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NAZARETH VS VILLAR

Republic of the Philippines


SUPREME COURT
EN BANC

G.R. No. 188635 January 29, 2013
BRENDA L. NAZARETH, REGIONAL DIRECTOR, DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE AND
TECHNOLOGY, REGIONAL OFFICE NO. IX, ZAMBOANGA CITY, Petitioner,
vs.
THE HON. REYNALDO A. VILLAR, HON. JUANITO G. ESPINO, JR., (COMMISSIONERS OF THE
COMMISSION ON AUDIT), and DIR. KHEM M. INOK, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
BERSAMIN, J .:
No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.
1
A
violation of this constitutional edict warrants the disallowance of the payment. However, the refund of
the disallowed payment of a benefit granted by law to a covered person, agency or office of the
Government may be barred by the good faith of the approving official and of the recipient.
Being assailed by petition for certiorari on the ground of its being issued with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction is the decision rendered on June 4, 2009 by the
Commission on Audit (COA) in COA Case No. 2009-045 entitled Petition of Ms. Brenda L. Nazareth,
Regional Director, Department of Science and Technology, Regional Office No. IX, Zamboanga City,
for review of Legal and Adjudication Office (LAO)-National Decision No. 2005-308 dated September
15, 2005 and LAO-National Resolution No. 2006-308A dated May 12, 2006 on disallowances of
subsistence, laundry, hazard and other benefits in the total amount of P3,591,130.36,
2
affirming the
issuance of notices of disallowance (NDs) by the Audit Team Leader of COA Regional Office No. IX
in Zamboanga City against the payment of benefits to covered officials and employees of the
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for calendar year (CY) 2001 out of the savings of
the DOST.
The petitioner DOST Regional Director hereby seeks to declare the decision dated June 4, 2009
"null and void," and prays for the lifting of the disallowance of the payment of the benefits for CY2001
for being within the ambit of Republic Act No. 8439 (R.A. No. 8439), otherwise known as the Magna
Carta for Scientists, Engineers, Researchers, and other Science and Technology Personnel in the
Government (Magna Carta, for short), and on the strength of the Memorandum of Executive
Secretary Ronaldo B. Zamora dated April 12, 2000 authorizing the use of the savings for the
purpose.
Antecedents
On December 22, 1997, Congress enacted R.A. No. 8439 to address the policy of the State to
provide a program for human resources development in science and technology in order to achieve
and maintain the necessary reservoir of talent and manpower that would sustain the drive for total
science and technology mastery.
3
Section 7 of R.A. No. 8439 grants the following additional
allowances and benefits (Magna Carta benefits) to the covered officials and employees of the
DOST, to wit:
(a) Honorarium. - S & T personnel who rendered services beyond the established irregular
workload of scientists, technologists, researchers and technicians whose broad and superior
knowledge, expertise or professional standing in a specific field contributes to productivity
and innovativeness shall be entitled to receive honorarium subject to rules to be set by the
Department;
(b) Share in royalties. - S & T scientists, engineers, researchers and other S & T personnel
shall be entitled to receive share in royalties subject to guidelines of the Department. The
share in royalties shall be on a sixty percent-forty percent (60%-40%) basis in favor of the
Government and the personnel involved in the technology/ activity which has been produced
or undertaken during the regular performance of their functions. For the purpose of this Act,
share in royalties shall be defined as a share in the proceeds of royalty payments arising
from patents, copyrights and other intellectual property rights;
If the researcher works with a private company and the program of activities to be
undertaken has been mutually agreed upon by the parties concerned, any royalty arising
therefrom shall be divided according to the equity share in the research project;
(c) Hazard allowance. - S & T personnel involved in hazardous undertakings or assigned in
hazardous workplaces, shall be paid hazard allowances ranging from ten (10%) to thirty
(30%) percent of their monthly basic salary depending on the nature and extent of the hazard
involved. The following shall be considered hazardous workplaces:
(1) Radiation-exposed laboratories and service workshops;
(2) Remote/depressed areas;
(3) Areas declared under a state of calamity or emergency;
(4) Strife-torn or embattled areas;
(5) Laboratories and other disease-infested areas.
(d) Subsistence allowance. - S & T personnel shall be entitled to full subsistence allowance
equivalent to three (3) meals a day, which may be computed and implemented in
accordance with the criteria to be provided in the implementing rules and regulations. Those
assigned out of their regular work stations shall be entitled to per diem in place of the
allowance;
(e) Laundry allowance. - S & T personnel who are required to wear a prescribed uniform
during office hours shall be entitled to a laundry allowance of not less than One hundred fifty
pesos (P150.00) a month;
(f) Housing and quarter allowance. - S & T personnel who are on duty in laboratories,
research and development centers and other government facilities shall be entitled to free
living quarters within the government facility where they are stationed: Provided, That the
personnel have their residence outside of the fifty (50)-kilometer radius from such
government facility;
(g) Longevity pay. - A monthly longevity pay equivalent to five percent (5%) of the monthly
basic salary shall be paid to S & T personnel for every five (5) years of continuous and
meritorious service as determined by the Secretary of the Department; and
(h) Medical examination. - During the tenure of their employment, S & T personnel shall be
given a compulsory free medical examination once a year and immunization as the case
may warrant. The medical examination shall include:
(1) Complete physical examination;
(2) Routine laboratory, Chest X-ray and ECG;
(3) Psychometric examination;
(4) Dental examination;
(5) Other indicated examination.
Under R.A. No. 8439, the funds for the payment of the Magna Carta benefits are to be appropriated
by the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of the year following the enactment of R.A. No. 8439.
4

The DOST Regional Office No. IX in Zamboanga City released the Magna Carta benefits to the
covered officials and employees commencing in CY 1998 despite the absence of specific
appropriation for the purpose in the GAA. Subsequently, following the post-audit conducted by COA
State Auditor Ramon E. Vargas on April 23, 1999, October 28, 1999, June 20, 2000, February 27,
2001, June 27, 2001, October 10, 2001 and October 17, 2001, several NDs were issued
disapproving the payment of the Magna Carta benefits. The justifications for the disallowance were
stated in the post-audit report, as follows:
a) ND Nos. 99-001-101 (98) to 99-105-101 (98) Payment of Subsistence and Laundry
Allowances and Hazard Pay for the months of February-November 1998 The State Auditor
claims that no funds were appropriated in the 1998 General Appropriations Act for the said
purpose notwithstanding the effectivity of the Magna Carta, providing for payment of
allowances and benefits, among others, to Science and Technology Personnel in the
Government;
b) ND Nos. 2000-101-101 (99) to 2000-010-101 (99) Payment of Subsistence and Laundry
Allowances and Hazard Pay for the months of January-June 1999 The State Auditor claims
that no Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and Civil Service Commission (CSC)
guidelines were issued by the said Departments on the payment thereof;
c) ND Nos. 2001-001-101 (00) to 2001-013-101 (00) Payment of Subsistence and Laundry
Allowances, Hazard Pay and Health Care Program for the month of October 1999 and
January-September 2000 The State Auditor claims that there was no basis for the payment
of the said allowances because the President vetoed provisions of the General
Appropriations Act (GAA) regarding the use of savings for the payment of benefits;
d) ND Nos. 2001-014-101(00) to 2001-025-101 (00) Payment of Subsistence and Laundry
Allowances, Hazard Pay and Medical Benefits for the months of January-October 2001
The provision for the use of savings in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) was vetoed by
the
President; hence, there was no basis for the payment of the aforesaid allowances or benefits
according to the State Auditor.
5

The disallowance by the COA prompted then DOST Secretary Dr. Filemon Uriarte, Jr. to request the
Office of the President (OP) through his
Memorandum dated April 3, 2000 (Request for Authority to Use Savings for the Payment of Magna
Carta Benefits as provided for in R.A. 8439) for the authority to utilize the DOSTs savings to pay the
Magna Carta benefits.
6
The salient portions of the Memorandum of Secretary Uriarte, Jr. explained
the request in the following manner:
x x x. However, the amount necessary for its full implementation had not been provided in the
General Appropriations Act (GAA). Since the Acts effectivity, the Department had paid the 1998 MC
benefits out of its current years savings as provided for in the Budget Issuances of the Department
of Budget and Management while the 1999 MC benefits were likewise sourced from the years
savings as authorized in the 1999 GAA.
The 2000 GAA has no provision for the use of savings. The Department, therefore, cannot continue
the payment of the Magna Carta benefits from its 2000 savings. x x x. The DOST personnel are
looking forward to His Excellencys favorable consideration for the payment of said MC benefits,
being part of the administrations 10-point action program to quote "I will order immediate
implementation of RA 8439 (the Magna Carta for Science and Technology Personnel in
Government)" as published in the Manila Bulletin dated May 20, 1998.
Through the Memorandum dated April 12, 2000, then Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, acting
by authority of the President, approved the request of Secretary Uriarte, Jr.,
7
viz:
With reference to your Memorandum dated April 03, 2000 requesting authority to use savings from
the appropriations of that Department and its agencies for the payment of Magna Carta Benefits as
provided for in R.A. 8439, please be informed that the said request is hereby approved.
On July 28, 2003, the petitioner, in her capacity as the DOST Regional Director in Region IX, lodged
an appeal with COA Regional Cluster Director Ellen Sescon, urging the lifting of the disallowance of
the Magna Carta benefits for the period covering CY 1998 to CY 2001 amounting to P4,363,997.47.
She anchored her appeal on the April 12, 2000 Memorandum of Executive Secretary Zamora, and
cited the provision in the GAA of 1998,
8
to wit:
Section 56. Priority in the Use of Savings. In the use of savings, priority shall be given to the
augmentation of the amounts set aside for compensation, bonus, retirement gratuity, terminal leave,
old age pension of veterans and other personnel benefits authorized by law and those expenditure
items authorized in agency Special Provisions and in Sec. 16 and in other sections of the General
Provisions of this Act.
9

In support of her appeal, the petitioner contended that the DOST Regional Office had "considered
the subsistence and laundry allowance as falling into the category other personnel benefits
authorized by law, hence the payment of such allowances were charged to account 100-900 for
Other Benefits (Honoraria), which was declared to be the savings of our Office."
10
She argued that
the April 12, 2000 Memorandum of Executive Secretary Zamora not only ratified the payment of the
Magna Carta benefits out of the savings for CY 1998 and CY 1999 and allowed the use of the
savings for CY 2000, but also operated as a continuing endorsement of the use of savings to cover
the Magna Carta benefits in succeeding calendar years.
The appeal was referred to the Regional Legal and Adjudication Director (RLAD), COA Regional
Office IX in Zamboanga City, which denied the appeal and affirmed the grounds stated in the NDs.
Not satisfied with the result, the petitioner elevated the matter to the COA Legal and Adjudication
Office in Quezon City
On September 15, 2005, respondent Director Khem N. Inok of the COA Legal and Adjudication
Office rendered a decision in LAO-N-2005-308,
11
denying the petitioners appeal with the
modification that only the NDs covering the Magna Carta benefits for CY 2000 were to be set aside
in view of the authorization under the Memorandum of April 12, 2000 issued by Executive Secretary
Zamora as the alter ego of the President. The decision explained itself as follows:
In resolving the case, the following issues should first be resolved:
1. Whether or not the "approval" made by the Executive Secretary on April 12, 2000 on the
request for authority to use savings of the agency to pay the benefits, was valid; and
2. Whether or not the payments of the benefits made by the agency using its savings for the
years 1998 and 1999 based on Section 56 of RA 8522 (General Appropriations Act of 1998
[GAA]) were legal and valid.
Anent the first issue, the law in point is Article VI, Section 25(5) of the 1987 Constitution, which aptly
provides that:
"(5) No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations, however, the PRESIDENT, x
x x may by law, be authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their
respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations."
Simply put, it means that only the President has the power to augment savings from one item to
another in the budget of administrative agencies under his control and supervision. This is the very
reason why the President vetoed the Special Provisions in the 1998 GAA that would authorize the
department heads to use savings to augment other items of appropriations within the Executive
Branch. Such power could well be extended to his Cabinet Secretaries as alter egos under the
"doctrine of qualified political agency" enunciated by the Supreme Court in the case of Binamira v.
Garrucho, 188 SCRA 154, where it was pronounced that the official acts of a Department Secretary
are deemed acts of the President unless disapproved or reprobated by the latter. Thus, in the instant
case, the authority granted to the DOST by the Executive Secretary, being one of the alter egos of
the President, was legal and valid but in so far as the use of agencys savings for the year 2000 only.
Although 2000 budget was reenacted in 2001, the authority granted on the use of savings did not
necessarily extend to the succeeding year.
On the second issue, the payments of benefits made by the agency in 1998 and 1999 were
admittedly premised on the provisions of the General Appropriations Acts (GAA) for CY 1998 and
1999 regarding the use of savings which states that:
"In the use of savings, priority shall be given to the augmentation of the amount set aside for
compensation, bonus, retirement gratuity, terminal leave, old age pensions of veterans and other
personal benefits x x x." (Underscoring ours.)
It can be noted, however, that augmentation was likewise a requisite to make payments for such
benefits which means that Presidential approval was necessary in accordance with the above-cited
provision of the 1987 Constitution. Therefore, the acts of the agency in using its savings to pay the
said benefits without the said presidential approval were illegal considering that during those years
there was no appropriations provided in the GAA to pay such benefits.
Further, COA Decision Nos. 2003-060 dated March 18, 2003 and 2002-022 dated January 11, 2002,
where this Commission lifted the DOST disallowance on the payments of similar benefits in 1992 to
1995, can not be applied in the instant case. The disallowances therein dealt more on the
classification of the agency as health related or not while the instant case deals mainly on the
availability of appropriated funds for the benefits under RA 8439 and the guidelines for their
payments.
Likewise, the certification of the DOST Secretary declaring work areas of S and T personnel as
hazardous for purposes of entitlement to hazard allowance is not valid and may be considered as
self-serving. Under RA 7305 and its Implementing Rules and Regulation[s] (Magna Carta of Public
Health Workers), the determination which agencies are considered health-related establishments is
within the competence of the Secretary of Health which was used by this Commission in COA
Decision No. 2003-060, supra, to wit:
x x x x
"It bears emphasis to state herein that it is within the competence of the Secretary of Health as
mandated by RA 7305 and its IRR to determine which agencies are health-related establishments.
Corollary thereto, the certifications dated October 10, 1994 issued by then DOH Secretary Juan M.
Flavier that certain DOST personnel identified by DOST Secretary Padolina in his letter dated
September 29, 1994 to be engaged in health and health-related work and that of Secretary Hilarion
J. Ramiro dated December 12, 1996 confirming the staff and personnel of the DOST and its
attached agencies to be engaged in health-related work and further certified to be a health-related
establishment were sufficient basis for reconsideration of the disallowance on subsistence and
laundry allowances paid for 1992, 1993 and 1995."
x x x x
Assuming that the situation in the DOST and its attached agencies did not change as to consider it
health-related establishment for its entitlement to magna carta benefits, still the payments of the
benefits cannot be sustained in audit not only for lack of said certification from the Secretary of
Department of Health for the years 1998 and 1999 but more importantly, for lack of funding.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the herein Appeal is DENIED with modification. NDs Nos.
2001-001-101 (00) to 2001-013-101 (00) issued for the payments of benefits for CY 2000 are hereby
SET ASIDE while NDs pertaining to benefits paid for CY 1998, 1999 and 2001 shall STAY.
On December 1, 2005, the petitioner filed her motion for reconsideration in the COA Legal and
Adjudication Office-National in Quezon City.
By resolution dated May 12, 2006,
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the COA Legal and Adjudication Office-National denied the
motion for reconsideration.
Thence, the petitioner filed a petition for review in the COA Head Office, insisting that the payment of
Magna Carta benefits to qualified DOST Regional Office No. IX officials and employees had been
allowed under R.A. No. 8349.
On June 4, 2009, the COA rendered the assailed decision, further modifying the decision of
respondent Director Inok by also lifting and setting aside the NDs covering the Magna Carta benefits
for CY 1998 and CY 1999 for the same reason applicable to the lifting of the NDs for CY 2000, but
maintaining the disallowance of the benefits for CY 2001 on the ground that they were not covered
by the authorization granted by the Memorandum of April 12, 2000 of Executive Secretary Zamora.
The pertinent portions of the decision are quoted below, to wit:
Hence, the appellant filed the instant petition for review with the main argument that the payment of
Magna Carta benefits to qualified DOST Regional Office No. IX employees is allowed pursuant to
RA No. 8439.
ISSUE
The sole issue to be resolved is whether or not the payment of Magna Carta benefits for CYs 1998,
1999 and 2001 is valid and legal.
DISCUSSION
It is clear that the funds utilized for the payment of the Magna Carta benefits came from the savings
of the agency. The approval by the Executive Secretary of the request for authority to use the said
savings for payments of the benefits was an affirmation that the payments were authorized. The
Memorandum dated April 3, 2000 of the DOST Secretary requested for the approval of the payment
out of savings of the CY 2000 benefits. Likewise, the same Memorandum mentioned the 1998
Magna Carta benefits which were paid out of its current years savings as provided for in the budget
issuances of the DBM and the 1999 Magna Carta benefits which were sourced from the years
savings as authorized in the 1999 GAA. When such memorandum request was approved by the
Executive Secretary in a Memorandum dated April 12, 2000, it was clear that the approval covered
the periods stated in the request, which were the 1998, 1999 and 2000 Magna Carta benefits.
Thus, this Commission hereby affirms LAO-National Decision No. 2005-308 dated September 15,
2005 which lifted ND Nos. 2001-001-101 (00) to 2001-013-101 (00) for the payments of Magna
Carta benefits for CY 2000 and which sustained the NDs for payments in 2001. However, for the
disallowances covering payments in 1998 and 1999, this Commission is inclined to lift the same.
This is in view of the approval made by the Executive Secretary for the agency to use its savings to
pay the benefits for the years covered. Thus, when the Executive Secretary granted the request of
the DOST Secretary for the payment of the Magna Carta benefits to its qualified personnel, the said
payments became lawful for the periods covered in the request, that is, CYs 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Since the Magna Carta benefits paid in 2001 were not covered by the approval, the same were
correctly disallowed in audit.
In a previous COA Decision-No. 2006-015 dated January 31, 2006, the payment of hazard,
subsistence and laundry allowances given to personnel of the DOST, Regional Office No. VI, Iloilo
City, was granted. The same decision also stated that in (sic) no doubt the DOST personnel, who
are qualified, are entitled to receive the Magna Carta benefits. The 1999 GAA did not prohibit the
grant of these benefits but merely emphasized the discretion of the agency head, upon authority of
the President, to use savings from the Departments appropriation, to implement the payment of
benefits pursuant to the DOST Charter.
RULING
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant appeal on the payment of Magna Carta benefits for
CYs 1998 and 1999 which were disallowed in ND Nos. 99-001-101 (98) to 99-015-101 (98) and
2000-001-101 (99) to 2000-010-101 (99), is hereby GRANTED. Likewise, the lifting of ND Nos.
2001-001-101 (00) to 2001-013-101 (00) as embodied in LAO-National Decision No. 2005-308 dated
September 15, 2005 is hereby CONFIRMED. While the disallowances on the payment of said
benefits for 2001 as covered by ND Nos. 2001-014-101 (01) to 2001-032-101 (01) are hereby
AFFIRMED.
Issues
Hence, this special civil action for certiorari, with the petitioner insisting that the COA gravely abused
its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in affirming the disallowance of the Magna
Carta benefits for CY 2001 despite the provisions of R.A. No. 8439, and in ruling that the
Memorandum of April 12, 2000 did not cover the payment of the Magna Carta benefits for CY 2001.
Did the COA commit grave abuse of discretion in issuing ND No. 2001-014-101(01) to ND No. 2001-
032-101(01)?
Ruling
The petition for certiorari lacks merit.
R. A. No. 8439 was enacted as a manifestation of the States recognition of science and technology
as an essential component for the attainment of national development and progress. The law offers
a program of human resources development in science and technology to help realize and maintain
a sufficient pool of talent and manpower that will sustain the initiative for total science and
technology mastery. In furtherance of this objective, the law not only ensures scholarship programs
and improved science and engineering education, but also affords incentives for those pursuing
careers in science and technology. Moreover, the salary scale of science and technology personnel
is differentiated by R. A. No. 8439 from the salary scales of government employees under the
existing law.
As earlier mentioned, Section 7 of R. A. No. 8439 confers the Magna Carta benefits consisting of
additional allowances and benefits to DOST officers and employees, such as honorarium, share in
royalties, hazard, subsistence, laundry, and housing and quarter allowances, longevity pay, and
medical examination. But the Magna Carta benefits will remain merely paper benefits without the
corresponding allocation of funds in the GAA.
The petitioner urges the Court to treat the authority granted in the April 12, 2000 Memorandum of
Executive Secretary Zamora as a continuing authorization to use the DOSTs savings to pay the
Magna Carta benefits.
We cannot agree with the petitioner.
The April 12, 2000 Memorandum was not a blanket authority from the OP to pay the benefits out of
the DOSTs savings. Although the Memorandum was silent as to the period covered by the request
for authority to use the DOSTs savings, it was clear just the same that the Memorandum
encompassed only CY 1998, CY 1999 and CY 2000. The limitation of its applicability to those
calendar years was based on the tenor of the request of Secretary Uriarte, Jr. to the effect that the
DOST had previously used its savings to pay the Magna Carta benefits in CY 1998 and CY 1999;
that the 2000 GAA did not provide for the use of savings; and that the DOST personnel were looking
forward to the Presidents favorable consideration. The Memorandum could only be read as an
authority covering the limited period until and inclusive of CY 2000. The text of the Memorandum
was also bereft of any indication that the authorization was to be indefinitely extended to any
calendar year beyond CY 2000.
As we see it, the COA correctly ruled on the matter at hand. Article VI Section 29 (1) of the 1987
Constitution firmly declares that: "No money shall be paid out of the Treasury except in pursuance of
an appropriation made by law." This constitutional edict requires that the GAA be purposeful,
deliberate, and precise in its provisions and stipulations. As such, the requirement under Section
20
13
of R.A. No. 8439 that the amounts needed to fund the Magna Carta benefits were to be
appropriated by the GAA only meant that such funding must be purposefully, deliberately, and
precisely included in the GAA. The funding for the Magna Carta benefits would not materialize as a
matter of course simply by fiat of R.A. No. 8439, but must initially be proposed by the officials of the
DOST as the concerned agency for submission to and consideration by Congress. That process is
what complies with the constitutional edict. R.A. No. 8439 alone could not fund the payment of the
benefits because the GAA did not mirror every provision of law that referred to it as the source of
funding. It is worthy to note that the DOST itself acknowledged the absolute need for the
appropriation in the GAA. Otherwise, Secretary Uriarte, Jr. would not have needed to request the OP
for the express authority to use the savings to pay the Magna Carta benefits.
In the funding of current activities, projects, and programs, the general rule should still be that the
budgetary amount contained in the appropriations bill is the extent Congress will determine as
sufficient for the budgetary allocation for the proponent agency. The only exception is found in
Section 25 (5),
14
Article VI of the Constitution, by which the President, the President of the Senate,
the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the
heads of Constitutional Commissions are authorized to transfer appropriations to augment any item
in the GAA for their respective offices from the savings in other items of their respective
appropriations. The plain language of the constitutional restriction leaves no room for the petitioners
posture, which we should now dispose of as untenable.
It bears emphasizing that the exception in favor of the high officials named in Section 25(5), Article
VI of the Constitution limiting the authority to transfer savings only to augment another item in the
GAA is strictly but reasonably construed as exclusive. As the Court has expounded in Lokin, Jr. v.
Commission on Elections:
15

