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Mabanag vs.

Vito (GR L-1123, 5 March 1947)


Mabanag vs. Vito
[GR L-1123, 5 March 1947]
En Banc, Tuason (J): 3 concur, 1 concur in separate opinion, 2 dissent in separate opinions, 1
filed separate opinion
Facts: Three senators and eight representatives had been proclaimed by a majority vote of the
Commission on Elections as having been elected senators and representatives in the elections
held on 23 April 1946. The three senators were suspended by the Senate shortly after the opening
of the first session of Congress following the elections, on account of alleged irregularities in
their election. The eight representatives since their election had not been allowed to sit in the
lower House, except to take part in the election of the Speaker, for the same reason, although
they had not been formally suspended. A resolution for their suspension had been introduced in
the House of Representatives, but that resolution had not been acted upon definitely by the
House when the petition for prohibition was filed. As a consequence these three senators and
eight representatives did not take part in the passage of the congressional resolution, designated
"Resolution of both houses proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Philippines to be
appended as an ordinance thereto," nor was their membership reckoned within the computation
of the necessary three-fourths vote which is required in proposing an amendment to the
Constitution. If these members of Congress had been counted, the affirmative votes in favor of
the proposed amendment would have been short of the necessary three-fourths vote in either
branch of Congress. The petition for prohibition sought to prevent the enforcement of said
congressional resolution, as it is allegedly contrary to the Constitution. The members of the
Commission on Elections, the Treasurer of the Philippines, the Auditor General, and the Director
of the Bureau of Printing are made defendants. Eight senators, 17 representatives, and the
presidents of the Democratic Alliance, the Popular Front and the Philippine Youth Party.
Issue: Whether the Court ma yinquire upon the irregularities in the approval of the resolution
proposing an amendment to the Constitution.
Held: It is a doctrine too well established to need citation of authorities, that political questions
are not within the province of the judiciary, except to the extent that power to deal with such
questions has been conferred upon the courts by express constitutional or statutory provision.
This doctrine is predicated on the principle of the separation of powers, a principle also too well
known to require elucidation or citation of authorities. The difficulty lies in determining what
matters fall within the meaning of political question. The term is not susceptible of exact
definition, and precedents and authorities are not always in full harmony as to the scope of the
restrictions, on this ground, on the courts to meddle with the actions of the political departments
of the government. If a political question conclusively binds the judges out of respect to the
political departments, a duly certified law or resolution also binds the judges under the "enrolled
bill rule" born of that respect. If ratification of an amendment is a political question, a proposal
which leads to ratification has to be a political question. The two steps complement each other in
a scheme intended to achieve a single objective. It is to be noted that the amendatory process as
provided in section I of Article XV of the Philippine Constitution "consists of (only) two distinct
parts: proposal and ratification." There is no logic in attaching political character to one and
withholding that character from the other. Proposal to amend the Constitution is a highly
political function performed by the Congress in its sovereign legislative capacity and committed
to its charge by the Constitution itself. The exercise of this power is even in dependent of any
intervention by the Chief Executive. If on grounds of expediency scrupulous attention of the
judiciary be needed to safeguard public interest, there is less reason for judicial inquiry into the
validity of a proposal then into that of a ratification.