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G.R. No.

164978 October 13, 2005 Appointee Department Date of

AQUILINO Q. PIMENTEL, JR., EDGARDO J. Arthur C. Agriculture 15 August
EJERCITO-ESTRADA, JINGGOY E. Alberto G. Foreign Affairs 23 August
Raul M. Justice 23 August
and SERGIO R. OSMEÑA III, Petitioners
Gonzalez 2004
EXEC. SECRETARY EDUARDO R. ERMITA, Florencio B. Education 23 August
JR., MICHAEL T. DEFENSOR, JOSEPH H. Avelino J. National 23 August
G. ROMULO, RENE C. VILLA, and ARTHUR Rene C. Agrarian Reform 23 August
C. YAP, Respondents. Villa 2004
Joseph H. Tourism 23 August
DECISION Durano 2004
Michael T. Environment 23 August
CARPIO, J.: Defensor and Natural 2004
The Case
The appointment papers are uniformly worded
This is a petition for certiorari and as follows:
prohibition1 with a prayer for the issuance of a
writ of preliminary injunction to declare Sir:
unconstitutional the appointments issued by
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, you
("President Arroyo") through Executive are hereby appointed ACTING SECRETARY,
Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita ("Secretary DEPARTMENT OF (appropriate
Ermita") to Florencio B. Abad, Avelino J. Cruz, department) vice (name of person replaced).
Jr., Michael T. Defensor, Joseph H. Durano,
Raul M. Gonzalez, Alberto G. Romulo, Rene C.
By virtue hereof, you may qualify and enter
Villa, and Arthur C. Yap ("respondents") as
upon the performance of the duties and
acting secretaries of their respective
functions of the office, furnishing this Office and
departments. The petition also seeks to
the Civil Service Commission with copies of
prohibit respondents from performing the
your Oath of Office.
duties of department secretaries.
Antecedent Facts
Gloria Arroyo
The Senate and the House of Representatives
("Congress") commenced their regular session
on 26 July 2004. The Commission on Respondents took their oath of office and
Appointments, composed of Senators and assumed duties as acting secretaries.
Representatives, was constituted on 25 August
2004. On 8 September 2004, Aquilino Q. Pimentel,
Jr. ("Senator Pimentel"), Edgardo J. Angara
Meanwhile, President Arroyo issued ("Senator Angara"), Juan Ponce Enrile
appointments2 to respondents as acting ("Senator Enrile"), Luisa P. Ejercito-Estrada
secretaries of their respective departments. ("Senator Ejercito-Estrada"), Jinggoy E.
Estrada ("Senator Estrada"), Panfilo M. Lacson
("Senator Lacson"), Alfredo S. Lim ("Senator
Lim"), Jamby A.S. Madrigal ("Senator September 2004 immediately after the recess
Madrigal"), and Sergio R. Osmeña, III of Congress.
("Senator Osmeña") ("petitioners") filed the
present petition as Senators of the Republic of As a rule, the writ of prohibition will not lie to
the Philippines. enjoin acts already done.4 However, as an
exception to the rule on mootness, courts will
Congress adjourned on 22 September 2004. decide a question otherwise moot if it is
On 23 September 2004, President Arroyo capable of repetition yet evading review.5
issued ad interimappointments3 to
respondents as secretaries of the departments In the present case, the mootness of the
to which they were previously appointed in an petition does not bar its resolution. The
acting capacity. The appointment papers are question of the constitutionality of the
uniformly worded as follows: President’s appointment of department
secretaries in an acting capacity while
Sir: Congress is in session will arise in every such
Pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, you
are hereby appointed SECRETARY [AD On the Nature of the Power to Appoint
department). The power to appoint is essentially executive in
nature, and the legislature may not interfere
By virtue hereof, you may qualify and enter with the exercise of this executive power
upon the performance of the duties and except in those instances when the
functions of the office, furnishing this Office and Constitution expressly allows it to
the Civil Service Commission with copies of interfere.6 Limitations on the executive power
your oath of office. to appoint are construed strictly against the
legislature.7 The scope of the legislature’s
(signed) interference in the executive’s power to appoint
is limited to the power to prescribe the
Gloria Arroyo qualifications to an appointive office. Congress
cannot appoint a person to an office in the
guise of prescribing qualifications to that office.
Neither may Congress impose on the
President the duty to appoint any particular
The petition questions the constitutionality of person to an office.8
President Arroyo’s appointment of respondents
as acting secretaries without the consent of the
However, even if the Commission on
Commission on Appointments while Congress
Appointments is composed of members of
is in session.
Congress, the exercise of its powers is
executive and not legislative. The Commission
The Court’s Ruling on Appointments does not legislate when it
exercises its power to give or withhold consent
The petition has no merit. to presidential appointments. Thus:

