The Supreme Court recently dismissed for lack of merit the petition filed by election lawyer Romulo B. Macalintal assailing the validity of the constitution of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET).
Atty. Macalintal had questioned the creation of a purportedly “separate tribunal” with a budget allocation, a seal, and a set of personnel and confidential employees.
In a 32-page En Banc decision penned by Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura, the Court held that the PET is not a separate and distinct entity from it even though the PET has functions peculiar only to it. It declared that “the PET was constituted in implementation of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, and it faithfully complies – not unlawfully defies – the constitutional directive. The adoption of a separate seal, as well as the change in the nomenclature of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices into Chairman and Members of the Tribunal, respectively, was designed simply to highlight the singularity and exclusivity of the Tribunal’s functions as a special electoral court.” Article VII, sec. 4 provides: “The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose.”
“[T]he PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent, but not separate, from the judicial department, i.e., the Supreme Court. McCulloch v. State of Maryland proclaimed that ‘[a] power without the means to use it is a nullity.’ The vehicle for the exercise of this power, as intended by the Constitution and specifically mentioned by the Constitutional Commissioners during the discussions on the grant of power to this Court, is the PET,” stressed the Court.
As to petitioner’s claim that the PET exercises quasi-judicial functions in contravention of Article VIII, sec. 12 of the Constitution, which provides that “The Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions,” the Court held that the expanded definition of judicial power found in Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 2 of the present Constitution has allocated to the Supreme Court, in conjunction with latter’s exercise of judicial power inherent in all courts, the task of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, with full authority in the exercise thereof. “The power wielded by PET is a derivative of the plenary judicial power allocated to courts of law, expressly provided in the Constitution,” the Court explained; otherwise its members sitting in the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals would violate the said constitutional prohibition.
On a final note, the Court cautioned “against the filing of baseless petitions which only clog the Court’s docket. The petition in the instant case belongs to that classification.” (GR No.191618, Macalintal v. PET, November 23, 2010)