constitutional boundaries has been given to this Court. It cannot abdicate that obligation mandated by the 1987 Constitution, although said provision by no means does away with the applicability of the principle in appropriate cases.” (Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution)

 

            The Court is thus of the considered view that it has jurisdiction over the present controversy for the purpose of determining the scope and extent of the power of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct inquires into private affairs in purported aid of legislation. (Bengzon, Jr. v. Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, 203 SCRA 767, Nov. 20, 1991, En Banc [Padilla])

 

  1. Is the power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation absolute or unlimited?

 

Held: The 1987 Constitution expressly recognizes the power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation (In Arnault v. Nazareno, 87 Phil. 29, this Court held that although there was no express provision in the 1935 Constitution giving such power to both houses of Congress, it was so incidental to the legislative function as to be implied.). Thus, Section 21, Article VI provides x x x.

 

The power of both houses of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is not, therefore, absolute or unlimited. Its exercise is circumscribed by the afore-quoted provision of the Constitution. Thus, as provided therein, the investigation must be “in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure” and that “the rights of persons appearing in or affected by such inquiries shall be respected.” It follows then that the rights of persons under the Bill of Rights must be respected, including the right to due process and the right not to be compelled to testify against one’s self.

 

The power to conduct formal inquiries or investigations is specifically provided for in Sec. 1 of the Senate Rules of Procedure Governing Inquiries in Aid of Legislation. Such inquiries may refer to the implementation or re-examination of any law or in connection with any proposed legislation or the formulation of future legislation. They may also extend to any and all matters vested by the Constitution in Congress and/or in the Senate alone.

 

As held in Jean L. Arnault v. Leon Nazareno, et al, (No. L-3820, July 18, 1950, 87 Phil. 29), the inquiry, to be within the jurisdiction of the legislative body making it, must be material or necessary to the exercise of a power in it vested by the Constitution, such as to legislate or to expel a member.

 

            Under Sec. 4 of the aforementioned Rules, the Senate may refer to any committee or committees any speech or resolution filed by any Senator which in its judgment requires an appropriate inquiry in aid of legislation. In order therefore to ascertain the character or nature of an inquiry, resort must be had to the speech or resolution under which such an inquiry is proposed to be made. (Bengzon, Jr. v. Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, 203 SCRA 767, Nov. 20, 1991, En Banc [Padilla])

 

  1. On 13 September 1988, the Senate Minority Floor Leader, Hon. Juan Ponce Enrile delivered a speech “on a matter of personal privilege” before the Senate on the alleged “take-over of SOLOIL Incorporated, the flagship on the First Manila Management of Companies (FMMC) by Ricardo Lopa” and called upon “the Senate to look into the possible violation of the law in the case, particularly with regard to Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

 

            On motion of Senator Orlando Mercado, the matter was referred by the Senate to the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers (Blue Ribbon Committee). Thereafter, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee started its investigation on the matter. Petitioners and Ricardo Lopa were subpoenaed by the Committee to appear before it and testify on “what they know” regarding the “sale of the thirty-six (36) corporations belonging to Benjamin ‘Kokoy’ Romualdez.”

 

            At the hearing held on 23 May 1989, Ricardo Lopa declined to testify on the ground that his testimony may “unduly prejudice” the defendants in Civil Case No. 0035 before the Sandiganbayan. Petitioner Jose F.S. Bengzon, Jr. likewise refused to testify invoking his constitutional right to due process, and averring that the publicity generated by respondent Committee’s inquiry could adversely affect his rights as well as those of the other petitioners who are his co-defendants in Civil Case No. 0035 before the Sandiganbayan.

 

            The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, thereupon, suspended its inquiry and directed the petitioners to file their memorandum on the constitutional issues raised, after which, it issued a resolution dated 5 June 1989 rejecting the petitioners’ plea to be excused from testifying, and the Committee voted to pursue and continue its investigation of the matter. X x x

 

            Claiming that the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is poised to subpoena and require their attendance and testimony in proceedings before the Committee, in excess of its jurisdiction and legislative rights, and that there is no appeal nor any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, the petitioners filed the present petition for prohibition with a prayer for temporary restraining order and/or injunctive relief.

 

Held: A perusal of the speech of Senator Enrile reveals that he (Senator Enrile) made a statement which was published in various newspapers on 2 September 1988 accusing Mr. Ricardo “Baby” Lopa of “having taken over the FMMC Group of Companies.” X x x

 

Verily, the speech of Senator Enrile contained no suggestion of contemplated legislation; he merely called upon the Senate to look into a possible violation of Sec. 5 of RA No. 3019, otherwise known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.” In other words, the purpose of the inquiry to be conducted by respondent Blue Ribbon Committee was to find out whether or not the relatives of President Aquino, particularly Mr. Ricardo Lopa, had violated the law in connection with the alleged sale of the 36 or 39 corporations belonging to Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez to the Lopa Group. There appears to be, therefore, no intended legislation involved.

 

X x x

 

It appears, therefore, that the contemplated inquiry by respondent Committee is not really “in aid of legislation” because it is not related to a purpose within the jurisdiction of Congress, since the aim of the investigation is to find out whether or not the relatives of the President or Mr. Ricardo Lopa had violated Section 5 of RA No. 3019, the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, a matter that appears more within the province of the courts rather than of the legislature. Besides, the Court may take judicial notice that Mr. Ricardo Lopa died during the pendency of this case. In John T. Watkins v. United States (354 U.S. 178, 1 L. ed. 2D 1273 [1957]), it was held:

 

“x x x. The power of Congress to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation is inherent in the legislative process. That power is broad. It encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes. It includes surveys of defects in our social, economic, or political system for the purpose of enabling Congress to remedy them. It comprehends probes into departments of the Federal Government to expose corruption, inefficiency or waste. But broad as is this power of inquiry, it is not unlimited. There is no general authority to expose the private affairs of individuals without justification in terms of the functions of Congress. This was freely conceded by the Solicitor General in his arguments in this case. Nor is the Congress a law enforcement or trial agency. These are functions of the executive and judicial departments of government. No inquiry is an end in itself; it must be related to and in furtherance of a legislative task of Congress. Investigations conducted solely for the personal aggrandizement of the investigators or to ‘punish’ those investigated are indefensible.” (italics supplied)

 

It cannot be overlooked that when respondent Committee decided to conduct its investigation of the petitioners, the complaint in Civil Case No. 0035 had already been filed with the Sandiganbayan. A perusal of that complaint shows that one of its principal causes of action against herein petitioners, as defendants therein, is the alleged sale of the 36 (or 39) corporations belonging to Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez. Since the issues in said complaint had long been joined by the filing of petitioners’ respective answers thereto, the issue sought to be investigated by the respondent Comsemittee is one over which jurisdiction had been acquired by the Sandiganbayan. In short, the issue has been pre-empted by that court. To allow the respondent Committee to conduct its own investigation of an issue already before the Sandiganbayan would not only pose the possibility of conflicting judgments between a legislative committee and a judicial tribunal, but if the Committee’s judgment were to be reached before that of the Sandiganbayan, the possibility of its influence being made to bear on the ultimate judgment of the Sandiganbayan can not be discounted.

 

In fine, for the respondent Committee to probe and inquire into the same justiciable controversy already before the Sandiganbayan, would be an encroachment into the exclusive domain of judicial jurisdiction that had much earlier set in. (Bengzon, Jr. v. Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, 203 SCRA 767, Nov. 20, 1991, En Banc [Padilla])

 

  1. Petitioners’ contention is that Republic Act No. 7716 (The Expanded-VAT Law) did not “originate exclusively” in the House of Representatives as required by Art. VI, Sec. 24 of the Constitution, because it is in fact the result of the consolidation of two distinct bills, H. No. 11197 and S. No. 1630. In this connection, petitioners point out that although Art. VI, Sec. 24 was adopted from the American Federal Constitution, it is notable in two respects: the verb “shall originate” is qualified in the Philippine Constitution by the word “exclusively” and the phrase “as on other bills” in the American version is omitted. This means, according to them, that to be considered as having originated in the House, Republic Act No. 7716 must retain the essence of H. No. 11197.

 

Held: This argument will not bear analysis. To begin with, it is not the law – but the revenue bill – which is required by the Constitution to “originate exclusively” in the House of Representatives. It is important to emphasize this, because a bill originating in the House may undergo such extensive changes in the Senate that the result may be a rewriting of the whole. The possibility of a third version by the conference committee will be discussed later. At this point, what is important to note is that, as a result of the Senate action, a distinct bill may be produced. To insist that a revenue statute – and not only the bill which initiated the legislative process culminating in the enactment of the law – must substantially be the same as the House bill would be to deny the Senate’s power not only to “concur with amendments” but also to “propose amendments.” It would be to violate the coequality of legislative power of the two houses of Congress and in fact make the House superior to the Senate.

 

The contention that the constitutional design is to limit the Senate’s power in respect of revenue bills in order to compensate for the grant to the Senate of the treaty-ratifying power (Art. VII, Sec. 21) and thereby equalize its powers and those of the House overlooks the fact that the powers being compared are different. We are dealing here with the legislative power which under the Constitution is vested not only in any particular chamber but in the Congress of the Philippines, consisting of “a Senate and a House of Representatives.” (Art. VI, Sec. 1) The exercise of the treaty-ratifying power is not the exercise of legislative power. It is the exercise of a check on the executive power. There is, therefore, no justification for comparing the legislative powers of the House and of the Senate on the basis of the possession of a similar non-legislative power by the Senate. The possession of a similar power by the U.S. Senate has never been thought of as giving it more legislative powers than the House of Representatives.

 

X x x Given, then, the power of the Senate to propose amendments, the Senate can propose its own version even with respect to bills which are required by the Constitution to originate in the House.

 

It is insisted, however, that S. No. 1630 was passed not in substitution of H. No. 11197 but of another Senate bill (S. No. 1129) earlier filed and that what the Senate did was merely to “take (H. No. 11197) into consideration” in enacting S. No. 1630. There is really no difference between the Senate preserving H. No. 11197 up to the enacting clause and then writing its own version following the enacting clause (which, it would seem, petitioners admit is an amendment by substitution), and, on the other hand, separately presenting a bill of its own on the same subject matter. In either case the result are two bills on the same subject.

 

Indeed, what the Constitution simply means is that the initiative for filing revenue, tariff, or tax bills, bills authorizing an increase of the public debt, private bills and bills of local application must come from the House of Representatives on the theory that, elected as they are from the districts, the members of the House can be expected to be more sensitive to the local needs and problems. On the other hand, the senators, who are elected at large, are expected to approach the same problems from the national perspective. Both views are thereby made to bear on the enactment of such laws.