When the statute itself enumerates the exceptions to the application of the general rule, the
exceptions are strictly but reasonably construed. The exceptions extend only as far as their
language fairly warrants, and all doubts should be resolved in favor of the general provision rather
than the exceptions. Where the general rule is established by a statute with exceptions, none but the
enacting authority can curtail the former. Not even the courts may add to the latter by implication,
and it is a rule that an express exception excludes all others, although it is always proper in
determining the applicability of the rule to inquire whether, in a particular case, it accords with reason
and justice.
The appropriate and natural office of the exception is to exempt something from the scope of the
general words of a statute, which is otherwise within the scope and meaning of such general words.
Consequently, the existence of an exception in a statute clarifies the intent that the statute shall
apply to all cases not excepted. Exceptions are subject to the rule of strict construction; hence, any
doubt will be resolved in favor of the general provision and against the exception. Indeed, the liberal
construction of a statute will seem to require in many circumstances that the exception, by which the
operation of the statute is limited or abridged, should receive a restricted construction.
The claim of the petitioner that the payment of the 2001 Magna Carta benefits was upon the
authorization extended by the OP through the 12 April 2000 Memorandum of Executive Secretary
Zamora was outrightly bereft of legal basis. In so saying, she inexplicably, but self-servingly, ignored
the important provisions in the 2000 GAA on the use of savings, to wit:
Sec. 54. Use of Savings. The President of the Philippines, the President of the Senate, the Speaker
of the House of Representatives, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Heads of
Constitutional Commissions under Article IX of the Constitution, the Ombudsman and the Chairman
of the Commission on Human Rights are hereby authorized to augment any item in this Act for their
respective offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.
Sec. 55. Meaning of Savings and Augmentation. Savings refer to portions or balances of any
programmed appropriation in this Act free of any obligation or encumbrance still available after the
completion or final discontinuance or abandonment of the work, activity or purpose for which the
appropriation is authorized, or arising from unpaid compensation and related costs pertaining to
vacant positions and leaves of absence without pay.
Augmentation implies the existence in this Act of an item, project, activity or purpose with an
appropriation which upon implementation or subsequent evaluation of needed resources is
determined to be deficient. In no case, therefore, shall a non-existent item, project, activity, purpose
or object of expenditure be funded by augmentation from savings or by the use of appropriations
authorized otherwise in this Act. (Bold emphases added)
Under these provisions, the authority granted to the President was subject to two essential requisites
in order that a transfer of appropriation from the agencys savings would be validly effected. The first
required that there must be savings from the authorized appropriation of the agency. The second
demanded that there must be an existing item, project, activity, purpose or object of expenditure with
an appropriation to which the savings would be transferred for augmentation purposes only.
At any rate, the proposition of the petitioner that savings could and should be presumed from the
mere transfer of funds is plainly incompatible with the doctrine laid down in Demetria v. Alba,
16
in
which the petition challenged the constitutionality of paragraph 1 of Section 44
17
of Presidential
Decree No. 1177 (Budget Reform Decree of 1977) in view of the express prohibition contained in
Section 16(5)
18
of Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution against the transfer of appropriations except to
augment out of savings,
19
with the Court declaring the questioned provision of Presidential Decree
No. 1177 "null and void for being unconstitutional" upon the following reasoning, to wit:
The prohibition to transfer an appropriation for one item to another was explicit and categorical under
the 1973 Constitution. However, to afford the heads of the different branches of the government and
those of the constitutional commissions considerable flexibility in the use of public funds and
resources, the constitution allowed the enactment of a law authorizing the transfer of funds for the
purpose of augmenting an item from savings in another item in the appropriation of the government
branch or constitutional body concerned. The leeway granted was thus limited. The purpose and
conditions for which funds may be transferred were specified, i.e., transfer may be allowed for the
purpose of augmenting an item and such transfer may be made only if there are savings from
another item in the appropriation of the government branch or constitutional body.
Paragraph 1 of Section 44 of P.D. No. 1177 unduly overextends the privilege granted under said
Section 16(5). It empowers the President to indiscriminately transfer funds from one department,
bureau, office or agency of the Executive Department to any program, project, or activity of any
department, bureau or office included in the General Appropriations Act or approved after its
enactment, without regard as to whether or not the funds to be transferred are actually savings in the
item from which the same are to be taken, or whether or not the transfer is for the purpose of
augmenting the item to which said transfer is to be made. It does not only completely disregard the
standards set in the fundamental law, thereby amounting to an undue delegation of legislative
powers, but likewise goes beyond the tenor thereof. Indeed, such constitutional infirmities render the
provision in question null and void.
Clearly and indubitably, the prohibition against the transfer of appropriations is the general rule.
Consequently, the payment of the Magna Carta benefits for CY 2001 without a specific item or
provision in the GAA and without due authority from the President to utilize the DOSTs savings in
other items for the purpose was repugnant to R.A. No. 8439, the Constitution, and the re-enacted
GAA for 2001.
The COA is endowed with sufficient latitude to determine, prevent, and disallow the irregular,
unnecessary, excessive, extravagant, or unconscionable expenditures of government funds. It has
the power to ascertain whether public funds were utilized for the purposes for which they had been
intended by law. The "Constitution has made the COA the guardian of public funds, vesting it with
broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of
public funds and property, including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and
examination, to establish the techniques and methods for such review, and to promulgate
accounting and auditing rules and regulations".
20

Thus, the COA is generally accorded complete discretion in the exercise of its constitutional duty
and responsibility to examine and audit expenditures of public funds, particularly those which are
perceptibly beyond what is sanctioned by law. Verily, the Court has sustained the decisions of
administrative authorities like the COA as a matter of general policy, not only on the basis of the
doctrine of separation of powers but also upon the recognition that such administrative authorities
held the expertise as to the laws they are entrusted to enforce.
21
The Court has accorded not only
respect but also finality to their findings especially when their decisions are not tainted with
unfairness or arbitrariness that would amount to grave abuse of discretion.
22

Only when the COA has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, may the Court entertain and grant a petition for certiorari
brought to assail its actions.
23
Section 1 of Rule 65,
24
Rules of Court, demands that the petitioner
must show that, one, the tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions acted
without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction, and, two, there is neither an appeal nor any plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the
ordinary course of law for the purpose of amending or nullifying the proceeding. Inasmuch as the
sole office of the writ of certiorari is the correction of errors of jurisdiction, which includes the
commission of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction, the petitioner should
establish that the COA gravely abused its discretion. The abuse of discretion must be grave, which
means either that the judicial or quasi-judicial power was exercised in an arbitrary or despotic
manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, or that the respondent judge, tribunal or board
evaded a positive duty, or virtually refused to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of
law, such as when such judge, tribunal or board exercising judicial or quasi-judicial powers acted in
a capricious or whimsical manner as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.
25
Mere abuse of
discretion is not enough to warrant the issuance of the writ.
26

The petitioner dismally failed to discharge her burden.1wphi1 We conclude and declare, therefore, that the
COAs assailed decision was issued in steadfast compliance of its duty under the Constitution and in
the judicious exercise of its general audit power conferred to it by the Constitution.
Nonetheless, the Court opines that the DOST officials who caused the payment of the Magna Carta
benefits to the covered officials and employees acted in good faith in the honest belief that there was
a firm legal basis for the payment of the benefits. Evincing their good faith even after receiving the
NDs from the COA was their taking the initiative of earnestly requesting the OP for the authorization
to use the DOSTs savings to pay the Magna Carta benefits. On their part, the DOST covered
officials and employees received the benefits because they considered themselves rightfully
deserving of the benefits under the long-awaited law.
The Court declares and holds that the disallowed benefits received in good faith need not be
reimbursed to the Government. This accords with consistent pronouncements of the Court, like that
issued in De Jesus v. Commission on Audit,
27
to wit:
Nevertheless, our pronouncement in Blaquera v. Alcala
28
supports petitioners position on the refund
of the benefits they received. In Blaquera, the officials and employees of several government
departments and agencies were paid incentive benefits which the COA disallowed on the ground
that Administrative Order No. 29 dated 19 January 1993 prohibited payment of these benefits. While
the Court sustained the COA on the disallowance, it nevertheless declared that:
Considering, however, that all the parties here acted in good faith, we cannot countenance the
refund of subject incentive benefits for the year 1992, which amounts the petitioners have already
received. Indeed, no indicia of bad faith can be detected under the attendant facts and
circumstances. The officials and chiefs of offices concerned disbursed such incentive benefits in the
honest belief that the amounts given were due to the recipients and the latter accepted the same
with gratitude, confident that they richly deserve such benefits.
This ruling in Blaquera applies to the instant case. Petitioners here received the additional
allowances and bonuses in good faith under the honest belief that LWUA Board Resolution No. 313
authorized such payment. At the time pet1t10ners received the additional allowances and bonuses,
the Court had not yet decided Baybay Water District v. Commission on Audit.
29
Petitioners had no
knowledge that such payment was without legal basis. Thus, being in good faith, petitioners need
not refund the allowances and bonuses they received but disallowed by the COA.
Also, in Veloso v. Commission on Audit
30
the Court, relying on a slew of jurisprudence
31
ruled that the
recipients of the disallowed retirement and gratuity pay remuneration need not refund whatever they
had received:
x x x because all the parties acted in good faith. In this case, the questioned disbursement was
made pursuant to an ordinance enacted as early as December 7, 2000 although deemed approved
only on August 22, 2002. The city officials disbursed the retirement and gratuity pay remuneration in
the honest belief that the amounts given were due to the recipients and the latter accepted the same
with gratitude, confident that they richly deserve such reward.
WHEREFORE, the Court DISMISSES the petition for certiorari for lack of merit; AFFIRMS the
decision issued on June 4, 2009 by the Commission Proper of the Commission on Audit in COA
Case No. 2009-045; and DECLARES that the covered officials and employees of the Department of
Science and Technology who received the Magna Carta benefits for calendar year 2001 are not
required to refund the disallowed benefits received.
No pronouncement on costs of suit.
SO ORDERED.
DEMETRIA VS ALBA
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 71977 February 27, 1987
DEMETRIO G. DEMETRIA, M.P., AUGUSTO S. SANCHEZ, M.P., ORLANDO S. MERCADO, M.P.,
HONORATO Y. AQUINO, M.P., ZAFIRO L. RESPICIO, M.P., DOUGLAS R. CAGAS, M.P., OSCAR
F. SANTOS, M.P., ALBERTO G. ROMULO, M.P., CIRIACO R. ALFELOR, M.P., ISIDORO E.
REAL, M.P., EMIGDIO L. LINGAD, M.P., ROLANDO C. MARCIAL, M.P., PEDRO M.
MARCELLANA, M.P., VICTOR S. ZIGA, M.P., and ROGELIO V. GARCIA. M.P., petitioners,
vs.
HON. MANUEL ALBA in his capacity as the MINISTER OF THE BUDGET and VICTOR
MACALINGCAG in his capacity as the TREASURER OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

