EN BANC

 

ATTY. ROMULO B. MACALINTAL,

Petitioner,   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                 - versus -

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PRESIDENTIAL ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL,

Respondent.

 

 

 

G.R. No. 191618

 

Present:

 

CORONA, C.J.,

CARPIO,

CARPIO MORALES,

VELASCO, JR.,

NACHURA,

LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

BRION,

PERALTA,

BERSAMIN,

DEL CASTILLO,

ABAD,

VILLARAMA, JR.,

PEREZ,

MENDOZA, and

SERENO, JJ.

 

Promulgated:

 

June 7, 2011

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

 

 

RESOLUTION

 

NACHURA, J.:

 

 

Before us is a Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioner Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal of our Decision[1] in G.R. No. 191618 dated November 23, 2010, dismissing his petition and declaring the establishment of respondent Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) as constitutional.

Petitioner reiterates his arguments on the alleged unconstitutional creation of the PET:

 

1.       He has standing to file the petition as a taxpayer and a concerned citizen.

2.       He is not estopped from assailing the constitution of the PET simply by virtue of his appearance as counsel of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo before respondent tribunal.

3.       Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution does not provide for the creation of the PET.

4.       The PET violates Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution.

 

To bolster his arguments that the PET is an illegal and unauthorized progeny of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, petitioner invokes our ruling on the constitutionality of the Philippine Truth Commission (PTC).[2] Petitioner cites the concurring opinion of Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro that the PTC is a public office which cannot be created by the President, the power to do so being lodged exclusively with Congress. Thus, petitioner submits that if the President, as head of the Executive Department, cannot create the PTC, the Supreme Court, likewise, cannot create the PET in the absence of an act of legislature.

 

On the other hand, in its Comment to the Motion for Reconsideration, the Office of the Solicitor General maintains that:

 

1.       Petitioner is without standing to file the petition.

2.       Petitioner is estopped from assailing the jurisdiction of the PET.

3.       The constitution of the PET is “on firm footing on the basis of the grant of authority to the [Supreme] Court to be the sole judge of all election contests for the President or Vice-President under paragraph 7, Section 4, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.”

 

Except for the invocation of our decision in Louis ‟Barok” C. Biraogo v. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010,[3] petitioner does not allege new arguments to warrant reconsideration of our Decision.

 

          We cannot agree with his insistence that the creation of the PET is unconstitutional. We reiterate that the abstraction of the Supreme Court acting as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal from the unequivocal grant of jurisdiction in the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution is sound and tenable. The provision reads:

         

Sec. 4. x x x.

 

            The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.

 

 

          We mapped out the discussions of the Constitutional Commission on the foregoing provision and concluded therefrom that:

 

            The mirabile dictu of the grant of jurisdiction to this Court, albeit found in the Article on the executive branch of government, and the constitution of the PET, is evident in the discussions of the Constitutional Commission. On the exercise of this Court’s judicial power as sole judge of presidential and vice-presidential election contests, and to promulgate its rules for this purpose, we find the proceedings in the Constitutional Commission most instructive:

 

MR. DAVIDE. On line 25, after the words "Vice-President," I propose to add AND MAY PROMULGATE ITS RULES FOR THE PURPOSE. This refers to the Supreme Court sitting en banc. This is also to confer on the Supreme Court exclusive authority to enact the necessary rules while acting as sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

MR. REGALADO. My personal position is that the rule-making power of the Supreme Court with respect to its internal procedure is already implicit under the Article on the Judiciary; considering, however, that according to the Commissioner, the purpose of this is to indicate the sole power of the Supreme Court without intervention by the legislature in the promulgation of its rules on this particular point, I think I will personally recommend its acceptance to the Committee.

x  x  x  x

 

MR. NOLLEDO x x x.

 

With respect to Sections 10 and 11 on page 8, I understand that the Committee has also created an Electoral Tribunal in the Senate and a Commission on Appointments which may cover membership from both Houses. But my question is: It seems to me that the committee report does not indicate which body should promulgate the rules that shall govern the Electoral Tribunal and the Commission on Appointments. Who shall then promulgate the rules of these bodies?

