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ARCETA VS MANGROBANG

EN BANC
[G.R. No. 152895. June 15, 2004]
OFELIA V. ARCETA, petitioner, vs. The Honorable
MA. CELESTINA C. MANGROBANG, Presiding Judge, Branch 54,
Metropolitan Trial Court of Navotas, Metro Manila, respondent.
[G.R. No. 153151. June 15, 2004]
GLORIA S. DY, petitioner, vs. The Honorable EDWIN B. RAMIZO,
Presiding Judge, Branch 53, Metropolitan Trial Court of
Caloocan City, respondent.
R E S O L U T I O N
QUISUMBING, J .:
For resolution are two consolidated
[1]
petitions under Rule 65 of the Rules
of Court, for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, with prayers for a
temporary restraining order. Both assail the constitutionality of the Bouncing
Checks Law, also known as Batas Pambansa Bilang 22.
In G.R. No. 152895, petitioner Ofelia V. Arceta prays that we order the
Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) of Navotas, Metro Manila, Branch 54, to
cease and desist from hearing Criminal Case No. 1599-CR for violation of
B.P. Blg. 22, and then dismiss the case against her. In G.R. No. 153151,
petitioner Gloria S. Dy also prays that this Court order the MeTC of Caloocan
City to cease and desist from proceeding with Criminal Case No. 212183, and
subsequently dismiss the case against her. In fine, however, we find that
what both petitioners seek is that the Court should revisit and abandon the
doctrine laid down in Lozano v. Martinez,
[2]
which upheld the validity of the
Bouncing Checks Law.
The facts of these cases are not in dispute.
1. G.R. No. 152895
The City Prosecutor of Navotas, Metro Manila charged Ofelia
V. Arceta with violating B.P. Blg. 22 in an Information, which was docketed as
Criminal Case No. 1599-CR. The accusatory portion of said Information
reads:
That on or about the 16
th
day of September 1998, in Navotas, Metro Manila, and
within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then
and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously make or draw and issue to OSCAR R.
CASTRO, to apply on account or for value the check described below:
Check No : 00082270
Drawn Against : The Region Bank
In the Amount of : P740,000.00
Date : December 21, 1998
Payable to : Cash
said accused well-knowing that at the time of issue Ofelia V. Arceta did not have
sufficient funds or credit with the drawee bank for the payment, which check when
presented for payment within ninety (90) days from the date thereof was subsequently
dishonored by the drawee bank for reason DRAWN AGAINST INSUFFICIENT
FUNDS, and despite receipt of notice of such dishonor, the accused failed to pay said
payee with the face amount of said check or to make arrangement for full payment
thereof within five (5) banking days after receiving notice.
CONTRARY TO LAW.
[3]

Arceta did not move to have the charge against her dismissed or the
Information quashed on the ground that B.P. Blg. 22 was
unconstitutional. She reasoned out that with the Lozanodoctrine still in place,
such a move would be an exercise in futility for it was highly unlikely that the
trial court would grant her motion and thus go against prevailing
jurisprudence.
On October 21, 2002,
[4]
Arceta was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to
the charge. However, she manifested that her arraignment should be without
prejudice to the present petition or to any other actions she would take to
suspend proceedings in the trial court.
Arceta then filed the instant petition.
2. G.R. No. 153151
The Office of the City Prosecutor of Caloocan filed a charge sheet against
Gloria S. Dy for violation of the Bouncing Checks Law, docketed by the MeTC
of Caloocan City as Criminal Case No. 212183. Dy allegedly committed the
offense in this wise:
That on or about the month of January 2000 in Caloocan City, Metro Manila,
Philippines and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named
accused, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully and feloniously make and issue
Check No. 0000329230 drawn against PRUDENTIAL BANK in the amount
of P2,500,000.00 dated January 19, 2000 to apply for value in favor of ANITA CHUA
well knowing at the time of issue that she has no sufficient funds in or credit with the
drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment which check
was subsequently dishonored for the reason ACCOUNT CLOSED and with intent
to defraud failed and still fails to pay the said complainant the amount
of P2,500,000.00 despite receipt of notice from the drawee bank that said check has
been dishonored and had not been paid.
Contrary to Law.
[5]

Like Arceta, Dy made no move to dismiss the charges against her on the
ground that B.P. Blg. 22 was unconstitutional. Dy likewise believed that any
move on her part to quash the indictment or to dismiss the charges on said
ground would fail in view of the Lozano ruling. Instead, she filed a petition
with this Court invoking its power of judicial review to have the said law voided
for Constitutional infirmity.
Both Arceta and Dy raise the following identical issues for our resolution:
[a] Does section 1 really penalize the act of issuing a check subsequently
dishonored by the bank for lack of funds?
[b] What is the effect if the dishonored check is not paid pursuant to section 2 of
BP 22?
[c] What is the effect if it is so paid?
[d] Does section 2 make BP 22 a debt collecting law under threat of imprisonment?
[e] Does BP 22 violate the constitutional proscription against imprisonment for
non-payment of debt?
[f] Is BP 22 a valid exercise of the police power of the state?
[6]

After minute scrutiny of petitioners submissions, we find that the basic
issue being raised in these special civil actions for certiorari, prohibition, and
mandamus concern the unconstitutionality or invalidity of B.P. Blg.
22. Otherwise put, the petitions constitute an oblique attack on the
constitutionality of the Bouncing Checks Law, a matter already passed upon
by the Court through Justice (later Chief Justice) Pedro Yap almost two
decades ago. Petitioners add, however, among the pertinent issues one
based on the observable but worrisome transformation of certain metropolitan
trial courts into seeming collection agencies of creditors whose complaints
now clog the court dockets.
But let us return to basics. When the issue of unconstitutionality of a
legislative act is raised, it is the established doctrine that the Court may
exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are present:
(1) an actual and appropriate case and controversy exists; (2) a personal and
substantial interest of the party raising the constitutional question; (3) the
exercise of judicial review is pleaded at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the
constitutional question raised is the very lis mota of the case.
[7]
Only when
these requisites are satisfied may the Court assume jurisdiction over a
question of unconstitutionality or invalidity of an act of Congress. With due
regard to counsels spirited advocacy in both cases, we are unable to agree
that the abovecited requisites have been adequately met.
Perusal of these petitions reveals that they are primarily anchored on Rule
65, Section 1
[8]
of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. In a special civil action of
certiorari the only question that may be raised is whether or not the
respondent has acted without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse
of discretion.
[9]
Yet nowhere in these petitions is there any allegation that the
respondent judges acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or
excess of jurisdiction. A special civil action for certiorari will prosper only if a
grave abuse of discretion is manifested.
[10]

Noteworthy, the instant petitions are conspicuously devoid of any
attachments or annexes in the form of a copy of an order, decision, or
resolution issued by the respondent judges so as to place them
understandably within the ambit of Rule 65. What are appended to the
petitions are only copies of the Informations in the respective cases, nothing
else. Evidently, these petitions for a writ of certiorari, prohibition and
mandamus do not qualify as the actual and appropriate cases contemplated
by the rules as the first requisite for the exercise of this Courts power of
judicial review. For as the petitions clearly show on their faces petitioners
have not come to us with sufficient cause of action.
Instead, it appears to us that herein petitioners have placed the cart before
the horse, figuratively speaking. Simply put, they have ignored the hierarchy
of courts outlined in Rule 65, Section 4
[11]
of the 1997 Rules of Civil
Procedure. Seeking judicial review at the earliest opportunity does not mean
immediately elevating the matter to this Court. Earliest opportunity means
that the question of unconstitutionality of the act in question should have been
immediately raised in the proceedings in the court below. Thus, the
petitioners should have moved to quash the separate indictments or moved to
dismiss the cases in the proceedings in the trial courts on the ground of
unconstitutionality of B.P. Blg. 22. But the records show that petitioners failed
to initiate such moves in the proceedings below. Needless to emphasize, this
Court could not entertain questions on the invalidity of a statute where that
issue was not specifically raised, insisted upon, and adequately
argued.
[12]
Taking into account the early stage of the trial proceedings below,
the instant petitions are patently premature.
Nor do we find the constitutional question herein raised to be the
very lis mota presented in the controversy below. Every law has in its favor
the presumption of constitutionality, and to justify its nullification, there must
be a clear and unequivocal breach of the Constitution, and not one that is
doubtful, speculative or argumentative.
[13]
We have examined the contentions
of the petitioners carefully; but they still have to persuade us that B.P. Blg. 22
by itself or in its implementation transgressed a provision of the
Constitution. Even the thesis of petitioner Dythat the present economic and
financial crisis should be a basis to declare the Bouncing Checks Law
constitutionally infirm deserves but scant consideration. As we stressed
in Lozano, it is precisely during trying times that there exists a most
compelling reason to strengthen faith and confidence in the financial system
and any practice tending to destroy confidence in checks as currency
substitutes should be deterred, to prevent havoc in the trading and financial
communities. Further, while indeed the metropolitan trial courts may be
burdened immensely by bouncing checks cases now, that fact is immaterial to
the alleged invalidity of the law being assailed. The solution to the clogging of
dockets in lower courts lies elsewhere.
WHEREFORE, the instant petitions are DISMISSED for utter lack of
merit.
SO ORDERED.

YAP VS THENAMARIS

Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

SECOND DIVISION

CLAUDIO S. YAP,
Petitioner,


- versus -


THENAMARIS SHIPS MANAGEMENT
and INTERMARE MARITIME AGENCIES,
INC.,
Respondents.
G.R. No. 179532
Present:

CARPIO, J.,
Chairperson,
NACHURA,
PERALTA,
ABAD, and
MENDOZA, JJ.
Promulgated:
May 30, 2011
x------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x


DECISION

NACHURA, J .:


Before this Court is a Petition for Review on Certiorari
[1]
under Rule 45 of
the Rules of Civil Procedure, seeking the reversal of the Court of Appeals (CA)
Decision
[2]
dated February 28, 2007, which affirmed with modification the National
Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) resolution
[3]
dated April 20, 2005.

The undisputed facts, as found by the CA, are as follows:


[Petitioner] Claudio S. Yap was employed as electrician of the
vessel, M/T SEASCOUT on 14 August 2001 by Intermare Maritime
Agencies, Inc. in behalf of its principal, Vulture Shipping Limited. The
contract of employment entered into by Yap and Capt. Francisco B.
Adviento, the General Manager of Intermare, was for a duration of 12
months. On 23 August 2001,Yap boarded M/T SEASCOUT and
commenced his job as electrician. However, on or about 08 November
2001, the vessel was sold. The Philippine Overseas Employment
Administration (POEA) was informed about the sale on 06 December
2001 in a letter signed by Capt. Adviento. Yap, along with the other
crewmembers, was informed by the Master of their vessel that the same
was sold and will be scrapped. They were also informed about
the Advisory sent by Capt. Constatinou, which states, among others:

PLEASE ASK YR OFFICERS AND RATINGS IF THEY
WISH TO BE TRANSFERRED TO OTHER VESSELS AFTER
VESSEL S DELIVERY (GREEK VIA ATHENS-PHILIPINOS
VIA MANILA
FOR CREW NOT WISH TRANSFER TO DECLARE THEIR
PROSPECTED TIME FOR REEMBARKATION IN ORDER TO
SCHEDULE THEM ACCLY

Yap received his seniority bonus, vacation bonus, extra bonus
along with the scrapping bonus. However, with respect to the payment
of his wage, he refused to accept the payment of one-month basic
wage. He insisted that he was entitled to the payment of the unexpired
portion of his contract since he was illegally dismissed from
employment. He alleged that he opted for immediate transfer but none
was made.

[Respondents], for their part, contended that Yap was not
illegally dismissed. They alleged that following the sale of the M/T
SEASCOUT, Yap signed off from the vessel on 10 November 2001 and
was paid his wages corresponding to the months he worked or until 10
November 2001 plus his seniority bonus, vacation bonus and extra
bonus. They further alleged that Yaps employment contract was
validly terminated due to the sale of the vessel and no arrangement was
made for Yaps transfer to Thenamaris other vessels.
[4]



Thus, Claudio S. Yap (petitioner) filed a complaint for Illegal Dismissal
with Damages and Attorneys Fees before the Labor Arbiter (LA). Petitioner
claimed that he was entitled to the salaries corresponding to the unexpired portion
of his contract. Subsequently, he filed an amended complaint, impleading Captain
Francisco Adviento of respondents Intermare Maritime Agencies, Inc. (Intermare)
and Thenamaris Ships Management (respondents), together with C.J. Martionos,
Interseas Trading and Financing Corporation, and Vulture Shipping Limited/Stejo
Shipping Limited.

On July 26, 2004, the LA rendered a decision
[5]
in favor of petitioner,
finding the latter to have been constructively and illegally dismissed by
respondents. Moreover, the LA found that respondents acted in bad faith when
they assured petitioner of re-embarkation and required him to produce an
electrician certificate during the period of his contract, but actually he was not able
to board one despite of respondents numerous vessels. Petitioner made several
follow-ups for his re-embarkation but respondents failed to heed his plea; thus,
petitioner was forced to litigate in order to vindicate his rights. Lastly, the LA
opined that since the unexpired portion of petitioners contract was less than one
year, petitioner was entitled to his salaries for the unexpired portion of his contract
for a period of nine months. The LA disposed, as follows:


WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, a decision is hereby
rendered declaring complainant to have been constructively
dismissed. Accordingly, respondents Intermare Maritime Agency
Incorporated, Thenamaris Ships Mgt., and Vulture Shipping Limited are
ordered to pay jointly and severally complainant Claudio S. Yap the sum
of $12,870.00 or its peso equivalent at the time of payment. In addition,
moral damages of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND PESOS
(P100,000.00) and exemplary damages of FIFTY THOUSAND
PESOS (P50,000.00) are awarded plus ten percent (10%) of the total
award as attorneys fees.

Other money claims are DISMISSED for lack of merit.

SO ORDERED.
[6]



Aggrieved, respondents sought recourse from the NLRC.

In its decision
[7]
dated January 14, 2005, the NLRC affirmed the LAs
findings that petitioner was indeed constructively and illegally dismissed; that
respondents bad faith was evident on their wilful failure to transfer petitioner to
another vessel; and that the award of attorneys fees was warranted. However, the
NLRC held that instead of an award of salaries corresponding to nine months,
petitioner was only entitled to salaries for three months as provided under Section
10
[8]
of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 8042,
[9]
as enunciated in our ruling in Marsaman
Manning Agency, Inc. v. National Labor Relations Commission.
[10]
Hence, the
NLRC ruled in this wise:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, the decision of the Labor
Arbiter finding the termination of complainant illegal is hereby
AFFIRMED with a MODIFICATION. Complainant[s] salary for the
unexpired portion of his contract should only be limited to three (3)
months basic salary.

Respondents Intermare Maritime Agency, Inc.[,] Vulture
Shipping Limited and Thenamaris Ship Management are hereby ordered
to jointly and severally pay complainant, the following:

1. Three (3) months basic salary US$4,290.00 or its peso
equivalent at the time of actual payment.
2. Moral damages P100,000.00
3. Exemplary damages P50,000.00
4. Attorneys fees equivalent to 10% of the total monetary
award.

SO ORDERED.
[11]


Respondents filed a Motion for Partial Reconsideration,
[12]
praying for the
reversal and setting aside of the NLRC decision, and that a new one be rendered
dismissing the complaint. Petitioner, on the other hand, filed his own Motion for
Partial Reconsideration,
[13]
praying that he be paid the nine (9)-month basic salary,
as awarded by the LA.

On April 20, 2005, a resolution
[14]
was rendered by the NLRC, affirming the
findings of Illegal Dismissal and respondents failure to transfer petitioner to
another vessel. However, finding merit in petitioners arguments, the NLRC
reversed its earlier Decision, holding that there can be no choice to grant only
three (3) months salary for every year of the unexpired term because there is no
full year of unexpired term which this can be applied. Hence


WHEREFORE, premises considered, complainants Motion for
Partial Reconsideration is hereby granted. The award of three (3)
months basic salary in the sum of US$4,290.00 is hereby modified in
that complainant is entitled to his salary for the unexpired portion of
employment contract in the sum of US$12,870.00 or its peso equivalent
at the time of actual payment.

All aspect of our January 14, 2005 Decision STANDS.

SO ORDERED.
[15]



Respondents filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which the NLRC denied.

Undaunted, respondents filed a petition for certiorari
[16]
under Rule 65
of the Rules of Civil Procedure before the CA. On February 28, 2007, the CA
affirmed the findings and ruling of the LA and the NLRC that petitioner was
constructively and illegally dismissed. The CA held that respondents failed to
show that the NLRC acted without statutory authority and that its findings were not
supported by law, jurisprudence, and evidence on record. Likewise, the CA
affirmed the lower agencies findings that the advisory of Captain Constantinou,
taken together with the other documents and additional requirements imposed on
petitioner, only meant that the latter should have been re-embarked. In the same
token, the CA upheld the lower agencies unanimous finding of bad faith,
warranting the imposition of moral and exemplary damages and attorneys fees.
However, the CA ruled that the NLRC erred in sustaining the LAs interpretation
of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042. In this regard, the CA relied on the clause or for
three months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less provided in
the 5
th
paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 and held:

In the present case, the employment contract concerned has a term
of one year or 12 months which commenced on August 14, 2001.
However, it was preterminated without a valid cause. [Petitioner] was
paid his wages for the corresponding months he worked until the 10
th
of
November. Pursuant to the provisions of Sec. 10, [R.A. No.] 8042,
therefore, the option of three months for every year of the unexpired
term is applicable.
[17]


Thus, the CA provided, to wit:

WHEREFORE, premises considered, this Petition for Certiorari
is DENIED. The Decision dated January 14, 2005,
and Resolutions, dated April 20, 2005 and July 29, 2005, respectively, of
public respondent National Labor Relations Commission-Fourth
Division, Cebu City, in NLRC No. V-000038-04 (RAB VIII (OFW)-04-
01-0006) are hereby AFFIRMED with the MODIFICATION that
private respondent is entitled to three (3) months of basic salary
computed at US$4,290.00 or its peso equivalent at the time of actual
payment.

Costs against Petitioners.
[18]

Both parties filed their respective motions for reconsideration, which the
CA, however, denied in its Resolution
[19]
dated August 30, 2007.

Unyielding, petitioner filed this petition, raising the following issues:

1) Whether or not Section 10 of R.A. [No.] 8042, to the extent that it
affords an illegally dismissed migrant worker the lesser benefit of
salaries for [the] unexpired portion of his employment
contract or for three (3) months for every year of the unexpired
term, whichever is less is constitutional; and

2) Assuming that it is, whether or not the Court of Appeals gravely
erred in granting petitioner only three (3) months backwages when
his unexpired term of 9 months is far short of the every year of
the unexpired term threshold.
[20]



In the meantime, while this case was pending before this Court, we declared
as unconstitutional the clause or for three months for every year of the unexpired
term, whichever is less provided in the 5
th
paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No.
8042 in the case of Serrano v. Gallant Maritime Services, Inc.
[21]
on March 24,
2009.

Apparently, unaware of our ruling in Serrano, petitioner claims that the
5
th
paragraph of Section 10, R.A. No. 8042, is violative of Section 1,
[22]
Article III
and Section 3,
[23]
Article XIII of the Constitution to the extent that it gives an
erring employer the option to pay an illegally dismissed migrant worker only three
months for every year of the unexpired term of his contract; that said provision of
law has long been a source of abuse by callous employers against migrant workers;
and that said provision violates the equal protection clause under the Constitution
because, while illegally dismissed local workers are guaranteed under the Labor
Code of reinstatement with full backwages computed from the time compensation
was withheld from them up to their actual reinstatement, migrant workers, by
virtue of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042, have to waive nine months of their
collectible backwages every time they have a year of unexpired term of contract to
reckon with. Finally, petitioner posits that, assuming said provision of law is
constitutional, the CA gravely abused its discretion when it reduced petitioners
backwages from nine months to three months as his nine-month unexpired term
cannot accommodate the lesser relief of three months for every year of the
unexpired term.
[24]


On the other hand, respondents, aware of our ruling in Serrano, aver that our
pronouncement of unconstitutionality of the clause or for three months for every
year of the unexpired term, whichever is less provided in the 5
th
paragraph of
Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 in Serrano should not apply in this case because
Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 is a substantive law that deals with the rights and
obligations of the parties in case of Illegal Dismissal of a migrant worker and is not
merely procedural in character. Thus, pursuant to the Civil Code, there should be
no retroactive application of the law in this case. Moreover, respondents asseverate
that petitioners tanker allowance of US$130.00 should not be included in the
computation of the award as petitioners basic salary, as provided under his
contract, was only US$1,300.00. Respondents submit that the CA erred in its
computation since it included the said tanker allowance. Respondents opine that
petitioner should be entitled only to US$3,900.00 and not to US$4,290.00, as
granted by the CA. Invoking Serrano, respondents claim that the tanker allowance
should be excluded from the definition of the term salary. Also, respondents
manifest that the full sum ofP878,914.47 in Intermares bank account was
garnished and subsequently withdrawn and deposited with the NLRC Cashier of
Tacloban City on February 14, 2007. On February 16, 2007, while this case was
pending before the CA, the LA issued an Order releasing the amount
of P781,870.03 to petitioner as his award, together with the sum of P86,744.44 to
petitioners former lawyer as attorneys fees, and the amount of P3,570.00 as
execution and deposit fees. Thus, respondents pray that the instant petition be
denied and that petitioner be directed to return to Intermare the sum of
US$8,970.00 or its peso equivalent.
[25]


On this note, petitioner counters that this new issue as to the inclusion of the
tanker allowance in the computation of the award was not raised by respondents
before the LA, the NLRC and the CA, nor was it raised in respondents pleadings
other than in their Memorandum before this Court, which should not be allowed
under the circumstances.
[26]


The petition is impressed with merit.

Prefatorily, it bears emphasis that the unanimous finding of the LA, the
NLRC and the CA that the dismissal of petitioner was illegal is not disputed.
Likewise not disputed is the tribunals unanimous finding of bad faith on the part
of respondents, thus, warranting the award of moral and exemplary damages and
attorneys fees. What remains in issue, therefore, is the constitutionality of the
5
th
paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 and, necessarily, the proper
computation of the lump-sum salary to be awarded to petitioner by reason of his
illegal dismissal.

