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G.R. No. L-44640; G.R. No. L-44684; G.R. No. L-44714 – 73 SCRA 333 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Judiciary – Judicial Power – Amendment to the Constitution – Political Question vs Justiciable Question
On 2 Sept 1976, Marcos issued PD No. 991 calling for a national referendum on 16 Oct 1976 for the Citizens Assemblies (“barangays”) to resolve, among other things, the issues of martial law, the interim assembly, its replacement, the powers of such replacement, the period of its existence, the length of the period for the exercise by the President of his present powers. Twenty days after, the President issued another related decree, PD No. 1031, amending the previous PD No. 991, by declaring the provisions of PD No. 229 providing for the manner of voting and canvass of votes in “barangays” applicable to the national referendum-plebiscite of Oct 16, 1976. Quite relevantly, PD No. 1031 repealed inter alia, Sec 4, of PD No. 991. On the same date of 22 Sept 1976, Marcos issued PD No. 1033, stating the questions to he submitted to the people in the referendum-plebiscite on October 16, 1976. The Decree recites in its “whereas” clauses that the people’s continued opposition to the convening of the interim National Assembly evinces their desire to have such body abolished and replaced thru a constitutional amendment, providing for a new interim legislative body, which will be submitted directly to the people in the referendum-plebiscite of October 16.
On September 27, 1976, Sanidad filed a Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction seeking to enjoin the Commission on Elections from holding and conducting the Referendum Plebiscite on October 16; to declare without force and effect Presidential Decree Nos. 991 and 1033, insofar as they propose amendments to the Constitution, as well as Presidential Decree No. 1031, insofar as it directs the Commission on Elections to supervise, control, hold, and conduct the Referendum-Plebiscite scheduled on October 16, 1976. Sanidad et al contend that under the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions there is no grant to the incumbent President to exercise the constituent power to propose amendments to the new Constitution. As a consequence, the Referendum-Plebiscite on October 16 has no constitutional or legal basis. The Sol-Gen contended that the question is political in nature hence the court cannot take cognizance of it.
ISSUE: Whether or not Marcos can validly propose amendments to the Constitution.
HELD: Yes. The amending process both as to proposal and ratification raises a judicial question. This is especially true in cases where the power of the Presidency to initiate the amending process by proposals of amendments, a function normally exercised by the legislature, is seriously doubted. Under the terms of the 1973 Constitution, the power to propose amendments to the Constitution resides in the interim National Assembly during the period of transition (Sec. 15, Transitory Provisions). After that period, and the regular National Assembly in its active session, the power to propose amendments becomes ipso facto the prerogative of the regular National Assembly (Sec. 1, pars. 1 and 2 of Art. XVI, 1973 Constitution). The normal course has not been followed. Rather than calling the interim National Assembly to constitute itself into a constituent assembly, the incumbent President undertook the proposal of amendments and submitted the proposed amendments thru Presidential Decree 1033 to the people in a Referendum-Plebiscite on October 16. Unavoidably, the regularity of the procedure for amendments, written in lambent words in the very Constitution sought to be amended, raises a contestable issue. The implementing Presidential Decree Nos. 991, 1031, and 1033, which commonly purport to have the force and effect of legislation are assailed as invalid, thus the issue of the validity of said Decrees is plainly a justiciable one, within the competence of this Court to pass upon. Section 2 (2) Article X of the new Constitution provides: “All cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, executive agreement, or law shall be heard and decided by the Supreme Court en banc and no treaty, executive agreement, or law may be declared unconstitutional without the concurrence of at least ten Members. . . ..” The Supreme Court has the last word in the construction not only of treaties and statutes, but also of the Constitution itself. The amending, like all other powers organized in the Constitution, is in form a delegated and hence a limited power, so that the Supreme Court is vested with that authority to determine whether that power has been discharged within its limits.
This petition is however dismissed. The President can propose amendments to the Constitution and he was able to present those proposals to the people in sufficient time. The President at that time also sits as the legislature.
Read another version of this digest here. (Political Question)