 

MR. DAVIDE. The Electoral Tribunal itself will establish and promulgate its rules because it is a body distinct and independent already from the House, and so with the Commission on Appointments also. It will have the authority to promulgate its own rules.

 

On another point of discussion relative to the grant of judicial power, but equally cogent, we listen to former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion:

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.

 

Would the Commissioner not consider that violative of the doctrine of separation of powers?

 

MR. CONCEPCION. I think Commissioner Bernas explained that this is a contest between two parties. This is a judicial power.

 

MR. SUAREZ. We know, but practically the Committee is giving to the judiciary the right to declare who will be the President of our country, which to me is a political action.

MR. CONCEPCION. There are legal rights which are enforceable under the law, and these are essentially justiciable questions.

 

MR. SUAREZ. If the election contest proved to be long, burdensome and tedious, practically all the time of the Supreme Court sitting en banc would be occupied with it considering that they will be going over millions and millions of ballots or election returns, Madam President.


Echoing the same sentiment and affirming the grant of judicial power to the Supreme Court, Justice Florenz D. Regalado and Fr. Joaquin Bernas both opined:

MR. VILLACORTA. Thank you very much, Madam President.

I am not sure whether Commissioner Suarez has expressed his point. On page 2, the fourth paragraph of Section 4 provides:

The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

May I seek clarification as to whether or not the matter of determining the outcome of the contests relating to the election returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President is purely a political matter and, therefore, should not be left entirely to the judiciary. Will the above-quoted provision not impinge on the doctrine of separation of powers between the executive and the judicial departments of the government?

MR. REGALADO. No, I really do not feel that would be a problem. This is a new provision incidentally. It was not in the 1935 Constitution nor in the 1973 Constitution.

MR. VILLACORTA. That is right.


MR. REGALADO. We feel that it will not be an intrusion into the separation of powers guaranteed to the judiciary because this is strictly an adversarial and judicial proceeding.

 

MR. VILLACORTA. May I know the rationale of the Committee because this supersedes Republic Act 7950 which provides for the Presidential Electoral Tribunal?

FR. BERNAS. Precisely, this is necessary. Election contests are, by their nature, judicial. Therefore, they are cognizable only by courts. If, for instance, we did not have a constitutional provision on an electoral tribunal for the Senate or an electoral tribunal for the House, normally, as composed, that cannot be given jurisdiction over contests.

 

So, the background of this is really the case of Roxas v. Lopez. The Gentleman will remember that in that election, Lopez was declared winner. He filed a protest before the Supreme Court because there was a republic act which created the Supreme Court as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal. The question in this case was whether new powers could be given the Supreme Court by law. In effect, the conflict was actually whether there was an attempt to create two Supreme Courts and the answer of the Supreme Court was: "No, this did not involve the creation of two Supreme Courts, but precisely we are giving new jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, as it is allowed by the Constitution. Congress may allocate various jurisdictions."

Before the passage of that republic act, in case there was any contest between two presidential candidates or two vice-presidential candidates, no one had jurisdiction over it. So, it became necessary to create a Presidential Electoral Tribunal. What we have done is to constitutionalize what was statutory but it is not an infringement on the separation of powers because the power being given to the Supreme Court is a judicial power.


Unmistakable from the foregoing is that the exercise of our power to judge presidential and vice-presidential election contests, as well as the rule-making power adjunct thereto, is plenary; it is not as restrictive as petitioner would interpret it. In fact, former Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., who proposed the insertion of the phrase, intended the Supreme Court to exercise exclusive authority to promulgate its rules of procedure for that purpose. To this, Justice Regalado forthwith assented and then emphasized that the sole power ought to be without intervention by the legislative department. Evidently, even the legislature cannot limit the judicial power to resolve presidential and vice-presidential election contests and our rule-making power connected thereto.

