Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

 

EN BANC

 

 

PHILIPPINE GUARDIANS BROTHERHOOD, INC. (PGBI), represented by its Secretary-General GEORGE FGBF GEORGE DULDULAO,

Petitioner,

 

 

 

 

 

 

-        versus -

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

Respondent.

G.R. No. 190529

 

Present:

PUNO, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CORONA,

CARPIO MORALES,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ, and

MENDOZA, JJ.

Promulgated:

 

April 29, 2010

x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

 

 

R E S O L U T I O N

 

BRION, J.:

 

The Philippine Guardians Brotherhood, Inc. (PGBI) seeks in this petition for certiorari[1] and in the motion for reconsideration it subsequently filed to nullify Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13, 2009 insofar as it relates to PGBI, and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009 denying PGBIs motion for reconsideration in SPP No. 09-004 (MP). Via these resolutions, the COMELEC delisted PGBI from the roster of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions under the party-list system.

 

BACKGROUND

 

Section 6(8) of Republic Act No. 7941 (RA 7941), otherwise known as the Party-List System Act, provides:

 

Section 6. Removal and/or Cancellation of Registration. The COMELEC may motu proprio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition on any of the following grounds:

 

x x x x

 

(8) 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 has registered.[Emphasis supplied.]

 

The COMELEC replicated this provision in COMELEC Resolution No. 2847 the Rules and Regulations Governing the Election of the Party-List Representatives through the Party-List System which it promulgated on June 25, 1996.

 

For the upcoming May 2010 elections, the COMELEC en banc issued on October 13, 2009 Resolution No. 8679 deleting several party-list groups or organizations from the list of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions. Among the party-list organizations affected was PGBI; it was delisted because it failed to get 2% of the votes cast in 2004 and it did not participate in the 2007 elections. Nevertheless, the COMELEC stated in this Resolution that any national, regional sectoral party or organizations or coalitions adversely affected can personally or through its authorized representative file a verified opposition on October 26, 2009.

 

PGBI filed its Opposition to Resolution No. 8679, but likewise sought, through its pleading, the admission ad cautelam of its petition for accreditation as a party-list organization under the Party-List System Act. Among other arguments, PGBI asserted that:

 

(1)               The assailed resolution negates the right of movant and those similarly situated to invoke Section 4 of R.A. No. 7941, which allows any party, organization and coalition already registered with the Commission to no longer register anew; the party though is required to file with the Commission, not later than ninety (90) days before the election, a manifestation of its desire to participate in the party-list system; since PGBI filed a Request/Manifestation seeking a deferment of its participation in the 2007 elections within the required period prior to the 2007 elections, it has the option to choose whether or not to participate in the next succeeding election under the same conditions as to rights conferred and responsibilities imposed;

 

(2)               The Supreme Courts ruling in G.R. No. 177548 Philippine Mines Safety Environment Association, also known as MINERO v. Commission on Elections cannot apply in the instant controversy for two reasons: (a) the factual milieu of the cited case is removed from PGBIs; (b) MINERO, prior to delisting, was afforded the opportunity to be heard, while PGBI and the 25 others similarly affected by Resolution No. 8679 were not. Additionally, the requirement of Section 6(8) has been relaxed by the Courts ruling in G.R. No. 179271 (Banat v. COMELEC) and the exclusion of PGBI and the 25 other party-list is a denial of the equal protection of the laws;

 

(3)               The implementation of the challenged resolution should be suspended and/or aborted to prevent a miscarriage of justice in view of the failure to notify the parties in accordance with the same Section 6(8) or R.A. No. 7941.[2]

 

The COMELEC denied PGBIs motion/opposition for lack of merit.

 

First, the COMELEC observed that PGBI clearly misunderstood the import of Section 4 of R.A. 7941.[3] The provision simply means that without the required manifestation or if a party or organization does not participate, the exemption from registration does not arise and the party, organization or coalition must go through the process again and apply for requalification; a request for deferment would not exempt PGBI from registering anew.

 

Second, the MINERO ruling is squarely in point, as MINERO failed to get 2% of the votes in 2001 and did not participate at all in the 2004 elections.

 

Third, PGBI was given an opportunity to be heard or to seek the reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of the essence of due process; this is clear from Resolution No. 8679 which expressly gave the adversely affected parties the opportunity to file their opposition.

 

As regards the alternative relief of application for accreditation, the COMELEC found the motion to have been filed out of time, as August 17, 2009 was the deadline for accreditation provided in Resolution 8646. The motion was obviously filed months after the deadline.

 

PGBI came to us in its petition for certiorari, arguing the same positions it raised with the COMELEC when it moved to reconsider its delisting.

We initially dismissed the petition in light of our ruling in Philippine Mines Safety Environment Association, also known as MINERO v. Commission on Elections (Minero);[4] we said that no grave abuse of discretion exists in a ruling that correctly applies the prevailing law and jurisprudence. Applying Section 6(8) of RA 7941, the Court disqualified MINERO under the following reasoning:

 

Since petitioner by its own admission failed to get 2% of the votes in 2001 and did not participate at all in the 2004 elections, it necessarily failed to get at least two per centum (2%) of the votes cast in the two preceding elections. COMELEC, therefore, is not duty bound to certify it.

 

PGBI subsequently moved to reconsider the dismissal of its petition. Among other arguments, PGBI claimed that the dismissal of the petition was contrary to law, the evidence and existing jurisprudence. Essentially, PGBI asserts that Section 6(8) of RA 7941 does not apply if one is to follow the tenor and import of the deliberations inclusive of the interpellations in Senate Bill No. 1913 on October 19, 1994. It cited the following excerpts from the Records of the Senate:

 

Senator Gonzales: On the other hand, Mr. President, under ground no. (7), Section 5 there are actually two grounds it states: Failure to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections or its failure to obtain at least ten percent (10%) of the votes case under the party-list system in either of the last two (2) preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered

 

In short, the first ground is that, it failed to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections. The second is, failure to obtain at least 10 percent of the votes cast under the party-list system in either of the last two preceding elections, Mr. President,

 

Senator Tolentino: Actually, these are two separate grounds.

 

Senator Gonzales: There are actually two grounds, Mr. President.

 

Senator Tolentino: Yes, Mr. President.[5] [Underscoring supplied.]

 

PGBI thus asserts that Section 6(8) does not apply to its situation, as it is obvious that it failed to participate in one (1) but not in the two (2) preceding elections. Implied in this is that it also failed to secure the required percentage in one (1) but not in the two (2) preceding elections.

 

Considering PGBIs arguments, we granted the motion and reinstated the petition in the courts docket.

 

 

 

 

 

THE ISSUES

We are called upon to resolve: (a) whether there is legal basis for delisting PGBI; and (b) whether PGBIs right to due process was violated.

 

OUR RULING

 

We find the petition partly impressed with merit.

 

a.     The Minero Ruling

 

Our Minero ruling is an erroneous application of Section 6(8) of RA 7941; hence, it cannot sustain PGBIs delisting from the roster of registered national, regional or sectoral parties, organizations or coalitions under the party-list system.

 

First, the law is clear the COMELEC may motu proprio or upon verified complaint of any interested party, remove or cancel, after due notice and hearing, the registration of any national, regional or sectoral party, organization or coalition if it: (a) fails to participate in the last two (2) preceding elections; or (b) 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 has registered.[6] The word or is a disjunctive term signifying disassociation and independence of one thing from the other things enumerated; it should, as a rule, be construed in the sense in which it ordinarily implies, as a disjunctive word.[7] Thus, the plain, clear and unmistakable language of the law provides for two (2) separate reasons for delisting.

 

Second, Minero is diametrically opposed to the legislative intent of Section 6(8) of RA 7941, as PGBIs cited congressional deliberations clearly show.