FERNAN, J .:
Assailed in this petition for prohibition with prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction is the
constitutionality of the first paragraph of Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1177, otherwise
known as the "Budget Reform Decree of 1977."
Petitioners, who filed the instant petition as concerned citizens of this country, as members of the
National Assembly/Batasan Pambansa representing their millions of constituents, as parties with
general interest common to all the people of the Philippines, and as taxpayers whose vital interests
may be affected by the outcome of the reliefs prayed for"
1
listed the grounds relied upon in this petition
as follows:
A. SECTION 44 OF THE 'BUDGET REFORM DECREE OF 1977' INFRINGES
UPON THE FUNDAMENTAL LAW BY AUTHORIZING THE ILLEGAL TRANSFER
OF PUBLIC MONEYS.
B. SECTION 44 OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 1177 IS REPUGNANT TO THE
CONSTITUTION AS IT FAILS TO SPECIFY THE OBJECTIVES AND PURPOSES
FOR WHICH THE PROPOSED TRANSFER OF FUNDS ARE TO BE MADE.
C. SECTION 44 OF PRESIDENTIAL DECREE NO. 1177 ALLOWS THE
PRESIDENT TO OVERRIDE THE SAFEGUARDS, FORM AND PROCEDURE
PRESCRIBED BY THE CONSTITUTION IN APPROVING APPROPRIATIONS.
D. SECTION 44 OF THE SAME DECREE AMOUNTS TO AN UNDUE
DELEGATION OF LEGISLATIVE POWERS TO THE EXECUTIVE.
E. THE THREATENED AND CONTINUING TRANSFER OF FUNDS BY THE
PRESIDENT AND THE IMPLEMENTATION THEREOF BY THE BUDGET
MINISTER AND THE TREASURER OF THE PHILIPPINES ARE WITHOUT OR IN
EXCESS OF THEIR AUTHORITY AND JURISDICTION.
2

Commenting on the petition in compliance with the Court resolution dated September 19, 1985, the
Solicitor General, for the public respondents, questioned the legal standing of petitioners, who were
allegedly merely begging an advisory opinion from the Court, there being no justiciable controversy
fit for resolution or determination. He further contended that the provision under consideration was
enacted pursuant to Section 16[5], Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution; and that at any rate,
prohibition will not lie from one branch of the government to a coordinate branch to enjoin the
performance of duties within the latter's sphere of responsibility.
On February 27, 1986, the Court required the petitioners to file a Reply to the Comment. This, they
did, stating, among others, that as a result of the change in the administration, there is a need to
hold the resolution of the present case in abeyance "until developments arise to enable the parties to
concretize their respective stands."
3

Thereafter, We required public respondents to file a rejoinder. The Solicitor General filed a rejoinder
with a motion to dismiss, setting forth as grounds therefor the abrogation of Section 16[5], Article VIII
of the 1973 Constitution by the Freedom Constitution of March 25, 1986, which has allegedly
rendered the instant petition moot and academic. He likewise cited the "seven pillars" enunciated by
Justice Brandeis in Ashwander v. TVA, 297 U.S. 288 (1936)
4
as basis for the petition's dismissal.
In the case of Evelio B. Javier v. The Commission on Elections and Arturo F. Pacificador, G.R. Nos.
68379-81, September 22, 1986, We stated that:
The abolition of the Batasang Pambansa and the disappearance of the office in
dispute between the petitioner and the private respondents both of whom have
gone their separate ways could be a convenient justification for dismissing the
case. But there are larger issues involved that must be resolved now, once and for
all, not only to dispel the legal ambiguities here raised. The more important purpose
is to manifest in the clearest possible terms that this Court will not disregard and in
effect condone wrong on the simplistic and tolerant pretext that the case has become
moot and academic.
The Supreme Court is not only the highest arbiter of legal questions but also the
conscience of the government. The citizen comes to us in quest of law but we must
also give him justice. The two are not always the same. There are times when we
cannot grant the latter because the issue has been settled and decision is no longer
possible according to the law. But there are also times when although the dispute
has disappeared, as in this case, it nevertheless cries out to be resolved. 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 upon the future.
It is in the discharge of our role in society, as above-quoted, as well as to avoid great disservice to
national interest that We take cognizance of this petition and thus deny public respondents' motion to
dismiss. Likewise noteworthy is the fact that the new Constitution, ratified by the Filipino people in
the plebiscite held on February 2, 1987, carries verbatim section 16[5], Article VIII of the 1973
Constitution under Section 24[5], Article VI. And while Congress has not officially reconvened, We
see no cogent reason for further delaying the resolution of the case at bar.
The exception taken to petitioners' legal standing deserves scant consideration. The case of Pascual
v. Secretary of Public Works, et al., 110 Phil. 331, is authority in support of petitioners' locus standi.
Thus:
Again, it is well-settled that the validity of a statute may be contested only by one
who will sustain a direct injury in consequence of its enforcement. Yet, there are
many decisions nullifying at the instance of taxpayers, laws providing for the
disbursement of public funds, upon the theory that the expenditure of public funds by
an officer of the state for the purpose of administering an unconstitutional
actconstitutes a misapplication of such funds which may be enjoined at the request
of a taxpayer. Although there are some decisions to the contrary, the prevailing view
in the United States is stated in the American Jurisprudence as follows:
In the determination of the degree of interest essential to give the
requisite standing to attack the constitutionality of a statute, the
general rule is that not only persons individually affected, but
also taxpayers have sufficient interest in preventing the illegal
expenditures of moneys raised by taxation and may therefore
question the constitutionality of statutes requiring expenditure of
public moneys. [ 11 Am. Jur. 761, Emphasis supplied. ]
Moreover, in Tan v. Macapagal, 43 SCRA 677 and Sanidad v. Comelec, 73 SCRA 333, We said that
as regards taxpayers' suits, this Court enjoys that open discretion to entertain the same or not.
The conflict between paragraph 1 of Section 44 of Presidential Decree No. 1177 and Section 16[5],
Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution is readily perceivable from a mere cursory reading thereof. Said
paragraph 1 of Section 44 provides:
The President shall have the authority to transfer any fund, appropriated for the
different departments, bureaus, offices and agencies of the Executive Department,
which are included in the General Appropriations Act, to any program, project or
activity of any department, bureau, or office included in the General Appropriations
Act or approved after its enactment.
On the other hand, the constitutional provision under consideration reads as follows:
Sec. 16[5]. No law shall be passed authorizing any transfer of appropriations,
however, the President, the Prime Minister, the Speaker, the Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court, and the heads of constitutional commis ions may by law be
authorized to augment any item in the general appropriations law for their respective
offices from savings in other items of their respective appropriations.
The prohibition to transfer an appropriation for one item to another was explicit and categorical under
the 1973 Constitution. However, to afford the heads of the different branches of the government and
those of the constitutional commissions considerable flexibility in the use of public funds and
resources, the constitution allowed the enactment of a law authorizing the transfer of funds for the
purpose of augmenting an item from savings in another item in the appropriation of the government
branch or constitutional body concerned. The leeway granted was thus limited. The purpose and
conditions for which funds may be transferred were specified, i.e. transfer may be allowed for the
purpose of augmenting an item and such transfer may be made only if there are savings from
another item in the appropriation of the government branch or constitutional body.
Paragraph 1 of Section 44 of P.D. No. 1177 unduly over extends the privilege granted under said
Section 16[5]. It empowers the President to indiscriminately transfer funds from one department,
bureau, office or agency of the Executive Department to any program, project or activity of any
department, bureau or office included in the General Appropriations Act or approved after its
enactment, without regard as to whether or not the funds to be transferred are actually savings in the
item from which the same are to be taken, or whether or not the transfer is for the purpose of
augmenting the item to which said transfer is to be made. It does not only completely disregard the
standards set in the fundamental law, thereby amounting to an undue delegation of legislative
powers, but likewise goes beyond the tenor thereof. Indeed, such constitutional infirmities render the
provision in question null and void.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: ..." and money belonging to no one in particular, i.e.
public funds, provide an even greater temptation for misappropriation and embezzlement. This,
evidently, was foremost in the minds of the framers of the constitution in meticulously prescribing the
rules regarding the appropriation and disposition of public funds as embodied in Sections 16 and 18
of Article VIII of the 1973 Constitution. Hence, the conditions on the release of money from the
treasury [Sec. 18(1)]; the restrictions on the use of public funds for public purpose [Sec. 18(2)]; the
prohibition to transfer an appropriation for an item to another [See. 16(5) and the requirement of
specifications [Sec. 16(2)], among others, were all safeguards designed to forestall abuses in the
expenditure of public funds. Paragraph 1 of Section 44 puts all these safeguards to naught. For, as
correctly observed by petitioners, in view of the unlimited authority bestowed upon the President, "...
Pres. Decree No. 1177 opens the floodgates for the enactment of unfunded appropriations, results in
uncontrolled executive expenditures, diffuses accountability for budgetary performance and
entrenches the pork barrel system as the ruling party may well expand [sic] public money not on the
basis of development priorities but on political and personal expediency."
5
The contention of public
respondents that paragraph 1 of Section 44 of P.D. 1177 was enacted pursuant to Section 16(5) of Article
VIII of the 1973 Constitution must perforce fall flat on its face.
Another theory advanced by public respondents is that prohibition will not lie from one branch of the
government against a coordinate branch to enjoin the performance of duties within the latter's
sphere of responsibility.
Thomas M. Cooley in his "A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations," Vol. 1, Eight Edition, Little,
Brown and Company, Boston, explained:
... The legislative and judicial are coordinate departments of the government, of
equal dignity; each is alike supreme in the exercise of its proper functions, and
cannot directly or indirectly, while acting within the limits of its authority, be subjected
to the control or supervision of the other, without an unwarrantable assumption by
that other of power which, by the Constitution, is not conferred upon it. The
Constitution apportions the powers of government, but it does not make any one of
the three departments subordinate to another, when exercising the trust committed to
it. The courts may declare legislative enactments unconstitutional and void in some
cases, but not because the judicial power is superior in degree or dignity to the
legislative. Being required to declare what the law is in the cases which come before
them, they must enforce the Constitution, as the paramount law, whenever a
legislative enactment comes in conflict with it. But the courts sit, not to review or
revise the legislative action, but to enforce the legislative will, and it is only where
they find that the legislature has failed to keep within its constitutional limits, that they
are at liberty to disregard its action; and in doing so, they only do what every private
citizen may do in respect to the mandates of the courts when the judges assumed to
act and to render judgments or decrees without jurisdiction. "In exercising this high
authority, the judges claim no judicial supremacy; they are only the administrators of
the public will. If an act of the legislature is held void, it is not because the judges
have any control over the legislative power, but because the act is forbidden by the
Constitution, and because the will of the people, which is therein declared, is
paramount to that of their representatives expressed in any law." [Lindsay v.
Commissioners, & c., 2 Bay, 38, 61; People v. Rucker, 5 Col. 5; Russ v. Com., 210
Pa. St. 544; 60 Atl. 169, 1 L.R.A. [N.S.] 409, 105 Am. St. Rep. 825] (pp. 332-334).
Indeed, where the legislature or the executive branch is acting within the limits of its authority, the
judiciary cannot and ought not to interfere with the former. But where the legislature or the executive
acts beyond the scope of its constitutional powers, it becomes the duty of the judiciary to declare
what the other branches of the government had assumed to do as void. This is the essence of
judicial power conferred by the Constitution "in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may
be established by law" [Art. VIII, Section 1 of the 1935 Constitution; Art. X, Section 1 of the 1973
Constitution and which was adopted as part of the Freedom Constitution, and Art. VIII, Section 1 of
the 1987 Constitution] and which power this Court has exercised in many instances. *
Public respondents are being enjoined from acting under a provision of law which We have earlier
mentioned to be constitutionally infirm. The general principle relied upon cannot therefore accord
them the protection sought as they are not acting within their "sphere of responsibility" but without it.
The nation has not recovered from the shock, and worst, the economic destitution brought about by
the plundering of the Treasury by the deposed dictator and his cohorts. A provision which allows
even the slightest possibility of a repetition of this sad experience cannot remain written in our
statute books.
WHEREFORE, the instant petition is granted. Paragraph 1 of Section 44 of Presidential Decree No.
1177 is hereby declared null and void for being unconstitutional.
SO ORDER RED.
IN RE LAURETA AND MARAVILLA
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-68635 May 14, 1987
IN THE MATTER OF PROCEEDINGS FOR DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST ATTY.
WENCESLAO LAURETA, AND OF CONTEMPT PROCEEDINGS AGAINST EVA MARAVILLA-
ILUSTRE in G.R. No. 68635, entitled "EVA MARAVILLA-ILUSTRE, vs. HON. INTERMEDIATE
APPELLATE COURT, ET AL."
R E S O L U T I O N

