Kida vs Senate of the Philippines
G.R. No. 196271 October 18, 2011
Facts: 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. 91401 – 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. 93332 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.
Issue: Whether or not RA 10153 is constitutional.
Held: Yes. 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. As judges, we can only interpret and apply the law and, despite our doubts about its wisdom, cannot repeal or amend it.
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.
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. [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.
I. Synchronization as a recognized constitutional mandate
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, 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.
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. This intention finds full support in the discussions during the Constitutional Commission deliberations.
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.
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. As this Court explained in People v. Derilo, “[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. 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.
II. The President’s Certification on the Urgency of RA No. 10153
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.
III. A. RA No. 9333 and RA No. 10153 are not amendments to RA No. 9054
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
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.
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.(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.
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.
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; (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.