Verily, we have already declared in Serrano that the clause or for three
months for every year of the unexpired term, whichever is less provided in the
5
th
paragraph of Section 10 of R.A. No. 8042 is unconstitutional for being violative
of the rights of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to equal protection of the laws.
In an exhaustive discussion of the intricacies and ramifications of the said clause,
this Court, in Serrano, pertinently held:

The Court concludes that the subject clause contains a suspect
classification in that, in the computation of the monetary benefits of
fixed-term employees who are illegally discharged, it imposes a 3-
month cap on the claim of OFWs with an unexpired portion of one
year or more in their contracts, but none on the claims of other OFWs
or local workers with fixed-term employment. The subject clause
singles out one classification of OFWs and burdens it with a peculiar
disadvantage.
[27]



Moreover, this Court held therein that the subject clause does not state or
imply any definitive governmental purpose; hence, the same violates not just
therein petitioners right to equal protection, but also his right to substantive due
process under Section 1, Article III of the Constitution.
[28]
Consequently, petitioner
therein was accorded his salaries for the entire unexpired period of nine months
and 23 days of his employment contract, pursuant to law and jurisprudence prior to
the enactment of R.A. No. 8042.

We have already spoken. Thus, this case should not be different
from Serrano.

As a general rule, an unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no rights; it
imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is inoperative as
if it has not been passed at all. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the
Civil Code, which provides:

Art. 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their
violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse or custom or
practice to the contrary.


The doctrine of operative fact serves as an exception to the aforementioned
general rule. In Planters Products, Inc. v. Fertiphil Corporation,
[29]
we held:

The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule,
only applies as a matter of equity and fair play. It nullifies the effects of
an unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute
prior to a determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and
may have consequences which cannot always be ignored. The past
cannot always be erased by a new judicial declaration.

The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of
unconstitutionality will impose an undue burden on those who have
relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was applied to a criminal case when a
declaration of unconstitutionality would put the accused in double
jeopardy or would put in limbo the acts done by a municipality in
reliance upon a law creating it.
[30]


Following Serrano, we hold that this case should not be included in the
aforementioned exception. After all, it was not the fault of petitioner that he lost
his job due to an act of illegal dismissal committed by respondents. To rule
otherwise would be iniquitous to petitioner and other OFWs, and would, in effect,
send a wrong signal that principals/employers and recruitment/manning agencies
may violate an OFWs security of tenure which an employment contract embodies
and actually profit from such violation based on an unconstitutional provision of
law.

In the same vein, we cannot subscribe to respondents postulation that the
tanker allowance of US$130.00 should not be included in the computation of the
lump-sum salary to be awarded to petitioner.

First. It is only at this late stage, more particularly in their Memorandum,
that respondents are raising this issue. It was not raised before the LA, the NLRC,
and the CA. They did not even assail the award accorded by the CA, which
computed the lump-sum salary of petitioner at the basic salary of US$1,430.00,
and which clearly included the US$130.00 tanker allowance. Hence, fair play,
justice, and due process dictate that this Court cannot now, for the first time on
appeal, pass upon this question. Matters not taken up below cannot be raised for
the first time on appeal. They must be raised seasonably in the proceedings before
the lower tribunals. Questions raised on appeal must be within the issues framed by
the parties; consequently, issues not raised before the lower tribunals cannot be
raised for the first time on appeal.
[31]


Second. Respondents invocation of Serrano is unavailing. Indeed, we made
the following pronouncements in Serrano, to wit:

The word salaries in Section 10(5) does not include overtime
and leave pay. For seafarers like petitioner, DOLE Department Order
No. 33, series 1996, provides a Standard Employment Contract of
Seafarers, in which salary is understood as the basic wage, exclusive
of overtime, leave pay and other bonuses; whereas overtime pay is
compensation for all work performed in excess of the regular eight
hours, and holiday pay is compensation for any work performed on
designated rest days and holidays.
[32]



A close perusal of the contract reveals that the tanker allowance of
US$130.00 was not categorized as a bonus but was rather encapsulated in the basic
salary clause, hence, forming part of the basic salary of petitioner. Respondents
themselves in their petition for certiorari before the CA averred that petitioners
basic salary, pursuant to the contract, was US$1,300.00 + US$130.00 tanker
allowance.
[33]
If respondents intended it differently, the contract per se should
have indicated that said allowance does not form part of the basic salary or, simply,
the contract should have separated it from the basic salary clause.

A final note.

We ought to be reminded of the plight and sacrifices of our
OFWs. In Olarte v. Nayona,
[34]
this Court held that:

Our overseas workers belong to a disadvantaged class. Most of
them come from the poorest sector of our society. Their profile shows
they live in suffocating slums, trapped in an environment of crimes.
Hardly literate and in ill health, their only hope lies in jobs they find with
difficulty in our country. Their unfortunate circumstance makes them
easy prey to avaricious employers. They will climb mountains, cross the
seas, endure slave treatment in foreign lands just to survive. Out of
despondence, they will work under sub-human conditions and accept
salaries below the minimum. The least we can do is to protect them with
our laws.


WHEREFORE, the Petition is GRANTED. The Court of Appeals
Decision dated February 28, 2007 and Resolution dated August 30, 2007 are
hereby MODIFIED to the effect that petitioner is AWARDED his salaries for the
entire unexpired portion of his employment contract consisting of nine months
computed at the rate of US$1,430.00 per month. All other awards are
hereby AFFIRMED. No costs.

SO ORDERED.

PLANTERS PRODUCT INC. VS FERTIPHIL CORP


Republic of the Philippines
Supreme Court
Manila

THIRD DIVISION


PLANTERS PRODUCTS, INC., G.R. No. 166006
Petitioner,
Present:

YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.,
Chairperson,
AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ,
- versus - CHICO-NAZARIO,
NACHURA, and
REYES, JJ.


Promulgated:
FERTIPHIL CORPORATION,
Respondent. March 14, 2008

x - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - x

D E C I S I O N


REYES, R.T., J .:


THE Regional Trial Courts (RTC) have the authority and jurisdiction to
consider the constitutionality of statutes, executive orders, presidential decrees and
other issuances. The Constitution vests that power not only in the Supreme Court
but in all Regional Trial Courts.

The principle is relevant in this petition for review on certiorari of the
Decision
[1]
of the Court of Appeals (CA) affirming with modification that of
the RTC in Makati City,
[2]
finding petitioner Planters Products, Inc. (PPI) liable to
private respondent Fertiphil Corporation (Fertiphil) for the levies it paid under
Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 1465.

The Facts

Petitioner PPI and private respondent Fertiphil are private corporations
incorporated under Philippine laws.
[3]
They are both engaged in the importation
and distribution of fertilizers, pesticides and agricultural chemicals.

On June 3, 1985, then President Ferdinand Marcos, exercising his legislative
powers, issued LOI No. 1465 which provided, among others, for the imposition of
a capital recovery component (CRC) on the domestic sale of all grades of
fertilizers in the Philippines.
[4]
The LOI provides:

3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in
its fertilizer pricing formula a capital contribution component of not
less than P10 per bag. This capital contribution shall be collected
until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable. Such capital
contribution shall be applied by FPA to all domestic sales of
fertilizers in the Philippines.
[5]
(Underscoring supplied)

Pursuant to the LOI, Fertiphil paid P10 for every bag of fertilizer it sold in
the domestic market to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). FPA then
remitted the amount collected to the Far East Bank and Trust Company, the
depositary bank of PPI. Fertiphil paid P6,689,144 to FPA from July 8,
1985 to January 24, 1986.
[6]


After the 1986 Edsa Revolution, FPA voluntarily stopped the imposition of
the P10 levy. With the return of democracy, Fertiphil demanded from PPI a refund
of the amounts it paid under LOI No. 1465, but PPI refused to accede to the
demand.
[7]


Fertiphil filed a complaint for collection and damages
[8]
against FPA and PPI
with the RTC in Makati. It questioned the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 for
being unjust, unreasonable, oppressive, invalid and an unlawful imposition that
amounted to a denial of due process of law.
[9]
Fertiphil alleged that the LOI solely
favored PPI, a privately owned corporation, which used the proceeds to maintain
its monopoly of the fertilizer industry.

In its Answer,
[10]
FPA, through the Solicitor General, countered that the
issuance of LOI No. 1465 was a valid exercise of the police power of the State in
ensuring the stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. It also averred that
Fertiphil did not sustain any damage from the LOI because the burden imposed by
the levy fell on the ultimate consumer, not the seller.

RTC Disposition

On November 20, 1991, the RTC rendered judgment in favor of Fertiphil,
disposing as follows:

WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Court hereby
renders judgment in favor of the plaintiff and against the defendant
Planters Product, Inc., ordering the latter to pay the former:

1) the sum of P6,698,144.00 with interest at 12% from
the time of judicial demand;
2) the sum of P100,000 as attorneys fees;
3) the cost of suit.

SO ORDERED.
[11]





Ruling that the imposition of the P10 CRC was an exercise of the States
inherent power of taxation, the RTC invalidated the levy for violating the basic
principle that taxes can only be levied for public purpose, viz.:

It is apparent that the imposition of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in
the country by LOI 1465 is purportedly in the exercise of the power of
taxation. It is a settled principle that the power of taxation by the state is
plenary. Comprehensive and supreme, the principal check upon its
abuse resting in the responsibility of the members of the legislature to
their constituents. However, there are two kinds of limitations on the
power of taxation: the inherent limitations and the constitutional
limitations.

One of the inherent limitations is that a tax may be levied only
for public purposes:

The power to tax can be resorted to only for a
constitutionally valid public purpose. By the same token,
taxes may not be levied for purely private purposes, for
building up of private fortunes, or for the redress of private
wrongs. They cannot be levied for the improvement of
private property, or for the benefit, and promotion of
private enterprises, except where the aid is incident to the
public benefit. It is well-settled principle of constitutional
law that no general tax can be levied except for the purpose
of raising money which is to be expended for public
use. Funds cannot be exacted under the guise of taxation to
promote a purpose that is not of public interest. Without
such limitation, the power to tax could be exercised or
employed as an authority to destroy the economy of the
people. A tax, however, is not held void on the ground of
want of public interest unless the want of such interest is
clear. (71 Am. Jur. pp. 371-372)

In the case at bar, the plaintiff paid the amount of P6,698,144.00
to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority pursuant to the P10 per bag of
fertilizer sold imposition under LOI 1465 which, in turn, remitted the
amount to the defendant Planters Products, Inc. thru the latters
depository bank, Far East Bank and Trust Co. Thus, by virtue of LOI
1465 the plaintiff, Fertiphil Corporation, which is a private domestic
corporation, became poorer by the amount of P6,698,144.00 and the
defendant, Planters Product, Inc., another private domestic corporation,
became richer by the amount of P6,698,144.00.

Tested by the standards of constitutionality as set forth in the
afore-quoted jurisprudence, it is quite evident that LOI 1465 insofar as it
imposes the amount of P10 per fertilizer bag sold in the country and
orders that the said amount should go to the defendant Planters Product,
Inc. is unlawful because it violates the mandate that a tax can be levied
only for a public purpose and not to benefit, aid and promote a private
enterprise such as Planters Product, Inc.
[12]


PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.
[13]
PPI then filed a
notice of appeal with the RTC but it failed to pay the requisite appeal docket
fee. In a separate but related proceeding, this Court
[14]
allowed the appeal of PPI
and remanded the case to the CA for proper disposition.

CA Decision

On November 28, 2003, the CA handed down its decision affirming with
modification that of the RTC, with the following fallo:

IN VIEW OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the decision appealed
from is hereby AFFIRMED, subject to the MODIFICATION that the
award of attorneys fees is hereby DELETED.
[15]


In affirming the RTC decision, the CA ruled that the lis mota of the
complaint for collection was the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465, thus:

The question then is whether it was proper for the trial court to
exercise its power to judicially determine the constitutionality of the
subject statute in the instant case.

As a rule, where the controversy can be settled on other grounds,
the courts will not resolve the constitutionality of a law (Lim v.
Pacquing, 240 SCRA 649 [1995]). The policy of the courts is to avoid
ruling on constitutional questions and to presume that the acts of
political departments are valid, absent a clear and unmistakable showing
to the contrary.

However, the courts are not precluded from exercising such
power when the following requisites are obtaining in a controversy
before it: First, there must be before the court an actual case calling for
the exercise of judicial review. Second, the question must be ripe for
adjudication. Third, the person challenging the validity of the act must
have standing to challenge. Fourth, the question of constitutionality
must have been raised at the earliest opportunity; and lastly, the issue of
constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case (Integrated Bar of
the Philippines v. Zamora, 338 SCRA 81 [2000]).

Indisputably, the present case was primarily instituted for
collection and damages. However, a perusal of the complaint also
reveals
that the instant action is founded on the claim that the levy imposed was
an unlawful and unconstitutional special assessment. Consequently, the
requisite that the constitutionality of the law in question be the very lis
mota of the case is present, making it proper for the trial court to rule on
the constitutionality of LOI 1465.
[16]


The CA held that even on the assumption that LOI No. 1465 was issued
under the police power of the state, it is still unconstitutional because it did not
promote public welfare. The CA explained:

In declaring LOI 1465 unconstitutional, the trial court held that
the levy imposed under the said law was an invalid exercise of the
States power of taxation inasmuch as it violated the inherent and
constitutional prescription that taxes be levied only for public
purposes. It reasoned out that the amount collected under the levy was
remitted to the depository bank of PPI, which the latter used to advance
its private interest.

On the other hand, appellant submits that the subject statutes
passage was a valid exercise of police power. In addition, it disputes the
court a quos findings arguing that the collections under LOI 1465 was
for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation
created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers, the stock
ownership of PPI.

Of the three fundamental powers of the State, the exercise of
police power has been characterized as the most essential, insistent and
the least limitable of powers, extending as it does to all the great public
needs. It may be exercised as long as the activity or the property sought
to be regulated has some relevance to public welfare (Constitutional
Law, by Isagani A. Cruz, p. 38, 1995 Edition).

Vast as the power is, however, it must be exercised within the
limits set by the Constitution, which requires the concurrence of a lawful
subject and a lawful method. Thus, our courts have laid down the test to
determine the validity of a police measure as follows: (1) the interests of
the public generally, as distinguished from those of a particular class,
requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably
necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly
oppressive upon individuals (National Development Company v.
Philippine Veterans Bank, 192 SCRA 257 [1990]).

It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial
courts holding LOI 1465 unconstitutional. To be sure, ensuring the
continued supply and distribution of fertilizer in the country is an
undertaking imbued with public interest. However, the method by which
LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no means a measure that will
promote the public welfare. The governments commitment to support
the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI, a private
corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject statutes
impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity,
like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the countrys farmers or
even the Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due
process exacts fairness and equal protection disallows distinction where
none is needed. When a statutes public purpose is spoiled by private
interest, the use of police power becomes a travesty which must be
struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government power. To
rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that
revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes
or for the exclusive benefit of private individuals.
[17]


The CA did not accept PPIs claim that the levy imposed under LOI No.
1465 was for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Inc., a foundation created to hold
in trust the stock ownership of PPI. The CA stated:

Appellant next claims that the collections under LOI 1465 was
for the benefit of Planters Foundation, Incorporated (PFI), a foundation
created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers, the stock
ownership of PFI on the strength of Letter of Undertaking (LOU) issued
by then Prime Minister Cesar Virata on April 18, 1985 and affirmed by
the Secretary of Justice in an Opinion dated October 12, 1987, to wit:

2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of
Undertaking, the Republic shall cause FPA to include in its
fertilizer pricing formula a capital recovery component, the
proceeds of which will be used initially for the purpose of
funding the unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock
of Planters presently held in trust by Planters Foundation,
Inc. (Planters Foundation), which unpaid capital is
estimated at approximately P206 million (subject to
validation by Planters and Planters Foundation) (such
unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock of Planters
being hereafter referred to as the Unpaid Capital), and
subsequently for such capital increases as may be required
for the continuing viability of Planters.

The capital recovery component shall be in the
minimum amount of P10 per bag, which will be added to
the price of all domestic sales of fertilizer in
the Philippines by any importer and/or fertilizer mother
company. In this connection, the Republic hereby
acknowledges that the advances by Planters to Planters
Foundation which were applied to the payment of the
Planters shares now held in trust by Planters Foundation,
have been assigned to, among others, the
Creditors. Accordingly, the Republic, through FPA, hereby
agrees to deposit the proceeds of the capital recovery
component in the special trust account designated in the
notice dated April 2, 1985, addressed by counsel for the
Creditors to Planters Foundation. Such proceeds shall be
deposited by FPA on or before the 15
th
day of each month.



The capital recovery component shall continue to be
charged and collected until payment in full of (a) the
Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any shortfall in the payment of
the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying cost accruing
from the date hereof on the amounts which may be
outstanding from time to time of the Unpaid Capital and/or
the Subsidy Receivables and (d) the capital increases
contemplated in paragraph 2 hereof. For the purpose of the
foregoing clause (c), the carrying cost shall be at such rate
as will represent the full and reasonable cost to Planters of
servicing its debts, taking into account both its peso and
foreign currency-denominated obligations. (Records, pp.
42-43)

Appellants proposition is open to question, to say the least. The
LOU issued by then Prime Minister Virata taken together with the
Justice Secretarys Opinion does not preponderantly demonstrate that the
collections made were held in trust in favor of millions of
farmers. Unfortunately for appellant, in the absence of sufficient
evidence to establish its claims, this Court is constrained to rely on what
is explicitly provided in LOI 1465 that one of the primary aims in
imposing the levy is to support the successful rehabilitation and
continued viability of PPI.
[18]


PPI moved for reconsideration but its motion was denied.
[19]
It then filed the
present petition with this Court.

Issues

Petitioner PPI raises four issues for Our consideration, viz.:

I
THE CONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOI 1465 CANNOT BE
COLLATERALLY ATTACKED AND BE DECREED VIA A
DEFAULT JUDGMENT IN A CASE FILED FOR
COLLECTIONAND DAMAGES WHERE THE ISSUE OF
CONSTITUTIONALITY IS NOT THE VERY LIS MOTA OF THE
CASE. NEITHER CAN LOI 1465 BE CHALLENGED BY ANY
PERSON OR ENTITY WHICH HAS NO STANDING TO DO SO.

II
LOI 1465, BEING A LAW IMPLEMENTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF
ASSURING THE FERTILIZER SUPPLY AND DISTRIBUTION IN
THE COUNTRY, AND FOR BENEFITING A FOUNDATION
CREATED BY LAW TO HOLD IN TRUST FOR MILLIONS OF
FARMERS THEIR STOCK OWNERSHIP IN PPI CONSTITUTES A
VALID LEGISLATION PURSUANT TO THE EXERCISE OF
TAXATION AND POLICE POWER FOR PUBLIC PURPOSES.

III
THE AMOUNT COLLECTED UNDER THE CAPITAL RECOVERY
COMPONENT WAS REMITTED TO THE
GOVERNMENT, AND BECAME GOVERNMENT FUNDS
PURSUANT TO AN EFFECTIVE AND VALIDLY ENACTED LAW
WHICH IMPOSED DUTIES AND CONFERRED RIGHTS BY
VIRTUE OF THE PRINCIPLE OF OPERATIVEFACT PRIOR TO
ANY DECLARATION OF UNCONSTITUTIONALITY OF LOI 1465.

IV
THE PRINCIPLE OF UNJUST VEXATION (SHOULD BE
ENRICHMENT) FINDS NO APPLICATION IN THE INSTANT
CASE.
[20]
(Underscoring supplied)

Our Ruling

We shall first tackle the procedural issues of locus standi and the jurisdiction
of the RTC to resolve constitutional issues.

Fertiphil has locus standi because it
suffered direct injury; doctrine of standing
is a mere procedural technicality which
may be waived.

PPI argues that Fertiphil has no locus standi to question the constitutionality
of LOI No. 1465 because it does not have a personal and substantial interest in the
case or will sustain direct injury as a result of its enforcement.
[21]
It asserts that
Fertiphil did not suffer any damage from the CRC imposition because incidence
of the levy fell on the ultimate consumer or the farmers themselves, not on the
seller fertilizer company.
[22]


We cannot agree. The doctrine of locus standi or the right of appearance in
a court of justice has been adequately discussed by this Court in a catena of
cases. Succinctly put, the doctrine requires a litigant to have a material interest in
the outcome of a case. In private suits, locus standi requires a litigant to be a real
party in interest, which is defined as the
party who stands to be benefited or injured by the judgment in the suit or the party
entitled to the avails of the suit.
[23]


In public suits, this Court recognizes the difficulty of applying the doctrine
especially when plaintiff asserts a public right on behalf of the general public
because of conflicting public policy issues.
[24]
On one end, there is the right of the
ordinary citizen to petition the courts to be freed from unlawful government
intrusion and illegal official action. At the other end, there is the public policy
precluding excessive judicial interference in official acts, which may unnecessarily
hinder the delivery of basic public services.

In this jurisdiction, We have adopted the direct injury test to
determine locus standi in public suits. In People v. Vera,
[25]
it was held that
a person who impugns the validity of a statute must have a personal and
substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain direct
injury as a result. The direct injury test in public suits is similar to the real
party in interest rule for private suits under Section 2, Rule 3 of the 1997 Rules of
Civil Procedure.
[26]


Recognizing that a strict application of the direct injury test may hamper
public interest, this Court relaxed the requirement in cases of transcendental
importance or with far reaching implications. Being a mere procedural
technicality, it has also been held that locus standi may be waived in the public
interest.
[27]





Whether or not the complaint for collection is characterized as a private or
public suit, Fertiphil has locus standi to file it. Fertiphil suffered a direct injury
from the enforcement of LOI No. 1465. It was required, and it did pay, the P10
levy imposed for every bag of fertilizer sold on the domestic market. It may be
true that Fertiphil has passed some or all of the levy to the ultimate consumer, but
that does not disqualify it from attacking the constitutionality of the LOI or from
seeking a refund. As seller, it bore the ultimate burden of paying the levy. It faced
the possibility of severe sanctions for failure to pay the levy. The fact of payment
is sufficient injury to Fertiphil.

