Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 61

EN BANC

[G.R. No. 129754. September 23, 1997.]

PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE FOR REFORM, MODERNIZATION AND


ACTION (PIRMA), ET AL., ETC., petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION
ON ELECTIONS, ET AL., respondent.

RESOLUTION

Gentlemen:

Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of the Court En


Banc dated SEPTEMBER 23, 1997.

G.R. No. 129754 (People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA),
et al., etc. vs. The Commission on Elections, et al.)

The Court NOTED the reply to petitioners' comment filed by Intervenor Joker P.
Arroyo, dated September 22, 1997. The Court then deliberated on the petition in
relation to the comments and other pleadings on record, and thereafter voted on
the issues thereunder arising.

The Court ruled, first, by a unanimous vote, that no grave abuse of discretion could
be attributed to the public respondent COMELEC in dismissing the petition filed by
PIRMA therein, it appearing that it only complied with the dispositions in the
Decision of this Court in G.R. No. 127325, promulgated on March 19, 1997, and its
Resolution of June 10, 1997.

The Court next considered the question of whether there was need to resolve the
second issue posed by the petitioners, namely, that the Court re-examine its ruling
as regards R.A. 6735. On this issue, the Chief Justice and six (6) other members of
the Court, namely, Regalado, Davide, Romero, Bellosillo, Kapunan and Torres, JJ.,
voted that there was no need to take it up. Vitug, J., agreed that there was no need
for re-examination of said second issue since the case at bar is not the proper
vehicle for that purpose. Five (5) other members of the Court, namely, Melo, Puno,
Francisco, Hermosisima and Panganiban, JJ., opined that there was need for such a
re-examination. Justices Davide, Bellosillo, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco and
Panganiban wrote separate opinions which are hereto attached. aIcDCA

WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

Mendoza, J., is on official leave.

Very truly yours,


LUZVIMINDA D. PUNO

Clerk of Court

By:

(SGD.) MA. LUISA D. VILLARAMA

Assistant Clerk of Court

Separate Opinions
DAVIDE, JR., J.:

With much more vigor do I reiterate my view that this case must be summarily
dismissed and should not be allowed to stay a moment longer before this Court. It is
undeniable and inescapable that this Court already decreed, with finality, the
inadequacy and insufficiency of R.A. No. 6735 in implementing the right of the
people to directly propose amendments to the Constitution through the system of
initiative. The petition then makes a mockery of the judicial process and breaches
the principle which bars relitigation of issues between parties and doctrines related
thereto; moreover, it is a brazen insult to the intelligence of the Members of this
Court.

For this Court to now yield to petitioners' antics and stratagems is to inflict upon
itself dishonor, if not, shame, and to allow itself to be the unwitting villain in the
farce surrounding a demand, disguised as that of the people, which has divided the
country, shaken the economy and sired political instability which may ultimately
obliterate the gains the nation has achieved in its transition to full democracy after
decades of authoritarian rule. As the last bulwark of democracy, this Court should
stand ever firm and be unrelenting in observing its mandate of respect for nothing
else but the rule of law. Never again should it allow itself to be used as a
legitimizing tool for those who wish to perpetuate themselves in power.

The following are my reasons as to why this petition must be summarily dismissed:

First, it is barred by res judicata. No one aware of the pleadings filed here and in
Santiago v. COMELEC (G.R. No. 127325, 19 March 1997) may plead ignorance of
the fact that the former is substantially identical to the latter, except for the
reversal of the roles played by the principal parties and inclusion of additional, yet
not indispensable, parties in the present petition. But plainly, the same issues and
reliefs are raised and prayed for in both cases.

The principal petitioner here is the PEOPLE'S INITIATIVE FOR REFORM,


MODERNIZATION, AND ACTION (PIRMA) and Spouses ALBERTO PEDROSA and
CARMEN PEDROSA. PIRMA is self-described as "a non-stock, non-profit organization
duly organized and existing under Philippines laws with office address at Suite 403,
Fedman Suites, 199 Salcedo Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City," with "ALBERTO
PEDROSA and CARMEN PEDROSA" as among its "officers." In Santiago, the
PEDROSAS were made respondents as founding members of PIRMA which, as
alleged in the body of the petition therein, "proposes to undertake the signature
drive for a people's initiative to amend the Constitution." In Santiago then, the
PEDROSAS were sued in their capacity as founding members of PIRMA.

The decision in Santiago specifically declared that PIRMA was duly represented at
the hearing of the Delfin petition in the COMELEC. In short, PIRMA was intervenor-
petitioner therein. Delfin alleged in his petition that he was a founding member of
the Movement for People's Initiative, and under footnote no. 6 of the decision, it
was noted that said movement was "[l]ater identified as the People's Initiative for
Reforms, Modernization and Action, or PIRMA for brevity." In their Comment to the
petition in Santiago, the PEDROSAS did not deny that they were founding members
of PIRMA, and by their arguments, demonstrated beyond a shadow of a doubt that
they had joined Delfin or his cause.

No amount of semantics may then shield herein petitioners PIRMA and the
PEDROSAS, as well as the others joining them, from the operation of the principle of
res judicata, which needs no further elaboration.

Second, the present petition is, in effect, a second motion for reconsideration. This
Court denied with finality the PEDROSA's motion for reconsideration of the decision
of 19 March 1997 in Santiago. Aware of the futility of filing a second motion for
reconsideration, the PEDROSAS, in their attempt to circumvent the judicial process,
filed a petition with the COMELEC, making PIRMA the principal petitioner and
bringing in other alleged interested parties to make it appear that the petition was
an entirely new case. But I venture that it would be the height of naivete to afford
them the presumption of good faith. The present recourse was clearly contrived to
prevent the application of the rule on res judicata. This petition was, in fact, a
brazen attempt to seek a second reconsideration which, had it been filed with this
Court, would have been denied outright for absence of prior leave (Ortigas and
Company v. Velasco, 254 SCRA 234 [1996]) and in light of paragraph 7 of the
resolution of 7 April 1988 of the Court en banc, which reads:DHSCTI

7. Where the Court has resolved to deny a motion for reconsideration


and decrees the denial to be final, no motion for leave to file [a]
second motion for reconsideration shall be entertained . . .

The true nature of the petition as a second motion for reconsideration is blatantly
revealed by petitioners' plea that Santiago be re-examined because, inter alia,
the Court acted beyond its authority when it declared R.A. No. 6735 as
inadequate or incomplete, when what it could do was merely to declare a law
either as constitutional or unconstitutional. This issue was specifically raised by
the PEDROSAS in their motion for the reconsideration of the Santiago decision of
19 March 1997.

Third, petitioners are guilty of forum-shopping. When they filed a second petition
with the COMELEC, not as original intervenors-petitioners as was their role in the
earlier Delfin petition, but as petitioners in COMELEC Special Matter No. 97-001,
from where originated the instant petition, PIRMA and the PEDROSAS were equally
guilty of forum-shopping. Having been effectively rebuffed by this Court in Santiago,
petitioners sought refuge in another forum, hoping they could obtain a ruling from
COMELEC that R.A. 6735 was complete and adequate, and that COMELEC would, in
the process, disregard Santiago for, as petitioners arrogantly contend, the decision
therein was reached by a divided court and the vote in its resolution of 10 June
1997 on the motion for reconsideration "in fact granted the motions for
reconsideration." At bottom, PIRMA and the PEDROSAS sought a reversal of the
Santiago decision by the COMELEC, as if the latter were a tribunal superior to this
Court.

Fourth, even if we go into the merits of this petition, it is apparent that the
COMELEC committed no grave abuse of discretion in its challenged resolution of 8
July 1997 dismissing Special Matter 97-001, in view of the decision in Santiago. In
so doing, the COMELEC merely complied with said decision and refused to be used
by petitioners herein. Hence, COMELEC must be commended for strict adherence to
the rule that decisions of this Court applying or interpreting the laws or the
Constitution form part of the legal system of the Philippines (Article 8, Civil Code).

The only valid issue in a special civil action for certiorari under rule 65 of the Rules
of Court is whether a tribunal, board or officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial
functions has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. Here, petitioners cite only
grave abuse of discretion. But having shown above that the COMELEC did not
commit any abuse of discretion, it follows that no further issue should be
entertained by this Court. To yield to the importuning that this Court reexamine
Santiago can serve no legitimate purpose other than to promote judicial instability
and leave this Court vulnerable to charges that it succumbed to pressure.

Fifth, I find it appropriate to expose once more the baselessness of the repeated
claim, sought again to be highlighted in the instant petitions, that this Court can
declare a law void only on the ground that it is unconstitutional, but not on the
ground of its inadequacy or incompleteness. Such a view betrays ignorance of basic
principles in constitutional law. I need only to reiterate what I stated in my separate
opinion anent the denial of the PEDROSAS' motion to reconsider the 19 March 1997
decision in Santiago. There, the PEDROSAS unqualifiedly and unconditionally
acceded to a discussion of five issues, the first two being:

1. Whether R.A. No. 6735, entitled an Act Providing for the System of
Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds Therefor, was
intended to include or cover initiative on amendments to the
Constitution; and if so, whether the Act, as worded, adequately covers
such initiative.

2. Whether that portion of COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 (In re: Rules
and Regulations Governing the Conduct of Initiative on the
Constitution, and Initiative and Referendum on National and Local
Laws) regarding the conduct of initiative on amendments to the
Constitution is valid, considering the absence in the law of specific
provisions on the conduct of such initiative.AECcTS

These two issues raise the issue of the constitutionality of R.A. No. 6735. At its core
lays the principle of non-delegation of legislative power and the exceptions thereto,
both of which are fixed and invariable subjects of constitutional law (ENRIQUE M.
FERNANDO, THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PHILIPPINES 161-166 [2nd ed. 1997];
JOAQUIN G. BERNAS, THE 1987 CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE
PHILIPPINES, A COMMENTARY 610-618 [1996 ed.]; 1 THOMAS M. COOLEY, A
TREATISE ON THE CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS 224-247 [8th ed. 1927]). It has
been aptly said that "[t]he problem of delegation of legislative powers like that of
separation of powers involves constitutional law rather than statutory construction"
(1 SUTHERLAND ON STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION §301, p. 54 [3rd ed. 1943]).

Since a law may be declared unconstitutional where it delegates non-delegable


legislative authority, or that any attempt to do so would be tainted by
unconstitutionality (FERNANDO, op. cit., 161), then a law which purports to
delegate a delegable legislative power may also be declared unconstitutional or
invalid if it fails to comply with the "completeness" and "sufficient standard" tests.
Only courts, in the exercise of its judicial authority, can determine if a statute has
met these tests. (Pelaez v. Auditor General, 122 Phil. 965 [1965]; Edu v. Ericta, 35
SCRA 481 [1970]). In their motion for reconsideration in Santiago, the PEDROSAS
argued that "the delegation of power to the COMELEC hurdles both the
completeness and sufficient standard tests prescribed in Pelaez vs. Auditor General .
. . ." By so arguing, the PEDROSAS admitted that a constitutional issue was, indeed,
involved. Thus, the terms incomplete, inadequate and wanting in essential details
used by this Court in the decision in Santiago had reference to the "completeness
and sufficient standard tests," and to none other. The intent then of the law, which
is the concern of statutory construction, is not a sufficient guidepost. This puts to
naught for being clearly misplaced, if not irrelevant, the plea that we should give
full life to the intent of the law to include initiative on constitutional amendments,
as well as the warning that to suppress the intent of the law would be tantamount
to determining the wisdom, reasonableness, adequacy or sufficiency of the law, a
role exclusively pertaining to the legislature. IDaCcS

Simply put, Santiago did, in reality, declare as unconstitutional that portion of R.A.
No. 6735 relating to Constitutional initiatives for failure to comply with the
"completeness and sufficient standard tests" with respect to permissible delegation
of legislative power or subordinate legislation. However petitioners attempt to twist
the language in Santiago, the conclusion is inevitable: the portion of R.A. No. 6735
pertinent to the dispute was held to be unconstitutional.

Finally, as a coup de grâce, I may as well consider the third issue in Santiago, a
discussion of which the Court then found unnecessary, if not academic, viz.:

1. Whether the lifting of term limits of elective national and local officials,
as proposed in the draft "Petition for Initiative on the 1987
constitution" would constitute revision of, or an amendment to, the
Constitution.
Before continuing, however, let me make myself clear that this I do ad arguendo,
without in any way conceding that a reexamination of Santiago is proper.

The lifting of term limits is the subject of herein petitioners' proposal in its petition
before the COMELEC, to wit:

Do you approve of amendments to the 1987 Constitution giving the


President the chance to be re-elected for another term, similarly with the
Vice-President, so that both highest officials of the land can serve for two
consecutive terms of six years each, and also other elective government
officials, thus giving Filipino voters the freedom of choice, amending for the
purpose, Section 4 of Article VII, Section 8 of Article X, respectively.
(Petition, 20).

There is no debate that only amendments to — not revision of — the


Constitution may be proposed through the system of initiative. It is, therefore,
necessary to distinguish the two concepts.

More than two (2) decades ago, Vicente G. Sinco, former Dean of the College of Law
and later President of the University of the Philippines and Delegate to the
Constitutional Convention of 1971, elaborated on the distinction between a revision
and an amendment:

Strictly speaking, the act of revising a constitution involves alterations of


different portions of the entire document. It may result in the rewriting either
of the whole constitution, or the greater portion of it, or perhaps only some
of its important provisions. But whatever results the revision may produce,
the factor that characterizes it as an act of revision is the original intention
and plan authorized to be carried out. That intention and plan must
contemplate a consideration of all the provisions of the constitution to
determine which one should be altered or suppressed or whether the whole
document should be replaced with an entirely new one.

The act of amending a constitution, on the other hand, envisages a change


of only a few specific provisions. The intention of an act to amend is not to
consider the advisability of changing the entire constitution or of considering
that possibility. The intention rather is to improve specific parts of the
existing constitution or to add to it provisions deemed essential on account
of changed conditions or to suppress portions of it that seem obsolete, or
dangerous, or misleading in their effect. (PHILIPPINE POLITICAL LAW 43-44
[1954 ed.], underscoring supplied)

It is then clear that revision may either be of the whole, or only a part, of the
Constitution. That part need not be a substantial part; a change may qualify as
revision even if limited to only some of the important provisions, as long as the
"intention and plan [to be] carried out . . . contemplate a consideration of all the
provisions of the Constitution to determine which one should be altered or
suppressed whether the whole document should be replaced with an entirely new
one."
After a scrutiny of the above-quoted proposition, I respectfully submit that while on
its face, it affects only four sections of the Constitution, at bottom, however, it seeks
to negate, obliterate and ultimately, nullify, the following principles which form part
of the foundation of our system of government:

(a) the fundamental state policy guaranteeing equal access to


opportunities for public service and prohibiting political dynasties,
solemnly enshrined in Section 26 of Article II of the Constitution;

(b) the mandate directing reduction of political inequalities and equitable


diffusion of political power in Section 1 of Article XIII on Social Justice
and Human Rights; and

(c) the sound and patriotic civic, moral, and political creed that infuses
upon elective officials a greater sense of accountability, responsibility,
integrity, and selflessness by cultivating and nurturing in them a
conscious obsession for a glorious place in history through a legacy
of achievement which only limited terms can ensure.

Verily, an elective official who knows the limited duration of his term and the limits
as to the number of terms he may serve, but who has an eye for a respected place
in history, will give nothing short of his best to serve as a memorial of his deeds for
the generations to come. This is the magnificent obsession of all decent people. On
the other hand, under a regime of unlimited terms, an elected official would be
subjected to the irresistible temptation or compulsion to perpetuate himself and his
family in power. History has shown that the concentration of political and economic
power in one man or family imperils democracy and insures nothing but prejudice to
the people and the common good. It has been said, and quite correctly, that power
corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. cSEaDA

There can be no doubt that the provisions of the Constitution perpetually banning
the President from seeking another term, and fixing limits to the terms of office of
other elective officials were meant, as follows: first, to promote equal access to
opportunities for public service; and, second, to discourage, if not prevent,
accumulation or concentration of political and economic power in one man, one
family and, on a broader plane, in one dominant political party. As to the latter,
Commissioner Edmundo Garcia provided certain insights in support of the motion of
Commissioner Ambrosio Padilla to reconsider the earlier action of the Commission
which prohibited the President from seeking immediate reelection only and,
instead, to perpetually ban him from seeking another term, thus:

The problem we face here is the problem of the accumulation of power in


the Office of the President. Furthermore, the problem is not the
accumulation of power in one man, but the accumulation of power in the
dominant party. The problem in Mexico is that the Partido Revolucionario
Institucional is the dominant party manipulating the succession to the
presidency in such a way that the Tapado, the person chosen by the
President to go on to the next term, is a succession in the dominant political
party itself. There are many parties in Mexico right now, but the one
dominant party determines the country's future and political direction. That
is what we want to avoid, not just the accumulation of political power in the
person of the President but in one dominant party. And I think this is a very
important thing that we can stop now, by making sure that no reelection
takes place. That is why I am supporting the position of Commissioner
Padilla. (II Record of the Constitutional Commission, 249).

The Padilla motion was granted and his proposal to perpetually ban the President
from seeking another term was approved by a vote of 26 as against 15 with one
abstention (Id., 250).

An unlimited term for an elective public official is a crucial factor in spawning


political dynasties. It must be understood that, as eloquently stated by
Commissioner Blas Ople, political dynasties have their roots in a society with a
feudal socio-economic structure. In his interpellation of Commissioner Nolledo on
what is now Section 26 of Article II of the 1987 Constitution, Commissioner Ople
remarked: CcaASE

I believe that the roots of political dynasties, to the extent that these are
repugnant in a democratic society, are in the society itself — a feudal socio-
economic structure — whereby those who were advantaged by the accident
of birth and have been born to considerable possessions and property can
acquire an unfair advantage over others. But I think, ultimately, the solution
should be to reform these inequities social and political structures, but we
should minimize invasions into the domains of privacy of people; that is the
freedom of choice of the electorate. The right to be voted upon is inherent in
the right of suffrage, and I hope that Commissioner Nolledo will accept that
interpretation. (IV Record of the Constitutional Commission, 763).

Hence, it should be clear that political dynasties thrive well in a society with a
feudal socio-economic structure; accordingly, political dynasties can only ensure the
continuity of the structure. Evidently concerned with the evils of this immutable
linkage between political dynasties and a feudal socio-economic structure of society,
the Constitution deemed it expedient and wise in Section 1 of Article XIII on Social
Justice and Human Rights to direct Congress to "give highest priority to the
enactment of measures that protect and enhance the right of the people to human
dignity, reduce social, economic and political inequalities, and remove cultural
inequities by equitably diffusing wealth and political power for the common good."

Therefore, the lifting of term limits of national and local elective officials, as
proposed by petitioners, involves not just the sections enumerated therein, but the
alteration of fundamental principles essential to a vibrant, living, participatory
democracy and of the envisioned social, economic and political structures therein.
Under any language, petitioners' proposal involves a revision of, and not just an
amendment to, the Constitution. Thus, in NO way can petitioners' proposal be
accomplished through the system of initiative.

I vote then to dismiss the instant petition.

VITUG, J.:
An ideal government exists and functions in accordance with, and in the
pursuit of, the will and aspirations of the people, and that those who reign
are themselves the governed. The martial law era until just a little over a
decade ago has all but virtually vested oracular power in one man or in
just a few. Thus, a salient feature of the 1987 Constitution is the
institutionalization of people empowerment into the basic legal framework
in order to help ensure that the people would not be left out in their own
governance. It is a part of this privilege which has lately become an
immediate concern. AcHCED

The Constitution allows, under certain conditions, the people to directly


propose amendments to the fundamental law. Such amendments can only
be valid if ultimately ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite.
It should be, for any charter change can have enduring effects on the
nation, and it is the citizenry, not any agency or segment of society, who
must give the final verdict. cHSIAC

In the instant case, petitioners aver that the prerequisite conditions set forth by the
Constitution have been fully met for such a referral to our people to take place.

The Petition. —

The petitioners, claiming to represent 5,793,924 Filipino voters or 15.9% of the


total number of registered voters nationwide, seek to nullify and set aside the
resolution of public respondent refusing to assume and exercise jurisdiction over,
and thereby dismissing, a petition filed for a people's initiative to effect Charter
changes. Petitioners pray that —

"a) Upon the filing of this Petition, due notice and hearing, and
posting of the requisite bond, this Honorable Court issue a writ of
preliminary mandatory injunction ordering the Commission on Elections to
instruct its Election Officers in all the municipalities and cities of the 204
legislative districts to verify the 5,793,924 signatures of the registered
voters, using as basis the voters' affidavits used in the May 12, 1997
Barangay elections pursuant to Sec. 7, R.A. 6735.

"b) Thereafter, this Honorable Court give due course to this Petition
and, after due proceedings, render judgment as follows:

"(i) Declaring as null and void, and setting aside the COMELEC En
Banc Resolution dated 8 July 1997 in Special Matter No. 97-001 and
ordering the COMELEC to assume and exercise jurisdiction over the
PIRMA Petition; and

"(ii) Declaring R.A. No. 6735 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 as
valid, adequate, and sufficient to implement a people's initiative in
proposing amendments to the Constitution."

The lssues. —
It is not for the Court to determine whether the proposed constitutional
amendments are sound or unsound (over which not any of the Justices has
expressed or is expected to express an opinion); that matter lies within the
exclusive domain of the people themselves. The Court, instead, is merely called
upon to ascertain the due observance of the conditions prescribed by the
fundamental law which should first be hurdled by petitioners before their proposals
can be submitted to the people for their consideration in a plebiscite.

In this instance, two other basic questions must now likewise be resolved. The first
is whether or not the decision of this Court in G.R. No. 127325 necessarily
constitutes a bar to the instant proceedings, and the second, perhaps a more
formidable one than the first, is whether or not the COMELEC has committed grave
abuse of discretion in rejecting the PIRMA petition before it.
cEaACD

Prefatory Statement. —

In G.R. No. 127325, the Court, in its decision of 19 March 1997, granted the petition
of Miriam Defensor Santiago, et al., and ruled (by a unanimous vote) that the
Commission on Elections ("COMELEC") should have dismissed outrightly the Delfin
petition. The Delfin petition, filed with the COMELEC and signed by Atty. Jesus S.
Delfin in his capacity as a "founding member of the Movement for People's
Initiative," sought the introduction of certain "amendments" to the 1987
Constitution through a "people initiative." Section 2 and Section 4, Article XVII, of
the Constitution spelled out the requirements for such an amendatory process, to
wit:

"Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be


directly proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition
of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered
voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by
at least three per centum of the registered votes therein. No
amendment under this section shall be authorized within five years
following the ratification of this Constitution nor oftener than once
every five years thereafter.

"The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the


exercise of this right.

"xxx xxx xxx.

"SEC. 4. ....

"Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when


ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall
be held not earlier than sixty days nor later than ninety days after
the certification by the Commission on Elections of the sufficiency
of the petition."

Considering that the Delfin petition had failed quite evidently to meet the basic
conditions laid out by Section 2, Article XVII, of the fundamental law, the Court
was left with no other choice but to direct COMELEC to discard the petition.

The resolution of the case could have ended there. Some Justices believed, however,
that it was preferable to have the ponencia likewise deal on an alternative, albeit
significant, ground raised by the petitioners, i.e., whether or not there was, in the
first place, a law to implement the exercise of the people's right to directly propose
constitutional amendments. The Court, this time, was far from being consentaneous
on the issue (see ponencia of 19 March 1997). Initially, eight Justices (Chief Justice
Narvasa and Justices Regalado, Davide, Romero, Bellosillo, Kapunan, Hermosisima
and Torres) opined that Republic Act No. 6735 did not cover a people's initiative
while five justices (Justices Melo, Puno, Mendoza, Francisco and Panganiban; Justice
Padilla inhibited himself from the case due to his close relationship with counsel)
expressed the opposite view. aTIEcA

I took the position that it was best for the Court to let well enough alone
the matter until it would have become ripe for judicial adjudication. In my
view, the issue, not being then the controlling lis mota of the case, not to
mention the irreconcilable difference of opinion among the justices in the
challenge of a measure enacted by a co-equal branch of government, did
not augur well for the Court to take on the question at that stage. It might
be recalled that there was as yet then no valid petition for a people's
initiative that could have necessitated a resolution on the scope of
Republic Act No. 6735 and on whether the contemplated changes were in
the nature of mere amendments or were, in fact, tantamount to a revision
of the Charter. In my separate opinion in G.R. No. 127325, I said that any
statement formulated by the Court at that point would at best be only a
non-binding obiter dictum. It behooved the Court, I strongly felt, to yet
refrain from making unnecessarily any precipitate pronouncement on
those sharply divided issues until such time as it would have been
unquestionably propitious to make it. (The division among the Justices became
even more pronounced than before when Justice Hermosisima later joined the then
minority opinion in, and Justice Torres recused himself from, the resolution, dated
10 June 1997, of the Court on the motion for reconsideration. Since the motion for
reconsideration principally anchored itself upon the contention that Republic Act No.
6735 was the appropriate enabling law to implement the Constitutional provision
on people's initiative, which I maintained to be still then a premature issue, my
vote was also obviously a denial of the motion for reconsideration.)

Is the Decision in Delfin a Bar to the Pirma Petition?

It is claimed that the decision of this Court in G.R. No. 127325 should be held to be
the law of the case even insofar as the People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization
and Action ("PIRMA") is concerned. It cannot be. As so elaborately explained by Mr.
Justice Reynato S. Puno, in his Concurring and Dissenting Opinion in G.R. No.
127325, "the inclusion of the Pedrosas (as founding members of PIRMA) in the
petition is utterly baseless." Not only did Pedrosas refrain from joining the Delfin
petition before the COMELEC, but that also the PIRMA organization itself has not
been impleaded a party in G.R. No. 127325. In my separate opinion in G.R. No.
127325, I have observed that the "TRO earlier issued by the Court which,
consequentially, is made permanent under the ponencia should be held to cover
only the Delfin petition and must not be so understood as having intended or
contemplated to embrace the signature drive of the Pedrosas." The controlling lis
mota in G.R. No. 127325 relates to whether or not the Delfin petition is sufficient in
form and substance. Having been found to be utterly deficient, the Delfin petition
did not thereby require any further ruling on whether Republic Act No. 6735 is
adequate or inadequate as an enabling law for a people's initiative.

The Present Milieu. —

The petition recently filed with the COMELEC being, on its face, sufficient in form
and substance, it is the one that, I believe, should have bound the Court to rule on
the issue of whether or not Republic Act No. 6735 can be held to be the adequate
law which the 1987 Constitution mandated Congress to enact in order to
implement the exercise of the people's right to directly propose Constitutional
amendments. There is no need on my part to belabor anew the respective
argument so exhaustively and so eloquently discussed and expounded by my
colleagues here and in the Court's decision of 19 March 1997 and resolution of 10
June 1997.

The second paragraph of Section 2, Article XVII, of the Constitution holds that
"Congress shall provide for the implementation" of the right of the people to directly
propose constitutional amendments. Obviously, this provision on the people's
initiative is not self-executory, and it would need a law first duly enacted by
Congress to implement the Constitutional mandate. That a legislative imprimatur is
indispensable becomes even more evident when one reads the deliberations and
exchanges had by the delegates on the provision very carefully outlined by Mr.
Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., in his ponencia in G.R. No. 127325.

Like most, I have gone over the provisions of Republic Act No. 6735 with meticulous
care. In the end, I am inclined to believe that the above legislative enactment
sufficiently covers the people's initiative to amend the Charter contemplated by
Section 2, Article XVII, of the Constitution. Let me quote some pertinent provisions
of Republic Act No. 6735; viz.:CDISAc

"SEC. 2. Statement of Policy. — The power of the people under a


system of initiative and referendum to directly propose, enact,
approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws,
ordinances, or resolutions passed by any legislative body upon compliance
with the requirements of this Act is hereby affirmed, recognized and
guaranteed.

"SEC. 3. Definition of Terms. — For purposes of this Act, the following


terms shall mean:

"(a) 'Initiative' is the power of the people to propose


amendments to the Constitution or to propose and enact legislations
through an election called for the purpose.
cSTHAC
"xxx xxx xxx.

"SEC. 5. Requirements. . . . .

"(b) A petition for an initiative on the 1987 Constitution must


have at least twelve per centum (12%) of the total number of
registered voters as signatories, of which every legislative district
must be represented by at least three per centum (3%) of the
registered voters therein. Initiative on the Constitution may be
exercised only after five (5) years from the ratification of the 1987
Constitution and only once every five (5) years thereafter."

With due respect, I cannot seem to grasp the opinion of some of my colleagues
that the various provisions found in the topic on "II. — National Initiative and
Referendum " exclude a people's initiative to amend the Constitution. Section 9,
in relation to Section 8, of the law, I submit, should dispel that notion. Thus:

"SEC. 9. Effectivity of Initiative or Referendum Proposition. —

"(a) The proposition for the enactment, approval, amendment or rejection


of a national law shall be submitted to and approved by a majority of the
votes cast by all the registered voters of the Philippines.

"If, as certified to by the Commission, the proposition is approved by a


majority of the votes cast, the national law proposed for enactment,
approval, or amendment shall become effective fifteen (15) days following
completion of its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of
general circulation in the Philippines. If, as certified by the Commission, the
proposition to reject a national law is approved by a majority of the votes
cast, the said national law shall be deemed repealed and the repeal shall
become effective fifteen (15) days following the completion of publication of
the proposition and the certification by the Commission in the Official
Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines.SEIDAC

"However, if the majority vote is not obtained, the national law sought to be
rejected or amended shall remain in full force and effect.

"(b) The proposition in an initiative on the Constitution approved


by a majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite shall become
effective as to the day of the plebiscite.

"(c) A national or local initiative proposition approved by majority of the


votes cast in an election called for the purpose shall become effective fifteen
(15) days after certification and proclamation by the Commission."

"SEC. 8. Conduct and Date of Initiative or Referendum. — The


Commission shall call and supervise the conduct of initiative or
referendum.

"Within a period of thirty (30) days from receipt of the petition, the
Commission shall, upon determining the sufficiency of the petition, publish
the same in Filipino and English at least twice in newspapers of general and
local circulation and set the date of the initiative or referendum which shall
not be earlier than forty-five (45) days but not later than ninety (90) days
from the determination by the Commission of the sufficiency of the petition.

The specific reference in Section 9 (b) of the law to a people "initiative on the
Constitution" leaves little room for doubt but that the provisions on "national"
initiative have been meant to govern not only instances of statutory enactments
but also direct proposals from the people to effect changes on the basic Charter.

The imperfection in the structure or language of Republic Act No. 6735, even if
conceded to be beyond just a case of calligraphic weakness, cannot ignore the
undeniable circumstance, acknowledged by Mr. Justice Davide himself, that the Act,
a consolidation of House Bill No. 21505 and Senate Bill No. 17, has been designed to
be the law that would deal on an initiative to propose constitutional amendments.
It seems to me that the Court should be the last to ignore the clear intent of
Congress, a co-equal body, and implicitly discard in the process the basic postulates
underlying the separation, but balanced, powers among the three branches of
government.

Neither do I really find the law to be depletive of standards that might thereby
cripple COMELEC in the promulgation of needful and implementative rules and
regulations (see Sec. 20, R.A. 6735). Not even the most outspoken critique on
Republic Act No. 6735 has come up with a contestation that the Act, in itself, is
unconstitutional. Indeed, coupled with the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code
and other election laws, "which have been incorporated and made to apply to all
initiatives and referenda" under Section 19 of Republic Act No. 6735, as well as
Section 2 (1), Article IX C, of the Constitution which provides that COMELEC shall "
(e)nforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an
election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall," Republic Act No. 6735 should
be in amply good state to enable COMELEC to carry on satisfactorily without any
risk of its acting beyond legal mandate.

Unlike the earlier Delfin petition which has sought to encompass broad matters of
Constitutional changes and accordingly so branded as calling for a revision, rather
than a mere amendment, of the Constitution, the "PIRMA" petition, however, would
specifically tackle only the proposed amendments "to allow the President to serve,
similarly with the Vice-President, a maximum of two (2) consecutive terms of six
(6) years each, and lift the term limits for other elective government officials,
amending for the purpose Section 4 of Article VII, Sections 4 and 7 of Article VI, and
Section 8 of Article X, respectively" (Summary of Proposition, Special Matter 97-
001).

It has been advanced that the verification of signatures under Section 7 of Republic
Act 6735 "on the basis of the registry list of voters, voters affidavits and voters
identification cards used in the immediately preceding election" has been rendered
impossible of compliance with the enactment of 8189 that has caused to be
inoperative the voters list after the May 1997 barangay elections. I would not go
that far. Republic Act No. 8189, it seems to me, could not have intended to discard
the value of the voters list used in the 1997 national elections even for purposes of
the application of Section 7 of Republic Act No. 6735. Neither explication nor
implication of that kind is evident from the provisions of Republic Act No. 8189.

I realize the ill-effects of taking too lightly the degree of constancy that a
Constitution must have. In Romualdez-Marcos vs. Commission on Elections (248
SCRA 387), I have had the occasion to caution that —

"The Constitution is not a pliable instrument. It is a bedrock in our legal


system that sets up ideals and directions and render steady our strides
hence. It only looks back so as to ensure that mistakes in the past are not
repeated. A compliant transience of a constitution belittles its basic function
and weakens its goals. A constitution may well become outdated by the
realities of time. When it does, it must be changed —

but not simply to accommodate "perceived transitory needs," or prevailing and


momentary "societal attitudes," if we intend to maintain the desirable quality of
constitutional strength and endurance. If it were otherwise the Constitution
ceases to be an enshrined fundamental law and perhaps not really that much
better than an ordinary piece of legislation that responds basically to
contemporary demands.

But, of course, nothing must supplant the bounden duty of a judge to stand by the
law and for the law, as well as, and most importantly, to apply that law regardless
of personal thoughts or inclinations. The Court is completely apolitical, it caters to
no gallery nor is it subservient to a passing milieu. While it cannot be impervious to
perceived public opinion, it must remain, still foremost, to be the guardian of the
rights of the people guaranteed by and expressed in the Constitution. Our people
deserve nothing less.

I, again, call attention to the fact that any amendment to the Constitution
through a people's initiative can become effective only "when ratified by a
majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier
than sixty days nor later than ninety days after the certification by the
Commission on Elections of the sufficiency of the petition." And so,
whether the proposed constitutional amendments are timely or
precipitate and salutary or unwise, the decision must come not from the
Court, nor from any one sector of society for that matter, but from all the
people to whom those questions should appropriately be addressed.

The plebiscite need not be, and it should not be, divisive; it is and can be
made the triumph of the rule of law that upholds the will of the majority
even as it offers the best safeguard against any pretense or pretext by
those who seek or wield power that theirs alone is the mandate of the
people. Diversity, rather than divisiveness, is the hallmark of democratic
institutions. Supreme power resides in the people, and at the polls their
voice is heard and their command is given in the exercise of that
sovereignty. Muffle that voice or frustrate that command, and you have a
system that survives merely on illusion.
The sad experience of the country in recent history has left its indelible
mark, and it certainly is best to remain vigilant, but let us not build it up to
paranoia. The time may now be hereabout when we must start to leave
the lurking dark shadow behind and, instead, come to grips with the
fundamental problems that hinder the growth of the nation, and so the
social, political and economic well-being of its people as well, before we
are pushed back to the tail end of the region in its visible resurgence and
progress. EICScD

Regrettably, the People's Initiative Will Have to Wait Awhile. —

Pursuant to Section 7, Article IX (A), of the Constitution, any decision, order, or


ruling of Constitutional Commission "may be brought to the Supreme Court on
certiorari . . . ." In the special civil action for certiorari under Rule 64, in relation to
Rule 65, of the Rules of Court, the focal issue relates to the matter of jurisdiction in
which the petitioner asserts lack or excess of jurisdiction, or grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, on the part of the respondent.
The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court over decisions of the COMELEC has been held
in Aratuc vs. COMELEC (88 SCRA 251; see also Omar vs. COMELEC, 102 SCRA 611),
to be merely confined, outside of an outright want of jurisdiction, to instances of
grave abuse of discretion on the part of the latter. This Court has there further
explained:

" A review includes digging into the merits and unearthing errors of
judgment, while certiorari deals exclusively with grave abuse of discretion,
which may not exist even when the decision is otherwise erroneous.
Certiorari implies an indifferent disregard of the law, arbitrariness and
caprice, an omission to weigh pertinent considerations, a decision arrived at
without rational deliberation. . . . ."

Aptly, then the critical question is: Did the COMELEC act with grave abuse of
discretion in dismissing the petition of PIRMA for a people's initiative?

Grave abuse of discretion, albeit an "elastic term" (Cruz, Philippine Political Law,
1991 ed., p. 229), has always been understood as implying "capricious and
whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction or that the
power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or
personal hostility," so gross as to amount to a patent disregard of a clear duty (Mr.
Justice Camilo D. Quiason, in his treatise on the "Philippine Courts and their
Jurisdictions," 1993 edition, at pp. 10-11, citing court cases).

The unequivocal final disposition by the Court of G.R. No. 127325 scarcely offered to
the COMELEC any course of action other than to proceed on the premise that there
is yet no law to implement a people's initiative. In its verdict on 19 March 1997, this
Court explicitly decreed:

"WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered

"a) GRANTING the instant petition;


"b) DECLARING R.A. No. 6735 inadequate to cover the system of
initiative on amendments to the Constitution, and to have failed
to provide sufficient standard for subordinate legislation;

"c) DECLARING void those parts of Resolution No. 2300 of the


Commission on Elections prescribing rules and regulations on
the conduct of initiative or amendments to the Constitution; and

"d) ORDERING the Commission on Elections to forthwith DISMISS


the DELFIN petition (UND-96-037).

"The temporary Restraining Order issued on 18 December 1996 is made


permanent as against the Commission on Elections, but is LIFTED as against
private respondents.

"Resolution on the matter of contempt is hereby reserved.

"SO ORDERED."

On 10 June 1997, the Court DENIED WITH FINALITY the motion for
reconsideration filed by the proponents of the people's initiative.

In decreeing that Republic Act No. 6735 was inadequate to implement the
constitutional right of the people to directly propose amendments to the
fundamental law, the Court thereby effectively restrained COMELEC from acting in
a manner inconsistent with the judgment. When the COMELEC dismissed PIRMA's
petition, it did so not in disregard of sound discretion, let alone in grave abuse of
discretion, but, indeed, in deference to and conformably with the decision of the
Court. The Constitutional proscription, aforequoted, does not accord to the Court the
instant petition as being the proper vehicle to permit the re-examination of the
Court's doctrine in Delfin.

More primordial than the personal view I have heretofore expressed is the stability
and respect that must be accorded to the basic law and final judgments of the Court.
I, like everyone else, bow to the rule of law.

WHEREFORE, I am constrained to vote for the dismissal of the petition.

KAPUNAN, J.:

In the Court's original 19 March 1997 decision, I joined Mr. Justice Davide's scholarly
opinion ordering the Commission on Elections to dismiss the Delfin petition on the
ground that R.A. 6735 was inadequate to implement the people's initiative to
amend the constitution. Likewise, in the Court's resolution of 10 June 1997, I voted
to deny respondents' motion for reconsideration for lack of merit. The decision's
thorough exposition of the issues in that petition did not, however, have the effect
of either putting to rest the principal questions raised therein or dampen the zeal of
the respondents. Rather, the debate has intensified to a degree that it now
threatens the political landscape.
Emboldened by the alleged 5,793,213 signatures it has gathered, PIRMA brings
another petition before this Court in its relentless pursuit to have the voice of the
people heard — or so it pompously claims.

Looking into the Court's checkered history of the past few decades, I am disturbed
to find that the only situation which parallels that which confronts us today is the
one which the Court faced when the question of the legitimacy of the 1971
Constitution came before it. We now know that the Court's legal prestidigitations in
Javellana vs. Executive Secretary 1 provided the stamp of legitimacy to former
President Marcos' martial law regime. That decision, among other events, prompted
the framers of the current Constitution to install safeguards providing term limits,
proscribing political dynasties and expanding the Court's jurisdiction to include the
power to "determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion
amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or
instrumentality of the Government." 2 As an ironic twist in the events which
followed the EDSA revolution, the people's initiative provision, one of the
safeguards installed by the authors of the 1987 Constitution aimed at preventing a
repetition of the abuses of power during the Marcos regime, is now being invoked to
justify the lifting of term limits of elective public officials who are barred from
running for re-election.

The most compelling argument foisted in favor of petitioners' stance is the idea that
in any case it will be the people, through Pirma's signature campaign, who will
ultimately decide the question of whether or not a people's initiative to amend the
Constitution should push through (consequently, the people's voice should be heard
on the matter). I find this idea seductive and beguiling in its simplicity because it
glosses over the nature of our system of government in the process of cloaking its
adherents in sanctimonious populist garb.

In the first place, ours is a democratic and republican government. Being republican,
it is representative, run by functionaries who derive their mandate from the people
themselves. Direct participation by the people in governmental affairs is an
infrequent option requiring great energy. Precisely because of this, the people have
expressed their desired system of government in a document more or less
fundamental and permanent.

In overwhelmingly ratifying the 1987 Constitution, the people did express their will
in a fundamental law which, being an embodiment of sovereignty, should not be
easily trifled with. To do so lightly, without an appropriate enabling law and at the
instance of groups whose interests are highly suspect, would be a violation of the
people's choice, as singularly expressed in their almost-unanimous ratification in
February 1987 of the present Constitution. EICSDT

Underscoring the fundamental and permanent nature of a Constitution-as-


embodiment-of-the-vox populi, Justice Marshall, in his groundbreaking opinion in
Marbury vs. Madison, 3 wrote, referring to the process of drafting a Constitution
that:
. . . . The exercise of this original right is a very great exertion; nor can it nor
ought it be frequently repeated. The principles, therefore, so established are
deemed fundamental. And as the authority from which they proceed is
supreme, and can seldom act, they are designed to be permanent. 4

Constitutional "permanence" does not negate amendments appropriately called to


respond to the changing times. Marshall wrote his Marbury decision referring to a
U.S. Constitution which itself embodied provisions allowing amendments. But, to
my mind, constitutional amendments must be seen as rare exceptions to the rule
because they disturb the harmony of a document which, having been ratified by the
people, stands as a repository of their will. Thus, it has been observed that:

A good constitution should be beyond the reach of temporary excitement


and popular caprice or passion. It is needed for stability and steadiness; it
must yield to the thought of the people — not to the whim of the people or
the thought evolved in excitement or hot blood, but the sober second
thought, which alone, if the government is to be safe, can be allowed
efficacy. Changes in government are to be feared unless the benefit is
certain. As Montaigne says: "All great mutations shake and disorder a state.
Good does not necessarily succeed evil; another evil may succeed, and a
worse." 5

In fact, it has been said that the Constitution is the protector of the people against
injury by the people. 6

Consequently, constitutions such as ours make the process of revision or


amendment fairly difficult. More so, a direct exercise, through a people's initiative,
should necessarily be even more difficult since it disrupts the basic tenets of a
republican government willed by the sovereign people in adopting the Constitution.
As the well of public opinion could be easily poisoned by those who readily have the
resources to do so, any call supposedly made in behalf of the people to tamper with
a document so sacrosanct should be met with healthy skepticism. I submit that a
look into the provision on amendments to the Constitution and the proceedings of
the Constitutional Commission would support the view that the people's initiative
as the third alternative to amend the Constitution ought to be resorted to only if
Congress unreasonably fails to respond to the urgent demands for change.

A judicious review of the proceedings of the 1987 Constitutional Commission would


reveal that Section 2, which provides for a people's initiative, was intended to be a
last-resort option. The 1987 Constitution provides:

Article XVII

AMENDMENTS OR REVISIONS

Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be


proposed by:

(1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members; or


(2) A constitutional convention.

Section 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly


proposed by the people through initiative upon a petition of at least twelve
per centum of the total number of registered voters of which every
legislative district must be represented by at least three per centum of the
total number of registered voters therein. No amendments under this
section shall be authorized within five years following the ratification of this
Constitution nor oftener than once every five years thereafter.

The Congress shall provide for the implementation of the exercise of this
right.

xxx xxx xxx

Note that the amendment provisions in Section 1 are self-executory, while Section
2 requires an enabling law, which, in Santiago, et al. v. Comelec, et al., G.R. No.
127325, through Justice Davide's scholarly opinion, has found inadequate. This
might suggest that the initiative provision does rank behind the other methods of
amendment in procedural importance.

That the inclusion of this third mode of introducing amendments was plainly
intended by the members of the commission as a safeguard in the event that the
first two modes fall is, as I stated earlier, inescapable from a reading of the
proceedings of the Constitutional Commission. Quoted below are a few pertinent
excerpts:

MR. BENGZON:

Is section 1, paragraphs (a) and (b), not sufficient channel for expression of
the will of the people, particularly in the amendment or revision of the
Constitution?

MR. SUAREZ:

Under normal circumstances, yes. But we know what happened during the
20 years under the March administration. So, if the National Assembly,
in a manner of speaking, is operating under the thumb of the Prime
Minister or the President as the case may be, and the required
number of votes could not be obtained, we would have to provide for
a safety valve in order that the people could ventilate in a very
peaceful way their desire for amendment to the Constitution.

It is very possible that although the people may be pressuring the National
Assembly to constitute itself as a constituent assembly or call a
constitutional convention, the members thereof would not heed the
people's desire and clamor. So, this is a third avenue that we are
proving for the implementation of what is now popularly known as
people's power.

MR. SUAREZ:
The committee members felt that this system of initiative should be limited to
amendments to the Constitution and should not extend to the revision
of the entire Constitution, as we removed it from the operation of
Section 1 of the proposed Article on Amendment or Revision. Also this
power could be susceptible to abuse to such extent that it could very
well happen that the initiative method of amendment could be
exercised, say, twice or thrice in a matter of one year; thus, a
necessity of putting limitations to its exercise. The committee
members also felt that putting a limitation within a five-year period
after the date of the last plebiscite held is reasonable, as well as the
percentage arrived at. The general idea as agreed upon is for us to try
to make the process of amendment a little more difficult in order that
we can have an enduring and lasting constitution. After all there are
two other methods of amendment, the traditional ones, which we
have provided under subsections (a) and (b) of Section 1. So, our
committee decided to propose this particular Section as it is now
embodied in the complete committee report. (Underscoring ours.)

Again, when the suggestion was made by Commissioner Rodrigo that the initiative
provision be deleted entirely from the Constitution its adherents defended their
proposition by clearly stating that initiative was merely a last alternative, describing
this as a "reserve power" of the sovereign people:

MR. RODRIGO:

I propose the following amendment: delete the whole Section 2.

Madam President, this new provision is not necessary. There is no need for
it. The present provisions on the proposal for amendments to the
Constitution are most satisfactory, very democratic. This is done by
either the National Assembly composed of representatives elected by
the people all over the Philippines by a vote of three-fourths or by a
constitutional convention, again, composed of delegates elected on
the basis of their stand on certain constitutional issues.

Madam President, ours is a republican government which means a


representative democracy. This satisfies the essence of democracy. I
do not know why all of a sudden we now insist on this reserved
"people power," that is one event in our history which I think, can
hardly be repeated — bloodless revolution that toppled the dictator.
Now, we want to use people power even in enacting laws and in
proposing amendments to the Constitution. Non sequitur, Madam
President, it does not follow. There is no popular clamor of this. I do
not know that our people, because of the EDSA peaceful revolution,
are now clamoring to initiate constitutional amendments directly. And
so why clutter the Constitution with a provision that is untried and
impractical. Let us not go into controversial matters like this which we
can hardly be understood by our people who, after all are the ones
who are going to ratify or reject this constitution. Let us go to basics.
Let us not depart radically from what we have found to be satisfactory
in our country for the last half-century, and that is a republican form
of government — a government run by duly elected representatives
of the people. This is practical. It is not perfect, but it is the best kind
of government that we know. CSDcTH

xxx xxx xxx

MR. SUAREZ: DTCAES

The Committee regrets that it cannot accept the amendments by deletion


submitted by the Honorable Rodrigo. First we want to provide a
mechanism that is very responsive to the sentiments of the people.
Second, the fact that it is supposed to be impractical is fallacious in
that sense that if a situation develops where the mechanisms provided
under Section 1 (a) and (b) could not be fully implemented in this wise,
a time may come when in spite of the clamor of the people for
proposing amendments to the Constitution, the National Assembly
may not be able to muster enough votes in order to constitute itself
as a constituent assembly or to call a constitutional convention. So, in
that sense, it is a very practical avenue or safety valve which is
available to the people. (Underscoring ours.)

xxx xxx xxx

MR. OPLE:

there is no necessary incongruity or superfluity in saying that the people


may act directly through initiative because then that puts the stamp of
a great democratic institution or tradition on this formulation which
means the Gentlemen connects to the great tradition of democracy.
We are not really reinventing the wheel in installing initiative as an
additional mode of proposing an amendment to the Constitution, and
as a reserve power of the sovereign people, when they are dissatisfied
with the National Assembly and, therefore, if there is default of the
National Assembly in responding to a critical situation requiring a
constitutional amendment, this initiative vests the power of direct
action in the people themselves. It is largely, I think, reserve power,
precisely a fallback position of the people in the event that they are
dissatisfied. . . . . (Underscoring ours.)

The people's initiative would thus be akin to a contingency plan — the proverbial
backdoor. Being dernier ressort and considering its exceptional nature, where the
people would directly initiate and participate, the enabling law that Congress should
enact must be of such a nature that would forestall any and all forms of abuse. In
the people lies the supreme power, true, but its vulnerability to manipulation and
abuse is as immense as the extent of the power. Hence, this awesome might would
not only require but demand the promulgation of precise, arduous and very
stringent rules for its implementation:

. . . . It has been commented that any process of changing the constitution


has been purposely made cumbersome, in order that the organic law may
not be easily remolded to fit situations and sentiments which are relatively
transitory and fleeting. 7

While Senate Bill No 17 8 includes a definite procedure for a people's initiative to


amend the Constitution, its absence in R.A. No. 6735 I suspect (notwithstanding a
smattering of casual references to the process) signifies the legislature's reticence to
foray — early in the life of the present Constitution — into a new area of immense
constitutional significance. The lawmakers obviously intended to leave a lacuna in
the law, for the possibly-bolder legislation of another day. No amount of statutory
construction could fill in the gap left wide by the Congress' failure to enact
appropriate legislation on the matter. Moreover, bridging a gap so huge through the
prestidigitations of statutory construction would amount to judicial legislation.

Viewed in this light, R.A. No. 6735 hardly comes up to par. This law is sadly
deficient.

A postscript: Pursuant to Sec. 1, Article XVII of the 1987 Constitution, a resolution


has been filed in the House of Representatives to convene Congress into a
constituent assembly for the purpose of amending the Constitution. The Members of
Congress are the duly elected representatives of the people. It is through them that
the voice of the people shall be heard. This significant development thus foils
petitioners' seeming contention that it is only through a people's initiative that the
will of the people can be determined. Congress should be given the opportunity to
perform its duty to the people. To reiterate, Sec. 2, Article XVII of the 1987
Constitution is the people's final alternative which should be resorted to only in the
event that the two other modes of constitutional amendment prove to be
unsuccessful.

II

A crucial development in the case at hand, which makes it extremely difficult to


discern the people's will on the proposed charter change, is the enactment and
recent implementation of R.A. No. 8189, otherwise known as "The Voter's
Registration Act of 1996." CHcESa

In order to "establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters," 9


said law has decreed that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) undertake a
new registration of voters (which in June 1997 has begun) and consequently, has
specifically declared ineffective and inoperative the certified list of voters used in the
May 8, 1995 elections and May 12, 1997 barangay elections. Section 7 of R.A. 8189
distinctly states that:

SEC. 7. General Registration of Voters. — Immediately after the barangay


elections in 1997, the existing certified list of voters shall cease to be
effective and operative. For purposes of the May 1998 elections and all
elections, plebiscites, referenda, initiatives, and recalls, subsequent thereto,
the Commission shall undertake a general registration of voters before the
Board of Election Inspectors on June 14, 15, 21 and 22 and subject to the
discretion of the Commission on June 28 and 29, 1997 in accordance with
this Act.

The Comelec would thus be faced with a serious dilemma: how to verify the alleged
5,793,213 signatures gathered by PIRMA (assuming arguendo that R.A. No. 6735 10
is applicable, following petitioners' reasoning). These signatures, as expressly
admitted by PIRMA, were based on the lists of registered voters in the May 8, 1995
elections and May 12, 1997 barangay elections. 11 However, after the June 1997
general registration, new voters' lists are drawn up and all registered voters now
have new identification numbers 12 and new identification cards 13 and the list of
voters utilized by PIRMA has become legally inexistent. Intervenor Joker P. Arroyo
puts it succinctly:

If the relief prayed for by the petitioners is granted, what will happen?
COMELEC will compare the PIRMA signatures with a dead list which cannot
legally be resurrected. Each voter who registered in June 1997 has a new
serial number in the voter's list, a new affidavit, new thumbprints, new
precinct. The practical and legal effects would be an impossible verification.
14

This predicament further highlights the inadequacy of the law which is supposed to
implement the constitutional provision on people's initiative. The lack of specific
rules and proper guidelines would inevitably lead to these kinds of problems. EcAISC

III

The 1987 Constitution makes a careful distinction between "amendment" and


"revision" a distinction which was absent in the 1935 Constitution. The eminent
constitutionalist Vicente G. Sinco expounds on the difference between the two
terms in this wise:

Strictly speaking, the act of revising a constitution involves alterations of


different portions of the entire document. It may result in the rewriting either
of the whole constitution, or the greater portion of it, or perhaps only some
of its important provisions. But whatever results the revision may produce,
the factor that characterizes it as an act of revision is the original intention
and plan authorized to be carried out. That intention and plan must
contemplate a consideration of all the provisions of the constitution to
determine which one should be altered or suppressed or whether the whole
document should be replaced with an entirely new one. TcIAHS

The act of amending a constitution, on the other hand, envisages a change


of only a few specific provisions. The intention of an act to amend is not to
consider the advisability of changing the entire constitution or of considering
that possibility. The intention rather is to improve specific parts of the
existing constitution or to add to it provisions deemed essential on account
of changed conditions or to suppress portions of it that seem obsolete, or
dangerous, or misleading in their effect. 15

In recognition of this distinction, the framers of the 1987 Constitution consciously


adopted only the first two modes — proposal by Congress upon a vote of 3/4 of all
its members or by means of a Constitutional Convention — for amendments and
revisions. Cognizant of the fact that the third mode, the people's initiative, is a last
resort measure the Constitutional Commission deliberately limited it to
amendments. This intent has been repeated often enough in the proceedings of the
Constitutional Commission as disclosed in the record thereof:

xxx xxx xxx

THE PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. de los Reyes).

The sponsor may proceed with his sponsorship speech on Proposed


Resolution No. 322.

MR. SUAREZ.

One more point, and we will be through.

We mentioned the possible use of only one term and that is, "amendment."
However, the Committee finally agreed to use the terms —
"amendment" or "revision" when our attention was called by the
honorable Vice-President to the substantial difference in the
connotation and significance between the said terms. As a result of
our research, we came up with the observations made in the famous
— or notarious — Javellana doctrine, particularly the decision rendered
by Honorable Justice Makasiar, wherein he made the following
distinction between "amendment" and "revision" of an existing
Constitution: "Revision" may involve a rewriting of the whole
Constitution. On the other hand, the act of amending a constitution
envisages a change of specific provisions only. The intention of an act
to amend is not the change of the entire Constitution, but only the
improvement of specific parts or the addition of provisions deemed
essential as a consequence of new conditions or the elimination of
parts already considered obsolete or unresponsive to the needs of the
times.

The 1973 Constitution is not a mere amendment to the 1935 Constitution. It


is a completely new fundamental Chapter embodying new political,
social and economic concepts.

So, the Committee finally came up with the proposal that these two terms
should be employed in the formulation of the Article governing
amendments or revisions to the new Constitution.

xxx xxx xxx.

MR. SUAREZ . . . .

The committee members felt that this system of initiative should be limited to
amendments to the Constitution and should not extend to the revision
of the entire Constitution, so we removed it from the operation of
Section 1 of the proposed Article on Amendment or Revision. . . . .
xxx xxx xxx.

MS. AQUINO.

Yes. In other words, Section 2 is another alternative mode of proposing


amendments to the Constitution which would further require the
process of submitting it in a plebiscite, in which case it is not self-
executing.

MR. SUAREZ.

No, not unless we settle and determine the take-off period.

MS. AQUINO.

But as stated now, it is the process.

MR. SUAREZ.

It is.

MS. AQUINO.

In which case, I am seriously bothered by providing this process of initiative


as a separate section in the Article on Amendment. Would the
sponsor be amenable to accepting an amendment in terms of
realigning Section 2 as another subparagraph (c) of Section 1, instead
of setting it up as another separate section as if it were a self-
executing provision?

MR. SUAREZ. DCSTAH

We would be amenable except that, as we clarified a while ago, this process


of initiative is limited to the matter of amendment and should not
expand into a revision which contemplates a total overhaul of the
Constitution. That was the sense that was conveyed by the
Committee.

MS. AQUINO.

In other words, the Committee was attempting to distinguish the coverage


of modes (a) and (b) in Section 1 to include the process of revision;
whereas, the process of initiation to amend, which is given to the
public, would only apply to amendments?

MR. SUAREZ.

That is right. Those were the terms envisioned in the Committee.

xxx xxx xxx.

MR. MAAMBONG.
My first question: Commissioner Davide's proposed amendment on the line 1
refers to "amendments." Does it not cover the word "revision" as
defined by Commissioner Padilla when he made the distinction
between the words "amendments" and "revision"?

MR. DAVIDE.

No, it does not, because "amendments" and "revision" should be covered by


Section 1. So insofar as initiative is concerned, it can only relate to
"amendments" not " revision." EaHATD

xxx xxx xxx.

From another perspective, Father Joaquin G. Bernas, a leading member of the


Constitutional Commission opines:

First, "initiative" can be used only for proposal of "amendments;" it cannot be


used to "revise" the Constitution. This is because it would be practically
impossible to have a total review of the Constitution through action by the
entire electoral population. . . . . 16

In this case, on its surface, the proposed "amendment" envisages a change of only
specific provisions. However, when a change in a specific provision alters the tenor
of the Constitution or when it results in an incompatibility with other important
provisions so that it eventually becomes necessary to amend those other provisions
to avoid conflict, the so-called amendment is really a revision. For instance, when
the foundations of a building are removed or destroyed, the building crumbles:

When a house is completely demolished and another is erected on the same


location, do you have a changed, repaired and altered house or do you have
a new house? Some of the material contained in the old house may be used
again, some of the rooms may be constructed the same, but this does not
alter the fact that you have altogether another new house. We conclude that
the instrument as contained in Ga. L. 1945, pp. 8-89, inclusive is not an
amendment of the constitution of 1877; but on the contrary it is a
completely revised or new constitution. 17

In other words, every proposal which effects a fundamental change or requires a re-
examination of the foundations of the Constitution is a revision. The test which
ought to be applied does not involve a quantitative assay but a qualitative
determination.

The proposal to lift term limits, under any guise, cannot therefore be deemed an
amendment. The proferred change strikes at the heart of our political system and
gives birth to something utterly alien to the representative form of government. It
makes a complete mockery of the concept of democracy.

The proposed "amendment," if adopted, would apparently become inconsistent with


several fundamental provisions in our Constitution, prominent among which are the
following:IHCSTE
ART. II.

DECLARATION OF PRINCIPLES AND STATE POLICIES

PRINCIPLES

Section 1. The Philippines is a democratic and republican State.


Sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates
from them.

xxx xxx xxx

STATE POLICIES

Section 26. The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for
public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.

These provisions are the bedrock of our system of government. The proposed
amendment totally alters the philosophy of democracy and representation upon
which our government is founded. Petitioners, therefore, cannot contain and belittle
the consequences of this seemingly simple "amendment." It is clear that its effects
are so pervasive and encompassing that it amounts to a revision — a complete
upheaval — of the fundamental law. Being so, Section 2 of Article XVII, the people's
initiative provision, cannot apply.

IV

Over four centuries ago, Francis Bacon warned the magistrates that they should be
like lions at Solomon's throne, supporting the sovereign but being prudent enough
not to check or oppose any points of sovereignty. 18 The sovereign will has been
reposed in a Constitution which deserves this Court's protection. Seen in its
entirety, it is a Constitution which abhors power, except that which legitimately
emanates from the sovereign people themselves. Our role, I believe, should be like
the docile lions of biblical lore, subordinate to the sovereign, and constantly zealous
and vigilant in protecting its genuine will. Ascertaining that will occasionally
requires us to take stock of the lessons of history.

We should, therefore, be wary not to be mesmerized by the mere incantations of


"democracy" and "people's will." We echo the famous words of Madame Rowland, a
champion of libertarian ideas during the French Revolution, just before she was
guillotined: "O Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name!"

I vote to DISMISS the instant petition.

FRANCISCO, J.:

A "petition to amend the Constitution, to lift term limits of elective officials by


people's initiative" 1 was filed before the COMELEC in accordance with R.A. No.
6735 and COMELEC Res. 2300. The propriety of that petition was questioned in a
petition for prohibition before the Supreme Court docketed as G.R. No. 127325. On
March 19, 1997, the Court by a vote of 8-6 declared that R.A. No. 6735 is
"inadequate" to cover an initiative on the Constitution, ordered the COMELEC to
dismiss the petition for initiative and made permanent the TRO it earlier issued but
this time only against the COMELEC. In the subsequent motion for reconsideration
of the March 19, 1997 decision, the Court with only 6 members voting to grant the
motion out of the 13 members who participated in the deliberations, "denied" the
motion "with finality". 2

Petitioners PIRMA and the spouses Pedrosa who were parties in G.R. No. 127325
filed with the COMELEC a new petition for an initiative on the Constitution which
was accompanied by more than five (5) million signatures. This new petition sought
to require the COMELEC to verify its supporting signatures and determine the
sufficiency of the petition in form and substance. The COMELEC in an en banc
resolution, dated July 8, 1997, dismissed that new petition on the ground that it
(COMELEC) was permanently restrained by the Supreme Court in G.R. 127325 from
acting on such kind of petitions. Hence petitioners claiming to represent more than
five (5) million registered voters, filed the instant petition for mandamus and
certiorari ascribing grave abuse of discretion on the part of COMELEC for its refusal
to take cognizance of their petition for initiative. Petitioners' prime argument is that
the Court's pronouncement in G.R. No. 127325 did not bar the new petition for
initiative because of the divided opinion of the Court in its June 10, 1997 Resolution
which cannot be considered as a binding ruling on the insufficiency of R.A. No. 6735.
In the alternative, petitioners argue that the ruling in G.R. No. 127325 should be re-
examined.

I reiterate my stand in G.R. No. 127325 that R.A. No. 6735 is sufficient to cover the
system of the people's initiative on the Constitution. It is the people's sovereign
power, right and authority to propose changes to the fundamental law of the land if
they deem it inadequate to address their grievances. Sovereignty resides in the
people, especially in a Republican country, like ours. The people's sovereign power,
in my view, may not be restrained, or altered as they are free to "establish a
Government that shall embody our ideals and aspirations." 3

In its eighteen (18) Articles, the 1987 Constitution referred to the "people" thirty
(30) times. The highest and fundamental law of the land, in its preamble, likewise
recognizes the people as the authors of the Constitution 4 which adopted the
democratic principle that the people is the sovereign in this country. 5 Moreover, the
same people "reserved" for themselves legislative powers such as the power of
initiative not only on legislation 6 but also on amendments to the Constitution. 7 To
say, therefore, that R.A. No. 6735 is inadequate would in effect be to disable: CDAHaE

"the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their
legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and
lawful means". 8

To restrain the people of their power of initiative on the Constitution would also
run counter to the mandate of Section 16, Article XIII which provides that:

"The right of the pe o ple and their organizations to effective and


reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic
decision-making shall not be abridged." (emphasis supplied).

At the risk of being repetitious, government authority emanates from the people. 9
If the people desires and decides to alter the governmental set-up by changing the
terms of the covenant under which the people agreed to be governed, they may do
so subject only to the existing covenant. Not even the people's established
government, much less the judiciary, which merely derived its authority
from the people can defeat, prevent or frustrate the presumptive will of
an individual citizen or that of the people by just some rule of legal
hermeneutics. As one Con-Com member said during the deliberations on the
Constitution:

"In our long history of struggle for national independence and social
change the people have shown their decision and definitiveness to fight for
what is right. The people themselves can decide whenever they wish to,
especially on matters pertaining to the Republic or the State which they
claim to represent." 10

When the motion for reconsideration of G.R. No. 127325 was denied via 6-6 vote, it
means that the original decision of March 19, 1997 was affirmed. However, the
Court should not be denied the power to re-examine its previous decision especially
when there is a diversity of opinion among its members, most particularly when
there is a change in their views and when new circumstances, not present during
the earlier case, had supervened. Indeed, the Court is not powerless to "review,
revise, reverse, modify or affirm" any of its previous decisions or resolutions so
long as this is done with the court sitting en banc. 11 Thus, the Court is not
proscribed from acting on a new case where the subject raised appears to have been
previously passed upon. Decisions of this Court should not be blindly
construed as a self-limitation of its powers to adjudicate controversies.
Precedents are good, but when there is an opportunity for re-examining
an assailed doctrine, the Court should not foreclose the possibility of
review. At times, it is necessary to break the vessel so that its perfume
will fill the air. There is nothing providential in a tenuously decided case,
like G.R. No. 127325.

This is not the first time the Court is called upon to re-examine a previous decision
that has become final and executory. It has been done before, particularly in the
cases involving the changing doctrines on the issue of whether the proclamation of
Martial Law and/or suspension of the privilege of writ of the habeas corpus is a
political question. In fact, the ruling in the 1901 case of Barcelon vs. Baker , 12
reiterated in Montenegro vs. Castañeda 13 was abandoned in Lansang vs. Garcia. 14
Lansang in turn was reversed in Garcia-Padilla vs. Enrile 15 reverting back to the
Barcelon and Montenegro cases. On the issue of determining just compensation in
expropriation cases, the Court in EPZA vs. Dulay 16 abandoned its previous ruling in
NHA vs. Reyes. 17 Just recently, the Court in De Guzman vs. Sandiganbayan 18 ruled
that its powers are "so pervasive and encompassing so as to alter even that
which this court itself has already declared final" as it was compelled to do in
that case. In People vs. Martin Simon, 19 the Court likewise re-examined and in fact
reversed the long standing doctrine on the application of the Indeterminate
Sentence Law (ISL) in special crimes which carries penalties with the same
nomenclature as that of offenses under the Penal Code.

The case at bar should neither be treated nor be considered as different from the
above cases since what is involve herein is of primary importance to the sovereign
people and a determination of the expression of their will. The instant petition
provokes a re-examination on a paramount legal matter, giving the Court of last
resort an opportunity of either reaffirming the first PIRMA doctrine or abandoning it,
and adopting a new one. Besides, a single decision will not afford a basis for the
application of the doctrine of stare decisis. 20

With respect to the issue raised by intervenors Senator Roco (who supported in the
original petition the view that the law was adequate) and Representative Arroyo
that the COMELEC cannot verify the gathered signatures because the previous list
of registered voters had been rendered ineffective by R.A. 8189, 21 suffice it to state
that it is unnecessary to pass upon such issue at this point for its prematurity.
Besides, the verification process is a task left to the COMELEC, and not with this
Court.

Perhaps a more compelling reason why, to my mind, the Court should take a second
hard look on its previous decision in G.R. No. 127325 is its constitutional infirmity.

Again, let me unwind the facts for this purpose.

On March 19, 1997, the Court in G.R. No. 127325, speaking through Mr. Justice
Davide, declared that "R.A. No. 6735 [is] inadequate to cover the system of
initiative on amendments to the Constitution and to have failed to provide
sufficient standard for subordinate legislation," 22 but nowhere did the Court declare
R.A. No. 6735 as unconstitutional. A perusal of the March 19, 1997 decision
starting from page 1 (title page) and ending on page 38 (dispositive portion with the
Justices' signatures), in fact, shows that the Court shun n from categorizing R.A. No.
6735 as an unconstitutional enactment. The probe was limited to the issue of
whether or not R.A. No. 6735 is sufficient to cover an initiative on the constitution.

In the subsequent motion for reconsideration which stressed the undisputed intent
of R.A. No. 6735 to cover an initiative on the Constitution that the Court is duty
bound to recognize and enforce, Mr. Justice Davide introduced the so called
"completeness" and "sufficient standard" tests in his June 10, 1997 ponencia to
avoid such an insurmountable issue. Thus:

"Since a law may be declared unconstitutional where it delegates


non-delegable legislative authority, or that any attempt to do so
would be tainted by unconstitutionality (Fernando, op. cit., 161), then
a law which purports to delegate a delegable legislative power may
also be declared unconstitutional or invalid if it fails to comply with
the completeness and 'sufficient standard' tests. Only courts, in the
exercise of its judicial authority, can determine if a statute has met these
tests. (Pelaez v. Auditor General , 122 Phi. 965 [1965]; Edu v. Ericta, 35
SCRA 481 [1970])."

xxx xxx xxx

"Neither may we succumb to the arguments raised in ground 4 of the


Pedrosa's motion. Although we recognized that 'R.A. No. 6735 was, as its
history reveals, intended to cover initiative to propose amendments to the
Constitution', we cannot otherwise read into the statute non-
existent provisions in order to make it complete and set forth
therein a sufficient standard, and thus validate the delegation of
the power to promulgate implementing rules to the COMELEC. To
do so would constitute unabashed judicial legislation, an act offensive to the
doctrine of separation of powers.

We stated earlier that the issue of delegation of legislative powers


is properly a subject of constitutional law, and not statutory
construction. In short, our primary task was merely to determine if R.A.
No. 6735 'hurdled', to use a word used by the Pedrosas, the 'completeness
and sufficient standard tests' in the investiture of rule-making powers to the
COMELEC relative to initiative on constitutional amendments. When we then
declared it to be inadequate or insufficient in that respect, we simply meant
that it failed to 'hurdle' the tests. Put differently, the terms incomplete,
inadequate and wanting in essential details in our challenged
Decision have reference to the 'completeness and sufficient
standard tests,' and to none other. The intent of the law, which is
the concern of statutory construction, is not a sufficient
guidepost. This puts to naught for being clearly misplaced, if not
irrelevant, the plea that we should give full life to the intent of the
law to include initiative on constitutional amendments, as well as
the warning that to suppress the intent of the law would be
tantamount to determining the wisdom, reasonableness, adequacy
or sufficiency of the law, a role exclusively pertaining to the
legislature. Accordingly, Nebbia v. New York (291 U.S. 507, 537, 78 L. Ed.
940, 957 [1934]) and Government v. Springer, (50 Phil. 259 [1927]), cited
by Mr. Justice Reynato S. Puno in his Separate Opinion, are inapplicable.
Nebbia involved a New York law establishing a Milk Control Board with the
power, among other things, to 'fix minimum and maximum retail prices to be
charged by stores to consumers for consumption off the premises where
sold,' and was challenged under the equal protection and due process
clauses of the Constitution. While as regards Springer, simply, it did not
involve non-delegation of legislative powers and the tests for permissible
exceptions thereto." 23 (underscoring supplied)

The foregoing shows that the issue on the adequacy or inadequacy of R.A. No. 6735
to implement an initiative on the Constitution was dislodged from the realm of
statutory construction to which it rightly belongs and brought into the sphere of
constitutional law. The Court's declaration that "R.A. No. 6735 is incomplete,
inadequate and wanting in essential terms and conditions" 24 was suddenly given
signification to refer "to the 'completeness and sufficient standard tests'". Failure to
hurdle this "completeness and sufficient standard tests" makes the law, R.A. No.
6735, unconstitutional. But for R.A. No. 6735 to be declared unconstitutional,
certain parameters must be observed the absence of which will render the
declaration infirm. And here the Constitution is unequivocal. Hence: SHIcDT

"ARTICLE VIII

"JUDICIAL DEPARTMENT

xxx xxx xxx

"SEC. 4. ...

"(2) All cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international


or executive agreement, or law, which shall be heard by the Supreme Court
en banc, and all other cases which under the Rules of Court are required to
be heard en banc, including those involving the constitutionality, application,
or operation of presidential decrees, proclamations, orders, instructions,
ordinances, and other regulations, shall be decided with the
concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part
in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon."

As it stands, of the thirteen justices who took part in the deliberations on the issue
of whether the motion for reconsideration of the March 19, 1997 decision should be
granted or not, only the following justices sided with Mr. Justice Davide, namely:
Chief Justice Narvasa, and Justices Regalado, Romero, Bellosillo and Kapunan.
Justices Melo, Puno, Mendoza, Hermosisima, Panganiban and the undersigned voted
to grant the motion; while Justice Vitug "maintained his opinion that the matter
was not ripe for judicial adjudication". 25 In other words, only five, out of the other
twelve justices, joined Mr. Justice Davide's June 10, 1997 ponencia finding R.A. No.
6 7 3 5 unconstitutional for its failure to pass the so called "completeness and
sufficiency standards" tests. Obviously, seven votes are needed to reach a
"majority", not six. The "concurrence of a majority of the members who actually
took part in the deliberations" which Article VIII, Section 4 (2) of the Constitution
requires to declare a law unconstitutional was, beyond dispute, not complied with.
And even assuming, for the sake of argument, that the constitutional requirement
on the concurrence of the "majority" was initially reached in the March 19, 1997
ponencia, the same is inconclusive as it was still open for review by way of a motion
for reconsideration. It was only on June 10, 1997 that the constitutionality of R.A.
No. 6735 was settled with finality, sans the constitutionally required "majority."
The Court's declaration, therefore, is manifestly grafted with infirmity and wanting
in force necessitating, in my view, the re-examination of the Court's decision in G.R.
No. 127325. It behooves the Court "not to tarry any longer" nor waste this
opportunity accorded by this new petition (G.R. No. 129754) to relieve the Court's
pronouncement from constitutional infirmity.

Therefore, while no grave abuse of discretion can be imputed on the COMELEC in


not acting on PIRMA's new petition, it is my humble submission that the instant
petition presents a fitting occasion for this Court to re-examine its pronouncements
in G.R. No. 127325.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

Petitioners assail the July 8, 1997 Resolution of Respondent Commission dismissing


their petition for a people's initiative to amend the Constitution. Said petition
before the Comelec (henceforth, PIRMA petition) was backed up by nearly six (6)
million signatures 1 constituting about 16% of the registered voters of the country
with at least 3% in each legislative district. The petition now before us presents two
grounds:

1. In refusing to act on the PUMA petition, the Comelec allegedly


acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction; and

2. In declaring R.A. 6735 "inadequate to cover its system of


initiative on amendments to the Constitution" and "declaring
void those parts of Resolution 2300 of the Commission on
Elections prescribing rules and regulations on the conduct of [an]
initiative [on] amendments to the Constitution," the Supreme
Court's Decision in G.R. No. 127325 2 entitled Miriam Defensor
Santiago vs. Commission on Elections (hereafter referred to as
Santiago) should be reexamined because said Decision is
allegedly "unconstitutional," and because, in any event, the
Supreme Court itself, in reconsidering the said issue per its June
10, 1997 Resolution, was deadlocked at six votes on each side.

The following is my position on each of these two issues:

First Issue:
No Grave Abuse of Discretion
in Comelec's Refusal to Act

The Respondent Commission's refusal to act on the "prayers" of the PIRMA petition
cannot in any wise be branded as "grave abuse of discretion." Be it remembered
that the Court's Decision in Santiago permanently enjoined the Comelec "from
entertaining or taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on amendments to
the Constitution . . . ." While concededly, petitioners in this case were not direct
parties in Santiago, nonetheless the Court's injunction against the Comelec covered
ANY petition, not just the Delfin petition which was the immediate subject of said
case. As a dissenter in Santiago, I believed, and still do, that the majority
gravely erred in rendering such a sweeping injunction, but I cannot fault
the Comelec for complying with the ruling even if it, too, disagreed with
said decision's ratio decidendi. Respondent Comelec was directly enjoined
by the highest Court of the land. It had no choice but to obey. Its
obedience cannot constitute grave abuse of discretion. Refusal to act on the
PIRMA petition was the only recourse open to the Comelec. Any other mode of
action would have constituted defiance of the Court and would have been struck
down as grave abuse of discretion and contumacious disregard of this Court's
supremacy as the final arbiter of justiciable controversies. 3

Second Issue:
Sufficiency of RA 6735

I repeat my firm legal position that RA 6735 is adequate to cover


initiatives on the Constitution, and that whatever administrative details
may have been omitted in said law are satisfactorily provided by Comelec
Resolution 2300. The promulgation of Resolution 2300 is sanctioned by Section 2,
Article IX-C of the Constitution, which vests upon the Comelec the power to
"enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an
election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum and recall." The Omnibus Election Code
likewise empowers the electoral body to "promulgate rules and regulations
implementing the provisions of this Code or other laws which the Commission is
required to enforce and administer . . . ." Finally and most relevantly, Section 20 of
RA 6735 specifically authorizes Comelec "to promulgate rules and regulations as
may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this Act." SEHaTC

In my dissent in Santiago, I wrote that "there is a right way to do the right thing
at the right time and for the right reason." 4 Let me explain further.

The Right Thing

A people's initiative is direct democracy in action. It is the right thing that


citizens may avail themselves of to articulate their will. It is a new and
treasured feature of the Filipino constitutional system. Even the majority implicitly
conceded its value and worth in our legal firmament when it implored Congress
"not to tarry any longer in complying with the constitutional mandate to provide for
implementation of the right (of initiative) of the people . . . ." 5 Hence, in the en
b a n c case of Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority vs. Comelec, 6 this Court
unanimously held that "(l)ike elections, initiative and referendum are powerful and
valuable modes of expressing popular sovereignty. And this Court as a matter of
policy and doctrine will exert every effort to nurture, protect and promote their
legitimate exercise."

The Right Way

From the outset, I have already maintained the view that "taken together and
interpreted properly and liberally, the Constitution (particularly Art. XVII, Sec. 2), RA
6735 and Comelec Resolution 2300 provide more than sufficient authority to
implement, effectuate and realize our people's power to amend the Constitution." 7
Let me now demonstrate the adequacy of RA 6735 by outlining, in concrete terms,
the steps to be taken — the right way — to amend the Constitution through a
people's initiative. 8

Pursuant to Section 3 (f) of the law, the Comelec shall prescribe the form of the
petition which shall contain the proposition and the required number of signatories.
Under Sec. 5 (c) thereof, the petition shall state the following:
"c.1 contents or text of the [provision or provisions] sought to be . . .
amended, . . .;

c.2 the proposition [in full text];

c.3 the reason or reasons therefor [fully and clearly explained];

c.4 that it is not one of exceptions provided herein; 9

c.5 signatures of the petitioners or registered voters; and

c.6 an abstract or summary proposition in not more than one hundred


(100) words which shall be legibly written or printed at the top of
every page of the petition."

Section 8 (f) of Comelec Resolution 2300 additionally requires that the petition
include a formal designation of the duly authorized representatives of the
signatories.

Being a constitutional requirement, the number of signatures becomes a condition


precedent to the filing of the petition, and is jurisdictional. 10 Without such requisite
signatures, the Commission shall motu proprio reject the petition.

Where the initiators have substantially complied with the above requirements, they
may thence file the petition with the Comelec which is tasked to determine the
sufficiency thereof 11 and to verify the signatures on the basis of the registry list of
voters, voters' affidavits and voters' identification cards. 12 In deciding whether the
petition is sufficient, the Comelec shall also determine if the proposition is proper for
an initiative, i.e., if it consists of an amendment, not a revision, of the Constitution.
Any decision of the electoral body may be appealed to the Supreme Court within
thirty (30) days from notice. 13

Within thirty (30) days from receipt of the petition, and after the determination of
its sufficiency, the Comelec shall publish the same in Filipino and English at least
twice in newspapers of general and local circulation, and set the date of the
plebiscite. 14 The conduct of the plebiscite should not be earlier than sixty (60) days,
but not later than ninety (90) days after certification by the Comelec of the
sufficiency of the petition. 15 The proposition, if approved by a majority of the votes
cast in the plebiscite, becomes effective as of the day of the plebiscite. 16

From the foregoing, it should be clear that my position upholding the


adequacy of RA 6735 and the validity of Comelec Resolution 2300 will not
ipso facto validate the PIRMA petition and automatically lead to a
plebiscite to amend the Constitution. Far from it. Among others, PIRMA
must still satisfactorily hurdle the following searching issues:

1. Does the proposed change — the lifting of the term limits


of elective officials 17 — constitute a mere amendment
and not a revision of the Constitution? 18
2. Which registry of voters will be used to verify the
signatures in the petition? This question is relevant
considering that under RA 8189, the old registry of voters
used in the 1995 national elections was voided after the
barangay elections on May 12, 1997, while the new list
may be used starting only in the elections of May 1998.
19

3. Does the clamor for the proposed change in the


Constitution really emanate from the people who signed
the petition for initiative? Or is it the beneficiaries of term
extension who are in fact orchestrating such move to
advance their own political self-interests?

4. Are the six million signatures genuine and verifiable? Do


they really belong to qualified warm bodies comprising at
least 12% of the registered voters nationwide, of which
every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of
the registered voters therein?

I shall expound on the third question in the next section, The Right Reason.
Question Nos. 1 and 2 above, while important, are basically legal in character and
can be determined by argumentation and memoranda. However, Question No. 4
involves not only legal issues but gargantuan hurdles of factual determination. This
to my mind is the crucible, the litmus test, of a people's petition for initiative. If
herein petitioners, led by PIRMA, succeed in proving — not just alleging — that six
million voters of this country indeed want to amend the Constitution, what power
on earth can stop them? Not this Court, not the Comelec, not even the President or
Congress.

It took only one million people 20 to stage a peaceful revolution at EDSA, and the
very rafters and foundations of the martial law society trembled, quaked and
crumbled. On the other hand, PIRMA and its co-petitioners are claiming that they
have gathered six million signatures. If, as claimed by many, these six million
signatures are fraudulent, then let them be exposed and damned for all history in a
signature-verification process conducted under our open system of legal advocacy.
cHDEaC

More than anything else, it is the truth that I, as a member of this Court
and as a citizen of this country, would like to seek: Are these six million
signatures real? By insisting on an entirely new doctrine of statutory
inadequacy, the majority effectively suppressed the quest for that truth.

The Right Reason

As mentioned, the third question that must be answered, even if the adequacy of
RA 6735 and the validity of Comelec Resolution 2300 were upheld by the majority
is: Does the clamor for the proposed change to the Constitution really emanate
from the people who signed the petition for initiative? Or is it the beneficiaries 21 of
term extension who are in fact orchestrating such move to advance their own
political self-interests? In other words, is PIRMA's exercise of the right to initiative
being done in accordance with our Constitution and our laws? Is such attempted
exercise legitimate?

I n Garcia vs. Commission on Elections, 22 we described initiative, along with


referendum, as the "ultimate weapon of the people to negate government
malfeasance and misfeasance." In Subic Bay, we specified that "initiative is entirely
the work of the electorate . . . a process of lawmaking by the people themselves
without the participation and against the wishes of their elected representatives."
As ponente of Subic Bay, I stand foursquare on this principle: The right to
amend through initiative belongs only to the people — not to the
government and its minions. This principle finds clear support from utterances of
many constitutional commissioners like those quoted below:

"[Initiative is] a reserve power of the sovereign people, when they are
dissatisfied with the National Assembly . . . [and] precisely a fallback
position of the people in the event that they are dissatisfied." —
Commissioner Ople 23

"[Initiative is] a check on a legislative that is not responsive [and resorted


to] only if the legislature is not as responsive to the vital and urgent needs
of people." — Commissioner Gascon 24

"[Initiative is an] extraordinary power given to the people [and] reserved


for the people [which] should not be frivolously resorted to." —
Commissioner Romulo 25

Indeed, if the powers-that-be desire to amend the Constitution, or even to revise it,
our Charter itself provides them other ways of doing so, namely, by calling a
constitutional convention or constituting Congress into a constituent assembly.
These are officialdom's weapons. But initiative belongs to the people.

In the present case, are PIRMA and its co-petitioners legitimate people's
organizations or are they merely fronts for incumbents who want to extend their
terms? This is a factual question which, unfortunately, cannot be judicially
answered anymore, because the Supreme Court majority ruled that the law that
implements it, RA 6735, is inadequate or insufficient insofar as initiatives to the
Constitution are concerned. With such ruling, the majority effectively abrogated a
constitutional right of our people. That is why in my Separate Opinion in Santiago, I
exclaimed that such precipitate action "is equivalent to burning the whole house to
exterminate the rats, and to killing the patient to relieve him of pain." I firmly
maintain that to defeat PIRMA's effort, there is no need to "burn" the constitutional
right to initiative. If PIRMA's exercise is not "legitimate," it can be exposed as such
in the ways I have discussed — short of abrogating the right itself. On the other
hand, if PIRMA's position is proven to be legitimate — if it hurdles the four issues I
outlined earlier — by all means, we should allow and encourage it. But the
majority's theory of statutory inadequacy has pre-empted — unnecessarily and
invalidly, in my view — any judicial determination of such legitimacy or illegitimacy.
It has silenced the quest for truth into the interstices of the PIRMA petition.

The Right Time

The Constitution itself sets a time limitation on when changes thereto may be
proposed. Section 2 of Article XVII precludes amendments "within five years
following [its] ratification . . . nor oftener than once every five years thereafter."
Since its ratification, the 1987 Constitution has never been amended. Hence, the
five-year prohibition is now inoperative and amendments may theoretically be
proposed at any time.

Be that as it may, I believe — given the present circumstances — that there is no


more time to lift term limits to enable incumbents to seek reelection in the May 11,
1998 polls. Between today and the next national elections, less than eight (8)
months remain. Santiago, where the single issue of the sufficiency of RA 6735 was
resolved, took this Court three (3) months, 26 and another two (2) months to decide
the motion for reconsideration. 27 The instant case, 28 where the same issue is also
raised by the petitioners, took two months, not counting a possible motion for
reconsideration. These time spans could not be abbreviated any further, because
due process requires that all parties be given sufficient time to file their pleadings.

Thus, even if the Court were to rule now in favor of the adequacy of RA 6735 — as I
believe it should — and allow the Comelec to act on the PIRMA petition, such eight-
month period will not be enough to tackle the four weighty issues 29 I mentioned
earlier, considering that two of them involve tedious factual questions. The
Comelec's decision on any of these issues can still be elevated to this Court for
review, 30 and reconsiderations on our decisions on each of those issues may again
be sought.

Comelec's herculean task alone of verifying each of the six million signatures is
enormously time-consuming, considering that any person may question the
authenticity of each and every signature, initially before the election registrar, then
before the Comelec on appeal and finally, before this Court in a separate
proceeding. Moreover, the plebiscite itself — assuming such stage can be reached —
may be scheduled only after sixty (60) but not more than ninety (90) days, from
the time the Comelec and this Court, on appeal, finally declare the petition to be
sufficient.

Meanwhile, under Comelec Resolution 2946, 31 political parties, groups,


organizations or coalitions may start selecting their official candidates for President,
Vice President and Senators on November 27, 1997; the period for filing certificates
of candidacy is from January 11 to February 9, 1998; the election period and
campaign for national officials start on February 10, 1998, while the campaign
period for other elective officials, on March 17, 1998. This means, by the time
PIRMA's proposition is ready — if ever — for submission directly to the voters at
large, it will have been overcome by the elections. Time will simply run out on
PIRMA, if the intention is to lift term limits in time for the 1998 elections.

That term limits may no longer be lifted prior to the 1998 elections via a people's
initiative does not detract one whit from (1) my firm conviction that RA 6735 is
sufficient and adequate to implement this constitutional right and, more important,
(2) my faith in the power of the people to initiate changes in local and national laws
and the Constitution. In fact, I think the Court can deliberate on these two items
even more serenely and wisely now that the debates will be free from the din and
distraction of the 1998 elections. After all, jurisprudence is not merely for the here
and now but, more so, for the hereafter and the morrow. Let me therefore stress, by
way of epilogue, my unbending credo in favor of our people's right to initiative.

Epilogue

I believe in democracy — in our people's natural right to determine our own destiny.

I believe in the process of initiative as a democratic method of enabling our people


to express their will and chart their history. Initiative is an alternative to bloody
revolution, internal chaos and civil strife. It is an inherent right of the people — as
basic as the right to elect, the right to self-determination and the right to individual
liberties. I believe that Filipinos have the ability and the capacity to rise above
themselves, to use this right of initiative wisely and maturely, and to choose what is
best for themselves and their posterity. HSIDTE

Such beliefs, however, should not be equated with a desire to perpetuate a


particular official or group of officials in power. Far from it. Such perpetuation is
anathema to democracy. My firm conviction that there is an adequate law
implementing the constitutional right of initiative does not ipso facto result in the
victory of the PIRMA petition or of any proposed constitutional change. There are,
after all, sufficient safeguards to guarantee the proper use of such constitutional
right and to forestall its misuse and abuse. First, initiative cannot be used to revise
the Constitution, only to amend it. Second, the petitioners' signatures must be
validated against an existing list of voters and/or voters' identification cards. Third,
initiative is a reserve power of and by the people, not of incumbent officials and
their machinators. Fourth and most important of all, the signatures must be verified
as real and genuine; not concocted, fictitious or fabricated. The only legal way to do
this is to enable the Commission on Elections to conduct a nationwide verification
process as mandated by the Constitution and the law. Such verification, it bears
stressing, is subject to review by this Court.

