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PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 141489. November 29, 2002.]

SENATOR AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR., REPRESENTATIVES MELVYN D. EBALLE, LEONARDO Q. MONTEMAYOR, CRESENTE C. PAEZ, LORETTA ANN P. ROSALES and PATRICIA M. SARENAS, Petitioners, v. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL, JUSTICES JOSE A.R. MELO, VICENTE V. MENDOZA and JOSE C. VITUG, and REPRESENTATIVES ASANI S. TAMMANG, RAUL M. GONZALES, DIDAGEN P. DILANGALEN, DANTON Q. BUESER, 1 NAPOLEON R. BERATIO, SIMEON E. GARCIA and SPEAKER MANUEL B. VILLAR, JR., Respondents.

[G.R. No. 141490. November 29, 2002.]

SENATOR AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR. REPRESENTATIVES MELVYN D. EBALLE, LEONARDO Q. MONTEMAYOR, CRESENTE C. PAEZ, LORETTA ANN P. ROSALES and PATRICIA M. SARENAS, Petitioners, v. COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS, its Chair, SENATE PRESIDENT BLAS F. OPLE, and Members, namely: SENATORS FRANKLIN M. DRILON, RENATO L. CAYETANO, LOREN LEGARDA-LEVISTE, ROBERT Z. BARBERS, ANNA DOMINIQUE M.L. COSETENG, GREGORIO HONASAN, RAMON B. MAGSAYSAY, JR., TERESA AQUINO-ORETA, RAUL S. ROCO, FRANCISCO S. TATAD, VICENTE C. SOTTO III and REPRESENTATIVES LUIS A. ASISTIO, EMILIO R. ESPINOSA, JR., WIGBERTO E. TAÑADA, MANUEL M. GARCIA, SIMEON A. DATUMANONG, ANTONIO M. DIAZ, FAUSTINO S. DY, JR., PACIFICO M. FAJARDO, ERNESTO F. HERRERA, NUR G. JAAFAR, CARLOS M. PADILLA, ROGELIO M. SARMIENTO and SPEAKER MANUEL B. VILLAR, JR., Respondents.

D E C I S I O N


CARPIO, J.:


The Case


Before this Court are two original petitions for prohibition and mandamus with prayer for writ of preliminary injunction. Petitioners assail the composition of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal ("HRET" for brevity) 2 and the Commission on Appointments ("CA" for brevity). 3 Petitioners pray that respondents be ordered to "alter, reorganize, reconstitute and reconfigure" the composition of the HRET and the CA to include party-list representatives in accordance with Sections 17 and 18, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and Republic Act No. 7941, otherwise known as the Party-List System Act. Petitioners further pray that the HRET and the CA be enjoined from exercising their functions until they have been reorganized.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Antecedent Facts


Section 5, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution provides for a party-list system in the House of Representatives ("House" for brevity), as follows:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations.

(2) The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum of the total number of representatives including those under the party list. For three consecutive terms after the ratification of this Constitution, one-half of the seats allocated to party-list representatives shall be filled, as provided by law, by selection or election from the labor, peasant, urban poor, indigenous cultural communities, women, youth and such other sectors as may be provided by law except the religious sector."cralaw virtua1aw library

On March 3, 1995, the Party-List System Act took effect. The Act sought to "promote proportional representation in the election of representatives, to the House of Representatives through a party-list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations or coalitions thereof, which will enable Filipino citizens belonging to marginalized and underrepresented sectors, organizations and parties, and who lack well-defined political constituencies but who could contribute to the formulation and enactment of appropriate legislation that will benefit the nation as a whole, to become members of the House of Representatives." 4

On May 11, 1998, in accordance with the Party-List System Act, national elections were held which included, for the first time, the election through popular vote of party-list groups and organizations whose nominees would become members of the House. Proclaimed winners were 14 party-list representatives from 13 organizations, including petitioners from party-list groups Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives 5 (APEC), Alyansang Bayanihan ng mga Magsasaka, Manggagawang Bukid at Mangingisda (ABA), NATCO Network Party (COOP-NATCCO), Akbayan! Citizens Action Party (AKBAYAN), and Abanse! Pinay (ABANSE). Due to the votes it garnered, APEC was able to send 2 representatives to the House, while the 12 other party-list groups had one representative each. Also elected were district representatives belonging to various political parties.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Subsequently, the House constituted its HRET and CA contingent 6 by electing its representatives to these two constitutional bodies. In practice, the procedure involves the nomination by the political parties of House members who are to occupy seats in the HRET and the CA. 7 From available records, it does not appear that after the May 11, 1998 elections the party-list groups in the House nominated any of their representatives to the HRET or the CA. As of the date of filing of the instant petitions, the House contingents to the HRET and the CA were composed solely of district representatives belonging to the different political parties.

On January 18, 2000, Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. wrote two letters addressed to then Senate President Blas F. Ople, 8 as Chairman of the CA, and to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Jose A. R. Melo (now retired), 9 as Chairman of the HRET. The letters requested Senate President Ople and Justice Melo to cause the restructuring of the CA and the HRET, respectively, to include party-list representatives to conform to Sections 17 and 18, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution.

In its meeting of January 20, 2000, the HRET resolved to direct the Secretary of the Tribunal to refer Senator Pimentel’s letter to the Secretary General of the House of Representatives. 10 On the same day, HRET Secretary Daisy B. Panga-Vega, in an Indorsement 11 of even date, referred the letter to House of Representatives Secretary General Roberto P. Nazareno.

On February 2, 2000, petitioners filed with this Court their Petitions for Prohibition, Mandamus and Preliminary Injunction (with Prayer for Temporary Restraining Order) against the HRET, its Chairman and Members, 12 and against the CA, its Chairman and Members. 13 Petitioners contend that, under the Constitution and the Party-List System Act, party-list representatives should have 1.2 or at least 1 seat in the HRET, 14 and 2.4 seats in the CA. 15 Petitioners charge that respondents committed grave abuse of discretion in refusing to act positively on the letter of Senator Pimentel. In its Resolution of February 8, 2000, 16 the Court en banc directed the consolidation of G.R. No. 141490 with G.R. No. 141489.

On February 11, 2000, petitioners filed in both cases a motion 17 to amend their petitions to implead then Speaker Manuel B. Villar, Jr. as an additional respondent, in his capacity as Speaker of the House and as one of the members of the CA. The Court granted both motions and admitted the amended petitions.

Senator Pimentel filed the instant petitions on the strength of his oath to protect, defend and uphold the Constitution and in his capacity as taxpayer and as a member of the CA. He was joined by 5 party-list representatives from APEC, ABA, ABANSE, AKBAYAN and COOP-NATCCO as co-petitioners.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Petitioners cite as basis Sections 17 and 18, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 17. The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications of their respective Members. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior Justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman."cralaw virtua1aw library

"Sec. 18. There shall be a Commission on Appointments consisting of the President of the Senate, as ex officio Chairman, twelve Senators and twelve Members of the House of Representatives, elected by each House on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The Chairman of the Commission shall not vote, except in case of a tie. The Commission shall act on all appointments submitted to it within thirty session days of the Congress from their submission. The Commission shall rule by a majority vote of all the Members." 18 (Emphasis supplied)

Petitioners also invoke the following provision of Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7941:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 11. Number of Party-List Representatives. — The party-list representatives shall constitute twenty per centum (20%) of the total number of the members of the House of Representatives including those under the party-list. . . ." 19

According to the Solicitor General’s Consolidated Comment, 20 at the time petitioners filed the instant petitions the House had 220 members, 14 of whom were party-list representatives, constituting 6.3636% of the House. Of the remaining 206 district representatives affiliated with different political parties, 151 belonged to LAMP (68.6354%), 36 belonged to LAKAS (16.3636%), 13 to the Liberal Party (5.9090%), 1 member (0.4545%) each to KBL, PDRLM, Aksyon Demokratiko, Reporma and PROMDI, and 1 representative was an independent.

In their Reply to Consolidated Comment, 21 petitioners alleged that, following the Solicitor General’s computation, the LP and LAKAS were over-represented in the HRET and the CA. Petitioners particularly assail the presence of one LP representative each in the HRET and the CA, and maintain that the LP representatives should be ousted and replaced with nominees of the 14 party-list representatives.

The Issues


Petitioners raise the following issues:chanrob1es virtual 1aw library

1. WHETHER THE PRESENT COMPOSITION OF THE HOUSE ELECTORAL TRIBUNAL VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION BECAUSE THERE ARE NO PARTY-LIST REPRESENTATIVES IN THE HRET.

2. WHETHER THE PRESENT MEMBERSHIP OF THE HOUSE IN THE COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONAL REQUIREMENT OF PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION BECAUSE THERE ARE NO PARTY-LIST REPRESENTATIVES IN THE CA.