 

Nor does the Constitution prohibit the filing in the Senate of a substitute bill in anticipation of its receipt of the bill from the House, so long as action by the Senate as a body is withheld pending receipt of the House bill. The Court cannot, therefore, understand the alarm expressed over the fact that on March 1, 1993, eight months before the House passed H. No. 11197, S. No. 1129 had been filed in the Senate. After all it does not appear that the Senate ever considered it. It was only after the Senate had received H. No. 11197 on November 23, 1993 that the process of legislation in respect of it began with the referral to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means of H. No. 11197 and the submission by the Committee on February 7, 1994 of S. No. 1630. For that matter, if the question were simply the priority in the time of filing of bills, the fact is that it was in the House that a bill (H. No. 253) to amend the VAT law was first filed on July 22, 1992. Several other bills had been filed in the House before S. No. 1129 was filed in the Senate, and H. No. 11197 was only a substitute of those earlier bills. (Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance, 235 SCRA 630, 661-663, Aug. 25, 1994, En Banc [Mendoza])

 

  1. Discuss the nature of the Party-List system. Is it, without any qualification, open to all?

 Held: 1. The party-list system is a social justice tool designed not only to give more law to the great masses of our people who have less in life, but also to enable them to become veritable lawmakers themselves, empowered to participate directly in the enactment of laws designed to benefit them. It intends to make the marginalized and the underrepresented not merely passive recipients of the State’s benevolence, but active participants in the mainstream of representative democracy. Thus, allowing all individuals and groups, including those which now dominate district elections, to have the same opportunity to participate in party-list elections would desecrate this lofty objective and mongrelize the social justice mechanism into an atrocious veneer for traditional politics. (Ang Bagong Bayani – OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. Crucial to the resolution of this case is the fundamental social justice principle that those who have less in life should have more in law. The party-list system is one such tool intended to benefit those who have less in life. It gives the great masses of our people genuine hope and genuine power. It is a message to the destitute and the prejudiced, and even to those in the underground, that change is possible. It is an invitation for them to come out of their limbo and seize the opportunity.

 

Clearly, therefore, the Court cannot accept the submissions x x x that the party-list system is, without any qualification, open to all. Such position does not only weaken the electoral chances of the marginalized and underrepresented; it also prejudices them. It would gut the substance of the party-list system. Instead of generating hope, it would create a mirage. Instead of enabling the marginalized, it would further weaken them and aggravate their marginalization. (Ang Bagong Bayani – OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. Are political parties – even the major ones – prohibited from participating in the party-list elections?

 

Held: Under the Constitution and RA 7941, private respondents cannot be disqualified from the party-list elections, merely on the ground that they are political parties. Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution, provides that members of the House of Representatives may “be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional, and sectoral parties or organizations.

 

Furthermore, under Sections 7 and 8, Article IX [C] of the Constitution, political parties may be registered under the party-list system. X x x

 

During the deliberations in the Constitutional Commission, Comm. Christian S. Monsod pointed out that the participants in the party-list system may “be a regional party, a sectoral party, a national party, UNIDO, Magsasaka, or a regional party in Mindanao.” x x x.

 

Indeed, Commissioner Monsod stated that the purpose of the party-list provision was to open up the system, in order to give a chance to parties that consistently place third or fourth in congressional district elections to win a seat in Congress. He explained: “The purpose of this is to open the system. In the past elections, we found out that there were certain groups or parties that, if we count their votes nationwide, have about 1,000,000 or 1,500,000 votes. But they were always third or fourth place in each of the districts. So, they have no voice in the Assembly. But this way, they would have five or six representatives in the assembly even if they would not win individually in legislative districts. So, that is essentially the mechanics, the purpose and objective of the party-list system.”

 

For its part, Section 2 of RA 7941 also provides for “a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, x x x.” Section 3 expressly states that a “party” is “either a political party or a sectoral party or a coalition of parties.” More to the point, the law defines “political party” as “an organized group of citizens advocating an ideology or platform, principles and policies for the general conduct of government and which, as the most immediate means of securing their adoption, regularly nominates and supports certain of its leaders and members as candidates for public office.”

 

Furthermore, Section 11 of RA 7941 leaves no doubt as to the participation of political parties in the party-list system. X x x

 

Indubitably, therefore, political parties – even the major ones – may participate in the party-list elections.

 

That political parties may participate in the party-list elections does not mean, however, that any political party – or any organization or group for that matter – may do so. The requisite character of these parties or organizations must be consistent with the purpose of the party-list system, as laid down in the Constitution and RA 7941. X x x (Ang Bagong Bayani – OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. Who are the marginalized and underrepresented sectors to be represented under the party-list system?

 

Held: The marginalized and underrepresented sectors to be represented under the party-list system are enumerated in Section 5 of RA 7941 x x x.

 

While the enumeration of marginalized and underrepresented sectors is not exclusive, it demonstrates the clear intent of the law that not all sectors can be represented under the party-list system. X x x

 

[W]e stress that the party-list system seeks to enable certain Filipino citizens – specifically those belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties – to be elected to the House of Representatives. The assertion x x x that the party-list system is not exclusive to the marginalized and underrepresented disregards the clear statutory policy. Its claim that even the super-rich and overrepresented can participate desecrates the spirit of the party-list system.

 

Indeed, the law crafted to address the peculiar disadvantage of Payatas hovel dwellers cannot be appropriated by the mansion owners of Forbes Park. The interests of these two sectors are manifestly disparate; hence, the x x x position to treat them similarly defies reason and common sense. X x x

 

While the business moguls and the mega-rich are, numerically speaking, a tiny minority, they are neither marginalized nor underrepresented, for the stark reality is that their economic clout engenders political power more awesome than their numerical limitation. Traditionally, political power does not necessarily emanate from the size of one’s constituency; indeed, it is likely to arise more directly from the number and amount of one’s bank accounts.

 

It is ironic, therefore, that the marginalized and underrepresented in our midst are the majority who wallow in poverty, destitution and infirmity. It was for them that the party-list system was enacted – to give them not only genuine hope, but genuine power; to give them opportunity to be elected and to represent the specific concerns of their constituencies; and simply to give them a direct vote in Congress and in the larger affairs of the State. In its noblest sense, the party-list system truly empowers the masses and ushers a new hope for genuine change. Verily, it invites those marginalized and underrepresented in the past – the farm hands, the fisher folk, the urban poor, even those in the underground movement – to come out and participate, as indeed many of them came out and participated during the last elections. The State cannot now disappoint and frustrate them by disabling the desecrating this social justice vehicle.