There were, by the most generous estimate, only a million people who gathered at
EDSA in 1986, and yet they changed the history of our country. PIRMA claims six
times that number, not just from the National Capital Region but from all over the
country. Is this claim true? Or is it just an empty boast? By preventing the
verification of this claim through the invention of its novel theory of statutory
insufficiency, the Court's majority has stifled the only legal method of determining
whether PIRMA is real or not, whether there is indeed a popular clamor to lift term
limits of elected officials, and whether six million voters want to initiate
amendments to their most basic law. In suppressing a judicial answer to such
questions, the Court may have unwittingly yielded to PIRMA the benefit of the legal
presumption of legality and regularity. In its misplaced zeal to exterminate the rats,
it burned down the whole house. It unceremoniously divested the people of a basic
constitutional right.

In the ultimate, the mission of the judiciary is to discover truth and to make it
prevail. This mission is undertaken not only to resolve the vagaries of present
events but also to build the pathways of tomorrow. The sum total of the entire
process of adversarial litigation is the verity of facts and the application of law
thereto. By the majority cop-out in this mission of discovery, our country and our
people have been deprived not only of a basic constitutional right, as earlier noted,
but also of the judicial opportunity to verify the truth.

BELLOSILLO, J.:

We are taken to task once again to determine the propriety of a petition to propose
amendments to the Constitution through people's initiative. But, unlike in the first
case 1 where constitutional and statutory questions were essentially raised, the
instant case is primarily concerned with the matter of grave abuse of discretion
purportedly committed by the Commission on Elections and the applicability of the
doctrine of res judicata.

But first, a flashback on Santiago v. COMELEC, 2 the earlier case. In that case, Atty.
Jesus S. Delfin, relying on RA No. 6735 3 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300, 4 filed
before the COMELEC a Petition to Amend the Constitution, to Lift Term Limits of
Elective Officials, by People's Initiative (DELFIN Petition) and prayed for an order (a)
fixing the time and dates for signature gathering all over the country; (b) causing
the necessary publication of said Order and the attached "Petition for Initiative on
the 1987 Constitution," in newspapers of general and local circulation; and, (c)
instructing Municipal Election Registrars in all Regions of the Philippines, to assist
Petitioners and volunteers, in establishing signing stations at the time and on the
dates designated for the purpose. 5

Apparently, Atty. Delfin and the spouses Alberto and Carmen Pedrosa, as founders of
the Movement for People's Initiative, 6 intend to exercise the power to directly
propose amendments to the Constitution granted under Sec. 2, Art. XVII, 1987
Constitution, 7 in relation to RA No. 6735, and seek the assistance and intervention
of the COMELEC pursuant to COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 in gathering the
required number of signatures.

The DELFIN Petition, UND No. 96-037 (INITIATIVE), was accordingly set for hearing,
after which, Atty. Delfin and the oppositors 8 were directed to file their respective
memoranda. It was at this time when Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Alexander
Padilla and Maria Isabel Ongpin filed, specifically on 18 December 1996, a special
civil action for prohibition before this Court (SANTIAGO Petition) and prayed that a
temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction be issued ordering
respondent COMELEC to desist from proceeding with the petition filed by private
respondent Delfin and ordering the Pedrosas spouses to desist from conducting a
signature drive for a people's initiative to amend the Constitution and, after due
deliberations or after hearing, as the case may be, a permanent order be issued
prohibiting respondent COMELEC from taking cognizance of the Delfin petition and
from issuing orders, rules and regulations to implement a people's initiative to
amend the Constitution and, in addition, declaring COMELEC Resolution No. 2300
null and void for being violative of the Constitution and therefore without force and
effect. 9

Senator Santiago and her co-petitioners argued in the main that the constitutional
provision on people's initiative to amend the Constitution could not be invoked yet
because there was still no implementing law to govern it. For while RA No. 6735
provides for three (3) systems of initiative, namely, initiative on the Constitution,
initiative on statutes, and initiative on local legislations, it failed to provide for any
subtitle on the initiative on the Constitution, thus indicating that the initiative to
amend the Constitution was left to some future legislative enactment.
Consequently, COMELEC Resolution No. 2300 promulgated to govern "the conduct
of initiative on the Constitution and initiative and referendum on national and local
laws" is ultra vires insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is
concerned since the COMELEC has no power to promulgate rules and regulations for
the exercise of the right of initiative to amend the Constitution.

On 19 March 1997, after intense deliberations, this Court 10 struck down RA No.
6735 as "incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions
insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on
this substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by 'empowering' the
COMELEC 'to promulgate such rules and regulations as may be necessary to carry
out the purposes of [the] Act.'" 11 There we concluded that the COMELEC should be
permanently enjoined from taking cognizance of any petition for initiative on
amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly
enacted to provide for the implementation of the system. 12 Hence we rendered
judgment: (a) granting the petition of Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago; (b) declaring
RA No. 6735 inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the
Constitution and to have failed to provide sufficient standard for subordinate
legislation; (c) declaring void those parts of Resolution No. 2300 of the COMELEC
prescribing rules and regulations on the conduct of initiative or amendments to the
Constitution; and, (d) ordering the COMELEC to forthwith dismiss the DELFIN
Petition. The Temporary Restraining Order we issued on 18 December 1996 was
made permanent as against the COMELEC but lifted as against private respondents.
13

On 10 June 1997 the Motion for Reconsideration was denied with finality "the
arguments therein set forth not being of sufficient cogency to persuade the requisite
majority of the Court to modify or reverse the Decision of 19 March 1997." 14

On 23 June 1997 or barely two (2) weeks after we denied the Motion for
Reconsideration PIRMA, 15 seemingly unfazed by its initial setback and theorizing
that its first petition merely lacked the required signatures, filed before the
COMELEC another petition denominated as Petition of the People's Initiative to
Propose Amendments to the Constitution (PIRMA Petition). The PIRMA Petition,
docketed as COMELEC Special Matter No. 97-001 claimed it was accompanied and
supported by 5,530,999 signatures of Filipino voters, later increased to 5,793,924,"
representing more than the twelve percent (12%) requirement of the registered
Filipino voters and the three percent (3%) requirement for every legislative district
computed on the basis of the total number of registered voters both of the 8 May
1995 and the 12 May 1997 elections." The petition prayed that (a) it be accordingly
published in Pilipino and English at least twice in newspapers of general and local
circulation within thirty (30) days from receipt of the petition; (b) the COMELEC
officers be ordered to verify all signatures collected in behalf of the petition and to
submit these to the Commission; (c) after due hearing, the Commission declare the
Petition sufficient for the purpose of scheduling a plebiscite to amend the
Constitution; (d) the Commission schedule the plebiscite at a date not earlier than
sixty (60) days but not later than ninety (90) days from the determination of the
sufficiency of the petition in accordance with the Constitution; and, (e) the following
proposition be submitted for ratification by the Filipino people in a plebiscite to be
scheduled by the Commission —

Do you approve amendments to the 1987 Constitution giving the President


the chance to be reelected for another term, similarly with the Vice-
President, so that both the highest officials of the land can serve for two
consecutive terms of six years each, and also to lift the term limits for all
other elective government officials, thus giving Filipino voters the freedom of
choice, amending for that purpose, Section 4 of Article VII, Sections 4 and 7
of Article VI and Section 8 of Article X respectively? 16

On 8 July 1997 the COMELEC dismissed the PIRMA Petition thus —

. . . in accordance with the permanent restraining order of the Honorable


Supreme Court, the Commission hereby DISMISSES the petition at bench
and, therefore, will not act on the "prayers" therein. No hearing will be
scheduled to determine the sufficiency of the petition, and the Commission
will not order its election officers to verify the signatures submitted.
AacSTE

Accordingly, petitioners may retrieve all the file folders containing the forms
and signatures of Five Million, Five Hundred Thirty Nine Thousand, Nine
Hundred Ninety Nine (5,530,999) * registered voters within five (5) days
from finality of this resolution. The Commission will not assume responsibility
for the safekeeping of these files upon the expiration of the period granted.

This resolution effectively resolves the motions of movants-oppositors Raul


S. Roco and HELP Foundation, Inc.

Hence, on 25 July 1997, PIRMA filed the instant petition for certiorari and
mandamus with an application for a writ of preliminary mandatory injunction.
Named respondents were the COMELEC, Sen. Raul S. Roco, Heightened Ethics
League of the Philippines (HELP) Foundation, Inc., represented by Atty. Mar R.
Torres Reyes, and Lawyers Against Monopoly and Poverty (LAMP) represented by
Atty. Ceferino Padua. They were later joined in as Intervenors by Sen. Miriam
Defensor Santiago, Demokrasya-Ipagtanggol ang Konstitusyon (DIK), and the
Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood Integrity and Nationalism, Inc. (MABINI),
the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), and Rep. Joker P. Arroyo.
Interestingly the Solicitor General who is supposed to represent COMELEC joins and
agrees with petitioners. They congruently argue thuswise:

First. COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction in refusing to act on the PIRMA Petition since Santiago v. COMELEC did
not enjoin COMELEC from assuming jurisdiction over it. What was made permanent
by this Court was only the temporary restraining order issued on 18 December
1996 enjoining COMELEC from proceeding with the DELFIN Petition, not any other
petition already filed or still to be filed.

Second. Petitioners claim that the principle of "law of the case" invoked by
COMELEC does not apply because there is no definitive ruling in Santiago v.
COMELEC as shown by the deadlock voting on the motions for reconsideration
thereof, and as such, there is no "law of the case" to speak of. The Solicitor General,
using instead the term res judicata, holds that COMELEC should not be barred by
the precept. In fine, both maintain that there is no identity of parties, subject
matter, causes of action and reliefs prayed for in Santiago v. COMELEC and the
instant case.

Petitioners urge us to re-examine our ruling in Santiago v. COMELEC since our


insistence on the insufficiency of RA No. 6735 is by itself unconstitutional. They
posit that the power of the Supreme Court is limited to the determination of
whether a law is constitutional or unconstitutional so that it cannot declare a law
merely as "insufficient." Thus, in so declaring RA No. 6735 as "insufficient" the
Supreme Court overstepped the authority of its office and "acted
unconstitutionally." In any case, the Solicitor General maintains that the holding
that RA No. 6735 is "inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to
the Constitution, and fails to provide sufficient standard for subordinate legislation,"
17 is only an obiter dictum because the determination of the constitutionality of the
law was not necessary in resolving the SANTIAGO Petition. Since the Justices who
voted on the DELFIN Petition were unanimous in holding that it should be dismissed
because it lacked the required supporting signatures, it was not necessary for this
Court, as it did, to consider the constitutionality of RA No. 6735.

But, be that as it may, according to petitioners and the Solicitor General, the votes
of the six (6) Justices cast on 10 June 1997 on the motions for reconsideration to
maintain our decision in Santiago v. COMELEC were not enough to declare RA No.
6735 unconstitutional. Since there were thirteen (13) Justices who deliberated on
the issues and voted thereon, the votes of at least seven (7) justices were needed to
declare RA No. 6735 unconstitutional. And since only six (6) Justices voted to deny
the motions for reconsideration in Santiago v. COMELEC, the votes were not
sufficient to declare the law unconstitutional insofar as it purported to serve as the
implementing law for the constitutional provision on people's initiative on the
Constitution. 18

The same proponents of PIRMA argue that, as matters stand, the 1987 Constitution
and RA No. 6735 impose upon COMELEC the ministerial duty to order its election
officers to verify the 5,793,924 signatures of the registered voters. Since the PIRMA
Petition is sufficient in form and substance, as it is accompanied by the requisite
signatures, it is the mandatory and ministerial duty of COMELEC to order the
verification of the signatures and make a finding on the sufficiency of the Petition.
Worse, according to them, if COMELEC fails to act on the PIRMA Petition, the
5,793,924 registered voters stand to suffer grave and irreparable injury as they will
otherwise be disenfranchised and silenced by the mere inaction of COMELEC. It is
their stand that indeed there is need to re-examine the ruling in Santiago v.
COMELEC in view of the inconclusiveness thereof on the sufficiency or
constitutionality of RA No. 6735, the clamor of some 5,530,999 Filipino registered
voters, and the great public interest involved.

Except for Intervenor Rep. Joker P. Arroyo, respondents Sen. Raul S. Roco, HELP
Foundation, LAMP, and Intervenors Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, DIK, MABINI,
and IBP are one in holding that res judicata and law of the case or stare decisis bar
the PIRMA Petition as Santiago v. COMELEC has already ruled that RA No. 6735 is
inadequate to cover the system of initiative on amendments to the Constitution.
The fact that PIRMA was able to procure almost six million signatures does not
make RA No. 6735 adequate, sufficient and complete to cover the system of
initiative to amend the Constitution. Consequently, COMELEC could not have
unlawfully neglected the performance of a legal duty. Neither could it have
committed grave abuse of discretion as it merely acted in lawful obeisance to the
permanent injunction issued by this Court in Santiago v. COMELEC. To comply
faithfully with our decision cannot be grave abuse of discretion.

Intervenor Joker P. Arroyo surfaces with a twist. In his Petition in Intervention, he


postulates that under Sec. 7, RA No. 6735, the accompanying signatures are
required to be verified on the basis of three (3) separate documents, namely,
registry list of voters, voters' affidavits and voters' identification cards used in the
immediately preceding election. But petitioners seek to limit the comparison of the
signatures they claim to have gathered only with the voters' affidavits. Sec. 7 of RA
No. 8189, otherwise known as "The Voter's Registration Act of 1996" provides that "
[i]mmediately after the barangay elections in 1997, the existing certified list of
voters shall cease to be effective and operative."
aSDCIE

Accordingly, the voters' list used in the May 1997 barangay elections has been
erased, expunged, and has ceased to exist. Consequently, the voters' list and the
voters' affidavits which have been likewise nullified by virtue of Sec. 7 herein
quoted cannot be used as basis for comparison of signatures petitioners have
allegedly gathered. Emphatic is the wording of the second sentence of the law that
for purposes of elections, plebiscites, referenda, and recalls after the May 1997
elections, COMELEC has to undertake a General Registration of Voters. And since
registration was already undertaken as mandated by law, each voter in the new list
has a new serial number in the voters' list, new affidavit, new thumbprints and new
precinct. Logically, this new set of voters' lists cannot also be the basis for
comparison of signatures petitioners allegedly gathered prior to the June 1997
General Registration of Voters.

Rep. Arroyo thus prays that the PIRMA Petition be dismissed, and if by any chance
this Court's previous ruling be reconsidered, that petitioners be directed to gather
signatures anew on the basis of the new voters' affidavits, registry of voters and
identification cards since this is the only way Sec. 7, RA No. 6735, may be
harmonized with Sec. 7, RA No. 8189.

On the basis of the pleadings submitted, the Court discerns two (2) main issues:
first, whether COMELEC acted with grave abuse of discretion in dismissing the
PIRMA Petition, and second, whether the PIRMA Petition is barred by the res
judicata.

A special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 is intended only to keep a tribunal,
board or officer within the limits of its jurisdiction, to prevent acts in excess of
authority or jurisdiction, as well as to correct manifest abuses of discretion
committed by an inferior tribunal, when appeal does not prove to be more speedy
and adequate remedy. It is a truly extraordinary remedy and its use is restricted
only to extraordinary cases, e.g., cases in which the actions of a tribunal, board or
officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial functions are wholly void. 19 But in order
for certiorari to lie, abuse of discretion alone on the part of a tribunal, board or
officer exercising judicial or quasi-judicial function, is not sufficient. Rather, it must
be shown that he acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction.

Grave abuse of discretion means such capricious and whimsical exercise of


judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be so
grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason
of passion or personal hostility and must be so patent and gross as to amount to a
virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act at all in contemplation of
law. 20

In the instant case, we cannot find anything from the records suggesting that
COMELEC acted whimsically or capriciously as to amount to excess or lack of
jurisdiction in dismissing the PIRMA Petition. On the contrary, COMELEC acted
precisely in obedience to the permanent injunction issued by this Court in Santiago
v. COMELEC prohibiting COMELEC from taking cognizance of any petition for
initiative on the Constitution. We have already categorically mandated that "the
COMELEC should be permanently enjoined from taking cognizance of any petition
for initiative on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have
been validly enacted to provide for the implementation of the system." 21
Accordingly, in dismissing the PIRMA Petition COMELEC simply obeyed our decision
in Santiago v. COMELEC, and that can hardly be said to amount to lack or excess of
jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion. For that matter, obedience to the Supreme
Court cannot in any way be considered as an unlawful neglect in the performance of
a duty or an illegal exclusion of another from the exercise of a right of office. As
respondent LAMP succinctly observed, "COMELEC simply kept abreast with the Rule
of Law" when it dismissed the PIRMA Petition. 22

With the foregoing, the instant petition should already be dismissed for lack of
merit. But, for the satisfaction of all and sundry, let us proceed to the second issue
on res judicata or "law of the case."

Firmly embedded in our jurisprudence is the principle of res judicata which means "a
matter adjudged; a thing judicially acted upon or decided; a thing or matter settled
by judgment." 23 This doctrine is an old axiom of law, dictated by wisdom, sanctified
by age, and founded on the broad principle that it is to the interest of the public that
there should be an end to litigation by the same parties over a subject once fully
and fairly adjudicated. 24 Thus in Legarda v. Savellano 25 we explained —

As we have repeatedly enunciated, public policy and sound practice enshrine


the fundamental principle upon which the doctrine of res judicata rests that
parties ought not to be permitted to litigate the same issues more than
once. It is a general rule common to all civilized system of jurisprudence,
that the solemn and deliberate sentence of the law pronounced by its
appointed organs, upon a disputed fact or a state of facts, should be
regarded as a final and conclusive determination of the question litigated,
and should forever set the controversy at rest. Indeed, it has been well said
that this maxim is more than a rule of law; more even than an important
principle of public policy; and that it is too much to say that it is a
fundamental concept in the organization of every jural system. Public policy
and sound practice demand that, at the risk of occasional errors, judgments
of courts should become final at some definite date fixed by law. The very
object for which courts were constituted was to put an end to
controversies. 26

The essential requisites of res judicata are: (1) the former judgment must be final;
(2) it must have been rendered by a court having jurisdiction over the subject
matter and the parties; (3) it must be a judgment on the merits; and (4) there must
be between the first and second actions identity of parties, identity of subject
matter, and identity of causes of action. 27

Applying these principles in the instant case, we hold that all the elements of res
judicata are present. For sure, our Decision in Santiago v. COMELEC , which was
promulgated on 19 March 1997, and the motions for reconsideration thereof denied
with finality on 10 June 1997, is undoubtedly final. The said Decision was rendered
by this Court which had jurisdiction over the petition for prohibition under Rule 65.
Our judgment therein was on the merits, i.e., rendered only after considering the
evidence presented by the parties as well as their arguments in support of their
respective claims and defenses. And, as between the Santiago v. COMELEC case and
COMELEC Special Matter No. 97-001 subject of the present petition, there is identity
of parties, subject matter and causes of action. aAHSEC

Petitioners contend that the parties in Santiago v. COMELEC are not identical to the
parties in the instant case as some of the petitioners in the latter case were not
parties to the former case. However, a perusal of the records reveals that the parties
in Santiago v. COMELEC included the COMELEC, Atty. Jesus S. Delfin, spouses
Alberto and Carmen Pedrosa, in their capacities as founding members of PIRMA, as
well as Atty. Pete Quirino-Quadra, another founding member of PIRMA, representing
PIRMA, as respondents. In the instant case, Atty. Delfin was merely removed, and
the spouses Alberto and Carmen Pedrosa were joined by several others who were
made parties to the petition. In other words, what petitioners did was to make it
appear that the PIRMA Petition was filed by an entirely separate and distinct group
by removing some of the parties involved in Santiago v. COMELEC and adding new
parties. But as we said in Geralde v. Sabido 28 —

A party may not evade the application of the rule of res judicata by simply
including additional parties in the subsequent case or by not including as
parties in the later case persons who were parties in the previous suit. The
joining of new parties does not remove the case from the operation of the
rule on res judicata if the party against whom the judgment is offered in
evidence was a party in the first action; otherwise, the parties might renew
the litigation by simply joining new parties.
TaISDA

The fact that some persons or entities joined as parties in the PIRMA Petition but
were not parties in Santiago v. COMELEC does not affect the operation of the prior
judgment against those parties to the PIRMA Petition who were likewise parties in
Santiago v. COMELEC, as they are bound by such prior judgment.

Petitioners' pretense that there is no identity of subject matter, causes of action and
reliefs between the PIRMA Petition and the DELFIN Petition, deserves no serious
consideration. For, the PIRMA Petition is nothing more than a continuation of the
DELFIN Petition. The bottomline in both refers to the same thing — the sufficiency
of RA No. 6735 to activate the constitutional provisions on people's initiative. And
this Court has already ruled that RA No. 6735 is insufficient. While the reliefs
sought are seemingly not the same, the difference is more apparent than real. In
truth, the prayer in the DELFIN Petition for COMELEC assistance and sanction for
the gathering of signatures, and the prayer in the PIRMA Petition for COMELEC
verification of signatures already gathered are interlocking and indispensable stages
of the entire amendment process by initiative. Thus, there is but one cause of action
and relief sought, and that is to set the entire amendment process of people's
initiative in motion and to commence the process that will lead to the exercise of
the people's initiative in proposing amendments to the Constitution.

A party cannot, by varying the form of action or adopting a different method of


presenting his case, escape the operation of the principle that one and the same
cause of action shall not be litigated twice. 29 To sustain the instant petition will be
to revive a cause that has already been adjudicated with finality by this Court and
establish a precedent that will open the floodgates to endless litigations. Parties
who are dissatisfied with the ruling of the court can then repeatedly litigate their
cause until a favorable judgment shall have been obtained. We have always
frowned upon such a practice on the theory that it is deleterious to the orderly
administration of justice. As a matter of fact, there is a modern tendency to widen
rather than restrict the application of res judicata by requiring the parties to sue
once and for all in the same case all the proceedings and remedies to which they are
entitled. 30
aCIHcD

The contention of the Solicitor General that there is no definitive judgment in


Santiago v. COMELEC that RA No. 6735 was inadequate or unconstitutional as the
implementing law of the constitutional provisions on people's initiative because
during the voting on the motion for reconsideration only six (6) Justices 31 out of the
original eight (8) voted to maintain the decision is misplaced, to say the least. To
begin with, petitioners as well as the Solicitor General proceed on a wrong premise,
i.e., that only six (6) Justices voted to maintain the Santiago decision when in fact
seven (7), including Justice Vitug, voted to sustain the decision. In Santiago v.
COM ELEC we already categorically stated that "RA No. 6735 is incomplete,
inadequate, or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as initiative on
amendments to the Constitution is concerned." 32 We could not have been more
direct and precise. And since a sufficient number of votes, i.e., eight (8), already
declared that RA No. 6735 was "insufficient" or "inadequate," and therefore did not
comply with the constitutional standards, we also concluded that it was
unconstitutional. In the resolution of the motions for reconsideration, movants
unfortunately failed to muster enough votes to reverse our ruling, hence, our
Decision stands. It was not reversed by the requisite number of votes. As we
explained in our Resolution of 10 June 1997 —

Thirteen (13) Members having taken part in the deliberation, and only six (6)
having voted to grant the motions for reconsideration, said motions should
be as they are hereby DENIED WITH FINALITY, the arguments therein set
forth not being of sufficient cogency to persuade the requisite majority of
the Court to modify or reverse the Decision of 19 March 1997.

Obviously, since there were only six (6) Justices who voted to grant the motions
for reconsideration out of the thirteen (13) who participated in the deliberations,
the holding that "RA No. 6735 is incomplete, inadequate, or wanting in essential
terms and conditions insofar as initiative on amendments to the Constitution is
concerned" 33 stays, and in fact has become final.

That our pronouncement in Santiago v. COMELEC that R.A. No. 6735 is inadequate
or unconstitutional is merely an obiter dictum , is a misguided observation. The first
issue in that case in fact is whether RA No. 6735 entitled an Act Providing for the
System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating Funds Therefor , was
intended to include or cover initiative on amendments to the Constitution and if so,
whether the Act, as worded, adequately covers such initiative. 34 Undoubtedly, this
issue puts the constitutionality of RA No. 6735 in question, for it determines
whether it is sufficient or not, or if it is valid or not. Consequently, any ruling by this
Court on the matter cannot be shunned as a mere obiter dictum .

For, obiter dictum is defined as merely words of a prior opinion entirely unnecessary
for the decision of the case; statements in opinion wherein courts indulged in
generalities that had no actual bearing on issues involved; a remark made or
opinion expressed by a judge in his decision upon a cause, "by the way," that is,
incidentally or collaterally, and not directly upon the question before him, or upon a
point not necessarily involved in the determination of the cause, or introduced by
way of illustration, or analogy or argument. 35 In fine, a perusal of the 38-page
Decision in Santiago v. COMELEC readily shows that the discussion therein centers
on the inadequacy of RA No. 6735 and why it cannot be the implementing law for
the initiative on amendments to the Constitution. HDTCSI DCSTAH

That the law imposes upon the COMELEC the ministerial mandatory duty to order
its Election Officers to verify the signatures already gathered as provided in Sec. 7,
RA No. 6735 —

The election registrar shall verify the signatures on the basis of the registry
lists of voters, voters' affidavits and voters' identification cards used in the
immediately preceding election,

is devoid of merit. We have categorically stated that Art. XVII, Sec. 2, 1987
Constitution, providing for a system of initiative on amendments to the
Constitution, is not a self-executing provision. 36 Consequently, it cannot operate
without an implementing legislation. Thus, although this mode of amending the
Constitution is a mode which bypasses congressional action, in the last analysis it
is still dependent on congressional action. 37 As we have repeatedly said, RA No.
6735 as the enabling law of the system of initiative on the Constitution, is
"incomplete, inadequate or wanting in essential terms and conditions insofar as
initiative on amendments to the Constitution is concerned. Its lacunae on this
substantive matter are fatal and cannot be cured by empowering the COMELEC
to promulgate rules and regulations to implement as may be necessary to carry
out the purposes of [the] Act."

Hence, there is nothing upon which petitioners and the Solicitor General can
predicate their claim that COMELEC has the mandatory duty to assume jurisdiction
over their petition. The remedy of mandamus under Rule 65, Sec. 3, 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure, may be resorted to only when any tribunal, corporation, board,
officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act which the law
specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust or station. Being an
extraordinary remedy, it is essential that the applicant has a clear legal right to the
thing demanded, and it must be the imperative duty of the defendant to perform
the act required. The writ will not issue to compel an official to do anything which is
not his duty to do, or to give to the applicant anything to which he is not entitled by
law. It is simply a command to exercise a power already possessed and to perform a
duty already imposed. 38

There being no valid enabling law to operationalize the system of initiative, there is
no corresponding duty on the part of the COMELEC to entertain any petition dealing
with initiative on amendments to the Constitution. Thus until and unless Congress
enacts an implementing legislation or corrects the incompleteness and inadequacy
of RA No. 6735, the COMELEC cannot proceed with the initial process of verification
of signatures for purposes of constitutional initiative. There can be no ministerial
duty where there is no law passed by Congress commanding or directing the
COMELEC to verify the voters' signatures submitted together with the petition. ESTCDA

The fact that the petition was supported by more than five (5) million signatures
(which were gathered, by the way, with no procedure or guidelines to ensure an
authentic, free and intelligent choice, and with no legal authority to recognize and
validate them) is of no consequence. For, such signatures, no matter how many, can
neither give birth to a valid enabling law nor cure the deficiency of RA No. 6735.

Petitioners indulge in legal niceties and heavy technicalities in the hope of giving
their petition some semblance of merit, arguing that the PIRMA Petition is not
covered by the permanent injunction issued by this Court against the COMELEC.
And, that what was made permanent by this Court was only the temporary
restraining order enjoining the COMELEC from proceeding with the DELFIN Petition.
This is not quite correct. Again as we have categorically stated, "the COMELEC
should be permanently enjoined from taking cognizance of any petition for initiative
on amendments to the Constitution until a sufficient law shall have been validly
enacted to provide for the implementation of the system." The practical effect of our
Decision in Santiago v. COMELEC is virtually to bar any petition concerning the
system of initiative until a valid implementing law shall have been enacted by
Congress. It is unfortunate that petitioners, whether wittingly or unwittingly, have
failed to appreciate this simple pronouncement. SIcEHD

This Court is likewise accused of overstepping the power of its office by declaring a
law "insufficient" supposedly without authority. Suffice it to say that when we
declared RA No. 6735 "insufficient," we in effect declared it "invalid." After all,
"insufficiency" is embraced within the term "invalidity."

The novel proposition of Intervenor Rep. Joker P. Arroyo deserves serious


consideration. In the instant case, petitioners would like the COMELEC to instruct all
its election officers in all municipalities and cities of the 204 legislative districts to
verify the more than five million signatures they submitted, using as basis the
voters' affidavits used in the 12 May 1997 barangay elections contrary to the
express provision of Sec. 7, RA No. 6735 which mandates —

Sec. 7. Verification of Signatures. — The Election Registrar shall verify the


signatures on the basis of the registry list voters, voters' affidavits and
voters identification cards used in the immediately preceding election.

These requirements set forth in the law are not empty formalities. They are
precisely intended to safeguard and ensure that the signatures gathered are
authentic, not simulated or fictitious, and that the signatures represent at least
twelve percent (12%) of the registered Filipino voters of which every legislative
district is represented by at least three percent (3%) thereof. Hence, petitioners
cannot confine the comparison of signatures with the voters' affidavits alone on the
flimsy excuse that the reference in the law of voters identification cards is misplaced
or that it is not advisable to compare the signatures with those appearing in the list
of voters because of the possibility of substitute voting.

Compounding the woes of petitioners is the fact that the certified list of voters used
in the 12 May 1997 barangay elections has already ceased to be effective by virtue
of Sec. 7, RA No. 8189 which provides —

Sec. 7. General Registration of Voters. — Immediately after the barangay


elections in 1997, the existing certified list of voters shall cease to be
effective and operative. For purposes of the May 1998 elections and all
elections, plebiscites, referenda, initiatives and recalls subsequent thereto,
the Commission shall undertake General Registration of Voters before the
Board of Election Inspectors on June 14, 15, 21 and 22 and subject to the
discretion of the Commission on June 28 and 29, 1997 in accordance with
this Act.ECTSDa

Having been nullified by law, the voters' list and the voters' affidavits can no longer
be used as basis for comparison of signatures. We do not agree that the old list can
still be used for purposes of comparing the signatures as in the eyes of the law this
list has been erased, expunged and has ceased to exist.

That there is a conflict between Sec. 7, RA No. 6735, and Sec. 7, RA No. 8189 is
devoid of merit. In construing apparently conflicting provisions of two statutes, an
interpretation which will leave both statutes operative and weave them into a
harmonious and intelligent whole is always preferred. The presumption then is that
when Congress enacted RA No. 8189, it had full knowledge and took full cognizance
of RA No. 6735, for it could not have intended to be inconsistent with itself and
create an absurd situation where, while the voters' list used in the immediately
preceding election has ceased to be valid by operation of law, the same can still be
used for purposes of verifying signatures gathered pursuant to RA No. 6735.
Accordingly, Congress could have only meant that the registry list of voters referred
to in RA No. 6735 where the verification of signatures is to be based is a new list of
voters made pursuant to RA No. 8189. This is another reason that calls for the
enactment of another law. ECaScD

A word more. While we do not object to, as we in fact encourage, people


empowerment to flourish, we have to follow the rule of law and not allow the mob
to force their issues on the people. In a real democratic society there are rules to
follow. True, the proponents of charter change can talk as loud as they wish,
propose amendments to the Constitution till the end of time, and even persuade
others to conform to their beliefs, as theirs are the rights of free speech and
assembly. But until they convince Congress to enact an enabling law to implement
the system of initiative to propose amendments to the Constitution, their efforts
may as well be relegated to a mere impotent discourse.

For all the foregoing, I vote to DISMISS the Petition.

Footnotes

KAPUNAN, J.:

1. 50 SCRA 30 (1973).

2. Article VIII, Section 1, 1987 Philippine Constitution.

3. 5 U.S. 135 [1 Cranch] (1803).

4. Id., at 175.
5. Ellingham v. Dye, 178 Ind. 336, 99 NE 1, 231 US 250, 58 L. Ed. 206, 34 S Ct. 92.

6. Hunter v. Colfax Consol. Coal Co., 175 Iowa 245, 154 NW 1037, 157 NW 245.

7. Rivera-Cruz v. Gray (Fla) 104 So 2d 501.

8. Authored by Senators Gonzales, Romulo, Pimentel, and Lina.

9. Sec. 2, R.A. No. 8189.

10. Sec 7. Verification of signatures. — The Election Registrar shall verify the
signatures on the basis of the registry list of voters, voters' affidavits and voters'
identification cards used in the immediately proceeding elections.

11. Annex B, Petition.

12. Sec. 26, R.A. No. 8189.

13. Id., Sec. 25.

14. Petition in intervention, p. 5.

15. Sinco, Vicente G., Philippine Political Law, Principles and Concept, 1962, p. 46.

16. Bernas, Joaquin G., The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, A
Commentary, Vol. II, 1988, p. 571.

17. Wheeler v. Board of Trustees , 37 S.E. 2d. 322, 327.

18. E. Errington, The Lions Start to Roar , The Times of London, March 11, 1997, p.
51.

FRANCISCO, J.:

1. Santiago vs. COMELEC, (Decision), G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997, p. 2.

2. Santiago vs. COMELEC, (Resolution), G.R. No. 127325, June 10, 1997.

3. Preamble, 1987 Constitution.

4. Ibid.

5. Section 1, Article II, supra.

6. Article VI, Section 1 provides: The legislative power shall be vested in the Congress
of the Philippines which shall consist of a Senate and a House of Representatives,
except to the extent reserved to the people by the provision on initiative and
referendum.

SECTION 32. The Congress shall, as early as possible, provide for a system of
initiative and referendum, and the exceptions therefrom, whereby the people can
directly propose and enact laws or approve or reject any act or law or part thereof
passed by the Congress or local legislative body after the registration of a petition
therefor signed by at least ten per centum of the total number of registered
voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per
centum of the registered voters thereof.

7. Section 1, Article XVII, supra.

8. Section 15, Article XIII, supra.

9. Section 1, Article II, supra.

10. Records of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 2, p.

11. Section 5, Article VIII, supra.

12. 5 Phil. 87.

13. 91 Phil. 882.

14. 42 SCRA 448.

15. 121 SCRA 472.

16. 149 SCRA 305.

17. 123 SCRA 245.

18. 256 SCRA 171.

19. 234 SCRA 555.

20. Frink v. Darst, 14 III. 305, 58 Am. Dec. 575; Montgomery County Fiscal Ct . v.
Trimble, 104 Kv. 629, 47 S. W. 733, 42 L.R.A. 738; Quaker Realty Co. v. Labasse,
131 La 996, 60 So. 611, Ann. Cas. 19144, 1073 cited in Vicente Francisco,
Statutory Construction, p. 509.

21. Section 7, R.A. 8189 also known as "The Voter's Registration Act of 1996."

22. Santiago, et al. v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997, p. 37.

23. Separate Opinion, Davide, J., Santiago, et al. v. COMELEC, et al. , G.R. No. 127325,
June 10, 1997, pp. 7-9.

24. Santiago, et al. v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997, p. 33.

25. Santiago, et al. vs. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 127325, Minute Resolution, June 10,
1997, p. 2.