Preliminary Matters xxx The Commission on Appointments is a

creature of the Constitution. Although its
On the Mootness of the Petition membership is confined to members of
Congress, said Commission is independent of
The Solicitor General argues that the petition is Congress. The powers of the Commission do
moot because President Arroyo had extended not come from Congress, but emanate directly
to respondents ad interim appointments on 23 from the Constitution. Hence, it is not an agent
of Congress. In fact, the functions of the
Commissioner are purely executive in nature. the Commission on Appointments of the 13th
xxx9 Congress: Senator Enrile as Minority Floor
Leader, Senator Lacson as Assistant Minority
On Petitioners’ Standing Floor Leader, and Senator Angara, Senator
Ejercito-Estrada, and Senator Osmeña as
The Solicitor General states that the present members.
petition is a quo warranto proceeding because,
with the exception of Secretary Ermita, Thus, on the impairment of the prerogatives of
petitioners effectively seek to oust respondents members of the Commission on Appointments,
for unlawfully exercising the powers of only Senators Enrile, Lacson, Angara, Ejercito-
department secretaries. The Solicitor General Estrada, and Osmeña have standing in the
further states that petitioners may not claim present petition. This is in contrast to Senators
standing as Senators because no power of the Pimentel, Estrada, Lim, and Madrigal, who,
Commission on Appointments has been though vigilant in protecting their perceived
"infringed upon or violated by the President. prerogatives as members of Congress,
xxx If at all, the Commission on Appointments possess no standing in the present petition.
as a body (rather than individual members of
the Congress) may possess standing in this The Constitutionality of President Arroyo’s
case."10 Issuance