 

Because the marginalized and underrepresented had not been able to win in the congressional district elections normally dominated by traditional politicians and vested groups, 20 percent of the seats in the House of Representatives were set aside for the party-list system. In arguing that even those sectors who normally controlled 80 percent of the seats in the House could participate in the party-list elections for the remaining 20 percent, the OSG and the Comelec disregard the fundamental difference between the congressional district elections and the party-list elections.

 

As earlier noted, the purpose of the party-list provision was to open up the system, in order to enhance the chance of sectoral groups and organizations to gain representation in the House of Representatives through the simplest scheme possible. Logic shows that the system has been opened to those who have never gotten a foothold within it – those who cannot otherwise win in regular elections and who therefore need the “simplest scheme possible” to do so. Conversely, it would be illogical to open the system to those who have long been within it – those privileged sectors that have long dominated the congressional district elections.

 

X x x

 

Verily, allowing the non-marginalized and overrepresented to vie for the remaining seats under the party-list system would not only dilute, but also prejudice the chance of the marginalized and underrepresented, contrary to the intention of the law to enhance it. The party-list system is a tool for the benefit of the underprivileged; the law could not have given the same tool to others, to the prejudice of the intended beneficiaries. (Ang Bagong Bayani – OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. Section 5(2), Article VI of the Constitution provides that “[t]he party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party-list.” Does the Constitution require all such allocated seats to be filled up all the time and under all circumstances?

 

Held: The Constitution simply states that “[t]he party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party-list.”

 

X x x

 

We rule that a simple reading of Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution, easily conveys the equally simple message that Congress was vested with the broad power to define and prescribe the mechanics of the party-list system of representation. The Constitution explicitly sets down only the percentage of the total membership in the House of Representatives reserved for party-list representatives.

 

In the exercise of its constitutional prerogative, Congress enacted RA 7941. As said earlier, Congress declared therein a policy to promote “proportional representation” in the election of party-list representatives in order to enable Filipinos belonging to the marginalized and underrepresented sectors to contribute legislation that would benefit them. It however deemed it necessary to require parties, organizations and coalitions participating in the system to obtain at least two percent of the total votes cast for the party-list system in order to be entitled to a party-list seat. Those garnering more than this percentage could have “additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes.” Furthermore, no winning party, organization or coalition can have more than three seats in the House of Representatives. X x x

 

Considering the foregoing statutory requirements, it will be shown x x x that Section 5(2), Article VI of the Constitution is not mandatory. It merely provides a ceiling for party-list seats in Congress. (Veterans Federation Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 136781, Oct. 6, 2000, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. What are the inviolable parameters to determine the winners in a Philippine-style party-list election?

 

Held: To determine the winners in a Philippine-style party-list election, the Constitution and Republic Act No. 7941 mandate at least four inviolable parameters. These are:

 

First, the twenty percent allocation – the combined number of all party-list congressmen shall not exceed twenty percent of the total membership of the House of Representatives, including those elected under the party list.

 

Second, the two percent threshold – only those garnering a minimum of two percent of the total valid votes cast for the party-list system are “qualified” to have a seat in the House of Representatives.

 

Third, the three seat limit – each qualified party, regardless of the number of votes it actually obtained, is entitled to a maximum of three seats; that is, one “qualifying” and two additional seats.

 

Fourth, proportional representation – the additional seats which a qualified party is entitled to shall be computed “in proportion to their total number of votes.” (Veterans Federation Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 136781 and Companion Cases, Oct. 6, 2000, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. State the guidelines for screening Party-List Participants.

 

Held: In this light, the Court finds it appropriate to lay down the following guidelines, culled from the law and the Constitution, to assist the Comelec in its work.

 

First, the political party, sector, organization or coalition must represent the marginalized and underrepresented groups identified in Section 5 of RA 7941. In other words, it must show – through its constitution, articles of incorporation, bylaws, history, platform of government and track record – that it represents and seeks to uplift marginalized and underrepresented sectors. Verily, majority of its membership should belong to the marginalized and underrepresented. And it must demonstrate that in a conflict of interest, it has chosen or is likely to choose the interest of such sectors.

 

Second, while even major political parties are expressly allowed by RA 7941 and the Constitution to participate in the party-list system, they must comply with the declared statutory policy of enabling “Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors x x x to be elected to the House of Representatives.” In other words, while they are not disqualified merely on the ground that they are political parties, they must show, however, that they represent the interests of the marginalized and underrepresented. X x x.

           

Third, in view of the objections directed against the registration of Ang Buhay Hayaang Yumabong, which is allegedly a religious group, the Court notes the express constitutional provision that the religious sector may not be represented in the party-list system. x x x

 

Furthermore, the Constitution provides that “religious denominations and sects shall not be registered.” (Sec. 2 [5], Article IX [C]) The prohibition was explained by a member of the Constitutional Commission in this wise: “[T]he prohibition is on any religious organization registering as a political party. I do not see any prohibition here against a priest running as a candidate. That is not prohibited here; it is the registration of a religious sect as a political party.”

 

Fourth, a party or an organization must not be disqualified under Section 6 of RA 7941, which enumerates the grounds for disqualification as follows:

 

  • It is a religious sect or denomination, organization or association organized for religious purposes;
  • It advocates violence or unlawful means to seek its goal;
  • It is a foreign party or organization;
  • It is receiving support from any foreign government, foreign political party, foundation, organization, whether directly or through any of its officers or members or indirectly through third parties for partisan election purposes;
  • It violates or fails to comply with laws, rules or regulations relating to elections;
  • It declares untruthful statements in its petition;
  • It has ceased to exist for at least one (1) year; or
  • It fails to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections or fails to obtain at least two per centum (2%) of the votes cast under the party-list system in the two (2) preceding elections for the constituency in which it had registered.”