PER CURIAM:
Before us are 1) Atty. Wenceslao Laureta's Motion for Reconsideration of the Per Curiam Resolution
of this Court promulgated on March 12, 1987, finding him guilty of grave professional misconduct
and suspending him indefinitely from the practice of law; and 2) Eva Maravilla-Ilustre's Motion for
Reconsideration of the same Resolution holding her in contempt and ordering her to pay a fine of
P1,000.00.
Essentially, Atty. Laureta maintains that the Order of suspension without hearing violated his right to
life and due process of law and by reason thereof the Order is null and void; that the acts of
misconduct imputed to him are without basis; that the charge against him that it was he who had
circulated to the press copies of the Complaint filed before the Tanodbayan is unfounded such that,
even in this Court's Resolution, his having distributed copies to the press is not stated positively; that
the banner headline which appeared In the Daily Express is regrettable but that he was not
responsible for such "misleading headline;" that he "did nothing of the sort" being fully conscious of
his responsibilities as a law practitioner and officer of the Court; that as a former newspaperman, he
would not have been satisfied with merely circulating copies of the Complaint to the press in
envelopes where his name appears; "he himself would have written stories about the case in a
manner that sells newspapers; even a series of juicy articles perhaps, something that would have
further subjected the respondent justices to far worse publicity;" that, on the contrary, the press
conference scheduled by Ilustre was cancelled through his efforts in order to prevent any further
adverse publicity resulting from the filing of the complaint before the Tanodbayan; that, as a matter
of fact, it was this Court's Resolution that was serialized in the Bulletin Today, which newspaper also
made him the subject of a scathing editorial but that he "understands the cooperation because after
all, the Court rendered a favorable judgment in the Bulletin union case last year;" that he considered
it "below his dignity to plead for the chance to present his side" with the Editor, Mr. Ben Rodriguez,
"a long-time personal friend" since he "can afford to be the sacrificial lamb if only to help the
Honorable Court uphold its integrity;" that he was called by a reporter of DZRH and was asked to
comment on the case filed before the Tanodbayan but that his remarks were confined to the filing of
the case by Ilustre herself, and that the judgment of the trial Court had attained its finality long ago;
that he is not Ilustre's counsel before the Tanodbayan and did not prepare the complaint filed before
it, his professional services having been terminated upon the final dismissal of Ilustre's case before
this Court; that similarities in the language and phraseology used in the Ilustre letters, in pleadings
before this Court and before the Tanodbayan do not prove his authorship since other lawyers "even
of a mediocre caliber" could very easily have reproduced them; that the discussions on the merits in
the Per Curiam Resolution are "more properly addressed to the Tanodbayan, Justice Raul M.
Gonzales being competent to deal with the case before him;" that he takes exception to the
accusation that he has manifested lack of respect for and exposed to public ridicule the two highest
Courts of the land, all he did having been to call attention to errors or injustice committed in the
promulgation of judgments or orders; that he has "not authorized or assisted and/or abetted and
could not have prevented the contemptuous statements, conduct, acts and malicious charges of Eva
Maravilla Ilustre who was no longer his client when these alleged acts were done; that "he is grateful
to this Court for the reminder on the first duty of a lawyer which is to the Court and not to his client, a
duty that he has always impressed upon his law students;" and finally, that "for the record, he is
sorry for the adverse publicity generated by the filing of the complaint against the Justices before the
Tanodbayan."
In her own Motion for Reconsideration, Eva Maravilla-Ilustre also raises as her main ground the
alleged deprivation of her constitutional right to due process. She maintains that as contempt
proceedings are commonly treated as criminal in nature, the mode of procedure and rules of
evidence in criminal prosecution should be assimilated, as far as practicable, in this proceeding, and
that she should be given every opportunity to present her side. Additionally, she states that, with
some sympathetic lawyers, they made an "investigation" and learned that the Resolution of the First
Division was arrived at without any deliberation by its members; that Court personnel were "tight-
lipped about the matter, which is shrouded mystery" thereby prompting her to pursue a course which
she thought was legal and peaceful; that there is nothing wrong in making public the manner of
voting by the Justices, and it was for that reason that she addressed Identical letters to Associate
Justices Andres Narvasa, Ameurfina M. Herrera, Isagani Cruz and Florentino Feliciano; that "if the
lawyers of my opponents were not a Solicitor General, and member of the Supreme Court and a
Division Chairman, respectively, the resolution of May 14, 1986 would not have aroused my
suspicion;" that instead of taking the law into her own hands or joining any violent movement, she
took the legitimate step of making a peaceful investigation into how her case was decided, and
brought her grievance to the Tanodbayan "in exasperation" against those whom she felt had
committed injustice against her "in an underhanded manner."
We deny reconsideration in both instances.
The argument premised on lack of hearing and due process, is not impressed with merit. What due
process abhors is absolute lack of opportunity to be heard (Tajonera vs. Lamaroza, et al., 110 SCRA
438 [1981]). The word "hearing" does not necessarily connote a "trial-type" proceeding. In the show-
cause Resolution of this Court, dated January 29, 1987, Atty. Laureta was given sufficient
opportunity to inform this Court of the reasons why he should not be subjected to dispose action. His
Answer, wherein he prayed that the action against him be dismissed, contained twenty-two (22)
pages, double spaced. Eva Maravilla-Ilustre was also given a like opportunity to explain her
statements, conduct, acts and charges against the Court and/or the official actions of the Justices
concerned. Her Compliance Answer, wherein she prayed that the contempt proceeding against her
be dismissed, contained nineteen (19) pages, double spaced. Both were afforded ample latitude to
explain matters fully. Atty. Laureta denied having authored the letters written by Ilustre, his being her
counsel before the Tanodbayan, his having circularized to the press copies of the complaint filed
before said body, and his having committed acts unworthy of his profession. But the Court believed
otherwise and found that those letters and the charges levelled against the Justices concerned, of
themselves and by themselves, betray not only their malicious and contemptuous character, but also
the lack of respect for the two highest Courts of the land, a complete obliviousness to the
fundamental principle of separation of powers, and a wanton disregard of the cardinal doctrine of
independence of the Judiciary.Res ipsa loquitur. Nothing more needed to have been said or proven.
The necessity to conduct any further evidentially hearing was obviated (See People vs. Hon.
Valenzuela, G.R. Nos. 63950-60, April 19, 1985, 135 SCRA 712). Atty. Laureta and Ilustre were
given ample opportunity to be heard, and were, in fact, heard.
(1)
In his Motion for Reconsideration, Atty. Laureta reiterates his allegations in his Answer to the show-
cause Resolution that his professional services were terminated by Ilustre after the dismissal of the
main petition by this Court; that he had nothing to do with the contemptuous letters to the individual
Justices; and that he is not Ilustre's counsel before the Tanodbayan.
Significantly enough, however, copy of the Tanodbayan Resolution dismissing Ilustre's Complaint
was furnished Atty. Laureta as "counsel for the complainant" at his address of record. Of note, too, is
the fact that it was he who was following up the Complaint before the Tanodbayan and, after its
dismissal, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Order of dismissal.
Of import, as well, is the report of Lorenzo C. Bardel, a process server of this Court, that after having
failed to serve copy of the Per Curiam Resolution of March 12, 1987 of this Court on Ilustre
personally at her address of record, "101 F. Manalo St., Cubao, Quezon City," having been informed
that she is 6 not a resident of the place," he proceeded to the residence of Atty. Laureta where the
latter's wife "voluntarily received the two copies of decision for her husband and for Ms. Maravina-
Ilustre" (p. 670, Rollo, Vol. 11).
That Ilustre subsequently received copy of this Court's Resolution delivered to Mrs. Laureta is shown
by the fact that she filed, as of March 27, 1987, a "Petition for Extension of Time to file Motion for
Reconsideration" and subsequently the Motion for Reconsideration. In that Petition Ilustre
acknowledged receipt of the Resolution on March 12, 1987, the very same date Mrs. Laureta
received copy thereof. If, indeed, the lawyer-client relationship between her husband and Ilustre had
been allegedly completely severed, all Mrs. Laureta had to do was to return to the Sheriff the copy
intended for Ilustre. As it was, however, service on Atty. Laureta proved to be service on Ilustre as
well. The close tie- up between the corespondents is heightened by the fact that three process
servers of this Court failed to serve copy of this Court's Per Curiam Resolution on Ilustre personally.
Noteworthy, as well, is that by Atty. Laureta's own admission, he was the one called by a "reporter"
of DZRH to comment on the Ilustre charges before the Tanodbayan. If, in fact, he had nothing to do
with the complaint, he would not have been pinpointed at all. And if his disclaimer were the truth, the
logical step for him to have taken was to refer the caller to the lawyer/s allegedly assisting Ilustre, at
the very least, out of elementary courtesy and propriety. But he did nothing of the sort. " He gave his
comment with alacrity.
The impudence and lack of respect of Atty. Laureta for this Court again surfaces when he asserts in
his Motion for Reconsideration that he "understands the cooperation" of the Bulletin Today as
manifested in the serialized publication of the Per Curiam Resolution of this Court and his being
subjected to a scathing editorial by the same newspaper "because after all, the Court rendered a
favorable judgment in the Bulletin union case last year." The malice lurking in that statement is most
unbecoming of an officer of the Court and is an added reason for denying reconsideration.
Further, Atty. Laureta stubbornly contends that discussions on the merits in the Court's Per Curiam
Resolution are more properly addressed to the Tanodbayan, forgetting, however, his own discourse
on the merits in his Answer to this Court's Resolution dated January 29, 1987. He thus incorrigibly
insists on subordinating the Judiciary to the executive notwithstanding the categorical
pronouncement in the Per Curiam Resolution of March 12, 1987, that Article 204 of the Revised
Penal Code has no application to the members of a collegiate Court; that a charge of violation of the
Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act on the ground that a collective decision is "unjust" cannot
prosper; plus the clear and extended dissertation in the same Per Curiam Resolution on the
fundamental principle of separation of powers and of checks and balances, pursuant to which it is
this Court "entrusted exclusively with the judicial power to adjudicate with finality all justifiable
disputes, public and private. No other department or agency may pass upon its judgments or declare
them 'unjust' upon controlling and irresistible reasons of public policy and of sound practice."
Atty. Laureta's protestations that he has done his best to protect and uphold the dignity of this Court
are belied by environmental facts and circumstances. His apologetic stance for the "adverse
publicity" generated by the filing of the charges against the Justices concerned before the
Tanodbayan rings with insincerity. The complaint was calculated precisely to serve that very
purpose. The threat to bring the case to "another forum of justice" was implemented to the fun.
Besides, he misses the heart of the matter. Exposure to the glare of publicity is an occupational
hazard. If he has been visited with disciplinary sanctions it is because by his conduct, acts and
statements, he has, overall, deliberately sought to destroy the "authenticity, integrity, and
conclusiveness of collegiate acts," to "undermine the role of the Supreme Court as the final arbiter of
all justifiable disputes," and to subvert public confidence in the integrity of the Courts and the
Justices concerned, and in the orderly administration of justice.
In fine, we discern nothing in Atty. Laureta's Motion for Reconsideration that would call for a
modification, much less a reversal, of our finding that he is guilty of grave professional misconduct
that renders him unfit to continue to be entrusted with the duties and responsibilities pertaining to an
attorney and officer of the Court.
(2)
Neither do we find merit in Ilustre's Motion for Reconsideration. She has turned deaf ears to any
reason or clarification. She and her counsel have refused to accept the untenability of their case and
the inevitability of losing in Court. They have allowed suspicion alone to blind their actions and in so
doing degraded the administration of justice. "Investigation" was utterly uncalled for. All conclusions
and judgments of the Court, be they en banc or by Division, are arrived at only after deliberation.
The fact that no dissent was indicated in the Minutes of the proceedings held on May 14, 1986
showed that the members of the Division voted unanimously. Court personnel are not in a position to
know the voting in any case because all deliberations are held behind closed doors without any one
of them being present. No malicious inferences should have been drawn from their inability to furnish
the information Ilustre and Atty. Laureta desired The personality of the Solicitor General never came
into the picture. It was Justice Abad Santos, and not Justice Yap, who was Chairman of the First
Division when the Resolution of May 14, 1986 denying the Petition was rendered. Thereafter Justice
Yap inhibited himself from any participation. The fact that the Court en banc upheld the challenged
Resolutions of the First Division emphasizes the irrespective of Ilustre's case irrespective of the
personalities involved.
Additionally, Ilustre has been trifling with this Court. She has given our process servers the run-
around. Three of them failed to serve on her personally her copy of this Court's Per Curiam
Resolution of March 12, 1987 at her address of record. Mrs. Laureta informed process server
Lorenzo C. Bardel that Ilustre was residing at 17-D, Quezon St., Tondo, Manila. Romeo C. Regala,
another process server, went to that address to serve copy of the Resolution but he reported:
4. That inspite of diligent efforts to locate the address of ms.Eva Maravilla-Ilustre,
said address could not be located;
5. That I even asked the occupants (Cerdan Family) of No. 17 Quezon Street,
Tondo, Manila, and they informed that there is no such Ms. Eva Maravilla-Ilustre in
the neighborhood and/or in the vicinity; ... (p. 672, Rollo, Vol. 11).
The third process server, Nelson C. Cabesuela, was also unable to serve copy of this Court's
Resolution on Ilustre. He reported:
2. On March 17, 1987, at about 9:30 A.M., I arrived at the house in the address
furnished at; the notice of judgment (101 Felix Manalo St., Cubao, Quezon City), and
was received by an elderly woman who admitted to be the owner of the house but
vehemently refused to be Identified, and told me that she does not know the
addressee Maravilla, and told me further that she always meets different persons
looking for Miss Maravilla because the latter always gives the address of her house;
3. That, I was reminded of an incident that I also experienced in the same place
trying to serve a resolution to Miss Maravilla which was returned unserved because
she is not known in the place; ... (p. 674, Rollo, Vol. II).
And yet, in her Petition for Extension of Time and in her Motion for Reconsideration she persists in
giving that address at 101 Felix Manalo St., Cubao, Quezon City, where our process servers were
told that she was not a resident of and that she was unknown thereat. If for her contumacious
elusiveness and lack of candor alone, Ilustre deserves no further standing before this Court.
ACCORDINGLY, the respective Motions for reconsideration of Atty. Wenceslao G. Laureta for the
setting aside of the order suspending him from the practice of law, and of Eva Maravilla Ilustre for
the lifting of the penalty for contempt are DENIED, and this denial is FINAL. Eva Maravilla Ilustre
shall pay the fine of P1,000.00 imposed on her within ten (10) days from notice, or, suffer
imprisonment for ten (10) days upon failure to pay said fine within the stipulated period.
SO ORDERED.
METROBANK VS TOBIAS
Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila
FIRST DIVISION


METROPOLITAN BANK &
TRUST CO. (METROBANK),
represented by ROSELLA A.
SANTIAGO,
Petitioner,


-versus-



ANTONINO O. TOBIAS III,
Respondent.
G.R. No. 177780

Present:

CORONA, C.J., Chairperson,
LEONARDO-DE CASTRO,
BERSAMIN,
VILLARAMA, JR., and
*
PERLAS-BERNABE, JJ.

Promulgated:

January 25, 2012
x-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x

D E C I S I O N

BERSAMIN, J .:
This appeal assails the adverse decision of the Court of Appeals (CA)
1
that dismissed
the petition for certiorari brought by the petitioner to nullify and set aside the
resolutions issued by the Secretary of Justice on July 20, 2004
2
and November 18,
2005
3
directing the City Prosecutor of Malabon City to withdraw the information in
Criminal Case No. 27020 entitled People v. Antonino O. Tobias III.

We affirm the CA in keeping with the principle of non-interference with the
prerogative of the Secretary of Justice to review the resolutions of the public
prosecutor in the latters determination of the existence of probable cause, absent any
showing that the Secretary of Justice thereby commits grave abuse of his discretion.

Antecedents
In 1997, Rosella A. Santiago, then the OIC-Branch Head of Metropolitan Bank &
Trust Company (METROBANK) in Valero Street, Makati City, was introduced to
respondent Antonino O. Tobias III (Tobias) by one Jose Eduardo Gonzales, a valued
client of METROBANK. Subsequently, Tobias opened a savings/current account for
and in the name of Adam Merchandising, his frozen meat business. Six months later,
Tobias applied for a loan from METROBANK, which in due course conducted trade
and credit verification of Tobias that resulted in negative findings. METROBANK
next proceeded to appraise the property Tobias offered as collateral by asking him for
a photocopy of the title and other related documents.
4
The property consisted of four
parcels of land located in Malabon City, Metro Manila with a total area of 6,080
square meters and covered by Transfer Certificate of Title (TCT) No. M-
16751.
5
Based on the financial statements submitted by Tobias, METROBANK
approved a credit line for P40,000,000.00. On August 15, 1997, Joselito Bermeo
Moreno, Lead Internal Affairs Investigator of METROBANK, proceeded to the
Registry of Deeds of Malabon to cause the annotation of the deed of real estate
mortgage on TCT No. M-16751. The annotation was Entry No. 26897.
6


Thereafter, Tobias initially availed himself of P20,000,000, but took out the balance
within six months.
7
He paid the interest on the loan for about a year before defaulting.
His loan was restructured to 5-years upon his request. Yet, after two months, he again
defaulted. Thus, the mortgage was foreclosed, and the property was sold to
METROBANK as the lone bidder.
8
On June 11, 1999, the certificate of sale was
issued in favor of METROBANK.
9


When the certificate of sale was presented for registration to the Registry of Deeds of
Malabon, no corresponding original copy of TCT No. M-16751 was found in the
registry vault. Atty. Sarah Principe-Bido, Deputy Register of Deeds of Malabon, went
on to verify TCT No. M-16751 and learned that Serial No. 4348590 appearing therein
had been issued for TCT No. M-15363 in the name of one Alberto Cruz; while TCT
No. 16751 (now TCT No. 390146) appeared to have been issued in the name of
Eugenio S. Cruz and Co. for a parcel of land located in Navotas.
10


Given such findings, METROBANK requested the Presidential Anti-Organized
Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) to investigate.
11
In its report dated May 29,
2000,
12
PAOCTF concluded that TCT No. M-16751 and the tax declarations submitted
by Tobias were fictitious. PAOCTF recommended the filing against Tobias of a
criminal complaint for estafa through falsification of public documents under
paragraph 2 (a) of Article 315, in relation to Articles 172(1) and 171(7) of the Revised
Penal Code.
13


The Office of the City Prosecutor of Malabon ultimately charged Tobias with estafa
through falsification of public documents through the following information,
14
viz:

xxx
That on or about the 15
th
day of August, 1997 in the Municipality of
Malabon, Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable
Court, the above-named accused, by means of deceit, false pretense,
fraudulent acts and misrepresentation executed prior to or simultaneous
with the commission of fraud, represented to METROBANK, as
represented by MS. ROSELLA S. SANTIAGO, that he is the registered
owner of a parcel of land covered by TCT No. M-16751 which he
represented to be true and genuine when he knew the Certificate of Title
No. M-16751 is fake and spurious and executed a Real Estate Mortgage
in favor of Metrobank and offered the same as collateral for a loan and
Rosella S. Santiago relying on said misrepresentation gave to accused,
the amount of P20,000,000.00 and once in possession of the amount,
with intent to defraud, willfully, unlawfully and feloniously failed to
deliver the land covered by spurious title and misappropriate, misapply
and converted the said amount of P20,000,000.00 to his own personal
use and benefit and despite repeated demands accused failed and refused
and still fails and refuses to return the amount to complainant
METROBANK, and/or delivered the land covered in the spurious title in
the aforementioned amount of P20,000,000.00.

CONTRARY TO LAW.
15


Tobias filed a motion for re-investigation,
16
which was granted.

In his counter-affidavit submitted during the re-investigation,
17
Tobias averred that he
had bought the property from one Leonardo Fajardo through real estate brokers
Augusto Munsuyac and Carmelito Pilapil; that Natalio Bartolome, his financial
consultant from Carwin International, had convinced him to purchase the property due
to its being an ideal site for his meat processing plant and cold storage business; that
the actual inspection of the property as well as the verification made in the Registry of
Deeds of Malabon City had ascertained the veracity of TCT No. 106083 under the
name of Leonardo Fajardo; that he had applied for the loan from METROBANK to
pay the purchase price by offering the property as collateral; that in order for the final
application to be processed and the loan proceeds to be released, METROBANK had
advised him to have the title first transferred to his name; that he had executed a deed
of absolute sale with Fajardo covering the property, and that said instrument had been
properly registered in the Registry of Deeds; that the transfer of the title, being under
the account of the seller, had been processed by seller Fajardo and his brokers
Munsuyac and Pilapil; that his title and the property had been inspected and verified
by METROBANKs personnel; and that he did not have any intention to defraud
METROBANK.

Nonetheless, on December 27, 2002, the City Prosecutor of Malabon still found
probable cause against Tobias, and recommended his being charged with estafa
through falsification of public document.
18


Tobias appealed to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

On July 20, 2004, then Acting Secretary of Justice Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez
issued a resolution directing the withdrawal of the information filed against
Tobias,
19
to wit:

WHEREFORE, the assailed resolution is hereby REVERSED and
SET ASIDE. The City Prosecutor of Malabon City is directed to cause
the withdrawal of the Information in Crim. Case No. 27020 against
respondent Antonino O. Tobias III, and report the action taken thereon
within ten (10) days from receipt hereof.
SO ORDERED.

Acting Secretary of Justice Gutierrez opined that Tobias had sufficiently established
his good faith in purchasing the property; that he had even used part of the proceeds of
the loan to pay the seller; that it was METROBANK that had caused the annotation of
the mortgage on the TCT, thereby creating an impression that the title had been
existing in the Registry of Deeds at that time; that, accordingly, the presumption that
the possessor of a falsified document was the author of the falsification did not apply
because it was always subject to the qualification or reference as to the approximate
time of the commission of the falsification.

METROBANK moved to reconsider,
20
arguing that Tobias had employed deceit or
false pretense in offering the property as collateral by using a fake title; and that the
presumption that the possessor of the document was the author of the falsification
applied because no other person could have falsified the TCT and would have
benefitted therefrom except Tobias himself.

On November 18, 2005, Secretary of Justice Raul M. Gonzalez denied
METROBANKs motion for reconsideration.
21


Ruling of the CA

METROBANK challenged the adverse resolutions through certiorari.

On December 29, 2006, the CA promulgated its decision,
22
dismissing
METROBANKs petition for certiorari by holding that the presumption of authorship
might be disputed through a satisfactory explanation, viz:

We are not unaware of the established presumption and rule that when it
is proved that a person has in his possession a falsified document and
makes use of the same, the presumption or inference is that such person
is the forger (Serrano vs. Court of Appeals, 404 SCRA 639, 651 [2003]),
citing Koh Tieck Heng vs. People, 192 SCRA 533, 546-547 [1990]).
Yet, the Supreme Court declared that in the absence of satisfactory
explanation, one who is found in possession of a forged document and
who used it is presumed to be the forger (citing People vs. Sendaydiego,
81 SCRA 120, 141 [1978]). Very clearly then, a satisfactory explanation
could render ineffective the presumption which, after all, is merely a
disputable one.