 

Minero therefore simply cannot stand. Its basic defect lies in its characterization of the non-participation of a party-list organization in an election as similar to a failure to garner the 2% threshold party-list vote. What Minero effectively holds is that a party list organization that does not participate in an election necessarily gets, by default, less than 2% of the party-list votes. To be sure, this is a confused interpretation of the law, given the laws clear and categorical language and the legislative intent to treat the two scenarios differently. A delisting based on a mixture or fusion of these two different and separate grounds for delisting is therefore a strained application of the law in jurisdictional terms, it is an interpretation not within the contemplation of the framers of the law and hence is a gravely abusive interpretation of the law.[8]

 

What we say here should of course take into account our ruling in Barangay Association for Advancement and National Transparency v. COMELEC[9] (Banat) where we partly invalidated the 2% party-list vote requirement provided in RA 7941 as follows:

 

We rule that, in computing the allocation of additional seats, the continued operation of the two percent threshold for the distribution of the additional seats as found in the second clause of Section 11(b) of R.A. No. 7941 is unconstitutional.  This Court finds that the two percent threshold makes it mathematically impossible to achieve the maximum number of available party list seats when the number of available party list seats exceeds 50.  The continued operation of the two percent threshold in the distribution of the additional seats frustrates the attainment of the permissive ceiling that 20% of the members of the House of Representatives shall consist of party-list representatives.

The disqualification for failure to get 2% party-list votes in two (2) preceding elections should therefore be understood in light of the Banat ruling that party-list groups or organizations garnering less than 2% of the party-list votes may yet qualify for a seat in the allocation of additional seats.

 

We need not extensively discuss Banats significance, except to state that a party-list group or organization which qualified in the second round of seat allocation cannot now validly be delisted for the reason alone that it garnered less than 2% in the last two elections. In other words, the application of this disqualification should henceforth be contingent on the percentage of party-list votes garnered by the last party-list organization that qualified for a seat in the House of Representatives, a percentage that is less than the 2% threshold invalidated in Banat. The disqualification should now necessarily be read to apply to party-list groups or organizations that did not qualify for a seat in the two preceding elections for the constituency in which it registered.

 

To reiterate, (a) Section 6(8) of RA 7941 provides for two separate grounds for delisting; these grounds cannot be mixed or combined to support delisting; and (b) the disqualification for failure to garner 2% party-list votes in two preceding elections should now be understood, in light of the Banat ruling, to mean failure to qualify for a party-list seat in two preceding elections for the constituency in which it has registered. This, we declare, is how Section 6(8) of RA 7941 should be understood and applied. We do so under our authority to state what the law is,[10] and as an exception to the application of the principle of stare decisis.

 

The doctrine of stare decisis et non quieta movere (to adhere to precedents and not to unsettle things which are established) is embodied in Article 8 of the Civil Code of the Philippines which provides, thus:

 

ART. 8. Judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution shall form a part of the legal system of the Philippines.

 

 

The doctrine enjoins adherence to judicial precedents. It requires courts in a country to follow the rule established in a decision of its Supreme Court. That decision becomes a judicial precedent to be followed in subsequent cases by all courts in the land. The doctrine of stare decisis is based on the principle that once a question of law has been examined and decided, it should be deemed settled and closed to further argument.[11] The doctrine is grounded on the necessity for securing certainty and stability of judicial decisions, thus:

 

Time and again, the court has held that it is a very desirable and necessary judicial practice that when a court has laid down a principle of law as applicable to a certain state of facts, it will adhere to that principle and apply it to all future cases in which the facts are substantially the same. Stare decisis et non quieta movere. Stand by the decisions and disturb not what is settled. Stare decisis simply means that for the sake of certainty, a conclusion reached in one case should be applied to those that follow if the facts are substantially the same, even though the parties may be different. It proceeds from the first principle of justice that, absent any powerful countervailing considerations, like cases ought to be decided alike. Thus, where the same questions relating to the same event have been put forward by the parties similarly situated as in a previous case litigated and decided by a competent court, the rule of stare decisis is a bar to any attempt to relitigate the same issue.[12]

The doctrine though is not cast in stone for upon a showing that circumstances attendant in a particular case override the great benefits derived by our judicial system from the doctrine of stare decisis, the Court is justified in setting it aside.[13]

As our discussion above shows, the most compelling reason to abandon Minero exists; it was clearly an erroneous application of the law an application that the principle of stability or predictability of decisions alone cannot sustain. Minero did unnecessary violence to the language of the law, the intent of the legislature, and to the rule of law in general. Clearly, we cannot allow PGBI to be prejudiced by the continuing validity of an erroneous ruling. Thus, we now abandon Minero and strike it out from our ruling case law.

