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LGU

G.R. No. 80391 February 28, 1989 SULTAN ALIMBUSAR P. LIMBONA, petitioner, vs. CONTE MANGELIN, SALIC ALI, SALINDATO ALI, PILIMPINAS CONDING, ACMAD TOMAWIS, GERRY TOMAWIS, JESUS ORTIZ, ANTONIO DELA FUENTE, DIEGO PALOMARES, JR., RAUL DAGALANGIT, and BIMBO SINSUAT, respondents. Ambrosio Padilla, Mempin & Reyes Law Offices for petitioner petitioner. Makabangkit B. Lanto for respondents. SARMIENTO, J.: The acts of the Sangguniang Pampook of Region XII are assailed in this petition. The antecedent facts are as follows: 1. On September 24, 1986, petitioner Sultan Alimbusar Limbona was appointed as a member of the Sangguniang Pampook, Regional Autonomous Government, Region XII, representing Lanao del Sur. 2. On March 12, 1987 petitioner was elected Speaker of the Regional Legislative Assembly or Batasang Pampook of Central Mindanao (Assembly for brevity). 3. Said Assembly is composed of eighteen (18) members. Two of said members, respondents Acmad Tomawis and Pakil Dagalangit, filed on March 23, 1987 with the Commission on Elections their respective certificates of candidacy in the May 11, 1987 congressional elections for the district of Lanao del Sur but they later withdrew from the aforesaid election and thereafter resumed again their positions as members of the Assembly. 4. On October 21, 1987 Congressman Datu Guimid Matalam, Chairman of the Committee on Muslim Affairs of the House of Representatives, invited Mr. Xavier Razul, Pampook Speaker of Region XI, Zamboanga City and the petitioner in his capacity as Speaker of the Assembly, Region XII, in a letter which reads: The Committee on Muslim Affairs well undertake consultations and dialogues with local government officials, civic, religious organizations and traditional leaders on the recent and present political developments and other issues affecting Regions IX and XII. The result of the conference, consultations and dialogues would hopefully chart the autonomous governments of the two regions as envisioned and may prod the President to constitute immediately the Regional Consultative Commission as mandated by the Commission. You are requested to invite some members of the Pampook Assembly of your respective assembly on November 1 to 15, 1987, with venue at the Congress of the Philippines. Your presence, unstinted support and cooperation is (sic) indispensable. 5. Consistent with the said invitation, petitioner sent a telegram to Acting Secretary Johnny Alimbuyao of the Assembly to wire all Assemblymen that there shall be no session in November as "our presence in the house committee hearing of Congress take (sic) precedence over any pending business in batasang pampook ... ." 6. In compliance with the aforesaid instruction of the petitioner, Acting Secretary Alimbuyao sent to the members of the Assembly the following telegram: TRANSMITTING FOR YOUR INFORMATION AND GUIDANCE TELEGRAM RECEIVED FROM SPEAKER LIMBONA QUOTE CONGRESSMAN JIMMY MATALAM CHAIRMAN OF THE HOUSE COMMITTEE ON MUSLIM AFFAIRS REQUESTED ME TO ASSIST SAID COMMITTEE IN THE DISCUSSION OF THE PROPOSED AUTONOMY ORGANIC NOV. 1ST TO 15. HENCE WERE ALL ASSEMBLYMEN THAT THERE SHALL BE NO SESSION IN NOVEMBER AS OUR PRESENCE IN THE HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARING OF CONGRESS TAKE PRECEDENCE OVER ANY PENDING BUSINESS IN BATASANG PAMPOOK OF MATALAM FOLLOWS UNQUOTE REGARDS. 7. On November 2, 1987, the Assembly held session in defiance of petitioner's advice, with the following assemblymen present: 1. Sali, Salic 2. Conding, Pilipinas (sic) 3. Dagalangit, Rakil 4. Dela Fuente, Antonio 5. Mangelen, Conte 6. Ortiz, Jesus

7. Palomares, Diego 8. Sinsuat, Bimbo 9. Tomawis, Acmad 10. Tomawis, Jerry After declaring the presence of a quorum, the Speaker ProTempore was authorized to preside in the session. On Motion to declare the seat of the Speaker vacant, all Assemblymen in attendance voted in the affirmative, hence, the chair declared said seat of the Speaker vacant. 8. On November 5, 1987, the session of the Assembly resumed with the following Assemblymen present: 1. Mangelen Conte-Presiding Officer 2. Ali Salic 3. Ali Salindatu 4. Aratuc, Malik 5. Cajelo, Rene 6. Conding, Pilipinas (sic) 7. Dagalangit, Rakil 8. Dela Fuente, Antonio 9. Ortiz, Jesus 10 Palomares, Diego 11. Quijano, Jesus 12. Sinsuat, Bimbo 13. Tomawis, Acmad 14. Tomawis, Jerry An excerpt from the debates and proceeding of said session reads: HON. DAGALANGIT: Mr. Speaker, Honorable Members of the House, with the presence of our colleagues who have come to attend the session today, I move to call the names of the new comers in order for them to cast their votes on the previous motion to declare the position of the Speaker vacant. But before doing so, I move also that the designation of the Speaker Pro Tempore as the Presiding Officer and Mr. Johnny Evangelists as Acting Secretary in the session last November 2, 1987 be reconfirmed in today's session. HON. SALIC ALI: I second the motions. PRESIDING OFFICER: Any comment or objections on the two motions presented? Me chair hears none and the said motions are approved. ... Twelve (12) members voted in favor of the motion to declare the seat of the Speaker vacant; one abstained and none voted against. 1 Accordingly, the petitioner prays for judgment as follows: WHEREFORE, petitioner respectfully prays that(a) This Petition be given due course; (b) Pending hearing, a restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction be issued enjoining respondents from proceeding with their session to be held on November 5, 1987, and on any day thereafter; (c) After hearing, judgment be rendered declaring the proceedings held by respondents of their session on November 2, 1987 as null and void; (d) Holding the election of petitioner as Speaker of said Legislative Assembly or Batasan Pampook, Region XII held on March 12, 1987 valid and subsisting, and (e) Making the injunction permanent. Petitioner likewise prays for such other relief as may be just and equitable. 2 Pending further proceedings, this Court, on January 19, 1988, received a resolution filed by the Sangguniang Pampook, "EXPECTING ALIMBUSAR P. LIMBONA FROM MEMBERSHIP OF THE SANGGUNIANG PAMPOOK AUTONOMOUS REGION XII," 3 on the grounds, among other things, that the petitioner "had caused to be prepared and signed by him paying [sic] the salaries and emoluments of Odin Abdula, who was considered resigned after filing his Certificate of Candidacy for Congressmen for the First District of Maguindanao in the last May 11, elections. . . and nothing in the record of the Assembly will show that any request for reinstatement by Abdula was ever made . . ." 4 and that "such action of Mr. Lim bona in paying Abdula his salaries and emoluments without authority from the Assembly . . . constituted a usurpation of the power of the Assembly," 5 that the petitioner "had recently caused withdrawal of so much amount of cash from the Assembly resulting to the non-payment of the salaries and emoluments of some Assembly [sic]," 6 and that he had "filed a case before the Supreme Court against some members of the Assembly on question which should have been resolved within the confines of the Assembly," 7 for which the respondents now submit that the petition had become "moot and academic". 8 The first question, evidently, is whether or not the expulsion of the petitioner (pending litigation) has made the case moot and academic.

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We do not agree that the case has been rendered moot and academic by reason simply of the expulsion resolution so issued. For, if the petitioner's expulsion was done purposely to make this petition moot and academic, and to preempt the Court, it will not make it academic. On the ground of the immutable principle of due process alone, we hold that the expulsion in question is of no force and effect. In the first place, there is no showing that the Sanggunian had conducted an investigation, and whether or not the petitioner had been heard in his defense, assuming that there was an investigation, or otherwise given the opportunity to do so. On the other hand, what appears in the records is an admission by the Assembly (at least, the respondents) that "since November, 1987 up to this writing, the petitioner has not set foot at the Sangguniang Pampook." 9 "To be sure, the private respondents aver that "[t]he Assemblymen, in a conciliatory gesture, wanted him to come to Cotabato City," 10 but that was "so that their differences could be threshed out and settled." 11 Certainly, that avowed wanting or desire to thresh out and settle, no matter how conciliatory it may be cannot be a substitute for the notice and hearing contemplated by law. While we have held that due process, as the term is known in administrative law, does not absolutely require notice and that a party need only be given the opportunity to be heard, 12 it does not appear herein that the petitioner had, to begin with, been made aware that he had in fact stood charged of graft and corruption before his collegues. It cannot be said therefore that he was accorded any opportunity to rebut their accusations. As it stands, then, the charges now levelled amount to mere accusations that cannot warrant expulsion. In the second place, (the resolution) appears strongly to be a bare act of vendetta by the other Assemblymen against the petitioner arising from what the former perceive to be abduracy on the part of the latter. Indeed, it (the resolution) speaks of "a case [having been filed] [by the petitioner] before the Supreme Court . . . on question which should have been resolved within the confines of the Assemblyman act which some members claimed unnecessarily and unduly assails their integrity and character as representative of the people" 13 an act that cannot possibly justify expulsion. Access to judicial remedies is guaranteed by the Constitution, 14 and, unless the recourse amounts to malicious prosecution, no one may be punished for seeking redress in the courts. We therefore order reinstatement, with the caution that should the past acts of the petitioner indeed warrant his removal, the Assembly is enjoined, should it still be so minded, to commence proper proceedings therefor in line with the most elementary requirements of due process. And while it is within the discretion of the members of the Sanggunian to punish their erring colleagues, their acts are nonetheless subject to the moderating band of this Court in the event that such discretion is exercised with grave abuse. It is, to be sure, said that precisely because the Sangguniang Pampook(s) are "autonomous," the courts may not rightfully intervene in their affairs, much less strike down their acts. We come, therefore, to the second issue: Are the so-called autonomous governments of Mindanao, as they are now constituted, subject to the jurisdiction of the national courts? In other words, what is the extent of self-government given to the two autonomous governments of Region IX and XII? The autonomous governments of Mindanao were organized in Regions IX and XII by Presidential Decree No. 161815 promulgated on July 25, 1979. Among other things, the Decree established "internal autonomy" 16 in the two regions "[w]ithin the framework of the national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines and its Constitution," 17 with legislative and executive machinery to exercise the powers and responsibilities 18specified therein. It requires the autonomous regional governments to "undertake all internal administrative matters for the respective regions," 19 except to "act on matters which are within the jurisdiction and competence of the National Government," 20 "which include, but are not limited to, the following: (1) National defense and security; (2) Foreign relations; (3) Foreign trade;

(4) Currency, monetary affairs, foreign exchange, banking and quasi-banking, and external borrowing, (5) Disposition, exploration, development, exploitation or utilization of all natural resources; (6) Air and sea transport (7) Postal matters and telecommunications; (8) Customs and quarantine; (9) Immigration and deportation; (10) Citizenship and naturalization; (11) National economic, social and educational planning; and (12) General auditing. 21 In relation to the central government, it provides that "[t]he President shall have the power of general supervision and control over the Autonomous Regions ..." 22 Now, autonomy is either decentralization of administration or decentralization of power. There is decentralization of administration when the central government delegates administrative powers to political subdivisions in order to broaden the base of government power and in the process to make local governments "more responsive and accountable," 23 "and ensure their fullest development as selfreliant communities and make them more effective partners in the pursuit of national development and social progress." 24 At the same time, it relieves the central government of the burden of managing local affairs and enables it to concentrate on national concerns. The President exercises "general supervision" 25 over them, but only to "ensure that local affairs are administered according to law." 26 He has no control over their acts in the sense that he can substitute their judgments with his own. 27 Decentralization of power, on the other hand, involves an abdication of political power in the favor of local governments units declare to be autonomous . In that case, the autonomous government is free to chart its own destiny and shape its future with minimum intervention from central authorities. According to a constitutional author, decentralization of power amounts to "self-immolation," since in that event, the autonomous government becomes accountable not to the central authorities but to its constituency. 28 But the question of whether or not the grant of autonomy Muslim Mindanao under the 1987 Constitution involves, truly, an effort to decentralize power rather than mere administration is a question foreign to this petition, since what is involved herein is a local government unit constituted prior to the ratification of the present Constitution. Hence, the Court will not resolve that controversy now, in this case, since no controversy in fact exists. We will resolve it at the proper time and in the proper case. Under the 1987 Constitution, local government units enjoy autonomy in these two senses, thus: Section 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. Here shall be autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao ,and the Cordilleras as hereinafter provided. 29 Sec. 2. The territorial and political subdivisions shall enjoy local autonomy. 30 xxx xxx xxx See. 15. Mere shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. 31 An autonomous government that enjoys autonomy of the latter category [CONST. (1987), art. X, sec. 15.] is subject alone to the decree of the organic act creating it and accepted principles on the effects and limits of "autonomy." On the other hand, an autonomous government of the former class is, as we noted, under the supervision of the national government acting through the President (and the Department of Local Government).32 If the Sangguniang Pampook (of Region XII), then, is autonomous in the latter sense, its acts are, debatably beyond the domain of this Court in perhaps the same way that the internal acts, say, of the Congress of the Philippines are beyond our jurisdiction. But if it is autonomous in the former category only, it comes unarguably under our jurisdiction. An examination of the very Presidential Decree creating the autonomous governments of Mindanao persuades us that they were never meant to exercise autonomy in the second sense, that is, in which the central government commits an act of selfimmolation. Presidential Decree No. 1618, in the first place, mandates that "[t]he President shall have the power of general supervision and control over Autonomous Regions." 33 In the

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second place, the Sangguniang Pampook, their legislative arm, is made to discharge chiefly administrative services, thus: SEC. 7. Powers of the Sangguniang Pampook. The Sangguniang Pampook shall exercise local legislative powers over regional affairs within the framework of national development plans, policies and goals, in the following areas: (1) Organization of regional administrative system; (2) Economic, social and cultural development of the Autonomous Region; (3) Agricultural, commercial and industrial programs for the Autonomous Region; (4) Infrastructure development for the Autonomous Region; (5) Urban and rural planning for the Autonomous Region; (6) Taxation and other revenue-raising measures as provided for in this Decree; (7) Maintenance, operation and administration of schools established by the Autonomous Region; (8) Establishment, operation and maintenance of health, welfare and other social services, programs and facilities; (9) Preservation and development of customs, traditions, languages and culture indigenous to the Autonomous Region; and (10) Such other matters as may be authorized by law,including the enactment of such measures as may be necessary for the promotion of the general welfare of the people in the Autonomous Region. The President shall exercise such powers as may be necessary to assure that enactment and acts of the Sangguniang Pampook and the Lupong Tagapagpaganap ng Pook are in compliance with this Decree, national legislation, policies, plans and programs. The Sangguniang Pampook shall maintain liaison with the Batasang Pambansa. 34 Hence, we assume jurisdiction. And if we can make an inquiry in the validity of the expulsion in question, with more reason can we review the petitioner's removal as Speaker. Briefly, the petitioner assails the legality of his ouster as Speaker on the grounds that: (1) the Sanggunian, in convening on November 2 and 5, 1987 (for the sole purpose of declaring the office of the Speaker vacant), did so in violation of the Rules of the Sangguniang Pampook since the Assembly was then on recess; and (2) assuming that it was valid, his ouster was ineffective nevertheless for lack of quorum. Upon the facts presented, we hold that the November 2 and 5, 1987 sessions were invalid. It is true that under Section 31 of the Region XII Sanggunian Rules, "[s]essions shall not be suspended or adjourned except by direction of the Sangguniang Pampook," 35 but it provides likewise that "the Speaker may, on [sic] his discretion, declare a recess of "short intervals." 36 Of course, there is disagreement between the protagonists as to whether or not the recess called by the petitioner effective November 1 through 15, 1987 is the "recess of short intervals" referred to; the petitioner says that it is while the respondents insist that, to all intents and purposes, it was an adjournment and that "recess" as used by their Rules only refers to "a recess when arguments get heated up so that protagonists in a debate can talk things out informally and obviate dissenssion [sic] and disunity. 37 The Court agrees with the respondents on this regard, since clearly, the Rules speak of "short intervals." Secondly, the Court likewise agrees that the Speaker could not have validly called a recess since the Assembly had yet to convene on November 1, the date session opens under the same Rules. 38 Hence, there can be no recess to speak of that could possibly interrupt any session. But while this opinion is in accord with the respondents' own, we still invalidate the twin sessions in question, since at the time the petitioner called the "recess," it was not a settled matter whether or not he could. do so. In the second place, the invitation tendered by the Committee on Muslim Affairs of the House of Representatives provided a plausible reason for the intermission sought. Thirdly, assuming that a valid recess could not be called, it does not appear that the respondents called his attention to this mistake. What appears is that instead, they opened the sessions themselves behind his back in an apparent act of mutiny. Under the circumstances, we find equity on his side. For

this reason, we uphold the "recess" called on the ground of good faith. It does not appear to us, moreover, that the petitioner had resorted to the aforesaid "recess" in order to forestall the Assembly from bringing about his ouster. This is not apparent from the pleadings before us. We are convinced that the invitation was what precipitated it. In holding that the "recess" in question is valid, we are not to be taken as establishing a precedent, since, as we said, a recess can not be validly declared without a session having been first opened. In upholding the petitioner herein, we are not giving him a carte blanche to order recesses in the future in violation of the Rules, or otherwise to prevent the lawful meetings thereof. Neither are we, by this disposition, discouraging the Sanggunian from reorganizing itself pursuant to its lawful prerogatives. Certainly, it can do so at the proper time. In the event that be petitioner should initiate obstructive moves, the Court is certain that it is armed with enough coercive remedies to thwart them. 39 In view hereof, we find no need in dwelling on the issue of quorum. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petition is GRANTED. The Sangguniang Pampook, Region XII, is ENJOINED to (1) REINSTATE the petitioner as Member, Sangguniang Pampook, Region XII; and (2) REINSTATE him as Speaker thereof. No costs. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 162015 March 6, 2006 THE CITY GOVERNMENT OF QUEZON CITY, AND THE CITY TREASURER OF QUEZON CITY, DR. VICTOR B. ENRIGA, Petitioners, vs. BAYAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS, INC., Respondent. DECISION GARCIA,J.: Before the Court, on pure questions of law, is this petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court to nullify and set aside the following issuances of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 227, in its Civil Case No. Q-02-47292, to wit: 1) Decision1 dated June 6, 2003, declaring respondent Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. exempt from real estate taxation on its real properties located in Quezon City; and 2) Order2 dated December 30, 2003, denying petitioners motion for reconsideration. The facts: Respondent Bayan Telecommunications, Inc.3 (Bayantel) is a legislative franchise holder under Republic Act (Rep. Act) No. 32594 to establish and operate radio stations for domestic telecommunications, radiophone, broadcasting and telecasting. Of relevance to this controversy is the tax provision of Rep. Act No. 3259, embodied in Section 14 thereof, which reads: SECTION 14. (a) The grantee shall be liable to pay the same taxes on its real estate, buildings and personal property, exclusive of the franchise, as other persons or corporations are now or hereafter may be required by law to pay. (b) The grantee shall further pay to the Treasurer of the Philippines each year, within ten days after the audit and approval of the accounts as prescribed in this Act, one and one-half per centum of all gross receipts from the business transacted under this franchise by the said grantee (Emphasis supplied). On January 1, 1992, Rep. Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the "Local Government Code of 1991" (LGC), took effect. Section 232 of the Code grants local government units within the Metro Manila Area the power to levy tax on real properties, thus: SEC. 232. Power to Levy Real Property Tax. A province or city or a municipality within the Metropolitan Manila Area may levy an annual ad valorem tax on real property such as land, building, machinery and other improvements not hereinafter specifically exempted. Complementing the aforequoted provision is the second paragraph of Section 234 of the same Code which withdrew any exemption from realty tax heretofore granted to or enjoyed by all persons, natural or juridical, to wit: SEC. 234 - Exemptions from Real Property Tax. The following are exempted from payment of the real property tax: xxx xxx xxx Except as provided herein, any exemption from payment of real property tax previously granted to, or enjoyed by, all persons, whether natural or juridical, including government-

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owned-or-controlled corporations is hereby withdrawn upon effectivity of this Code (Emphasis supplied). On July 20, 1992, barely few months after the LGC took effect, Congress enacted Rep. Act No. 7633, amending Bayantels original franchise. The amendatory law (Rep. Act No. 7633) contained the following tax provision: SEC. 11. The grantee, its successors or assigns shall be liable to pay the same taxes on their real estate, buildings and personal property, exclusive of this franchise, as other persons or corporations are now or hereafter may be required by law to pay. In addition thereto, the grantee, its successors or assigns shall pay a franchise tax equivalent to three percent (3%) of all gross receipts of the telephone or other telecommunications businesses transacted under this franchise by the grantee, its successors or assigns and the said percentage shall be in lieu of all taxes on this franchise or earnings thereof. Provided, That the grantee, its successors or assigns shall continue to be liable for income taxes payable under Title II of the National Internal Revenue Code . xxx. [Emphasis supplied] It is undisputed that within the territorial boundary of Quezon City, Bayantel owned several real properties on which it maintained various telecommunications facilities. These real properties, as hereunder described, are covered by the following tax declarations: (a) Tax Declaration Nos. D-096-04071, D-096-04074, D096-04072 and D-096-04073 pertaining to Bayantels Head Office and Operations Center in Roosevelt St., San Francisco del Monte, Quezon City allegedly the nerve center of petitioners telecommunications franchise operations, said Operation Center housing mainly petitioners Network Operations Group and switching, transmission and related equipment; (b) Tax Declaration Nos. D-124-01013, D-124-00939, D124-00920 and D-124-00941 covering Bayantels land, building and equipment in Maginhawa St., Barangay East Teachers Village, Quezon City which houses telecommunications facilities; and (c) Tax Declaration Nos. D-011-10809, D-011-10810, D011-10811, and D-011-11540 referring to Bayantels Exchange Center located in Proj. 8, Brgy. Bahay Toro, Tandang Sora, Quezon City which houses the Network Operations Group and cover switching, transmission and other related equipment. In 1993, the government of Quezon City, pursuant to the taxing power vested on local government units by Section 5, Article X of the 1987 Constitution, infra, in relation to Section 232 of the LGC, supra, enacted City Ordinance No. SP-91, S-93, otherwise known as the Quezon City Revenue Code (QCRC),5 imposing, under Section 5 thereof, a real property tax on all real properties in Quezon City, and, reiterating in its Section 6, the withdrawal of exemption from real property tax under Section 234 of the LGC, supra. Furthermore, much like the LGC, the QCRC, under its Section 230, withdrew tax exemption privileges in general, as follows: SEC. 230. Withdrawal of Tax Exemption Privileges. Unless otherwise provided in this Code, tax exemptions or incentives granted to, or presently enjoyed by all persons, whether natural or juridical, including government owned or controlled corporations, except local water districts, cooperatives duly registered under RA 6938, non-stock and non-profit hospitals and educational institutions, business enterprises certified by the Board of Investments (BOI) as pioneer or non-pioneer for a period of six (6) and four (4) years, respectively, are hereby withdrawn effective upon approval of this Code (Emphasis supplied). Conformably with the Citys Revenue Code, new tax declarations for Bayantels real properties in Quezon City were issued by the City Assessor and were received by Bayantel on August 13, 1998, except one (Tax Declaration No. 124-01013) which was received on July 14, 1999. Meanwhile, on March 16, 1995, Rep. Act No. 7925,6 otherwise known as the "Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines," envisaged to level the playing field among telecommunications companies, took effect. Section 23 of the Act provides: SEC. 23. Equality of Treatment in the Telecommunications Industry. Any advantage, favor, privilege, exemption, or immunity granted under existing franchises, or may hereafter be granted, shall ipso facto become part of previously granted telecommunications franchises and

shall be accorded immediately and unconditionally to the grantees of such franchises: Provided, however, That the foregoing shall neither apply to nor affect provisions of telecommunications franchises concerning territory covered by the franchise, the life span of the franchise, or the type of service authorized by the franchise. On January 7, 1999, Bayantel wrote the office of the City Assessor seeking the exclusion of its real properties in the city from the roll of taxable real properties. With its request having been denied, Bayantel interposed an appeal with the Local Board of Assessment Appeals (LBAA). And, evidently on its firm belief of its exempt status, Bayantel did not pay the real property taxes assessed against it by the Quezon City government. On account thereof, the Quezon City Treasurer sent out notices of delinquency for the total amount ofP43,878,208.18, followed by the issuance of several warrants of levy against Bayantels properties preparatory to their sale at a public auction set on July 30, 2002. Threatened with the imminent loss of its properties, Bayantel immediately withdrew its appeal with the LBAA and instead filed with the RTC of Quezon City a petition for prohibition with an urgent application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction, thereat docketed as Civil Case No. Q-02-47292, which was raffled to Branch 227 of the court. On July 29, 2002, or in the eve of the public auction scheduled the following day, the lower court issued a TRO, followed, after due hearing, by a writ of preliminary injunction via its order of August 20, 2002. And, having heard the parties on the merits, the same court came out with its challenged Decision of June 6, 2003, the dispositive portion of which reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, pursuant to the enabling franchise under Section 11 of Republic Act No. 7633, the real estate properties and buildings of petitioner [now, respondent Bayantel] which have been admitted to be used in the operation of petitioners franchise described in the following tax declarations are hereby DECLARED exempt from real estate taxation: (1) Tax Declaration No. D-096-04071 (2) Tax Declaration No. D-096-04074 (3) Tax Declaration No. D-124-01013 (4) Tax Declaration No. D-011-10810 (5) Tax Declaration No. D-011-10811 (6) Tax Declaration No. D-011-10809 (7) Tax Declaration No. D-124-00941 (8) Tax Declaration No. D-124-00940 (9) Tax Declaration No. D-124-00939 (10) Tax Declaration No. D-096-04072 (11) Tax Declaration No. D-096-04073 (12) Tax Declaration No. D-011-11540 The preliminary prohibitory injunction issued in the August 20, 2002 Order of this Court is hereby made permanent. Since this is a resolution of a purely legal issue, there is no pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. Their motion for reconsideration having been denied by the court in its Order dated December 30, 2003, petitioners elevated the case directly to this Court on pure questions of law, ascribing to the lower court the following errors: I. [I]n declaring the real properties of respondent exempt from real property taxes notwithstanding the fact that the tax exemption granted to Bayantel in its original franchise had been withdrawn by the [LGC] and that the said exemption was not restored by the enactment of RA 7633. II. [In] declaring the real properties of respondent exempt from real property taxes notwithstanding the enactment of the [QCRC] which withdrew the tax exemption which may have been granted by RA 7633. III. [In] declaring the real properties of respondent exempt from real property taxes notwithstanding the vague and ambiguous grant of tax exemption provided under Section 11 of RA 7633. IV. [In] declaring the real properties of respondent exempt from real property taxes notwithstanding the fact that [it] had failed to exhaust administrative remedies in its claim for real property tax exemption. (Words in bracket added.) As we see it, the errors assigned may ultimately be reduced to two (2) basic issues, namely: 1. Whether or not Bayantels real properties in Quezon City are exempt from real property taxes under its legislative franchise; and 2. Whether or not Bayantel is required to exhaust administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief with the trial court.

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We shall first address the second issue, the same being procedural in nature. Petitioners argue that Bayantel had failed to avail itself of the administrative remedies provided for under the LGC, adding that the trial court erred in giving due course to Bayantels petition for prohibition. To petitioners, the appeal mechanics under the LGC constitute Bayantels plain and speedy remedy in this case. The Court does not agree. Petitions for prohibition are governed by the following provision of Rule 65 of the Rules of Court: SEC. 2. Petition for prohibition. When the proceedings of any tribunal, are without or in excess of its or his jurisdiction, or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy, and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law, a person aggrieved thereby may file a verified petition in the proper court, alleging the facts with certainty and praying that judgment be rendered commanding the respondent to desist from further proceedings in the action or matter specified therein, or otherwise, granting such incidental reliefs as law and justice may require. With the reality that Bayantels real properties were already levied upon on account of its nonpayment of real estate taxes thereon, the Court agrees with Bayantel that an appeal to the LBAA is not a speedy and adequate remedy within the context of the aforequoted Section 2 of Rule 65. This is not to mention of the auction sale of said properties already scheduled on July 30, 2002. Moreover, one of the recognized exceptions to the exhaustion- of-administrative remedies rule is when, as here, only legal issues are to be resolved. In fact, the Court, cognizant of the nature of the questions presently involved, gave due course to the instant petition. As the Court has said in Ty vs. Trampe:7 xxx. Although as a rule, administrative remedies must first be exhausted before resort to judicial action can prosper, there is a well-settled exception in cases where the controversy does not involve questions of fact but only of law. xxx. Lest it be overlooked, an appeal to the LBAA, to be properly considered, required prior payment under protest of the amount of P43,878,208.18, a figure which, in the light of the then prevailing Asian financial crisis, may have been difficult to raise up. Given this reality, an appeal to the LBAA may not be considered as a plain, speedy and adequate remedy. It is thus understandable why Bayantel opted to withdraw its earlier appeal with the LBAA and, instead, filed its petition for prohibition with urgent application for injunctive relief in Civil Case No. Q-02-47292. The remedy availed of by Bayantel under Section 2, Rule 65 of the Rules of Court must be upheld. This brings the Court to the more weighty question of whether or not Bayantels real properties in Quezon City are, under its franchise, exempt from real property tax. The lower court resolved the issue in the affirmative, basically owing to the phrase "exclusive of this franchise" found in Section 11 of Bayantels amended franchise, Rep. Act No. 7633. To petitioners, however, the language of Section 11 of Rep. Act No. 7633 is neither clear nor unequivocal. The elaborate and extensive discussion devoted by the trial court on the meaning and import of said phrase, they add, suggests as much. It is petitioners thesis that Bayantel was in no time given any express exemption from the payment of real property tax under its amendatory franchise. There seems to be no issue as to Bayantels exemption from real estate taxes by virtue of the term "exclusive of the franchise" qualifying the phrase "same taxes on its real estate, buildings and personal property," found in Section 14, supra, of its franchise, Rep. Act No. 3259, as originally granted. The legislative intent expressed in the phrase "exclusive of this franchise" cannot be construed other than distinguishing between two (2) sets of properties, be they real or personal, owned by the franchisee, namely, (a) those actually, directly and exclusively used in its radio or telecommunications business, and (b) those properties which are not so used. It is worthy to note that the properties subject of the present controversy are only those which are admittedly falling under the first category. To the mind of the Court, Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 3259 effectively works to grant or delegate to local

governments of Congress inherent power to tax the franchisees properties belonging to the second group of properties indicated above, that is, all properties which, "exclusive of this franchise," are not actually and directly used in the pursuit of its franchise. As may be recalled, the taxing power of local governments under both the 1935 and the 1973 Constitutions solely depended upon an enabling law. Absent such enabling law, local government units were without authority to impose and collect taxes on real properties within their respective territorial jurisdictions. While Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 3259 may be validly viewed as an implied delegation of power to tax, the delegation under that provision, as couched, is limited to impositions over properties of the franchisee which are not actually, directly and exclusively used in the pursuit of its franchise. Necessarily, other properties of Bayantel directly used in the pursuit of its business are beyond the pale of the delegated taxing power of local governments. In a very real sense, therefore, real properties of Bayantel, save those exclusive of its franchise, are subject to realty taxes. Ultimately, therefore, the inevitable result was that all realties which are actually, directly and exclusively used in the operation of its franchise are "exempted" from any property tax. Bayantels franchise being national in character, the "exemption" thus granted under Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 3259 applies to all its real or personal properties found anywhere within the Philippine archipelago. However, with the LGCs taking effect on January 1, 1992, Bayantels "exemption" from real estate taxes for properties of whatever kind located within the Metro Manila area was, by force of Section 234 of the Code, supra, expressly withdrawn. But, not long thereafter, however, or on July 20, 1992, Congress passed Rep. Act No. 7633 amending Bayantels original franchise. Worthy of note is that Section 11 of Rep. Act No. 7633 is a virtual reenacment of the tax provision, i.e., Section 14, supra, of Bayantels original franchise under Rep. Act No. 3259. Stated otherwise, Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 3259 which was deemed impliedly repealed by Section 234 of the LGC was expressly revived under Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 7633. In concrete terms, the realty tax exemption heretofore enjoyed by Bayantel under its original franchise, but subsequently withdrawn by force of Section 234 of the LGC, has been restored by Section 14 of Rep. Act No. 7633. The Court has taken stock of the fact that by virtue of Section 5, Article X of the 1987 Constitution,8 local governments are empowered to levy taxes. And pursuant to this constitutional empowerment, juxtaposed with Section 2329 of the LGC, the Quezon City government enacted in 1993 its local Revenue Code, imposing real property tax on all real properties found within its territorial jurisdiction. And as earlier stated, the Citys Revenue Code, just like the LGC, expressly withdrew, under Section 230 thereof, supra, all tax exemption privileges in general. This thus raises the question of whether or not the Citys Revenue Code pursuant to which the city treasurer of Quezon City levied real property taxes against Bayantels real properties located within the City effectively withdrew the tax exemption enjoyed by Bayantel under its franchise, as amended. Bayantel answers the poser in the negative arguing that once again it is only "liable to pay the same taxes, as any other persons or corporations on all its real or personal properties, exclusive of its franchise." Bayantels posture is well-taken. While the system of local government taxation has changed with the onset of the 1987 Constitution, the power of local government units to tax is still limited. As we explained in Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority:10 The power to tax is primarily vested in the Congress; however, in our jurisdiction, it may be exercised by local legislative bodies, no longer merely be virtue of a valid delegation as before, but pursuant to direct authority conferred by Section 5, Article X of the Constitution. Under the latter, the exercise of the power may be subject to such guidelines and limitations as the Congress may provide which, however, must be consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy. (at p. 680; Emphasis supplied.) Clearly then, while a new slant on the subject of local taxation now prevails in the sense that the former doctrine of local government units delegated power to tax had been effectively modified with Article X, Section 5 of the 1987 Constitution now in place, .the basic doctrine on local taxation remains essentially the same. For as the Court stressed in Mactan, "the power to tax is [still] primarily vested in the Congress."

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This new perspective is best articulated by Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., himself a Commissioner of the 1986 Constitutional Commission which crafted the 1987 Constitution, thus: What is the effect of Section 5 on the fiscal position of municipal corporations? Section 5 does not change the doctrine that municipal corporations do not possess inherent powers of taxation. What it does is to confer municipal corporations a general power to levy taxes and otherwise create sources of revenue. They no longer have to wait for a statutory grant of these powers. The power of the legislative authority relative to the fiscal powers of local governments has been reduced to the authority to impose limitations on municipal powers. Moreover, these limitations must be "consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy." The important legal effect of Section 5 is thus to reverse the principle that doubts are resolved against municipal corporations. Henceforth, in interpreting statutory provisions on municipal fiscal powers, doubts will be resolved in favor of municipal corporations. It is understood, however, that taxes imposed by local government must be for a public purpose, uniform within a locality, must not be confiscatory, and must be within the jurisdiction of the local unit to pass.11(Emphasis supplied). In net effect, the controversy presently before the Court involves, at bottom, a clash between the inherent taxing power of the legislature, which necessarily includes the power to exempt, and the local governments delegated power to tax under the aegis of the 1987 Constitution. Now to go back to the Quezon City Revenue Code which imposed real estate taxes on all real properties within the citys territory and removed exemptions theretofore "previously granted to, or presently enjoyed by all persons, whether natural or juridical .,"12 there can really be no dispute that the power of the Quezon City Government to tax is limited by Section 232 of the LGC which expressly provides that "a province or city or municipality within the Metropolitan Manila Area may levy an annual ad valorem tax on real property such as land, building, machinery, and other improvement not hereinafter specifically exempted." Under this law, the Legislature highlighted its power to thereafter exempt certain realties from the taxing power of local government units. An interpretation denying Congress such power to exempt would reduce the phrase "not hereinafter specifically exempted" as a pure jargon, without meaning whatsoever. Needless to state, such absurd situation is unacceptable. For sure, in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company, Inc. (PLDT) vs. City of Davao,13 this Court has upheld the power of Congress to grant exemptions over the power of local government units to impose taxes. There, the Court wrote: Indeed, the grant of taxing powers to local government units under the Constitution and the LGC does not affect the power of Congress to grant exemptions to certain persons, pursuant to a declared national policy. The legal effect of the constitutional grant to local governments simply means that in interpreting statutory provisions on municipal taxing powers, doubts must be resolved in favor of municipal corporations. (Emphasis supplied.) As we see it, then, the issue in this case no longer dwells on whether Congress has the power to exempt Bayantels properties from realty taxes by its enactment of Rep. Act No. 7633 which amended Bayantels original franchise. The more decisive question turns on whether Congress actually did exempt Bayantels properties at all by virtue of Section 11 of Rep. Act No. 7633. Admittedly, Rep. Act No. 7633 was enacted subsequent to the LGC. Perfectly aware that the LGC has already withdrawn Bayantels former exemption from realty taxes, Congress opted to pass Rep. Act No. 7633 using, under Section 11 thereof, exactly the same defining phrase "exclusive of this franchise" which was the basis for Bayantels exemption from realty taxes prior to the LGC. In plain language, Section 11 of Rep. