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Sanidad vs.

Commission on Elections
[GR L-44640, 12 October 1976]; also Guzman vs. Comelec [GR L-44684], and
Gonzales vs. Commission on Elections [GR L-44714]
En Banc, Martin (J): 1 concurs in result, 4 concur in separate opinions, 2
dissent in separate opinions, 2 filed separate opinions


On 2 September 1976, President Ferdinand E. Marcos issued Presidential

Decree 991 calling for a national referendum on 16 October 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.

20 days after or on 22 September 1976, the President issued another related

decree, Presidential Decree 1031, amending the previous Presidential Decree
991, by declaring the provisions of Presidential Decree 229 providing for the
manner of voting and canvass of votes in "barangays" (Citizens Assemblies)
applicable to the national referendum-plebiscite of 16 October 1976. Quite
relevantly, Presidential Decree 1031 repealed inter alia, Section 4, of
Presidential Decree 991.

On the same date of 22 September 1976, the President issued Presidential

Decree 1033, stating the questions to he submitted to the people in the
referendum-plebiscite on 16 October 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.

The Commission on Elections was vested with the exclusive supervision and
control of the October 1976 National Referendum-Plebiscite. On 27
September 1976, Pablo C. Sanidad and Pablito V. Sanidad, father and son,
commenced L-44640 for 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 1031, insofar as it directs
the Commission on Elections to supervise, control, hold, and conduct the
Referendum-Plebiscite scheduled on 16 October 1976. They 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. On 30 September 1976, another action for
Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction, docketed as L-44684, was instituted
by Vicente M. Guzman, a delegate to the 1971 Constitutional Convention,
asserting that the power to propose amendments to, or revision of the
Constitution during the transition period is expressly conferred on the interim
National Assembly under action 16, Article XVII of the Constitution. Still
another petition for Prohibition with Preliminary Injunction was filed on 5
October 1976 by Raul M. Gonzales, his son Raul Jr., and Alfredo Salapantan,
docketed as L-44714, to restrain the implementation of Presidential Decrees
relative to the forthcoming Referendum-Plebiscite of October 16.


Whether the President may call upon a referendum for the amendment of the


Section 1 of Article XVI of the 1973 Constitution on Amendments ordains that

"(1) Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by
the National Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members, or by
a constitutional convention. (2) The National Assembly may, by a vote of
two-thirds of all its Members, call a constitutional convention or, by a
majority vote of all its Members, submit the question of calling such a
convention to the electorate in an election." Section 2 thereof provides that
"Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution shall be valid when
ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite which shall be held not
later than three months a after the approval of such amendment or revision."
In the present period of transition, the interim National Assembly instituted in
the Transitory Provisions is conferred with that amending power. Section 15
of the Transitory Provisions reads "The interim National Assembly, upon
special call by the interim Prime Minister, may, by a majority vote of all its
Members, propose amendments to this Constitution. Such amendments shall
take effect when ratified in accordance with Article Sixteen hereof." There
are, therefore, two periods contemplated in the constitutional life of the
nation, i.e., period of normalcy and period of transition. In times of normalcy,
the amending process may be initiated by the proposals of the (1) regular
National Assembly upon a vote of three-fourths of all its members; or (2) by a
Constitutional Convention called by a vote of two-thirds of all the Members of
the National Assembly. However the calling of a Constitutional Convention
may be submitted to the electorate in an election voted upon by a majority
vote of all the members of the National Assembly. In times of transition,
amendments may be proposed by a majority vote of all the Members of the
interim National Assembly upon special call by the interim Prime Minister.
The Court in Aquino v. COMELEC, had already settled that the incumbent
President is vested with that prerogative of discretion as to when he shall
initially convene the interim National Assembly. The Constitutional
Convention intended to leave to the President the determination of the time
when he shall initially convene the interim National Assembly, consistent
with the prevailing conditions of peace and order in the country. When the
Delegates to the Constitutional Convention voted on the Transitory
Provisions, they were aware of the fact that under the same, the incumbent
President was given the discretion as to when he could convene the interim
National Assembly. The President's decision to defer the convening of the
interim National Assembly soon found support from the people themselves.
In the plebiscite of January 10-15, 1973, at which the ratification of the 1973
Constitution was submitted, the people voted against the convening of the
interim National Assembly. In the referendum of 24 July 1973, the Citizens
Assemblies ("bagangays") reiterated their sovereign will to withhold the
convening of the interim National Assembly. Again, in the referendum of 27
February 1975, the proposed question of whether the interim National
Assembly shall be initially convened was eliminated, because some of the
members of Congress and delegates of the Constitutional Convention, who
were deemed automatically members of the interim National Assembly, were
against its inclusion since in that referendum of January, 1973 the people
had already resolved against it. In sensu striciore, when the legislative arm of
the state undertakes the proposals of amendment to a Constitution, that
body is not in the usual function of lawmaking. It is not legislating when
engaged in the amending process. Rather, it is exercising a peculiar power
bestowed upon it by the fundamental charter itself. In the Philippines, that
power is provided for in Article XVI of the 1973 Constitution (for the regular
National Assembly) or in Section 15 of the Transitory Provisions (for the
interim National Assembly). While ordinarily it is the business of the
legislating body to legislate for the nation by virtue of constitutional
conferment, amending of the Constitution is not legislative in character. In
political science a distinction is made between constitutional content of an
organic character and that of a legislative character. The distinction,
however, is one of policy, not of law. Such being the case, approval of the
President of any proposed amendment is a misnomer. The prerogative of the
President to approve or disapprove applies only to the ordinary cases of
legislation. The President has nothing to do with proposition or adoption of
amendments to the Constitution.

