Republic of the Philippines

Supreme Court

Manila

 

EN BANC

 

 

DATU MICHAEL ABAS KIDA,

in his personal capacity, and in representation of MAGUINDANAO FEDERATION OF AUTONOMOUS IRRIGATORS ASSOCIATION, INC., HADJI MUHMINA J. USMAN, JOHN ANTHONY L. LIM, JAMILON T. ODIN, ASRIN TIMBOL JAIYARI, MUJIB M. KALANG, ALIH AL-SAIDI J. SAPI-E, KESSAR DAMSIE ABDIL, and BASSAM ALUH SAUPI,

Petitioners,   

 

 

                 - versus -

 

 

SENATE OF THE PHILIPPINES, represented by its President JUAN PONCE ENRILE, HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, thru SPEAKER FELICIANO BELMONTE, COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, thru its Chairman, SIXTO BRILLANTES, JR., PAQUITO OCHOA, JR., Office of the President Executive Secretary, FLORENCIO ABAD, JR., Secretary of Budget, and ROBERTO TAN, Treasurer of the Philippines,

Respondents.

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

BASARI D. MAPUPUNO,

                               Petitioner,

 

 

                  - versus -

 

 

SIXTO BRILLANTES, in his capacity as Chairman of the Commission on Elections, FLORENCIO ABAD, JR. in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, PACQUITO OCHOA, JR., in his capacity as Executive Secretary, JUAN PONCE ENRILE, in his capacity as Senate President, and FELICIANO BELMONTE, in his capacity as Speaker of the House of Representatives,

                                     Respondents.

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

 

REP. EDCEL C. LAGMAN,

                                    Petitioner,

 

 

                  - versus -

 

 

PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., in his capacity as the Executive Secretary, and the COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

                                   Respondents.

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

 

ALMARIM CENTI TILLAH, DATU

CASAN CONDING CANA, and PARTIDO DEMOKRATIKO PILIPINO LAKAS NG BAYAN (PDP-LABAN),

                                    Petitioners,

 

 

                     - versus -

 

 

THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, through its Chairman, SIXTO BRILLANTES, JR., HON. PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., in his capacity as Executive Secretary, HON. FLORENCIO B. ABAD, JR., in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management, and HON. ROBERTO B. TAN, in his capacity as Treasurer of the Philippines,

                                     Respondents.

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

 

ATTY. ROMULO B. MACALINTAL,

                                     Petitioner,  

 

 

                     - versus -

 

 

COMMISSION  ON ELECTIONS and THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT, through EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.,

                                     Respondents.

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

 

LUIS “BAROK” BIRAOGO,

                                     Petitioner,

 

 

                     - versus -

 

 

THE  COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR.,

                                    Respondents.

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

 

JACINTO V. PARAS,

                                    Petitioner,   

                  

 

                     - versus -

 

 

EXECUTIVE SECRETARY PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., and the COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS,

                                   Respondents.

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

 

MINORITY RIGHTS FORUM, PHILIPPINES, INC.,

                         Respondents-Intervenor.

 

     G.R. No. 196271

 

     Present:

 

       CORONA, C.J.,

       CARPIO,

       VELASCO, JR.,

       LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,

       BRION,

       PERALTA,

       BERSAMIN,

       DEL CASTILLO,

       ABAD,

       VILLARAMA, JR.,

       PEREZ,

       MENDOZA,

       SERENO,

       REYES, and

       PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

 

      Promulgated:

 

      October 18, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        G.R. No. 196305

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

         G.R. No. 197221

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          G.R. No. 197280

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

          G.R. No. 197282

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

             G.R. No. 197392

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            G.R. No. 197454

 

 

 

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

 

 

D E C I S I O N

         

BRION, J.:

 

 

On June 30, 2011, Republic Act (RA) No. 10153, entitled “An Act Providing for the Synchronization of the Elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) with the National and Local Elections and for Other Purposes” was enacted. The law reset the ARMM elections from  the 8th  of August 2011, to the second Monday of May 2013 and every three (3) years thereafter, to coincide with the country’s regular national and local elections. The law as well granted the President the power to “appoint officers-in-charge (OICs) for the Office of the Regional Governor, the Regional Vice-Governor, and the Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly, who shall perform the functions pertaining to the said offices until the officials duly elected in the May 2013 elections shall have qualified and assumed office.”

 

Even before its formal passage, the bills that became RA No. 10153 already spawned petitions against their validity; House Bill No. 4146 and Senate Bill No. 2756 were challenged in petitions filed with this Court.  These petitions multiplied after RA No. 10153 was passed. 

 

Factual Antecedents

 

The State, through Sections 15 to 22, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, mandated the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras.  Section 15 states:

 

Section 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.   

 

Section 18 of the Article, on the other hand, directed Congress to enact an organic act for these autonomous regions to concretely carry into effect the granted autonomy.

 

Section 18. The Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region with the assistance and participation of the regional consultative commission composed of representatives appointed by the President from a list of nominees from multisectoral bodies. The organic act shall define the basic structure of government for the region consisting of the executive department and legislative assembly, both of which shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units. The organic acts shall likewise provide for special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction consistent with the provisions of this Constitution and national laws.

 

The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region.

 

On August 1, 1989 or two years after the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution, Congress acted through Republic Act (RA) No. 6734 entitled “An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.”  A plebiscite was held on November 6, 1990 as required by Section 18(2), Article X of RA No. 6734, thus fully establishing the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).  The initially assenting provinces were Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.  RA No. 6734 scheduled the first regular elections for the regional officials of the ARMM on a date not earlier than 60 days nor later than 90 days after its ratification.

 

          RA No. 9054 (entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6734, entitled An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as Amended”) was the next legislative act passed.  This law provided further refinement in the basic ARMM structure first defined in the original organic act, and reset the regular elections for the ARMM regional officials to the second Monday of September 2001.

 

Congress passed the next law affecting ARMM – RA No. 9140[1] - on June 22, 2001.  This law reset the first regular elections originally scheduled under RA No. 9054, to November 26, 2001.  It likewise set the plebiscite to ratify RA No. 9054 to not later than August 15, 2001.

 

RA No. 9054 was ratified in a plebiscite held on August 14, 2001. The province of Basilan and Marawi City voted to join ARMM on the same date. 

 

RA No. 9333[2] was subsequently passed by Congress to reset the ARMM regional elections to the 2nd Monday of August 2005, and on the same date every 3 years thereafter. Unlike RA No. 6734 and RA No. 9054, RA No. 9333 was not ratified in a plebiscite.

 

Pursuant to RA No. 9333, the next ARMM regional elections should have been held on August 8, 2011. COMELEC had begun preparations for these elections and had accepted certificates of candidacies for the various regional offices to be elected.  But on June 30, 2011, RA No. 10153 was enacted, resetting the ARMM elections to May 2013, to coincide with the regular national and local elections of the country.

 

RA No. 10153 originated in the House of Representatives as House Bill (HB) No. 4146, seeking the postponement of the ARMM elections scheduled on August 8, 2011. On March 22, 2011, the House of Representatives passed HB No. 4146, with one hundred ninety one (191) Members voting in its favor.

 

After the Senate received HB No. 4146, it adopted its own version, Senate Bill No. 2756 (SB No. 2756), on June 6, 2011. Thirteen (13) Senators voted favorably for its passage. On June 7, 2011, the House of Representative concurred with the Senate amendments, and on June 30, 2011, the President signed RA No. 10153 into law.

 

As mentioned, the early challenge to RA No. 10153 came through a petition filed with this Court – G.R. No. 196271[3] - assailing the constitutionality of both HB No. 4146 and SB No. 2756, and challenging the validity of  RA No. 9333 as well for non-compliance with the constitutional plebiscite requirement. Thereafter, petitioner Basari Mapupuno in G.R. No. 196305 filed another petition[4] also assailing the validity of RA No. 9333.  

 

With the enactment into law of RA No. 10153, the COMELEC stopped its preparations for the ARMM elections.  The law gave rise as well to the filing of the following petitions against its constitutionality:

 

a)     Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition[5] filed by Rep. Edcel Lagman as a member of the House of Representatives against Paquito Ochoa, Jr. (in his capacity as the Executive Secretary) and the COMELEC, docketed as G.R. No. 197221;

 

b)    Petition for Mandamus and Prohibition[6] filed by Atty. Romulo Macalintal as a taxpayer against the COMELEC, docketed as G.R. No. 197282;

 

c)     Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus, Injunction and Preliminary Injunction[7] filed by Louis “Barok” Biraogo against the COMELEC and Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., docketed as G.R. No. 197392; and

 

d)    Petition for Certiorari and Mandamus[8] filed by Jacinto Paras as a member of the House of Representatives against Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. and the COMELEC, docketed as G.R. No. 197454.

 

Petitioners Alamarim Centi Tillah and Datu Casan Conding Cana as registered voters from the ARMM, with the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (a political party with candidates in the ARMM regional elections scheduled for August 8, 2011), also filed a Petition for Prohibition and Mandamus[9] against the COMELEC, docketed as G.R. No. 197280, to assail the constitutionality of RA No. 9140, RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153.

 

          Subsequently, Anak Mindanao Party-List, Minority Rights Forum Philippines, Inc. and Bangsamoro Solidarity Movement filed their own  Motion for Leave to Admit their Motion for Intervention and Comment-in-Intervention dated July 18, 2011. On July 26, 2011, the Court granted the motion. In the same Resolution, the Court ordered the consolidation of all the petitions relating to the constitutionality of HB No. 4146, SB No. 2756, RA No. 9333, and RA No. 10153.

 

          Oral arguments were held on August 9, 2011 and August 16, 2011.  Thereafter, the parties were instructed to submit their respective memoranda within twenty (20) days.

 

          On September 13, 2011, the Court issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the implementation of RA No. 10153 and ordering the incumbent elective officials of ARMM to continue to perform their functions should these cases not be decided by the end of their term on September 30, 2011. 

 

The Arguments

 

          The petitioners assailing RA No. 9140, RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 assert that these laws amend RA No. 9054 and thus, have to comply with the supermajority vote and plebiscite requirements prescribed under Sections 1 and 3, Article XVII of RA No. 9094 in order to become effective.

 

          The petitions assailing RA No. 10153 further maintain that it is unconstitutional for its failure to comply with the three-reading requirement of Section 26(2), Article VI of the Constitution.  Also cited as grounds are the alleged violations of the right of suffrage of the people of ARMM, as well as the failure to adhere to the “elective and representative” character of the executive and legislative departments of the ARMM. Lastly, the petitioners challenged the grant to the President of the power to appoint OICs to undertake the functions of the elective ARMM officials until the officials elected under the May 2013 regular elections shall have assumed office. Corrolarily, they also argue that the power of appointment also gave the President the power of control over the ARMM, in complete violation of Section 16, Article X of the Constitution.

 

The Issues

 

 

          From the parties’ submissions, the following issues were recognized and argued by the parties in the oral arguments of August 9 and 16, 2011:

 

I.       Whether the 1987 Constitution mandates the synchronization of elections

 

II.    Whether the passage of RA No. 10153 violates Section 26(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution

 

III. Whether the passage of RA No. 10153 requires a supermajority vote and plebiscite

 

A.   Does the postponement of the ARMM regular elections constitute an amendment to Section 7, Article XVIII of RA No. 9054?

 

B.   Does the requirement of a supermajority vote for amendments or revisions to RA No. 9054 violate Section 1 and Section 16(2), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and the corollary doctrine on irrepealable laws?

 

C.   Does the requirement of a plebiscite apply only in the creation of autonomous regions under paragraph 2, Section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution?

 

IV.            Whether RA No. 10153 violates the autonomy granted to the ARMM

 

V.   Whether the grant of the power to appoint OICs violates:

 

A.   Section 15, Article X of the 1987 Constitution

 

B.   Section 16, Article X of the 1987 Constitution

 

C.   Section 18, Article X of the 1987 Constitution

 

VI.            Whether the proposal to hold special elections is constitutional and legal.

 

We shall discuss these issues in the order they are presented above.

 

 

OUR RULING

 

We resolve to DISMISS the petitions and thereby UPHOLD the constitutionality of RA No. 10153 in toto.

 

I.  Synchronization as a recognized constitutional mandate

 

          The respondent Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) argues that the Constitution mandates synchronization, and in support of this position, cites Sections 1, 2 and 5, Article XVIII (Transitory Provisions) of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:

 

Section 1. The first elections of Members of the Congress under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1987.

The first local elections shall be held on a date to be determined by the President, which may be simultaneous with the election of the Members of the Congress. It shall include the election of all Members of the city or municipal councils in the Metropolitan Manila area.

Section 2. The Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and the local officials first elected under this Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.

Of the Senators elected in the election in 1992, the first twelve obtaining the highest number of votes shall serve for six year and the remaining twelve for three years.

xxx

Section 5. The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.

The first regular elections for President and Vice-President under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1992.

 

We agree with this position.

 

While the Constitution does not expressly state that Congress has to synchronize national and local elections, the clear intent towards this objective can be gleaned from the Transitory Provisions (Article XVIII) of the Constitution,[10] which show the extent to which the Constitutional Commission, by deliberately making adjustments to the terms of the incumbent officials, sought to attain synchronization of elections.[11]

 

The objective behind setting a common termination date for all elective officials, done among others through the shortening the terms of the twelve winning senators with the least number of votes, is to synchronize the holding of all future elections – whether national or local – to once every three years.[12] This intention finds full support in the discussions during the Constitutional Commission deliberations.[13]

These Constitutional Commission exchanges, read with the provisions of the Transitory Provisions of the Constitution, all serve as patent indicators of the constitutional mandate to hold synchronized national and local elections, starting the second Monday of May, 1992 and for all the following elections.

 

This Court was not left behind in recognizing the synchronization of the national and local elections as a constitutional mandate. In Osmeña v. Commission on Elections,[14] we explained:

 

It is clear from the aforequoted provisions of the 1987 Constitution that the terms of office of Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, the local officials, the President and the Vice-President have been synchronized to end on the same hour, date and year — noon of June 30, 1992.

It is likewise evident from the wording of the above-mentioned Sections that the term of synchronization is used synonymously as the phrase holding simultaneously since this is the precise intent in terminating their Office Tenure on the same day or occasion. This common termination date will synchronize future elections to once every three years (Bernas, the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, Vol. II, p. 605).

That the election for Senators, Members of the House of Representatives and the local officials (under Sec. 2, Art. XVIII) will have to be synchronized with the election for President and Vice President (under Sec. 5, Art. XVIII) is likewise evident from the x x x  records of the proceedings in the Constitutional Commission. [Emphasis supplied.]

 

Although called regional elections, the ARMM elections should be included among the elections to be synchronized as it is a “local” election based on the wording and structure of the Constitution.

 

A basic rule in constitutional construction is that the words used should be understood in the sense that they have in common use and given their ordinary meaning, except when technical terms are employed, in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails.[15] As this Court explained in People v. Derilo,[16] “[a]s the Constitution is not primarily a lawyer’s document, its language should be understood in the sense that it may have in common. Its words should be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed.”

 

          Understood in its ordinary sense, the word “local” refers to something that primarily serves the needs of a particular limited district, often a community or minor political subdivision.[17] Regional elections in the ARMM for the positions of governor, vice-governor and regional assembly representatives obviously fall within this classification, since they pertain to the elected officials who will serve within the limited region of ARMM.

 

From the perspective of the Constitution, autonomous regions are considered one of the forms of local governments, as evident from Article X  of the Constitution entitled “Local Government.”  Autonomous regions are established and discussed under Sections 15 to 21 of this Article – the article wholly devoted to Local Government. That an autonomous region is considered a form of local government is also reflected in Section 1, Article X of the Constitution, which provides:

 

Section 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. There shall be autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao, and the Cordilleras as hereinafter provided. 

 

 

Thus, we find the contention – that the synchronization mandated by  the Constitution does not include the regional elections of the ARMM –unmeritorious.  We shall refer to synchronization in the course of our discussions below, as this concept permeates the consideration of the various issues posed in this case and must be recalled time and again for its complete resolution.

 

 

II.  The President’s Certification on the Urgency of RA No. 10153

 

The petitioners in G.R. No. 197280 also challenge the validity of RA No. 10153 for its alleged failure to comply with Section 26(2), Article VI of the Constitution[18] which provides that before bills passed by either the House or the Senate can become laws, they must pass through three readings on separate days. The exception is when the President certifies to the necessity of the bill’s immediate enactment.

 

The Court, in Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance,[19] explained the effect of the President’s certification of necessity in the following manner:

 

The presidential certification dispensed with the requirement not only of printing but also that of reading the bill on separate days. The phrase "except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment, etc." in Art. VI, Section 26[2] qualifies the two stated conditions before a bill can become a law: [i] the bill has passed three readings on separate days and [ii] it has been printed in its final form and distributed three days before it is finally approved.

 

xxx

That upon the certification of a bill by the President, the requirement of three readings on separate days and of printing and distribution can be dispensed with is supported by the weight of legislative practice. For example, the bill defining the certiorari jurisdiction of this Court which, in consolidation with the Senate version, became Republic Act No. 5440, was passed on second and third readings in the House of Representatives on the same day [May 14, 1968] after the bill had been certified by the President as urgent.

 

In the present case, the records show that the President wrote to the Speaker of the House of Representatives to certify the necessity of the immediate enactment of a law synchronizing the ARMM elections with the national and local elections.[20]  Following our Tolentino ruling, the President’s certification exempted both the House and the Senate from having to comply with the three separate readings requirement. 

 

On the follow-up contention that no necessity existed for the immediate enactment of these bills since there was no public calamity or emergency that had to be met, again we hark back to our ruling in Tolentino:

 

The sufficiency of the factual basis of the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus or declaration of martial law Art. VII, Section 18, or the existence of a national emergency justifying the delegation of extraordinary powers to the President under Art. VI, Section 23(2) is subject to judicial review because basic rights of individuals may be of hazard. But the factual basis of presidential certification of bills, which involves doing away with procedural requirements designed to insure that bills are duly considered by members of Congress, certainly should elicit a different standard of review. [Emphasis supplied.]

 

 

 

The House of Representatives and the Senate – in the exercise of their legislative discretion – gave full recognition to the President’s certification and promptly enacted RA No. 10153.  Under the circumstances, nothing short of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the two houses of Congress can justify our intrusion under our power of judicial review.[21]

 

The petitioners, however, failed to provide us with any cause or justification for this course of action.  Hence, while the judicial department and this Court are not bound by the acceptance of the President's certification by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, prudent exercise of our powers and respect due our co-equal branches of government in matters committed to them by the Constitution, caution a stay of the judicial hand.[22]

 

In any case, despite the President’s certification, the two-fold purpose that underlies the requirement for three readings on separate days of every bill must always be observed to enable our legislators and other parties interested in pending bills to intelligently respond to them.  Specifically,  the purpose with respect to Members of Congress is: (1) to inform the legislators of the matters they shall vote on and (2) to give them notice that a measure is in progress through the enactment process.[23]

 

We find, based on the records of the deliberations on the law, that both advocates and the opponents of the proposed measure had sufficient opportunities to present their views. In this light, no reason exists to nullify RA No. 10153 on the cited ground. 

 

III.  A.  RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 are not amendments to RA No. 9054

The effectivity of RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 has also been challenged because they did not comply with Sections 1 and 3, Article XVII of RA No. 9054 in amending this law. These provisions require:

 

Section 1. Consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, this Organic Act may be reamended or revised by the Congress of the Philippines upon a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate voting separately.

 

Section 3. Any amendment to or revision of this Organic Act shall become effective only when approved by a majority of the vote cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose, which shall be held not earlier than sixty (60) days or later than ninety (90) days after the approval of such amendment or revision.

 

We find no merit in this contention.

 

In the first place, neither RA No. 9333 nor RA No. 10153 amends RA No. 9054.  As an examination of these laws will show, RA No. 9054 only provides for the schedule of the first ARMM elections and does not fix the date of the regular elections.  A need therefore existed for the Congress to fix the date of the subsequent ARMM regular elections, which it did by enacting RA No. 9333 and thereafter, RA No. 10153. Obviously, these subsequent laws – RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 cannot be considered amendments to RA No. 9054 as they did not change or revise any provision in the latter law; they merely filled in a gap in RA No. 9054 or supplemented the law by providing the date of the subsequent regular elections.

 

This view – that Congress thought it best to leave the determination of the date of succeeding ARMM elections to legislative discretion – finds support in ARMM’s recent history.