To foreclose all arguments of petitioner, we reiterate that the establishment of the PET simply constitutionalized what was statutory before the 1987 Constitution. The experiential context of the PET in our country cannot be denied.[4]

 

 

          Stubbornly, despite the explicit reference of the Members of the Constitutional Commission to a Presidential Electoral Tribunal, with Fr. Joaquin Bernas categorically declaring that in crafting the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, they “constitutionalize[d] what was statutory,” petitioner continues to insist that the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution does not provide for the creation of the PET. Petitioner is adamant that “the fact that [the provision] does not expressly prohibit [the] creation [of the PET] is not an authority for the Supreme Court to create the same.”

 

          Petitioner is going to town under the misplaced assumption that the text of the provision itself was the only basis for this Court to sustain the PET’s constitutionality.

 

          We reiterate that the PET is authorized by the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution and as supported by the discussions of the Members of the Constitutional Commission, which drafted the present Constitution.

 

          The explicit reference by the framers of our Constitution to constitutionalizing what was merely statutory before is not diluted by the absence of a phrase, line or word, mandating the Supreme Court to create a Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

 

          Suffice it to state that the Constitution, verbose as it already is, cannot contain the specific wording required by petitioner in order for him to accept the constitutionality of the PET.

 

          In our Decision, we clarified the structure of the PET:

 

Be that as it may, we hasten to clarify the structure of the PET as a legitimate progeny of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, composed of members of the Supreme Court, sitting en banc. The following exchange in the 1986 Constitutional Commission should provide enlightenment:

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you. Let me proceed to line 23, page 2, wherein it is provided, and I quote:

 

The Supreme Court, sitting en banc[,] shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of the President or Vice-President.

Are we not giving enormous work to the Supreme Court especially when it is directed to sit en banc as the sole judge of all presidential and vice-presidential election contests?

 

MR. SUMULONG. That question will be referred to Commissioner Concepcion.

 

MR. CONCEPCION. This function was discharged by the Supreme Court twice and the Supreme Court was able to dispose of each case in a period of one year as provided by law. Of course, that was probably during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I do not know how the present Supreme Court would react to such circumstances, but there is also the question of who else would hear the election protests.

 

MR. SUAREZ. We are asking this question because between lines 23 to 25, there are no rules provided for the hearings and there is not time limit or duration for the election contest to be decided by the Supreme Court. Also, we will have to consider the historical background that when R.A. 1793, which organized the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, was promulgated on June 21, 1957, at least three famous election contests were presented and two of them ended up in withdrawal by the protestants out of sheer frustration because of the delay in the resolution of the cases. I am referring to the electoral protest that was lodged by former President Carlos P. Garcia against our "kabalen" former President Diosdado Macapagal in 1961 and the vice-presidential election contest filed by the late Senator Gerardo Roxas against Vice-President Fernando Lopez in 1965.

MR. CONCEPCION. I cannot answer for what the protestants had in mind. But when that protest of Senator Roxas was withdrawn, the results were already available. Senator Roxas did not want to have a decision adverse to him. The votes were being counted already, and he did not get what he expected so rather than have a decision adverse to his protest, he withdrew the case.

 

x x x x

 

MR. SUAREZ. I see. So the Commission would not have any objection to vesting in the Supreme Court this matter of resolving presidential and vice-presidential contests?

MR. CONCEPCION. Personally, I would not have any objection.

MR. SUAREZ. Thank you.

 

Would the Commissioner not consider that violative of the doctrine of separation of powers?

 

MR. CONCEPCION. I think Commissioner Bernas explained that this is a contest between two parties. This is a judicial power.

 

MR. SUAREZ. We know, but practically the Committee is giving to the judiciary the right to declare who will be the President of our country, which to me is a political action.

MR. CONCEPCION. There are legal rights which are enforceable under the law, and these are essentially justiciable questions.

 

MR. SUAREZ. If the election contest proved to be long, burdensome and tedious, practically all the time of the Supreme Court sitting en banc would be occupied with it considering that they will be going over millions and millions of ballots or election returns, Madam President.

MR. CONCEPCION. The time consumed or to be consumed in this contest for President is dependent upon they key number of teams of revisors. I have no experience insofar as contests in other offices are concerned.

