Political Law

Miriam Defensor Santiago vs Commission on Elections

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G.R. No. 127325 – 336 Phil. 848 – 270 SCRA 106 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – Basic Principles – Separation of Powers

On 6 December 1996, Atty. Jesus S. Delfin filed with COMELEC a “Petition to Amend the Constitution to Lift Term Limits of Elective Officials by People’s Initiative” The COMELEC then, upon its approval, a.) set the time and dates for signature gathering all over the country, b.) caused the necessary publication of the said petition in papers of general circulation, and c.) instructed local election registrars to assist petitioners and volunteers in establishing signing stations. On 18 December 1996, Miriam Defensor Santiago et al filed a special civil action for prohibition against the Delfin Petition. Also, Raul Roco filed with the COMELEC a motion to dismiss the Delfin petition, the petition having been untenable due to the foregoing. Santiago argues among others that the People’s Initiative is limited to amendments to the Constitution NOT a revision thereof. The extension or the lifting of the term limits of those in power (particularly the President) constitutes revision and is therefore beyond the power of people’s initiative. The respondents argued that the petition filed by Roco is pending under the COMELEC hence the Supreme Court cannot take cognizance of it.

ISSUE: Whether or not the Supreme Court can take cognizance of the case.

HELD: COMELEC acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion in entertaining the Delfin petition. Since the Delfin Petition is not the initiatory petition under R.A. No. 6735 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2300, it cannot be entertained or given cognizance of by the COMELEC. The respondent Commission must have known that the petition does not fall under any of the actions or proceedings under the COMELEC Rules of Procedure or under Resolution No. 2300, for which reason it did not assign to the petition a docket number. Hence, the said petition was merely entered as UND, meaning, undocketed. That petition was nothing more than a mere scrap of paper, which should not have been dignified by the Order of 6 December 1996, the hearing on 12 December 1996, and the order directing Delfin and the oppositors to file their memoranda or oppositions. In so dignifying it, the COMELEC acted without jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion and merely wasted its time, energy, and resources. Being so, the Supreme Court can then take cognizance of the petition for prohibition filed by Santiago notwithstanding Roco’s petition. COMELEC did not even act on Roco’s petition. In the final analysis, when the system of constitutional law is threatened by the political ambitions of man, only the Supreme Court can save a nation in peril and uphold the paramount majesty of the Constitution. It must be recalled that intervenor Roco filed with the COMELEC a motion to dismiss the Delfin Petition on the ground that the COMELEC has no jurisdiction or authority to entertain the petition. The COMELEC made no ruling thereon evidently because after having heard the arguments of Delfin and the oppositors at the hearing on 12 December 1996, it required them to submit within five days their memoranda or oppositions/memoranda. Earlier, or specifically on 6 Dec 1996, it practically gave due course to the Delfin Petition by ordering Delfin to cause the publication of the petition, together with the attached Petition for Initiative, the signature form, and the notice of hearing; and by setting the case for hearing.

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Revision vs Amendment to the Constitution

Amendment to the Constitution

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