 

Note should be taken of paragraph 5, which disqualifies a party or group for violation of or failure to comply with election laws and regulations. These laws include Section 2 of RA 7941, which states that the party-list system seeks to “enable Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties x x x to become members of the House of Representatives.” A party or organization, therefore, that does not comply with this policy must be disqualified.

 

Fifth, the party or organization must not be an adjunct of, or a project organized or an entity funded or assisted by, the government. By the very nature of the party-list system, the party or organization must be a group of citizens, organized by citizens and operated by citizens. It must be independent of the government. The participation of the government or its officials in the affairs of a party-list candidate is not only illegal and unfair to other parties, but also deleterious to the objective of the law: to enable citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors and organization to be elected to the House of Representatives.

 

Sixth, the party must not only comply with the requirements of the law; its nominees must likewise do so. x x x

 

Seventh, not only the candidate party or organization must represent marginalized and underrepresented sectors; so also must its nominees. To repeat, under Section 2 of RA 7941, the nominees must be Filipino citizens “who belong to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties.” Surely, the interests of the youth cannot be fully represented by a retiree; neither can those of the urban poor or the working class, by an industrialist. To allow otherwise is to betray the State policy to give genuine representation to the marginalized and underrepresented.

 

Eighth, x x x while lacking a well-defined political constituency, the nominee must likewise be able to contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole. x x x (Ang Bagong Bayani – OFW Labor Party v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147589, June 26, 2001, En Banc [Panganiban])

 

  1. Accused-appellant Congressman Romeo G. Jalosjos filed a motion before the Court asking that he be allowed to fully discharge the duties of a Congressman, including attendance at legislative sessions and committee meetings despite his having been convicted in the first instance of a non-bailable offense. He contended that his reelection being an expression of popular will cannot be rendered inutile by any ruling, giving priority to any right or interest – not even the police power of the State. Resolve.

 

Held: The immunity from arrest or detention of Senators and members of the House of Representatives x x x arises from a provision of the Constitution. The history of the provision shows that the privilege has always been granted in a restrictive sense. The provision granting an exemption as a special privilege cannot be extended beyond the ordinary meaning of its terms. It may not be extended by intendment, implication or equitable considerations.

 

The 1935 Constitution provided in its Article VI on the Legislative Department:

 

Sec. 15. The Senators and Members of the House of Representatives shall in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace, be privileged from arrest during their attendance at the sessions of Congress, and in going to and returning from the same; x x x.

 

Because of the broad coverage of felony and breach of the peace, the exemption applied only to civil arrests. A congressman like the accused-appellant, convicted under Title Eleven of the Revised Penal Code could not claim parliamentary immunity from arrest. He was subject to the same general laws governing all persons still to be tried or whose convictions were pending appeal.

 

The 1973 Constitution broadened the privilege of immunity as follows:

 

Article VIII, Sec. 9. A Member of the Batasang Pambansa shall, in all offenses punishable by not more than six years imprisonment, be privileged from arrest during his attendance at its sessions and in going to and returning from the same.

 

For offenses punishable by more than six years imprisonment, there was no immunity from arrest. The restrictive interpretation of immunity and the intent to confine it within carefully defined parameters is illustrated by the concluding portion of the provision, to wit:

 

X x x but the Batasang Pambansa shall surrender the member involved to the custody of the law within twenty four hours after its adjournment for a recess or for its next session, otherwise such privilege shall cease upon its failure to do so.

 

The present Constitution adheres to the same restrictive rule minus the obligation of Congress to surrender the subject Congressman to the custody of the law. The requirement that he should be attending sessions or committee meetings has also been removed. For relatively minor offenses, it is enough that Congress is in session.

 

The accused-appellant argues that a member of Congress’ function to attend sessions is underscored by Section 16(2), Article VI of the Constitution which states that –

 

(2) A majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day and may compel the attendance of absent Members in such manner, and under such penalties, as such House may provide.

 

However, the accused-appellant has not given any reason why he should be exempted from the operation of Section 11, Article VI of the Constitution. The members of Congress cannot compel absent members to attend sessions if the reason for the absence is a legitimate one. The confinement of a Congressman charged with a crime punishable by imprisonment of more than six years is not merely authorized by law, it has constitutional foundations.

 

Accused-appellant’s reliance on the ruling in Aguinaldo v. Santos (212 SCRA 768, at 773 [1992]), which states, inter alia, that –

 

The Court should never remove a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. To do otherwise would be to deprive the people of their right to elect their officers. When the people have elected a man to office, it must be assumed that they did this with the knowledge of his life and character, and that they disregarded or forgave his fault or misconduct, if he had been guilty of any. It is not for the Court, by reason of such fault or misconduct, to practically overrule the will of the people.

 

will not extricate him from his predicament. It can be readily seen x x x that the Aguinaldo case involves the administrative removal of a public officer for acts done prior to his present term of office. It does not apply to imprisonment arising from the enforcement of criminal law. Moreover, in the same way that preventive suspension is not removal, confinement pending appeal is not removal. He remains a Congressman unless expelled by Congress or, otherwise, disqualified.

 

One rationale behind confinement, whether pending appeal or after final conviction, is public self-defense. Society must protect itself. It also serves as an example and warning to others.

 

A person charged with crime is taken into custody for purposes of the administration of justice. As stated in United States v. Gustilo (19 Phil. 208, 212), it is the injury to the public which State action in criminal law seeks to redress. It is not the injury to the complainant. After conviction in the Regional Trial Court, the accused may be denied bail and thus subjected to incarceration if there is risk of his absconding.

 

The accused-appellant states that the plea of the electorate which voted him into office cannot be supplanted by unfounded fears that he might escape eventual punishment if permitted to perform congressional duties outside his regular place of confinement.

