EN BANC

[G.R. No. 127255.  August 14, 1997]

JOKER P. ARROYO, EDCEL C. LAGMAN, JOHN HENRY R. OSMEÑA, WIGBERTO E. TAÑADA, and RONALDO B. ZAMORA, petitioners, vs. JOSE DE VENECIA, RAUL DAZA, RODOLFO ALBANO, THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, THE SECRETARY OF FINANCE, AND THE COMMISSIONER OF INTERNAL REVENUE, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for certiorari and/or prohibition challenging the validity of Republic Act No. 8240, which amends certain provisions of the National Internal Revenue Code by imposing so-called “sin taxes” (actually specific taxes) on the manufacture and sale of beer and cigarettes.

Petitioners are members of the House of Representatives.  They brought this suit against respondents Jose de Venecia, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Deputy Speaker Raul Daza, Majority Leader Rodolfo Albano, the Executive Secretary, the Secretary of Finance, and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, charging violation of the rules of the House which petitioners claim are “constitutionally mandated” so that their violation is tantamount to a violation of the Constitution.

The law originated in the House of Representatives as H. No. 7198.  This bill was approved on third reading on September 12, 1996 and transmitted on September 16, 1996 to the Senate which approved it with certain amendments on third reading on November 17, 1996. A bicameral conference committee was formed to reconcile the disagreeing provisions of the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The bicameral conference committee submitted its report to the House at 8 a.m. on November 21, 1996.  At 11:48 a.m., after a recess, Rep. Exequiel Javier, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, proceeded to deliver his sponsorship speech, after which he was interpellated.  Rep. Rogelio Sarmiento was first to interpellate.  He was interrupted when Rep. Arroyo moved to adjourn for lack of quorum.  Rep. Antonio Cuenco objected to the motion and asked for a head count.  After a roll call, the Chair (Deputy Speaker Raul Daza) declared the presence of a quorum.[1] Rep. Arroyo appealed the ruling of the Chair, but his motion was defeated when put to a vote.  The interpellation of the sponsor thereafter proceeded.

Petitioner Rep. Joker Arroyo registered to interpellate.  He was fourth in the order, following Rep. Rogelio Sarmiento, Rep. Edcel C. Lagman and Rep. Enrique Garcia.  In the course of his interpellation, Rep. Arroyo announced that he was going to raise a question on the quorum, although until the end of his interpellation he never did.   What happened thereafter is shown in the following transcript of the session on November 21, 1996 of the House of Representatives, as published by Congress in the newspaper issues of December 5 and 6, 1996:

MR. ALBANO. Mr. Speaker, I move that we now approve and ratify the conference committee report.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Daza).  Any objection to the motion?

MR. ARROYO.  What is that, Mr. Speaker?

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Daza).  There being none, approved.

(Gavel)

MR. ARROYO.  No, no, no, wait a minute, Mr. Speaker, I stood up.  I want to know what is the question that the Chair asked the distinguished sponsor.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER  (Mr. Daza).  There was a motion by the Majority Leader for approval of the report, and the Chair called for the motion.

MR. ARROYO.  Objection, I stood up, so I wanted to object.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Daza).  The session is suspended for one minute.

(It was 3:01 p.m.)

(3:40 p.m., the session was resumed)

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Daza).  The session is resumed.

MR. ALBANO.  Mr. Speaker, I move to adjourn until four o’clock, Wednesday, next week.

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Daza).  The session is adjourned until four o’clock, Wednesday, next week.

(It was 3:40 p.m.)

On the same day, the bill was signed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate and certified by the respective secretaries of both Houses of Congress as having been finally passed by the House of Representatives and by the Senate on November 21, 1996.  The enrolled bill was signed into law by President Fidel V. Ramos on November 22, 1996.

Petitioners claim that there are actually four different versions of the transcript of this portion  of Rep. Arroyo’s interpellation: (1) the transcript of audio-sound recording of the proceedings in the session hall immediately after the session adjourned at 3:40 p.m. on November 21, 1996, which petitioner Rep. Edcel C. Lagman obtained from the operators of the sound system; (2) the transcript of the proceedings from 3:00 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. of November 21, 1996, as certified by the Chief of the Transcription Division on November 21, 1996, also obtained by Rep. Lagman; (3) the transcript of the proceedings from 3:00 p.m. to 3:40 p.m. of November 21, 1996 as certified by the Chief of the Transcription Division on November 28, 1996, also obtained by Rep. Lagman; and (4) the published version abovequoted.  According to petitioners, the four versions differ on three points, to wit: (1) in the audio-sound recording the word “approved,” which appears on line 13 in the three other versions, cannot be heard; (2) in the transcript certified on November 21, 1996 the word “no” on line 17 appears only once, while in the other versions it is repeated three times; and (3) the published version does not contain the sentence “(Y)ou better prepare for a quorum because I will raise the question of the quorum,” which appears in the other versions.