It is in this score that We affirm the resolution of the Department of
Justice finding no probable cause against private respondent Tobias for
estafa thru falsification of public document. The record speaks well of
Tobias good faith and lack of criminal intention and liability. Consider:

(a) Tobias has in his favor a similar presumption that good
faith is always presumed. Therefore, he who claims bad faith
must prove it (Prinsipio vs. The Honorable Oscar Barrientos,
G.R. 167025, December 19, 2005). No such evidence of bad
faith of Tobias appears on record;

(b) Tobias actuation in securing the loan belies any criminal
intent on his part to deceive petitioner Bank. He was not in a
hurry to obtain the loan. He had to undergo the usual process of
the investigative arm or machine of the Bank not only on the
location and the physical appearance of the property but
likewise the veracity of its title. Out of the
approved P40,000,000.00 loan he only availed
of P20,000,000.00, for his frozen meat business which upon
investigation of the Bank failed to give negative results;

(c) Tobias paid the necessary interests for one (1) year on the
loan and two (2) installments on the restructured loan; and

(d) More importantly, the loan was not released to him until
after the mortgage was duly registered with the Registry of
Deeds of Malabon City and even paid the amount of P90,000.00
for the registration fees therefor.

These actuations, for sure, can only foretell that Tobias has the least
intention to deceive the Bank in obtaining the loan. It may not be
surprising to find that Tobias could even be a victim himself by another
person in purchasing the properties he offered as security for the loan.
23


The CA stressed that the determination of probable cause was an executive
function within the discretion of the public prosecutor and, ultimately, of the Secretary
of Justice, and the courts of law could not interfere with such determination;
24
that the
private complainant in a criminal action was only concerned with its civil aspect; that
should the State choose not to file the criminal action, the private complainant might
initiate a civil action based on Article 35 of the Civil Code, to wit:

In the eventuality that the Secretary of Justice refuses to file the criminal
complaint, the complainant, whose only interest is the civil aspect of the
case and not the criminal aspect thereof, is not left without a remedy. In
Vda. De Jacob vs. Puno, 131 SCRA 144, 149 [1984], the Supreme Court
has this for an answer:

The remedy of complainant in a case where the Minister of
Justice would not allow the filing of a criminal complaint
against an accused because it is his opinion that the evidence is
not sufficient to sustain an information for the complaint with
which the respondents are charged of, is to file a civil action as
indicated in Article 35 of the Civil Code, which provides:

Art. 35. When a person, claiming to be injured by a
criminal offense, charges another with the same, for
which no independent civil action is granted in this Code
or any special law, but the justice of the peace finds no
reasonable grounds to believe that a crime has been
committed, or the prosecuting attorney refuses or fails to
institute criminal proceedings, the complainant may bring
a civil action for damages against the alleged offender.
Such civil action may be supported by a preponderance of
evidence. Upon the defendants motion, the court may
require the plaintiff to file a bond to indemnify the
defendant in case the complainant should be found to be
malicious.

If during the pendency of the civil action, an information
should be presented by the prosecuting attorney, the civil
action shall be suspended until the termination of the
criminal proceedings.
25


METROBANK sought reconsideration, but the CA denied its motion for that purpose,
emphasizing that the presumption that METROBANK firmly relied upon was
overcome by Tobias sufficiently establishing his good faith and lack of criminal
intent. The CA relevantly held:

Petitioner should be minded that the subject presumption that the
possessor and user of a forged or falsified document is presumed to be
the falsifier or forger is a mere disputable presumption and not a
conclusive one. Under the law on evidence, presumptions are divided
into two (2) classes: conclusive and rebuttable. Conclusive or absolute
presumptions are rules determining the quantity of evidence requisite for
the support of any particular averment which is not permitted to be
overcome by any proof that the fact is otherwise, if the basis facts are
established (1 Greenleaf, Ev 44; 29 Am Jur 2d, Evidence 164; 1 Jones on
Evidence 6 ed, page 132). Upon the other hand, a disputable
presumption has been defined as species of evidence that may be
accepted and acted on when there is no other evidence to uphold the
contention for which it stands, or one which may be overcome by other
evidence (31A C.J.S., p. 197; People v. de Guzman, G.R. No. 106025,
Feb. 9, 1994; Herrera, Remedial Law, Vol. VI, 1999 Edition, pp. 40-41).
In fact, Section 3 of Rule 131 provides that the disputable presumptions
therein enumerated are satisfactory if uncontradicted but may be
contradicted and overcome by other evidence. Thus, as declared in Our
decision in this case, private respondent had shown evidence of good
faith and lack of criminal intention and liability that can overthrow the
controversial disputable presumption.
26

Issue
In this appeal, METROBANK raises the lone issue of

WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS
HAS DECIDED A QUESTION OF SUBSTANCE PROBABLY NOT
IN ACCORD WITH LAW OR WITH THE APPLICABLE DECISIONS
OF THIS HONORABLE COURT AND THUS, COMMITTED
PATENT ERROR IN RENDERING THE ASSAILED DECISION
DATED 29 DECEMBER 2006, DISMISSING METROBANKS
PETITION FOR CERTIORARI AND AFFIRMING THE
RESOLUTIONS DATED 20 JULY 2004 AND 18 NOVEMBER 2005
OF THE HON. SECRETARY OF JUDTICE AND IN DENYING
METROBANKS MOTION FOR RECONSIDERATION.

METROBANK submits that the presumption of authorship was sufficient to establish
probable cause to hold Tobias for trial; that the presumption applies when a person is
found in possession of the forged instrument, makes use of it, and benefits from it;
that contrary to the ruling of the CA, there is no requirement that the legal
presumption shall only apply in the absence of a valid explanation from the person
found to have possessed, used and benefited from the forged document; that the CA
erred in declaring that Tobias was in good faith, because good faith was merely
evidentiary and best raised in the trial on the merits; and that Tobias was heavily
involved in amodus operandi of using fake titles because he was also being tried for a
similar crime in the RTC, Branch 133, in Makati City.
METROBANK maintains that what the Secretary of Justice did was to determine the
innocence of the accused, which should not be done during the preliminary
investigation; and that the CA disregarded such lapse.

On the other hand, Tobias posits that the core function of the Department of Justice is
to prosecute the guilty in criminal cases, not to persecute; that although the
prosecutors are given latitude to determine the existence of probable cause, the review
power of the Secretary of Justice prevents overzealous prosecutors from persecuting
the innocent; that in reversing the resolution of Malabon City Assistant Prosecutor
Ojer Pacis, the Secretary of Justice only acted within his authority; that, indeed, the
Secretary of Justice was correct in finding that there was lack of evidence to prove
that the purported fake title was the very cause that had induced the petitioner to grant
the loan; and that the Secretary likewise appropriately found that Tobias dealt with the
petitioner in good faith because of lack of proof that he had employed fraud and deceit
in securing the loan.

Lastly, Tobias argues that the presumption of forgery could not be applied in his case
because it was METROBANK, through a representative, who had annotated the real
estate mortgage with the Registry of Deeds; and that he had no access to and contact
with the Registry of Deeds, and whatever went wrong after the annotation was beyond
his control.

Ruling

The appeal has no merit.
Under the doctrine of separation of powers, the courts have no right to directly decide
matters over which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the Executive
Branch of the Government,
27
or to substitute their own judgments for that of the
Executive Branch,
28
represented in this case by the Department of Justice. The settled
policy is that the courts will not interfere with the executive determination of probable
cause for the purpose of filing an information, in the absence of grave abuse of
discretion.
29
That abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an
evasion of a positive duty or a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law or to
act at all in contemplation of law, such as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary
and despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility.
30
For instance, in Balanganan v.
Court of Appeals, Special Nineteenth Division, Cebu City,
31
the Court ruled that the
Secretary of Justice exceeded his jurisdiction when he required hard facts and solid
evidence in order to hold the defendant liable for criminal prosecution when such
requirement should have been left to the court after the conduct of a trial.

In this regard, we stress that a preliminary investigation for the purpose of
determining the existence of probable cause is not part of a trial.
32
At a preliminary
investigation, the investigating prosecutor or the Secretary of Justice only determines
whether the act or omission complained of constitutes the offense charged.
33
Probable
cause refers to facts and circumstances that engender a well-founded belief that a
crime has been committed and that the respondent is probably guilty thereof.
34
There is
no definitive standard by which probable cause is determined except to consider the
attendant conditions; the existence of probable cause depends upon the finding of the
public prosecutor conducting the examination, who is called upon not to disregard the
facts presented, and to ensure that his finding should not run counter to the clear
dictates of reason.
35


Tobias was charged with estafa through falsification of public document the elements
of which are: (a) the accused uses a fictitious name, or falsely pretends to possess
power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary
transactions, or employs other similar deceits; (b) such false pretense, fraudulent act
or fraudulent means must be made or executed prior to or simultaneously with the
commission of the fraud; (c) the offended party must have relied on the false pretense,
fraudulent act or fraudulent means, that is, he was induced to part with his money or
property because of the false pretense, fraudulent act or fraudulent means; and (d) as a
result thereof, the offended party suffered damage.
36
It is required that the false
statement or fraudulent representation constitutes the very cause or the only motive
that induced the complainant to part with the thing.
37


METROBANK urges the application of the presumption of authorship against Tobias
based on his having offered the duplicate copy of the spurious title to secure the loan;
and posits that there is no requirement that the presumption shall apply only when
there is absence of a valid explanation from the person found to have possessed, used
and benefited from the forged document.

We cannot sustain METROBANKs urging.

Firstly, a presumption affects the burden of proof that is normally lodged in the
State.
38
The effect is to create the need of presenting evidence to overcome the prima
facie case that shall prevail in the absence of proof to the contrary.
39
As such, a
presumption of law is material during the actual trial of the criminal case where in the
establishment thereof the party against whom the inference is made should adduce
evidence to rebut the presumption and demolish the prima facie case.
40
This is not so
in a preliminary investigation, where the investigating prosecutor only determines the
existence of a prima facie case that warrants the prosecution of a criminal case in
court.
41


Secondly, the presumption of authorship, being disputable, may be accepted and acted
upon where no evidence upholds the contention for which it stands.
42
It is not correct
to say, consequently, that the investigating prosecutor will try to determine the
existence of the presumption during preliminary investigation, and then to disregard
the evidence offered by the respondent. The fact that the finding of probable cause
during a preliminary investigation is an executive function does not excuse the
investigating prosecutor or the Secretary of Justice from discharging the duty to weigh
the evidence submitted by the parties. Towards that end, the investigating prosecutor,
and, ultimately, the Secretary of Justice have ample discretion to determine the
existence of probable cause,
43
a discretion that must be used to file only a criminal
charge that the evidence and inferences can properly warrant.

The presumption that whoever possesses or uses a spurious document is its forger
applies only in the absence of a satisfactory explanation.
44
Accordingly, we cannot
hold that the Secretary of Justice erred in dismissing the information in the face of the
controverting explanation by Tobias showing how he came to possess the spurious
document. Much less can we consider the dismissal as done with abuse of discretion,
least of all grave. We concur with the erudite exposition of the CA on the matter, to
wit:

It would seem that under the above proposition of the petitioner, the
moment a person has in his possession a falsified document and has
made use of it, probable cause or prima facie is already established and
that no amount of satisfactory explanation will prevent the filing of the
case in court by the investigating officer, for any such good explanation
or defense can only be threshed out in the trial on the merit. We are not
to be persuaded. To give meaning to such argumentation will surely
defeat the very purpose for which preliminary investigation is required in
this jurisdiction.

A preliminary investigation is designed to secure the respondent
involved against hasty, malicious and oppressive prosecution. A
preliminary investigation is an inquiry to determine whether (a) a crime
has been committed, and (b) whether there is probable cause to believe
that the accused is guilty thereof (De Ocampo vs. Secretary of Justice,
480 SCRA 71 [2006]). It is a means of discovering the person or persons
who may be reasonably charged with a crime (Preferred Home
Specialties, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 478 SCRA 387, 410 [2005]).
Prescindingly, under Section 3 of Rule 112 of the Rules of Criminal
Procedure, the respondent must be informed of the accusation against
him and shall have the right to examine the evidence against him and
submit his counter-affidavit to disprove criminal liability. By far,
respondent in a criminal preliminary investigation is legally entitled to
explain his side of the accusation.

We are not unaware of the established presumption and rule that when it
is proved that a person has in his possession a falsified document and
makes use of the same the presumption or inference is that such person
is the forger (Serrano vs. Court of Appeals, 404 SCRA 639, 651 [2003]),
citing Koh Tieck Heng vs. People, 192 SCRA 533, 546-547 [1990]).
Yet, the Supreme Court declared that in the absence of satisfactory
explanation, one who is found in possession of a forged document and
who used it is presumed to be the forger (citing People vs. Sendaydiego,
81 SCRA 120, 141 [1978]). Very clearly then, a satisfactory explanation
could render ineffective the presumption which, after all, is merely a
disputable one.
45

We do not lose sight of the fact that METROBANK, a commercial bank dealing in
real property, had the duty to observe due diligence to ascertain the existence and
condition of the realty as well as the validity and integrity of the documents bearing
on the realty.
46
Its duty included the responsibility of dispatching its competent and
experience representatives to the realty to assess its actual location and condition, and
of investigating who was its real owner.
47
Yet, it is evident that METROBANK did not
diligently perform a thorough check on Tobias and the circumstances surrounding the
realty he had offered as collateral. As such, it had no one to blame but itself. Verily,
banks are expected to exercise greater care and prudence than others in their dealings
because their business is impressed with public interest.
48
Their failure to do so
constitutes negligence on its part.
49


WHEREFORE, the Court DENIES the petition for review on certiorari,
and AFFIRMS the decision of the Court of Appeals promulgated on December 29,
2006. The petitioner shall pay the costs of suit.

SO ORDERED.

TANADA VS CUENCO
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. L-10520 February 28, 1957
LORENZO M. TAADA and DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL, petitioners,
vs.
MARIANO JESUS CUENCO, FRANCISCO A. DELGADO, ALFREDO CRUZ, CATALINA
CAYETANO, MANUEL SERAPIO, PLACIDO REYES, and FERNANDO HIPOLITO in his capacity
as cashier and disbursing officer,respondents.
Taada, Teehankee and Macapagal for petitioners.
Office of the Solicitor General Ambrosio Padilla and Solicitor Troadio T. Quiazon, Jr. for
respondents.
CONCEPCION, J .:
Petitioner Lorenzo M. Taada is a member of the Senate of the Philippines, and President of the
Citizens Party, whereas petitioner Diosdado Macapagal, a member of the House of Representatives
of the Philippines, was one of the official candidates of the Liberal Party for the Senate, at the
General elections held in November, 1955, in which Pacita Madrigal Warns, Lorenzo Sumulong,
Quintin Paredes, Francisco Rodrigo, Pedro Sabido, Claro M. Recto, Domocao Alonto and Decoroso
Rosales, were proclaimed elected. Subsequently, the elections of this Senators-elect-who eventually
assumed their respective seats in the Senate-was contested by petitioner Macapagal, together with
Camilo Osias, Geronima Pecson, Macario Peralta, Enrique Magalona, Pio Pedrosa and William
Chiongbian-who had, also, run for the Senate, in said election-in Senate Electoral Case No. 4, now
pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal. .
The Senate, in its session of February 22, 1956, upon nomination of Senator Cipriano Primicias, on
behalf of the Nacionalista Party, chose Senators Jose P. Laurel, Fernando Lopez and Cipriano
Primicias, as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Upon nomination of petitioner Senator
Taada, on behalf of the Citizens Party, said petitioner was next chosen by the Senate as member
of said Tribunal. Then, upon nomination of Senator Primicias on behalf of the Committee on Rules of
the Senate, and over the objections of Senators Taada and Sumulong, the Senate choose
respondents Senators Mariano J. Cuenco and Francisco A. Delgado as members of the same
Electoral Tribunal. Subsequently, the Chairman of the latter appointed: (1) Alfredo Cruz and Catalina
Cayetano, as technical assistant and private secretary, respectively, to Senator Cuenco, as
supposed member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, upon his recommendation of said respondent;
and (2) Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes, as technical assistant and private secretary,
respectively to Senator Delgado, as supposed member of said Electoral Tribunal, and upon his
recommendation.
Soon, thereafter, Senator Lorenzo M. Taada and Congressman Diosdado Macapagal instituted the
case at bar against Senators Cuenco and Delgado, and said Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano,
Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes, as well as Fernando Hipolito, in his capacity as Cashier and
Disbursing Officer of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Petitioners allege that on February 22, 1956, as
well as at present, the Senate consists of 23 Senators who belong to the Nacionalista Party, and one
(1) Senator-namely, petitioner, Lorenzo M. Taada-belonging to the Citizens Party; that the
Committee on Rules for the Senate, in nominating Senators Cuenco and Delgado, and the Senate,
in choosing these respondents, as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, had "acted absolutely
without power or color of authority and in clear violation .. of Article VI, Section 11 of the
Constitution"; that "in assuming membership in the Senate Electoral Tribunal, by taking the
corresponding oath of office therefor", said respondents had "acted absolutely without color of
appointment or authority and are unlawfully, and in violation of the Constitution, usurping, intruding
into and exercising the powers of members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal"; that, consequently, the
appointments of respondents, Cruz, Cayetano, Serapio and Reyes, as technical assistants and
private secretaries to Senators Cuenco and Delgado-who caused said appointments to be made-as
members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, are unlawful and void; and that Senators Cuenco and
Delgado "are threatening and are about to take cognizance of Electoral Case No. 4 of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal, as alleged members thereof, in nullification of the rights of petitioner Lorenzo M.
Taada, both as a Senator belonging to the Citizens Party and as representative of the Citizens
Party in the Senate Electoral Tribunal, and in deprivation of the constitutional rights of petitioner
Diosdado Macapagal and his co-protestants to have their election protest tried and decided-by an
Electoral Tribunal composed of not more than three (3) senators chosen by the Senate upon
nomination of the party having the largest number of votes in the Senate and not more than the (3)
Senators upon nomination of the Party having the second largest number of votes therein, together,
three (3) Justice of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, instead of by an
Electoral Tribunal packed with five members belonging to the Nacionalista Party, which is the rival
party of the Liberal Party, to which the Petitioner Diosdado Macapagal and his co-protestants in
Electoral Case No. 4 belong, the said five (5) Nacionalista Senators having been nominated and
chosen in the manner alleged.. hereinabove.".
Petitioners pray that:.
"1. Upon petitioners' filing of bond in such amount as may be determined by this Honorable Court, a
writ of preliminary injunction be immediately issued directed to respondents Mariano J. Cuenco,
Francisco A. Delgado, Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano, Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes,
restraining them from continuing to usurp, intrude into and/ or hold or exercise the said public offices
respectively being occupied by them in the Senate Electoral Tribunal, and to respondent Fernando
Hipolito restraining him from paying the salaries of respondent Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano,
Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes, pending this action.
"2. After hearing, judgment be rendered ousting respondent Mariano J. Cuenco Francisco A.
Delgado, Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano, Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes from the
aforementioned public offices in the Senate Electoral Tribunal and that they be altogether excluded
therefrom and making the Preliminary injunction permanent, with costs against the respondents.".
Respondents have admitted the main allegations of fact in the petition, except insofar as it questions
the legality, and validity of the election of respondents Senators Cuenco and Delgado, as members
of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, and of the appointment of respondent Alfredo Cruz, Catalina
Cayetano, Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes as technical assistants and private secretaries to said
respondents Senators. Respondents, likewise, allege, by way of special and affirmative defenses,
that: (a) this Court is without power, authority of jurisdiction to direct or control the action of the
Senate in choosing the members of the Electoral Tribunal; and (b) that the petition states no cause
of action, because "petitioner Taada has exhausted his right to nominate after he nominated
himself and refused to nominate two (2) more Senators", because said petitioner is in estoppel, and
because the present action is not the proper remedy. .
I. Respondents assail our jurisdiction to entertain the petition, upon the ground that the power to
choose six (6) Senators as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal has been expressly conferred
by the Constitution upon the Senate, despite the fact that the draft submitted to the constitutional
convention gave to the respective political parties the right to elect their respective representatives in
the Electoral Commission provided for in the original Constitution of the Philippines, and that the only
remedy available to petitioners herein "is not in the judicial forum", but "to bring the matter to the bar
of public opinion.".
We cannot agree with the conclusion drawn by respondents from the foregoing facts. To begin with,
unlike the cases of Alejandrino vs. Quezon (46 Phil., 83) and Vera vs. Avelino (77 Phil., 192)-relied
upon by the respondents this is not an action against the Senate, and it does not seek to compel the
latter, either directly or indirectly, to allow the petitioners to perform their duties as members of said
House. Although the Constitution provides that the Senate shall choose six (6) Senators to be
members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the latter is part neither of Congress nor of the Senate.
(Angara vs. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil., 139, Suanes vs. Chief Accountant, 81 Phil., 818; 46 Off.
Gaz., 462.).
Secondly, although the Senate has, under the Constitution, the exclusive power to choose the
Senators who shall form part of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, the fundamental law has prescribed
the manner in which the authority shall be exercised. As the author of a very enlightening study on
judicial self-limitation has aptly put it:.
"The courts are called upon to say, on the one hand, by whom certain powers shall be exercised,
and on the other hand, to determine whether the powers possessed have been validly exercised. In
performing the latter function, they do not encroach upon the powers of a coordinate branch of the,
government, since the determination of the validity of an act is not the same, thing as the
performance of the act. In the one case we are seeking to ascertain upon whom devolves the duty of
the particular service. In the other case we are merely seeking to determine whether the Constitution
has been violated by anything done or attented by either an executive official or the legislative."
(Judicial Self-Limitation by Finkelstein, pp. 221, 224, 244, Harvard Law Review, Vol. 39; emphasis
supplied,).
The case of Suanes vs. Chief Accountant (supra) cited by respondent refutes their own pretense.
This Court exercised its jurisdiction over said case and decided the same on the merits thereof,
despite the fact that it involved an inquiry into the powers of the Senate and its President over the
Senate Electoral Tribunal and the personnel thereof. .
Again, under the Constitution, "the legislative power" is vested exclusively in the Congress of the
Philippines. Yet, this does not detract from the power of the courts to pass upon the constitutionality
of acts of Congress 1 And, since judicial power includes the authority to inquire into the legality of
statutes enacted by the two Houses of Congress, and approved by the Executive, there can be no
reason why the validity of an act of one of said Houses, like that of any other branch of the
Government, may not be determined in the proper actions. Thus, in the exercise of the so-called
"judicial supremacy", this Court declared that a resolution of the defunct National Assembly could not
bar the exercise of the powers of the former Electoral Commission under the original Constitution. 2
(Angara vs. Electoral Commission, supra), and annulled certain acts of the Executive 3 as
incompatible with the fundamental law.
In fact, whenever the conflicting claims of the parties to a litigation cannot properly be settled without
inquiring into the validity of an act of Congress or of either House thereof, the courts have, not only
jurisdiction to pass upon said issue, but, also, the duty to do so, which cannot be evaded without
violating the fundamental law and paving the way to its eventual destruction. 4.
Neither are the cases of Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito (78 Phil., 1) and Cabili vs. Francisco (88 Phil.,
654), likewise, invoked by respondents, in point. In the Mabanag case, it was held that the courts
could not review the finding of the Senate to the effect that the members thereof who had been
suspended by said House should not be considered in determining whether the votes cast therein, in
favor of a resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution, sufficed to satisfy the
requirements of the latter, such question being a political one. The weight of this decision, as a
precedent, has been weakened, however, by our resolutions in Avelino vs. Cuenco (83 Phil., 17), in
which this Court proceeded to determine the number essential to constitute a quorum in the Senate.
Besides, the case at bar does not hinge on the number of votes needed for a particular act of said
body. The issue before us is whether the Senate-after acknowledging that the Citizens Party is the
party, having the second largest number of votes in the Senate, to which party the Constitution gives
the right to nominate three (3) Senators for the Senate electoral Tribunal-could validly choose
therefor two (2) Nacionalista Senators, upon nomination by the floor leader of the Nacionalista Party
in the Senate, Senator Primicias claiming to act on behalf of the Committee on Rules for the Senate.
The issue in the Cabili case was whether we could review a resolution of the Senate reorganizing its
representation in the Commission on Appointments. This was decided in the negative, upon the
authority of Alejandrino vs. Quezon (supra) and Vera vs. Avelino (supra), the main purpose of the
petition being "to force upon the Senate the reinstatement of Senator Magalona in the Commission
on Appointments," one-half (1/2) of the members of which is to be elected by each House on the
basis of proportional representation of the political parties therein. Hence, the issue depended
mainly on the determination of the political alignment of the members of the Senate at the time of
said reorganization and of the necessity or advisability of effecting said reorganization, which is a
political question. We are not called upon, in the case at bar, to pass upon an identical or similar
question, it being conceded, impliedly, but clearly, that the Citizens Party is the party with the second
largest number of votes in the Senate. The issue, therefore, is whether a right vested by the
Constitution in the Citizens Party may validly be exercised, either by the Nacionalista Party, or by the
Committee on Rules for the Senate, over the objection of said Citizens Party.
x x x x x x x x x
The only ground upon which respondents' objection to the jurisdiction of this Court and their theory
to the effect that the proper remedy for petitioners herein is, not the present action, but an appeal to
public opinion, could possibly be entertained is, therefore, whether the case at bar raises merely a
political question, not one justiciable in nature.
In this connection, respondents assert in their answer that "the remedy of petitioners is not in the
judicial forum, but, to use petitioner, Taada's own words, to bring the matter to the bar of public
opinion' (p. 81, Discussion on the Creation of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, February 21, 1956)."
This allegation may give the impression that said petitioner had declared, on the floor of the Senate,
that his only relief against the acts complained of in the petition is to take up the issue before the
people- which is not a fact. During the discussions in the Senate, in the course of the organization of
the Senate Electoral Tribunal, on February 21, 1956, Senator Taada was asked what remedies he
would suggest if he nominated two (2) Nacionialista Senators and the latter declined the,
nomination. Senator Taada replied:.
"There are two remedies that occur to my mind right now, Mr. Senator; one is the remedy open to all
of us that if we feel aggrieved and there is no recourse in the court of justice, we can appeal to public
opinion. Another remedy is an action in the Supreme Court. Of course, as Senator Rodriguez, our
President here, has said one day; "If you take this matter to the Supreme Court, you will lose,
because until now the Supreme Court has always ruled against any action that would constitute
interference in the business of anybody pertaining to the Senate. The theory of separation of powers
will be upheld by the Supreme Court." But that learned opinion of Senator Rodriguez, our President,
notwithstanding, I may take the case to the Supreme Court if my right herein is not respected. I may
lose, Mr. President, but who has not lost in the Supreme Court? I may lose because of the theory of
the separation of powers, but that does not mean, Mr. President, that what has been done here is
pursuant to the provision of the Constitution." (Congressional Record, Vol. III, p. 339; emphasis
supplied.).
This statement did not refer to the nomination, by Senator Primicias, and the election, by the Senate,
of Senators Cuenco and Delgado as members of said Tribunal. Indeed, said nomination and election
took place the day after the aforementioned statement of Senator Taada was made. At any rate,
the latter announced that he might "take the case to the Supreme Court if my right here is not
respected.".
As already adverted to, the objection to our jurisdiction hinges on the question whether the issue
before us is political or not. In this connection, Willoughby lucidly states:.
"Elsewhere in this treatise the well-known and well-established principle is considered that it is not
within the province of the courts to pass judgment upon the policy of legislative or executive action.
Where, therefore, discretionary powers are granted by the Constitution or by statute, the manner in
which those powers are exercised is not subject to judicial review. The courts, therefore, concern
themselves only with the question as to the existence and extent of these discretionary powers.
"As distinguished from the judicial, the legislative and executive departments are spoken of as the
political departments of government because in very many cases their action is necessarily dictated
by considerations of public or political policy. These considerations of public or political policy of
course will not permit the legislature to violate constitutional provisions, or the executive to exercise
authority not granted him by the Constitution or by, statute, but, within these limits, they do permit
the departments, separately or together, to recognize that a certain set of facts exists or that a given
status exists, and these determinations, together with the consequences that flow therefrom, may
not be traversed in the courts." (Willoughby on the Constitution of the United States, Vol. 3, p. 1326;
emphasis supplied.).
To the same effect is the language used in Corpus Juris Secundum, from which we quote:.
"It is well-settled doctrine that political questions are not within the province of the judiciary, except to
the extent that power to deal with such questions has been conferred upon the courts by express
constitutional or statutory provisions.
"It is not easy, however, to define the phrase `political question', nor to determine what matters, fall
within its scope. It is frequently used to designate all questions that lie outside the scope of the
judicial questions, which under the constitution, are to be decided by the people in their sovereign
capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or
executive branch of the government." (16 C.J.S., 413; see, also Geauga Lake Improvement Ass'n.
vs. Lozier, 182 N. E. 491, 125 Ohio St. 565; Sevilla vs, Elizalde, 112 F. 2d 29, 72 App. D. C., 108;
emphasis supplied.).
Thus, it has been repeatedly held that the question whether certain amendments to the Constitution
are invalid for non-compliance with the procedure therein prescribed, is not a political one and may
be settled by the Courts. 5 .
In the case of In re McConaughy (119 N.W. 408), the nature of political question was considered
carefully. The Court said:.
"At the threshold of the case we are met with the assertion that the questions involved are political,
and not judicial. If this is correct, the court has no jurisdiction as the certificate of the state
canvassing board would then be final, regardless of the actual vote upon the amendment. The
question thus raised is a fundamental one; but it has been so often decided contrary to the view
contended for by the Attorney General that it would seem to be finally settled.
x x x x x x x x x.
" .. What is generally meant, when it is, said that a question is political, and not judicial, is that it is a
matter which, is to be exercised by the people in their primary political capacity, or that it has been
specifically delegated to some other department or particular officer of the government, with
discretionary power to act. See State vs. Cunningham, 81 Wis. 497, 51 L. R. A. 561; In Re Gunn, 50
Kan. 155; 32 Pac. 470, 948, 19 L. R. A. 519; Green vs. Mills, 69 Fed. 852, 16, C. C. A. 516, 30 L. R.
A. 90; Fletcher vs. Tuttle, 151 Ill. 41, 37 N. E. 683, 25 L. R. A. 143, 42 Am. St. Rep. 220. Thus the
Legislature may in its discretion determine whether it will pass a law or submit a proposed
constitutional amendment to the people. The courts have no judicial control over such matters, not
merely because they involve political question, but because they are matters which the people have
by the Constitution delegated to the Legislature. The Governor may exercise the powers delegated
to him, free from judicial control, so long as he observes the laws and acts within the limits of the
power conferred. His discretionary acts cannot be controllable, not primarily because they are of a
political nature, but because the Constitution and laws have placed the particular matter under his
control. But every officer under a constitutional government must act according to law and subject
him to the restraining and controlling power of the people, acting through the courts, as well as
through the executive or the Legislature. One department is just as representative as the other, and
the judiciary is the department which is charged with the special duty of determining the limitations
which the law places upon all official action. The recognition of this principle, unknown except in
Great Britain and America, is necessary, to the end that the government may be one of laws and not
men'-words which Webster said were the greatest contained in any written constitutional document."
(pp. 411, 417; emphasis supplied.).
In short, the term "political question" connotes, in legal parlance, what it means in ordinary parlance,
namely, a question of policy. In other words, in the language of Corpus Juris Secundum (supra), it
refers to "those questions which, under the Constitution, are to be decided by the people in their
sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the
Legislature or executive branch of the Government." It is concerned with issues dependent upon the
wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure.
Such is not the nature of the question for determination in the present case. Here, we are called
upon to decide whether the election of Senators Cuenco and Delgado, by the Senate, as members
of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, upon nomination by Senator Primicias-a member and spokesman
of the party having the largest number of votes in the Senate-on behalf of its Committee on Rules,
contravenes the constitutional mandate that said members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal shall be
chosen "upon nomination .. of the party having the second largest number of votes" in the Senate,
and hence, is null and void. This is not a political question. The Senate is not clothed with "full
discretionary authority" in the choice of members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal. The exercise of its
power thereon is subject to constitutional limitations which are claimed to be mandatory in nature. It
is clearly within the legitimate prove of the judicial department to pass upon the validity the
proceedings in connection therewith.
".. whether an election of public officers has been in accordance with law is for the judiciary.
Moreover, where the legislative department has by statute prescribed election procedure in a given
situation, the judiciary may determine whether a particular election has been in conformity with such
statute, and, particularly, whether such statute has been applied in a way to deny or transgress on