PANGANIBAN, J.:

1. Originally, petitioners claim to have submitted 5,530,999 signatures to the


Comelec. On July 25, 1997, they presented 262,925 more, bringing the total to
5,793,924 (Petition, p. 11). For brevity's sake, this Opinion will refer to them at the
rounded figure of six (6) million.
2. The Decision was promulgated on March 19, 1997; and the Resolution denying
reconsideration, on June 10, 1997.

3. Development Bank vs. NLRC, 242 SCRA 59, 68, March 1, 1995.

4. An esteemed friend has taken umbrage at my failure in my Separate Opinion in


Santiago to cite my source for this quotation. To set the records aright, I first
heard this from former Sen. Rene A.V. Saguisag. More recently, however, Daniel
Goleman, in his best-selling book Emotional Intelligence (pp. ix and xiii), 1996 ed.,
credited a similar quote to Aristotle who in The Nicomachean Ethics described the
rare skill "to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time,
for the right purpose, and in the right way." While on the topic of correct source-
citing, may I add that Sen. Saguisag disputed my attribution to Voltaire of the
famous "I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right
to say it." My source for this is Bartlett's Familiar Quotations , 1980 ed., p. 344,
which "attributed" the epigram to Voltaire. Bartlett's own footnote, though, says
that "this sentence is not Voltaire's but was first used in quoting a letter from
Voltaire to Helvetius in the Friends of Voltaire (1906) by S.G. Tallentyre (E. Beatrice
Hall). . . ."

5. Santiago vs. Comelec, G.R. No. 127325, March 19, 1997, pp. 36-37.

6. G.R. No. 125416, September 26, 1996.

7. Separate Opinion in G.R. No. 127325, supra, p. 7.

8. In Santiago, the dissenters, particularly Justices Puno, Francisco and myself, joined
in by Justices Melo, Mendoza and, later, Hermosisima, explained the legal principles
and jurisprudential precepts supporting the adequacy of RA 6735, in particular:

"R.A. No. 6735 sufficiently states the policy and the standards to guide the
COMELEC in promulgating the law's implementing rules and regulations of the law
[sic]. As aforestated, section 2 spells out the policy of the law; viz.: "The power
of the people under a system of initiative and referendum to directly propose,
enact, approve or reject, in whole or in part, the Constitution, laws, ordinances,
or resolutions passed by any legislative body upon compliance with the
requirements of this Act is hereby affirmed, recognized and guaranteed." Spread
out all over R.A. No. 6735 are the standards to canalize the delegated power to
the COMELEC to promulgate rules and regulations from overflowing. Thus, the law
states the number of signatures necessary to start a people's initiative [citing Sec.
5 (b), RA 6735], directs how initiative proceeding is commenced [citing Sec. 5 (b),
RA 6735], what the COMELEC should do upon filing of the petition for initiative
[citing Sec. 7, RA 6735], how a proposition is approved [citing Sec. 9 (b), RA
6735], when a plebiscite may be held [citing Sec. 8, RA 6735 in relation to Sec. 4,
Art. XVII of the Constitution], when the amendment takes effect (citing Sec. 9 (b),
RA 6735] and what matters may not be the subject of any initiative [citing Sec. 10,
RA 6735]. By any measure, these standards are adequate.

"Former Justice Isagani A. Cruz, similarly elucidated that 'a sufficient standard is
intended to map out the boundaries of the delegates' authority by defining the
legislative policy and indicating the circumstances under which it is to be pursued
and effected. The purpose of the sufficient standard is to prevent a total
transference of legislative power from the lawmaking body to the delegate'
[citing Cruz, Philippine Political Law, 1995 ed., p. 98]. In enacting R.A. No. 6735, it
cannot be said that Congress totally transferred its power to enact the law
implementing people's initiative to COMELEC. A close look at COMELEC Resolution
No. 2300 will show that it merely provided the procedure to effectuate the policy
of R.A. No. 6735 giving life to the people's initiative to amend the Constitution. The
debates [referring to July 8, 1986 Debates of the Concom, p. 399] in the
Constitutional Commission make it clear that the rules of procedure to enforce the
people's initiative can be delegated . . . ." [Justice Puno's Concurring and Dissenting
Opinion, pp. 15-16; emphasis in the original.]

In his Separate Opinion to the June 10, 1997 Resolution of this Court in Santiago,
Justice Puno further proffered the following "catalogue of concerns": (1) the need
to recognize the clear intent of Congress in enacting RA 6735, which is to
implement the provisions of the Constitution giving the people the power to amend
the fundamental law through initiative; (2) the traditional duty of the Court to
interpret the law in accordance with its intent as expressed by its authors in
Congress and comprehended by the implementing administrative agency whose
expertise and long experience should carry considerable weight in determining
whether the law is clear and enforceable; for the inadequacy of a statute is not a
ground for invalidating it, and it is not for this Court to say how well the statute
succeeds in attaining its purpose; (3) the "need to avoid the danger of over-
checking the power of Congress to make laws," for such power is plenary in
nature, while courts should only invalidate laws that offend the Constitution; and
(4) the duty to be liberal in interpreting the constitutional provision giving our
people a direct, participatory role in the amendment of their fundamental law to
meet their changing needs.

In this opinion, I am demonstrating in practical terms the step-by-step method of


actually implementing an initiative to amend the Constitution, to show beyond
doubt the sufficiency of the Roco law on initiative — RA 6735.

9. Sec. 10 of R.A. 6735 provides:

"Sec. 10. Prohibited Measures . — The following cannot be the subject of initiative or
referendum petition:

"(a) No petition embracing more than one subject shall be submitted to the
electorate; and

"(b) Statutes involving emergency measures, the enactment of which are specifically
vested in Congress by the Constitution, cannot be subject to referendum until
ninety (90) days after its effectivity."

10. 42 Am. Jur. 2d, §26, citing Birmingham Gas Co. v. Bessemer , 250 Ala 137, 33
So 2d 475, 250 Ala 137; Tacker v. Board of Comrs. , 127 Fla 248, 170 So 458;
Hoxie v. Scott ; 45 Neb 199, 63 NW 387; Gill v. Board of Comrs. , 160 NC 176, 76
SE 203.

11. Second paragraph of Sec. 4, Art. XVII of the Constitution which states:
"Any amendment under Section 2 hereof shall be valid when ratified by a majority of
the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than sixty days not later
than ninety days after the certification by the Commission on Elections of the
sufficiency of the petition."

12. Sec. 7, R.A. 6735; Sec. 30, Comelec Res. 2300.

13. Sec. 12, ibid.; Sec. 32, ibid.

14. Sec. 8, ibid.; Secs. 33 & 34, ibid.

15. Supra, note 11.

16. Sec. 9(b), R.A. 6735.

17. The petition (p. 21) of PIRMA, et al. before the Comelec seeks to have this
proposition submitted to the people in a plebiscite:

"Do you approve amendments to the 1987 Constitution giving the President the
chance to be reelected for another term, similarly with the Vice-President, so that
both the highest officials of the land can serve for two consecutive terms of six
years each, and also to lift the term limits for all other elective government officials,
thus giving Filipino voters the freedom of choice, amending for that purpose
Section 4 of Article VII, Section[s] 4 and 7 of Article VI and Section 8 of Article X
respectively?"

The proposed amendments to the Constitution are the following:

"1. Sec. 4, Article VII. The President and the Vice President shall be elected by
direct vote of the people for a term of six years which shall begin at noon on the
thirtieth day of June next following the day of the election and shall end at noon of
the same date six years thereafter. Any person who has succeeded as President
and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for only one (1)
subsequent election to the same office at any time. No President and Vice-
President shall serve for more than two successive terms. Voluntary renunciation
of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the
continuity of the service for the full term for which he was elected.

"2. Sec. 4, Art. VI. The term of office of the Senators shall be six years and shall
commence, unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June
next following their election.

"3. Sec. 7, Art. VI. The members of the House of Representatives shall be elected
for a term of three years which shall begin, unless otherwise provided by law, at
noon on the thirtieth day of June next following their election.

"4. Sec. 8, Art. X. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay
officials which shall be determined by law, shall be three years which shall begin,
unless otherwise provided by law, at noon on the thirtieth day of June next
following their election." [pp. 13-14]

18. Sec. 2, Art. XVII of the Constitution partly provides:


"Sec. 2. Amendments to this Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the
people through initiative . . ."

19. Section 7 of RA 8189 provides:

"Sec. 7. General Registration of Voters . — Immediately after the barangay elections in


1997, the existing certified list of voters shall cease to be effective and operative.
For purposes of the May 1998 elections and all elections, plebiscites, referenda,
initiatives, and recalls subsequent thereto, the Commission shall undertake a
general registration of voters before the Board of Election Inspectors on June 14,
15, 21 and 22 and, subject to the discretion of the Commission, on June 28 and
29, 1997 in accordance with this Act."

Intervenor Joker P. Arroyo additionally points out that the signatures in the petition
should not only be compared with voters' affidavits as sought by PIRMA, but
likewise with the (1) registry list of voters and (2) voters' identification cards. He
claims, however, that "petitioners are barred from insisting that the signatures
they had gathered can be authenticated on the basis of the old voter's affidavits
for the simple reason that the latter have been nullified by operation of law." He
adds, "For this reason, petition states no cause of action over which this
Honorable Court can exercise jurisdiction." [Petition in Intervention, p. 5.]

The Solicitor General, on the other hand, contends that Sec. 7 of RA 8189, a general
law on election matters, cannot prevail over Sec. 7 of RA 6735, a special law
dealing with people's initiative, which declares the voting records used in the
immediately preceding elections (barangay elections in May 1997) as the basis for
verification of the signatures submitted in support of the petition. The statement in
Sec. 7 of RA 8189, "[T]he existing certified list of voters shall cease to be effective
and operative," means that said list can no longer be used for the purposes "of the
May 1998 elections, and all elections, plebiscites, referenda, initiatives and recalls
subsequent thereto"; it does not necessarily mean that the signatures of the
registered voters in the list are no longer genuine and cannot be used to verify the
signatures of the 5,793,924 voters who signed the petition.

20. In a speech delivered at Harvard University on September 22, 1986, then


President Corazon C. Aquino talked of "hundreds of thousands" of Filipinos who
took to the streets "to make themselves a human shield for the military revolt." For
brevity, we round off the number to a million.

21. Respondent-Intervenor Miriam Defensor Santiago cites in her Comment-in-


Intervention, an article in the July 31, 1997 issue of the Far Eastern Economic
Review, p. 23, naming alleged financiers of the movement to amend the
Constitution in order to lift the term limits of the President and other elective
officials, as including PLDT President Antonio Cojuangco and SMC Chief Executive
Officer Andres Soriano III. I would have wanted a judicial ascertainment of this and
other allegations, a search made impossible by the majority's theory of statutory
inadequacy.

22. 237 SCRA 279, 289, September 30, 1994.

23. Record of the Constitutional Commission, Vol. 1, p. 405; also cited in Respondent
Raul S. Roco's Comment.

24. Transcript of Committee Meetings, Legislative 4, June 23, 1996, p. 23, cited in
Respondent Raul S. Roco's Comment.

25. Ibid., p. 2.

26. The petition in G.R. No. 127325 was filed on December 18, 1996, and this Court's
Main Decision was promulgated on March 19, 1997.

27. The motion for reconsideration was filed on April 3, 1997, and this Court's
Resolution was promulgated on June 10, 1997.

28. Filed on July 28, 1997.

29. (1) Does the proposed change — the lifting of the term limits of elective officials
— constitute a mere amendment, not a revision, of the Constitution?

(2) Which registry of voters will be used to verify the signatures in the petition?

(3) Does the clamor for the proposed change in the Constitution really emanate from the
people who signed the petition for initiative? Or is it the beneficiaries of term
extension who are in fact orchestrating such move to advance their own political
self-interests?

(4) Are the six million signatures genuine and verifiable? Do they really belong to qualified
warm bodies comprising at least 12% of the registered voters nationwide, of which
every legislative district is represented by at least 3% of the registered voters
therein?

30. Appeals to this Court from any decision of the Comelec may be brought within
thirty (30) days from notice of such decision.

31. Approved en banc on September 16, 1997 (per Manila Bulletin, September 17,
1997 issue).

BELLOSILLO, J.:

1. Santiago v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 127325,19 March 1997.

2. Ibid.

3. An Act Providing for a System of Initiative and Referendum and Appropriating


Funds Therefor, also known as "The Initiative and Referendum Act."

4. In re: Rules and Regulations Governing the Conduct of Initiative on the


Constitution, and Initiative and Referendum on National and Local Laws.

5. Rollo of G.R. No. 127325, p. 17.

6. Later identified as People's Initiative for Reform, Modernization and Action (PIRMA).

7. Sect. 2, Article XVII, 1987 Constitution provides that "[a]mendments to this


Constitution may likewise be directly proposed by the people through initiative
upon a petition of at least twelve per centum of the total number of registered
voters, of which every legislative district must be represented by at least three per
centum of the registered voters therein . . . ."

8. The oppositors included Sen. Raul S. Roco, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines
(IBP), the Demokrasya-Ipagtanggol and Konstitusyon (DIK), the Public Interest Law
Center (PILC), and the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LABAN).

9. See Rollo of G.R. No. 127325, pp. 11-12.

10. Mr. Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, Mr. Justice Florenz D. Regalado, Mme. Justice
Flerida Ruth P. Romero, Messrs. Justices Josue N. Bellosillo, Santiago M. Kapunan,
Regino C. Hermosisima, Jr., and Justo P. Torres, Jr. concurred. Mr. Justice Teodoro
R. Padilla took no part. Messrs. Justices Jose A.R. Melo, Reynato S. Puno, Vicente
V. Mendoza, Ricardo J. Francisco, and Artemio V. Panganiban dissented. Mr.
Justice Jose C. Vitug wrote a Separate Opinion.

11. Decision in G.R. No. 127325, 19 March 1997, p. 33.

12. Id., p. 36.

13. Id., p. 37.

14. Resolution in G.R. No. 127325, 10 June 1997, p. 2.

15. PIRMA's co-petitioners were Spouses Alberto and Carmen Pedrosa, Alfonso
Michael G. Policarpio III, Eliza U. Salapantan, Horacio M. Montefrio, Support
Initiatives for the Good of the Nation (SIGN) Movement, Inc., Atty. Jose C. Calida,
Mayor Monico L. Imperial Sr. Memorial Foundation, Ma. Corazon K. Imperial,
Movimiento sa Electoral na Reforma Susug sa Initiativo kan Tawo (MERIT), Linda
Montayre, Movement for Reform and Enlightenment, Joaquin (Bobby) P. Yuseco,
and Robert Ong, in behalf of at least 12% of the registered voters from 204
legislative districts of the Republic of the Philippines.

16. PIRMA Petition before COMELEC, docketed as Special Matter No. 97-001, p. 21.

17. Clarified by the ponente, Associate Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr., in his Separate
Opinion on 10 July 1997, to mean that RA No. 6735 is "unconstitutional or invalid
since it fails to comply with the completeness and sufficiency standard test."

18. Seven (7) Justices actually voted to maintain our decision in Santiago v. Comelec
with Justice Jose C. Vitug manifesting that his vote which was not counted earlier
should have been counted as a vote for affirmance.

19. Philippine Surety and Insurance Co. v. Jacala, 108 Phil. 177, 184 (1960).

20. Arguelles v. Young, G.R. No. 59880, 11 September 1987, 153 SCRA 690.

21. Decision in G.R. No. 127325, 19 March 1997, p. 36.

22. See Comment of LAMP, p. 9, Rollo, p. 436.


23. Gutierrez v. Court of Appeals , G.R. No. 82475, 28 January 1991, 193 SCRA 437.

24. Filipinas Investment and Finance Corporation v. Intermediate Appellate Court , G.R.
Nos. 66059-60, 4 December 1989, 179 SCRA 728.

25. No. L-38892, 26 February 1988, 158 SCRA 194.

26. A similar but less familiar concept is the doctrine of the "law of the case," which
means that if an appellate court has passed upon a legal question and remanded
the cause to the court below for further proceedings, the legal question thus
determined by the appellate court will not be differently determined on a
subsequent appeal given the same case and substantially the same facts (Allen v.
Michigan Bell Tel. Co. , 61 Mich App 62, 232 NW 2d 302, and Hinds v. McNair , 413
NE 2d 606, cited in Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Ed., pp. 886-887). Like res
judicata, it is necessary to enable the courts to perform their duties satisfactorily
and efficiently, and as a matter of policy to end litigation. The doctrines "law of the
case" and res judicata are sometimes used interchangeably, although technically,
these are two distinct concepts.

27. Maglalang v. Court of Appeals , G.R. No. 85692, 31 July 1989, 175 SCRA 808, 811,
812; Development Bank of the Philippines v. Pundogar, G.R. No. 96921, 29 January
1993, 218 SCRA 118.

28. No. L-35440, 19 August 1982, 115 SCRA 839, citing Anticamara v. Ong , No. L-
29689, 14 April 1978, 82 SCRA 337.

29. Clemente v. H.E. Heacock Co. , 126 Phil. 443 (1967); Ibabao, et al. v. Intermediate
Appellate Court, et al., G.R. No. 74848, 20 May 1987, 150 SCRA 76; Sangalang v.
Caparas, et al., No. L-49749, 18 June 1987, 151 SCRA 53.

30. Paz v. Inandan, 75 Phil. 608 (1954).

31. See Note 21.

32. Decision, p. 33.

33. Ibid.

34. Id., p. 14.

35. Black's Law Dictionary, 4th Ed. (1951), citing Noel v. Olds , 78 US App. D.C. 155,
138 F2d 581, 586; Graham v. Jones , 198 La. 507, 3 S2d 581, 586.

36. Santiago v. Comelec, G.R. No. 127325, 19 March 1997, p. 18.

37. Bernas, Joaquin G., The Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines, A
Commentary, 1st Ed., 1988, p. 571.

38. Gonzales v. Board of Pharmacy, 20 Phil. 367 (1911).

n Note from the Publisher: should read as 'shunned'.