3. WHETHER THE REFUSAL OF THE HRET AND THE CA TO RECONSTITUTE THEMSELVES TO INCLUDE PARTY-LIST REPRESENTATIVES CONSTITUTES GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.

On the other hand, the Solicitor General argues that the instant petitions are procedurally defective and substantially lacking in merit for having been filed prematurely, thus:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"It is a generally accepted principle that the averments in the pleading determine the existence of a cause of action. In the instant petitions, petitioners failed to aver that they or any one of them was elected by a party or organization registered under the party-list system as a Member of the HRET or CA to represent said party or organization under the party-list system of the House of Representatives." 22

The Ruling of the Court

Petitioners urge the Court to rule on the issues raised in the petitions under review, citing the following pronouncement in Guingona, Jr. v. Gonzales: 23

"Where constitutional issues are properly raised in the context of the alleged facts, procedural questions acquire a relatively minor significance, and the transcendental importance to the public of the case demands that they be settled promptly and definitely brushing aside . . . technicalities of procedure."cralaw virtua1aw library

Petitioners’ reliance on Guingona, Jr. v. Gonzales is misplaced. The "procedural questions" that petitioners want the Court to brush aside are not mere technicalities but substantive matters that are specifically provided for in the constitutional provisions cited by petitioners.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

The Constitution expressly grants to the House of Representatives the prerogative, within constitutionally defined limits, to choose from among its district and party-list representatives those who may occupy the seats allotted to the House in the HRET and the CA. Section 18, Article VI of the Constitution 24 explicitly confers on the Senate and on the House the authority to elect among their members those who would fill the 12 seats for Senators and 12 seats for House members in the Commission on Appointments. Under Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution, 25 each chamber of Congress exercises the power to choose, within constitutionally defined limits, who among their members would occupy the allotted 6 seats of each chamber’s respective electoral tribunal.

These constitutional provisions are reiterated in Rules 3 and 4 (a) of the 1998 Rules of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, to wit:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Rule 3. Composition. — The Tribunal shall be composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the House of Representatives who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The Senior Justice in the Tribunal shall be its Chairman.

Rule 4. Organization. — (a) Upon the designation of the Justices of the Supreme Court and the election of the Members of the House of Representatives who are to compose the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal pursuant to Sections 17 and 19 of Article VI of the Constitution, the Tribunal shall meet for its organization and adoption of such resolutions as it may deem proper." (Emphasis supplied)

Likewise, Section 1 of the Rules of the Commission on Appointments provides:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Section 1. Composition of the Commission On Appointments. Within thirty (30) days after both Houses of Congress shall have organized themselves with the election of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Commission on Appointments shall be constituted. It shall be composed of twelve (12) Senators and twelve (12) members of the House of Representatives, elected by each House on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented herein. (Emphasis supplied)

Thus, even assuming that party-list representatives comprise a sufficient number and have agreed to designate common nominees to the HRET and the CA, their primary recourse clearly rests with the House of Representatives and not with this Court. Under Sections 17 and 18, Article VI of the Constitution, party-list representatives must first show to the House that they possess the required numerical strength to be entitled to seats in the HRET and the CA. Only if the House fails to comply with the directive of the Constitution on proportional representation of political parties in the HRET and the CA can the party-list representatives seek recourse to this Court under its power of judicial review. Under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction, prior recourse to the House is necessary before petitioners may bring the instant case to the court. Consequently, petitioners’ direct recourse to this Court is premature.

The discretion of the House to choose its members to the HRET and the CA is not absolute, being subject to the mandatory constitutional rule on proportional representation. 26 However, under the doctrine of separation of powers, the Court may not interfere with the exercise by the House of this constitutionally mandated duty, absent a clear violation of the Constitution or grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. 27 Otherwise, the doctrine of separation of powers calls for each branch of government to be left alone to discharge its duties as it sees fit. 28 Neither can the Court speculate on what action the House may take if party-list representatives are duly nominated for membership in the HRET and the CA.