Moreover, Fertiphil suffered harm from the enforcement of the LOI because
it was compelled to factor in its product the levy. The levy certainly rendered the
fertilizer products of Fertiphil and other domestic sellers much more
expensive. The harm to their business consists not only in fewer clients because of
the increased price, but also in adopting alternative corporate strategies to meet the
demands of LOI No. 1465. Fertiphil and other fertilizer sellers may have
shouldered all or part of the levy just to be competitive in the market. The harm
occasioned on the business of Fertiphil is sufficient injury for purposes of locus
standi.

Even assuming arguendo that there is no direct injury, We find that the
liberal policy consistently adopted by this Court on locus standi must apply. The
issues raised by Fertiphil are of paramount public importance. It involves not only
the constitutionality of a tax law but, more importantly, the use of taxes for public
purpose. Former President Marcos issued LOI No. 1465 with the intention of
rehabilitating an ailing private company. This is clear from the text of the
LOI. PPI is expressly named in the LOI as the direct beneficiary of the
levy. Worse, the levy was made dependent and conditional upon PPI becoming
financially viable. The LOI provided that the capital contribution shall be
collected until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable.

The constitutionality of the levy is already in doubt on a plain reading of the
statute. It is Our constitutional duty to squarely resolve the issue as the final
arbiter of all justiciable controversies. The doctrine of standing, being a mere
procedural technicality, should be waived, if at all, to adequately thresh out an
important constitutional issue.

RTC may resolve constitutional issues; the
constitutional issue was adequately raised
in the complaint; it is the lis mota of the
case.

PPI insists that the RTC and the CA erred in ruling on the constitutionality
of the LOI. It asserts that the constitutionality of the LOI cannot be collaterally
attacked in a complaint for collection.
[28]
Alternatively, the resolution of the
constitutional issue is not necessary for a determination of the complaint for
collection.
[29]


Fertiphil counters that the constitutionality of the LOI was adequately
pleaded in its complaint. It claims that the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is the
very lis mota of the case because the trial court cannot determine its claim without
resolving the issue.
[30]


It is settled that the RTC has jurisdiction to resolve the constitutionality of a
statute, presidential decree or an executive order. This is clear from Section 5,
Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, which provides:




SECTION 5. The Supreme Court shall have the following
powers:

x x x x

(2) Review, revise, reverse, modify, or affirm on appeal
or certiorari, as the law or the Rules of Court may provide, final
judgments and orders of lower courts in:

(a) All cases in which the constitutionality or
validity of any treaty, international or executive agreement,
law, presidential decree, proclamation, order, instruction,
ordinance, or regulation is in question. (Underscoring
supplied)

In Mirasol v. Court of Appeals,
[31]
this Court recognized the power of
the RTC to resolve constitutional issues, thus:

On the first issue. It is settled that Regional Trial Courts have the
authority and jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of a statute,
presidential decree, or executive order. The Constitution vests the power
of judicial review or the power to declare a law, treaty, international or
executive agreement, presidential decree, order, instruction, ordinance,
or regulation not only in this Court, but in all Regional Trial Courts.
[32]


In the recent case of Equi-Asia Placement, Inc. v. Department of Foreign
Affairs,
[33]
this Court reiterated:

There is no denying that regular courts have jurisdiction over
cases involving the validity or constitutionality of a rule or regulation
issued by administrative agencies. Such jurisdiction, however, is not
limited to the Court of Appeals or to this Court alone for even the
regional trial courts can take cognizance of actions assailing a specific
rule or set of rules promulgated by administrative bodies. Indeed, the
Constitution vests the power of judicial review or the power to declare a
law, treaty, international or executive agreement, presidential decree,
order, instruction, ordinance, or regulation in the courts, including the
regional trial courts.
[34]


Judicial review of official acts on the ground of unconstitutionality may be
sought or availed of through any of the actions cognizable by courts of justice, not
necessarily in a suit for declaratory relief. Such review may be had in criminal
actions, as in People v. Ferrer
[35]
involving the constitutionality of the now defunct
Anti-Subversion law, or in ordinary actions, as in Krivenko v. Register of
Deeds
[36]
involving the constitutionality of laws prohibiting aliens from acquiring
public lands. The constitutional issue, however, (a) must be properly raised
and presented in the case, and (b) its resolution is necessary to a determination of
the case, i.e., the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis motapresented.
[37]


Contrary to PPIs claim, the constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 was properly
and adequately raised in the complaint for collection filed with the RTC. The
pertinent portions of the complaint allege:

6. The CRC of P10 per bag levied under LOI 1465 on domestic
sales of all grades of fertilizer in the Philippines, is unlawful, unjust,
uncalled for, unreasonable, inequitable and oppressive because:

x x x x

(c) It favors only one private domestic corporation,
i.e., defendant PPPI, and imposed at the expense and
disadvantage of the other fertilizer importers/distributors
who were themselves in tight business situation and were
then exerting all efforts and maximizing management and
marketing skills to remain viable;

x x x x

(e) It was a glaring example of crony capitalism, a
forced program through which the PPI, having been
presumptuously masqueraded as the fertilizer industry
itself, was the sole and anointed beneficiary;

7. The CRC was an unlawful; and unconstitutional special
assessment and its imposition is tantamount to illegal exaction
amounting to a denial of due process since the persons of entities which
had to bear the burden of paying the CRC derived no benefit therefrom;
that on the contrary it was used by PPI in trying to regain its former
despicable monopoly of the fertilizer industry to the detriment of other
distributors and importers.
[38]
(Underscoring supplied)

The constitutionality of LOI No. 1465 is also the very lis mota of the
complaint for collection. Fertiphil filed the complaint to compel PPI to refund the
levies paid under the statute on the ground that the law imposing the levy is
unconstitutional. The thesis is that an unconstitutional law is void. It has no legal
effect. Being void, Fertiphil had no legal obligation to pay the levy. Necessarily,
all levies duly paid pursuant to an unconstitutional law should be refunded under
the civil code principle against unjust enrichment. The refund is a mere
consequence of the law being declared unconstitutional. The RTC surely cannot
order PPI to refund Fertiphil if it does not declare the LOI unconstitutional. It is the
unconstitutionality of the LOI which triggers the refund. The issue of
constitutionality is the very lis mota of the complaint with the RTC.

The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is an
exercise of the power of taxation.

At any rate, the Court holds that the RTC and the CA did not err in ruling
against the constitutionality of the LOI.

PPI insists that LOI No. 1465 is a valid exercise either of the police power or
the power of taxation. It claims that the LOI was implemented for the purpose of
assuring the fertilizer supply and distribution in the country and for benefiting a
foundation created by law to hold in trust for millions of farmers their stock
ownership in PPI.

Fertiphil counters that the LOI is unconstitutional because it was enacted to
give benefit to a private company. The levy was imposed to pay the corporate debt
of PPI. Fertiphil also argues that, even if the LOI is enacted under the police
power, it is still unconstitutional because it did not promote the general welfare of
the people or public interest.

Police power and the power of taxation are inherent powers of the
State. These powers are distinct and have different tests for validity. Police power
is the power of the State to enact legislation that may interfere with personal liberty
or property in order to promote the general welfare,
[39]
while the power of taxation
is the power to levy taxes to be used for public purpose. The main purpose of
police power is the regulation of a behavior or conduct, while taxation is revenue
generation. The lawful subjects and lawful means tests are used to determine
the validity of a law enacted under the police power.
[40]
The power of taxation, on
the other hand, is circumscribed by inherent and constitutional limitations.

We agree with the RTC that the imposition of the levy was an exercise by
the State of its taxation power. While it is true that the power of taxation can be
used as an implement of police power,
[41]
the primary purpose of the levy is
revenue generation. If the purpose is primarily revenue, or if revenue is, at least,
one of the real and substantial purposes, then the exaction is properly called a
tax.
[42]


In Philippine Airlines, Inc. v. Edu,
[43]
it was held that the imposition of a
vehicle registration fee is not an exercise by the State of its police power, but of its
taxation power, thus:

It is clear from the provisions of Section 73 of Commonwealth
Act 123 and Section 61 of the Land Transportation and Traffic Code that
the legislative intent and purpose behind the law requiring owners of
vehicles to pay for their registration is mainly to raise funds for the
construction and maintenance of highways and to a much lesser degree,
pay for the operating expenses of the administering agency. x x x Fees
may be properly regarded as taxes even though they also serve as an
instrument of regulation.

Taxation may be made the implement of the state's police power
(Lutz v. Araneta, 98 Phil. 148). If the purpose is primarily revenue, or if
revenue is, at least, one of the real and substantial purposes, then the
exaction is properly called a tax. Such is the case of motor vehicle
registration fees. The same provision appears as Section 59(b) in the
Land Transportation Code. It is patent therefrom that the legislators had
in mind a regulatory tax as the law refers to the imposition on the
registration, operation or ownership of a motor vehicle as a tax or
fee. x x x Simply put, if the exaction under Rep. Act 4136 were merely
a regulatory fee, the imposition in Rep. Act 5448 need not be an
additional tax. Rep. Act 4136 also speaks of other fees such as the
special permit fees for certain types of motor vehicles (Sec. 10) and
additional fees for change of registration (Sec. 11). These are not to be
understood as taxes because such fees are very minimal to be revenue-
raising. Thus, they are not mentioned by Sec. 59(b) of the Code as taxes
like the motor vehicle registration fee and chauffeurs license fee. Such
fees are to go into the expenditures of the Land Transportation
Commission as provided for in the last proviso of Sec.
61.
[44]
(Underscoring supplied)

The P10 levy under LOI No. 1465 is too excessive to serve a mere
regulatory purpose. The levy, no doubt, was a big burden on the seller or the
ultimate consumer. It increased the price of a bag of fertilizer by as much as five
percent.
[45]
A plain reading of the LOI also supports the conclusion that the levy
was for revenue generation. The LOI expressly provided that the levy was
imposed until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable.

Taxes are exacted only for a public
purpose. The P10 levy is unconstitutional
because it was not for a public purpose.
The levy was imposed to give undue benefit
to PPI .

An inherent limitation on the power of taxation is public purpose. Taxes are
exacted only for a public purpose. They cannot be used for purely private purposes
or for the exclusive benefit of private persons.
[46]
The reason for this is
simple. The power to tax exists for the general welfare; hence, implicit in its
power is the limitation that it should be used only for a public purpose. It would be
a robbery for the State to tax its citizens and use the funds generated for a private
purpose. As an old United States case bluntly put it: To lay with one hand, the
power of the government on the property of the citizen, and with the other to
bestow it upon favored individuals to aid private enterprises and build up private
fortunes, is nonetheless a robbery because it is done under the forms of law and is
called taxation.
[47]


The term public purpose is not defined. It is an elastic concept that can be
hammered to fit modern standards. Jurisprudence states that public purpose
should be given a broad interpretation. It does not only pertain to those purposes
which are traditionally viewed as essentially government functions, such as
building roads and delivery of basic services, but also includes those purposes
designed to promote social justice. Thus, public money may now be used for the
relocation of illegal settlers, low-cost housing and urban or agrarian reform.

While the categories of what may constitute a public purpose are continually
expanding in light of the expansion of government functions, the inherent
requirement that taxes can only be exacted for a public purpose still stands. Public
purpose is the heart of a tax law. When a tax law is only a mask to exact funds
from the public when its true intent is to give undue benefit and advantage to a
private enterprise, that law will not satisfy the requirement of public purpose.

The purpose of a law is evident from its text or inferable from other
secondary sources. Here, We agree with the RTC and that CA that the levy
imposed under LOI No. 1465 was not for a public purpose.

First, the LOI expressly provided that the levy be imposed to benefit PPI, a
private company. The purpose is explicit from Clause 3 of the law, thus:

3. The Administrator of the Fertilizer Pesticide Authority to include in
its fertilizer pricing formula a capital contribution component of not
less than P10 per bag. This capital contribution shall be collected
until adequate capital is raised to make PPI viable. Such capital
contribution shall be applied by FPA to all domestic sales of
fertilizers in the Philippines.
[48]
(Underscoring supplied)



It is a basic rule of statutory construction that the text of a statute should be
given a literal meaning. In this case, the text of the LOI is plain that the levy was
imposed in order to raise capital for PPI. The framers of the LOI did not even hide
the insidious purpose of the law. They were cavalier enough to name PPI as the
ultimate beneficiary of the taxes levied under the LOI. We find it utterly repulsive
that a tax law would expressly name a private company as the ultimate beneficiary
of the taxes to be levied from the public. This is a clear case of crony capitalism.

Second, the LOI provides that the imposition of the P10 levy was conditional
and dependent upon PPI becoming financially viable. This suggests that the levy
was actually imposed to benefit PPI. The LOI notably does not fix a maximum
amount when PPI is deemed financially viable. Worse, the liability of Fertiphil
and other domestic sellers of fertilizer to pay the levy is made indefinite. They are
required to continuously pay the levy until adequate capital is raised for PPI.

Third, the RTC and the CA held that the levies paid under the LOI were
directly remitted and deposited by FPA to Far East Bank and Trust Company, the
depositary bank of PPI.
[49]
This proves that PPI benefited from the LOI. It is also
proves that the main purpose of the law was to give undue benefit and advantage to
PPI.

Fourth, the levy was used to pay the corporate debts of PPI. A reading of
the Letter of Understanding
[50]
dated May 18, 1985 signed by then Prime Minister
Cesar Virata reveals that PPI was in deep financial problem because of its huge
corporate debts. There were pending petitions for rehabilitation against PPI before
the Securities and Exchange Commission. The government guaranteed payment of
PPIs debts to its foreign creditors. To fund the payment, President Marcos issued
LOI No. 1465. The pertinent portions of the letter of understanding read:

Republic of the Philippines
Office of the Prime Minister
Manila

LETTER OF UNDERTAKING

May 18, 1985

TO: THE BANKING AND FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS
LISTED IN ANNEX A HERETO WHICH ARE
CREDITORS (COLLECTIVELY, THE CREDITORS)
OF PLANTERS PRODUCTS, INC. (PLANTERS)

Gentlemen:

This has reference to Planters which is the principal importer and
distributor of fertilizer, pesticides and agricultural chemicals in the
Philippines. As regards Planters, the Philippine Government confirms
its awareness of the following: (1) that Planters has outstanding
obligations in foreign currency and/or pesos, to the Creditors, (2)
that Planters is currently experiencing financial difficulties, and (3)
that there are presently pending with the Securities and Exchange
Commission of the Philippines a petition filed at Planters own behest
for the suspension of payment of all its obligations, and a separate
petition filed by Manufacturers Hanover Trust Company, Manila
Offshore Branch for the appointment of a rehabilitation receiver for
Planters.

In connection with the foregoing, the Republic of the Philippines
(the Republic) confirms that it considers and continues to consider
Planters as a major fertilizer distributor. Accordingly, for and in
consideration of your expressed willingness to consider and participate
in the effort to rehabilitate Planters, the Republic hereby manifests its
full and unqualified support of the successful rehabilitation and
continuing viability of Planters, and to that end, hereby binds and
obligates itself to the creditors and Planters, as follows:

x x x x

2. Upon the effective date of this Letter of Undertaking, the
Republic shall cause FPA to include in its fertilizer pricing formula a
capital recovery component, the proceeds of which will be used initially
for the purpose of funding the unpaid portion of the outstanding capital
stock of Planters presently held in trust by Planters Foundation, Inc.
(Planters Foundation), which unpaid capital is estimated at
approximately P206 million (subject to validation by Planters and
Planters Foundation) such unpaid portion of the outstanding capital stock
of Planters being hereafter referred to as the Unpaid Capital), and
subsequently for such capital increases as may be required for the
continuing viability of Planters.

x x x x

The capital recovery component shall continue to be charged and
collected until payment in full of (a) the Unpaid Capital and/or (b) any
shortfall in the payment of the Subsidy Receivables, (c) any carrying
cost accruing from the date hereof on the amounts which may be
outstanding from time to time of the Unpaid Capital and/or the Subsidy
Receivables, and (d) the capital increases contemplated in paragraph 2
hereof. For the purpose of the foregoing clause (c), the carrying cost
shall be at such rate as will represent the full and reasonable cost to
Planters of servicing its debts, taking into account both its peso and
foreign currency-denominated obligations.

REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES
By:
(signed)
CESAR E. A. VIRATA
Prime Minister and Minister of Finance
[51]


It is clear from the Letter of Understanding that the levy was imposed
precisely to pay the corporate debts of PPI. We cannot agree with PPI that the levy
was imposed to ensure the stability of the fertilizer industry in the country. The
letter of understanding and the plain text of the LOI clearly indicate that the levy
was exacted for the benefit of a private corporation.

All told, the RTC and the CA did not err in holding that the levy imposed
under LOI No. 1465 was not for a public purpose. LOI No. 1465 failed to comply
with the public purpose requirement for tax laws.

The LOI is still unconstitutional even if
enacted under the police power; it did not
promote public interest.

Even if We consider LOI No. 1695 enacted under the police power of the
State, it would still be invalid for failing to comply with the test of lawful
subjects and lawful means. Jurisprudence states the test as follows: (1) the
interest of the public generally, as distinguished from those of particular class,
requires its exercise; and (2) the means employed are reasonably necessary for the
accomplishment of the purpose and not unduly oppressive upon individuals.
[52]

For the same reasons as discussed, LOI No. 1695 is invalid because it did
not promote public interest. The law was enacted to give undue advantage to a
private corporation. We quote with approval the CA ratiocination on this point,
thus:

It is upon applying this established tests that We sustain the trial
courts holding LOI 1465 unconstitutional. To be sure, ensuring the
continued supply and distribution of fertilizer in the country is an
undertaking imbued with public interest. However, the method by which
LOI 1465 sought to achieve this is by no means a measure that will
promote the public welfare. The governments commitment to support
the successful rehabilitation and continued viability of PPI, a private
corporation, is an unmistakable attempt to mask the subject statutes
impartiality. There is no way to treat the self-interest of a favored entity,
like PPI, as identical with the general interest of the countrys farmers or
even the Filipino people in general. Well to stress, substantive due
process exacts fairness and equal protection disallows distinction where
none is needed. When a statutes public purpose is spoiled by private
interest, the use of police power becomes a travesty which must be
struck down for being an arbitrary exercise of government power. To
rule in favor of appellant would contravene the general principle that
revenues derived from taxes cannot be used for purely private purposes
or for the exclusive benefit of private individuals. (Underscoring
supplied)

The general rule is that an
unconstitutional law is void; the doctrine of
operative fact is inapplicable.

PPI also argues that Fertiphil cannot seek a refund even if LOI No. 1465 is
declared unconstitutional. It banks on the doctrine of operative fact, which
provides that an unconstitutional law has an effect before being declared
unconstitutional. PPI wants to retain the levies paid under LOI No. 1465 even if it
is subsequently declared to be unconstitutional.

We cannot agree. It is settled that no question, issue or argument will be
entertained on appeal, unless it has been raised in the court a quo.
[53]
PPI did not
raise the applicability of the doctrine of operative fact with the RTC and the CA. It
cannot belatedly raise the issue with Us in order to extricate itself from the dire
effects of an unconstitutional law.

At any rate, We find the doctrine inapplicable. The general rule is that an
unconstitutional law is void. It produces no rights, imposes no duties and affords
no protection. It has no legal effect. It is, in legal contemplation, inoperative as if
it has not been passed.
[54]
Being void, Fertiphil is not required to pay the levy. All
levies paid should be refunded in accordance with the general civil code principle
against unjust enrichment. The general rule is supported by Article 7 of the Civil
Code, which provides:

ART. 7. Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their
violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse or custom or
practice to the contrary.

When the courts declare a law to be inconsistent with the
Constitution, the former shall be void and the latter shall govern.

The doctrine of operative fact, as an exception to the general rule, only
applies as a matter of equity and fair play.
[55]
It nullifies the effects of an
unconstitutional law by recognizing that the existence of a statute prior to a
determination of unconstitutionality is an operative fact and may have
consequences which cannot always be ignored. The past cannot always be erased
by a new judicial declaration.
[56]


The doctrine is applicable when a declaration of unconstitutionality will
impose an undue burden on those who have relied on the invalid law. Thus, it was
applied to a criminal case when a declaration of unconstitutionality would put the
accused in double jeopardy
[57]
or would put in limbo the acts done by a
municipality in reliance upon a law creating it.
[58]


Here, We do not find anything iniquitous in ordering PPI to refund the
amounts paid by Fertiphil under LOI No. 1465. It unduly benefited from the
levy. It was proven during the trial that the levies paid were remitted and
deposited to its bank account. Quite the reverse, it would be inequitable and unjust
not to order a refund. To do so would unjustly enrich PPI at the expense of
Fertiphil. Article 22 of the Civil Code explicitly provides that every person who,
through an act of performance by another comes into possession of something at
the expense of the latter without just or legal ground shall return the same to
him. We cannot allow PPI to profit from an unconstitutional law. Justice and
equity dictate that PPI must refund the amounts paid by Fertiphil.

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Decision
dated November 28, 2003 is AFFIRMED.

SO ORDERED.

PUNDAODAYA VS COMELEC
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 179313 September 17, 2009
MAKIL U. PUNDAODAYA, Petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONSN and ARSENIO DENSING NOBLE, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
YNARES-SANTIAGO, J .:
This petition
1
for certiorari under Rule 65 assails the August 3, 2007 Resolution
2
of the Commission
on Elections (COMELEC) En Banc in SPA No. 07-202, which declared private respondent Arsenio
Densing Noble (Noble) qualified to run for municipal mayor of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental, in the
May 14, 2007 Synchronized National and Local Elections.
The facts are as follows:
Petitioner Makil U. Pundaodaya (Pundaodaya) is married to Judith Pundaodaya, who ran against
Noble for the position of municipal mayor of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental in the 2007 elections.
On March 27, 2007, Noble filed his Certificate of Candidacy, indicating therein that he has been a
resident of Purok 3, Barangay Esperanza, Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental for 15 years.
On April 3, 2007, Pundaodaya filed a petition for disqualification
3
against Noble docketed as SPA
No. 07-202, alleging that the latter lacks the residency qualification prescribed by existing laws for
elective local officials; that he never resided nor had any physical presence at a fixed place in Purok
3, Barangay Esperanza, Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental; and that he does not appear to have the
intention of residing therein permanently. Pundaodaya claimed that Noble is in fact a resident of
Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, where he also maintains a business called OBERT Construction
Supply.
In his Answer,
4
Noble averred that he is a registered voter and resident of Barangay Esperanza,
Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental; that on January 18, 1992, he married Bernadith Go, the daughter of
then Mayor Narciso Go of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental; that he has been engaged in electoral
activities since his marriage; and that he voted in the said municipality in the 1998, 2001 and 2004
elections.
In a resolution dated May 13, 2007,
5
the Second Division of the COMELEC ruled in favor of
Pundaodaya and disqualified Noble from running as mayor, thus:
Respondent Nobles claim that he is a registered voter and has actually voted in the past three (3)
elections in the said municipality does not sufficiently establish that he has actually elected residency
at Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental. Neither does campaigning in previous elections sufficiently establish
residence.
Respondent Noble failed to show that he has indeed acquired domicile at Kinoguitan, Misamis
Oriental. He failed to prove not only his bodily presence in the new locality but has likewise failed to
show that he intends to remain at Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental and abandon his residency at
Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the instant Petition to Disqualify Aresnio Densing Noble is
hereby GRANTED.
SO ORDERED.
6

Noble filed a motion for reconsideration of the above resolution. In the meantime, he garnered the
highest number of votes and was proclaimed the winning candidate on May 15, 2007. Pundaodaya
then filed an Urgent Motion to Annul Proclamation.
7

On August 3, 2007, the COMELEC En Banc reversed the decision of the Second Division and
declared Noble qualified to run for the mayoralty position.
The COMELEC En Banc held that when Noble married Bernadith Go on January 18, 1992, the
couple has since resided in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental; that he was a registered voter and that he
participated in the last three elections; and although he is engaged in business in Cagayan de Oro
City, the fact that he resides in Kinoguitan and is a registered voter and owns property thereat,
sufficiently meet the residency requirement.
8
Thus:
WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission (en banc) RESOLVED, as it hereby
RESOLVES, to GRANT the instant Motion for Reconsideration and to REVERSE AND SET ASIDE
the Resolution promulgated on May 13, 2007 issued by the Commission (Second Division).
ACCORDINGLY, respondent ARSENIO DENSING NOBLE is QUALIFIED to run for the local
elective position of Municipal Mayor of the Municipality of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental in the May
14, 2007 Synchronized National and Local Elections.
SO ORDERED.
9

Pundaodaya filed the instant petition for certiorari, alleging that the COMELEC En Banc acted with
grave abuse of discretion when it declared Noble qualified to run; when it did not annul Nobles
proclamation; and when it failed to proclaim the true winning candidate, Judith Pundaodaya.
In a resolution dated November 13, 2007,
10
the Court required the respondents to comment on the
petition.
Public respondent, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed a Manifestation and
Motion
11
praying that it be excused from filing a separate comment and that the said pleading be
considered sufficient compliance with the November 13, 2007 Resolution.
Meanwhile, for Nobles failure to comply, the Court issued Resolutions
12
dated July 15, 2008 and
December 9, 2008 requiring him to show cause why he should not be disciplinarily dealt with or held
in contempt, imposing a fine ofP1,000.00, and requiring him to file a comment. On June 2, 2009, the
Court deemed Noble to have waived the filing of the comment.
13

The issues for resolution are: whether the COMELEC En Banc gravely abused its discretion: 1) in
declaring Noble qualified to run for the mayoralty position; and 2) in failing to order the annulment of
Nobles proclamation and refusing to proclaim Judith Pundaodaya as the winning candidate.
Section 39 of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, requires that
an elective local official must be a resident in the barangay, municipality, city or province where he
intends to serve for at least one year immediately preceding the election.
14

In Japzon v. Commission on Elections,
15
it was held that the term "residence" is to be understood not
in its common acceptation as referring to "dwelling" or "habitation," but rather to "domicile" or legal
residence, that is, "the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home,
where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and
remain (animus manendi)."
In Domino v. Commission on Elections,
16
the Court explained that domicile denotes a fixed
permanent residence to which, whenever absent for business, pleasure, or some other reasons, one
intends to return. It is a question of intention and circumstances. In the consideration of
circumstances, three rules must be borne in mind, namely: (1) that a man must have a residence or
domicile somewhere; (2) when once established it remains until a new one is acquired; and (3) a
man can have but one residence or domicile at a time.1avvphi1
If one wishes to successfully effect a change of domicile, he must demonstrate an actual removal or
an actual change of domicile, a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and
establishing a new one, and definite acts which correspond with the purpose.
17
Without clear and
positive proof of the concurrence of these three requirements, the domicile of origin continues.
18

Records show that Nobles domicile of origin was Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City. However, he
claims to have chosen Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental as his new domicile. To substantiate this, he
presented before the COMELEC his voter registration records;
19
a Certification dated April 25, 2007
from Election Officer II Clavel Z. Tabada;
20
his Marriage Certificate;
21
and affidavits of residents of
Kinoguitan
22
attesting that he established residence in the municipality after his marriage to
Bernadith Go. In addition, he presented receipts
23
from the Provincial Treasurer for payment of his
water bills, and Certifications from the Municipal Treasurer and Municipal Engineer that he has been
a consumer of the Municipal Water System since June 2003. To prove ownership of property, he
also presented a Deed of Sale
24
over a real property dated June 3, 1996.
The above pieces of documentary evidence, however, fail to convince us that Noble successfully
effected a change of domicile. As correctly ruled by the COMELEC Second Division, private
respondents claim that he is a registered voter and has actually voted in the past 3 elections in
Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental do not sufficiently establish that he has actually elected residency in
the said municipality. Indeed, while we have ruled in the past that voting gives rise to a strong
presumption of residence, it is not conclusive evidence thereof.
25
Thus, in Perez v. Commission on
Elections,
26
we held that a persons registration as voter in one district is not proof that he is not
domiciled in another district. The registration of a voter in a place other than his residence of origin is
not sufficient to consider him to have abandoned or lost his residence.
27

To establish a new domicile of choice, personal presence in the place must be coupled with conduct
indicative of that intention. It requires not only such bodily presence in that place but also a declared
and probable intent to make it ones fixed and permanent place of abode.
28

In this case, Nobles marriage to Bernadith Go does not establish his actual physical presence in
Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental. Neither does it prove an intention to make it his permanent place of
residence. We are also not persuaded by his alleged payment of water bills in the absence of
evidence showing to which specific properties they pertain. And while Noble presented a Deed of
Sale for real property, the veracity of this document is belied by his own admission that he does not
own property in Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental.
29

On the contrary, we find that Noble has not abandoned his original domicile as shown by the
following: a) Certification dated April 12, 2007 of the Barangay Kagawad of Barangay Lapasan,
Cagayan de Oro City stating that Noble is a resident of the barangay;
30
b) Affidavit
31
of the Barangay
Kagawad of Esperanza, Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental dated April 14, 2007, attesting that Noble has
not resided in Barangay Esperanza in Kinoguitan; c) photos
32
and official receipts
33
showing that
Noble and his wife maintain their residence and businesses in Lapasan; d) tax declarations
34
of real
properties in Cagayan de Oro City under the name of Noble; and e) the "Household Record of
Barangay Inhabitants"
35
of Mayor Narciso Go, which did not include Noble or his wife, Bernadith Go,
which disproves Nobles claim that he resides with his father-in-law.
From the foregoing, we find that Nobles alleged change of domicile was effected solely for the
purpose of qualifying as a candidate in the 2007 elections. This we cannot allow. In Torayno, Sr. v.
Commission on Elections,
36
we held that the one-year residency requirement is aimed at excluding
outsiders "from taking advantage of favorable circumstances existing in that community for electoral
gain." Establishing residence in a community merely to meet an election law requirement defeats the
purpose of representation: to elect through the assent of voters those most cognizant and sensitive
to the needs of the community.
37
Thus, we find Noble disqualified from running as municipal mayor
of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental in the 2007 elections.
Notwithstanding Nobles disqualification, we find no basis for the proclamation of Judith
Pundaodaya, as mayor. The rules on succession under the Local Government Code, explicitly
provides:
SECTION 44. Permanent Vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor, and
Vice-Mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the xxx mayor, the xxx vice-mayor
concerned shall become the xxx mayor.
x x x x
For purposes of this Chapter, a permanent vacancy arises when an elective local official fills a higher
vacant office, refuses to assume office, fails to qualify or is removed from office, voluntarily resigns,
or is otherwise permanently incapacitated to discharge the functions of his office.
x x x x (Emphasis ours)
Thus, considering the permanent vacancy in the Office of the Mayor of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental
occasioned by Nobles disqualification, the proclaimed Vice-Mayor shall then succeed as mayor.
38

WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The August 3, 2007 Resolution of the COMELEC En Banc
in SPA No. 07-202 declaring respondent Arsenio Densing Noble qualified to run as Mayor of
Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental, is REVERSED AND SET ASIDE. In view of the permanent vacancy in
the Office of the Mayor of Kinoguitan, Misamis Oriental, the proclaimed Vice-Mayor is ORDERED to
succeed as Mayor.
SO ORDERED.
MITRA VS COMELEC
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 191938 October 19, 2010
ABRAHAM KAHLIL B. MITRA, Petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ANTONIO V. GONZALES and ORLANDO R. BALBON,
JR., Respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
BRION, J .:
We resolve the Motion for Reconsideration
1
filed by public respondent Commission on Elections
(COMELEC) and the Motion for Reconsideration with Motion for Oral Arguments
2
filed by private
respondents Antonio V. Gonzales and Orlando R. Balbon, Jr. (private respondents), dated July 19,
2010 and July 20, 2010, respectively, addressing our Decision of July 2, 2010
3
(July 2, 2010
Decision or Decision). We annulled in this Decision the February 10, 2010 and May 4, 2010
Resolutions of the COMELEC, and denied the private respondents petition to cancel the Certificate
of Candidacy (COC) of petitioner Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra (Mitra).
The Assailed Ruling
To recall its highlights, our Decision emphasized that despite our limited certiorari jurisdiction in
election cases, we are not only obliged but are constitutionally bound to intervene when the
COMELECs action on the appreciation and evaluation of evidence oversteps the limits of its
discretion in this case, a situation where resulting errors, arising from the grave abuse committed
by the COMELEC, mutated from being errors of judgment to errors of jurisdiction. Based on our
evaluation of the evidence presented by both parties, we found that Mitra did not commit any
deliberate material misrepresentation in his COC. We noted, too, that the COMELEC gravely abused
its discretion in its appreciation of the evidence, leading it to conclude that Mitra is not a resident of
Aborlan, Palawan. We also found that the COMELEC failed to critically consider whether Mitra
deliberately attempted to mislead, misinform or hide a fact that would otherwise render him ineligible
for the position of Governor of Palawan.
On the critical question of whether Mitra deliberately misrepresented his Aborlan residence to
deceive and mislead the people of the Province of Palawan, we found that Mitra did not. In fact,
Mitra adduced positive evidence of transfer of residence which the private respondents evidence
failed to sufficiently controvert. Specifically, the private respondents evidence failed to show that
Mitra remained a Puerto Princesa City resident.
In this regard, we took note of the "incremental moves" Mitra undertook to establish his new domicile
in Aborlan, as evidenced by the following: (1) his expressed intent to transfer to a residence outside
of Puerto Princesa City to make him eligible for a provincial position; (2) his preparatory moves
starting in early 2008; (3) the transfer of registration as a voter in March 2009; (4) his initial transfer
through a leased dwelling at Maligaya Feedmill; (5) the purchase of a lot for his permanent home;
and (6) the construction of a house on the said lot which is adjacent to the premises he was leasing
pending the completion of his house. Thus, we found that under the situation prevailing when Mitra
filed his COC, there is no reason to infer that Mitra committed any misrepresentation, whether
inadvertently or deliberately, in claiming residence in Aborlan. We also emphasized that the
COMELEC could not even present any legally acceptable basis (as it used subjective non-legal
standards in its analysis) to conclude that Mitras statement in his COC concerning his residence
was indeed a misrepresentation. In sum, we concluded that the evidence in the present case,
carefully reviewed, showed that Mitra indeed transfered his residence from Puerto Princesa City to
Aborlan within the period required by law.
The Motions for Reconsideration
In its Motion for Reconsideration dated July 19, 2010, the COMELEC, through the Office of the
Solicitor General, asks us to reconsider our July 2, 2010 Decision on the sole ground that:
THIS HONORABLE COURT ERRED WHEN IT REVIEWED THE PROBATIVE VALUE OF THE
EVIDENCE PRESENTED AND SUBSTITUTED ITS OWN FACTUAL FINDINGS OVER THAT OF
[THE] PUBLIC RESPONDENT.
4

The COMELEC argues that we overstepped our review power over its factual findings; as a
specialized constitutional body, the findings and conclusions of the COMELEC are generally
respected and even given the status of finality. The COMELEC also contends that the Court erred in
taking cognizance of the present petition since the issues raised therein are essentially factual in
nature. It claims that it is elementary that the extraordinary remedy of certiorari is limited to
correcting questions of law and that the factual issues raised in the present petition are not
appropriate for a petition for review on certiorari.
On the merits, the COMELEC submits that there is substantial, if not overwhelming, evidence that
Mitra is not a resident of Aborlan, Palawan. It argues that it merely took cognizance of Mitras
purported dwellings "habitableness," or lack thereof, to determine the fact of residency; while Mitra
may have exhibited his intention to transfer his domicile, the fact of actual residency was lacking.
For their part, the private respondents raise the following errors in support of their Motion for
Reconsideration with Motion for Oral Arguments dated July 20, 2010, viz:
I.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN EXERCISING THIS HONORABLE COURTS LIMITED CERTIORARI
JURISDICTION EVEN WHEN THE PETITION, ON ITS FACE, FAILED TO SHOW HOW THE
COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION.
II.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN CONCLUDING THAT THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE
OF DISCRETION BY USING SUBJECTIVE AND NON-LEGAL STANDARDS IN ASSESSING THE
EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY MITRA.
III.
GRANTING WITHOUT ADMITTING THAT THE COMELEC COMMITTED GRAVE ABUSE OF
DISCRETION IN ONE ASPECT OF ITS RESOLUTION, THE SUPREME COURT SHOULD
NONETHELESS CONSIDER WHETHER THE OTHER EVIDENCE SUBMITTED ARE ENOUGH TO
SUSTAIN THE RULING OF THE COMELEC.
A.
THE QUANTUM OF EVIDENCE NECESSARY TO OVERTURN THE FINDINGS OF FACTS
OF THE COMELEC SHOULD BE CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE. WHEN THE
EVIDENCE OF [THE] PETITIONER ARE UNSUBSTANTIATED AND CONTROVERTED,
THE SAME FAILS TO REACH THE QUANTUM OF PROOF NECESSARY TO
SUBSTITUTE THE FINDINGS OF THE COMELEC.
IV.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN FOCUSING ON THE COMELECS OPINION REGARDING THE
PHOTOGRAPHS SUBMITTED BY MITRA OF HIS SUPPOSED RESIDENCE, WHILE TOTALLY
DISREGARDING OTHER EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE PRIVATE RESPONDENTS AND
CONSIDERED BY THE COMELEC.
A.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN DISREGARDING THE EFFECTIVITY OF THE CONTRACT OF
LEASE WHICH SHOWS THAT THE SAME IS ONLY UP TO 28 FEBRUARY 2010.
B.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN DISREGARDING EVIDENCE WHICH SHOW THAT MITRA
FAILED TO ABANDON HIS DOMICILE OF ORIGIN.
V.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT MITRA HAD TRANSFERRED HIS RESIDENCE
FROM HIS DOMICILE OF ORIGIN IN PUERTO PRINCESA CITY TO HIS DOMICILE OF CHOICE
IN ABORLAN, IN AN INCREMENTAL PROCESS.
VI.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT MITRA DID NOT COMMIT ANY DELIBERATE
MATERIAL MISREPRESENTATION IN HIS COC.
A.
THE MATERIAL STATEMENT IN PETITIONERS COC RESPECTING HIS RESIDENCE
HAS BEEN SHOWN TO BE FALSE. BY MAKING SUCH FALSE STATEMENT,
PETITIONER DELIBERATELY TRIED TO MISLEAD AND TO MISINFORM THE
ELECTORATE AS TO HIS ACTUAL RESIDENCE. HENCE, HIS COC WAS CORRECTLY
DENIED DUE COURSE AND CANCELLED.
B.
THE MAJORITY ERRED IN EXONERATING MITRA FROM THE VIOLATION OF A
MANDATORY PROVISION OF LAW WHICH ENTAILS BOTH ADMINISTRATIVE AND
CRIMINAL LIABILITIES BY INVOKING THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW WHERE SUCH
RESORT IS NOT CALLED FOR IN VIEW OF THE GIVEN FACTS AND EVIDENCE
PRESENTED IN THIS CASE.
VII.
JURISPRUDENCE RELIED ON BY THE MAJORITY IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE PRESENT
CASE.
A.
THE CASE OF TORAYNO V. COMELEC IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE PRESENT CASE.
B.
THE CASE OF ASISTIO V. TRINIDAD PE-AGUIRRE IS LIKEWISE NOT APPLICABLE TO
THE PRESENT CASE.
C.
THE CASE OF VELASCO SHOULD BE APPLIED STRICTLY TO THE PRESENT CASE.
5

Our Ruling
We resolve to deny, for lack of merit, the motions for reconsideration and for oral arguments.
We note at the outset that the COMELEC and private respondents arguments are mere rehashes of
their previous submissions; they are the same arguments addressing the issues we already
considered and passed upon in our July 2, 2010 Decision. Thus, both the COMELEC and private
respondents failed to raise any new and substantial argument meriting reconsideration. The denial of
the motion for oral arguments proceeds from this same reasoning; mere reiterations of the parties
original submissions on issues our Decision has sufficiently covered, without more, do not merit the
time, effort and attention that an oral argument shall require.
Having said these, we shall still proceed to discuss the aspects of the case the motions touched
upon, if only to put an end to lingering doubts on the correctness of our July 2, 2010 Decision.
First, both the COMELEC and the private respondents posit that the Court improperly exercised its
limited certiorari jurisdiction; they theorize that Mitras petition failed to allege and show errors of
jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion on the part of the COMELEC. They also stress that the
Court should respect and consider the COMELECs findings of fact to be final and non-reviewable.
The COMELECs submission in this regard that the extraordinary remedy of certiorari is limited to
corrections of questions of law and that the factual issues raised in the present petition are not
appropriate for a petition for review on certiorari is wholly erroneous. This submission appears to
have confused the standards of the Courts power of review under Rule 65 and Rule 45 of the Rules
of Court, leading the COMELEC to grossly misread the import of Mitras petition before the Court.
To recall, Mitra brought his case before us via a petition for certiorari, pursuant to Section 2, Rule 64,
in relation to Rule 65, of the Rules of Court. Thus, in our July 2, 2010 Decision, we emphasized that
our review (under the Rule 65 standard of grave abuse of discretion, and not under the Rule 45
question of law standard) is based on a very limited ground, i.e., on the jurisdictional issue of
whether the COMELEC acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of
discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.
The basis for the Courts review of COMELEC rulings under the standards of Rule 65 of the Rules of
Court is Section 7, Article IX-A of the Constitution which provides that "[U]nless otherwise provided
by [the] Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to
the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy
thereof." For this reason, the Rules of Court provide for a separate rule (Rule 64) specifically
applicable only to decisions of the COMELEC and the Commission on Audit. This Rule expressly
refers to the application of Rule 65 in the filing of a petition for certiorari, subject to the exception
clause "except as hereinafter provided."
6

In Aratuc v. Commission on Elections
7
and Dario v. Mison,
8
the Court construed the above-cited
constitutional provision as relating to the special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 (although
with a different reglementary period for filing) and not to an appeal by certiorari under Rule 45 of the
Rules of Court. Thus, Section 2 of Rule 64 of the Rules of Court now clearly specifies that the mode
of review is the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65, except as therein provided. In Ocate v.
Commission on Elections,
9
we further held that:
The purpose of a petition for certiorari is to determine whether the challenged tribunal has acted
without or in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess
of jurisdiction.1avvphi1 Thus, any resort to a petition for certiorari under Rule 64 in relation to Rule 65 of the
1997 Rules of Civil Procedure is limited to the resolution of jurisdictional issues.
The COMELEC should likewise be aware that the Constitution itself,
10
in defining judicial power,
pointedly states that
Judicial power includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights
which are legally demandable and enforceable, and 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.
This provision, more than anything else, identifies the power and duty of this Court in grave abuse of
discretion situations, and differentiates this authority from the power of review by appeal that Rule 45
of the Rules of Court defines.
Based on these considerations, we cannot accept the COMELECs position that patently confuses
the mode of review in election cases under Rules 64 and 65 of the Rules of Court, with the appellate
review that Rule 45 of the same Rules provides.
We likewise reject the COMELEC and the private respondents proposition that the Court erred in
exercising its limited certiorari jurisdiction. Although the COMELEC is admittedly the final arbiter of
all factual issues as the Constitution
11
and the Rules of Court
12
provide, we stress that in the
presence of grave abuse of discretion, our constitutional duty is to intervene and not to shy away
from intervention simply because a specialized agency has been given the authority to resolve the
factual issues.
As we emphasized in our Decision, we have in the past recognized exceptions to the general rule
that the Court ordinarily does not review in a certiorari case the COMELECs appreciation and
evaluation of evidence. One such exception is when the COMELECs appreciation and evaluation of
evidence go beyond the limits of its discretion to the point of being grossly unreasonable. In this
situation, we are duty bound under the Constitution to intervene and correct COMELEC errors that,
because of the attendant grave abuse of discretion, have mutated into errors of jurisdiction.
Our Decision clearly pointed out Mitras submissions and arguments on grave abuse of discretion,
namely, that the COMELEC failed to appreciate that the case is a cancellation of a COC proceeding
and that the critical issue is the presence of deliberate false material representation to deceive the
electorate. In fact, Mitras petition plainly argued that the COMELECs grave abuse of discretion was
patent when it failed to consider that the ground to deny a COC is deliberate false representation.
We completely addressed this issue and, in the process, analyzed the reasoning in the assailed
COMELEC decision. At every step, we found that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of
discretion in the appreciation of the evidence.
Second, the private respondents contend that the COMELEC did not use subjective non-legal
standards (i.e., interior decoration of the room) in arriving at its decision; it merely stated how it
perceived Mitras alleged residence. The private respondents additionally claim that the quantum of
evidence necessary to overturn the findings of the COMELEC should be clear and convincing
evidence, which level of evidence does not obtain in the present case.
The assailed COMELEC ruling speaks for itself on the matter of the standards the COMELEC used.
We found that the COMELEC plainly used a subjective non-legal standard in its analysis and
thereby, the COMELEC used wrong considerations in arriving at the conclusion that Mitras
residence at the Maligaya Feedmill is not the residence contemplated by law.
We reiterate that the COMELEC based its ruling that Mitra did not take up residence in Aborlan
largely on the photographs of Mitras Aborlan premises; it concluded that the photographed premises
could not have been a residence because of its assessment of the interior design and furnishings of
the room. Thus, the COMELEC Second Divisions Resolution (which the COMELEC en banc fully
supported) did not merely conclude that Mitra does not live in the photographed premises; more than
this, it ruled that these premises cannot be considered a home or a residence, for lack of the
qualities of a home that the Second Division wanted to see. To quote:
The pictures presented by Mitra of his supposed "residence" are telling. The said pictures show a
small, sparsely furnished room which is evidently unlived in and which is located on the second floor
of a structure that appears like a factory or a warehouse. These pictures likewise show that the
"residence" appears hastily set-up, cold, and utterly devoid of any [personality] which would have
imprinted Mitras personality thereto such as old family photographs and memorabilia collected
through the years. In fact, an appreciation of Mitras supposed "residence" raises doubts whether or
not he indeed lives there. Verily, what is lacking therein are the loving attention and details inherent
in every home to make it ones residence. Perhaps, at most, and to this Commissions mind, this
small room could have served as Mitras resting area whenever he visited the said locality but
nothing more.
This observation coupled with the numerous statements from former employees and customers of
Maligaya Feed Mill and Farm that Mitras residence is located in an unsavory location, considering
the noise and pollution of being in a factory area, and that the same, in fact, had been Maligaya
Feed Mills office just a few months back, militates against Mitras claim that the same has been his
residence since early 2008. These information make it clear to this Commission that this room is not
a home.
13

Thus presented, the COMELECs requirement of what should be considered a "residence" cannot
but be a highly subjective one that finds no basis in law, in jurisprudence, or even in fact.
Third, we cannot likewise agree with the private respondents theory that the quantum of evidence
necessary to overturn the factual findings of the COMELEC should be clear and convincing
evidence, as it misappreciates that we nullified the COMELECs findings because it used the wrong
considerations in arriving at its conclusions.
The private respondents fail to realize that the important considerations in the present case relate to
questions bearing on the cancellation of the COC that they prayed for; the main critical points are the
alleged deliberate misrepresentation by Mitra and the underlying question of his residency in
Aborlan, Palawan.
While it is undisputed that Mitras domicile of origin is Puerto Princesa City, Mitra adequately proved
by substantial evidence that he transferred by incremental process to Aborlan beginning 2008, and
concluded his transfer in early 2009. As our Decision discussed and as repeated elsewhere in this
Resolution, the private respondents failed to establish by sufficiently convincing evidence that Mitra
did not effectively transfer, while the COMELEC not only grossly misread the evidence but even
used the wrong considerations in appreciating the submitted evidence.
To convince us of their point of view, the private respondents point out that we (1) totally disregarded
the other evidence they submitted, which the COMELEC, on the other hand, properly considered; (2)
disregarded the import of the effectivity of the lease contract, which showed that it was only effective
until February 28, 2010; and (3) disregarded the evidence showing that Mitra failed to abandon his
domicile of origin.
These issues are not new issues; we extensively and thoroughly considered and resolved them in
our July 2, 2010 Decision. At this point, we only need to address some of the private respondents
misleading points in order to clear the air.
1. The private respondents reliance on the expiration date of the lease contract, to disprove
Mitras claim that the room at the Maligaya Feedmill is his residence, is misplaced. This
argument is flimsy since the contract did not provide that it was completely and fully time-
barred and was only up to February 28, 2010; it was renewable at the option of the parties.
That a lease is fixed for a one-year term is a common practice. What is important is that it is
renewable at the option of the parties. In the absence of any objection from the parties, the
lease contract simply continues and is deemed renewed.
14

2. In an attempt to show that Mitra considers himself a resident of Puerto Princesa City, the
private respondents submitted in their Motion for Reconsideration a colored certified true
copy of Mitras alleged Puerto Princesa City Community Tax Certificate (CTC) dated
February 3, 2009
15
allegedly showing Mitras signature. To recall, we found that based on the
records before us, the purported February 3, 2009 CTC did not bear the signature of Mitra.
Although the private respondents have belatedly filed this evidence, we carefully examined
the recently submitted colored copy of the February 3, 2009 CTC and saw no reason to
reverse our finding; the "alleged signature" appears to us to be a mere hazy
"superimposition" that does not bear any resemblance at all to Mitras signature. We, thus,
stand by our ruling that the February 3, 2009 CTC, if at all, carries very little evidentiary
value. It did it not at all carry Mitras signature; his secretarys positive testimony that she
secured the CTC for Mitra, without the latters participation and knowledge, still stands
unrefuted.
3. The private respondents likewise belatedly submitted a Certification, dated July 17,
2010,
16
from the Municipal Agriculturist of Aborlan, stating that its office does not have any
record of the supposed pineapple plantation in Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan. This late
submission was made to show that Mitra has no established business interests in Aborlan.
The Certification pertinently states:
This is to certify that as of this date, there is no existing records/registration in our office
regarding the alleged pineapple plantation in Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan. However,
the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist is on the process of gathering data on the Master list
of Farmers engaged in growing High Value Commercial Crops in Aborlan.
This certification is issued to MR. BENJAMIN KATON a resident in Penida Subdivision,
Puerto Princesa City for whatever legal purposes may serve him best.
We cannot give any evidentiary value to this submission for two reasons. First, it was filed
only on reconsideration stage and was not an evidence before us when the case was
submitted for resolution. Second, even if it had not been filed late, the Certification does not
prove anything; it is, on its face, contradictory. On the one hand, it categorically states that
there are no existing records of any pineapple plantation in Barangay Isaub, Aborlan,
Palawan; on the other hand, it also expressly states that its records are not yet complete
since it is "on the process of gathering data on the Master list of Farmers engaged in growing
High Value Commercial Crops in Aborlan."
17
Under what law or regulation the certifying office
has the obligation to prepare a list of agricultural business interests in Aborlan has not even
been alleged.
At the risk of repetition, we reiterate that Mitras business interests in Aborlan stand
undisputed in the present case. Not only was Mitra able to present photographs of his
experimental pineapple plantation; his claim of ownership was also corroborated by the
statements of Dr. Carme Caspe, Ricardo Temple and other witnesses.
4. The private respondents also claim that the Court erred in ruling that Mitra did not commit
any deliberate material misrepresentation in his COC. We likewise see no merit in this claim.
One important point in the present case is that the private respondents failed to prove that
there was deliberate material misrepresentation in Mitras statement on his required
residency prior to the May 10, 2010 elections. This, as we stressed in our Decision, is a
glaring gap in the private respondents case:
We do not believe that he committed any deliberate misrepresentation given what he knew of his
transfer, as shown by the moves he had made to carry it out. From the evidentiary perspective, we
hold that the evidence confirming residence in Aborlan decidedly tilts in Mitras favor; even assuming
the worst for Mitra, the evidence in his favor cannot go below the level of an equipoise, i.e., when
weighed, Mitras evidence of transfer and residence in Aborlan cannot be overcome by the
respondents evidence that he remained a Puerto Princesa City resident. Under the situation
prevailing when Mitra filed his COC, we cannot conclude that Mitra committed any
misrepresentation, much less a deliberate one, about his residence.
The character of Mitras representation before the COMELEC is an aspect of the case that the
COMELEC completely failed to consider as it focused mainly on the character of Mitras feedmill
residence. For this reason, the COMELEC was led into error one that goes beyond an ordinary
error of judgment. By failing to take into account whether there had been a deliberate
misrepresentation in Mitras COC, the COMELEC committed the grave abuse of simply assuming
that an error in the COC was necessarily a deliberate falsity in a material representation. In this
case, it doubly erred because there was no falsity; as the carefully considered evidence shows, Mitra
did indeed transfer his residence within the period required by Section 74 of the OEC.
The respondents significantly ask us in this case to adopt the same faulty approach of using
subjective norms, as they now argue that given his stature as a member of the prominent Mitra clan
of Palawan, and as a three term congressman, it is highly incredible that a small room in a feed mill
has served as his residence since 2008.
We reject this suggested approach outright for the same reason we condemned the COMELECs
use of subjective non-legal standards. Mitras feed mill dwelling cannot be considered in isolation
and separately from the circumstances of his transfer of residence, specifically, his expressed intent
to transfer to a residence outside of Puerto Princesa City to make him eligible to run for a provincial
position; his preparatory moves starting in early 2008; his initial transfer through a leased dwelling;
the purchase of a lot for his permanent home; and the construction of a house in this lot that,
parenthetically, is adjacent to the premises he leased pending the completion of his house. These
incremental moves do not offend reason at all, in the way that the COMELECs highly subjective
non-legal standards do.
Thus, we can only conclude, in the context of the cancellation proceeding before us, that the
respondents have not presented a convincing case sufficient to overcome Mitras evidence of
effective transfer to and residence in Aborlan and the validity of his representation on this point in his
COC, while the COMELEC could not even present any legally acceptable basis to conclude that
Mitras statement in his COC regarding his residence was a misrepresentation.
18

5. The private respondents submit that the Court erred in relying on jurisprudence (Torayno, Sr. v.
COMELEC
19
and Asistio v. Hon. Trinidad Pe-Aguirre
20
) not applicable to the present case. They
additionally argue that our ruling in Velasco v. COMELEC
21
should be applied strictly to the present
case.
These submissions are wrong, as they do not consider the purposes and the specific points of law
for which we cited these cases. Torayno, Asistio and Velasco, read in their proper perspective, fully
support our findings and conclusions in this case.
While Torayno does not share the exact factual situation in the present case, we cited the case to
illustrate that it is not unknown in this jurisdiction to have a situation where a candidate, due to legal
developments (such as reclassification of a component city to a highly urbanized city), is compelled
to transfer residence to allow him to continue his or her public service in another political unit that he
or she cannot legally access as a candidate, without a change of residence. In the present case, as
in Torayno, Mitra would not have had any legal obstacle to his gubernatorial bid were it not for the
reclassification of Puerto Princesa City from a component city to a highly urbanized city. The
adjustment he had to make was solely in his residence, as he already had, as a Puerto Princesa City
resident, knowledge of and sensitivity to the needs of the Palawan electorate.
The factual antecedents of Asistio are likewise not exactly the same as the facts of the present case,
but the Courts treatment of the COC inaccuracies in Asistio fully supports our conclusion that Mitra
has established his Aborlan domicile. In Asistio, we held that Asistios mistake in his residency
statement in his COC "is not sufficient proof that he has abandoned his domicile in Caloocan City, or
that he has established residence outside of Caloocan City."
22
In the present case, Mitra did not
commit any inaccuracies in his COC. In fact, any inaccuracy there may have been was committed by
third persons on documents (such as the building permit, contract of sale of the Temple property,
and his CTC) that do not have any bearing on his candidacy. Under these circumstances, we would
apply a harsher rule to Mitra if we conclude that he has not established his Aborlan domicile.
Our July 2, 2010 Decision finds commonality with our ruling in Velasco in the recognition, in both
cases, of the rule of law. But as we explained in our Decision, the similarity ends there as the facts to
which the law was applied differed. We thus ruled:
These cases are to be distinguished from the case of Velasco v. COMELEC where the COMELEC
cancelled the COC of Velasco, a mayoralty candidate, on the basis of his undisputed knowledge, at
the time he filed his COC, that his inclusion and registration as a voter had been denied. His failure
to register as a voter was a material fact that he had clearly withheld from the COMELEC; he knew
of the denial of his application to register and yet concealed his non-voter status when he filed his
COC. Thus, we affirmed the COMELECs action in cancelling his COC.
If there is any similarity at all in Velasco and the present case, that similarity is in the recognition in
both cases of the rule of law. In Velasco, we recognized based on the law that a basic defect
existed prior to his candidacy, leading to his disqualification and the vice-mayor-elects assumption
to the office. In the present case, we recognize the validity of Mitras COC, again on the basis of
substantive and procedural law, and no occasion arises for the vice-governor-elect to assume the
gubernatorial post.
23

To summarize, both the COMELEC and private respondents have not shown, through their
respective motions, sufficient reasons to compel us to modify or reverse our July 2, 2010 Decision.
Other Developments,
Issues and Rulings
In the course of the Courts consideration of this case, a dissent was entered that contained its own
arguments on why our Decision of July 2, 2010 should be reversed. For a complete treatment and
presentation of the issues raised, the arguments in the dissent and the refutation are discussed
below, separately from the arguments the COMELEC and private respondents themselves raised.
First, the dissent asserts that our conclusion that the private respondents evidence failed to
show that Mitra remained a Puerto Princesa City resident is "way off point" since the private
respondents showed, as the COMELEC has found, that Mitra could not have stayed and
resided at the mezzanine portion of the Maligaya Feedmill located at Barangay Isaub,
Aborlan, Palawan.
24
In concluding that Mitra remained to be a Puerto Princesa City resident,
the dissent points to the certification of the Punong Barangay of Sta. Monica, Puerto
Princesa City attesting that Mitra continued to reside in that barangay. The dissent also
argues that the certification of the Punong Barangay of Sta. Monica, supported by the sworn
statement of Commodore Hernandez that Mitra resides in that same barangay, deserves
equal if not greater weight than the statement of the Punong Barangay of Isaub, Aborlan; the
latter supporting statement should provide the "tilting element on the question of Mitras
continued residency in his domicile of origin."
25

Second, the dissent faults us for not giving weight to the sworn statements of Maligaya Feed
Mills customers and former employees, who testified that Mitra did not reside at the
mezzanine portion of the Feed Mill. It emphasizes the undisputed point that the room at the
mezzanine neither has the usual comfort room nor a kitchen area. Additionally, it argues that
we conveniently failed to cite any statutory standard with respect to the determination of
whether Mitras alleged residence constitutes a "residence" as defined by law.
26

Third, the dissent submits that we gravely erred "in giving credence to Mitras gratuitous
claims of business interests in Aborlan Palawan" to justify our finding that "Mitras transfer of
residence was accomplished not in one single move but, through an incremental
process."
27
It notes that Mitra failed to submit material proofs to prove his substantial
business interests in Aborlan, Palawan, such as but not limited to - "government issued
permits or licenses, tax declarations, or real estate tax payments, property leases and proofs
of commercial transactions."
28
The dissent concludes that the suppression of material
evidence, which, could directly prove the existence and ownership of the pineapple
plantation should be taken against Mitra who claims ownership and existence of these
businesses.
29

Fourth, the dissent argues that we erred in unduly relying on the "dubious" lease contract for
being ante-dated. It stresses that the ponencia unreasonably gave credence to the lease
contract despite "indicators" of its invalidity, which should have forewarned the Court that the
same is not what it purports to be.
30
It also adds that our justification that the lease contract
by law may be impliedly renewed from month to month lacks factual basis, since Mitra
himself, in his Motion for Reconsideration dated February 13, 2010 before the COMELEC en
banc, stated that "he had moved to his own new house physically residing in his newly
completed home in Aborlan."
31

Fifth, the dissent implores the Court to apply to the present case our June 15, 2010 Decision
in G.R. No. 192127, Mario Joel T. Reyes v. Commission on Elections and Antonio V.
Gonzales,
32
where we resolved to dismiss Reyes petition via a minute resolution for failure
to sufficiently show that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in cancelling Reyes
COC for his deliberate misrepresentation on his transfer and establishment of a new
residence in Aborlan, Palawan.
Finally, the dissent submits that the mere fact that Mitra won in the May 10, 2010
gubernatorial elections cannot disregard the mandatory one-year residency requirement to
qualify as a gubernatorial candidate. It cites our ruling in Velasco v. Commission on
Elections,
33
where we ruled that the provisions on material qualifications of elected official
should always prevail over the will of the electorate in any given locality; to rule otherwise,
would be "to slowly gnaw at the rule of law."
These arguments are addressed in the same order they are posed under the topical headings
below.
The private respondents failed to establish by sufficiently convincing evidence that Mitra remained a
Puerto Princesa City resident.
The evidence before us, properly considered and carefully reviewed, fully supports our conclusion
that the private respondents evidence failed to show that Mitra remained a Puerto Princesa City
resident. As discussed now and in our Decision of July 2, 2010, Mitra adequately proved by
substantial evidence that he transferred by incremental process to Aborlan beginning 2008,
concluding his transfer in early 2009. Given this proof, the burden of evidence lies with the private
respondents to establish the contrary.
Proof to the contrary is sadly lacking, as the dissents reliance on the Certification of the Punong
Barangay of Sta. Monica, Puerto Princesa City is misplaced. The ponencia cannot give full
evidentiary weight to the aforementioned Certification which simply stated -
This is to CERTIFY that ABRAHAM KAHLIL B. MITRA, is a bonafide resident of Purok El
Rancho this (sic) Barangay.
CERTIFIES FURTHER, that on February 3, 2009, he secure (sic) community tax certificate in this
Barangay with CTC No. 16657723.
34

To be sure, a bare certification in a disputed situation cannot suffice to conclusively establish the
existence of what the certification alleged. The purported CTC, on the other hand, was neither
signed nor thumb-marked by Mitra and, thus, bore no clear indication that it had been adopted and
used by Mitra as his own. In our evaluation, we in fact pointedly emphasized that the Puerto
Princesa City CTC dated February 3, 2009, if at all, carries little evidentiary value in light of Lilia
Camoras (Mitras secretary) positive declaration that she was the one who procured it, while Mitras
Aborlan CTC dated March 18, 2009 carried Mitras own signature. Camora fully explained the
circumstances under which she secured the CTC of February 3, 2009 and her statement was never
disputed.
On the other hand, Commodore Hernandez declaration on its face did not controvert Carme E.
Caspes sworn statement which adequately proved that Mitras transfer to Aborlan was
accomplished, not in a single move, but through an incremental process that started in early 2008
and concluded in March 2009. Thus, we emphasized in our Decision:
A sworn statement that has no counterpart in the respondents evidence in so far as it provides
details (particularly when read with the statement of Ricardo Temple) is Carme Caspes statement
on how Mitras transfer of residence took place. Read together, these statements attest that the
transfer was accomplished, not in one single move but, through an incremental process that started
in early 2008 and was in place by March 2009, although the house Mitra intended to be his
permanent home was not yet then completed.
35

The COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in the appreciation of the evidence and in using
wrong considerations which lead it to incorrectly conclude that Mitra is not a resident of Aborlan and
that he committed a deliberate misrepresentation in his COC.
Contrary to the dissents view, the sworn statements of Maligaya Feedmills customers and former
employees that Mitra did not and could not have resided at the mezzanine portion of the Feedmill
cannot be given full evidentiary weight, since these statements are in nature of negative testimonies
that do not deserve weight and credence in the face of contrary positive evidence, particularly,
Carme E. Caspes testimony, cited above, that Mitra did indeed transfer residence in a process that
was accomplished, not in a single move, but through an incremental process that started in early
2008. It is well-settled in the rules of evidence that positive testimony is stronger than negative
testimony.
36

Additionally, we noted in our Decision that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion, as it
failed to correctly appreciate that the evidence clearly pointed to fact that Mitra effectively transferred
his residence to Aborlan, viz:
Specifically, it was lost on the COMELEC majority (but not on the Dissent) that Mitra made definite,
although incremental transfer moves, as shown by the undisputed business interests he has
established in Aborlan in 2008; by lease of a dwelling he established his base; by the purchase of a
lot for his permanent home; by his transfer of registration as a voter in March 2009; and by the
construction of a house all viewed against the backdrop of a bachelor Representative who spent
most of his working hours in Manila, who had a whole congressional district to take care of, and who
was establishing at the same time his significant presence in the whole Province of Palawan.
37

The dissents observation that the ponencia conveniently failed to cite any statutory standard with
respect to the determination of whether Mitras alleged residence constitutes a "residence" as
defined by law is simply not true.
38
Our July 2, 2019 Decision was particularly sensitive to the matter
of standards, as we noted that the COMELEC used personal and subjective standards in its
assessment of Mitras dwelling when, in fact, the law is replete with standards, i.e., the dwelling must
be where a person permanently intends to return and to remain. Thus, we held:
In considering the residency issue, the COMELEC practically focused solely on its consideration of
Mitras residence at Maligaya Feedmill, on the basis of mere photographs of the premises. In the
COMELECs view (expressly voiced out by the Division and fully concurred in by the En Banc), the
Maligaya Feedmill building could not have been Mitras residence because it is cold and utterly
devoid of any indication of Mitras personality and that it lacks loving attention and details inherent in
every home to make it ones residence. This was the main reason that the COMELEC relied upon
for its conclusion.
Such assessment, in our view, based on the interior design and furnishings of a dwelling as shown
by and examined only through photographs, is far from reasonable; the COMELEC thereby
determined the fitness of a dwelling as a persons residence based solely on very personal and
subjective assessment standards when the law is replete with standards that can be used. Where a
dwelling qualifies as a residence i.e., the dwelling where a person permanently intends to return to
and to remain his or her capacity or inclination to decorate the place, or the lack of it, is
immaterial.
39