Petitioners’ allegations are vehemently denied by respondents.  However, there is no need to discuss this point as petitioners have announced that, in order to expedite the resolution of this petition, they admit, without conceding, the correctness of the transcripts relied upon by the respondents.  Petitioners agree that for purposes of this proceeding  the word “approved” appears in the transcripts.

Only the proceedings of the House of Representatives on the conference committee report on H. No. 7198 are in question.  Petitioners’ principal argument is that R.A. No.  8240 is null and void because it was passed in violation of the rules of the House; that these rules embody the “constitutional mandate” in Art. VI, §16(3) that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings” and that, consequently, violation of the House rules is a violation of the Constitution itself.  They contend that the certification of Speaker De Venecia that the law was properly passed is false and spurious.

More specifically, petitioners charge that (1) in violation of Rule VIII, §35 and Rule XVII, §103 of the rules of the House,[2] the Chair, in submitting the conference committee report to the House, did not call for the yeas or nays, but simply asked for its approval by motion in order to prevent petitioner Arroyo from questioning the presence of a quorum; (2) in violation of Rule XIX, §112,[3] the Chair deliberately ignored Rep. Arroyo’s question, “What is that . . . Mr. Speaker?” and did not repeat Rep. Albano’s motion to approve or ratify;  (3) in violation of Rule XVI, §97,[4] the Chair refused to recognize Rep. Arroyo and instead proceeded to act on Rep. Albano’s motion and afterward declared the report approved; and (4) in violation of Rule XX, §§121-122, Rule XXI, §123, and Rule XVIII, §109,[5] the Chair suspended the session without first ruling on Rep. Arroyo’s question which, it is alleged,  is a point of order or a privileged motion.  It is argued that Rep. Arroyo’s query should have been resolved upon the resumption of the session on November 28, 1996, because the parliamentary situation at the time of the adjournment remained upon the resumption of the session.

Petitioners also charge that the session was hastily adjourned at 3:40 p.m. on November 21, 1996 and the bill certified by Speaker Jose De Venecia to prevent petitioner Rep. Arroyo from formally challenging the existence of a quorum and asking for a reconsideration.

Petitioners urge the Court not to feel bound by the certification of the Speaker of the House that the law had been properly passed, considering the Court’s power under Art. VIII, §1 to pass on claims of grave abuse of discretion by the other departments of the government, and they ask for a reexamination of Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance,[6] which affirmed the conclusiveness of an enrolled bill, in view of the changed membership of the Court.

The Solicitor General filed a comment in behalf of all respondents.  In addition, respondent De Venecia filed a supplemental comment. Respondents’ defense is anchored on the principle of separation of powers and the enrolled bill doctrine. They argue that the Court is not the proper forum for the enforcement of the rules of the House and that there is no justification for reconsidering the enrolled bill doctrine.  Although the Constitution provides in Art. VI, §16(3)  for the adoption by each House of its rules of proceedings, enforcement of the rules cannot be sought in the courts except insofar as they implement constitutional requirements such as that relating to three readings on separate days before a bill may be passed.  At all events, respondents contend that, in passing the bill which became R.A. No. 8240, the rules of the House, as well as parliamentary precedents for approval of conference committee reports on mere motion, were faithfully observed.

In his supplemental comment, respondent De Venecia denies that his certification of H. No. 7198 is false and spurious and contends that under the journal entry rule, the judicial inquiry sought by the petitioners is barred. Indeed, Journal No. 39 of the House of Representatives, covering the sessions of November 20 and 21, 1996, shows that “On Motion of Mr. Albano, there being no objection, the Body approved the Conference Committee Report on House Bill No. 7198.”[7] This Journal was approved on December 2, 1996 over the lone objection of petitioner Rep. Lagman.[8]

After considering the arguments of the parties, the Court finds no ground for holding that Congress committed a grave abuse of discretion in enacting R.A. No. 8240.  This case is therefore dismissed.

