Republic of the
DENNIS A. B. FUNA,
- versus -
THE CHAIRMAN, COMMISSION ON AUDIT, REYNALDO A. VILLAR,
G.R. No. 192791
April 24, 2012
D E C I S I O N
VELASCO, JR., J.:
In this Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65, Dennis A. B. Funa challenges the constitutionality of the appointment of Reynaldo A. Villar as Chairman of the Commission on Audit and accordingly prays that a judgment issue declaring the unconstitutionality of the appointment.
The facts of the case are as follows:
On February 15, 2001, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (President Macapagal-Arroyo) appointed Guillermo N. Carague (Carague) as Chairman of the Commission on Audit (COA) for a term of seven (7) years, pursuant to the 1987 Constitution. Caragues term of office started on February 2, 2001 to end on February 2, 2008.
Meanwhile, on February 7, 2004, President Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Reynaldo A. Villar (Villar) as the third member of the COA for a term of seven (7) years starting February 2, 2004 until February 2, 2011.
Following the retirement of Carague on February 2, 2008 and during the fourth year of Villar as COA Commissioner, Villar was designated as Acting Chairman of COA from February 4, 2008 to April 14, 2008. Subsequently, on April 18, 2008, Villar was nominated and appointed as Chairman of the COA. Shortly thereafter, on June 11, 2008, the Commission on Appointments confirmed his appointment. He was to serve as Chairman of COA, as expressly indicated in the appointment papers, until the expiration of the original term of his office as COA Commissioner or on February 2, 2011. Challenged in this recourse, Villar, in an obvious bid to lend color of title to his hold on the chairmanship, insists that his appointment as COA Chairman accorded him a fresh term of seven (7) years which is yet to lapse. He would argue, in fine, that his term of office, as such chairman, is up to February 2, 2015, or 7 years reckoned from February 2, 2008 when he was appointed to that position.
Meanwhile, Evelyn R. San Buenaventura (San Buenaventura) was appointed as COA Commissioner to serve the unexpired term of Villar as Commissioner or up to February 2, 2011.
Before the Court could resolve this petition, Villar, via a letter dated February 22, 2011 addressed to President Benigno S. Aquino III, signified his intention to step down from office upon the appointment of his replacement. True to his word, Villar vacated his position when President Benigno Simeon Aquino III named Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan (Chairman Tan) COA Chairman. This development has rendered this petition and the main issue tendered therein moot and academic.
A case is considered moot and academic when its purpose has become stale, or when it ceases to present a justiciable controversy owing to the onset of supervening events, so that a resolution of the case or a declaration on the issue would be of no practical value or use. In such instance, there is no actual substantial relief which a petitioner would be entitled to, and which will anyway be negated by the dismissal of the basic petition. As a general rule, it is not within Our charge and function to act upon and decide a moot case. However, in David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, We acknowledged and accepted certain exceptions to the issue of mootness, thus:
The moot and academic principle is not a magical formula that can automatically dissuade the courts in resolving a case. Courts will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if: first, there is a grave violation of the Constitution, second, the exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved, third, when constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public, and fourth, the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.
Although deemed moot due to the intervening appointment of Chairman Tan and the resignation of Villar, We consider the instant case as falling within the requirements for review of a moot and academic case, since it asserts at least four exceptions to the mootness rule discussed in David, namely: there is a grave violation of the Constitution; the case involves a situation of exceptional character and is of paramount public interest; the constitutional issue raised requires the formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar and the public; and the case is capable of repetition yet evading review. The situation presently obtaining is definitely of such exceptional nature as to necessarily call for the promulgation of principles that will henceforth guide the bench, the bar and the public should like circumstance arise. Confusion in similar future situations would be smoothed out if the contentious issues advanced in the instant case are resolved straightaway and settled definitely. There are times when although the dispute has disappeared, as in this case, it nevertheless cries out to be addressed. To borrow from Javier v. Pacificador, Justice demands that we act then, not only for the vindication of the outraged right, though gone, but also for the guidance of and as a restraint in the future.
Both procedural and substantive issues are raised in this proceeding. The procedural aspect comes down to the question of whether or not the following requisites for the exercise of judicial review of an executive act obtain in this petition, viz: (1) there must be an actual case or justiciable controversy before the court; (2) the question before it must be ripe for adjudication; (3) the person challenging the act must be a proper party; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity and must be the very litis mota of the case.
To Villar, all the requisites have not been met, it being alleged in particular that petitioner, suing as a taxpayer and citizen, lacks the necessary standing to challenge his appointment. On the other hand, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), while recognizing the validity of Villars appointment for the period ending February 11, 2011, has expressed the view that petitioner should have had filed a petition for declaratory relief or quo warranto under Rule 63 or Rule 66, respectively, of the Rules of Court instead of certiorari under Rule 65.
Villars posture on the absence of some of the mandatory requisites for the exercise by the Court of its power of judicial review must fail. As a general rule, a petitioner must have the necessary personality or standing (locus standi) before a court will recognize the issues presented. In Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, We defined locus standi as:
x x x a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain a direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged. The term interest means a material interest, an interest in issue affected by the decree, as distinguished from mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest. The gist of the question of standing is whether a party alleges such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure the concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.