Occena vs. Commission on Elections

[GR 56350, 2 April 1981]; also Gonzales vs. National Treasurer [GR 56404]
En Banc, Fernando (CJ): 8 concur, 1 dissents in separate opinion, 1 on official

Facts: The challenge in these two prohibition proceedings against the validity
of three Batasang Pambansa Resolutions proposing constitutional
amendments, goes further than merely assailing their alleged constitutional
infirmity. Samuel Occena and Ramon A. Gonzales, both members of the
Philippine Bar and former delegates to the 1971 Constitutional Convention
that framed the present Constitution, are suing as taxpayers. The rather
unorthodox aspect of these petitions is the assertion that the 1973
Constitution is not the fundamental law, the Javellana ruling to the contrary

Issue: Whether the 1973 Constitution was valid, and in force and effect when
the Batasang Pambansa resolutions and the present petitions were
promulgated and filed, respectively.

Held: It is much too late in the day to deny the force and applicability of the
1973 Constitution. In the dispositive portion of Javellana v. The Executive
Secretary, dismissing petitions for prohibition and mandamus to declare
invalid its ratification, this Court stated that it did so by a vote of six to four.
It then concluded: "This being the vote of the majority, there is no further
judicial obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and
effect." Such a statement served a useful purpose. It could even be said that
there was a need for it. It served to clear the atmosphere. It made manifest
that as of 17 January 1973, the present Constitution came into force and
effect. With such a pronouncement by the Supreme Court and with the
recognition of the cardinal postulate that what the Supreme Court says is not
only entitled to respect but must also be obeyed, a factor for instability was
removed. Thereafter, as a matter of law, all doubts were resolved. The 1973
Constitution is the fundamental law. It is as simple as that. What cannot be
too strongly stressed is that the function of judicial review has both a positive
and a negative aspect. As was so convincingly demonstrated by Professors
Black and Murphy, the Supreme Court can check as well as legitimate. In
declaring what the law is, it may not only nullify the acts of coordinate
branches but may also sustain their validity. In the latter case, there is an
affirmation that what was done cannot be stigmatized as constitutionally
deficient. The mere dismissal of a suit of this character suffices. That is the
meaning of the concluding statement in Javellana. Since then, this Court has
invariably applied the present Constitution. The latest case in point is People
v. Sola, promulgated barely two weeks ago. During the first year alone of the
effectivity of the present Constitution, at least ten cases may be cited.
Tolentino vs. Commission on Elections
[GR 148334, 21 January 2004]
En Banc, Carpio (J): 8 concur, 1 dissents in separate opinion to which 3 join

Facts: Shortly after her succession to the Presidency in January 2001,

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo nominated then Senator Teofisto T.
Guingona, Jr. (“Senator Guingona”) as Vice-President. Congress confirmed
the nomination of Senator Guingona who took his oath as Vice-President on 9
February 2001. Following Senator Guingona’s confirmation, the Senate on 8
February 2001 passed Resolution 84 certifying to the existence of a vacancy
in the Senate. Resolution 84 called on COMELEC to fill the vacancy through a
special election to be held simultaneously with the regular elections on 14
May 2001. Twelve Senators, with a 6-year term each, were due to be elected
in that election. Resolution 84 further provided that the “Senatorial candidate
garnering the 13th highest number of votes shall serve only for the
unexpired term of former Senator Teofisto T. Guingona, Jr.,” which ends on 30
June 2004. On 5 June 2001, after COMELEC had canvassed the election
results from all the provinces but one (Lanao del Norte), COMELEC issued
Resolution 01-005 provisionally proclaiming 13 candidates as the elected
Senators. Resolution 01-005 also provided that “the first twelve (12)
Senators shall serve for a term of six (6) years and the thirteenth (13th)
Senator shall serve the unexpired term of three (3) years of Senator Teofisto
T. Guingona, Jr. who was appointed Vice-President.” Ralph Recto (“Recto”)
and Gregorio Honasan (“Honasan”) ranked 12th and 13th, respectively, in
Resolution 01-005. On 20 June 2001, Arturo Tolentino and Arturo Mojica, as
voters and taxpayers, filed the petition for prohibition, impleading only
COMELEC as respondent. Tolentino and Mojica sought to enjoin COMELEC
from proclaiming with finality the candidate for Senator receiving the 13th
highest number of votes as the winner in the special election for a single
three-year term seat. Accordingly, Tolentino and Mojica prayed for the
nullification of Resolution 01-005 in so far as it makes a proclamation to such
effect. Tolentino and Mojica contend that COMELEC issued Resolution 01-005
without jurisdiction because: (1) it failed to notify the electorate of the
position to be filled in the special election as required under Section 2 of RA
6645; (2) it failed to require senatorial candidates to indicate in their
certificates of candidacy whether they seek election under the special or
regular elections as allegedly required under Section 73 of BP 881; and,
consequently, (3) it failed to specify in the Voters Information Sheet the
candidates seeking election under the special or regular senatorial elections
as purportedly required under Section 4, paragraph 4 of RA 6646. Tolentino
and Mojica add that because of these omissions, COMELEC canvassed all the
votes cast for the senatorial candidates in the 14 May 2001 elections without
distinction such that “there were no two separate Senate elections held
simultaneously but just a single election for thirteen seats, irrespective of
term.” Tolentino and Mojica sought the issuance of a temporary restraining
order during the pendency of their petition. Without issuing any restraining
order, the Supreme Court required COMELEC to Comment on the petition.
Honasan questioned Tolentino’s and Mojica's standing to bring the instant
petition as taxpayers and voters because they do not claim that COMELEC
illegally disbursed public funds; nor claim that they sustained personal injury
because of the issuance of Resolutions 01-005 and 01-006.

Issue: Whether Tolentino and Mojica have standing to litigate.

Held: “Legal standing” or locus standi refers to a personal and substantial

interest in a case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct
injury because of the challenged governmental act. The requirement of
standing, which necessarily “sharpens the presentation of issues,” relates to
the constitutional mandate that this Court settle only actual cases or
controversies. Thus, generally, a party will be allowed to litigate only when
(1) he can show that he has personally suffered some actual or threatened
injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the
injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely
to be redressed by a favorable action. Applied strictly, the doctrine of
standing to litigate will indeed bar the present petition. In questioning, in
their capacity as voters, the validity of the special election on 14 May 2001,
Tolentino and Mojica assert a harm classified as a “generalized grievance.”
This generalized grievance is shared in substantially equal measure by a
large class of voters, if not all the voters, who voted in that election. Neither
have Tolentino and Mojica alleged, in their capacity as taxpayers, that the
Court should give due course to the petition because in the special election
held on 14 May 2001 “tax money [was] ‘x x x extracted and spent in
violation of specific constitutional protections against abuses of legislative
power’ or that there [was] misapplication of such funds by COMELEC or that
public money [was] deflected to any improper purpose.” On the other hand,
the Court has relaxed the requirement on standing and exercised our
discretion to give due course to voters’ suits involving the right of suffrage.
The Court has the discretion to take cognizance of a suit which does not
satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interest is
involved. In not a few cases, the court has adopted a liberal attitude on the
locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of
transcendental significance to the people. Thus, when the issues raised are
of paramount importance to the public, the Court may brush aside
technicalities of procedure. The Court accords the same treatment to
Tolentino and Mojica in the present case in their capacity as voters since they
raise important issues involving their right of suffrage, considering that the
issue raised in the petition is likely to arise again.