To buttress our finding that the COMELEC used personal and subjective assessment standards
instead of the standards prescribed by law, we cited Coquilla v. COMELEC,
40
which characterized
the term residence as referring to "domicile" or legal residence, that is "the place where a party
actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at
any given time, eventually intends to return and remain (animus manendi).
Mitras business interests in Aborlan remain undisputed and are supported by the evidence on
record.
The dissents view that Mitras business interests are not supported by the evidence on record is not
accurate. As discussed above and in our July 2, 2010 Decision, Mitras business interests in Aborlan
stand undisputed in the present case. On the one hand, the private respondents failed to present
any iota of evidence to disprove Mitras claims that he had significant investments in Aborlan, such
as the expiremental pineapple plantation, farm, farmhouse and cock farm.
On the other hand, Mitra submitted photographs
41
of his experimental pineapple plantation, farm,
farmhouse and cock farm to prove his business interests in Aborlan. Carme E. Caspes and Ricardo
Temples statements also corroborated Mitras claim that he owns the pineapple plantation which is
located in a property near the Maligaya Feedmill. In this regard, Carme E. Caspes sworn statement
pertinently declared:
3. Since 2001, Congressman Mitra has been frequently visiting my farm and we often meet
at the Maligaya Feedmill and Farm located along National Hi-way, Sitio Maligaya, Barangay
Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan.
4. Sometime in January 2008, Congressman Mitra together with his brother Ramon B. Mitra
and his Chief of Staff, Atty. Winston T. Gonzales and some of their friends started an
experimental pineapple growing project in a rented farmland located near the Maligaya
Feedmill and Farm.
5. At about the time that they started the pineapple project, Congressman Mitra and Ramon
Mitra would from time to time stay overnight in the residential portion of Maligaya Feedmill
located along National Hi-way, Sitio Maligaya, Barangay Isaub, Aborlan, Palawan.
6. Sometime in February 2008, inasmuch as Congressman Abraham Kahlil B. Mitra and
Ramon B. Mitra would want to permanently stay in Aborlan, as Congressman Mitra would
want to be nearer and have easier access to the entire 2st Congressional District and as
they intend to invest in a chicken layer venture in Aborlan in addition to their pineapple
project, we ented onto a contract of lease covering the residential portion of the Maligaya
Feedmill as their residence, a chicken layer house and a growing house for chickens. We
also agreed that Congressman Mitra has the option to purchase a portion of the Feedmill
where he can erect or contruct his own house if he so desires later.
7. Congressman Mitra, pursuant to our agreement, immediately renovated and refurbished
the residential part in a portion of the Feedmill and as of March 2008 he started to occupy
and reside in the said premises bringing with him some of his personal belongings, clothes
and other personal effects.
10. That in January 2009, Congressman Mitra decided to purchase a nearby farmland
located behind the Deaf School where he intends to contruct his residential house and farm.
However, as he needed time to consummate the sale of the property and to construct his
house thereon, we agreed to renew the lease for another year effective February 2, 2009 to
February 28, 2010 consisting of, among others, a residential portion of the Maligaya
Feedmill.
11. Sometime in May 2009, Congressman Mitra caused the construction of a house and
established a game fowl/fighting cock farm in the lot that he purchased but he continued to
reside in the Maligaya Feedmill up to the present.
42

The photographs of the experimental pineapple plantation, farm, farmhouse and cock farm, coupled
with the sworn statements of Carme E. Caspe and Ricardo Temple, substantially prove the
existence of Mitras business interests in Aborlan. Thus, Mitras failure to submit permits or licenses,
tax declarations, real estate tax payments and other proofs of commercial transactions does not
negate the fact that he has substantial business interests in Aborlan as he claims.
Incidentally, the dissents invocation of the adverse presumption of suppression of evidence
43
is
erroneous, since it does not arise when the evidence is at the disposal of both parties.
44
In the
present case, the required proofs of commercial transactions the dissent cites are public documents
which are at the disposal of both parties; they are not solely under the custody of Mitra and can be
easily obtained from the municipal offices of Aborlan had the private respondents been minded to do
so. The bottom line is that no such evidence was ever presented in this case, and none can and
should be considered at this point.
The validity or invalidity
of the lease contract is not determinative of question of Mitras residence in Aborlan.
Beyond the arguments raised about the invalidity of the lease contract, what is significant for
purposes of this case is the immateriality of the issue to the present case. As we emphasized in our
Decision:
The validity of the lease contract, however, is not the issue before us; what concerns us is the
question of whether Mitra did indeed enter into an agreement for the lease, or strictly for the use, of
the Maligaya Feedmill as his residence (while his house, on the lot he bought, was under
construction) and whether he indeed resided there. The notarys compliance with the notarial law
likewise assumes no materiality as it is a defect not imputable to Mitra; what is important is the
parties affirmation before a notary public of the contracts genuineness and due execution.
45

The dissents thesis that Mitras allegation in his Motion for Reconsideration (dated February 13,
2010) before the COMELEC en banc that he had already transferred to the newly constructed house
in Aborlan negates the proposition that the lease agreement is extendible from month to month - is
misleading. The significance of Mitras statement in his Motion for Reconsideration that he had
already transferred to his newly constructed house in Aborlan must not be read in isolation; it must
be appreciated under the backdrop of Mitras explicit intention to make Aborlan his permanent
residence through an incremental transfer of residence, as evidenced by the following:
(1) his initial transfer through the leased dwelling at the mezzanine portion of the Maligaya
Feedmill;
(2) the purchase of a lot for his permanent home; and
(3) the construction of a house on this lot which is adjacent to the premises he was leasing
pending the completion of his house.
All these should of course be read with the establishment of Mitras business interest in Aborlan and
his transfer of registration as a voter.
Reyes v. Commission on Elections is not applicable in the present case.
In invoking the applicability of our June 15, 2010 ruling in Reyes v. Commission on Elections, the
dissent cites the "explanatory note" penned by Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales recommending the
dismissal of Reyes petition. The explanatory note states:
To successfully effect a change of domicile, one must demonstrate (1) actual removal or change of
domicile; (2) a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a
new one; and (3) definite acts which correspond with the purpose.
Public respondent committed no grave abuse of discretion in finding that the petitioner had not
sufficiently established a change of his domicile from Coron, Palawan, his domicile of origin, to
Aborlan, Palawan, his supposed domicile of choice, for failure to show, among others things, (1)
actual presence at Aborlan, Palawan, and (2) abandonment of his residence at Coron, Palawan. It
thus correctly relied on the Courts pronouncement in Dumpit-Michelena v. Boado that without clear
and positive proof of the concurrence of the requirements for a change of domicile, the domicile of
origin continues.
Reading Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code with the constitutional qualifications for a Member
of the House of Representatives, petitioners false representation in his COC regarding his
residence, which affects his qualifications, gave cause for the COMELEC to cancel the same.
46

On June 15, 2010, the Court issued a Minute Resolution dismissing Reyes petition, which states:
The Court Resolved to DISMISS the petition for failure thereof to sufficiently show that any grave
abuse of discretion was committed by the Commission on Elections in rendering the challenged
resolutions which, on the contrary, appear to be in accord with the facts and applicable law and
jurisprudence.
47

This Resolution found no grave abuse of discretion and upheld the March 25, 2010 Resolution of the
COMELEC Second Division
48
and May 7, 2010 Resolution of the COMELEC en banc.
49
In this March
25, 2010 Resolution, the COMELEC Second Division found:
An evaluation, however, of the evidence presented by the parties vis--vis the three requirements for
a successful change of domicile would show that the petitioner is correct.
First, the alleged residence of respondent is a mere beach house or a lodging house with a roof
made of pawid as shown in the Declaration of Real Property of Clara Espiritu Reyes, the wife of the
respondent. This description of the property is confirmed by two photographs attached to the
Memorandum of the petitioner. By its very nature, a beach house is a mere temporary abode, a
lodging house where people stay merely as transients. It is not meant to be a permanent place to
live in. As the Supreme Court declared in Dumpit Michelena v. Boado, a beach house is at most a
place of temporary relaxation and it can hardly be considered a place of residence. With this kind of
property, it can scarcely be said that respondent has the intention of remaining there permanently or
for an indefinite period of time.
Second, respondent has failed to show actual presence at his domicile of choice. Respondent
himself admitted that he goes only to Aborlan whenever he gets reprieves from work as most of the
time he stays at Puerto Princesa City, where he also resides with his wife. His witnesses also
confirm this saying that all Palaweos know that the office of the governor is at the capitol of Puerto
Princesa City, where respondent and his wife stay if there is work at the office. However, considering
that Aborlan is only about an hours away from Puerto Princesa, it is odd that respondent and his
wife never go home to Aborlan after office hours if he intended to establish his domicile of choice in
the said municipality. It is also unusual that respondents wife still stays at Puerto Princesa City while
she works as manager of Palawan Agricultural and Animal Husbandy Corporation, which is based in
Aborlan. This conduct is not indicative of an intent to establish their domicile at Aborlan.
Third, respondent failed to show that he already cut his ties with Coron, Palawan as his domicle.
Although respondent declared that as early as 2008, he has already transferred his domicile at
Aborlan, still he secured his Community Tax Certificate (CTC) for the year 2009 at Coron.
Respondent tried to wiggle out from this tight spot by explaining that it was secured by his secretary,
who through force of habit inadvertently got it for him. However, such explanation proved futile when
respondent was confronted with the fact that he still used the said CTC in establishing his identity
when he signed a Special Power of Attorney on January 12, 2009 and when he signed a contract in
behalf of the Palawan Provincial Government on August 10, 2009 even when he has supposedly
secured another CTC from Aborlan on April 7, 2009.
Thus, even in August of 2009, less than a year prior to the May 10, 2010 election, respondent still
portrayed himself as a resident of Coron. The intention then to abandon the said place as his
domicile is wanting.
Based on the foregoing discussions alone, it is at once apparent the three-point requirements for the
abandonment of a domicile and the establishment of a new one do not concur in the case of the
respondent.
50

Contrary to the dissents view, no parallelism can be drawn between this ruling and the present
case, so that this ruling cannot apply to the latter.
First, the dissents citation of Justice Carpio-Morales explanatory note recommending the dismissal
of Reyes petition cannot be considered a precedent that should be made applicable to the present
case. The explanatory note, while reflective of the Courts thinking, is not a decision nor an opinion
of the Court. It remains what its description connotes an explanatory note provided by one Justice
and approved by the Court and nothing more; what binds the Court is its pronouncement that no
grave abuse of discretion transpired in the COMELECs consideration of the case. Under this legal
situation, what assumes significance are the COMELEC Resolutions that the Court effectively
upheld when it issued the June 15, 2010 Minute Resolution dismissing Reyes petition.
Second, the factual circumstances in Reyes are entirely different from the present case; no
parallelism can be drawn so that the application of the ruling in Reyes cannot be bodily lifted and
applied to Mitra. In Reyes, the COMELEC ruled that Reyes committed a material misrepresentation
in his COC when he declared that his residence is Tigman, Aborlan, Palawan and that he is eligible
for the office he seeks to be elected to. The COMELEC so concluded after it found that the evidence
showed that Reyes failed to prove that (1) he had the intention to remain permanently in Aborlan
since his alleged residence is a mere beach house which by its very nature is a temporary place of
residence as held by the Court in Dumpit Michelana v. Boado;
51
2) he had actual presence at his
domicile of choice; and (3) that he had already transferred from his domicile (Coron, Palawan) to
Tigman, Aborlan Palawan. The COMELEC even found, on the matter of CTC, that Reyes
consistently used his Coron CTC in his transactions, thus negating his explanation that the CTC was
procured without his knowledge and consent.
In contrast, we found in the present case that Mitra did not deliberately misrepresent his Aborlan
residence to deceive or mislead the Palawan electorate since he in fact adduced positive evidence
of transfer of residence which the private respondents failed to sufficiently controvert. In this regard,
we noted with emphasis that Mitra undertook "incremental moves" to his new domicile in Aborlan as
evidenced by the following: (1) his expressed intent to transfer to a residence outside of Puerto
Princesa City to make him eligible for a provincial position; (2) his preparatory moves starting in early
2008; (3) the transfer of registration as a voter in March 2009; (4) his initial transfer through a leased
dwelling at Maligaya Feedmill; (5) the purchase of a lot for his permanent home; and (6) the
construction of a house on the said lot which is adjacent to the premises he was leasing pending the
completion of his house.
52
The issue regarding Mitras CTC, too, was satisfactorily explained and is
far different from the obtaining facts in the case of Reyes.
No occasion exists to apply the rule of the primacy of the will of people since Mitra did not commit
any deliberate misrepresentation; in fact, he proved that he transferred his residence to Aborlan
within the period required by law.
The dissent contends that Mitras election as Governor "did not render the present case moot and
academic or lift the statutory one-year residency requirement for him to qualify for the gubernatorial
post."
53
The dissent apparently perceives Mitras electoral victory as a major consideration in our
Decision of July 2, 2010. Unfortunately, the dissent is mistaken in its appreciation of the thrust of our
Decision; we in fact ruled that no reason exists to appeal to the primacy of the electorates will since
Mitra did not commit any material misrepresentation in his COC. We said:
We have applied in past cases the principle that the manifest will of the people as expressed through
the ballot must be given fullest effect; in case of doubt, political laws must be interpreted to give life
and spirit to the popular mandate. Thus, we have held that while provisions relating to certificates of
candidacy are in mandatory terms, it is an established rule of interpretation as regards election laws,
that mandatory provisions, requiring certain steps before elections, will be construed as directory
after the elections, to give effect to the will of the people.
Quite recently, however, we warned against a blanket and unqualified reading and application of this
ruling, as it may carry dangerous significance to the rule of law and the integrity of our elections. For
one, such blanket/unqualified reading may provide a way around the law that effectively negates
election requirements aimed at providing the electorate with the basic information for an informed
choice about a candidates eligibility and fitness for office. Short of adopting a clear cut standard, we
thus made the following clarification:
We distinguish our ruling in this case from others that we have made in the past by the clarification
that COC defects beyond matters of form and that involve material misrepresentations cannot avail
of the benefit of our ruling that COC mandatory requirements before elections are considered merely
directory after the people shall have spoken. A mandatory and material election law requirement
involves more than the will of the people in any given locality. Where a material COC
misrepresentation under oath is made, thereby violating both our election and criminal laws, we are
faced as well with an assault on the will of the people of the Philippines as expressed in our laws. In
a choice between provisions on material qualifications of elected officials, on the one hand, and the
will of the electorate in any given locality, on the other, we believe and so hold that we cannot
choose the electorate will.
Earlier, Frivaldo v. COMELEC provided the following test:
[T]his Court has repeatedly stressed the importance of giving effect to the sovereign will in order to
ensure the survival of our democracy. In any action involving the possibility of a reversal of the
popular electoral choice, this Court must exert utmost effort to resolve the issues in a manner that
would give effect to the will of the majority, for it is merely sound public policy to cause elective
offices to be filled by those who are the choice of the majority. To successfully challenge a winning
candidate's qualifications, the petitioner must clearly demonstrate that the ineligibility is so patently
antagonistic to constitutional and legal principles that overriding such ineligibility and thereby giving
effect to the apparent will of the people would ultimately create greater prejudice to the very
democratic institutions and juristic traditions that our Constitution and laws so zealously protect and
promote. [Emphasis supplied.]
With the conclusion that Mitra did not commit any material misrepresentation in his COC, we see no
reason in this case to appeal to the primacy of the electorates will. We cannot deny, however, that
the people of Palawan have spoken in an election where residency qualification had been squarely
raised and their voice has erased any doubt about their verdict on Mitras qualifications.
54

Under these terms, we cannot be any clearer.
WHEREFORE, premises considered, we resolve to DENY with FINALITY, for lack of merit, the
motions for reconsideration and motion for oral arguments now before us. Let entry of judgment be
made in due course.
SO ORDERED.
BAGABUYO VS COMELEC
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 176970 December 8, 2008
ROGELIO Z. BAGABUYO, petitioner,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent.
D E C I S I O N
BRION, J .:
Before us is the petition for certiorari, prohibition, and mandamus,
1
with a prayer for the issuance of a
temporary restraining order and a writ of preliminary injunction, filed by Rogelio Bagabuyo
(petitioner) to prevent the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from implementing Resolution No.
7837 on the ground that Republic Act No. 9371
2
- the law that Resolution No. 7837 implements - is
unconstitutional.
BACKGROUND FACTS
On October 10, 2006, Cagayan de Oro's then Congressman Constantino G. Jaraula filed and
sponsored House Bill No. 5859: "An Act Providing for the Apportionment of the Lone Legislative
District of the City of Cagayan De Oro."
3
This law eventually became Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9371.
4
It
increased Cagayan de Oro's legislative district from one to two. For the election of May 2007,
Cagayan de Oro's voters would be classified as belonging to either the first or the second district,
depending on their place of residence. The constituents of each district would elect their own
representative to Congress as well as eight members of the Sangguniang Panglungsod.
Section 1 of R.A. No. 9371 apportioned the City's barangays as follows:
Legislative Districts - The lone legislative district of the City of Cagayan De Oro is hereby
apportioned to commence in the next national elections after the effectivity of this Act.
Henceforth, barangays Bonbon, Bayabas, Kauswagan, Carmen, Patag, Bulua, Iponan,
Baikingon, San Simon, Pagatpat, Canitoan, Balulang, Lumbia, Pagalungan, Tagpangi,
Taglimao, Tuburan, Pigsag-an, Tumpagon, Bayanga, Mambuaya, Dansulihon, Tignapoloan
and Bisigan shall comprise the first district while barangays Macabalan, Puntod,
Consolacion, Camaman-an, Nazareth, Macasandig, Indahag, Lapasan, Gusa, Cugman, FS
Catanico, Tablon, Agusan, Puerto, Bugo, and Balubal and all urban barangays from
Barangay 1 to Barangay 40 shall comprise the second district.
5

On March 13, 2007, the COMELEC en Banc promulgated Resolution No. 7837
6
implementing R.A.
No. 9371.
Petitioner Rogelio Bagabuyo filed the present petition against the COMELEC on March 27,
2007.
7
On 10 April 2008, the petitioner amended the petition to include the following as respondents:
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita; the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management;
the Chairman of the Commission on Audit; the Mayor and the members of the Sangguniang
Panglungsod of Cagayan de Oro City; and its Board of Canvassers.
8

In asking for the nullification of R.A. No. 9371 and Resolution No. 7837 on constitutional grounds,
the petitioner argued that the COMELEC cannot implement R.A. No. 9371 without providing for the
rules, regulations and guidelines for the conduct of a plebiscite which is indispensable for the
division or conversion of a local government unit. He prayed for the issuance of an order directing
the respondents to cease and desist from implementing R.A. No. 9371 and COMELEC Resolution
No. 7837, and to revert instead to COMELEC Resolution No. 7801 which provided for a single
legislative district for Cagayan de Oro.
Since the Court did not grant the petitioner's prayer for a temporary restraining order or writ of
preliminary injunction, the May 14 National and Local Elections proceeded according to R.A. No.
9371 and Resolution No. 7837.
The respondent's Comment on the petition, filed through the Office of the Solicitor General, argued
that: 1) the petitioner did not respect the hierarchy of courts, as the Regional Trial Court (RTC) is
vested with concurrent jurisdiction over cases assailing the constitutionality of a statute; 2) R.A. No.
9371 merely increased the representation of Cagayan de Oro City in the House of Representatives
and Sangguniang Panglungsod pursuant to Section 5, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution; 3) the
criteria established under Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution only apply when there is a
creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of a province, city,
municipality, or barangay; in this case, no such creation, division, merger, abolition or alteration of
boundaries of a local government unit took place; and 4) R.A. No. 9371 did not bring about any
change in Cagayan de Oro's territory, population and income classification; hence, no plebiscite is
required.
The petitioner argued in his reply that: 1) pursuant to the Court's ruling in Del Mar v. PAGCOR,
9
the
Court may take cognizance of this petition if compelling reasons, or the nature and importance of the
issues raised, warrant the immediate exercise of its jurisdiction; 2) Cagayan de Oro City's
reapportionment under R.A. No. 9371 falls within the meaning of creation, division, merger, abolition
or substantial alteration of boundaries of cities under Section 10, Article X of the Constitution; 3) the
creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units
involve a common denominator - the material change in the political and economic rights of the local
government units directly affected, as well as of the people therein; 4) a voter's sovereign power to
decide on who should be elected as the entire city's Congressman was arbitrarily reduced by at least
one half because the questioned law and resolution only allowed him to vote and be voted for in the
district designated by the COMELEC; 5) a voter was also arbitrarily denied his right to elect the
Congressman and the members of the city council for the other legislative district, and 6)
government funds were illegally disbursed without prior approval by the sovereign electorate of
Cagayan De Oro City.
10

THE ISSUES
The core issues, based on the petition and the parties' memoranda, can be limited to the following
contentious points:
1) Did the petitioner violate the hierarchy of courts rule; if so, should the instant petition be
dismissed on this ground?
2) Does R.A. No. 9371 merely provide for the legislative reapportionment of Cagayan de Oro
City, or does it involve the division and conversion of a local government unit?
3) Does R.A. No. 9371 violate the equality of representation doctrine?
OUR RULING
Except for the issue of the hierarchy of courts rule, we find the petition totally without merit.
The hierarchy of courts principle.
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over petitions for certiorari, prohibition, mandamus, quo
warranto, andhabeas corpus.
11
It was pursuant to this original jurisdiction that the petitioner filed the
present petition.
While this jurisdiction is shared with the Court of Appeals
12
and the RTCs,
13
a direct invocation of the
Supreme Court's jurisdiction is allowed only when there are special and important reasons therefor,
clearly and especially set out in the petition. Reasons of practicality, dictated by an increasingly
overcrowded docket and the need to prioritize in favor of matters within our exclusive jurisdiction,
justify the existence of this rule otherwise known as the "principle of hierarchy of courts." More
generally stated, the principle requires that recourse must first be made to the lower-ranked court
exercising concurrent jurisdiction with a higher court.
14

Among the cases we have considered sufficiently special and important to be exceptions to the rule,
are petitions forcertiorari, prohibition, mandamus and quo warranto against our nation's lawmakers
when the validity of their enactments is assailed.
15
The present petition is of this nature; its subject
matter and the nature of the issues raised - among them, whether legislative reapportionment
involves a division of Cagayan de Oro City as a local government unit - are reasons enough for
considering it an exception to the principle of hierarchy of courts. Additionally, the petition assails as
well a resolution of the COMELEC en banc issued to implement the legislative apportionment that
R.A. No. 9371 decrees. As an action against a COMELEC en banc resolution, the case falls under
Rule 64 of the Rules of Court that in turn requires a review by this Court via a Rule 65 petition
for certiorari.
16
For these reasons, we do not see the principle of hierarchy of courts to be a stumbling
block in our consideration of the present case.
The Plebiscite Requirement.
The petitioner insists that R.A. No. 9371 converts and divides the City of Cagayan de Oro as a local
government unit, and does not merely provide for the City's legislative apportionment. This argument
essentially proceeds from a misunderstanding of the constitutional concepts of apportionment of
legislative districts and division of local government units.
Legislative apportionment is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the determination of the number
of representatives which a State, county or other subdivision may send to a legislative body.
17
It is the
allocation of seats in a legislative body in proportion to the population; the drawing of voting district
lines so as to equalize population and voting power among the districts.
18
Reapportionment, on the
other hand, is the realignment or change in legislative districts brought about by changes in
population and mandated by the constitutional requirement of equality of representation.
19

Article VI (entitled Legislative Department) of the 1987 Constitution lays down the rules on legislative
apportionment under its Section 5 which provides:
Sec. 5(1). (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two
hundred fifty members unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative
districts apportioned among the provinces, cities, and the Metropolitan Manila area in
accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform
and progressive ratio, and those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-
list system of registered national, regional and sectoral parties or organizations.
x x x
(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, continuous, compact, and
adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each
province, shall have at least one representative.
(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a
reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section.
Separately from the legislative districts that legal apportionment or reapportionment speaks of, are
the local government units (historically and generically referred to as "municipal corporations") that
the Constitution itself classified into provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays.
20
In its strict and
proper sense, a municipality has been defined as "a body politic and corporate constituted by the
incorporation of the inhabitants of a city or town for the purpose of local government thereof."
21
The
creation, division, merger, abolition or alteration of boundary of local government units, i.e., of
provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays, are covered by the Article on Local Government
(Article X). Section 10 of this Article provides:
No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or
its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the
local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite
in the political unit directly affected.
Under both Article VI, Section 5, and Article X, Section 10 of the Constitution, the authority to act has
been vested in the Legislature. The Legislature undertakes the apportionment and reapportionment
of legislative districts,
22
and likewise acts on local government units by setting the standards for their
creation, division, merger, abolition and alteration of boundaries and by actually creating, dividing,
merging, abolishing local government units and altering their boundaries through legislation. Other
than this, not much commonality exists between the two provisions since they are inherently different
although they interface and relate with one another.
The concern that leaps from the text of Article VI, Section 5 is political representation and the means
to make a legislative district sufficiently represented so that the people can be effectively heard. As
above stated, the aim of legislative apportionment is "to equalize population and voting power
among districts."
23
Hence, emphasis is given to the number of people represented; the uniform and
progressive ratio to be observed among the representative districts; and accessibility and
commonality of interests in terms of each district being, as far as practicable, continuous, compact
and adjacent territory. In terms of the people represented, every city with at least 250,000 people
and every province (irrespective of population) is entitled to one representative. In this sense,
legislative districts, on the one hand, and provinces and cities, on the other, relate and interface with
each other. To ensure continued adherence to the required standards of apportionment, Section 5(4)
specifically mandates reapportionment as soon as the given standards are met.
In contrast with the equal representation objective of Article VI, Section 5, Article X, Section 10
expressly speaks of how local government units may be "created, divided, merged, abolished, or its
boundary substantially altered." Its concern is the commencement, the termination, and the
modification of local government units' corporate existence and territorial coverage; and it speaks of
two specific standards that must be observed in implementing this concern, namely, the criteria
established in the local government code and the approval by a majority of the votes cast in a
plebiscite in the political units directly affected. Under the Local Government Code (R.A. No. 7160)
passed in 1991, the criteria of income, population and land area are specified as verifiable indicators
of viability and capacity to provide services.
24
The division or merger of existing units must comply
with the same requirements (since a new local government unit will come into being), provided that a
division shall not reduce the income, population, or land area of the unit affected to less than the
minimum requirement prescribed in the Code.
25

A pronounced distinction between Article VI, Section 5 and, Article X, Section 10 is on the
requirement of a plebiscite. The Constitution and the Local Government Code expressly require a
plebiscite to carry out any creation, division, merger, abolition or alteration of boundary of a local
government unit.
26
In contrast, no plebiscite requirement exists under the apportionment or
reapportionment provision. In Tobias v. Abalos,
27
a case that arose from the division of the
congressional district formerly covering San Juan and Mandaluyong into separate districts, we
confirmed this distinction and the fact that no plebiscite is needed in a legislative reapportionment.
The plebiscite issue came up because one was ordered and held for Mandaluyong in the course of
its conversion into a highly urbanized city, while none was held for San Juan. In explaining why this
happened, the Court ruled that no plebiscite was necessary for San Juan because the objective of
the plebiscite was the conversion of Mandaluyong into a highly urbanized city as required by Article
X, Section 10 the Local Government Code; the creation of a new legislative district only followed as
a consequence. In other words, the apportionment alone and by itself did not call for a plebiscite, so
that none was needed for San Juan where only a reapportionment took place.
The need for a plebiscite under Article X, Section 10 and the lack of requirement for one under
Article VI, Section 5 can best be appreciated by a consideration of the historical roots of these two
provisions, the nature of the concepts they embody as heretofore discussed, and their areas of
application.
A Bit of History.
In Macias v. COMELEC,
28
we first jurisprudentially acknowledged the American roots of our
apportionment provision, noting its roots from the Fourteenth Amendment
29
of the U.S. Constitution
and from the constitutions of some American states. The Philippine Organic Act of 1902 created the
Philippine Assembly,
30
the body that acted as the lower house of the bicameral legislature under the
Americans, with the Philippine Commission acting as the upper house. While the members of the
Philippine Commission were appointed by the U.S. President with the conformity of the U.S. Senate,
the members of the Philippine Assembly were elected by representative districts previously
delineated under the Philippine Organic Act of 1902 pursuant to the mandate to apportion the seats
of the Philippine Assembly among the provinces as nearly as practicable according to population.
Thus, legislative apportionment first started in our country.
The Jones Law or the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 maintained the apportionment provision,
dividing the country into 12 senate districts and 90 representative districts electing one delegate
each to the House of Representatives. Section 16 of the Act specifically vested the Philippine
Legislature with the authority to redistrict the Philippine Islands.
Under the 1935 Constitution, Article VI, Section 5 retained the concept of legislative apportionment
together with "district" as the basic unit of apportionment; the concern was "equality of
representation . . . as an essential feature of republican institutions" as expressed in the leading
case of Macias v. COMELEC.
31
The case ruled that inequality of representation is a justiciable, not a
political issue, which ruling was reiterated in Montejo v. COMELEC.
32
Notably, no issue regarding the
holding of a plebiscite ever came up in these cases and the others that followed, as no plebiscite
was required.
Article VIII, Section 2 of the 1973 Constitution retained the concept of equal representation "in
accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants and on the basis of a uniform and
progressive ratio" with each district being, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact and adjacent
territory. This formulation was essentially carried over to the 1987 Constitution, distinguished only
from the previous one by the presence of party-list representatives. In neither Constitution was a
plebiscite required.
The need for a plebiscite in the creation, division, merger, or abolition of local government units was
not constitutionally enshrined until the 1973 Constitution. However, as early as 1959, R.A. No.
2264
33
required, in the creation of barrios by Provincial Boards, that the creation and definition of
boundaries be "upon petition of a majority of the voters in the areas affected." In 1961, the Charter of
the City of Caloocan (R.A. No. 3278) carried this further by requiring that the "Act shall take effect
after a majority of voters of the Municipality of Caloocan vote in favor of the conversion of their
municipality into a city in a plebiscite." This was followed up to 1972 by other legislative enactments
requiring a plebiscite as a condition for the creation and conversion of local government units as well
as the transfer of sitios from one legislative unit to another.
34
In 1973, the plebiscite requirement was
accorded constitutional status.
Under these separate historical tracks, it can be seen that the holding of a plebiscite was never a
requirement in legislative apportionment or reapportionment. After it became constitutionally
entrenched, a plebiscite was also always identified with the creation, division, merger, abolition and
alteration of boundaries of local government units, never with the concept of legislative
apportionment.
Nature and Areas of Application.
The legislative district that Article VI, Section 5 speaks of may, in a sense, be called a political unit
because it is the basis for the election of a member of the House of Representatives and members
of the local legislative body. It is not, however, a political subdivision through which functions of
government are carried out. It can more appropriately be described as a representative unit that may
or may not encompass the whole of a city or a province, but unlike the latter, it is not a corporate
unit. Not being a corporate unit, a district does not act for and in behalf of the people comprising the
district; it merely delineates the areas occupied by the people who will choose a representative in
their national affairs. Unlike a province, which has a governor; a city or a municipality, which has a
mayor; and a barangay, which has a punong barangay, a district does not have its own chief
executive. The role of the congressman that it elects is to ensure that the voice of the people of the
district is heard in Congress, not to oversee the affairs of the legislative district. Not being a
corporate unit also signifies that it has no legal personality that must be created or dissolved and has
no capacity to act. Hence, there is no need for any plebiscite in the creation, dissolution or any other
similar action on a legislative district.
The local government units, on the other hand, are political and corporate units. They are the
territorial and political subdivisions of the state.
35
They possess legal personality on the authority of
the Constitution and by action of the Legislature. The Constitution defines them as entities that
Congress can, by law, create, divide, abolish, merge; or whose boundaries can be altered based on
standards again established by both the Constitution and the Legislature.
36
A local government unit's
corporate existence begins upon the election and qualification of its chief executive and a majority of
the members of its Sanggunian.
37

As a political subdivision, a local government unit is an "instrumentality of the state in carrying out
the functions of government."
38
As a corporate entity with a distinct and separate juridical personality
from the State, it exercises special functions for the sole benefit of its constituents. It acts as "an
agency of the community in the administration of local affairs"
39
and the mediums through which the
people act in their corporate capacity on local concerns.
40
In light of these roles, the Constitution saw
it fit to expressly secure the consent of the people affected by the creation, division, merger, abolition
or alteration of boundaries of local government units through a plebiscite.
These considerations clearly show the distinctions between a legislative apportionment or
reapportionment and the division of a local government unit. Historically and by its intrinsic nature, a
legislative apportionment does not mean, and does not even imply, a division of a local government
unit where the apportionment takes place. Thus, the plebiscite requirement that applies to the
division of a province, city, municipality or barangay under the Local Government Code should not
apply to and be a requisite for the validity of a legislative apportionment or reapportionment.
R.A. No. 9371 and COMELEC Res. No. 7837
R.A. No. 9371 is, on its face, purely and simply a reapportionment legislation passed in accordance
with the authority granted to Congress under Article VI, Section 5(4) of the Constitution. Its core
provision - Section 1 - provides:
SECTION 1. Legislative Districts. - The lone legislative district of the City of Cagayan de Oro
is hereby apportioned to commence in the next national elections after the effectivity of this
Act. Henceforth, barangays Bonbon, Bayabas, Kauswagan, Carmen, Patag, Bulua, Iponan,
Baikingon, San Simon, Pagatpat, Canitoan, Balulang, Lumbia, Pagalungan, Tagpangi,
Taglimao, Tuburan, Pigsag-an, Tumpagon, Bayanga, Mambuaya, Dansulihon, Tignapoloan
and Bisigan shall comprise the first district while barangays Macabalan, Puntod,
Consolacion, Camaman-an, Nazareth, Macansandig, Indahag, Lapasan, Gusa, Cugman, FS
Catanico, Tablon, Agusan, Puerto, Bugo and Balubal and all urban barangays from
Barangay 1 to Barangay 40 shall comprise the second district.
Under these wordings, no division of Cagayan de Oro City as a political and corporate entity takes
place or is mandated. Cagayan de Oro City politically remains a single unit and its administration is
not divided along territorial lines. Its territory remains completely whole and intact; there is only the
addition of another legislative district and the delineation of the city into two districts for purposes of
representation in the House of Representatives. Thus, Article X, Section 10 of the Constitution does
not come into play and no plebiscite is necessary to validly apportion Cagayan de Oro City into two
districts.
Admittedly, the legislative reapportionment carries effects beyond the creation of another
congressional district in the city by providing, as reflected in COMELEC Resolution No. 7837, for
additional Sangguniang Panglunsod seats to be voted for along the lines of the congressional
apportionment made. The effect on the Sangguniang Panglunsod, however, is not directly traceable
to R.A. No. 9371 but to another law - R.A. No. 6636
41
- whose Section 3 provides:
SECTION 3. Other Cities. - The provision of any law to the contrary notwithstanding the City
of Cebu, City of Davao, and any other city with more than one representative district shall
have eight (8) councilors for each district who shall be residents thereof to be elected by the
qualified voters therein, provided that the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, Bacolod,
Iloilo and other cities comprising a representative district shall have twelve (12) councilors
each and all other cities shall have ten (10) councilors each to be elected at large by the
qualified voters of the said cities: Provided, That in no case shall the present number of
councilors according to their charters be reduced.
However, neither does this law have the effect of dividing the City of Cagayan de Oro into two
political and corporate units and territories. Rather than divide the city either territorially or as a
corporate entity, the effect is merely to enhance voter representation by giving each city voter more
and greater say, both in Congress and in theSangguniang Panglunsod.
To illustrate this effect, before the reapportionment, Cagayan de Oro had only one congressman and
12 city council members citywide for its population of approximately 500,000.
42
By having two
legislative districts, each of them with one congressman, Cagayan de Oro now effectively has two
congressmen, each one representing 250,000 of the city's population. In terms of services for city
residents, this easily means better access to their congressman since each one now services only
250,000 constituents as against the 500,000 he used to represent. The same goes true for
the Sangguniang Panglungsod with its ranks increased from 12 to 16 since each legislative district
now has 8 councilors. In representation terms, the fewer constituents represented translate to a
greater voice for each individual city resident in Congress and in the Sanggunian; each
congressman and each councilor represents both a smaller area and fewer constituents whose
fewer numbers are now concentrated in each representative. The City, for its part, now has twice the
number of congressmen speaking for it and voting in the halls of Congress. Since the total number
of congressmen in the country has not increased to the point of doubling its numbers, the presence
of two congressman (instead of one) from the same city cannot but be a quantitative and
proportional improvement in the representation of Cagayan de Oro City in Congress.
Equality of representation.
The petitioner argues that the distribution of the legislative districts is unequal. District 1 has only
93,719 registered voters while District 2 has 127,071. District 1 is composed mostly of
rural barangays while District 2 is composed mostly of urban barangays.
43
Thus, R.A. No. 9371
violates the principle of equality of representation.
A clarification must be made. The law clearly provides that the basis for districting shall be
the number of the inhabitants of a city or a province, not the number of registered voters therein. We
settled this very same question inHerrera v. COMELEC
44
when we interpreted a provision in R.A.
No. 7166 and COMELEC Resolution No. 2313 that applied to the Province of Guimaras. We
categorically ruled that the basis for districting is the number of inhabitants of the Province of
Guimaras by municipality based on the official 1995 Census of Population as certified to by Tomas
P. Africa, Administrator of the National Statistics Office.
The petitioner, unfortunately, did not provide information about the actual population of Cagayan de
Oro City. However, we take judicial notice of the August 2007 census of the National Statistics Office
which shows thatbarangays comprising Cagayan de Oro's first district have a total population of
254,644, while the second district has 299,322 residents. Undeniably, these figures show a disparity
in the population sizes of the districts.
45
The Constitution, however, does not require mathematical
exactitude or rigid equality as a standard in gauging equality of representation.
46
In fact, for cities, all
it asks is that "each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand shall have one
representative," while ensuring representation for every province regardless of the size of its
population. To ensure quality representation through commonality of interests and ease of access by
the representative to the constituents, all that the Constitution requires is that every legislative district
should comprise,as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and adjacent territory. Thus, the
Constitution leaves the local government units as they are found and does not require their division,
merger or transfer to satisfy the numerical standard it imposes. Its requirements are satisfied despite
some numerical disparity if the units are contiguous, compact and adjacent as far as practicable.
The petitioner's contention that there is a resulting inequality in the division of Cagayan de Oro City
into two districts because the barangays in the first district are mostly rural barangays while the
second district is mostly urban, is largely unsubstantiated. But even if backed up by proper proof, we
cannot question the division on the basis of the difference in the barangays' levels of development or
developmental focus as these are not part of the constitutional standards for legislative
apportionment or reapportionment. What the components of the two districts of Cagayan de Oro
would be is a matter for the lawmakers to determine as a matter of policy. In the absence of any
grave abuse of discretion or violation of the established legal parameters, this Court cannot intrude
into the wisdom of these policies.
47

WHEREFORE, we hereby DISMISS the petition for lack of merit. Costs against the petitioner.
SO ORDERED.
AQUINO VS COMELEC
Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila
EN BANC
G.R. No. 189793 April 7, 2010
SENATOR BENIGNO SIMEON C. AQUINO III and MAYOR JESSE ROBREDO, Petitioners,
vs.
COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS represented by its Chairman JOSE A.R. MELO and its
Commissioners, RENE V. SARMIENTO, NICODEMO T. FERRER, LUCENITO N. TAGLE,
ARMANDO VELASCO, ELIAS R. YUSOPH AND GREGORIO LARRAZABAL, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
PEREZ, J .:
This case comes before this Court by way of a Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65
of the Rules of Court. In this original action, petitioners Senator Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III and
Mayor Jesse Robredo, as public officers, taxpayers and citizens, seek the nullification as
unconstitutional of Republic Act No. 9716, entitled "An Act Reapportioning the Composition of the
First (1st) and Second (2nd) Legislative Districts in the Province of Camarines Sur and Thereby
Creating a New Legislative District From Such Reapportionment." Petitioners consequently pray that
the respondent Commission on Elections be restrained from making any issuances and from taking
any steps relative to the implementation of Republic Act No. 9716.
Republic Act No. 9716 originated from House Bill No. 4264, and was signed into law by President
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on 12 October 2009. It took effect on 31 October 2009, or fifteen (15) days
following its publication in the Manila Standard, a newspaper of general circulation.
1
In substance,
the said law created an additional legislative district for the Province of Camarines Sur by
reconfiguring the existing first and second legislative districts of the province.
Prior to Republic Act No. 9716, the Province of Camarines Sur was estimated to have a population
of 1,693,821,
2
distributed among four (4) legislative districts in this wise:
District Municipalities/Cities Population
1st District Del Gallego
Ragay
Lupi
Sipocot
Cabusao
Libmanan
Minalabac
Pamplona
Pasacao
San Fernando
417,304
2nd District Gainza
Milaor
Naga
Pili
Ocampo
Canaman
Camaligan
Magarao
Bombon
Calabanga
474,899
3rd District Caramoan
Garchitorena
Sangay
San Jose
372,548
Goa
Lagonoy
Presentacion
Tigaon
Tinamba
Siruma
4th District Iriga
Baao
Balatan
Bato
Buhi
Bula
Nabua
429,070
Following the enactment of Republic Act No. 9716, the first and second districts of Camarines Sur
were reconfigured in order to create an additional legislative district for the province. Hence, the first
district municipalities of Libmanan, Minalabac, Pamplona, Pasacao, and San Fernando were
combined with the second district municipalities of Milaor and Gainza to form a new second
legislative district. The following table
3
illustrates the reapportionment made by Republic Act No.
9716:
District Municipalities/Cities Population
1st District Del Gallego
Ragay
Lupi
Sipocot
Cabusao
176,383
2nd District Libmanan
Minalabac
Pamplona
Pasacao
San Fernando
Gainza
Milaor
276,777
3rd District (formerly 2nd District) Naga
Pili
Ocampo
Canaman
Camaligan
Magarao
Bombon
Calabanga
439,043
4th District (formerly 3rd District) Caramoan
Garchitorena
Goa
Lagonoy
Presentacion
Sangay
San Jose
Tigaon
Tinamba
Siruma
372,548
5th District (formerly 4th District) Iriga
Baao
Balatan
Bato
Buhi
Bula
Nabua
429,070
Republic Act No. 9716 is a well-milled legislation. The factual recitals by both parties of the origins of
the bill that became the law show that, from the filing of House Bill No. 4264 until its approval by the
Senate on a vote of thirteen (13) in favor and two (2) against, the process progressed step by step,
marked by public hearings on the sentiments and position of the local officials of Camarines Sur on
the creation of a new congressional district, as well as argumentation and debate on the issue, now
before us, concerning the stand of the oppositors of the bill that a population of at least 250,000 is
required by the Constitution for such new district.
4