 

It will be recalled that when a warrant for accused-appellant’s arrest was issued, he fled and evaded capture despite a call from his colleagues in the House of Representatives for him to attend the sessions ands to surrender voluntarily to the authorities. Ironically, it is now the same body whose call he initially spurned which accused-appellant is invoking to justify his present motion. This can not be countenanced because, x x x aside from its being contrary to well-defined Constitutional restrains, it would be a mockery of the aims of the State’s penal system.

 

Accused-appellant argues that on several occasions, the Regional Trial Court of Makati granted several motions to temporarily leave his cell at the Makati City Jail, for official or medical reasons x x x.

 

He also calls attention to various instances, after his transfer at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, when he was likewise allowed/permitted to leave the prison premises x x x.

 

There is no showing that the above privileges are peculiar to him or to a member of Congress. Emergency or compelling temporary leaves from imprisonment are allowed to all prisoners, at the discretion of the authorities or upon court orders.

 

What the accused-appellant seeks is not of an emergency nature. Allowing accused-appellant to attend congressional sessions and committee meetings for five (5) days or more in a week will virtually make him a free man with all the privileges appurtenant to his position. Such an aberrant situation not only elevates accused-appellant’s status to that of a special class, it also would be a mockery of the purposes of the correction system. X x x

 

The accused-appellant avers that his constituents in the First District of Zamboanga del Norte want their voices to be heard and that since he is treated as bona fide member of the House of Representatives, the latter urges a co-equal branch of government to respect his mandate. He also claims that the concept of temporary detention does not necessarily curtail his duty to discharge his mandate and that he has always complied with the conditions/restrictions when he is allowed to leave jail.

 

We remain unpersuaded.

 

X x x

 

When the voters of his district elected the accused-appellant to Congress, they did so with full awareness of the limitations on his freedom of action. They did so with the knowledge that he could achieve only such legislative results which he could accomplish within the confines of prison. To give a more drastic illustration, if voters elect a person with full knowledge that he is suffering from a terminal illness, they do so knowing that at any time, he may no longer serve his full term in office. (People v. Jalosjos, 324 SCRA 689, Feb. 3, 2000, En Banc [Ynares-Santiago])

 

  1. Discuss the objectives of Section 26(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, that “[e]very bill passed by the Congress shall embrace only one subject which shall be expressed in the title thereof.”

 

Held: The objectives of Section 26(1), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution are:

 

  • To prevent hodge-podge or log-rolling legislation;
  • To prevent surprise or fraud upon the legislature by means of provisions in bills of which the titles gave no information, and which might therefore be overlooked and carelessly and unintentionally adopted; and
  • To fairly apprise the people, through such publication of legislative proceedings as is usually made, of the subjects of legislation that are being considered, in order that they may have opportunity of being heard thereon by petition or otherwise if they shall so desire.

 

Section 26(1) of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution is sufficiently complied with where x x x the title is comprehensive enough to embrace the general objective it seeks to achieve, and if all the parts of the statute are related and germane to the subject matter embodied in the title or so long as the same are not inconsistent with or foreign to the general subject and title. (Agripino A. De Guzman, Jr., et al. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 129118, July 19, 2000, en Banc [Purisima])

 

  1. Section 44 of R.A. No. 8189 (The Voter’s Registration Act of 1996) which provides for automatic transfer to a new station of any Election Officer who has already served for more than four years in a particular city or municipality was assailed for being violative of Section 26(1) of Article VI of the Constitution allegedly because it has an isolated and different subject from that of RA 8189 and that the same is not expressed in the title of the law. Should the challenge be sustained?

 

Held: Section 44 of RA 8189 is not isolated considering that it is related and germane to the subject matter stated in the title of the law. The title of RA 8189 is “The Voter’s Registration Act of 1996” with a subject matter enunciated in the explanatory note as “AN ACT PROVIDING FOR A GENERAL REGISTRATION OF VOTERS, ADOPTING A SYSTEM OF CONTINUING REGISTRATION, PRESCRIBING THE PROCEDURES THEREOF AND AUTHORIZING THE APPROPRIATION OF FUNDS THEREFOR.” Section 44, which provides for the reassignment of election officers, is relevant to the subject matter of registration as it seeks to ensure the integrity of the registration process by providing guideline for the COMELEC to follow in the reassignment of election officers. It is not an alien provision but one which is related to the conduct and procedure of continuing registration of voters. In this regard, it bears stressing that the Constitution does not require Congress to employ in the title of an enactment, language of such precision as to mirror, fully index or catalogue, all the contents and the minute details therein. (Agripino A. De Guzman, Jr., et al. v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 129118, July 19, 2000, En Banc [Purisima])

 

  1. Do courts have the power to inquire into allegations that, in enacting a law, a House of Congress failed to comply with its own rules?

 

Held: The cases, both here and abroad, in varying forms of expression, all deny to the courts the power to inquire into allegations that, in enacting a law, a House of Congress failed to comply with its own rules, in the absence of showing that there was a violation of a constitutional provision or the right of private individuals. In Osmena v. Pendatun (109 Phil. At 870-871), it was held: “At any rate, courts have declared that ‘the rules adopted by deliberative bodies are subject to revocation, modification or waiver at the pleasure of the body adopting them.’ And it has been said that ‘Parliamentary rules are merely procedural, and with their observance, the courts have no concern. They may be waived or disregarded by the legislative body.’ Consequently, ‘mere failure to conform to parliamentary usage will not invalidate that action (taken by a deliberative body) when the requisite number of members have agreed to a particular measure.’”