To have legal standing, therefore, a suitor must show that he has sustained or will sustain a direct injury as a result of a government action, or have a material interest in the issue affected by the challenged official act. However, the Court has time and again acted liberally on the locus standi requirements and has accorded certain individuals, not otherwise directly injured, or with material interest affected, by a Government act, standing to sue provided a constitutional issue of critical significance is at stake. The rule on locus standi is after all a mere procedural technicality in relation to which the Court, in a catena of cases involving a subject of transcendental import, has waived, or relaxed, thus allowing non-traditional plaintiffs, such as concerned citizens, taxpayers, voters or legislators, to sue in the public interest, albeit they may not have been personally injured by the operation of a law or any other government act. In David, the Court laid out the bare minimum norm before the so-called non-traditional suitors may be extended standing to sue, thusly:
1.) For taxpayers, there must be a claim of illegal disbursement of public funds or that the tax measure is unconstitutional;
2.) For voters, there must be a showing of obvious interest in the validity of the election law in question;
3.) For concerned citizens, there must be a showing that the issues raised are of transcendental importance which must be settled early; and
4.) For legislators, there must be a claim that the official action complained of infringes their prerogatives as legislators.
This case before Us is of transcendental importance, since it obviously has far-reaching implications, and there is a need to promulgate rules that will guide the bench, bar, and the public in future analogous cases. We, thus, assume a liberal stance and allow petitioner to institute the instant petition.
Anent the aforestated posture of the OSG, there is no serious disagreement as to the propriety of the availment of certiorari as a medium to inquire on whether the assailed appointment of respondent Villar as COA Chairman infringed the constitution or was infected with grave abuse of discretion. For under the expanded concept of judicial review under the 1987 Constitution, the corrective hand of certiorari may be invoked not only to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, but also to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government. Grave abuse of discretion denotes:
such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction, or, in other words, where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and it must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law.
We find the remedy of certiorari applicable to the instant case in view of the allegation that then President Macapagal-Arroyo exercised her appointing power in a manner constituting grave abuse of discretion.
This brings Us to the pivotal substantive issue of whether or not Villars appointment as COA Chairman, while sitting in that body and after having served for four (4) years of his seven (7) year term as COA commissioner, is valid in light of the term limitations imposed under, and the circumscribing concepts tucked in, Sec. 1 (2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution, which reads:
(2) The Chairman and Commissioners [on Audit] shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without reappointment. Of those first appointed, the Chairman shall hold office for seven years, one commissioner for five years, and the other commissioner for three years, without reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. In no case shall any member be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity. (Emphasis added.)
And if valid, for how long can he serve?
At once clear from a perusal of the aforequoted provision are the defined restricting features in the matter of the composition of COA and the appointment of its members (commissioners and chairman) designed to safeguard the independence and impartiality of the commission as a body and that of its individual members. These are, first, the rotational plan or the staggering term in the commission membership, such that the appointment of commission members subsequent to the original set appointed after the effectivity of the 1987 Constitution shall occur every two years; second, the maximum but a fixed term-limit of seven (7) years for all commission members whose appointments came about by reason of the expiration of term save the aforementioned first set of appointees and those made to fill up vacancies resulting from certain causes; third, the prohibition against reappointment of commission members who served the full term of seven years or of members first appointed under the Constitution who served their respective terms of office; fourth, the limitation of the term of a member to the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor; and fifth, the proscription against temporary appointment or designation.
To elucidate on the mechanics of and the adverted limitations on the matter of COA-member appointments with fixed but staggered terms of office, the Court lays down the following postulates deducible from pertinent constitutional provisions, as construed by the Court:
1. The terms of office and appointments of the first set of commissioners, or the seven, five and three-year termers referred to in Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution, had already expired. Hence, their respective terms of office find relevancy for the most part only in understanding the operation of the rotational plan. In Gaminde v. Commission on Audit, the Court described how the smooth functioning of the rotational system contemplated in said and like provisions covering the two other independent commissions is achieved thru the staggering of terms:
x x x [T]he terms of the first Chairmen and Commissioners of the Constitutional Commissions under the 1987 Constitution must start on a common date [February 02, 1987, when the 1987 Constitution was ratified] irrespective of the variations in the dates of appointments and qualifications of the appointees in order that the expiration of the first terms of seven, five and three years should lead to the regular recurrence of the two-year interval between the expiration of the terms.
x x x In case of a belated appointment, the interval between the start of the terms and the actual appointment shall be counted against the appointee. (Italization in the original; emphasis added.)
Early on, in Republic v. Imperial, the Court wrote of two conditions, both indispensable to [the] workability of the rotational plan. These conditions may be described as follows: (a) that the terms of the first batch of commissioners should start on a common date; and (b) that any vacancy due to death, resignation or disability before the expiration of the term should be filled only for the unexpired balance of the term. Otherwise, Imperial continued, the regularity of the intervals between appointments would be destroyed. There appears to be near unanimity as to the purpose/s of the rotational system, as originally conceived, i.e., to place in the commission a new appointee at a fixed interval (every two years presently), thus preventing a four-year administration appointing more than one permanent and regular commissioner, or to borrow from Commissioner Monsod of the 1986 CONCOM, to prevent one person (the President of the Philippines) from dominating the commissions. It has been declared too that the rotational plan ensures continuity in, and, as indicated earlier, secure the independence of, the commissions as a body.
2. An appointment to any vacancy in COA, which arose from an expiration of a term, after the first chairman and commissioners appointed under the 1987 Constitution have bowed out, shall, by express constitutional fiat, be for a term of seven (7) years, save when the appointment is to fill up a vacancy for the corresponding unserved term of an outgoing member. In that case, the appointment shall only be for the unexpired portion of the departing commissioners term of office. There can only be an unexpired portion when, as a direct result of his demise, disability, resignation or impeachment, as the case may be, a sitting member is unable to complete his term of office. To repeat, should the vacancy arise out of the expiration of the term of the incumbent, then there is technically no unexpired portion to speak of. The vacancy is for a new and complete seven-year term and, ergo, the appointment thereto shall in all instances be for a maximum seven (7) years.
3. Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the 1987 Constitution prohibits the reappointment of a member of COA after his appointment for seven (7) years. Writing for the Court in Nacionalista Party v. De Vera, a case involving the promotion of then COMELEC Commissioner De Vera to the position of chairman, then Chief Justice Manuel Moran called attention to the fact that the prohibition against reappointment comes as a continuation of the requirement that the commissionersreferring to members of the COMELEC under the 1935 Constitutionshall hold office for a term of nine (9) years. This sentence formulation imports, notes Chief Justice Moran, that reappointment is not an absolute prohibition.
4. The adverted system of regular rotation or the staggering of appointments and terms in the membership for all three constitutional commissions, namely the COA, Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and Civil Service Commission (CSC) found in the 1987 Constitution was patterned after the amended 1935 Constitution for the appointment of the members of COMELEC with this difference: the 1935 version entailed a regular interval of vacancy every three (3) years, instead of the present two (2) years and there was no express provision on appointment to any vacancy being limited to the unexpired portion of the his predecessors term. The model 1935 provision reads:
Section 1. There shall be an independent Commission on Elections composed of a Chairman and two other members to be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, who shall hold office for a term of nine years and may not be reappointed. Of the Members of the Commission first appointed, one shall hold office for nine years, another for six years and the third for three years. x x x
Petitioner now asseverates the view that Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the 1987 Constitution proscribes reappointment of any kind within the commission, the point being that a second appointment, be it for the same position (commissioner to another position of commissioner) or upgraded position (commissioner to chairperson) is a prohibited reappointment and is a nullity ab initio. Attention is drawn in this regard to the Courts disposition in Matibag v. Benipayo.
Villars promotional appointment, so it is argued, is void from the start, constituting as it did a reappointment enjoined by the Constitution, since it actually needed another appointment to a different office and requiring another confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.
Central to the adjudication of the instant petition is the correct meaning to be given to Sec. 1(2), Article IX(D) of the Constitution on the ban against reappointment in relation to the appointment issued to respondent Villar to the position of COA Chairman.
Without question, the parties have presented two (2) contrasting and conflicting positions. Petitioner contends that Villars appointment is proscribed by the constitutional ban on reappointment under the aforecited constitutional provision. On the other hand, respondent Villar initially asserted that his appointment as COA Chairman is valid up to February 2, 2015 pursuant to the same provision.
The Court finds petitioners position bereft of merit. The flaw lies in regarding the word reappointment as, in context, embracing any and all species of appointment.
The rule is that if a statute or constitutional provision is clear, plain and free from ambiguity, it must be given its literal meaning and applied without attempted interpretation. This is known as the plain meaning rule enunciated by the maxim verba legis non est recedendum, or from the words of a statute there should be no departure.
The primary source whence to ascertain constitutional intent or purpose is the language of the provision itself. If possible, the words in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning, save where technical terms are employed. J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration illustrates the verbal legis rule in this wise:
We look to the language of the document itself in our search for its meaning. We do not of course stop there, but that is where we begin. It is to be assumed that the words in which constitutional provisions are couched express the objective sought to be attained. They are to be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails. As the Constitution is not primarily a lawyers document, it being essential for the rule of law to obtain that it should ever be present in the peoples 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 there are cases where the need for construction is reduced to a minimum. (Emphasis supplied.)
Let us dissect and examine closely the provision in question:
(2) The Chairman and Commissioners [on Audit] shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without reappointment. Of those first appointed, the Chairman shall hold office for seven years, one commissioner for five years, and the other commissioner for three years, without reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. x x x (Emphasis added.)
The first sentence is unequivocal enough. The COA Chairman shall be appointed by the President for a term of seven years, and if he has served the full term, then he can no longer be reappointed or extended another appointment. In the same vein, a Commissioner who was appointed for a term of seven years who likewise served the full term is barred from being reappointed. In short, once the Chairman or Commissioner shall have served the full term of seven years, then he can no longer be reappointed to either the position of Chairman or Commissioner. The obvious intent of the framers is to prevent the president from dominating the Commission by allowing him to appoint an additional or two more commissioners.
The same purpose obtains in the second sentence of Sec. 1(2). The Constitutional Convention barred reappointment to be extended to commissioner-members first appointed under the 1987 Constitution to prevent the President from controlling the commission. Thus, the first Chairman appointed under the 1987 Constitution who served the full term of seven years can no longer be extended a reappointment. Neither can the Commissioners first appointed for the terms of five years and three years be eligible for reappointment. This is the plain meaning attached to the second sentence of Sec. 1(2), Article IX(D).
On the other hand, the provision, on its face, does not prohibit a promotional appointment from commissioner to chairman as long as the commissioner has not served the full term of seven years, further qualified by the third sentence of Sec. 1(2), Article IX (D) that the appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. In addition, such promotional appointment to the position of Chairman must conform to the rotational plan or the staggering of terms in the commission membership such that the aggregate of the service of the Commissioner in said position and the term to which he will be appointed to the position of Chairman must not exceed seven years so as not to disrupt the rotational system in the commission prescribed by Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D).
In conclusion, there is nothing in Sec. 1(2), Article IX(D) that explicitly precludes a promotional appointment from Commissioner to Chairman, provided it is made under the aforestated circumstances or conditions.
