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G.R. No. 93867 – 192 SCRA 358 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Constitutional Commissions – The Commission on Elections – COMELEC’s Constitutional Independence
In December 1989, a coup attempt occurred prompting the president to create a fact finding commission which would be chaired by Hilario Davide. Consequently he has to vacate his chairmanship over the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Haydee Yorac, an associate commissioner in the COMELEC, was appointed by then President Corazon Aquino as a temporary substitute, in short, she was appointed in an acting capacity. Sixto Brillantes, Jr. then questioned such appointment urging that under Article X-C of the Constitution “in no case shall any member of the COMELEC be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity”.
Brillantes further argued that the choice of the acting chairman should not come from the President for such is an internal matter that should be resolved by the members themselves and that the intrusion of the president violates the independence of the COMELEC as a constitutional commission.
ISSUE: Whether or not the designation made by the president violates the constitutional independence of the COMELEC.
HELD: Yes. Yorac’s designation as acting chairman is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court ruled that although all constitutional commissions are essentially executive in nature, they are not under the control of the president in the discharge of their functions. The designation made by the president has dubious justification as it was merely grounded on the quote “administrative expediency” to present the functions of the COMELEC. Aside from such justification, it found no basis on existing rules on statutes. It is the members of the COMELEC who should choose whom to sit temporarily as acting chairman in the absence of Davide (they normally do that by choosing the most senior member).
But even though the president’s appointment of Yorac as acting president is void, the members of COMELEC can choose to reinstate Yorac as their acting chairman – the point here is that, it is the members who should elect their acting chairman pursuant to the principle that constitutional commissions are independent bodies.