 

It must be realized that each of the three departments of our government has its separate sphere which the others may not invade without upsetting the delicate balance on which our constitutional order rests. Due regard for the working of our system of government, more than mere comity, compels reluctance on the part of the courts to enter upon an inquiry into an alleged violation of the rules of the House. Courts must accordingly decline the invitation to exercise their power. (Arroyo v. De Venecia, 277 SCRA 268, Aug. 14, 1997 [Mendoza])

 

  1. What is the Bicameral Conference Committee? Discuss the nature of its function and its jurisdiction.

 

Held: While it is true that a conference committee is the mechanism for compromising differences between the Senate and the House, it is not limited in its jurisdiction to this question. Its broader function is described thus:

 

A conference committee may deal generally with the subject matter or it may be limited to resolving the precise differences between the two houses. Even where the conference committee is not by rule limited in its jurisdiction, legislative custom severely limits the freedom with which new subject matter can be inserted into the conference bill. But occasionally a conference committee produces unexpected results, results beyond its mandate. These excursions occur even where the rules impose strict limitations on conference committee jurisdiction. This is symptomatic of the authoritarian power of conference committee. (Philippine Judges Association v. Prado, 227 SCRA 703, Nov. 11, 1993, En Banc [Cruz])

 

  1. Discuss the Enrolled Bill Doctrine.

 

Held: Under the enrolled bill doctrine, the signing of H. Bill No. 7189 by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate and the certification by the secretaries of both Houses of Congress that it was passed on November 21, 1996 are conclusive of its due enactment. x x x To be sure, there is no claim either here or in the decision in the EVAT cases (Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance) that the enrolled bill embodies a conclusive presumption. In one case (Astorga v. Villegas, 56 SCRA 714 [1974]) we “went behind” an enrolled bill and consulted the Journal to determine whether certain provisions of a statute had been approved by the Senate.

 

But, where as here there is no evidence to the contrary, this Court will respect the certification of the presiding officers of both Houses that a bill has been duly passed. Under this rule, this Court has refused to determine claims that the three-fourths vote needed to pass a proposed amendment to the Constitution had not been obtained, because “a duly authenticated bill or resolution imports absolute verity and is binding on the courts.” x x x

 

This Court has refused to even look into allegations that the enrolled bill sent to the President contained provisions which had been “surreptitiously” inserted in the conference committee x x x. (Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance)

 

It has refused to look into charges that an amendment was made upon the last reading of a bill in violation of Art. VI, Sec. 26(2) of the Constitution that “upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment shall be allowed.” (Philippine Judges Ass’n v. Prado, 227 SCRA 703, 710 [1993])

 

In other cases, this Court has denied claims that the tenor of a bill was otherwise than as certified by the presiding officers of both Houses of Congress.

 

The enrolled bill doctrine, as a rule of evidence, is well-established. It is cited with approval by text writers here and abroad. The enrolled bill rule rests on the following considerations:

 

X x x. As the President has no authority to approve a bill not passed by Congress, an enrolled Act in the custody of the Secretary of State, and having the official attestations of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, of the President of the Senate, and of the President of the United States, carries, on its face, a solemn assurance by the legislative and executive departments of the government, charged, respectively, with the duty of enacting and executing the laws, that it was passed by Congress. The respect due to coequal and independent departments requires the judicial department to act upon that assurance, and to accept, as having passed Congress, all bills authenticated in the manner stated; leaving the court to determine, when the question properly arises, whether the Act, so authenticated, is in conformity with the Constitution. (Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 672, 36 L. Ed. 294, 303 [1891])

 

To overrule the doctrine now, x x x is to repudiate the massive teaching of our cases and overthrow an established rule of evidence. (Arroyo v. De Venecia, 277 SCRA 268, Aug. 14, 1997 [Mendoza])

 

  1. When should the Legislative Journal be regarded as conclusive upon the courts, and why?

 

Held: The Journal is regarded as conclusive with respect to matters that are required by the Constitution to be recorded therein. With respect to other matters, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Journals have also been accorded conclusive effects. Thus, in United States v. Pons (34 Phil. 729, 735 [1916]], quoting ex rel. Herron v. Smith, 44 Ohio 348 [1886]), this Court spoke of the imperatives of public policy for regarding the Journals as “public memorials of the most permanent character,” thus: “They should be public, because all are required to conform to them; they should be permanent, that rights acquired today upon the faith of what has been declared to be law shall not be destroyed tomorrow, or at some remote period of time, by facts resting only in the memory of individuals.” X x x. (Arroyo v. De Venecia, 277 SCRA 268, 298-299, Aug. 14, 1997 [Mendoza])

 

  1. What matters are required to be entered on the Journal?

 

Held:

 

  • The yeas and nays on the third and final reading of a bill (Art. VI, Sec. 26[2]);
  • The yeas and nays on any question, at the request of one-fifth of the members present (Id., Sec. 16[4]);
  • The yeas and nays upon repassing a bill over the President’s veto (Id., Sec. 27[1]); and
  • The President’s objection to a bill he had vetoed (Id.).

(Arroyo v. De Venecia, 277 SCRA 268, 298, Aug. 14, 1997 [Mendoza])

 

  1. A disqualification case was filed against a candidate for Congressman before the election with the COMELEC. The latter failed to resolve that disqualification case before the election and that candidate won, although he was not yet proclaimed because of that pending disqualification case. Is the COMELEC now ousted of jurisdiction to resolve the pending disqualification case and, therefore, should dismiss the case, considering that jurisdiction is now vested with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET)?

 

Held: 1. In his first assignments of error, petitioner vigorously contends that after the May 8, 1995 elections, the COMELEC lost its jurisdiction over the question of petitioner’s qualifications to run for member of the House of Representatives. He claims that jurisdiction over the petition for disqualification is exclusively lodged with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET). Given the yet-unresolved question of jurisdiction, petitioner avers that the COMELEC committed serious error and grave abuse of discretion in directing the suspension of his proclamation as the winning candidate in the Second Congressional District of Makati City. We disagree.