MR. SUAREZ. Although there is a requirement here that the Supreme Court is mandated to sit en banc?

MR. CONCEPCION. Yes.

 

MR. SUAREZ. I see.

 

MR. CONCEPCION. The steps involved in this contest are: First, the ballot boxes are opened before teams of three, generally, a representative each of the court, of the protestant and of the "protestee." It is all a questions of how many teams are organized. Of course, that can be expensive, but it would be expensive whatever court one would choose. There were times that the Supreme Court, with sometimes 50 teams at the same time working, would classify the objections, the kind of problems, and the court would only go over the objected votes on which the parties could not agree. So it is not as awesome as it would appear insofar as the Court is concerned. What is awesome is the cost of the revision of the ballots because each party would have to appoint one representative for every team, and that may take quite a big amount.

 

MR. SUAREZ. If we draw from the Commissioner's experience which he is sharing with us, what would be the reasonable period for the election contest to be decided?
MR. CONCEPCION. Insofar as the Supreme Court is concerned, the Supreme Court always manages to dispose of the case in one year.

 

MR. SUAREZ. In one year. Thank you for the clarification.[5]



          Judicial power granted to the Supreme Court by the same Constitution is plenary. And under the doctrine of necessary implication, the additional jurisdiction bestowed by the last paragraph of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution to decide presidential and vice-presidential elections contests includes the means necessary to carry it into effect. Thus:

 

Obvious from the foregoing is the intent to bestow independence to the Supreme Court as the PET, to undertake the Herculean task of deciding election protests involving presidential and vice-presidential candidates in accordance with the process outlined by former Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion. It was made in response to the concern aired by delegate Jose E. Suarez that the additional duty may prove too burdensome for the Supreme Court. This explicit grant of independence and of the plenary powers needed to discharge this burden justifies the budget allocation of the PET.


The conferment of additional jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, with the duty characterized as an "awesome" task, includes the means necessary to carry it into effect under the doctrine of necessary implication. We cannot overemphasize that the abstraction of the PET from the explicit grant of power to the Supreme Court, given our abundant experience, is not unwarranted.

A plain reading of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, readily reveals a grant of authority to the Supreme Court sitting en banc. In the same vein, although the method by which the Supreme Court exercises this authority is not specified in the provision, the grant of power does not contain any limitation on the Supreme Court's exercise thereof. The Supreme Court's method of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, through the PET, is actually a derivative of the exercise of the prerogative conferred by the aforequoted constitutional provision. Thus, the subsequent directive in the provision for the Supreme Court to "promulgate its rules for the purpose."

 

The conferment of full authority to the Supreme Court, as a PET, is equivalent to the full authority conferred upon the electoral tribunals of the Senate and the House of Representatives, i.e., the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), which we have affirmed on numerous occasions.[6]

 

            Next, petitioner still claims that the PET exercises quasi-judicial power and, thus, its members violate the proscription in Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution, which reads:

 

            SEC. 12. The Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions.

 

 

          We dispose of this argument as we have done in our Decision, viz.:

 

 

The traditional grant of judicial power is found in Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution which provides that the power "shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law." Consistent with our presidential system of government, the function of "dealing with the settlement of disputes, controversies or conflicts involving rights, duties or prerogatives that are legally demandable and enforceable" is apportioned to courts of justice. With the advent of the 1987 Constitution, judicial power was expanded to include "the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government." The power was expanded, but it remained absolute.

The set up embodied in the Constitution and statutes characterizes the resolution of electoral contests as essentially an exercise of judicial power.

At the barangay and municipal levels, original and exclusive jurisdiction over election contests is vested in the municipal or metropolitan trial courts and the regional trial courts, respectively.