First.  It is clear from the foregoing facts that what is alleged to have been violated in the enactment of R.A. No. 8240 are merely internal rules of procedure of the House rather than constitutional requirements for the enactment of a law, i.e.,  Art. VI, §§26-27.   Petitioners do not claim that there was no quorum but only that, by some maneuver allegedly in violation of the rules of the House, Rep. Arroyo was effectively prevented from questioning the presence of a quorum.

Petitioners contend that the House rules were adopted pursuant to the constitutional provision that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings”[9] and that for this reason they are judicially enforceable.  To begin with, this contention stands the principle on its head.  In the decided cases,[10] the constitutional provision that “each House may determine the rules of its proceedings” was invoked by parties, although not successfully, precisely to support claims of autonomy of the legislative branch to conduct its business free from interference by courts.  Here petitioners cite the provision for the opposite purpose of invoking judicial review.

But 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 rights of private individuals.  In Osmeña v. Pendatun,[11] 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 the action (taken by a deliberative body) when the requisite number of members have agreed to a particular measure.’”

In United States v. Ballin, Joseph & Co.,[12] the rule was stated thus: “The Constitution empowers each house to determine its rules of proceedings.  It may not by its rules ignore constitutional restraints or violate fundamental rights, and there should be a reasonable relation between the mode or method of proceeding established by the rule and the result which is sought to be attained.  But within these limitations all matters of method are open to the determination of the House, and it is no impeachment of the rule to say that some other way would be better, more accurate, or even more just.  It is no objection to the validity of a rule that a different one has been prescribed and in force for a length of time.  The power to make rules is not one which once exercised is exhausted.  It is a continuous power, always subject to be exercised by the House, and within the limitations suggested, absolute and beyond the challenge of any other body or tribunal.”

In Crawford v. Gilchrist,[13] it was held: “The provision that each House shall determine the rules of its proceedings does not restrict the power given to a mere formulation of standing rules, or to the proceedings of the body in ordinary legislative matters; but in the absence of constitutional restraints, and when exercised by a majority of a constitutional quorum, such authority extends to a determination of the propriety and effect of any action as it is taken by the body as it proceeds in the exercise of any power, in the transaction of any business, or in the performance of any duty conferred upon it by the Constitution.”

In State ex rel. City Loan & Savings Co. v. Moore,[14] the Supreme Court of Ohio stated:  “The provision for reconsideration is no part of the Constitution and is therefore entirely within the control of the General Assembly.  Having made the rule, it should be regarded, but a failure to regard it is not the subject-matter of judicial inquiry.  It has been decided by the courts of last resort of many states, and also by the United States Supreme Court, that a legislative act will not be declared invalid for noncompliance with rules.”

In State v. Savings Bank,[15] the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut declared itself as follows: “The Constitution declares that each house shall determine the rules of its own proceedings and shall have all powers necessary for a branch of the Legislature of a free and independent state.  Rules of proceedings are the servants of the House and subject to its authority.  This authority may be abused, but when the House has acted in a matter clearly within its power, it would be an unwarranted invasion of the independence of the legislative department for the court to set aside such action as void because it may think that the House has misconstrued or departed from its own rules of procedure.”

In McDonald v. State,[16] the Wisconsin Supreme Court held: “When it appears that an act was so passed, no inquiry will be permitted to ascertain whether the two houses have or have not complied strictly with their own rules in their procedure upon the bill, intermediate its introduction and final passage.  The presumption is conclusive that they have done so.  We think no court has ever declared an act of the legislature void for non-compliance with the rules of procedure made by itself, or the respective branches thereof, and which it or they may change or suspend at will.  If there are any such adjudications, we decline to follow them.”

Schweizer v. Territory[17] is illustrative of the rule in these cases.  The 1893 Statutes of Oklahoma provided for three readings on separate days before a bill may be passed by each house of the legislature, with the proviso that in case of an emergency the house concerned may, by two-thirds vote, suspend the operation of the rule.  Plaintiff was convicted in the district court of violation of a law punishing gambling.  He appealed contending that the gambling statute was not properly passed by the legislature because the suspension of the rule on three readings had not been approved by the requisite two-thirds vote.  Dismissing this contention, the State Supreme Court of Oklahoma held:

We have no constitutional provision requiring that the legislature should read a bill in any particular manner.  It may, then, read or deliberate upon a bill as it sees fit, either in accordance with its own rules, or in violation thereof, or without making any rules.  The provision of section 17 referred to is merely a statutory provision for the direction of the legislature in its action upon proposed measures.  It receives its entire force from legislative sanction, and it exists only at legislative pleasure.  The failure of the legislature to properly weigh and consider an act, its passage through the legislature in a hasty manner, might be reasons for the governor withholding his signature thereto; but this alone, even though it is shown to be a violation of a rule which the legislature had made to govern its own proceedings, could be no reason for the court’s refusing its enforcement after it was actually passed by a majority of each branch of the legislature, and duly signed by the governor.  The courts cannot declare an act of the legislature void on account of noncompliance with rules of procedure made by itself to govern its deliberations.  McDonald v. State, 80 Wis. 407, 50 N.W. 185; In re Ryan, 80 Wis. 414, 50 N. W. 187; State v. Brown, 33 S.C. 151, 11 S. E. 641; Railway Co. v. Gill, 54 Ark. 101, 15 S. W. 18.

We conclude this survey with the useful summary of the rulings by  former Chief Justice Fernando, commenting on the power of each House of Congress to determine its rules of proceedings.  He wrote:

Rules are hardly permanent in character.  The prevailing view is that they are subject to revocation, modification or waiver at the pleasure of the body adopting them as they are primarily procedural.  Courts ordinarily have no concern with their observance.  They may be waived or disregarded by the legislative body.  Consequently, mere failure to conform to them does not have the effect of nullifying the act taken if the requisite number of members have agreed to a particular measure.  The above principle is subject, however, to this qualification.  Where the construction to be given to a rule affects persons other than members of the legislative body the question presented is necessarily judicial in character.  Even its validity is open to question in a case where private rights are involved.[18]

In this case no rights of private individuals are involved but only those of a member who, instead of seeking redress in the House, chose to transfer the dispute to this Court.  We have no more power to look into the internal proceedings of a House than members of that House have to look over our shoulders, as long as no violation of constitutional provisions is shown.

Petitioners must realize 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 our part to enter upon an inquiry into an alleged violation of the rules of the House. We must accordingly decline the invitation to exercise our power.

Second.  Petitioners, quoting former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion’s sponsorship in the Constitutional Commission, contend that under Art. VIII, §1, “nothing involving abuse of discretion [by the other branches of the government] amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction is beyond judicial review.”[19] Implicit in this statement of the former Chief Justice, however, is an acknowledgment that the jurisdiction of this Court is subject to the case and controversy requirement of Art. VIII, §5 and, therefore, to the requirement of a justiciable controversy before courts can adjudicate constitutional questions such as those which arise in the field of foreign relations.   For while Art. VIII, §1 has broadened the scope of judicial inquiry into areas normally left to the political departments to decide, such as those relating to national security,[20] it has not altogether done away with political questions  such as those which arise in the field of foreign relations.  As we have already held, under Art. VIII, §1, this Court’s function

is merely [to] check  whether or not the governmental branch or agency has gone beyond the constitutional limits of its jurisdiction, not that it erred or has a different view. In the absence of a showing . . . [of] grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, there is no occasion for the Court to exercise its corrective power. . . . It has no power to look into what it thinks is apparent error.[21]

If, then, the established rule is that courts cannot declare an act of the legislature void on account merely of noncompliance with rules of procedure made by itself, it follows that such a case does not present a situation in which a branch of the government has “gone beyond the constitutional limits of its jurisdiction” so as to call for the exercise of our Art.  VIII, §1 power.

Third.  Petitioners claim that the passage of the law in the House was “railroaded.”  They claim that Rep. Arroyo was still making a query to the Chair when the latter declared Rep. Albano’s motion approved.

What happened is that, after Rep. Arroyo’s interpellation of the sponsor of the committee report, Majority Leader Rodolfo Albano moved for the approval and ratification of the conference committee report.  The Chair called out for objections to the motion.  Then the Chair declared: “There being none, approved.”  At the same time the Chair was saying this, however, Rep. Arroyo was asking, “What is that . . . Mr. Speaker?”  The Chair and Rep. Arroyo were talking simultaneously. Thus, although Rep. Arroyo subsequently objected to the Majority Leader’s motion, the approval of the conference committee report had by then already been declared by the Chair, symbolized by its banging of the gavel.