 

We are aware that PGBIs situation a party list group or organization that failed to garner 2% in a prior election and immediately thereafter did not participate in the preceding election is something that is not covered by Section 6(8) of RA 7941. From this perspective, it may be an unintended gap in the law and as such is a matter for Congress to address. We cannot and do not address matters over which full discretionary authority is given by the Constitution to the legislature; to do so will offend the principle of separation of powers. If a gap indeed exists, then the present case should bring this concern to the legislatures notice.

b.     The Issue of Due Process

On the due process issue, we agree with the COMELEC that PGBIs right to due process was not violated for PGBI was given an opportunity to seek, as it did seek, a reconsideration of Resolution No. 8679. The essence of due process, we have consistently held, is simply the opportunity to be heard; as applied to administrative proceedings, due process is the opportunity to explain ones side or the opportunity to seek a reconsideration of the action or ruling complained of. A formal or trial-type hearing is not at all times and in all instances essential. The requirement is satisfied where the parties are afforded fair and reasonable opportunity to explain their side of the controversy at hand. What is frowned upon is absolute lack of notice and hearing x x x.[14] We find it obvious under the attendant circumstances that PGBI was not denied due process. In any case, given the result of this Resolution, PGBI has no longer any cause for complaint on due process grounds.

 

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and accordingly ANNUL COMELEC Resolution No. 8679 dated October 13, 2009 insofar as the petitioner PGBI is concerned, and the Resolution dated December 9, 2009 which denied PGBIs motion for reconsideration in SPP No. 09-004 (MP). PGBI is qualified to be voted upon as a party-list group or organization in the coming May 2010 elections.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

JOSE C

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

 

 

CERTIFICATION

 

Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified that the conclusions in the above Resolution had been reached in consultation before the case was assigned to the writer of the opinion of the Court.

 

 

 

REYNATO S. PUNO

Chief Justice



[1] Filed under Rule 65 of the RULES OF COURT.

[2] Rollo, pp. 42-48.

[3] Sec. 4. Manifestation to Participate in the Party-List System. Any party, organization or coalition already registered with the Commission need not register anew. However, such party, organization or coalition shall file with the Commission, not later than ninety (90) days before the election, a manifestation of its desire to participate in the party-list system.

[4] G.R. No. 177548, May 10, 2007; see rollo of G.R. No. 177548, pp. 46-48.

[5] Rollo, pp. 74-75.

[6] Numbering supplied.

[7] Agpalo, Statutory Construction, p. 204 (2003); see also The Heirs of George Poe v. Malayan Insurance Company, Inc. G.R. No. 156302, April 7, 2009.

 

[8] See Varias v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189078, February 11, 2010 where we held that the use of wrong considerations is an act not in contemplation of law a jurisdictional error for this is one way of gravely abusing ones discretion.

[9] G.R. No. 179271, April 21, 2009.

[10] Marbury v. Madison (1 Cranch [5 US] 137, 2 L ed 60 [1803]) holds that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.

[11] See Lazatin v. Desierto, G.R. No. 147097, June 5, 2009, citing Fermin v. People, G.R. No. 157643, March 28, 2008, 550 SCRA 132.

[12] Id., citing Chinese Young Men's Christian Association of the Philippine Islands v. Remington Steel Corporation, G.R. No. 159422, March 28, 2008, 550 SCRA 180.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Bautista v. Comelec, 460 Phil, 459, 478 (2003).