At the higher levels - city, provincial, and regional, as well as congressional and senatorial - exclusive and original jurisdiction is lodged in the COMELEC and in the House of Representatives and Senate Electoral Tribunals, which are not, strictly and literally speaking, courts of law. Although not courts of law, they are, nonetheless, empowered to resolve election contests which involve, in essence, an exercise of judicial power, because of the explicit constitutional empowerment found in Section 2(2), Article IX-C (for the COMELEC) and Section 17, Article VI (for the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals) of the Constitution. Besides, when the COMELEC, the HRET, and the SET decide election contests, their decisions are still subject to judicial review - via a petition for certiorari filed by the proper party - if there is a showing that the decision was rendered with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction.

It is also beyond cavil that when the Supreme Court, as PET, resolves a presidential or vice-presidential election contest, it performs what is essentially a judicial power. In the landmark case of Angara v. Electoral Commission, Justice Jose P. Laurel enucleated that "it would be inconceivable if the Constitution had not provided for a mechanism by which to direct the course of government along constitutional channels." In fact, Angara pointed out that "[t]he Constitution is a definition of the powers of government." And yet, at that time, the 1935 Constitution did not contain the expanded definition of judicial power found in Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 2 of the present Constitution.


With the explicit provision, the present Constitution has allocated to the Supreme Court, in conjunction with latter's exercise of judicial power inherent in all courts, the task of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, with full authority in the exercise thereof. The power wielded by PET is a derivative of the plenary judicial power allocated to courts of law, expressly provided in the Constitution. On the whole, the Constitution draws a thin, but, nevertheless, distinct line between the PET and the Supreme Court.


If the logic of petitioner is to be followed, all Members of the Court, sitting in the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals would violate the constitutional proscription found in Section 12, Article VIII. Surely, the petitioner will be among the first to acknowledge that this is not so. The Constitution which, in Section 17, Article VI, explicitly provides that three Supreme Court Justices shall sit in the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals, respectively, effectively exempts the Justices-Members thereof from the prohibition in Section 12, Article VIII. In the same vein, it is the Constitution itself, in Section 4, Article VII, which exempts the Members of the Court, constituting the PET, from the same prohibition.


We have previously declared that the PET is not simply an agency to which Members of the Court were designated. Once again, the PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent, but not separate, from the judicial department, i.e., the Supreme Court. McCulloch v. State of Maryland proclaimed that "[a] power without the means to use it, is a nullity." The vehicle for the exercise of this power, as intended by the Constitution and specifically mentioned by the Constitutional Commissioners during the discussions on the grant of power to this Court, is the PET. Thus, a microscopic view, like the petitioner's, should not constrict an absolute and constitutional grant of judicial power.[7]

 

 

          Finally, petitioner’s application of our decision in Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission[8] to the present case is an unmitigated quantum leap.

 

          The decision therein held that the PTC “finds justification under Section 17, Article VII of the Constitution.” A plain reading of the constitutional provisions, i.e., last paragraph of Section 4 and Section 17, both of Article VII on the Executive Branch, reveals that the two are differently worded and deal with separate powers of the Executive and the Judicial Branches of government. And as previously adverted to, the basis for the constitution of the PET was, in fact, mentioned in the deliberations of the Members of the Constitutional Commission during the drafting of the present Constitution.

 

          WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED. Our Decision in G.R. No. 191618 STANDS.

         

            SO ORDERED.

           

 

 

                                                ANTONIO EDUARDO B. NACHURA

                                                Associate Justice

         

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

CONCHITA CARPIO MORALES

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

ARTURO D. BRION

Associate Justice

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

 

 

 

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ                          JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice                                              Associate Justice

 

 

 

MARIA LOURDES P.A. SERENO

Associate Justice

 

 

C E R T I F I C A T I O N

 

          Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, I certify 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.

 

 

 

                                                 RENATO C. CORONA

                                                 Chief Justice

 

 



[1]               Rollo, pp. 71-102.

[2]               Entitled “Biraogo v. Philippine Truth Commission” and “Lagman v. Executive Secretary,” docketed as G.R. Nos. 192935 and 193036, respectively, and promulgated on December 7, 2010.

[3]               G.R. No. 192935, December 7, 2010.

[4]               Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal v. Presidential Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 191618, November 23, 2010.

[5]               Id.

[6]               Id.

[7]               Id.

[8]               Supra note 3.