Petitioners argue that, in accordance with the rules of the House, Rep. Albano’s motion for the approval of the conference committee report should have been stated by the Chair and later the individual votes of the Members should have been taken.  They say that the method used in this case is a legislator’s  nightmare because it suggests unanimity when the fact was that one or some legislators opposed the report.

No rule of the House of Representatives has been cited which specifically requires that in cases such as this involving approval of a conference committee report, the Chair must restate the motion and conduct a viva voce or nominal voting.  On the other hand,  as the Solicitor General has pointed out, the manner in which the conference committee report on H. No. 7198 was approved was by no means a unique one.  It has basis in legislative practice.    It was the way the conference committee report on the bills which became the Local Government Code of 1991 and the conference committee report on the bills amending the Tariff and Customs Code were approved.

In 1957, the practice was questioned as being contrary to the rules of the House.  The point was answered by Majority Leader Arturo M. Tolentino and his answer became the ruling of the Chair.  Mr. Tolentino said:

Mr. Tolentino.  The fact that nobody objects means a unanimous action of the House.  Insofar as the matter of procedure is concerned, this has been a precedent since I came here seven years ago, and it has been the procedure in this House that if somebody objects, then a debate follows and after the debate, then the voting comes in.

. . . .

Mr. Speaker, a point of order was raised by the gentleman from Leyte, and I wonder what his attitude is now on his point of order.  I should just like to state that I believe that we have had a substantial compliance with the Rules.  The Rule invoked is not one that refers to statutory or constitutional requirement, and a substantial compliance, to my mind, is sufficient.  When the Chair announces the vote by saying “Is there any objection?” and nobody objects, then the Chair announces “The bill is approved on second reading.”  If there was any doubt as to the vote, any motion to divide would have been proper.  So, if that motion is not presented, we assume that the House approves the measure.  So I believe there is substantial compliance here, and if anybody wants a division of the House he can always ask for it, and the Chair can announce how many are in favor and how many are against.[22]

Indeed, it is no impeachment of the method to say that some other way would be better, more accurate and even more just.[23] The advantages or disadvantages, the wisdom or folly of a method do not present any matter for judicial consideration.[24] In the words of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, “this Court cannot provide a second opinion on what is the best procedure. Notwithstanding the deference and esteem that is properly tendered to individual congressional actors, our deference and esteem for the institution as a whole and for the constitutional command that the institution be allowed to manage its own affairs precludes us from even attempting a diagnosis of the problem.”[25]

Nor does the Constitution require that the yeas and the nays of the Members be  taken every time a House has to vote, except only in the following instances:  upon the last and third readings of a bill,[26] at the request of one-fifth of the Members present,[27] and in repassing a bill over the veto of the President.[28] Indeed, considering the fact that in the approval of the original bill the votes of the Members by yeas and nays had already been taken,  it would have been sheer tedium to repeat the process.

Petitioners claim that they were prevented from seeking reconsideration allegedly as a result of the precipitate suspension and subsequent adjournment of the session.[29] It would appear, however, that the session was suspended to allow the parties to settle the problem, because when it resumed at 3:40 p.m. on that day Rep. Arroyo did not say anything anymore.  While it is true that the Majority Leader moved for adjournment until 4 p.m. of Wednesday of the following week, Rep. Arroyo could at least have objected if there was anything he wanted to say.  The fact, however, is that he did not.  The Journal of November 21, 1996 of the House shows:

ADJOURNMENT OF SESSION

On motion of Mr. Albano, there being no objection, the Chair declared the session adjourned until four o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday, November 27, 1996.

It was 3:40 p.m. Thursday, November 21, 1996. (emphasis added)

This Journal was approved on December 2, 1996.  Again,  no one objected to its approval except Rep. Lagman.

It is thus apparent that petitioners’ predicament was largely of their own making. Instead of submitting the proper motions for the House to act upon, petitioners insisted on the pendency of  Rep. Arroyo’s question as an obstacle to the passage of the bill.  But  Rep. Arroyo’s question was  not, in form or substance, a point of order or a question of privilege entitled to precedence.[30] And even if Rep. Arroyo’s question were so,  Rep. Albano’s motion to adjourn would have precedence and would have put an end to any further consideration of the question.[31]

Given this fact, it is difficult to see how it can plausibly be contended that in signing the bill which became R.A. No. 8240, respondent Speaker of the House be acted with grave abuse of his discretion.  Indeed, the phrase “grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction” has a settled meaning in the jurisprudence of procedure.  It means such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment by a tribunal exercising judicial or quasi judicial power as to amount to lack of power.  As Chief Justice Concepcion himself said in explaining this provision, the power granted to the courts by Art. VIII, §1 extends to cases where “a branch of the government or any of its officials has acted without jurisdiction or in excess of jurisdiction, or so capriciously as to constitute an abuse of discretion amounting to excess of jurisdiction.”[32]

Here, the matter complained of concerns a matter of internal procedure of the House with which the Court should not be concerned.  To repeat,  the claim is not that there was no quorum but only that Rep. Arroyo was effectively prevented from questioning the presence of a quorum. Rep. Arroyo’s earlier motion   to adjourn for lack of quorum had already been defeated, as the roll call established the existence of a quorum.  The question of quorum cannot be raised repeatedly    especially when the quorum is obviously present    for the purpose of delaying the business of the House.[33] Rep. Arroyo waived his objection by his continued interpellation of the sponsor for in so doing he in effect acknowledged the presence of a quorum.[34]

At any rate it is noteworthy that of the 111 members of the House earlier found to be present on November 21, 1996, only the five, i.e.,  petitioners in this case, are questioning the manner by which the conference committee report on H. No. 7198 was approved on that day.   No one, except Rep. Arroyo, appears to have objected to the manner by which the report was approved. Rep. John Henry Osmeña did not participate in the bicameral conference committee proceedings.[35] Rep. Lagman and Rep. Zamora objected to the report[36] but not to the manner it was approved; while it is said that, if voting had been conducted, Rep. Tañada would have voted in favor of the conference committee report.[37]

Fourth.   Under the enrolled bill doctrine, the signing of H. No. 7198 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. Much energy and learning is devoted in the separate opinion of Justice Puno, joined by Justice Davide, to disputing this doctrine.  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[38] 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.”[39] This Court quoted from Wigmore on Evidence the following excerpt which embodies good, if old-fashioned, democratic theory:

The truth is that many have been carried away with the righteous desire to check at any cost the misdoings of Legislatures.  They have set such store by the Judiciary for this purpose that they have almost made them a second and higher Legislature.  But they aim in the wrong direction. Instead of trusting a faithful Judiciary to check an inefficient Legislature, they should turn to improve the Legislature.  The sensible solution is not to patch and mend casual errors by asking the Judiciary to violate legal principle and to do impossibilities with the Constitution; but to represent ourselves with competent, careful, and honest legislators, the work of whose hands on the statute-roll may come to reflect credit upon the name of popular government.[40]

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:

[W]here allegations that the constitutional procedures for the passage of bills have not been observed have no more basis than another allegation that the Conference Committee “surreptitiously” inserted provisions into a bill which it had prepared, we should decline the invitation to go behind the enrolled copy of the bill.  To disregard the “enrolled bill” rule in such cases would be to disregard the respect due the other two departments of our government.[41]

It has refused to look into charges that an amendment was made upon the last reading of a bill in violation of Art. VI, §26(2) of the Constitution that “upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment shall be allowed.” [42]

In other cases,[43] 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.[44] The enrolled bill rule rests on the following considerations:

.  .  .  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.[45]

To overrule the doctrine now, as the dissent urges,  is to repudiate the massive teaching of our cases and overthrow an established rule of evidence.

Indeed, petitioners have advanced no argument to warrant a departure from the rule, except to say that, with a change in the membership of the Court, the three new members may be assumed to have an open mind on the question of the enrolled bill rule.  Actually, not three but four (Cruz, Feliciano, Bidin, and Quiason, JJ.) have departed from the Court since our decision in the EVAT cases and their places have since been taken by four new members (Francisco, Hermosisima, Panganiban, and Torres, JJ.)  Petitioners are thus simply banking on the change in the membership of the Court.

Moreover,  as already noted, the due  enactment of the law in question is confirmed by the Journal of the House of November 21, 1996 which shows that the conference committee report on H. No. 7198, which became R.A. No. 8240, was approved on that day.   The keeping of the Journal is required by the Constitution.  Art. VI, §16(4) provides:

Each House shall keep a Journal of its proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such parts as may, in its judgment, affect national security; and the yeas and nays on any question shall, at the request of one-fifth of the Members present, be entered in the Journal.

Each House shall also keep a Record of its proceedings.