It may be argued that there is doubt or ambiguity on whether Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D), as couched, allows a promotional appointment from Commissioner to Chairman. Even if We concede the existence of an ambiguity, the outcome will remain the same. J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. teaches that in case of doubt as to the import and react of a constitutional provision, resort should be made to extraneous aids of construction, such as debates and proceedings of the Constitutional Convention, to shed light on and ascertain the intent of the framers or the purpose of the provision being construed.
The understanding of the Convention as to what was meant by the terms of the constitutional provision which was the subject of the deliberation goes a long way toward explaining the understanding of the people when they ratified it. The Court applied this principle in Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary:
A foolproof yardstick in constitutional construction is the intention underlying the provision under consideration. Thus, it has been held that the Court in construing a Constitution should bear in mind the object sought to be accomplished by its adoption, and the evils, if any, sought to be prevented or remedied. A doubtful provision will be examined in the light of the history of the times, and the condition and circumstances under which the Constitution was framed. The object is to ascertain the reason which induced the framers of the Constitution to enact the particular provision and the purpose sought to be accomplished thereby, in order to construe the whole as to make the words consonant to that reason and calculated to effect that purpose. (Emphasis added.)
And again in Nitafan v. Commissioner on Internal Revenue:
x x x The ascertainment of that intent is but in keeping with the fundamental principle of constitutional construction that the intent of the framers of the organic law and of the people adopting it should be given effect. The primary task in constitutional construction is to ascertain and thereafter assure the realization of the purpose of the framers and of the people in the adoption of the Constitution. It may also be safely assumed that the people in ratifying the Constitution were guided mainly by the explanation offered by the framers. (Emphasis added.)
Much weight and due respect must be accorded to the intent of the framers of the Constitution in interpreting its provisions.
Far from prohibiting reappointment of any kind, including a situation where a commissioner is upgraded to the position of chairman, the 1987 Constitution in fact unequivocally allows promotional appointment, but subject to defined parameters. The ensuing exchanges during the deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (CONCOM) on a draft proposal of what would eventually be Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the present Constitution amply support the thesis that a promotional appointment is allowed provided no one may be in the COA for an aggregate threshold period of 7 years:
MS. AQUINO: In the same paragraph, I would propose an amendment x x x. Between x x x the sentence which begins with In no case, insert THE APPOINTEE SHALL IN NO CASE SERVE AN AGGREGATE PERIOD OF MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS. I was thinking that this may approximate the situation wherein a commissioner is first appointed as chairman. I am willing to withdraw that amendment if there is a representation on the part of the Committee that there is an implicit intention to prohibit a term that in the aggregate will exceed more than seven years. If that is the intention, I am willing to withdraw my amendment.
MR. MONSOD: If the [Gentlewoman] will read the whole Article, she will notice that there is no reappointment of any kind and, therefore, as a whole there is no way somebody can serve for more than seven years. The purpose of the last sentence is to make sure that this does not happen by including in the appointment both temporary and acting capacities.
MS. AQUINO. Yes. Reappointment is fine; that is accounted for. But I was thinking of a situation wherein a commissioner is upgraded to a position of chairman. But if this provision is intended to cover that kind of situation, then I am willing to withdraw my amendment.
MR. MONSOD. It is covered.
MR. FOZ. There is a provision on line 29 precisely to cover that situation. It states: Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the predecessor. In other words, if there is upgrading of position from commissioner to chairman, the appointee can serve only the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor.
MS. AQUINO: But we have to be very specific x x x because it might shorten the term because he serves only the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor.
MR. FOZ: He takes it at his own risk. He knows that he will only have to serve the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. (Emphasis added.)
The phrase upgrading of position found in the underscored portion unmistakably shows that Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the 1987 Constitution, for all its caveat against reappointment, does not per se preclude, in any and all cases, the promotional appointment or upgrade of a commissioner to chairman, subject to this proviso: the appointees tenure in office does not exceed 7 years in all. Indeed, such appointment does not contextually come within the restricting phrase without reappointment twice written in that section. Delegate Foz even cautioned, as a matter of fact, that a sitting commissioner accepting a promotional appointment to fill up an unexpired portion pertaining to the higher office does so at the risk of shortening his original term. To illustrate the Fozs concern: assume that Carague left COA for reasons other than the expiration of his threshold 7-year term and Villar accepted an appointment to fill up the vacancy. In this situation, the latter can only stay at the COA and served the unexpired portion of Caragues unexpired term as departing COA Chairman, even if, in the process, his (Villars) own 7-year term as COA commissioner has not yet come to an end. In this illustration, the inviolable regularity of the intervals between appointments in the COA is preserved.
Moreover, jurisprudence tells us that the word reappointment means a second appointment to one and the same office. As Justice Arsenio Dizon (Justice Dizon) aptly observed in his dissent in Visarra v. Miraflor, the constitutional prohibition against the reappointment of a commissioner refers to his second appointment to the same office after holding it for nine years. As Justice Dizon observed, [T]he occupant of an office obviously needs no such second appointment unless, for some valid cause, such as the expiration of his term or resignation, he had ceased to be the legal occupant thereof.  The inevitable implication of Justice Dizons cogent observation is that a promotion from commissioner to chairman, albeit entailing a second appointment, involves a different office and, hence, not, in the strict legal viewpoint, a reappointment. Stated a bit differently, reappointment refers to a movement to one and the same office. Necessarily, a movement to a different position within the commission (from Commissioner to Chairman) would constitute an appointment, or a second appointment, to be precise, but not reappointment.