 

Petitioner conveniently confuses the distinction between an unproclaimed candidate to the House of Representatives and a member of the same. Obtaining the highest number of votes in an election does not automatically vest the position in the winning candidate. Section 17 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution reads:

 

The Senate and the House of Representatives shall have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their respective Members.

 

Under the above-stated provision, the electoral tribunal clearly assumes jurisdiction over all contests relative to the election, returns and qualifications of candidates for either the Senate or the House only when the latter become members of either the Senate or the House of Representatives. A candidate who has not been proclaimed and who has not taken his oath of office cannot be said to be a member of the House of Representatives subject to Section 17 of Article VI of the Constitution. While the proclamation of a winning candidate in an election is ministerial, B.P. Blg. 881 in conjunction with Sec. 6 of R.A. 6646 allows suspension of proclamation under circumstances mentioned therein. Thus, petitioner’s contention that “after the conduct of the election and (petitioner) has been established the winner of the electoral exercise from the moment of election, the COMELEC is automatically divested of authority to pass upon the question of qualification” finds no basis in law, because even after the elections the COMELEC is empowered by Section 6 (in relation to Section 7) of R.A. 6646 to continue to hear and decide questions relating to qualifications of candidates. X x x.

 

Under the above-quoted provision, not only is a disqualification case against a candidate allowed to continue after the election (and does not oust the COMELEC of its jurisdiction), but his obtaining the highest number of votes will not result in the suspension or termination of the proceedings against him when the evidence of guilt is strong. While the phrase “when the evidence of guilt is strong” seems to suggest that the provisions of Section 6 ought to be applicable only to disqualification cases under Section 68 of the Omnibus Election Code, Section 7 of R.A. 6646 allows the application of the provisions of Section 6 to cases involving disqualification based on ineligibility under Section 78 of BP. Blg. 881. X x x. (Aquino v. COMELEC, 248 SCRA 400, 417-419, Sept. 18, 1995, En Banc [Kapunan, J.])

 

  1. As to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal’s supposed assumption of jurisdiction over the issue of petitioner’s qualifications after the May 8, 1995 elections, suffice it to say that HRET’s jurisdiction as the sole judge of all contests relating to the elections, returns and qualifications of members of Congress begins only after a candidate has become a member of the House of Representatives (Art. VI, Sec. 17, 1987 Constitution). Petitioner not being a member of the House of Representatives, it is obvious that the HRET at this point has no jurisdiction over the question. (Romualdez-Marcos v. COMELEC, 248 SCRA 300, 340-341, Sept. 18, 1995, En Banc [Kapunan, J.])

 

  1. Will the rule be the same if that candidate wins and was proclaimed winner and already assumed office as Congressman?

 

Held: While the COMELEC is vested with the power to declare valid or invalid a certificate of candidacy, its refusal to exercise that power following the proclamation and assumption of the position by Farinas is a recognition of the jurisdictional boundaries separating the COMELEC and the Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives (HRET). Under Article VI, Section 17 of the Constitution, the HRET has sole and exclusive jurisdiction over all contests relative to the election, returns, and qualifications of members of the House of Representatives. Thus, once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath, and assumed office as a member of the House of Representatives, COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his election, returns, and qualifications ends, and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins. Thus, the COMELEC’s decision to discontinue exercising jurisdiction over the case is justifiable, in deference to the HRET’s own jurisdiction and functions.

 

X x x

 

Petitioner further argues that the HRET assumes jurisdiction only if there is a valid proclamation of the winning candidate. He contends that if a candidate fails to satisfy the statutory requirements to qualify him as a candidate, his subsequent proclamation is void ab initio. Where the proclamation is null and void, there is no proclamation at all and the mere assumption of office by the proclaimed candidate does not deprive the COMELEC at all of its power to declare such nullity, according to petitioner. But x x x, in an electoral contest where the validity of the proclamation of a winning candidate who has taken his oath of office and assumed his post as congressman is raised, that issue is best addressed to the HRET. The reason for this ruling is self-evident, for it avoids duplicity of proceedings and a clash of jurisdiction between constitutional bodies, with due regard to the people’s mandate. (Guerrero v. COMELEC, 336 SCRA 458, July 26, 2000, En Banc [Quisumbing])

 

  1. Is there an appeal from a decision of the Senate or House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal? What then is the remedy, if any?

 

Held: The Constitution mandates that the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal and the Senate Electoral Tribunal shall each, respectively, be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their respective members.

 

The Court has stressed that “x x x so long as the Constitution grants the HRET the power to be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of members of the House of Representatives, any final action taken by the HRET on a matter within its jurisdiction shall, as a rule, not be reviewed by this Court. The power granted to the Electoral Tribunal x x x excludes the exercise of any authority on the part of this Court that would in any wise restrict it or curtail it or even affect the same.”

 

The Court did recognize, of course, its power of judicial review in exceptional cases. In Robles v. HRET (181 SCRA 780), the Court has explained that while the judgments of the Tribunal are beyond judicial interference, the Court may do so, however, but only “in the exercise of this Court’s so-called extraordinary jurisdiction x x x upon a determination that the Tribunal’s decision or resolution was rendered without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion or paraphrasing Morrero (Morrero v. Bocar [66 Phil. 429]), upon a clear showing of such arbitrary and improvident use by the Tribunal of its power as constitutes a denial of due process of law, or upon a demonstration of a very clear unmitigated error, manifestly constituting such grave abuse of discretion that there has to be a remedy for such abuse.”

 

The Court does not x x x venture into the perilous area of correcting perceived errors of independent branches of the Government; it comes in only when it has to vindicate a denial of due process or correct an abuse of discretion so grave or glaring that no less than the Constitution itself calls for remedial action. (Libanan v. HRET, 283 SCRA 520, Dec. 22, 1997 [Vitug])

 

 

 

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