The Journal is regarded as conclusive with respect to matters that are required by the Constitution to be recorded therein.[46] With respect to other matters, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the Journals have also been accorded conclusive effect.  Thus, in United States v. Pons,[47] 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.”  As already noted, the bill which became R.A. No. 8240 is shown in the Journal.  Hence its due enactment has been duly proven.

___________________

It would be an unwarranted invasion of the prerogative of a coequal department for this Court either to set aside a legislative action as void because the Court thinks the House has disregarded its own rules of procedure, or to allow those defeated in the political arena to seek a rematch in the judicial forum when petitioners can find their remedy in that department itself.  The Court has not been invested with a roving commission to inquire into complaints, real or imagined, of legislative skullduggery.  It would be acting in excess of its power and would itself be guilty of grave abuse of its discretion were it to do so.  The suggestion made in a case[48] may instead appropriately be made here:  petitioners can seek the enactment of a new law or the repeal or amendment of R.A. No. 8240.   In the absence of anything to the contrary, the Court must assume that Congress or any House thereof acted in the good faith belief that its conduct was permitted by its rules, and deference rather than disrespect is due the judgment of that body.[49]

WHEREFORE, the petition for certiorari and prohibition is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa, C.J., Padilla, Melo, Kapunan, Francisco, and Hermosisima, Jr.,  JJ., concur.

Romero, J., has a separate opinion.

Puno, J., has a separate concurring and dissenting opinion.

Davide, Jr., J., joined the concurring and dissenting opinion of Justice Puno.

Vitug, J., has a separate concurring opinion.

Regalado, J., in the result.

Bellosillo, J., took no part due to relationship with parties.

Panganiban, J., took no part.  Former counsel of a party.

Torres, Jr., J., on leave during the deliberations.



[1] Journal No. 39, pp. 66, 68; Rollo, pp. 210, 212; Transcript of November 21, 1996 session, pp. 39-52;  Rollo, pp. 368-381;  Petition, p. 6, par. 10; Rollo, p. 8.

[2] Rule VIII, §35.  Voting. Every member present in the session shall vote on every question put unless he inhibits himself on account of personal pecuniary interest therein.

Rule XVII, §103.  Manner of Voting. The Speaker shall rise to put a question saying “As many as are in favor of (as the question may be), say Aye” and, after the affirmative vote is counted, “As many as are opposed, say Nay ....”

[3] Rule XIX, §112.  Reading and Withdrawal of Motions. The Speaker shall state the motion or, if in writing, shall cause it to be read by the Secretary General before being debated.  A motion may be withdrawn any time before its approval.

[4] Rule XVI, §97.  Recognition of Member. When two or more members rise at the same time, the Speaker shall recognize the Member who is to speak first.

[5] Rule XX, §121. Definition. Questions of privilege are those affecting the duties, conduct, rights, privileges, dignity, integrity or reputation of the House or of its members, collectively or individually.

§122.  Precedence. Subject to the ten-minute rule, questions of privilege shall have precedence over all other questions, except a motion to adjourn and a point of order.

Rule XXI, §123.  Definition and Precedence. A privileged motion pertains to a subject matter which, under the rules, takes precedence over others.

The order of precedence of privileged motions is determined in each case by the rules.

Rule XVIII, §109.  Who May Vote; Procedure; Exceptions. When a bill, report or motion is adopted or lost, a member who voted with the majority may move for its reconsideration on the same or succeeding session day.  The motion shall take precedence over all other questions, except a motion to adjourn, a question of  privilege, and a point of order.

[6] 235 SCRA 630 (1994).

[7] Rollo, p. 228.

[8] Id., p. 229.

[9] Art. VI, §16(3).

[10] E.g., United States v. Ballin, Joseph & Co., 144 U.S. 1, 36 L.Ed. 321 (1862); Exxon Corp. v. FTC, 589 F.2d 582 (1978); Murray v. Buchanan, 674 F.2d 14 (1982); Metzenbaum v. Federal Energy Regulatory Com’n, 675 F.2d 1282 (1982).  See also Osmeña v. Pendatun, 109 Phil. 863 (1960).

[11] 109 Phil. at 870-71.  See also EVAT cases [Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance], 235 SCRA 630.

[12] 144 U.S. at 5, 36 L.Ed. at 324-25 (emphasis added).

[13] 64 Fla. 41; 59  So.  963, 968 (1912) (emphasis added).

[14] 124 Ohio St. 256, 177 N.E. 910, 911 (1931) (emphasis added).