A similar opinion was expressed in the same Visarra case by the concurring Justice Angelo Bautista, although he expressly alluded to a promotional appointment as not being a prohibited appointment under Art. X of the 1935 Constitution.
Petitioners invocation of Matibag as additional argument to contest the constitutionality of Villars elevation to the COA chairmanship is inapposite. In Matibag, then President Macapagal-Arroyo appointed, ad interim, Alfredo Benipayo as COMELEC Chairman and Resurreccion Borra and Florentino Tuason as Commissioners, each for a term of office of seven (7) years. All three immediately took their oath of, and assumed, office. These appointments were twice renewed because the Commission on Appointments failed to act on the first two ad interim appointments. Via a petition for prohibition, some disgruntled COMELEC officials assail as infirm the appointments of Benipayo, et al.
Matibag lists (4) four situations where the prohibition on reappointment would arise, or to be specific, where the proviso [t]he Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed x x x for a term of seven years without reappointment shall apply. Justice Antonio T. Carpio declares in his dissent that Villars appointment falls under a combination of two of the four situations.
Conceding for the nonce the correctness of the premises depicted in the situations referred to in Matibag, that case is of doubtful applicability to the instant petition. Not only is it cast against a different milieu, but the lis mota of the case, as expressly declared in the main opinion, is the very constitutional issue raised by petitioner. And what is/are this/these issue/s? Only two defined issues in Matibag are relevant, viz: (1) the nature of an ad interim appointment and subsumed thereto the effect of a by-passed ad interim appointment; and (2) the constitutionality of renewals of ad interim appointments. The opinion defined these issues in the following wise: Petitioner [Matibag] filed the instant petition questioning the appointment and the right to remain in office of Benipayo, Borra and Tuason as Chairman and Commissioners of the COMELEC, respectively. Petitioner claims that the ad interim appointments of Benipayo, et al. violate the constitutional provisions on the independence of COMELEC, as well as on the prohibitions on temporary appointments and reappointments of its Chairman and members. As may distinctly be noted, an upgrade or promotion was not in issue in Matibag.
We shall briefly address the four adverted situations outlined in Matibag, in which, as there urged, the uniform proviso on no reappointmentafter a member of any of the three constitutional commissions is appointed for a term of seven (7) yearsshall apply. Matibag made the following formulation:
The first situation is where an ad interim appointee after confirmation by the Commission on Appointments serves his full 7-year term. Such person cannot be reappointed whether as a member or as chairman because he will then be actually serving more than seven (7) years.
The second situation is where the appointee, after confirmation, serves part of his term and then resigns before his seven-year term of office ends. Such person cannot be reappointed whether as a member or as chair to a vacancy arising from retirement because a reappointment will result in the appointee serving more than seven years.
The third situation is where the appointee is confirmed to serve the unexpired portion of someone who died or resigned, and the appointee completes the unexpired term. Such person cannot be reappointed whether as a member or as chair to a vacancy arising from retirement because a reappointment will result in the appointee also serving more than seven (7) years.
The fourth situation is where the appointee has previously served a term of less than seven (7) years, and a vacancy arises from death or resignation. Even if it will not result in his serving more than seven years, a reappointment of such person to serve an unexpired term is also prohibited because his situation will be similar to those appointed under the second sentence of Sec. 1(20), Art. IX-C of the Constitution [referring to the first set of appointees (the 5 and 3 year termers) whose term of office are less than 7 years but are barred from being reappointed under any situation]. (Words in brackets and emphasis supplied.)
The situations just described constitute an obiter dictum, hence without the force of adjudication, for the corresponding formulation of the four situations was not in any way necessary to resolve any of the determinative issues specifically defined in Matibag. An opinion entirely unnecessary for the decision of the case or one expressed upon a point not necessarily involved in the determination of the case is an obiter.
There can be no serious objection to the scenarios depicted in the first, second and third situations, both hewing with the proposition that no one can stay in any of the three independent commissions for an aggregate period of more than seven (7) years. The fourth situation, however, does not commend itself for concurrence inasmuch as it is basically predicated on the postulate that reappointment, as earlier herein defined, of any kind is prohibited under any and all circumstances. To reiterate, the word reappointment means a second appointment to one and the same office; and Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the 1987 Constitution and similar provisions do not peremptorily prohibit the promotional appointment of a commissioner to chairman, provided the new appointees tenure in both capacities does not exceed seven (7) years in all. The statements in Matibag enunciating the ban on reappointment in the aforecited fourth situation, perforce, must be abandoned, for, indeed, a promotional appointment from the position of Commissioner to that of Chairman is constitutionally permissible and not barred by Sec. 1(2), Art. IX (D) of the Constitution.
One of the aims behind the prohibition on reappointment, petitioner urges, is to ensure and preserve the independence of COA and its members, citing what the dissenting Justice J.B.L Reyes wrote in Visarra, that once appointed and confirmed, the commissioners should be free to act as their conscience demands, without fear of retaliation or hope or reward. Pursued to its logical conclusion, petitioners thesis is that a COA member may no longer act with independence if he or she can be rewarded with a promotion or appointment, for then he or she will do the bidding of the appointing authority in the hope of being promoted or reappointed.
The unstated reason behind Justice J.B.L. Reyes counsel is that independence is really a matter of choice. Without taking anything away from the gem imparted by the eminent jurist, what Chief Justice Moran said on the subject of independence is just as logically sound and perhaps even more compelling, as follows:
A Commissioner, hopeful of reappointment may strive to do good. Whereas, without that hope or other hope of material reward, his enthusiasm may decline as the end of his term approaches and he may even lean to abuses if there is no higher restrain in his moral character. Moral character is no doubt the most effective safeguard of independence. With moral integrity, a commissioner will be independent with or without the possibility of reappointment.