 

To recall, RA No. 10153 is not the first law passed that rescheduled the ARMM elections.  The First Organic Act – RA No. 6734 – not only did not fix the date of the subsequent elections; it did not even fix the specific date of the first ARMM elections,[24] leaving the date to be fixed in another legislative enactment. Consequently, RA No. 7647,[25] RA No. 8176,[26] RA No. 8746,[27] RA No. 8753,[28] and RA No. 9012[29] were all enacted by Congress to fix the dates of the ARMM elections. Since these laws did not change or modify any part or provision of RA No. 6734, they were not amendments to this latter law.  Consequently, there was no need to submit them to any plebiscite for ratification.

 

The Second Organic Act – RA No. 9054 – which lapsed into law on March 31, 2001, provided that the first elections would be held on the second Monday of September 2001. Thereafter, Congress passed RA No. 9140[30] to reset the date of the ARMM elections.  Significantly, while RA No. 9140 also scheduled the plebiscite for the ratification of the Second Organic Act (RA No. 9054), the new date of the ARMM regional elections fixed in RA No. 9140 was not among the provisions ratified in the plebiscite held to approve RA No. 9054. Thereafter, Congress passed RA No. 9333,[31] which further reset the date of the ARMM regional elections. Again, this law was not ratified through a plebiscite.

 

From these legislative actions, we see the clear intention of Congress to treat the laws which fix the date of the subsequent ARMM elections as separate and distinct from the Organic Acts. Congress only acted consistently with this intent when it passed RA No. 10153 without requiring compliance with the amendment prerequisites embodied in Section 1 and Section 3, Article XVII of RA No. 9054.

 

III. B. Supermajority voting requirement unconstitutional for giving RA No. 9054 the character of an irrepealable law

 

Even assuming that RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 did in fact amend RA No. 9054, the supermajority (2/3) voting requirement required under Section 1, Article XVII of RA No. 9054[32] has to be struck down for giving RA No. 9054 the character of an irrepealable law by requiring more than what the Constitution demands.

 

Section 16(2), Article VI of the Constitution provides that a “majority of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business.” In other words, as long as majority of the members of the House of Representatives or the Senate are present, these bodies have the quorum needed to conduct business and hold session.  Within a quorum, a vote of majority is generally sufficient to enact laws or approve acts. 

 

In contrast, Section 1, Article XVII of RA No. 9054 requires a vote of no less than two-thirds (2/3) of the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate, voting separately, in order to effectively amend RA No. 9054. Clearly, this 2/3 voting requirement is higher than what the Constitution requires for the passage of bills, and served to restrain the plenary powers of Congress to amend, revise or repeal the laws it had passed.  The Court’s pronouncement in City of Davao v. GSIS[33] on this subject best explains the basis and reason for the unconstitutionality:

 

Moreover, it would be noxious anathema to democratic principles for a legislative body to have the ability to bind the actions of future legislative body, considering that both assemblies are regarded with equal footing, exercising as they do the same plenary powers. Perpetual infallibility is not one of the attributes desired in a legislative body, and a legislature which attempts to forestall future amendments or repeals of its enactments labors under delusions of omniscience.

 

xxx

 

A state legislature has a plenary law-making power over all subjects, whether pertaining to persons or things, within its territorial jurisdiction, either to introduce new laws or repeal the old, unless prohibited expressly or by implication by the federal constitution or limited or restrained by its own. It cannot bind itself or its successors by enacting irrepealable laws except when so restrained. Every legislative body may modify or abolish the acts passed by itself or its predecessors. This power of repeal may be exercised at the same session at which the original act was passed; and even while a bill is in its progress and before it becomes a law. This legislature cannot bind a future legislature to a particular mode of repeal. It cannot declare in advance the intent of subsequent legislatures or the effect of subsequent legislation upon existing statutes.[34] (Emphasis ours.)

 

 

Thus, while a supermajority is not a total ban against a repeal, it is a limitation in excess of what the Constitution requires on the passage of bills and is constitutionally obnoxious because it significantly constricts the future legislators’ room for action and flexibility.

III. C. Section 3, Article XVII of RA No. 9054 excessively enlarged the plebiscite requirement found in Section 18, Article X of the Constitution

 

The requirements of RA No. 9054 not only required an unwarranted supermajority, but enlarged as well the plebiscite requirement, as embodied in its Section 3, Article XVII of that Act.  As we did on the supermajority requirement, we find the enlargement of the plebiscite requirement required under Section 18, Article X of the Constitution to be excessive to point of absurdity and, hence, a violation of the Constitution. 

 

Section 18, Article X of the Constitution states that the plebiscite is required only for the creation of autonomous regions and for determining which provinces, cities and geographic areas will be included in the autonomous regions. While the settled rule is that amendments to the Organic Act have to comply with the plebiscite requirement in order to become effective,[35] questions on the extent of the matters requiring ratification may unavoidably arise because of the seemingly general terms of the Constitution and the obvious absurdity that would result if a plebiscite were to be required for every statutory amendment.

 

Section 18, Article X of the Constitution plainly states that “The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by the majority of the votes case by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.”  With these wordings as standard, we interpret the requirement to mean that only amendments to, or revisions of, the Organic Act constitutionally-essential to the creation of autonomous regions – i.e., those aspects specifically mentioned in the Constitution which Congress must provide for in the Organic Act – require ratification through a plebiscite.  These amendments to the Organic Act are those that relate to: (a) the basic structure of the regional government; (b) the region’s judicial system, i.e., the  special  courts  with  personal, family, and property law jurisdiction; and, (c) the grant and extent of the legislative powers constitutionally conceded to the regional government under Section 20, Article X of the Constitution.[36]

 

The date of the ARMM elections does not fall under any of the matters that the Constitution specifically mandated Congress to provide for in the Organic Act. Therefore, even assuming that the supermajority votes and the plebiscite requirements are valid, any change in the date of elections cannot be construed as a substantial amendment of the Organic Act that would require compliance with these requirements.

 

IV.  The synchronization issue

 

As we discussed above, synchronization of national and local elections is a constitutional mandate that Congress must provide for and this synchronization must include the ARMM elections.  On this point, an existing law in fact already exists – RA No. 7166 – as the forerunner of the current RA No. 10153. RA No. 7166 already provides for the synchronization of local elections with the national and congressional elections.  Thus, what RA No. 10153 provides is an old matter for local governments (with the exception of barangay and Sanggunian Kabataan elections where the terms are not constitutionally provided) and is technically a reiteration of what is already reflected in the law, given that regional elections are in reality local elections by express constitutional recognition.[37]

 

To achieve synchronization, Congress necessarily has to reconcile the schedule of the ARMM’s regular elections (which should have been held in August 2011 based on RA No. 9333) with the fixed schedule of the national and local elections (fixed by RA No. 7166 to be held in May 2013). 

 

During the oral arguments, the Court identified the three options open to Congress in order to resolve this problem. These options are: (1) to allow the elective officials in the ARMM to remain in office in a hold over capacity, pursuant to Section 7(1), Article VII of RA No. 9054, until those elected in the synchronized elections assume office;[38] (2) to hold special elections in the ARMM, with the terms of those elected to expire when those elected in the synchronized elections assume office; or (3) to authorize the President to appoint OICs, pursuant to Section 3 of RA No. 10153, also until those elected in the synchronized elections assume office.

 

As will be abundantly clear in the discussion below, Congress, in choosing to grant the President the power to appoint OICs, chose the correct option and passed RA No. 10153 as a completely valid law.

 

V.                           The Constitutionality of RA No. 10153

 

A.             Basic Underlying Premises

 

To fully appreciate the available options, certain underlying material premises must be fully understood.  The first is the extent of the powers of Congress to legislate; the second is the constitutional mandate for the synchronization of elections; and the third is on the concept of autonomy as recognized and established under the 1987 Constitution. 

 

The grant of legislative power to Congress is broad, general and comprehensive.[39] The legislative body possesses plenary power for all purposes of civil government.[40] Any power, deemed to be legislative by usage and tradition, is necessarily possessed by Congress, unless the Constitution has lodged it elsewhere.[41]  Except as limited by the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly, legislative power embraces all subjects and extends to all matters of general concern or common interest.[42]

 

The constitutional limitations on legislative power are either express or implied. The express limitations are generally provided in some provisions of the Declaration of Principles and State Policies (Article 2) and in the provisions Bill of Rights (Article 3).  Other constitutional provisions (such as the initiative and referendum clause of Article 6, Sections 1 and 32, and the autonomy provisions of Article X) provide their own express limitations. The implied limitations are found “in the evident purpose which was in view and the circumstances and historical events which led to the enactment of the particular provision as a part of organic law.”[43] 

 

The constitutional provisions on autonomy – specifically, Sections 15 to 21 of Article X of the Constitution – constitute express limitations on legislative power as they define autonomy, its requirements and its parameters, thus limiting what is otherwise the unlimited power of Congress to legislate on the governance of the autonomous region.

 

Of particular relevance to the issues of the present case are the limitations posed by the prescribed basic structure of government – i.e., that the government must have an executive department and a legislative assembly, both of which must be elective and representative of the constituent political units; national government, too, must not encroach on the legislative powers granted under Section 20, Article X.  Conversely and as expressly reflected in Section 17, Article X, “all powers and functions not granted by this Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government.”

 

The totality of Sections 15 to 21 of Article X should likewise serve as a standard that Congress must observe in dealing with legislation touching on the affairs of the autonomous regions.  The terms of these sections leave no doubt on what the Constitution intends – the idea of self-rule or self-government, in particular, the power to legislate on a wide array of social, economic and administrative matters.  But equally clear under these provisions are the permeating principles of national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Republic, as expressed in the above-quoted Section 17 and in Section 15.[44]  In other words, the Constitution and the supporting jurisprudence, as they now stand, reject the notion of imperium et imperio[45] in the relationship between the national and the regional governments.

 

In relation with synchronization, both autonomy and the synchronization of national and local elections are recognized and established constitutional mandates, with one being as compelling as the other.  If their compelling force differs at all, the difference is in their coverage; synchronization operates on and affects the whole country, while regional autonomy – as the term suggests – directly carries a narrower regional effect although its national effect cannot be discounted.