[15] 79 Conn. 141, 64 Atl. 5, 9-10 (1906) (emphasis added).

[16] 80 Wis. 407, 50 N.W. 185, 186 (1891) (emphasis added).

[17] 5 Okl. 297, 47 Pac. 1094 (1897) (emphasis added).

[18] Enrique M. Fernando, Constitution of the Philippines Annotated 188-189 (1977); Pacete v. Secretary of  the Commission on Appointments, 40 SCRA 58 (1971).

[19] Petition, p. 25, quoting the sponsorship speech of former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, chairman of the Committee on Judiciary of the Constitutional Commission, in 1 Records of the Constitutional Commission 436 (Session of July 10, 1986).

[20] Gonzales v. Macaraig, 191 SCRA 452 (1990);  See Marcos v. Manglapus, 177 SCRA 668, 695 (1989); Lansang v. Garcia, 42 SCRA 448 (1971).

[21] Co v. Electoral Tribunal of the House of Representatives, 199 SCRA 692,701 (1991); Llamas v. Orbos, 202 SCRA 849, 857 (1991); Lansang v. Garcia, 42 SCRA at 480-481 (emphasis added).

[22] 4 Cong. Rec. 413-414  (Feb. 15, 1957).

[23] United States v. Ballin, Joseph & Co., 144 U.S. at 5, 36 L.Ed. at 324-25; State v. Lewis, 186 S.E. 625, 630 (1936).

[24] United States v. Smith, 286 U.S. 6, 76 L.Ed. 954 (1931).

[25] Gregg v. Barrett, 771 F.2d 539, 549 (1985).

[26] Art. VI, §26(2).

[27] Id., §16(4).

[28] Id., §27(1).

[29] Id.,  p. 17; id.,  p. 19.

[30] Inocencio Pareja, Rules of the House of Representatives Commented and Annotated 331 (1963); Reynaldo Fajardo, Principles of Parliamentary Procedure 157-158, 172-173 (1963).

[31] Rule XIX, §13.

[32] 1 Records of the Constitutional Commission 436 (Session of July 10, 1986).

[33] Alice Sturgis, Standard Code of Parliamentary Procedure, 17 (1950).

[34] Paul Mason, Manual of Legislative  Procedure  335 (1953).

[35] Conference Committee Report, Rollo, p. 36; Petition, p. 14; Rollo, p. 16.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Petition, p. 14; Rollo, p. 16.

[38] Astorga v. Villegas, 56 SCRA 714 (1974).

[39] Mabanag v. Lopez Vito, 78 Phil. 1, 12 (1947).

[40] Id. at 17, quoting 4 John Wigmore, Treatise on the Law on Evidence §1350 at 702 (1940).   This excerpt is preserved in the Chadbourne edition of this locus classicus.  See 4 Wigmore on Evidence §1350 at 834 (James H. Chadbourne, ed. 1972).

[41] EVAT cases [Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance], 235 SCRA at 672.   Cf.  Morales v. Subido, 27 SCRA 131  (1969).

[42] Philippine Judges Ass’n v. Prado, 227 SCRA 703, 710 (1993); Morales v. Subido, 27 SCRA 131.

[43] Casco Philippine Chemical Co., Inc. v. Gimenez, 7 SCRA 347 (1963); Resins, Inc. v. Auditor General, 25 SCRA 754 (1968).

[44] 4 Wigmore on Evidence §1350 (James H. Chadbourne, ed. 1972); 6 Manuel V. Moran, Comments on the Rules of  Court 115 (1980); 7 Vicente J. Francisco, The Revised  Rules  of  Court (Pt. II) 454 (1973).

[45] Marshall Field & Co. v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649, 672, 36 L.Ed. 294, 303 (1891).

[46] The following are required to be entered on the Journal:  (1)  The yeas and nays on the third and final reading of a bill (Art. VI, §26(2)); (2) the yeas and nays on any question, at the request of one-fifth of the members present (Id., §16(4)); (3) the yeas and nays upon repassing a bill over the President’s veto (Id., §27(1); and (4) the President’s objection to a bill which he has vetoed. (Id.)

[47] 34 Phil. 729, 735 (1916), quoting State ex rel. Herron v. Smith, 44 Ohio 348 (1886).

[48] Gregg v. Barrett, 771 F.2d 529.

[49] Metzenbaum v. Federal Energy Regulatory Com’n, 675 F.2d 1282.