The Court is likewise unable to sustain Villars proposition that his promotional appointment as COA Chairman gave him a completely fresh 7-year termfrom February 2008 to February 2015given his four (4)-year tenure as COA commissioner devalues all the past pronouncements made by this Court, starting in De Vera, then Imperial, Visarra, and finally Matibag. While there had been divergence of opinion as to the import of the word reappointment, there has been unanimity on the dictum that in no case can one be a COA member, either as chairman or commissioner, or a mix of both positions, for an aggregate term of more than 7 years. A contrary view would allow a circumvention of the aggregate 7-year service limitation and would be constitutionally offensive as it would wreak havoc to the spirit of the rotational system of succession. Imperial, passing upon the rotational system as it applied to the then organizational set-up of the COMELEC, stated:
The provision that of the first three commissioners appointed one shall hold office for 9 years, another for 6 years and the third for 3 years, when taken together with the prescribed term of office for 9 years without reappointment, evinces a deliberate plan to have a regular rotation or cycle in the membership of the commission, by having subsequent members appointable only once every three years.
To be sure, Villars appointment as COA Chairman partakes of a promotional appointment which, under appropriate setting, would be outside the purview of the constitutional reappointment ban in Sec 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution. Nonetheless, such appointment, even for the term appearing in the underlying appointment paper, ought still to be struck down as unconstitutional for the reason as shall be explained.
In a mandatory tone, the aforecited constitutional provision decrees that the appointment of a COA member shall be for a fixed 7-year term if the vacancy results from the expiration of the term of the predecessor. We reproduce in its pertinent part the provision referred to:
(2) The Chairman and Commissioners [on Audit] shall be appointed x x x for a term of seven years without reappointment. x x x Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. x x x
Accordingly, the promotional appointment as COA Chairman of Villar for a stated fixed term of less than seven (7) years is void for violating a clear, but mandatory constitutional prescription. There can be no denying that the vacancy in the position of COA chairman when Carague stepped down in February 2, 2008 resulted from the expiration of his 7-year term. Hence, the appointment to the vacancy thus created ought to have been one for seven (7) years in line with the verbal legis approach of interpreting the Constitution. It is to be understood, however, following Gaminde, that in case of a belated appointment, the interval between the start of the term and the actual appointment shall be counted against the 7-year term of the appointee. Posing, however, as an insurmountable barrier to a full 7-year appointment for Villar is the rule against one serving the commission for an aggregate term of more than seven (7) years.
Where the Constitution or, for that matter, a statute, has fixed the term of office of a public official, the appointing authority is without authority to specify in the appointment a term shorter or longer than what the law provides. If the vacancy calls for a full seven-year appointment, the President is without discretion to extend a promotional appointment for more or for less than seven (7) years. There is no in between. He or she cannot split terms. It is not within the power of the appointing authority to override the positive provision of the Constitution which dictates that the term of office of members of constitutional bodies shall be seven (7) years. A contrary reasoning would make the term of office to depend upon the pleasure or caprice of the [appointing authority] and not upon the will [of the framers of the Constitution] of the legislature as expressed in plain and undoubted language in the law.
In net effect, then President Macapagal-Arroyo could not have had, under any circumstance, validly appointed Villar as COA Chairman, for a full 7-year appointment, as the Constitution decrees, was not legally feasible in light of the 7-year aggregate rule. Villar had already served 4 years of his 7-year term as COA Commissioner. A shorter term, however, to comply with said rule would also be invalid as the corresponding appointment would effectively breach the clear purpose of the Constitution of giving to every appointee so appointed subsequent to the first set of commissioners, a fixed term of office of 7 years. To recapitulate, a COA commissioner like respondent Villar who serves for a period less than seven (7) years cannot be appointed as chairman when such position became vacant as a result of the expiration of the 7-year term of the predecessor (Carague). Such appointment to a full term is not valid and constitutional, as the appointee will be allowed to serve more than seven (7) years under the constitutional ban.
On the other hand, a commissioner who resigned before serving his 7- year term can be extended an appointment to the position of chairman for the unexpired period of the term of the latter, provided the aggregate of the period he served as commissioner and the period he will serve as chairman will not exceed seven (7) years. This situation will only obtain when the chairman leaves the office by reason of death, disability, resignation or impeachment. Let us consider, in the concrete, the situation of then Chairman Carague and his successor, Villar. Carague was appointed COA Chairman effective February 2, 2001 for a term of seven (7) years, or up to February 2, 2008. Villar was appointed as Commissioner on February 2, 2004 with a 7-year term to end on February 2, 2011. If Carague for some reason vacated the chairmanship in 2007, then Villar can resign as commissioner in the same year and later be appointed as chairman to serve only up to February 2, 2008, the end of the unexpired portion of Caragues term. In this hypothetical scenario, Villars appointment to the position of chairman is valid and constitutional as the aggregate periods of his two (2) appointments will only be five (5) years which neither distorts the rotational scheme nor violates the rule that the sum total of said appointments shall not exceed seven (7) years. Villar would, however, forfeit two (2) years of his original seven (7)-year term as Commissioner, since, by accepting an upgraded appointment to Caragues position, he agreed to serve the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. As illustrated earlier, following Mr. Fozs line, if there is an upgrading of position from commissioner to chairman, the appointee takes the risk of cutting short his original term, knowing pretty well before hand that he will serve only the unexpired portion of the term of his predecessor, the outgoing COA chairman.