the constitutional or statutory rights .." (16 C.J.S., 439; emphasis supplied.).
It is, therefore, our opinion that we have, not only jurisdiction, but, also, the duty, to consider and
determine the principal issue raised by the parties herein.
II. Is the election of Senators Cuenco and Delgado, by the Senate, as members of the Electoral
Tribunal, valid and lawful?.
Section 11 of Article VI of the Constitution, reads:.
"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 of the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be
chosen by each House, three upon nomination of the party having the largest number of votes and
three of the party having the second largest number of votes therein. The Senior Justice in each
Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman." (Emphasis supplied.).
It appears that on February 22, 1956, as well as at present, the Senate of the Philippines consists of
twenty three (23) members of the Nacionalista Party and one (1) member of the Citizens Party,
namely, Senator Taada, who is, also, the president of said party. In the session of the Senate held
on February 21, 1956, Senator Sabido moved that Senator Taada, "the President of the Citizens
Party, be given the privilege to nominate .. three (3) members" of the Senate Electoral Tribunal
(Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, pp. 328-329), referring to those who, according to the
provision above-quoted, should be nominated by "the party having the second largest number of
votes" in the Senate. Senator Taada objected formally to this motion upon the-ground: (a) that the
right to nominate said members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal belongs, not to the Nacionalista
Party of which Senator Sabido and the other Senators are members-but to the Citizens Party, as the
one having the second largest number of votes in the Senate, so that, being devoid of authority to
nominate the aforementioned members of said Tribunal, the Nacionalista Party cannot give it to the
Citizens Party, which, already, has such authority, pursuant to the Constitution; and (b) that Senator
Sabido's motion would compel Senator Taada to nominate three (3) Senators to said Tribunal,
although as representative of the minority party in the Senate he has "the right to nominate one, two
or three to the Electoral Tribunal," in his discretion. Senator Taada further stated that he reserved
the right to determine how many he would nominate, after hearing the reasons of Senator Sabido in
support of his motion. After some discussion, in which Senators Primicias, Cea, Lim, Sumulong,
Zulueta, and Rodrigo took part, the Senate adjourned until the next morning, February 22, 1956
(Do., do, pp. 329, 330, 332-333, 336, 338, 339, 343).
Then, said issues were debated upon more extensively, with Senator Sumulong, not only seconding
the opposition of Senator Taada, but, also, maintaining that "Senator Taada should nominate only
one" member of the Senate, namely, himself, he being the only Senator who belongs to the minority
party in said House (Do., do., pp. 360-364, 369). Thus, a new issue was raised - whether or not one
who does not belong to said party may be nominated by its spokesman, Senator Taada - on which
Senators Paredes, Pelaez, Rosales and Laurel, as well as the other Senators already mentioned,
expressed their views (Do., do., pp. 345, 349, 350, 354, 358, 364, 375). Although the deliberations of
the Senate consumed the whole morning and afternoon of February 22, 1956, a satisfactory solution
of the question before the Senate appeared to be remote. So, at 7:40 p.m., the meeting was
suspended, on motion of Senator Laurel, with a view to seeking a compromise formula (Do., do., pp.
377). When session was resumed at 8:10 p.m., Senator Sabido withdrew his motion above referred
to. Thereupon, Senator Primicias, on behalf of the Nacionalista Party, nominated, and the Senate
elected, Senators Laurel, Lopez and Primicias, as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal.
Subsequently, Senator Taada stated:.
"On behalf of the Citizens Party, the minority party in this Body, I nominate the only Citizens Party
member in this Body, and that is Senator Lorenzo M. Taada.".
Without an objection, this nomination was approved by the House. Then, Senator Primicias stood up
and said:.
"Now, Mr. President, in order to comply with the provision in the Constitution, the Committee on
Rules of the Senate-and I am now making this proposal not on behalf of the Nacionalista Party but
on behalf of the Committee on Rules of the Senate-I nominate two other members to complete the
membership of the Tribunal: Senators Delgado and Cuenco.".
What took place thereafter appears in the following quotations from the Congressional Record for
the Senate.
"SENATOR TAADA. Mr. President.
"EL PRESIDENTE INTERINO. Caballero de Quezon.
"SENATOR TAADA. I would like to record my opposition to the nominations of the last two named
gentlemen, Senators Delgado and Cuenco, not because I don't believe that they do not deserve to
be appointed to the tribunal but because of my sincere and firm conviction that these additional
nominations are not sanctioned by the Constitution. The Constitution only permits the Nacionalista
Party or the party having the largest number of votes to nominate three.
"SENATOR SUMULONG. Mr. President.
"EL PRESIDENTE INTERINO. Caballero de Rizal.
"SENATOR SUMULONG. For the reasons that I have stated a few moments ago when I took the
floor, I also wish to record my objection to the last nominations, to the nomination of two additional
NP's to the Electoral Tribunal.
"EL PRESIDENTE INTERINO. Esta dispuesto el Senado a votar? (Varios Senadores: Si.) Los que
esten conformes con la nominacion hecha por el Presidente del Comite de Reglamentos a favor de
los Senadores Delgado y Cuenco para ser miembros del Tribunal Electoral, digan, si. (Varios
Senadores: Si.) Los que no lo esten digan, no (Silencio.) Queda aprobada." (Congressional Record
for the Senate, Vol. III, p. 377; emphasis supplied.).
Petitioners maintain that said nomination and election of Senators Cuenco and Delgado-who belong
to the Nacionalista Party-as members of the Senate Electoral Tribunal, are null and void and have
been made without power or color of authority, for, after the nomination by said party, and the
election by the Senate, of Senators Laurel, Lopez and Primicias, as members of said Tribunal, the
other Senators, who shall be members thereof, must necessarily be nominated by the party having
the second largest number of votes in the Senate, and such party is, admittedly, the Citizens Party,
to which Senator Taada belongs and which he represents.
Respondents allege, however, that the constitutional mandate to the effect that "each Electoral
Tribunal shall be compose of nine (9) members," six (6) of whom "shall be members of the Senate or
of the House of Representatives, as the case may be", is mandatory; that when-after the nomination
of three (3) Senators by the majority party, and their election by the Senate, as members of the
Senate Electoral Tribunal-Senator Taada nominated himself only, on behalf of the minority party,
he thereby "waived his right to no two more Senators;" that, when Senator Primicias nominated
Senators Cuenco and Delgado, and these respondents were chosen by the Senate, as members of
the Senate Electoral Tribunal, Said Senator Primicias and the Senate merely complied with the
aforementioned provision of the fundamental law, relative to the number of members of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal; and, that, accordingly, Senators Cuenco and Delgado are de jure members of
said body, and the appointment of their co-respondents, Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano, Manuel
Serapio and Placido Reyes is valid and lawful.
At the outset, it will be recalled that the proceedings the organization of the Senate Electoral Tribunal
began with a motion of Senator Sabido to the effect that "the distinguished gentleman from Quezon,
the President of the Citizens Party, be given the privilege to nominate the three Members" of said
Tribunal. Senator Primicias inquired why the movant had used the word "privilege". Senator Sabido
explained that the present composition of the Senate had created a condition or situation which was
not anticipated by the framers of our Constitution; that although Senator Taada formed part of the
Nacionalista Party before the end of 1955, he subsequently parted ways with" said party; and that
Senator Taada "is the distinguished president of the Citizens Party," which "approximates the
situation desired by the framers of the Constitution" (Congressional Record for the Senate Vol. III,
pp. 329-330). Then Senator Lim intervened, stating:.
"At present Senator Taada is considered as forming the only minority or the one that has the
second largest number of votes in the existing Senate, is not that right? And if this is so, he should
be given this as a matter of right, not as a matter of privilege. .. I don't believe that we should be
allowed to grant this authority to Senator Taada only as a privilege but we must grant it as a matter
of right." (Id., id., p. 32; emphasis supplied.).
Similarly, Senator Sumulong maintained that "Senator Taada, as Citizens Party Senator, has the
right and not a mere privilege to nominate," adding that:.
".. the question is whether we have a party here having the second largest number of votes, and it is
clear in my mind that there is such a party, and that is the Citizens Party to which the gentleman
from Quezon belongs. .. We have to bear in mind, .. that when Senator Taada was included in the
Nacionalista Party ticket in 1953, it was by virtue of a coalition or an alliance between the Citizens
Party and the Nacionalista Party at that time, and I maintain that when Senator Taada as head of
the Citizens Party entered into a coalition with the Nacionalista Party, he did not thereby become a
Nacionalista because that was a mere coalition, not a fusion. When the Citizens Party entered into a
mere coalition, that party did not lose its personality as a party separate and distinct from the,
Nacionalista Party. And we should also remember that the certificate of candidacy filed by Senator
Taada in the 1953 election was one to the effect that he belonged to the Citizens Party .." (Id., id.,
p. 360; emphasis supplied.).
The debate was closed by Senator Laurel, who remarked, referring to Senator Taada:.
"..there is no doubt that he does not belong to the majority in the first place, and that, therefore, he
belongs to the minority. And whether we like it or not, that is the reality of the actual situation-that he
is not a Nacionalista now, that he is the head and the representative of the Citizens Party. I think that
on equitable ground and from the point of view of public opinion, his situation .. approximates or
approaches what is within the spirit of that Constitution. .. and from the point of view of the spirit of
the Constitution it would be a good thing if we grant the opportunity to Senator Taada to help us in
the organization of this Electoral Tribunal (Id., id., p. 376; emphasis supplied.).
The foregoing statements and the fact that, thereafter, Senator Sabido withdrew his motion to grant
Senator Taada the "privilege" to nominate, and said petitioner actually nominated himself "on
behalf of the Citizens Party, the minority party in this Body"-not only without any, objection
whatsoever, but, also, with the approval of the Senate-leave no room for doubt that the Senate-leave
no room for doubt that the Senate has regarded the Citizens Party, represented by Senator Taada,
as the party having the second largest number of votes in said House.
Referring, now, to the contention of respondents herein, their main argument in support of the
mandatory character of the constitutional provision relative to the number of members of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal is that the word "shall", therein used, is imperative in nature and that this is borne
out by an opinion of the Secretary of Justice dated February 1, 1939, pertinent parts of which are
quoted at the footnote. 6.
Regardless of the respect due its author, as a distinguished citizen and public official, said opinion
has little, if any, weight in the solution of the question before this Court, for the practical construction
of a Constitution is of little, if any, unless it has been uniform .." 6a Again, "as a general rule, it is only
in cases of substantial doubt and ambiguity that the doctrine of contemporaneous or practical
construction has any application". As a consequence, "where the meaning of a constitutional
provision is clear, a contemporaneous or practical executive interpretation thereof is entitled to no
weight, and will not be allowed to distort or in any way change its natural meaning." The reason is
that "the application of the doctrine of contemporaneous construction is more restricted as applied to
the interpretation of constitutional provisions than when applied to statutory provisions", and that,
"except as to matters committed by the Constitution, itself to the discretion of some other
department, contemporary or practical construction is not necessarily binding upon the courts, even
in a doubtful case." Hence, "if in the judgment of the court, such construction is erroneous and its
further application is not made imperative by any paramount considerations of public policy, it may
he rejected." (16 C. J. S., 71-72; emphasis supplied.) 6b.
The aforemention opinion of the Secretary of Justice is not backed up by a, "uniform" application of
the view therein adopted, so essential to give thereto the weight accorded by the rules on
contemporaneous constructions. Moreover, said opinion tends to change the natural meaning of
section 11 of Article VI of the Constitution, which is clear. What is more, there is not the slightest
doubt in our mind that the purpose and spirit of said provisions do not warrant said change and that
the rejection of the latter is demanded by paramount considerations of public policy. .
The flaw in the position taken in said opinion and by respondent herein is that, while, it relies upon
the compulsory nature of the word "shall", as regards the number of members of the Electoral
Tribunals, it ignores the fact that the same term is used with respect to the method prescribed for
their election, and that both form part of a single sentence and must be considered, therefore, as
integral portions of one and the same thought. Indeed, respondents have not even tried to show and
we cannot conceive-why "shall" must be deemed mandatory insofar as the number of members of
each Electoral Tribunal, and should be considered directory as regards the procedure for their
selection. More important still, the history of section 11 of Article VI of the Constitution and the
records of the Convention, refute respondents' pretense, and back up the theory of petitioners
herein.
Commenting on the frame of mind of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, when they
faced the task of providing for the adjudication of contests relating to the election, returns and
qualifications of members of the Legislative Department, Dr. Jose M. Aruego, a member of said
Convention, says:.
"The experience of the Filipino people under the provisions of the organic laws which left to the
lawmaking body the determination of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its members was
not altogether satisfactory. There were many complaints against the lack of political justice in this
determination; for in a great number of cases, party interests controlled and dictated the decisions.
The undue delay in the dispatch of election contests for legislative seats, the irregularities that
characterized the proceedings in some of them, and the very apparent injection of partisanship in the
determination of a great number of the cases were decried by a great number of the people as well
as by the organs of public opinion.
"The faith of the people in the uprightness of the lawmaking body in the performance of this function
assigned to it in the organic laws was by no means great. In fact so blatant was the lack of political
justice in the decisions that there was, gradually built up a camp of thought in the Philippines inclined
to leave to the courts the determination of election contests, following the practice in some countries,
like England and Canada.
"Such were the conditions of things at the time of the meeting of the convention." (The Framing of
the Philippine Constitution by Aruego, Vol. 1, pp. 257-258; emphasis supplied.).
This view is shared by distinguished members of the Senate. Thus, in its session of February 22,
1956, Senator Sumulong declared:.
".. when you leave it to either House to decide election protests involving its own members, that is
virtually placing the majority party in a position to dictate the decision in those election cases,
because each House will be composed of a majority and a minority, and when you make each
House the judge of every election protest involving any member of that House, you place the
majority in a position to dominate and dictate the decision in the case and result was, there were so
many abuses, there were so main injustices: committed by the majority at the expense and to the
prejudice of the minority protestants. Statements have been made here that justice was done even
under the old system, like that case involving Senator Mabanag, when he almost became a victim of
the majority when he had an election case, and it was only through the intervention of President
Quezon that he was saved from becoming the victim of majority injustices.
"It is true that justice had sometimes prevailed under the old system, but the record will show that
those cases were few and they were the rare exceptions. The overwhelming majority of election
protests decided under the old system was that the majority being then in a position to dictate the,
decision in the election protest, was tempted to commit as it did commit many abuses and
injustices." (Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. 111, p. 361; emphasis supplied.).
Senator Paredes, a veteran legislator and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, said:.
".. what was intended in the creation of the electoral tribunal was to create a sort of collegiate court
composed of nine members: Three of them belonging to the party having the largest number of
votes, and three from the party having the second largest number votes so that these members may
represent the party, and the members of said party who will sit before the electoral tribunal as
protestees. For when it comes to a party, Mr. President, there ground to believe that decisions will
be made along party lines." (Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, p. 351; emphasis
supplied.).
Senator Laurel, who played an important role in the framing of our Constitution, expressed himself
as follows:.
"Now, with reference to the protests or contests, relating to the election, the returns and the
qualifications of the members of the legislative bodies, I heard it said here correctly that there was a
time when that was given to the corresponding chamber of the legislative department. So the
election, returns and qualifications of the members, of the Congress or legislative body was
entrusted to that body itself as the exclusive body to determine the election, returns and
qualifications of its members. There was some doubt also expressed as to whether that should
continue or not, and the greatest argument in favor of the retention of that provision was the fact that
was, among other things, the system obtaining in the United States under the Federal Constitution of
the United States, and there was no reason why that power or that right vested in the legislative
body should not be retained. But it was thought that would make the determination of this contest, of
this election protest, purely political as has been observed in the past." (Congressional Record for
the Senate, Vol. III, p. 376; emphasis supplied.).
It is interesting to note that not one of the members of the Senate contested the accuracy of the
views thus expressed.
Referring particularly to the philosophy underlying the constitutional provision quoted above, Dr.
Aruego states:.
"The defense of the Electoral Commission was based primarily upon the hope and belief that the
abolition of Party line because of the equal representation in this body of the majority and the
minority parties of the National Assembly and the intervention of some members of the Supreme
Court who, under the proposed constitutional provision, would also be members of the same, would
insure greater political justice in the determination of election contests for seats in the National
Assembly than there would be if the power had been lodged in the lawmaking body itself. Delegate
Francisco summarized the arguments for the creation of the Electoral Commission in the following
words:.
"I understand that from the time that this question is placed in the hands of members not only of the
majority party but also of the minority party, there is already a condition, a factor which would make
protests decided in a non-partisan manner. We know from experience that many times in the many
protests tried in the House or in the Senate, it was impossible to prevent the factor of party from
getting in. From the moment that it is required that not only the majority but also the minority should
intervene in these questions, we have already enough guarantee that there would be no tyranny on
the part of the majority.
`But there is another more detail which is the one which satisfies me most, and that is the
intervention of three justices. So that with this intervention of three justices if there would be any
question as to the justice applied by the majority or the minority, if there would be any fundamental
disagreement, or if there would be nothing but questions purely of party in which the members of the
majority as well as those of the minority should wish to take lightly a protest because the protestant
belongs to one of said parties, we have in this case, as a check upon the two parties, the actuations
of the three justices. In the last analysis, what is really applied in the determination of electoral cases
brought before the tribunals of justice or before the House of Representatives or the Senate? Well, it
is nothing more than the law and the doctrine of the Supreme Court. If that is the case, there will be
greater skill in the application of the laws and in the application of doctrines to electoral matters
having as we shall have three justices who will act impartially in these electoral questions.
`I wish to call the attention of my distinguished colleagues to the fact that in electoral protests it is
impossible to set aside party interests. Hence, the best guarantee, I repeat, for the administration of
justice to the parties, for the fact that the laws will not be applied rightfully or incorrectly as well as for
the fact that the doctrines of the Supreme Court will be applied rightfully, the best guarantee which
we shall have, I repeat, is the intervention of the three justices. And with the formation of the
Electoral Commission, I say again, the protestants as well as the protestees could remain tranquil in
the certainty that they will receive the justice that they really deserve. If we eliminate from this
precept the intervention of the party of the minority and that of the three justices, then we shall be
placing protests exclusively in the hands of the party in power. And I understand, gentlemen, that in
practice that has not given good results. Many have criticized, many have complained against, the
tyranny of the majority in electoral cases .. I repeat that the best guarantee the fact that these
questions will be judged not only by three members of the majority but also by three members of the
minority, with the additional guarantee of the impartial judgment of three justices of the Supreme
Court." (The Framing of the Philippine Constitution by Aruego, Vol. I, pp. 261-263; emphasis
supplied.).
The foregoing was corroborated by Senator Laurel. Speaking for this Court, in Angara vs. Electoral
Commission (63 Phil., 139), he asserted:.
"The members of the Constitutional Convention who framed our fundamental law were in their
majority-men mature in years and experience. To be sure, many of them were familiar with the
history and political development of other countries of the world. When, therefore they deemed it