The instant petitions are bereft of any allegation that respondents prevented the party-list groups in the House from participating in the election of members of the HRET and the CA. Neither does it appear that after the May 11, 1998 elections, the House barred the party-list representatives from seeking membership in the HRET or the CA. Rather, it appears from the available facts that the party-list groups in the House at that time simply refrained from participating in the election process. The party-list representatives did not designate their nominees even up to the time they filed the instant petitions, with the predictable result that the House did not consider any party-list representative for election to the HRET or the CA. As the primary recourse of the party-list representatives lies with the House of Representatives, the Court cannot resolve the issues presented by petitioners at this time.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

Moreover, it is a well-settled rule that a constitutional question will not be heard and resolved by the courts unless the following requirements of judicial inquiry concur: (1) there must be an actual controversy; (2) the person or party raising the constitutional issue must have a personal and substantial interest in the resolution of the controversy; (3) the controversy must be raised at the earliest reasonable opportunity; and (4) the resolution of the constitutional issue must be indispensable to the final determination of the controversy. 29

The five party-list representatives who are petitioners in the instant case have not alleged that they are entitled to, and have been unlawfully deprived of, seats in the HRET or the CA. Neither have they claimed that they have been nominated by the party-list groups in the House to the HRET or the CA. As such, they do not possess the personal and substantial interest required to confer them with locus standi. The party raising the constitutional issue must have "such personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions." 30

We likewise find no grave abuse in the action or lack of action by the HRET and the CA in response to the letters of Senator Pimentel. Under Sections 17 and 18 of Article VI of the 1987 Constitution and their internal rules, the HRET and the CA are bereft of any power to reconstitute themselves.

Finally, the issues raised in the petitions have been rendered academic by subsequent events. On May 14, 2001, a new set of district and party-list representatives were elected to the House. The Court cannot now resolve the issue of proportional representation in the HRET and the CA based on the "present composition" of the House of Representatives as presented by petitioners and the Solicitor General. With the May 14, 2001 elections, it is certain that the composition of the House has changed. In the absence of a proper petition assailing the present composition of the HRET and the CA, the instant petitions must fail. Otherwise, for the Court to rule on the instant petitions at this time would be tantamount to rendering an advisory opinion, which is outside our jurisdiction. 31

WHEREFORE, the consolidated petitions for prohibition and mandamus are DISMISSED.chanrob1es virtua1 1aw 1ibrary

SO ORDERED.

Davide, Jr., C.J., Bellosillo, Puno, Panganiban, Quisumbing, Ynares-Santiago, Sandoval-Gutierrez, Corona, Carpio-Morales, Callejo, Sr. and Azcuna, JJ., concur.

Vitug, J., took no part; a respondent in G.R. 141489.

Mendoza, J., took no part, being respondent in G.R. No. 141489.

Austria-Martinez, J., on leave.

Endnotes:



1. Erroneously cited in petitioners’ Petition for Prohibition, Mandamus and Preliminary Injunction, Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 3, as "DIDAGEN Q. BUESER" .

2. Docketed as G.R. No. 141489.

3. Docketed as G.R. No. 141490.

4. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7941, "An Act Providing For The Election Of Party-List Representatives Through The Party-List System, and Appropriating Funds Therefor" (1995).

5. Erroneously cited in petitioners’ Amended Petitions as "Association of Philippine Cooperatives" .

6. 1987 Constitution, Article VI, Section 19 states in part:jgc:chanrobles.com.ph

"Sec. 19. The Electoral Tribunals and the Commission on Appointments shall be constituted within thirty days after the Senate and House of Representatives shall have been organized with the election of the President and the Speaker. . . ."cralaw virtua1aw library

7. Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 34, and Rollo of G.R. No. 141490, p. 46.

8. Rollo of G.R. No. 141490, p. 18.

9. Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 15.

10. Ibid., p. 56.

11. Ibid., p. 58.

12. Ibid., p. 3.

13. Rollo of G.R. No. 141490, p. 3.

14. Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 26.

15. Rollo of G.R. No. 141490, p. 32.

16. Ibid., p. 21.

17. Ibid., p. 23; Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 18.

18. 1987 Constitution, Article VI, Sections 17 and 18.

19. R.A. No. 7941, supra, see note 4.

20. Supra, see note 7.

21. Rollo of G.R. No. 141489, p. 60, and Rollo of G.R. No. 141490, p. 71.

22. Supra, see note 7.

23. 214 SCRA 789 (1992).

24. Supra, see note 18.

25. Ibid.

26. Guingona, Jr. v. Gonzales, 219 SCRA 326 (1993); Daza v. Singson, 180 SCRA 496 (1989).

27. Section 1, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.

28. Guingona, Jr. v. CA, 292 SCRA 402 (1998).

29. Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, 338 SCRA 81 (2000); Board of Optometry v. Colet, 260 SCRA 88 (1996); Fernandez v. Torres, 215 SCRA 489 (1992); Garcia v. Executive Secretary, 204 SCRA 516 (1991); People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56 (1937).

30. Integrated Bar of the Philippines v. Zamora, supra.

31. Supra, see note 28.

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