 

These underlying basic concepts characterize the powers and limitations of Congress when it acted on RA No. 10153.  To succinctly describe the legal situation that faced Congress then, its decision to synchronize the regional elections with the national, congressional and all other local elections (save for barangay and sangguniang kabataan  elections) left it with the problem of how to provide the ARMM with governance in the intervening period between the expiration of the term of those elected in August 2008 and the assumption to office – twenty-one (21) months away – of those who will win in the synchronized elections on May 13, 2013. 

 

The problem, in other words, was for interim measures for this period, consistent with the terms of the Constitution and its established supporting jurisprudence, and with the respect due to the concept of autonomy.  Interim measures, to be sure, is not a strange phenomenon in the Philippine legal landscape. The Constitution’s Transitory Provisions themselves collectively provide measures for transition from the old constitution to the new[46]  and for the introduction of new concepts.[47]  As previously mentioned, the adjustment of elective terms and of elections towards the goal of synchronization first transpired under the Transitory Provisions.  The adjustments, however, failed to look far enough or deeply enough, particularly into the problems that synchronizing regional autonomous elections would entail; thus, the present problem is with us today.

 

The creation of local government units also represents instances when interim measures are required.  In the creation of Quezon del Sur[48] and Dinagat Islands,[49] the creating statutes authorized the President to appoint an interim governor, vice-governor and members of the sangguniang panlalawigan although these positions are essentially elective in character; the appointive officials were to serve until a new set of provincial officials shall have been elected and qualified.[50]  A similar authority to appoint is provided in the transition of a local government from a sub-province to a province.[51]

 

In all these, the need for interim measures is dictated by necessity; out-of-the-way arrangements and approaches were adopted or used in order to adjust to the goal or objective in sight in a manner that does not do violence to the Constitution and to reasonably accepted norms.  Under these limitations, the choice of measures was a question of wisdom left to congressional discretion.

 

To return to the underlying basic concepts, these concepts shall serve as the guideposts and markers in our discussion of the options available to Congress to address the problems brought about by the synchronization of the ARMM elections, properly understood as interim measures that Congress had to provide.  The proper understanding of the options as interim measures assume prime materiality as it is under these terms that the passage of RA No. 10153 should be measured, i.e., given the constitutional objective of synchronization that cannot legally be faulted, did Congress gravely abuse its discretion or violate the Constitution when it addressed through RA No. 10153 the concomitant problems that the adjustment of elections necessarily brought with it? 

 

B. Holdover Option is Unconstitutional

 

We rule out the first option – holdover for those who were elected in executive and legislative positions in the ARMM during the 2008-2011 term – as an option that Congress could have chosen because a holdover violates Section 8, Article X of the Constitution.  This provision states:

 

Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. [emphases ours]

 

 

Since elective ARMM officials are local officials, they are covered and bound by the three-year term limit prescribed by the Constitution; they cannot extend their term through a holdover. As this Court put in Osmeña v. COMELEC:[52]

 

It is not competent for the legislature to extend the term of officers by providing that they shall hold over until their successors are elected and qualified where the constitution has in effect or by clear implication prescribed the term and when the Constitution fixes the day on which the official term shall begin, there is no legislative authority to continue the office beyond that period, even though the successors fail to qualify within the time.

 

In American Jurisprudence it has been stated as follows:

 

“It has been broadly stated that the legislature cannot, by an act postponing the election to fill an office the term of which is limited by the Constitution, extend the term of the incumbent beyond the period as limited by the Constitution.” [Emphasis ours.]

 

Independently of the Osmeña ruling, the primacy of the Constitution as the supreme law of the land dictates that where the Constitution has itself made a determination or given its mandate, then the matters so determined or mandated should be respected until the Constitution itself is changed by amendment or repeal through the applicable constitutional process. A necessary corollary is that none of the three branches of government can deviate from the constitutional mandate except only as the Constitution itself may allow.[53] If at all, Congress may only pass legislation filing in details to fully operationalize the constitutional command or to implement it by legislation if it is non-self-executing; this Court, on the other hand, may only interpret the mandate if an interpretation is appropriate and called for.[54]

 

          In the case of the terms of local officials, their term has been fixed clearly and unequivocally, allowing no room for any implementing legislation with respect to the fixed term itself and no vagueness that would allow an interpretation from this Court. Thus, the term of three years for local officials should stay at three (3) years as fixed by the Constitution and cannot be extended by holdover by Congress.

 

          If it will be claimed that the holdover period is effectively another term mandated by Congress, the net result is for Congress to create a new term and to appoint the occupant for the new term. This view – like the  extension of the elective term – is constitutionally infirm because Congress cannot do indirectly what it cannot do directly, i.e., to act in a way that would effectively extend the term of the incumbents. Indeed, if acts that cannot be legally done directly can be done indirectly, then all laws would be illusory.[55] Congress cannot also create a new term and effectively appoint the occupant of the position for the new term. This is effectively an act of appointment by Congress and an unconstitutional intrusion into the constitutional appointment power of the President.[56] Hence, holdover – whichever way it is viewed – is a constitutionally infirm option that Congress could not have undertaken.

 

          Jurisprudence, of course, is not without examples of cases where the question of holdover was brought before, and given the imprimatur of approval by, this Court. The present case though differs significantly from past cases with contrary rulings, particularly from Sambarani v. COMELEC,[57] Adap v. Comelec,[58] and Montesclaros v. Comelec,[59]  where the Court ruled that the elective officials could hold on to their positions in a hold over capacity.

 

All these past cases refer to elective barangay or sangguniang kabataan  officials  whose  terms of office are  not explicitly provided for in  the  Constitution;  the present case, on the other hand, refers to local elective officials – the ARMM Governor, the ARMM Vice-Governor, and the members of the Regional Legislative Assembly – whose terms fall within the three-year term limit set by Section 8, Article X of the Constitution. Because of their constitutionally limited term, Congress cannot legislate an extension beyond the term for which they were originally elected.

 

Even assuming that holdover is constitutionally permissible, and there had been statutory basis for it (namely Section 7, Article VII of RA No. 9054) in the past,[60] we have to remember that the rule of holdover can only apply as an available option where no express or implied legislative intent to the contrary exists; it cannot apply where such contrary intent is evident.[61]

 

Congress, in passing RA No. 10153, made it explicitly clear that it had the intention of suppressing the holdover rule that prevailed under RA No. 9054 by completely removing this provision. The deletion is a policy decision that is wholly within the discretion of Congress to make in the exercise of its plenary legislative powers; this Court cannot pass upon questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of legislation,[62] except where an attendant unconstitutionality or grave abuse of discretion results.

 

C.  The COMELEC has no authority to order special elections

 

Another option proposed by the petitioner in G.R. No. 197282 is for this Court to compel COMELEC to immediately conduct special elections pursuant to Section 5 and 6 of Batas Pambansa Bilang (BP) 881.

The power to fix the date of elections is essentially legislative in nature, as evident from, and exemplified by, the following provisions of the Constitution:

 

Section 8, Article VI, applicable to the legislature, provides:

 

Section 8.  Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election of the Senators and the Members of the House of Representatives shall be held on the second Monday of May. [Emphasis ours]

           

 

Section 4(3), Article VII, with the same tenor but applicable solely to the President and Vice-President, states:

xxxx

 

Section 4. xxx Unless otherwise provided by law, the regular election for President and Vice-President shall be held on the second Monday of May. [Emphasis ours]

 

 

while Section 3, Article X, on local government, provides:

 

Section 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for xxx the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials[.] [Emphases ours] 

 

These provisions support the conclusion that no elections may be held on any other date for the positions of President, Vice President, Members of Congress and local officials, except when so provided by another Act of Congress, or upon orders of a body or officer to whom Congress may have delegated either the power or the authority to ascertain or fill in the details in the execution of that power.[63]

 

Notably, Congress has acted on the ARMM elections by postponing the scheduled August 2011 elections and setting another date – May 13, 2011 – for regional elections synchronized with the presidential, congressional and other local elections.  By so doing, Congress itself has made a policy decision in the exercise of its legislative wisdom that it shall not call special elections as an adjustment measure in synchronizing the ARMM elections with the other elections.

 

After Congress has so acted, neither the Executive nor the Judiciary can act to the contrary by ordering special elections instead at the call of the COMELEC.  This Court, particularly, cannot make this call without thereby supplanting the legislative decision and effectively legislating.  To be sure, the Court is not without the power to declare an act of Congress null and void for being unconstitutional or for having been exercised in grave abuse of discretion.[64]  But our power rests on very narrow ground and is merely to annul a contravening act of Congress; it is not to supplant the decision of Congress nor to mandate what Congress itself should have done in the exercise of its legislative powers.  Thus, contrary to what the petition in G.R. No. 197282 urges, we cannot compel COMELEC to call for special elections.

 

Furthermore, we have to bear in mind that the constitutional power of the COMELEC, in contrast with the power of Congress to call for, and to set the date of, elections, is limited to enforcing and administering all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election.[65] Statutorily, COMELEC has no power to call for the holding of special elections unless pursuant to a specific statutory grant.  True, Congress did grant, via Sections 5 and 6 of BP 881, COMELEC with the power to postpone elections to another date. However, this power is limited to, and can only be exercised within, the specific terms and circumstances provided for in the law. We quote:

 

Section 5. Postponement of election. - When for any serious cause such as violence, terrorism, loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, force majeure, and other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision, the Commission, motu proprio or upon a verified petition by any interested party, and after due notice and hearing, whereby all interested parties are afforded equal opportunity to be heard, shall postpone the election therein to a date which should be reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause for such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect.

 

Section 6. Failure of election. - If, on account of force majeure, violence, terrorism, fraud, or other analogous causes the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting, or after the voting and during the preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect, and in any of such cases the failure or suspension of election would affect the result of the election, the Commission shall, on the basis of a verified petition by any interested party and after due notice and hearing, call for the holding or continuation of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect on a date reasonably close to the date of the election not held, suspended or which resulted in a failure to elect but not later than thirty days after the cessation of the cause of such postponement or suspension of the election or failure to elect. [Emphasis ours]

 

 

A close reading of Section 5 of BP 881 reveals that it is meant to address instances where elections have already been scheduled to take place but have to be postponed because of (a) violence, (b) terrorism, (c) loss or destruction of election paraphernalia or records, (d) force majeure, and (e) other analogous causes of such a nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible in any political subdivision.  Under the principle of ejusdem generis, the term “analogous causes” will be restricted to those unforeseen or unexpected events that prevent the holding of the scheduled elections. These “analogous causes” are further defined by the phrase “of such nature that the holding of a free, orderly and honest election should become impossible.”

 

Similarly, Section 6 of BP 881 applies only to those situations where elections have already been scheduled but do not take place because of (a) force majeure, (b) violence, (c) terrorism, (d) fraud, or (e) other analogous causes the election in any polling place has not been held on the date fixed, or had been suspended before the hour fixed by law for the closing of the voting, or after the voting and during the preparation and the transmission of the election returns or in the custody or canvass thereof, such election results in a failure to elect. As in Section 5 of BP 881, Section 6 addresses instances where the elections do not occur or had to be suspended because of unexpected and unforeseen circumstances.

 

In the present case, the postponement of the ARMM elections is by lawi.e., by congressional policy – and is pursuant to the constitutional mandate of synchronization of national and local elections. By no stretch of the imagination can these reasons be given the same character as the circumstances contemplated by Section 5 or Section 6 of BP 881, which all pertain to extralegal causes that obstruct the holding of elections.  Courts, to be sure, cannot enlarge the scope of a statute under the guise of interpretation, nor include situations not provided nor intended by the lawmakers.[66] Clearly, neither Section 5 nor Section 6 of BP 881 can apply to the present case and this Court has absolutely no legal basis to compel the COMELEC to hold special elections.

 

D.  The Court has no power to shorten the terms of elective officials

 

 

Even assuming that it is legally permissible for the Court to compel the COMELEC to hold special elections, no legal basis likewise exists to rule that the newly elected ARMM officials shall hold office only until the ARMM officials elected in the synchronized elections shall have assumed office. 

In the first place, the Court is not empowered to adjust the terms of elective officials. Based on the Constitution, the power to fix the term of office of elective officials, which can be exercised only in the case of barangay officials,[67] is specifically given to Congress. Even Congress itself may be denied such power, as shown when the Constitution shortened the terms of twelve Senators obtaining the least votes,[68] and extended the terms of the President and the Vice-President[69] in order to synchronize elections; Congress was not granted this same power.  The settled rule is that terms fixed by the Constitution cannot be changed by mere statute.[70]  More particularly, not even Congress and certainly not this Court, has the authority to fix the terms of elective local officials in the ARMM for less, or more, than the constitutionally mandated three years[71] as this tinkering would directly contravene Section 8, Article X of the Constitution as we ruled in Osmena.

 

Thus, in the same way that the term of elective ARMM officials cannot be extended through a holdover, the term cannot be shortened by putting an expiration date earlier than the three (3) years that the Constitution itself commands.  This is what will happen – a term of less than two years – if a call for special elections shall prevail. In sum, while synchronization is achieved, the result is at the cost of a violation of an express provision of the Constitution. 

 

Neither we nor Congress can opt to shorten the tenure of those officials to be elected in the ARMM elections instead of acting on their term (where the “term” means the time during which the officer may claim to hold office as of right and fixes the interval after which the several incumbents shall succeed one another, while the “tenure” represents the term during which the incumbent actually holds the office).[72] As with the fixing of the elective term, neither Congress nor the Court has any legal basis to shorten the tenure of elective ARMM officials. They would commit an unconstitutional act and gravely abuse their discretion if they do so.

 

E.  The President’s Power to Appoint OICs

 

The above considerations leave only Congress’ chosen interim measure – RA No. 10153 and the appointment by the President of OICs to govern the ARMM during the pre-synchronization period pursuant to Sections 3, 4 and 5 of this law – as the only measure that Congress can make.  This choice itself, however, should be examined for any attendant constitutional infirmity.

 

At the outset, the power to appoint is essentially executive in nature, and the limitations on or qualifications to the exercise of this power should be strictly construed; these limitations or qualifications must be clearly stated in order to be recognized.[73] The appointing power is embodied in Section 16, Article VII of the Constitution, which states:

 

Section 16. The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution. He shall also appoint all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law, and those whom he may be authorized by law to appoint. The Congress may, by law, vest the appointment of other officers lower in rank in the President alone, in the courts, or in the heads of departments, agencies, commissions, or boards. [emphasis ours]

 

This provision classifies into four groups the officers that the President can appoint. These are:

 

First, the heads of the executive departments; ambassadors; other public ministers and consuls; officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, from the rank of colonel or naval captain; and other officers whose appointments are vested in the President in this Constitution;

 

Second, all other officers of the government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law;

 

Third, those whom the President may be authorized by law to appoint; and

 

Fourth, officers lower in rank whose appointments the Congress may by law vest in the President alone.[74]

 

Since the President’s authority to appoint OICs emanates from RA No. 10153, it falls under the third group of officials that the President can appoint pursuant to Section 16, Article VII of the Constitution. Thus, the assailed law facially rests on clear constitutional basis. 

 

If at all, the gravest challenge posed by the petitions to the authority to appoint OICs under Section 3 of RA No. 10153 is the assertion that the Constitution requires that the ARMM executive and legislative officials to be “elective and representative of the constituent political units.” This requirement indeed is an express limitation whose non-observance in the assailed law leaves the appointment of OICs constitutionally defective. 

 

After fully examining the issue, we hold that this alleged  constitutional problem is more apparent than real and becomes very real only if RA No. 10153 were to be mistakenly read as a law that changes the elective and representative character of ARMM positions.  RA No. 10153, however, does not in any way amend what the organic law of the ARMM  (RA No. 9054) sets outs in terms of structure of governance.  What RA No. 10153 in fact only does is to “appoint officers-in-charge for the Office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly who shall perform the functions pertaining to the said offices until the officials duly elected in the May 2013 elections shall have qualified and assumed office.”  This power is far different from appointing elective ARMM officials for the abbreviated term ending on the assumption to office of the officials elected in the May 2013 elections.

 

As we have already established in our discussion of the supermajority and plebiscite requirements, the legal reality is that RA No. 10153 did not amend RA No. 9054.  RA No. 10153, in fact, provides only for synchronization of elections and for the interim measures that must in the meanwhile prevail.  And this is how RA No. 10153 should be read – in the manner it was written and based on its unambiguous facial terms.[75] Aside from its order for synchronization, it is purely and simply an interim measure responding to the adjustments that the synchronization requires. 

 

Thus, the appropriate question to ask is whether the interim measure is an unreasonable move for Congress to adopt, given the legal situation that the synchronization unavoidably brought with it.  In more concrete terms and based on the above considerations, given the plain unconstitutionality of providing for a holdover and the unavailability of constitutional possibilities for lengthening or shortening the term of the elected ARMM officials, is the choice of the President’s power to appoint – for a fixed and specific period as an interim measure, and as allowed under Section 16, Article VII of the Constitution – an unconstitutional or unreasonable choice for Congress to make?

 

Admittedly, the grant of the power to the President under other situations or where the power of appointment would extend beyond the adjustment period for synchronization would be to foster a government that is not “democratic and republican.” For then, the people’s right to choose the leaders to govern them may be said to be systemically withdrawn to the point of fostering an undemocratic regime.  This is the grant that would frontally breach the “elective and representative” governance requirement of Section 18, Article X of the Constitution. 

 

But this conclusion would not be true under the very limited circumstances contemplated in RA No. 10153 where the period is fixed and, more importantly, the terms of governance – both under Section 18, Article X of the Constitution and RA No. 9054 – will not systemically be touched nor affected at all.  To repeat what has previously been said, RA No. 9054 will govern unchanged and continuously, with full effect in accordance with the Constitution, save only for the interim and temporary measures that synchronization of elections requires.  

 

Viewed from another perspective, synchronization will temporarily disrupt the election process in a local community, the ARMM, as well as the community’s choice of leaders, but this will take place under a situation of necessity and as an interim measure in the manner that interim measures have been adopted and used in the creation of local government units[76] and the adjustments of sub-provinces to the status of provinces.[77] These measures, too, are used in light of the wider national demand for the synchronization of elections (considered vis-à-vis the regional interests involved).  The adoption of these measures, in other words, is no different from the exercise by Congress of the inherent police power of the State, where one of the essential tests is the reasonableness of the interim measure taken in light of the given circumstances.

 

Furthermore, the “representative” character of the chosen leaders need not necessarily be affected by the appointment of OICs as this requirement is really a function of the appointment process; only the “elective” aspect shall be supplanted by the appointment of OICs.  In this regard, RA No. 10153 significantly seeks to address concerns arising from the appointments by providing, under Sections 3, 4 and 5 of the assailed law, concrete terms in the Appointment of OIC, the Manner and Procedure of Appointing OICs, and their Qualifications.

 

Based on these considerations, we hold that RA No. 10153 – viewed in its proper context – is a law that is not violative of the Constitution (specifically, its autonomy provisions), and one that is reasonable as well under the circumstances.

 

VI. Other Constitutional Concerns

 

Outside of the above concerns, it has been argued during the oral arguments that upholding the constitutionality of RA No. 10153 would set a dangerous precedent of giving the President the power to cancel elections anywhere in the country, thus allowing him to replace elective officials with OICs. 

This claim apparently misunderstands that an across-the-board cancellation of elections is a matter for Congress, not for the President, to address. It is a power that falls within the powers of Congress in the exercise of its legislative powers.  Even Congress, as discussed above, is limited in what it can legislatively undertake with respect to elections. 

 

If RA No. 10153 cancelled the regular August 2011 elections, it was for a very specific and limited purpose – the synchronization of elections.  It was a temporary means to a lasting end – the synchronization of elections. Thus, RA No. 10153 and the support that the Court gives this legislation are likewise clear and specific, and cannot be transferred or applied to any other cause for the cancellation of elections. Any other localized cancellation of elections and call for special elections can occur only in accordance with the power already delegated by Congress to the COMELEC, as above discussed.   

 

Given that the incumbent ARMM elective officials cannot continue to act in a holdover capacity upon the expiration of their terms, and this Court cannot compel the COMELEC to conduct special elections, the Court now has to deal with the dilemma of a vacuum in governance in the ARMM.

 

To emphasize the dire situation a vacuum brings, it should not be forgotten that a period of 21 months – or close to 2 years – intervenes from the time that the incumbent ARMM elective officials’ terms expired and the time the new ARMM elective officials begin their terms in 2013. As the lessons of our Mindanao history – past and current – teach us, many developments, some of them critical and adverse, can transpire in the country’s Muslim areas in this span of time in the way they transpired in the past.[78]  Thus, it would be reckless to assume that the presence of an acting ARMM Governor, an acting Vice-Governor and a fully functioning Regional Legislative Assembly can be done away with even temporarily.  To our mind, the appointment of OICs under the present circumstances is an absolute necessity.

 

Significantly, the grant to the President of the power to appoint OICs to undertake the functions of the elective members of the Regional Legislative Assembly is neither novel nor innovative.  We hark back to our earlier pronouncement in Menzon v. Petilla, etc., et al.:[79]

 

It may be noted that under Commonwealth Act No. 588 and the Revised Administrative Code of 1987, the President is empowered to make temporary appointments in certain public offices, in case of any vacancy that may occur. Albeit both laws deal only with the filling of vacancies in appointive positions. However, in the absence of any contrary provision in the Local Government Code and in the best interest of public service, we see no cogent reason why the procedure thus outlined by the two laws may not be similarly applied in the present case. The respondents contend that the provincial board is the correct appointing power. This argument has no merit. As between the President who has supervision over local governments as provided by law and the members of the board who are junior to the vice-governor, we have no problem ruling in favor of the President, until the law provides otherwise.

 

A vacancy creates an anomalous situation and finds no approbation under the law for it deprives the constituents of their right of representation and governance in their own local government.

 

In a republican form of government, the majority rules through their chosen few, and if one of them is incapacitated or absent, etc., the management of governmental affairs is, to that extent, may be hampered. Necessarily, there will be a consequent delay in the delivery of basic services to the people of Leyte if the Governor or the Vice-Governor is missing.[80](Emphasis ours.)

 

As in Menzon, leaving the positions of ARMM Governor, Vice Governor, and members of the Regional Legislative Assembly vacant for 21 months, or almost 2 years, would clearly cause disruptions and delays in the delivery of basic services to the people, in the proper management of the affairs of the regional government, and in responding to critical developments that may arise. When viewed in this context, allowing the President in the exercise of his constitutionally-recognized appointment power to appoint OICs is, in our judgment, a reasonable measure to take.

 

B.  Autonomy in the ARMM

 

It is further argued that while synchronization may be constitutionally mandated, it cannot be used to defeat or to impede the autonomy that the Constitution granted to the ARMM. Phrased in this manner, one would presume that there exists a conflict between two recognized Constitutional mandates – synchronization and regional autonomy – such that it is necessary to choose one over the other.

 

We find this to be an erroneous approach that violates a basic principle in constitutional construction – ut magis valeat quam pereat: that the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole,[81] and one mandate should not be given importance over the other except where the primacy of one over the other is clear.[82]  We refer to the Court’s declaration in Ang-Angco v. Castillo, et al.,[83] thus:

 

A provision of the constitution should not be construed in isolation from the rest. Rather, the constitution must be interpreted as a whole, and apparently, conflicting provisions should be reconciled and harmonized in a manner that may give to all of them full force and effect. [Emphasis supplied.]

 

Synchronization is an interest that is as constitutionally entrenched as regional autonomy. They are interests that this Court should reconcile and give effect to, in the way that Congress did in RA No. 10153 which provides the measure to transit to synchronized regional elections with the least disturbance on the interests that must be respected.  Particularly, regional autonomy will be respected instead of being sidelined, as the law does not in any way alter, change or modify its governing features, except in a very temporary manner and only as necessitated by the attendant circumstances.  

 

          Elsewhere, it has also been argued that the ARMM elections should not be synchronized with the national and local elections in order to maintain the autonomy of the ARMM and insulate its own electoral processes from the rough and tumble of nationwide and local elections.  This argument leaves us far from convinced of its merits.

 

As heretofore mentioned and discussed, while autonomous regions are granted political autonomy, the framers of the Constitution never equated autonomy with independence. The ARMM as a regional entity thus continues to operate within the larger framework of the State and is still subject to the national policies set by the national government, save only for those specific areas reserved by the Constitution for regional autonomous determination. As reflected during the constitutional deliberations of the provisions on autonomous regions:

 

Mr. Bennagen. xxx We do not see here a complete separation from the central government, but rather an efficient working relationship between the autonomous region and the central government. We see this as an effective partnership, not a separation.

 

Mr. Romulo. Therefore, complete autonomy is not really thought of as complete independence.

 

Mr. Ople. We define it as a measure of self-government within the larger political framework of the nation.[84] [Emphasis supplied.]

 

This exchange of course is fully and expressly reflected in the above-quoted Section 17, Article X of the Constitution, and by the express reservation under Section 1 of the same Article that autonomy shall be “within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

 

Interestingly, the framers of the Constitution initially proposed to remove Section 17 of Article X, believing it to be unnecessary in light of the enumeration of powers granted to autonomous regions in Section 20, Article X of the Constitution. Upon further reflection, the framers decided to reinstate the provision in order to “make it clear, once and for all, that these are the limits of the powers of the autonomous government. Those not enumerated are actually to be exercised by the national government[.]”[85] Of note is the Court’s pronouncement in Pimentel, Jr. v. Hon. Aguirre[86] which we quote:

 

Under the Philippine concept of local autonomy, the national government has not completely relinquished all its powers over local governments, including autonomous regions.  Only administrative powers over local affairs are delegated to political subdivisions.  The purpose of the delegation is to make governance more directly responsive and effective at the local levels.  In turn, economic, political and social development at the smaller political units are expected to propel social and economic growth and development.  But to enable the country to develop as a whole, the programs and policies effected locally must be integrated and coordinated towards a common national goal.  Thus, policy-setting for the entire country still lies in the President and Congress. [Emphasis ours.]

 

In other words, the autonomy granted to the ARMM cannot be invoked to defeat national policies and concerns. Since the synchronization of elections is not just a regional concern but a national one, the ARMM is subject to it; the regional autonomy granted to the ARMM cannot be used to exempt the region from having to act in accordance with a national policy mandated by no less than the Constitution. 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Congress acted within its powers and pursuant to a constitutional mandate – the synchronization of national and local elections – when it enacted RA No. 10153.  This Court cannot question the manner by which Congress undertook this task; the Judiciary does not and cannot pass upon questions of wisdom, justice or expediency of legislation.[87] As judges, we can only interpret and apply the law and, despite our doubts about its wisdom, cannot repeal or amend it.[88]

 

Nor can the Court presume to dictate the means by which Congress should address what is essentially a legislative problem. It is not within the Court’s power to enlarge or abridge laws; otherwise, the Court will be guilty of usurping the exclusive prerogative of Congress.[89] The petitioners, in asking this Court to compel COMELEC to hold special elections despite its lack of authority to do so, are essentially asking us to venture into the realm of judicial legislation, which is abhorrent to one of the most basic principles of a republican and democratic government – the separation of powers. 

 

The petitioners allege, too, that we should act because Congress acted with grave abuse of discretion in enacting RA No. 10153. Grave abuse of discretion is such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment that is patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law or to act at all in contemplation of the law as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility.[90] 

 

We find that Congress, in passing RA No. 10153, acted strictly within its constitutional mandate. Given an array of choices, it acted within due constitutional bounds and with marked reasonableness in light of the necessary adjustments that synchronization demands. Congress, therefore, cannot be accused of any evasion of a positive duty or of a refusal to perform its duty.  We thus find no reason to accord merit to the petitioners’ claims of grave abuse of discretion.

 

On the general claim that RA No. 10153 is unconstitutional, we can only reiterate the established rule that every statute is presumed valid.[91] Congress, thus, has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality of its acts, and the party challenging the validity of a statute has the onerous task of rebutting this presumption.[92] Any reasonable doubt about the validity of the law should be resolved in favor of its constitutionality.[93] As this Court declared in Garcia v. Executive Secretary:[94]

 

The policy of the courts is to avoid ruling on constitutional questions and to presume that the acts of the political departments are valid in the absence of a clear and unmistakable showing to the contrary.  To doubt is to sustain.  This presumption is based on the doctrine of separation of powers which enjoins upon each department a becoming respect for the acts of the other departments.  The theory is that as the joint act of Congress and the President of the Philippines, a law has been carefully studied and determined to be in accordance with the fundamental law before it was finally enacted.[95] [Emphasis ours.]

 

Given the failure of the petitioners to rebut the presumption of constitutionality in favor of RA No. 10153, we must support and confirm its validity.

WHEREFORE, premises considered, we DISMISS the consolidated petitions assailing the validity of RA No. 10153 for lack of merit, and UPHOLD the constitutionality of this law.  We likewise LIFT the temporary restraining order we issued in our Resolution of September 13, 2011.  No costs.

 

SO ORDERED.

 

 

 

                                                ARTURO D. BRION

                                                Associate Justice

 

 

WE CONCUR:

 

 

 

 

 

I join the dissent of J. Velasco with respect to the appointment
of the OIC Governor and vote to hold the law as unconstitutional
RENATO C. CORONA

Chief Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

See Dissenting Opinion
ANTONIO T. CARPIO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

I join the dissent of J. Carpio but disagree on the power of the Pres. to appoint OIC-Governor of ARMM
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

I join the dissent of Justice Velasco
TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIOSDADO M. PERALTA

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LUCAS P. BERSAMIN

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARIANO C. DEL CASTILLO

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

I join the dissent of J. Velasco
ROBERTO A. ABAD

Associate Justice

 

 

 

MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.

Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

I join the dissent of J. Carpio
JOSE PORTUGAL PEREZ

Associate Justice

 

 

 

I join the dissent of J. Carpio

 

 

 

 

JOSE CATRAL MENDOZA

Associate Justice

MARIA LOURDES P. A. SERENO
Associate Justice

BIENVENIDO L. REYES
Associate Justice

 

 

 

 

 

 

ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE

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 Decision 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] Entitled “An act fixing the date of the plebiscite for the approval of the amendments to Republic Act No. 6734 and setting the date of the regular elections for elective officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on the last Monday of November 2001, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 9054, entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ as amended,” and for other purposes.

[2] Entitled An Act amending fixing the Date or Regular elections for Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao pursuant to Republic Act No. 9054, entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, amending for the purpose Republic Act No. 6734, entitled ‘An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as amended”

[3] Filed by petitioners Datu Michael Abas Kida, in his personal capacity, and in representation of Maguindanao Federation of Autonomous Irrigators Association, Inc., Hadji Muhmina Usman, John Anthony L. Lim, Jamilon T. Odin, Asrin Timbol Jaiyari, Mujib M. Kalang, Alih Al-Saidi J. Sapi-e, Kessar Damsie Abdil, and Bassam Aluh Saupi.

[4] Petition for Prohibition with Very Urgent Prayer for the Issuance of a Writ of Preliminary Injunction and/or Temporary Restraining Order dated April 11, 2011 was filed against Sixto Brillantes, as Chairperson of COMELEC, to challenge the effectivity of RA No. 9333 for not having been submitted to a plebiscite. Since RA No. 9333 is inoperative, any other law seeking to amend it is also null and void.

[5] With Prayer for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or Writs of Preliminary Prohibitive and Mandatory Injunction dated June 30, 2011.

[6] With Extremely Urgent Application for the Issuance of a Status Quo Order and Writ of Preliminary Mandatory Injunction dated July 1, 2011.

[7] With Prayer for the issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order dated July 12, 2011.

[8] With Injunction and Preliminary Injunction with prayer for temporary restraining order dated July 11, 2011.

[9] With Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order and the Issuance of Writs of Preliminary Injunction, Both Prohibitory and Mandatory dated July 1, 2011.

[10] Section 1. The first elections of Members of the Congress under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1987.

 

The first local elections shall be held on a date to be determined by the President, which may be simultaneous with the election of the Members of the Congress. It shall include the election of all Members of the city or municipal councils in the Metropolitan Manila area.

 

Section 2. The Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and the local officials first elected under this Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.

 

Of the Senators elected in the election in 1992, the first twelve obtaining the highest number of votes shall serve for six years and the remaining twelve for three years.

 

xxx

 

Section 5. The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.

 

The first regular elections for President and Vice-President under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1992. [emphasis ours]

[11]  To illustrate, while Section 8, Article X of the Constitution fixes the term of office of elective local officials at three years, under the above-quoted provisions, the terms of the incumbent local officials who were elected in January 1988, which should have expired on February 2, 1991, were fixed to expire at noon of June 30, 1992. In the same vein, the terms of the incumbent President and Vice President who were elected in February 1986 were extended to noon of June 30, 1992. On the other hand, in order to synchronize the elections of the Senators, who have six-year terms, the twelve Senators who obtained the lowest votes during the 1992 elections were made to serve only half the time of their terms.

[12] Joaquin Bernas, S.J., The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: A Commentary (1996 ed.),  p. 1199, citing Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. V, p. 429-4. 

[13] MR. MAAMBONG. For purposes of identification, I will now read a section which we will temporarily indicate as Section 14. It reads: “THE SENATORS, MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE LOCAL OFFICIALS ELECTED IN THE FIRST ELECTION SHALL SERVE FOR FIVE YEARS, TO EXPIRE AT NOON OF JUNE 1992.”

This was presented by Commissioner Davide, so may we ask that Commissioner Davide be recognized.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rodrigo). Commissioner Davide is recognized.

MR. DAVIDE. Before going to the proposed amendment, I would only state that in view of the action taken by the Commission on Section 2 earlier, I am formulating a new proposal. It will read as follows: “THE SENATORS, MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES AND THE LOCAL OFFICIALS FIRST ELECTED UNDER THIS CONSTITUTION SHALL SERVE UNTIL NOON OF JUNE 30, 1992.”

I proposed this because of the proposed section of the Article on Transitory Provisions giving a term to the incumbent President and Vice-President until 1992. Necessarily then, since the term provided by the Commission for Members of the Lower House and for local officials is three years, if there will be an election in 1987, the next election for said officers will be in 1990, and it would be very close to 1992. We could never attain, subsequently, any synchronization of election which is once every three years.

So under my proposal we will be able to begin actual synchronization in 1992, and consequently, we should not have a local election or an election for Members of the Lower House in 1990 for them to be able to complete their term of three years each. And if we also stagger the Senate, upon the first election it will result in an election in 1993 for the Senate alone, and there will be an election for 12 Senators in 1990. But for the remaining 12 who will be elected in 1987, if their term is for six years, their election will be in 1993. So, consequently we will have elections in 1990, in 1992 and in 1993. The later election will be limited to only 12 Senators and of course to local officials and the Members of the Lower House. But, definitely, thereafter we can never have an election once every three years, therefore defeating the very purpose of the Commission when we adopted the term of six years for the President and another six years for the Senators with the possibility of staggering with 12 to serve for six years and 12 for three years insofar as the first Senators are concerned. And so my proposal is the only way to effect the first synchronized election which would mean, necessarily, a bonus of two years to the Members of the Lower House and a bonus of two years to the local elective officials.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rodrigo). What does the committee say?

MR. DE CASTRO. Mr. Presiding Officer.

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Rodrigo). Commissioner de Castro is recognized.

MR. DE CASTRO. Thank you.

During the discussion on the legislative and the synchronization of elections, I was the one who proposed that in order to synchronize the elections every three years, which the body approved — the first national and local officials to be elected in 1987 shall continue in office for five years, the same thing the Honorable Davide is now proposing. That means they will all serve until 1992, assuming that the term of the President will be for six years and continue beginning in 1986. So from 1992, we will again have national, local and presidential elections. This time, in 1992, the President shall have a term until 1998 and the first twelve Senators will serve until 1998, while the next 12 shall serve until 1995, and then the local officials elected in 1992 will serve until 1995. From then on, we shall have an election every three years.

So, I will say that the proposition of Commissioner Davide is in order, if we have to synchronize our elections every three years which was already approved by the body.

Thank you, Mr. Presiding Officer.

xxx xxx xxx

 

MR. GUINGONA. What will be synchronized, therefore, is the election of the incumbent President and Vice-President in 1992.

MR. DAVIDE. Yes.

MR. GUINGONA. Not the reverse. Will the committee not synchronize the election of the Senators and local officials with the election of the President?

MR. DAVIDE. It works both ways, Mr. Presiding Officer. The attempt here is on the assumption that the provision of the Transitory Provisions on the term of the incumbent President and Vice-President would really end in 1992.

MR. GUINGONA. Yes.

MR. DAVIDE. In other words, there will be a single election in 1992 for all, from the President up to the municipal officials. [emphasis ours] (V Record of the Constitutional Commission, pp. 429-431; October 3, 1986)

[14] G.R. Nos. 100318, 100308, 100417 and 100420, July 30, 1991, 199 SCRA 750, 758.

[15] J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration, G.R. No. 21064, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 413; Ordillo v. Commission on Elections, 192 SCRA 100 (1990).

[16] 271 SCRA 633, 668 (1997); Occena v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 52265, January 28, 1980, 95 SCRA 755.

[17] Webster’s Third New International Dictionary Unabridged, p.1327 (1993).

[18] Section 26(2) No bill passed by either House shall become a law unless it has passed three readings on separate days, and printed copies thereof in its final form have been distributed to its Members three days before its passage, except when the President certifies to the necessity of its immediate enactment to meet a public calamity or emergency. Upon the last reading of a bill, no amendment thereto shall be allowed, and the vote thereon shall be taken immediately thereafter, and the yeas and nays entered in the Journal.

[19] G. R. No. 115455, August 25, 1994, 235 SCRA 630.              

[20] A copy of the letter that the President wrote to Honorable Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. as Speaker of the House of Representatives dated March 4, 2011 is reproduced below:

 

OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT

of the Philippines

Malacañang

 

14 March 2011

HON. FELICIANO R. BELMONTE, JR.

Speaker

House of Representatives

Quezon City

 

Dear Speaker Belmonte:

 

Pursuant to the provisions of Article VI, Section 26 (2) of the 1987 Constitution, I hereby certify to the necessity of the immediate enactment of House Bill No. 4146, entitled:

 

“AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE SYNCHRONIZATION OF THE ELECTIONS AND THE TERM OF OFFICE OF THE ELECTIVE OFFICIALS OF THE AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO (ARMM) WITH THOSE OF THE NATIONAL AND OTHER LOCAL OFFICIALS, AMENDING FOR THE PURPOSE REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9333, ENTITLED ‘AN ACT FIXING THE DATE FOR REGULAR ELECTIONS FOR ELECTIVE OFFICIALS OF THE AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO’, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES”

 

to address the urgent need to protect and strengthen ARMM’s autonomy by synchronizing its elections with the regular elections of national and other local officials, to ensure that the on-going peace talks in the region will not be hindered, and to provide a mechanism to institutionalize electoral reforms in the interim, all for the development, peace and security of the region.

 

Best wishes.

Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III

 

cc: HON. JUAN PONCE ENRILE

Senate President

Philippine Senate

Pasay City

Taken from: http://www.congress.gov.ph/download/congrec/15th/1st/15C_1RS-64b-031611.pdf. Last accessed on September 26, 2011.

[21] See Gutierrez v. House of Representatives, G.R. No. 193459, February 15, 2011.

[22] Tolentino v. Secretary of Finance, G.R. No. 115455, October 30, 1995.

[23] Tolentino, id., citing 1 J. G. Sutherland, Statutes and Statutory Construction §10.04, p. 282 (1972).

[24] Section 7, Article XIX of RA No. 6734 states: “The first regular elections of the Regional Governor, Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Assembly under this Organic Act shall be held not earlier than sixty (60) days or later than ninety (90) days after the ratification of this Act. The Commission on Elections shall promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary for the conduct of said election.”

[25] Entitled “An Act Providing for the Date of Regular Elections for Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and for other purposes,” which fixed the date of the ARMM elections on the second Monday after the Muslim month of Ramadhan.

[26] Entitled “An Act Changing the Date of Elections for the Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Section One of Republic Act Numbered Seventy-Six Hundred and Forty-Seven Entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Date of the Regular Elections for Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and for other purposes”, which changed the date of the ARMM elections to the second Monday of March, 1993 and every three (3) years thereafter.

[27] Entitled “An Act Providing for the Date of the Regular Elections of Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Further Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 7647 entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Date of Regular Elections for Regional Governor, Regional Vice-Governor and Members of the Regional Legislative Assembly for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and for other purposes,’ As Amended, and for other purposes”, which moved the regional elections to the second Monday of September and every three (3) years thereafter.

[28] Entitled “An Act Resetting the Regular Elections for the Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Provided for Under Republic Act No. 8746 and for other purposes”, which reset the regional elections, scheduled on September 13, 1999, to the second Monday of September 2000.