wise to create an Electoral Commission as a constitutional organ and invested with the exclusive
function of passing upon and determining the election, returns and qualifications of the members of
the National Assembly, they must have done so not only in the light of their own experience but also
having in view the experience of other enlightened peoples of the world. The creation of the Electoral
Commission was designed to remedy certain evils of which the framers of our Constitution were
cognizant. Notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of some members of the Convention to its
creation, the plan, as hereinabove stated, was approved by that body by a vote of 98 against 58. All
that can be said now is that, upon the approval of the Constitution, the creation of the Electoral
Commission is the expression of the wisdom `ultimate justice of the people'. (Abraham Lincoln, First
Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861.).
"From the deliberations of our Constitutional Convention it is evident that the purpose was to transfer
in its totality all the powers previously exercised by the legislature in matters pertaining to contested
elections of its members, to an independent and impartial tribunal. It was not so much the knowledge
and appreciation of contemporary constitutional precedents, however, as the long felt need of
determining legislative contests devoid of partisan considerations which prompted the people acting
through their delegates to the Convention, to provide for this body known as the Electoral
Commission. With this end in view, a composite body in which both the majority and minority parties
are equally represented to off-set partisan influence in its deliberations was created, and further
endowed with judicial temper by including in its membership three justices of the Supreme Court,"
(Pp. 174-175.) 7.
As a matter of fact, during the deliberations of the convention, Delegates Conejero and Roxas said:.
"El Sr. CONEJERO. Antes de votarse la enmienda, quisiera pedir informacion del Subcomite de
Siete.
"El Sr. PRESIDENTE. Que dice el Comite?" El Sr. ROXAS. Con mucho gusto. "El Sr. CONEJERO.
Tal como esta el draft., dando tres miembrosala mayoria, y otros t?-es a la minyoryia y atros a la
Corte Suprerma, no cree su Senoria que este equivale pricticamente a dejar el asunto a los
miembros del Tribunal Supremo?.
"El Sr. ROXAS. Si y no. Creemos que si el tribunal a la Comision esta cotistuido en esa forma, tanto
los miembros de la mayoria como los de la minoria asi como los miembros de la Corte Saprema
consideration la cuestion sobre la base de sus meritos, sabiendo que el partidismo no es suficiente
para dar el triunbo.
"El Sr. CONEJERO. Cree Su Senoria que en un caso como ese, podriamos hacer que tanto los de
la mayoria como los de la minoria prescindieran del partidisrno?.
"El Sr. ROXAS. Creo que si, porque el partidismo no les daria el triunfo." (Angara vs. Electoral
Commission, supra, pp. 168-169; emphasis supplied.).
It is clear from the foregoing that the main objective of the framers of our Constitution in providing for
the establishment, first, of an Electoral Commission, 8 and then 9 of one Electoral Tribunal for each
House of Congress, was to insure the exercise of judicial impartiality in the disposition of election
contests affecting members of the lawmaking body. To achieve this purpose, two devices were
resorted to, namely: (a) the party having the largest number of votes, and the party having the
second largest number of votes, in the National Assembly or in each House of Congress, were given
the same number of representatives in the Electoral Commission or Tribunal, so that they may
realize that partisan considerations could not control the adjudication of said cases, and thus be
induced to act with greater impartiality; and (b) the Supreme Court was given in said body the same
number of representatives as each one of said political parties, so that the influence of the former
may be decisive and endow said Commission or Tribunal with judicial temper.
This is obvious from the very language of the constitutional provision under consideration. In fact,
Senator Sabido-who had moved to grant to Senator Taada the privilege" to make the nominations
on behalf of party having the second largest number of votes in the Senate-agrees with it. As
Senator Sumulong inquired:.
"..I suppose Your Honor will agree with me that the framers of the Constitution precisely thought of
creating this Electoral Tribunal so as to prevent the majority from ever having a preponderant
majority in the Tribunal." (Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, p. 330; emphasis supplied.).
Senator Sabido replied:.
"That is so, .." (Id., p. 330.).
Upon further interpretation, Senator Sabido said:.
".. the purpose of the creation of the Electoral Tribunal and of its composition is to maintain a
balance between the two parties and make the members of the Supreme Court the controlling power
so to speak of the Electoral Tribunal or hold the balance of power. That is the ideal situation."
(Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, p. 349; emphasis supplied.).
Senator Sumulong opined along the same line. His words were: .
"..The intention is that when the three from the majority and the three from the minority become
members of the Tribunal it is hoped that they will become aware of their judicial functions, not to
protect the protestants or the protegees. It is hoped that they will act as judges because to decide
election cases is a judicial function. But the framers of, the Constitution besides being learned were
men of experience. They knew that even Senators like us are not angels, that we are human beings,
that if we should be chosen to go to the Electoral Tribunal no one can say that we will entirely be
free from partisan influence to favor our party, so that in, case that hope that the three from the
majority and the three from the minority who will act as Judges should result in disappointment, in
case they do not act as judges but they go there and vote along party liner, still there is the
guarantee that they will offset each other and the result will be that the deciding vote will reside in
the hands of the three Justices who have no partisan motives to favor either the protestees or the
protestants. In other words, the whole idea is to prevent the majority from controlling and dictating
the decisions of the Tribunal and to make sure that the decisive vote will be wielded by the
Congressmen or Senators who are members the Tribunal but will be wielded by the Justices who, by
virtue of their judicial offices, will have no partisan motives to serve, either protestants, or protestees.
That is my understanding of the intention of the framers of the Constitution when they decided to
create the Electoral Tribunal.
x x x x x x x x x.
"My idea is that the intention of the framers of the constitution in creating the Electoral Tribunal is to
insure impartially and independence in its decision, and that is sought to be done by never allowing
the majority party to control the Tribunal, and secondly by seeing to it that the decisive vote in the
Tribunal will be left in the hands of persons who have no partisan interest or motive to favor either
protestant or protestee." (Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, pp. 362-363, 365-366;
emphasis supplied.).
So important in the "balance of powers" between the two political parties in the Electoral Tribunals,
that several members of the Senate questioned the right of the party having the second largest
number of votes in the Senate and, hence, of Senator Taada, as representative of the Citizens
Party-to nominate for the Senate Electoral Tribunal any Senator not belonging to said party.
Senators Lim, Sabido, Cea and Paredes maintained that the spirit of the Constitution would be
violated if the nominees to the Electoral Tribunals did not belong to the parties respectively making
the nominations. 10.
It is not necessary, for the purpose of this decision, to determine whether the parties having the
largest, and the second largest, number of votes in each House may nominate, to the Electoral
Tribunals, those members of Congress who do not belong to the party nominating them. It is patent,
however, that the most vital feature of the Electoral Tribunals is the equal representation of said
parties therein, and the resulting equilibrium to be maintained by the Justices of the Supreme Court
as members of said Tribunals. In the words of the members of the present Senate, said feature
reflects the "intent" "purpose", and "spirit of the Constitution", pursuant to which the Senate Electoral
Tribunal should be organized (Congressional Record for the Senate, pp. 330, 337, 348-9, 350, 351,
355, 358, 362-3, 364, 370, 376).
Now then, it is well settled that "the purpose of all rules or maxims as to the construction or
interpretation of statutes is to discover the true intention of the law" (82 C. J. S., 526) and that.
"As a general rule of statutory construction, the spirit or intention of a statute prevails over the letter
thereof, and whatever is within the spirit of statute is within the statute although it is not within the
letter, while that which is within the letter, but not within the spirit of a statute, is not within the
statute; but, where the law is free and clear from ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded on
the pretext of pursuing its spirit." (82 C. J. S., 613.).
"There is no universal rule or absolute test by which directory provisions in a statute may in all
circumstances be distinguished from those which are mandatory. However, in the determination of
this question, as of every other question of statutory construction, the prime object is to ascertain the
legislative intent. The legislative intent must be obtained front all the surrounding circumstances, and
the determination does not depend on the form of the statute. Consideration must be given to the
entire statute, its nature, its object, and the consequences which would result from construing it one
way or the other, and the statute must be construed in connection with other related statutes. Words
of permissive character may be given a mandatory significance in order to effect the legislative
intent, and, when the terms of a statute are such that they cannot be made effective to the extent of
giving each and all of them some reasonable operation, without construing the statute as mandatory,
such construction should be given; .. On the other hand, the language of a statute, however
mandatory in form, may be deemed directory whenever legislative purpose can best be carried out
by such construction, and the legislative intent does not require a mandatory construction; but the
construction of mandatory words as directory should not be lightly adopted and never where it would
in fact make a new law instead of that passed by the legislature. .. Whether a statute is mandatory or
directory depends on whether the thing directed to be done is of the essence of the thing required, or
is a mere matter of form, and what is a matter of essence can often be determined only by judicial
construction. Accordingly, when a particular provision of a statute relates to some immaterial matter,
as to which compliance with the statute is a matter of convenience rather than substance, or where
the directions of a statute are given merely with a view to the proper, orderly, and prompt conduct of
business, it is generally regarded as directory, unless followed by words of absolute prohibition; and
a statute is regarded as directory were no substantial rights depend on it, no injury can result from
ignoring it, and the purpose of the legislative can be accomplished in a manner other than that
prescribed, with substantially the same result. On the other hand, a provision relating to the essence
of the thing to be done, that is, to matters of substance, is mandatory, and when a fair interpretation
of a statute, which directs acts or proceedings to be done in a certain way shows that the legislature
intended a compliance with such provision to be essential to the validity of the act or proceeding, or
when same antecedent and pre-requisite conditions must exist prior to the exercise of power, or
must be performed before certain other powers can be exercise, the statute must be regarded as
mandatory. (Id., pp. 869-874.) (See also, Words and Phrases, Vol. 26, pp. 463-467; emphasis
supplied.).
What has been said above, relative to the conditions antecedent to, and concomitant with, the
adoption of section 11 of Article VI of the Constitution, reveals clearly that its framers intended to
prevent the majority party from controlling the Electoral Tribunals, and that the structure thereof is
founded upon the equilibrium between the majority and the minority parties therein, with the Justices
of the Supreme Court, who are members of said Tribunals, holding the resulting balance of power.
The procedure prescribed in said provision for the selection of members of the Electoral Tribunals is
vital to the role they are called upon to play. it constitutes the essence of said Tribunals. Hence,
compliance with said procedure is mandatory, and acts performed in violation thereof are null and
void. 11.
It is true that the application of the foregoing criterion would limit the membership of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal, in the case at bar, to seven (7), instead of nine (9), members; but, it is conceded
that the present composition of the Senate was not foreseen by the framers of our Constitution
(Congressional Record for the Senate, Vol. III, pp. 329, 342, 349, 354, 359, 375). Furthermore, the
spirit of the law prevails over its letter, and the solution herein adopted maintains the spirit of the
Constitution, for partisan considerations can not be decisive in a tribunal consisting of three (3)
Justices of the Supreme Court, three (3) members nominated by the majority party and either one
(1) or two (2) members nominated by the party having the second largest number of votes in the
House concerned.
Upon the other hand, what would be the result of respondents' contention if upheld? Owing to the
fact that the Citizens Party 12 has only one member in the Upper House, Senator Taada felt he
should nominate, for the Senate Electoral Tribunal, only said member of the Citizens Party. The
same is, thus, numerically handicapped, vis-a-vis the majority party, in said Tribunal. Obviously,
Senator Taada did not nominate other two Senators, because, otherwise, he would worsen the
already disadvantageous position, therein, of the Citizens Party. Indeed, by the aforementioned
nomination and election of Senators Cuenco and Delgado, if the same were sanctioned, the
Nacionalista Party would have five (5) members in the Senate Electoral Tribunal, as against one (1)
member of the Citizens Party and three members of the Supreme Court. With the absolute majority
thereby attained by the majority party in said Tribunal, the philosophy underlying the same would be
entirely upset. The equilibrium between the political parties therein would be destroyed. What is
worst, the decisive moderating role of the Justices of the Supreme Court would be wiped out, and, in
lieu thereof, the door would be thrown wide open for the predominance of political considerations in
the determination of election protests pending before said Tribunal, which is precisely what the
fathers of our Constitution earnestly strove to forestall. 13.
This does not imply that the honesty, integrity or impartiality of Senators Cuenco and Delgado are
being questioned. As a matter of fact, when Senator Taada objected to their nomination, he
explicitly made of record that his opposition was based, not upon their character, but upon the
principle involved. When the election of members of Congress to the Electoral Tribunal is made
dependent upon the nomination of the political parties above referred to, the Constitution thereby
indicates its reliance upon the method of selection thus established, regardless of the individual
qualities of those chosen therefor. Considering the wealth of experience of the delegatesto the
Convention, as lawyers of great note, as veteran politicians and as leaders in other fields of
endeavor, they could not, and did not, ignore the fact that the Constitution must limit itself to giving
general patterns or norms of action. In connection, particularly, with the composition of the Electoral
Tribunals, they believed that, even the most well meaning individuals often find it difficult to shake off
the bias and prejudice created by political antagonisms and to resist the demands of political
exigencies, the pressure of which is bound to increase in proportion to the degree of predominance
of the party from which it comes. As above stated, this was confirmed by distinguished members of
the present Senate. (See pp. 25-28, 33, 34, supra.).
In connection with the argument of the former Secretary of Justice to the effect that when "there is
no minority party represented in the Assembly, the necessity for such a check by the minority
disappears", the following observations of the petitioners herein are worthy of notice:.
" Under the interpretation espoused by the respondents, the very frauds or terrorism committed by a
party would establish the legal basis for the final destruction of minority parties in the Congress at
least. Let us suppose, for example, that in the Senate, the 15 or 16 senators with unexpired terms
belong to the party A. In the senatorial elections to fill the remaining 8 seats, all the 8 candidates of
party A are proclaimed elected through alleged fraud and/or terrorism. (The ouster of not less than 3
senators-elect in the elections held since liberation attests to the reality of election frauds and
terrorism in our country.) There being no senator or only one senator belonging to the minority, who
would sit in judgment on the election candidates of the minority parties? According to the contention
of the respondents, it would be a Senate Electoral Tribunal made up of three Supreme Court
Justices and 5 or 6 members of the same party A accused of fraud and terrorism. Most respectfully,
we pray this Honorable Court to reject an interpretation that would make of a democratic constitution
the very instrument by which a corrupt and ruthless party could entrench itself in power the
legislature and thus destroy democracy in the Philippines.
x x x x x x x x x.
".. When there are no electoral protests filed by the Minority party, or when the only electoral protests
filed are by candidates of the majority against members-elect of the same majority party, there might
be no objection to the statement. But if electoral protests are filed by candidates of the minority
party, it is at this point that a need for a check on the majority party is greatest, and contrary to the
observation made in the above-quoted opinion, such a cheek is a function that cannot be
successfully exercised by the 3 Justices of the Supreme Court, for the obvious and simple reason
that they could easily be outvoted by the 6 members of the majority party in the Tribunal.
x x x x x x x x x.
"In the case of the cited opinion of Secretary Abad Santos rendered in 1939, it, did not appear that
there were minority party candidates who were adversely affected by the ruling of the Secretary of
Justice and who could have brought a test case to court." (Emphasis supplied.).
The defenses of waiver and estoppel set up against petitioner Taada are untenable. Although "an
individual may waive constitutional provisions intended for his benefit", particularly those meant for
the protection of his property, and, sometimes, even those tending "to secure his personal liberty",
the power to waive does not exist when "public policy or public morals" are involved. (11 Am. Jur.
765; I Cooley's Constitutional Limitations, pp. 368-371). The procedure outlined in the Constitution
for the organization, of the Electoral Tribunals was adopted in response to the demands of the
common weal, and it has been held that where a statute is founded on public policy, those to whom
it applies should not be permitted to waive its provisions" (82 C. J. S., 874). Besides, there can be no
waiver without an intent to such effect, which Senator Taada did not have. Again, the alleged
waiver or exhaustion of his rights does not justify the exercise thereof by a person or party, other
than that to which it is vested exclusively by the Constitution.
The rule estoppel is that "whenever a party has, by his declaration, act or omissions, intentionally
and deliberately led another to believe a particular thing true, and to act upon such belief, he cannot,
in a litigation arising out of such declaration, act or omission, be permitted to falsify it" (Rule 69, sec.
68 [a], Rules of Court). In the case at bar, petitioner Senator Taada did not lead the Senate to
believe that Senator Primicias could nominate Senators Cuenco and Delgado. On the contrary, said
petitioner repeatedly asserted that his was the exclusive right to make the nomination. He, likewise,
specifically contested said nomination of Senators Cuenco and Delgado. Again, the rule on estoppel
applies to questions of fact, not of law, about the truth of which the other party is ignorant (see
Moran's Comments on the Rules of Court, Vol. 3, pp. 490, 495). Such is not the nature of the
situation that confronted Senator Taada and the other members of the Senate. Lastly, the case of
Zandueta vs. De la Costa (66 Phil., 615), cited by respondents, is not in point. Judge Zandueta
assumed office by virtue of an appointment, the legality of which he later on assailed. In the case at
bar, the nomination and election of Senator Taada as member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal was
separate, distinct and independent from the nomination and election of Senators Cuenco and
Delgado.
In view of the foregoing, we hold that the Senate may not elect, as members of the Senate Electoral
Tribunal, those Senators who have not been nominated by the political parties specified in the
Constitution; that the party having the largest number of votes in the Senate may nominate not more
than three (3) members thereof to said Electoral Tribunal; that the party having the second largest
number of votes in the Senate has the exclusive right to nominate the other three (3) Senators who
shall sit as members in the Electoral Tribunal; that neither these three (3) Senators, nor any of them,
may be nominated by a person or party other than the one having the second largest number of
votes in the Senate or its representative therein; that the Committee on Rules for the Senate has no
standing to validly make such nomination and that the nomination of Senators Cuenco and Delgado
by Senator Primicias, and the election of said respondents by the Senate, as members of said
Tribunal, are null and void ab initio.
As regards respondents Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano, Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes, we
are not prepared to hold, however, that their appointments were null and void. Although
recommended by Senators Cuenco and Delgado, who are not lawful members of the Senate
Electoral Tribunal, they were appointed by its Chairman, presumably, with the consent of the
majority of the de jure members of said body 14 or, pursuant to the Rules thereof. At any rate, as
held in Suanes vs. Chief Accountant (supra), the election of its personnel is an internal matter falling
within the jurisdiction and control of said body, and there is every reason to believe that it will,
hereafter take appropriate measures, in relation to the four (4) respondents abovementioned,
conformably with the spirit of the Constitution and of, the decision in the case at bar.
Wherefore, judgment is hereby rendered declaring that, respondents Senators Mariano Jesus
Cuenco and Francisco A. Delgado have not been duly elected as Members of the Senate Electoral
Tribunal, that they are not entitled to act as such and that they should be, as they are hereby,
enjoined from exercising the powers and duties of Members of said Electoral Tribunal and from
acting in such capacity in connection with Senate Electoral Case No. 4 thereof. With the qualification
stated above, the petition is dismissed, as regards respondents Alfredo Cruz, Catalina Cayetano,
Manuel Serapio and Placido Reyes. Without special pronouncement as to costs. It is so ordered.