In the extreme hypothetical situation that Villar vacates the position of chairman for causes other than the expiration of the original term of Carague, the President can only appoint the successor of Villar for the unexpired portion of the Carague term in line with Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution. Upon the expiration of the original 7-year term of Carague, the President can appoint a new chairman for a term of seven (7) full years.
In his separate dissent, my esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Mendoza, takes strong exception to the view that the promotional appointment of a sitting commissioner is plausible only when he is appointed to the position of chairman for the unexpired portion of the term of said official who leaves the office by reason of any the following reasons: death, disability, resignation or impeachment, not when the vacancy arises out as a result of the expiration of the 7-year term of the past chairman. There is nothing in the Constitution, so Justice Mendoza counters, that restricts the promotion of an incumbent commissioner to the chairmanship only in instances where the tenure of his predecessor was cut short by any of the four events referred to. As earlier explained, the majority view springs from the interplay of the following premises: The explicit command of the Constitution is that the Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President x x x for a term of seven years [and] appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. To repeat, the President has two and only two options on term appointments. Either he extends an appointment for a full 7-year term when the vacancy results from the expiration of term, or for a shorter period corresponding to the unexpired term of the predecessor when the vacancy occurs by reason of death, physical disability, resignation or impeachment. If the vacancy calls for a full seven-year appointment, the Chief Executive is barred from extending a promotional appointment for less than seven years. Else, the President can trifle with terms of office fixed by the Constitution.
Justice Mendoza likewise invites attention to an instance in history when a commissioner had been promoted chairman after the expiration of the term of his predecessor, referring specifically to the appointment of then COMELEC Commissioner Gaudencio Garcia to succeed Jose P. Carag after the expiration of the latters term in 1959 as COMELEC chairman. Such appointment to the position of chairman is not constitutionally permissible under the 1987 Constitution because of the policy and intent of its framers that a COA member who has served his full term of seven (7) years or even for a shorter period can no longer be extended another appointment to the position of chairman for a full term of seven (7) years. As revealed in the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission that crafted the 1987 Constitution, a member of COA who also served as a commissioner for less than seven (7) years in said position cannot be appointed to the position of chairman for a full term of seven (7) years since the aggregate will exceed seven (7) years. Thus, the adverted Garcia appointment in 1959 made under the 1935 Constitution cannot be used as a precedent to an appointment of such nature under the 1987 Constitution. The dissent further notes that the upgrading remained uncontested. In this regard, suffice it to state that the promotion in question was either legal or it was not. If it were not, no amount of repetitive practices would clear it of invalidating taint.
Lastly, Villars appointment as chairman ending February 2, 2011 which Justice Mendoza considers as valid is likewise unconstitutional, as it will destroy the rationale and policy behind the rotational system or the staggering of appointments and terms in COA as prescribed in the Constitution. It disturbs in a way the staggered rotational system of appointment under Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the 1987 Constitution. Consider: If Villars term as COA chairman up to February 2, 2011 is viewed as valid and constitutional as espoused by my esteemed colleague, then two vacancies have simultaneously occurred and two (2) COA members going out of office at once, opening positions for two (2) appointables on that date as Commissioner San Buenaventuras term also expired on that day. This is precisely one of the mischiefs the staggering of terms and the regular intervals appointments seek to address. Note that San Buenaventura was specifically appointed to succeed Villar as commissioner, meaning she merely occupied the position vacated by her predecessor whose term as such commissioner expired on February 2, 2011. The result is what the framers of the Constitution doubtless sought to avoid, a sitting President with a 6-year term of office, like President Benigno C. Aquino III, appointing all or at least two (2) members of the three-man Commission during his term. He appointed Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan as Chairman for the term ending February 2, 2015 upon the relinquishment of the post by respondent Villar, and Heidi Mendoza was appointed Commissioner for a 7-year term ending February 2, 2018 to replace San Buenaventura. If Justice Mendozas version is adopted, then situations like the one which obtains in the Commission will definitely be replicated in gross breach of the Constitution and in clear contravention of the intent of its framers. Presidents in the future can easily control the Commission depriving it of its independence and impartiality.
To sum up, the Court restates its ruling on Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution, viz:
1. The appointment of members of any of the three constitutional commissions, after the expiration of the uneven terms of office of the first set of commissioners, shall always be for a fixed term of seven (7) years; an appointment for a lesser period is void and unconstitutional.
The appointing authority cannot validly shorten the full term of seven (7) years in case of the expiration of the term as this will result in the distortion of the rotational system prescribed by the Constitution.
2. Appointments to vacancies resulting from certain causes (death, resignation, disability or impeachment) shall only be for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor, but such appointments cannot be less than the unexpired portion as this will likewise disrupt the staggering of terms laid down under Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D).
3. Members of the Commission, e.g. COA, COMELEC or CSC, who were appointed for a full term of seven years and who served the entire period, are barred from reappointment to any position in the Commission. Corollarily, the first appointees in the Commission under the Constitution are also covered by the prohibition against reappointment.
4. A commissioner who resigns after serving in the Commission for less than seven years is eligible for an appointment to the position of Chairman for the unexpired portion of the term of the departing chairman. Such appointment is not covered by the ban on reappointment, provided that the aggregate period of the length of service as commissioner and the unexpired period of the term of the predecessor will not exceed seven (7) years and provided further that the vacancy in the position of Chairman resulted from death, resignation, disability or removal by impeachment. The Court clarifies that reappointment found in Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) means a movement to one and the same office (Commissioner to Commissioner or Chairman to Chairman). On the other hand, an appointment involving a movement to a different position or office (Commissioner to Chairman) would constitute a new appointment and, hence, not, in the strict legal sense, a reappointment barred under the Constitution.
5. Any member of the Commission cannot be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity.
WHEREFORE the petition is PARTLY GRANTED. The appointment of then Commissioner Reynaldo A. Villar to the position of Chairman of the Commission on Audit to replace Guillermo N. Carague, whose term of office as such chairman has expired, is hereby declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL for violation of Sec. 1(2), Art. IX(D) of the Constitution.
PRESBITERO J. VELASCO JR.
RENATO C. CORONA
ANTONIO T. CARPIO TERESITA J. LEONARDO-DE CASTRO
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ARTURO D. BRION DIOSDADO M. PERALTA
Associate Justice Associate Justice
LUCAS P. BERSAMIN MARIANO C.
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ROBERTO A. ABAD MARTIN S. VILLARAMA, JR.
Associate Justice Associate Justice
Associate Justice Associate Justice
Associate Justice Associate Justice
ESTELA M. PERLAS-BERNABE
C E R T I F I C A T I O N
Pursuant to Section 13, Article VIII of the Constitution, it is hereby certified 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
 Art. IX(D), Sec. 1(2).The Chairman and the Commissioners shall be appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Appointments for a term of seven years without reappointment. Of those first appointed, the Chairman shall hold office for seven years, one Commissioner for five years, and the other Commissioner for three years, without reappointment. Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired portion of the term of the predecessor. In no case shall any Member be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity.
 Joya v. PCGG, G.R. No. 96541, August 24, 1993, 225 SCRA 568.
 Prov. Of Batangas v. Romulo, G.R. No. 1522774, May 27, 2004, 429 SCRA 736.
 Go v. Sandiganbayn, G.R. Nos. 150329-30, September 11, 2007, 532 SCRA 574; citing Vda. De Davao v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 116526, March 23, 2004, 426 SCRA 91 and other cases.
 Olanolan v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 165491, March 31, 2005, 807 SCRA 454.
 G.R. Nos. 171396, 171409, 171485, 171483, 171400, 171489 & 171424, May 3, 2006, 489 SCRA 161.
 G.R. Nos. 68379-81, September 22, 1986, 144 SCRA 194.
 Herrera, Remedial Law 96 (2000).
 Rollo, pp. 270, 274-275.
 G.R. No. 141284, August 15, 2000, 338 SCRA 81; citing Baker v. Carr, 369
 David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, supra note 6.
 Abaya v. Ebdane, G.R. No. 167919, February 14, 2007, 515 SCRA 720; Agan v. Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc., 450 Phil. 744 (2003); Del Mar v. PAGCOR, 400 Phil. 307 (2000).
 Constitution, Art. VIII, Sec. 1.
 Benito v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 134913, January 19, 2001, 349 SCRA 705.
 An identical provision is repeated for the Civil Service Commission and the COMELEC, differing only in the case of the COMELEC as to the numerical composition and the number of appointees involved in the staggered appointments.
 Republic v. Imperial, 96 Phil. 770 (1955).
 G.R. No. 140335, December 13, 2000, 347 SCRA 655, 662-663; citing Republic v. Imperial, supra note 18.
 Supra note 18.
 1986 Constitutional Commission, Record of Proceedings and Debates, Vol. 1, pp. 574-575.
 Republic v. Imperial, supra note 18; Concurring Opinion of Justice Angelo Bautista in Visarra v. Miraflor, 8 Phil. 1 (1963); Record of Proceeding and Debates, 1986 Constitutional Commission, Vol. 1, p. 585; Matibag v. Benipayo, G.R. No. 149036, April 2, 2002, 380 SCRA 49.
 Republic v. Imperial, supra note 18.
 No. L-3474, December 7, 1949, 85 SCRA 126.
 Gaminde v. COA, supra note 19. The COMELEC, then a 3-man body, is now composed of a Chairman and six (6) Commissioners.
 G.R. No. 149036, April 2, 2002, 380 SCRA 49.
 Agpalo, Statutory Construction 94 (1990).
 Globe-Mackay Cable and Radio Corporation v. NLRC, G.R. No. 82511, March 3, 1992, 206 SCRA 701, 711.
 Ang Bagong Bayani-OFW Labor Party v. Commission on Elections, G.R. Nos. 147589 & 147613, June 26, 2001, 359 SCRA 698, 724.
 No. L-21064, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 413.
 G.R. No. 83896, February 22, 1991, 194 SCRA 317, 325.
 No. L-78780, July 23, 1987, 152 SCRA 284, 291-292.
 I Records of the Constitutional Convention Proceedings and Debates, pp. 586 et seq.; cited in Bernas, The Intent of the 1986 Constitution Writers 591-592 (1995).
 Sibal, Philippine Legal Encyclopedia 826 (1995 reprint); citing Visarra v. Miraflor, supra note 24.
 Supra note 24.
 Referring to a COMELEC commissioner who was then entitled to a 9-year term of office.
 Visarra v. Miraflor, supra note 24, at 46.
 Supra note 28, at 65.
 American Home Assurance Co. v. NLRC, 328 Phil. 606 (1996); City of
 Rollo, p. 25.
 Nacionalista Party v. De Vera, supra note 26, at 136.
 Supra note 18, at 775.
 Whenever possible, the words used in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning, except when technical terms are employed.
 See rollo, p. 315.
 Baker v. Kirk, 33