Petitioners, on the other hand, state that the of Appointments to Respondents as Acting
Court can exercise its certiorari jurisdiction Secretaries
over unconstitutional acts of the
President.11 Petitioners further contend that Petitioners contend that President Arroyo
they possess standing because President should not have appointed respondents as
Arroyo’s appointment of department acting secretaries because "in case of a
secretaries in an acting capacity while vacancy in the Office of a Secretary, it is only
Congress is in session impairs the powers of an Undersecretary who can be designated as
Congress. Petitioners cite Sanlakas v. Acting Secretary."13 Petitioners base their
Executive Secretary12 as basis, thus: argument on Section 10, Chapter 2, Book IV of
Executive Order No. 292 ("EO 292"),14 which
To the extent that the powers of Congress are enumerates the powers and duties of the
impaired, so is the power of each member undersecretary. Paragraph 5 of Section 10
thereof, since his office confers a right to reads:
participate in the exercise of the powers of that
institution. SEC. 10. Powers and Duties of the
Undersecretary. - The Undersecretary shall:
An act of the Executive which injures the
institution of Congress causes a derivative but xxx
nonetheless substantial injury, which can be
questioned by a member of Congress. In such (5) Temporarily discharge the duties of the
a case, any member of Congress can have a Secretary in the latter’s absence or inability to
resort to the courts. discharge his duties for any cause or in case of
vacancy of the said office, unless otherwise
Considering the independence of the provided by law. Where there are more than
Commission on Appointments from Congress, one Undersecretary, the Secretary shall
it is error for petitioners to claim standing in the allocate the foregoing powers and duties
present case as members of Congress. among them. The President shall likewise
President Arroyo’s issuance of acting make the temporary designation of Acting
appointments while Congress is in session Secretary from among them; and
impairs no power of Congress. Among the
petitioners, only the following are members of xxx
Petitioners further assert that "while Congress SEC. 17. Power to Issue Temporary
is in session, there can be no appointments, Designation. — (1) The President may
whether regular or acting, to a vacant position temporarily designate an officer already in
of an office needing confirmation by the the government service or any other
Commission on Appointments, without first competent person to perform the functions
having obtained its consent."15 of an office in the executive branch,
appointment to which is vested in him by
In sharp contrast, respondents maintain that law, when: (a) the officer regularly
the President can issue appointments in an appointed to the office is unable to perform
acting capacity to department secretaries his duties by reason of illness, absence or
without the consent of the Commission on any other cause; or (b) there exists a
Appointments even while Congress is in vacancy[.]
session. Respondents point to Section 16,
Article VII of the 1987 Constitution. Section 16 (2) The person designated shall receive the
reads: compensation attached to the position, unless
he is already in the government service in
SEC. 16. The President shall nominate and, which case he shall receive only such
with the consent of the Commission on additional compensation as, with his existing
Appointments, appoint the heads of the salary, shall not exceed the salary authorized
executive departments, ambassadors, other by law for the position filled. The compensation
public ministers and consuls, or officers of the hereby authorized shall be paid out of the funds
armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval appropriated for the office or agency
captain, and other officers whose concerned.
appointments are vested in him in this
Constitution. He shall also appoint all other (3) In no case shall a temporary designation
officers of the Government whose exceed one (1) year. (Emphasis supplied)
appointments are not otherwise provided for by
law, and those whom he may be authorized by Petitioners and respondents maintain two
law to appoint. The Congress may, by law, vest diametrically opposed lines of thought.
the appointment of other officers lower in rank Petitioners assert that the President cannot
in the President alone, in the courts, or in the issue appointments in an acting capacity to
heads of departments, agencies, commissions, department secretaries while Congress is in
or boards. session because the law does not give the
President such power. In contrast, respondents
The President shall have the power to make insist that the President can issue such
appointments during the recess of the appointments because no law prohibits such
Congress, whether voluntary or compulsory, appointments.
but such appointments shall be effective only
until disapproval by the Commission on The essence of an appointment in an acting
Appointments or until the next adjournment of capacity is its temporary nature. It is a stop-gap
the Congress. measure intended to fill an office for a limited
time until the appointment of a permanent
Respondents also rely on EO 292, which occupant to the office.16 In case of vacancy in
devotes a chapter to the President’s power of an office occupied by an alter ego of the
appointment. Sections 16 and 17, Chapter 5, President, such as the office of a department
Title I, Book III of EO 292 read: secretary, the President must necessarily
appoint an alter ego of her choice as acting
SEC. 16. Power of Appointment. — The secretary before the permanent appointee of
President shall exercise the power to her choice could assume office.
appoint such officials as provided for in the
Constitution and laws. Congress, through a law, cannot impose on the
President the obligation to appoint
automatically the undersecretary as her appointments as a way to circumvent
temporary alter ego. An alter ego, whether confirmation by the Commission on
temporary or permanent, holds a position of Appointments.
great trust and confidence. Congress, in the
guise of prescribing qualifications to an office, In distinguishing ad interim appointments from
cannot impose on the President who her alter appointments in an acting capacity, a noted
ego should be. textbook writer on constitutional law has
The office of a department secretary may
become vacant while Congress is in session. Ad-interim appointments must be distinguished
Since a department secretary is the alter from appointments in an acting capacity. Both
ego of the President, the acting appointee to of them are effective upon acceptance. But ad-
the office must necessarily have the interim appointments are extended only during
President’s confidence. Thus, by the very a recess of Congress, whereas acting
nature of the office of a department secretary, appointments may be extended any time there
the President must appoint in an acting is a vacancy. Moreover ad-interim
capacity a person of her choice even while appointments are submitted to the Commission
Congress is in session. That person may or on Appointments for confirmation or rejection;
may not be the permanent appointee, but acting appointments are not submitted to the
practical reasons may make it expedient that Commission on Appointments. Acting
the acting appointee will also be the permanent appointments are a way of temporarily filling
appointee. important offices but, if abused, they can also
be a way of circumventing the need for
The law expressly allows the President to confirmation by the Commission on
make such acting appointment. Section 17, Appointments.18
Chapter 5, Title I, Book III of EO 292 states that
"[t]he President may temporarily designate an However, we find no abuse in the present case.
officer already in the government service The absence of abuse is readily apparent from
or any other competent person to perform President Arroyo’s issuance of ad
the functions of an office in the executive interim appointments to
branch." Thus, the President may even appoint respondents immediately upon the recess of
in an acting capacity a person not yet in the Congress, way before the lapse of one year.
government service, as long as the President
deems that person competent. WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the present
petition for certiorari and prohibition.
Petitioners assert that Section 17 does not
apply to appointments vested in the President SO ORDERED.
by the Constitution, because it only applies to
appointments vested in the President by law.
Petitioners forget that Congress is not the only
source of law. "Law" refers to the Constitution,
statutes or acts of Congress, municipal Associate Justice
ordinances, implementing rules issued
pursuant to law, and judicial decisions.17

Finally, petitioners claim that the issuance of

appointments in an acting capacity is
susceptible to abuse. Petitioners fail to
consider that acting appointments cannot
exceed one year as expressly provided in
Section 17(3), Chapter 5, Title I, Book III of EO
292. The law has incorporated this safeguard
to prevent abuses, like the use of acting