Petitioner Aquino III was one of two senators who voted against the approval of the Bill by the
Senate. His co-petitioner, Robredo, is the Mayor of Naga City, which was a part of the former
second district from which the municipalities of Gainza and Milaor were taken for inclusion in the
new second district. No other local executive joined the two; neither did the representatives of the
former third and fourth districts of the province.
Petitioners contend that the reapportionment introduced by Republic Act No. 9716, runs afoul of the
explicit constitutional standard that requires a minimum population of two hundred fifty thousand
(250,000) for the creation of a legislative district.
5
The petitioners claim that the reconfiguration by
Republic Act No. 9716 of the first and second districts of Camarines Sur is unconstitutional, because
the proposed first district will end up with a population of less than 250,000 or only 176,383.
Petitioners rely on Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution as basis for the cited 250,000
minimum population standard.
6
The provision reads:
Article VI
Section 5. (1) x x x x
(2) x x x x
(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and
adjacent territory.Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each
province, shall have at least one representative.
(4) x x x x (Emphasis supplied).
The petitioners posit that the 250,000 figure appearing in the above-cited provision is the minimum
population requirement for the creation of a legislative district.
7
The petitioners theorize that, save in
the case of a newly created province, each legislative district created by Congress must be
supported by a minimum population of at least 250,000 in order to be valid.
8
Under this view, existing
legislative districts may be reapportioned and severed to form new districts, provided each resulting
district will represent a population of at least 250,000. On the other hand, if the reapportionment
would result in the creation of a legislative seat representing a populace of less than 250,000
inhabitants, the reapportionment must be stricken down as invalid for non-compliance with the
minimum population requirement.
In support of their theory, the petitioners point to what they claim is the intent of the framers of the
1987 Constitution to adopt a population minimum of 250,000 in the creation of additional legislative
seats.
9
The petitioners argue that when the Constitutional Commission fixed the original number of
district seats in the House of Representatives to two hundred (200), they took into account the
projected national population of fifty five million (55,000,000) for the year 1986.
10
According to the
petitioners, 55 million people represented by 200 district representatives translates to roughly
250,000 people for every one (1) representative.
11
Thus, the 250,000 population requirement found
in Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution is actually based on the population constant used
by the Constitutional Commission in distributing the initial 200 legislative seats.
Thus did the petitioners claim that in reapportioning legislative districts independently from the
creation of a province, Congress is bound to observe a 250,000 population threshold, in the same
manner that the Constitutional Commission did in the original apportionment.
Verbatim, the submission is that:
1. Republic Act 9716 is unconstitutional because the newly apportioned first district of
Camarines Sur failed to meet the population requirement for the creation of the legislative
district as explicitly provided in Article VI, Section 5, Paragraphs (1) and (3) of the
Constitution and Section 3 of the Ordinance appended thereto; and
2. Republic Act 9716 violates the principle of proportional representation as provided in
Article VI, Section 5 paragraphs (1), (3) and (4) of the Constitution.
12

The provision subject of this case states:
Article VI
Section 5. (1) The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than two hundred and
fifty members, unless otherwise fixed by law, who shall be elected from legislative districts
apportioned among the provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with the
number of their respective inhabitants, and on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio, and
those who, as provided by law, shall be elected through a party-list system of registered national,
regional and sectoral parties or organizations.
(2) x x x x
(3) Each legislative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact, and
adjacent territory. Each city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each
province, shall have at least one representative.
(4) Within three years following the return of every census, the Congress shall make a
reapportionment of legislative districts based on the standards provided in this section.
On the other hand, the respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor General, seek the dismissal
of the present petition based on procedural and substantive grounds.
On procedural matters, the respondents argue that the petitioners are guilty of two (2) fatal technical
defects: first, petitioners committed an error in choosing to assail the constitutionality of Republic Act
No. 9716 via the remedy of Certiorari and Prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court; and
second, the petitioners have no locus standi to question the constitutionality of Republic Act No.
9716.
On substantive matters, the respondents call attention to an apparent distinction between cities and
provinces drawn by Section 5(3), Article VI of the 1987 Constitution. The respondents concede the
existence of a 250,000 population condition, but argue that a plain and simple reading of the
questioned provision will show that the same has no application with respect to the creation of
legislative districts in provinces.
13
Rather, the 250,000 minimum population is only a requirement for
the creation of a legislative district in a city.
In sum, the respondents deny the existence of a fixed population requirement for the
reapportionment of districts in provinces. Therefore, Republic Act No. 9716, which only creates an
additional legislative district within the province of Camarines Sur, should be sustained as a perfectly
valid reapportionment law.
We first pass upon the threshold issues.
The respondents assert that by choosing to avail themselves of the remedies of Certiorari and
Prohibition, the petitioners have committed a fatal procedural lapse. The respondents cite the
following reasons:
1. The instant petition is bereft of any allegation that the respondents had acted without or in
excess of jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion.1avvphi1
2. The remedy of Certiorari and Prohibition must be directed against a tribunal, board, officer
or person, whether exercising judicial, quasi-judicial, or ministerial functions. Respondents
maintain that in implementing Republic Act No. 9716, they were not acting as a judicial or
quasi-judicial body, nor were they engaging in the performance of a ministerial act.
3. The petitioners could have availed themselves of another plain, speedy and adequate
remedy in the ordinary course of law. Considering that the main thrust of the instant petition
is the declaration of unconstitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716, the same could have been
ventilated through a petition for declaratory relief, over which the Supreme Court has only
appellate, not original jurisdiction.
The respondents likewise allege that the petitioners had failed to show that they had sustained, or is
in danger of sustaining any substantial injury as a result of the implementation of Republic Act No.
9716. The respondents, therefore, conclude that the petitioners lack the required legal standing to
question the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 9716.
This Court has paved the way away from procedural debates when confronted with issues that, by
reason of constitutional importance, need a direct focus of the arguments on their content and
substance.
The Supreme Court has, on more than one occasion, tempered the application of procedural
rules,
14
as well as relaxed the requirement of locus standi whenever confronted with an important
issue of overreaching significance to society.
15

Hence, in Del Mar v. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)
16
and Jaworski v.
PAGCOR,
17
this Court sanctioned momentary deviation from the principle of the hierarchy of courts,
and took original cognizance of cases raising issues of paramount public importance. The Jaworski
case ratiocinates:
Granting arguendo that the present action cannot be properly treated as a petition for prohibition, the
transcendental importance of the issues involved in this case warrants that we set aside the
technical defects and take primary jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One cannot deny that the
issues raised herein have potentially pervasive influence on the social and moral well being of this
nation, specially the youth; hence, their proper and just determination is an imperative need. This is
in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that rules of procedure are not inflexible tools
designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the administration of justice. Their strict and
rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to frustrate, rather than promote
substantial justice, must always be eschewed. (Emphasis supplied)
Anent the locus standi requirement, this Court has already uniformly ruled in Kilosbayan v.
Guingona,
18
Tatad v. Executive Secretary,
19
Chavez v. Public Estates Authority
20
and Bagong
Alyansang Makabayan v. Zamora,
21
just to name a few, that absence of direct injury on the part of
the party seeking judicial review may be excused when the latter is able to craft an issue of
transcendental importance. In Lim v. Executive Secretary,
22
this Court held that in cases of
transcendental importance, the cases must be settled promptly and definitely, and so, the standing
requirements may be relaxed. This liberal stance has been echoed in the more recent decision on
Chavez v. Gonzales.
23

Given the weight of the issue raised in the instant petition, the foregoing principles must apply. The
beaten path must be taken. We go directly to the determination of whether or not a population of
250,000 is an indispensable constitutional requirement for the creation of a new legislative district in
a province.
We deny the petition.
We start with the basics. Any law duly enacted by Congress carries with it the presumption of
constitutionality.
24
Before a law may be declared unconstitutional by this Court, there must be a clear
showing that a specific provision of the fundamental law has been violated or transgressed. When
there is neither a violation of a specific provision of the Constitution nor any proof showing that there
is such a violation, the presumption of constitutionality will prevail and the law must be upheld. To
doubt is to sustain.
25

There is no specific provision in the Constitution that fixes a 250,000 minimum population that must
compose a legislative district.
As already mentioned, the petitioners rely on the second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the
1987 Constitution, coupled with what they perceive to be the intent of the framers of the Constitution
to adopt a minimum population of 250,000 for each legislative district.
The second sentence of Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, succinctly provides: "Each city
with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand, or each province, shall have at least one
representative."
The provision draws a plain and clear distinction between the entitlement of a city to a district on one
hand, and the entitlement of a province to a district on the other. For while a province is entitled to at
least a representative, with nothing mentioned about population, a city must first meet a population
minimum of 250,000 in order to be similarly entitled.
The use by the subject provision of a comma to separate the phrase "each city with a population of
at least two hundred fifty thousand" from the phrase "or each province" point to no other conclusion
than that the 250,000 minimum population is only required for a city, but not for a province.
26

Plainly read, Section 5(3) of the Constitution requires a 250,000 minimum population only for a city
to be entitled to a representative, but not so for a province.
The 250,000 minimum population requirement for legislative districts in cities was, in turn, the
subject of interpretation by this Court in Mariano, Jr. v. COMELEC.
27

In Mariano, the issue presented was the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 7854, which was the
law that converted the Municipality of Makati into a Highly Urbanized City. As it happened, Republic
Act No. 7854 created an additional legislative district for Makati, which at that time was a lone
district. The petitioners in that case argued that the creation of an additional district would violate
Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution, because the resulting districts would be supported by a
population of less than 250,000, considering that Makati had a total population of only 450,000. The
Supreme Court sustained the constitutionality of the law and the validity of the newly created district,
explaining the operation of the Constitutional phrase "each city with a population of at least two
hundred fifty thousand," to wit:
Petitioners cannot insist that the addition of another legislative district in Makati is not in accord with
section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution for as of the latest survey (1990 census), the population of
Makati stands at only four hundred fifty thousand (450,000). Said section provides, inter alia, that a
city with a population of at least two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) shall have at least one
representative. Even granting that the population of Makati as of the 1990 census stood at four
hundred fifty thousand (450,000), its legislative district may still be increased since it has met the
minimum population requirement of two hundred fifty thousand (250,000). In fact, Section 3 of the
Ordinance appended to the Constitution provides that a city whose population has increased to more
than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) shall be entitled to at least one congressional
representative.
28
(Emphasis supplied)
The Mariano case limited the application of the 250,000 minimum population requirement for cities
only to its initial legislative district. In other words, while Section 5(3), Article VI of the Constitution
requires a city to have a minimum population of 250,000 to be entitled to a representative, it does
not have to increase its population by another 250,000 to be entitled to an additional district.
There is no reason why the Mariano case, which involves the creation of an additional district within
a city, should not be applied to additional districts in provinces. Indeed, if an additional legislative
district created within a city is not required to represent a population of at least 250,000 in order to
be valid, neither should such be needed for an additional district in a province, considering moreover
that a province is entitled to an initial seat by the mere fact of its creation and regardless of its
population.
Apropos for discussion is the provision of the Local Government Code on the creation of a province
which, by virtue of and upon creation, is entitled to at least a legislative district. Thus, Section 461 of
the Local Government Code states:
Requisites for Creation. (a) A province may be created if it has an average annual income, as
certified by the Department of Finance, of not less than Twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00)
based on 1991 constant prices and either of the following requisites:
(i) a contiguous territory of at least two thousand (2,000) square kilometers, as certified by
the Lands Management Bureau; or
(ii) a population of not less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) inhabitants as certified
by the National Statistics Office.
Notably, the requirement of population is not an indispensable requirement, but is merely
an alternative addition to the indispensable income requirement.
Mariano, it would turn out, is but a reflection of the pertinent ideas that ran through the deliberations
on the words and meaning of Section 5 of Article VI.
The whats, whys, and wherefores of the population requirement of "at least two hundred fifty
thousand" may be gleaned from the records of the Constitutional Commission which, upon framing
the provisions of Section 5 of Article VI, proceeded to form an ordinance that would be appended to
the final document. The Ordinance is captioned "APPORTIONING THE SEATS OF THE HOUSE OF
REPRESENTATIVES OF THE CONGRESS OF THE PHILIPPINES TO THE DIFFERENT
LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS IN PROVINCES AND CITIES AND THE METROPOLITAN MANILA
AREA." Such records would show that the 250,000 population benchmark was used for the 1986
nationwide apportionment of legislative districts among provinces, cities and Metropolitan Manila.
Simply put, the population figure was used to determine how many districts a province, city, or
Metropolitan Manila should have. Simply discernible too is the fact that, for the purpose, population
had to be the determinant. Even then, the requirement of 250,000 inhabitants was not taken as an
absolute minimum for one legislative district. And, closer to the point herein at issue, in the
determination of the precise district within the province to which, through the use of the population
benchmark, so many districts have been apportioned, population as a factor was not the
sole, though it was among, several determinants.
From its journal,
29
we can see that the Constitutional Commission originally divided the entire country
into two hundred (200) districts, which corresponded to the original number of district
representatives. The 200 seats were distributed by the Constitutional Commission in this manner:
first, one (1) seat each was given to the seventy-three (73) provinces and the ten (10) cities with a
population of at least 250,000;
30
second, the remaining seats were then redistributed among the
provinces, cities and the Metropolitan Area "in accordance with the number of their inhabitants on
the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio."
31
Commissioner Davide, who later became a Member
and then Chief Justice of the Court, explained this in his sponsorship remark
32
for the Ordinance to
be appended to the 1987 Constitution:
Commissioner Davide: The ordinance fixes at 200 the number of legislative seats which are, in turn,
apportioned among provinces and cities with a population of at least 250, 000 and the Metropolitan
Area in accordance with the number of their respective inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and
progressive ratio. The population is based on the 1986 projection, with the 1980 official enumeration
as the point of reckoning. This projection indicates that our population is more or less 56
million. Taking into account the mandate that each city with at least 250, 000 inhabitants and each
province shall have at least one representative, we first allotted one seat for each of the 73
provinces, and each one for all cities with a population of at least 250, 000, which are the Cities of
Manila, Quezon, Pasay, Caloocan, Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao and Zamboanga.
Thereafter, we then proceed[ed] to increase whenever appropriate the number of seats for the
provinces and cities in accordance with the number of their inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and
progressive ratio. (Emphasis supplied).
Thus was the number of seats computed for each province and city. Differentiated from this, the
determination of the districts within the province had to consider "all protests and complaints formally
received" which, the records show, dealt with determinants other than population as already
mentioned.
Palawan is a case in point. Journal No. 107 of the Constitutional Commission narrates:
INTERPELLATION OF MR. NOLLEDO:
Mr. Nolledo inquired on the reason for including Puerto Princesa in the northern towns when it was
more affinity with the southern town of Aborlan, Batarasa, Brookes Point, Narra, Quezon and
Marcos. He stated that the First District has a greater area than the Second District. He then queried
whether population was the only factor considered by the Committee in redistricting.
Replying thereto, Mr. Davide explained that the Committee took into account the standards set in
Section 5 of the Article on the Legislative Department, namely: 1) the legislative seats should be
apportioned among the provinces and cities and the Metropolitan Manila area in accordance with
their inhabitants on the basis of a uniform and progressive ratio; and 2) the legislative district must
be compact, adjacent and contiguous.
Mr. Nolledo pointed out that the last factor was not met when Puerto Princesa was included with the
northern towns. He then inquired what is the distance between Puerto Princesa from San Vicente.
x x x x
Thereupon, Mr. Nolledo stated that Puerto Princesa has a population of 75,480 and based on the
apportionment, its inclusion with the northern towns would result in a combined population of
265,000 as against only 186,000 for the south. He added that Cuyo and Coron are very important
towns in the northern part of Palawan and, in fact, Cuyo was the capital of Palawan before its
transfer to Puerto Princesa. He also pointed out that there are more potential candidates in the north
and therefore if Puerto Princesa City and the towns of Cuyo and Coron are lumped together, there
would be less candidates in the south, most of whose inhabitants are not interested in politics. He
then suggested that Puerto Princesa be included in the south or the Second District.
Mr. Davide stated that the proposal would be considered during the period of amendments. He
requested that the COMELEC staff study said proposal.
33

"PROPOSED AMENDMENT OF MR. NOLLEDO
On the districting of Palawan, Mr. Nolledo pointed out that it was explained in the interpellations that
District I has a total population of 265,358 including the City of Puerto Princesa, while the Second
District has a total population of 186,733. He proposed, however, that Puerto Princesa be included in
the Second District in order to satisfy the contiguity requirement in the Constitution considering that
said City is nearer the southern towns comprising the Second District.
In reply to Mr. Monsods query, Mr. Nolledo explained that with the proposed transfer of Puerto
Princesa City to the Second District, the First District would only have a total population of 190,000
while the Second District would have 262,213, and there would be no substantial changes.
Mr. Davide accepted Mr. Nolledos proposal to insert Puerto Princesa City before the Municipality of
Aborlan.
There being no objection on the part of the Members the same was approved by the Body.
APPROVAL OF THE APPORTIONMENT AND DISTRICTING OF PALAWAN
There being no other amendment, on motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the
apportionment and districting for the province of Palawan was approved by the Body.
34

The districting of Palawan disregarded the 250,000 population figure. It was decided by the
importance of the towns and the city that eventually composed the districts.
Benguet and Baguio are another reference point. The Journal further narrates:
At this juncture, Mr. Davide informed the Body that Mr. Regalado made a reservation with the
Committee for the possible reopening of the approval of Region I with respect to Benguet and
Baguio City.
REMARKS OF MR. REGALADO
Mr. Regalado stated that in the formulation of the Committee, Baguio City and Tuba are placed in
one district. He stated that he was toying with the idea that, perhaps as a special consideration for
Baguio because it is the summer capital of the Philippines, Tuba could be divorced from Baguio City
so that it could, by itself, have its own constituency and Tuba could be transferred to the Second
District together with Itogon. Mr. Davide, however, pointed out that the population of Baguio City is
only 141,149.
Mr. Regalado admitted that the regular population of Baguio may be lower during certain times of the
year, but the transient population would increase the population substantially and, therefore, for
purposes of business and professional transactions, it is beyond question that population-wise,
Baguio would more than qualify, not to speak of the official business matters, transactions and
offices that are also there.
Mr. Davide adverted to Director de Limas statement that unless Tuba and Baguio City are united,
Tuba will be isolated from the rest of Benguet as the place can only be reached by passing through
Baguio City. He stated that the Committee would submit the matter to the Body.
Upon inquiry of the Chair whether he is insisting on his amendment, Mr. Regalado stated that the
Body should have a say on the matter and that the considerations he had given are not on the
demographic aspects but on the fact that Baguio City is the summer capital, the venue and situs of
many government offices and functions.
On motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the Body approved the reconsideration of the
earlier approval of the apportionment and districting of Region I, particularly Benguet.
Thereafter, on motion of Mr. Davide, there being no objection, the amendment of Mr. Regalado was
put to a vote. With 14 Members voting in favor and none against, the amendment was approved by
the Body.
Mr. Davide informed that in view of the approval of the amendment, Benguet with Baguio City will
have two seats. The First District shall comprise of the municipalities of Mankayan, Buguias, Bakun,
Kabayan, Kibungan, Bokod, Atok, Kapangan, Tublay, La Trinidad, Sablan, Itogon and Tuba. The
Second District shall comprise of Baguio City alone.
There being no objection, the Body approved the apportionment and districting of Region I.
35

Quite emphatically, population was explicitly removed as a factor.
It may be additionally mentioned that the province of Cavite was divided into districts based on the
distribution of its three cities, with each district having a city: one district "supposed to be a fishing
area; another a vegetable and fruit area; and the third, a rice growing area," because such
consideration "fosters common interests in line with the standard of compactness."
36
In the districting
of Maguindanao, among the matters discussed were "political stability and common interest among
the people in the area" and the possibility of "chaos and disunity" considering the "accepted regional,
political, traditional and sectoral leaders."
37
For Laguna, it was mentioned that municipalities in the
highland should not be grouped with the towns in the lowland. For Cebu, Commissioner Maambong
proposed that they should "balance the area and population."
38

Consistent with Mariano and with the framer deliberations on district apportionment, we stated in
Bagabuyo v. COMELEC
39
that:
x x x Undeniably, these figures show a disparity in the population sizes of the districts. The
Constitution, however, does not require mathematical exactitude or rigid equality as a standard in
gauging equality of representation. x x x. To ensure quality representation through commonality of
interests and ease of access by the representative to the constituents, all that the Constitution
requires is that every legislative district should comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous, compact
and adjacent territory. (Emphasis supplied).
This 2008 pronouncement is fresh reasoning against the uncompromising stand of petitioner that an
additional provincial legislative district, which does not have at least a 250,000 population is not
allowed by the Constitution.
The foregoing reading and review lead to a clear lesson.
Neither in the text nor in the essence of Section 5, Article VI of the Constitution can, the petition find
support. And the formulation of the Ordinance in the implementation of the provision, nay, even the
Ordinance itself, refutes the contention that a population of 250,000 is a constitutional sine qua non
for the formation of an additional legislative district in a province, whose population growth has
increased beyond the 1986 numbers.
Translated in the terms of the present case:
1. The Province of Camarines Sur, with an estimated population of 1,693,821 in 2007 is
based on the formula and constant number of 250,000 used by the Constitutional
Commission in nationally apportioning legislative districts among provinces and cities
entitled to two (2) districts in addition to the four (4) that it was given in the 1986
apportionment. Significantly, petitioner Aquino concedes this point.
40
In other words, Section
5 of Article VI as clearly written allows and does not prohibit an additional district for the
Province of Camarines Sur, such as that provided for in Republic Act No. 9786;
2. Based on the pith and pitch of the exchanges on the Ordinance on the protests and
complaints against strict conformity with the population standard, and more importantly
based on the final districting in the Ordinance on considerations other than population, the
reapportionment or the recomposition of the first and second legislative districts in the
Province of Camarines Sur that resulted in the creation of a new legislative district is
valid even if the population of the new district is 176,383 and not 250,000 as insisted upon by
the petitioners.
3. The factors mentioned during the deliberations on House Bill No. 4264, were:
(a) the dialects spoken in the grouped municipalities;
(b) the size of the original groupings compared to that of the regrouped
municipalities;
(c) the natural division separating the municipality subject of the discussion from the
reconfigured District One; and
(d) the balancing of the areas of the three districts resulting from the redistricting of
Districts One and Two.
41

Each of such factors and in relation to the others considered together, with the increased population
of the erstwhile Districts One and Two, point to the utter absence of abuse of discretion, much less
grave abuse of discretion,
42
that would warrant the invalidation of Republic Act No. 9716.
To be clear about our judgment, we do not say that in the reapportionment of the first and second
legislative districts of Camarines Sur, the number of inhabitants in the resulting additional district
should not be considered. Our ruling is that population is not the only factor but is just one of several
other factors in the composition of the additional district. Such settlement is in accord with both the
text of the Constitution and the spirit of the letter, so very clearly given form in the Constitutional
debates on the exact issue presented by this petition.1avvphi1
WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED. Republic Act No. 9716 entitled "An Act
Reapportioning the Composition of the First (1st) and Second (2nd) Legislative Districts in the
Province of Camarines Sur and Thereby Creating a New Legislative District From Such
Reapportionment" is a VALID LAW.
SO ORDERED.