[29] Entitled “An Act Resetting the Regular Elections for Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to the Second Monday of September 2001, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 8953”, which reset the May 2001 elections in ARMM to September 2001.

[30] Entitled “An Act Fixing the Date of the Plebiscite for the Approval of the Amendments to Republic Act No. 6734 and setting the date of the regular elections for elective officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao on the Last Monday of November 2001, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9054, Entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6734, Entitled ‘An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao,’ as amended,” and For Other Purposes.

[31] Entitled “An Act Fixing the Date of Regular Elections for Elective Officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Pursuant to Republic Act no. 9054, Entitled “An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6734, Entitled ‘An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’, as Amended,”  which rescheduled the ARMM regional elections scheduled for the last Monday of November 2004 to “the second Monday of August 2005.”

[32] Section 1. Consistent with the provisions of the Constitution, this Organic Act may be reamended or revised by the Congress of the Philippines upon a vote of two-thirds (2/3) of the Members of the House of Representatives and of the Senate voting separately.

[33] G.R. No. 127383, August 18, 2005, 467 SCRA 280.

[34] Id. at 295-297, citing Duarte v. Dade, 32 Phil. 36 (1915); Lewis Southerland on Statutory Construction, Vol. 1, Section 244, pp. 456-457.  

[35] This has been established by the following exchange during the Constitutional Commission debates:

FR. BERNAS. So, the questions I have raised so far with respect to this organic act are: What segment of the population will participate in the plebiscite? In what capacity would the legislature be acting when it passes this? Will it be a constituent assembly or merely a legislative body? What is the nature, therefore, of this organic act in relation to ordinary statutes and the Constitution? Finally, if we are going to amend this organic act, what process will be followed?

MR. NOLLEDO. May I answer that, please, in the light of what is now appearing in our report.

First, only the people who are residing in the units composing the region should be allowed to participate in the plebiscite. Second, the organic act has the character of a charter passed by Congress, not as a constituent assembly, but as an ordinary legislature and, therefore, the organic act will still be subject to amendments in the ordinary legislative process as now constituted, unless the Gentleman has another purpose.

FR. BERNAS. But with plebiscite again. [Emphasis ours.];

III Record of the Constitutional Commission, pp.182-183; August 11, 1986.

[36] Section 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over:

(1) Administrative organization;
(2) Creation of sources of revenues;
(3) Ancestral domain and natural resources;
(4) Personal, family, and property relations;
(5) Regional urban and rural planning development;
(6) Economic, social, and tourism development;
(7) Educational policies;
(8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and
(9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region.

[37] See discussions at pp. 14-15.

[38] Section 7. Terms of Office of Elective Regional Officials. – (1) Terms of Office. The terms of office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor and members of the Regional Assembly shall be for a period of three (3) years, which shall begin at noon on the 30th day of September next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date three (3) years thereafter. The incumbent elective officials of the autonomous region shall continue in effect until their successors are elected and qualified. [emphasis ours]

[39] Fernando, The Philippine Constitution, pp. 175-176 (1974).

[40] Id. at 177; citing the concurring opinion of Justice Jose P. Laurel in Schneckenburger v. Moran, 63 Phil. 249, 266 (1936).

[41] Vera v. Avelino, 77 Phil. 192, 212 (1946).

[42]Ople v. Torres, et al., 354 Phil. 948 (1998); see concurring opinion of Justice Jose P. Laurel in Schneckenburger v. Moran, supra note 40, at 266.

[43]  State ex rel. Green v. Collison, 39 Del 245, cited in Defensor-Santiago, Constitutional Law, Vol. 1 (2000 ed.)

[44] Sec. 15.  There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities and municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as the territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.

[45] An empire within an empire.

[46] Bernas, Joaquin, Constitutional Structure and Powers of Government Notes and Cases Part I, 2005 ed., p. 1249.

[47] Such as the addition of sectoral representatives in the House of Representatives (paragraph 2, Section 5, of Article VI of the Constitution), and the validation of the power of the Presidential Commission on Good Government to issue sequestration, freeze orders, and the provisional takeover orders of ill-gotten business enterprises, embodied in Section 26 of the Transitory Provisions.

[48] RA No. 9495 which created the Province of Quezon del Sur Province was rejected by the voters of Quezon Province in the plebiscite of November 13, 2008.

[49]  RA No. 9355.

[50] Section 50, RA No. 9355 and Section 52 of RA No. 9495.

[51] Section 462, RA No. 7160.

[52] Supra note 14.

[53] In Mutuc v. Commission on Elections [146 Phil. 798 (1970)] the Court held that, "The three departments of government in the discharge of the functions with which it is [sic] entrusted have no choice but to yield obedience to [the Constitution’s] commands. Whatever limits it imposes must be observed. 146 Phil. 798 (1970).

[54] In J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration [No. L-21064, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 413, 423], the Court, speaking through former Chief Justice Enrique, stated: As the Constitution is not primarily a lawyer’s document, it being essential for the rule of law to obtain that it should ever be present in the people’s consciousness, its language as much as possible should be understood in the sense they have in common use. What it says according to the text of the provision to be construed compels acceptance and negates the power of the courts to alter it, based on the postulate that the framers and the people mean what they say. Thus these are cases where the need for construction is reduced to a minimum.

[55] Tawang Multi-Purpose Cooperative v. La Trinidad Water District, G.R. No. 166471, March 22, 2011.

[56] Pimentel v. Ermita, G.R. No. 164978, October 13, 2005, citing Bernas, Joaquin, The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines:  A Commentary  (1996 ed.) 768.

[57] 481 Phil. 661 (2004).

[58] G.R. No. 161984, February 21, 2007, 516 SCRA 403.

[59] G.R. No. 152295, July 9, 2011.

[60] Section 7. Terms of Office of Elective Regional Officials. – (1) Terms of Office. The terms of office of the Regional Governor, Regional Vice Governor, and members of the Regional Legislative Assembly shall be for a period of three (3) years, which shall begin at noon on the 30th day of September next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of the same date three (3) years thereafter. The incumbent elective officials of the autonomous region shall continue in effect until their successors are elected and qualified. 

[61] Guekeko v. Santos, 76 Phil. 237 (1946).

[62]Lozano v. Nograles,  G.R. 187883, June 16, 2009, 589 SCRA 356.

[63] Ututalum v. Commission on Elections, No. L-25349, December 3, 1965, 15 SCRA 465.

[64] See CONSTITUTION, Article VIII, Section 1.

[65] See CONSTITUTION, Article IX (C), Section 2(1).

[66]  Balagtas Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No.  159268, October 27, 2006, 505 SCRA 654, 663, citing Lapid v. CA, G.R. No. 142261,  June 29, 2000,  334 SCRA 738, quoting Morales v. Subido, G.R. No. 29658, November 29, 1968, 26 SCRA 150.

[67] CONSTITUTION, Article X, Section 8.

[68] Article XVIII, Section 2. The Senators, Members of the House of Representatives, and the local officials first elected under this Constitution shall serve until noon of June 30, 1992.

Of the Senators elected in the elections in 1992, the first twelve obtaining the highest number of votes shall serve for six years and the remaining twelve for three years.

[69] Article XVIII, Section 5. The six-year term of the incumbent President and Vice-President elected in the February 7, 1986 election is, for purposes of synchronization of elections, hereby extended to noon of June 30, 1992.

The first regular elections for the President and Vice-President under this Constitution shall be held on the second Monday of May, 1992.

[70]  Cruz, Carlo. The Law of Public Officers, 2007 edition, p. 285, citing Mechem, Section 387.

[71] Ponencia, p. 21.

[72] See Topacio Nueno v. Angeles, 76 Phil. 12, 21-22 (1946); Alba, etc. v. Evangelista, etc., et al., 100 Phil. 683, 694 (1957); Aparri v. Court of Appeals, No. L-30057, January 31, 1984, 127 SCRA 231.

[73] Hon. Luis Mario M. General, Commissioner, National Police Commission v. Hon. Alejandro S. Urro, et al., G.R. No. 191560, March 29, 2011, citing Sarmiento III v. Mison, No. L-79974, December 17, 1987, 156 SCRA 549.

[74] Sarmiento III v. Mison, supra.

[75] If a statute is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. De Jesus v. Commission on Audit, 451 Phil. 812 (2003).

[76]  Supra notes 47 and 48.

[77]  Supra note 50.

[78] The after-effects of the Maguindanao massacre where the Ampatuans stand charged, the insurrection by the MILF and its various factions, and the on-going peace negotiations, among others, are immediately past and present events that the nation has to vigilant about.

[79] 274 Phil. 523 (1991).

[80] Id. at 532.

[81] Macalintal v. Presidential Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 191618, November 23, 2010, 635 SCRA 783.

[82] As noted under footnote 37.

[83] 118 Phil. 1468 (1963).

[84]Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. III, August 11, 1986, p. 179.

 

[85] Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. III, p. 560.

[86] 391 Phil. 84, 102 (2000).

[87] Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil. 139 (1936).

[88] Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Santos, 343 Phil. 411, 427 (1997) citing Pangilinan v. Maglaya, 225 SCRA 511 (1993).

[89] Manotok IV v. Heirs  of Homer L. Barque, G.R. Nos. 162335 and 162605, December 18, 2008, 574 SCRA 468, 581.

[90] Ligeralde v. Patalinghug, G.R. No.  168796, April 15, 2010, 618 SCRA 315.

[91] Heirs of Juancho Ardona, etc., et al. v. Hon. Reyes, etc., et al., 210 Phil. 187, 207 (1983); Peralta v. Commission on Elections, Nos. L-47771, L-47803, L-47816, L-47767, L-47791 and L-47827, March 11, 1978, 82 SCRA 30; Ermita-Malate Hotel & Motel Operations Association, Inc. v. City Mayor of Manila, No. L-24693, July 31, 1967, 20 SCRA 849.

[92] See Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, 421 Phil. 290 (2001); Heirs of Juancho Ardona, etc., et al. v. Hon. Reyes, etc., et al., supra; Peralta v. Commission on Elections, supra.

[93] Heirs of Juancho Ardona, etc., et al.  v. Hon. Reyes, etc., et al., supra; Peralta v. Commission on Elections, supra.

[94] G.R. No. 100883, December 2, 1991, 204 SCRA 516.

[95] Id. at 523.