SC Denies the Office of the Solicitor General’s Motion for Reconsideration from the Declaration of Unconstitutionality of Republic Act No. 11935
October 24, 2023
The Supreme Court has denied with finality the Motion for Reconsideration filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on October 11, 2023, which sought to reconsider the Supreme Court Decision dated June 27, 2023 in the consolidated petitions in G.R. No. 263590 and G.R. No. 263673, respectively entitled “Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal v. Commission on Elections, et al.” and Atty. Alberto N. Hidalgo, et al. v. Executive Secretary Lucas P. Bersamin, et al.” To recall, the said Decision, inter alia, declared: (a) Republic Act No. (RA) 11935 (entitled “An Act Postponing the December 2022 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 9164, as amended, Appropriating Funds therefor, and for Other Purposes”) as unconstitutional, which declaration shall retroact to the date of its enactment, subject to the proper recognition of the consequences and effects of the law’s existence prior to this ruling; (b) the Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections (BSKE) set on the last Monday of October 2023 pursuant to RA 11935 shall proceed as scheduled; (c) the sitting Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan officials shall continue to hold office until their successor shall have been elected and qualified, but their term of office shall be deemed to have ended on December 31, 2022, consistent with RA 11462; and (d) the succeeding synchronized BSKE shall be held on the first Monday of December 2025, and every three (3) years thereafter, pursuant to RA 11462. More significantly, the said Decision laid down the criteria to serve as guidelines and principles for the bench, the bar, and the public as regards any government action that seeks to postpone any elections.
In the Motion for Reconsideration, the OSG maintained that RA 11935 is valid as it complies with the constitutional guarantee of substantive due process and that its enactment was not attended with grave abuse of discretion. In this regard, the OSG insisted that RA 11935 is supported by legitimate government interests, particularly the need for more time to study the electoral reforms that should be introduced in the BSKE. Additionally, it asserts that the postponement of the BSKE is necessary to achieve the Congress’ vision to reform the BSKE system.
Furthermore, the OSG urged the Court to reconsider the guidelines, arguing that it infringes on the prerogative of the Congress to enact laws effecting the people’s exercise of their sovereign rights and on the Commission on Election’s (COMELEC’s) rule-making power. Lastly, it argued that the revival of RA 11462 shortens the “term of office” of the winning candidates in the October 2023 elections to only two (2) years.
In denying the Motion for Reconsideration, the Supreme Court made the following salient points:
First, the Supreme Court declared that the arguments raised in the Motion for Reconsideration are essentially mere reiterations of those considered and passed upon in the Court’s June 27, 2023 Decision. The Supreme Court stressed that while the power of the Congress to legislate all matters of general concern or common interest is broad and plenary, “it is limited by the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly” which includes the due process clause. On this score, the Court reiterated that the legislative history of RA 11935 manifestly demonstrated that it is not supported by a legitimate government interest or objective since the primary, and animating, reason for the postponement was to unconstitutionally realign the budget allocation of the COMELEC for the 2022 BSKE towards the government’s other projects and programs. Additionally, RA 11935 did not employ a reasonably necessary means to achieve the government interest as the postponement of the 2022 BSKE unduly and arbitrarily encroached on the electorate’s exercise of their right of suffrage.
Second, the criteria set forth in the guidelines merely incorporated the limitations explicitly and impliedly provided in the Constitution, as well as in various international instruments which have become part of our laws by transformation or incorporation.
Finally, tenure may be shortened –– as in the case of the October 2023 winning candidates –– or lengthened –– as in the case of the sitting barangay officials, but the former’s “term” of office remains as fixed in the governing statute.
The Supreme Court highlighted that it is the “tenure” of the October 2023 winning candidates –– and not the “term” –– that is effectively shortened with the revival of RA 11462, the law governing the BSKE at the time of the enactment of RA 11935. Since the term of office of the sitting BSKE officials shall be deemed to have ended on December 31, 2022 (as explained in the Decision), the “term” of office of the October 2023 winning candidates shall be deemed to have begun thereafter pursuant to RA 11462.
The Supreme Court Public Information Office will upload a copy of the ruling once it receives the same from the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc.
(G.R. No. 263590, Macalintal v. COMELEC, et al.; G.R. No. 263673, Hidalgo, et al. v. COMELEC, et al.)