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Villegas vs.

Legaspi (del Rosario)


Facts: This case was a consolidation of 2 cases involving the 1973 Constitutional provision
that No member of the National Assembly shall appear before any court inferior to a court
with appellate jurisdiction (Art. VIII Sec. 11).
st
In the 1
case: Villegas filed a complaint for annulment of bank checks and damages
against spouses Vera Cruz. Legaspi, an Assemblyman from Cebu, filed an answer as their
counsel. The Judge (Judge Dulay) of the CFI of Cebu inhibited himself from the proceedings
because Legaspi was also his wifes lawyer in 2 cases. The case was reraffled and the new
Judge (Judge Burgos) denied the disqualification of Legaspi.
nd
2
case: Reyes filed a case against Maas for the annulment of the sale of Excelsior shares
in a company. Reyes claimed that the same shares had already been sold to him.
Assemblyman Fernandez entered his appearance as counsel for Excelsior. The appearance of
Fernandez was questioned on the ground of the Constitutional provision Section 11, Art. 8,
1973 Constitution.
The novel issue for determination is whether or not members of the Batasang Pambansa,
like Attorneys Valentino L. Legaspi and Estanislao A. Fernandez, can appear as counsel
before Courts of First Instance.
Issue: W/N members of the Batasang Pambansa can appear as counsel before CFIs.
Held: NO.
1. The 1935 and 1973 Constitutions were compared by the Court because the cases were
filed before the 1973 Consitution. The court nevertheless resolved the cases under the
amended provision. In the 1935 Constitution, only members of the Commission on
Appointments were barred from appearing as counsel before any court inferior to a
collegiate court of appellate jurisdiction. While the 1973 provision barred all
members of the Batasang Pambansa from appearing as counsel in any court
without appellate jurisdiction. What is prohibited is the appearance as counsel before
any court without appellate jurisdiction. Appearance as counsel is a voluntary
submission to a courts jurisdiction by an advising lawyer professionally engaged
to represent and plead the cause of another. There is no question that in both cases
both Assemblymen are appearing as counsel; they represent and plead the cause of another
before a court of justice.
2. Furthermore, the court discussed if CFIs are courts with appellate jurisdiction. Appellate
jurisdiction is the jurisdiction to review the judgment of an inferior court. The jurisdiction of
CFIs is of 2 kinds: original and appellate. Pursuant to the Judiciary Act, CFIs can be courts
with appellate jurisdiction. By the wording of the amendment to the 1973 Constitution, CFIs
no longer fall within the ambit of the prohibition. However, in the cases at bar the CFIs
took cognizance of the cases in their exclusive original jurisdiction and not
appellate one. As a result, both Assemblymen are still barred from appearing as
counsel before said courts. The courts looked at the purpose behind the prohibition,
which was to remove any possibility of undue influence or use of office for personal
gain and to ensure the trials impartiality. The possible influence of an Assemblyman
on a CFI judge is diminished when the CFI acts in the exercise of its appellate jurisdiction
because the decision being appealed in this situation has the presumption of regularity and
correctness in its favor. Thus, to give effect to the Constitutional prohibition, appearance by
Assemblymen before CFIs should be limited to cases wherein the CFIs exercise their
appellate jurisdiction, not original.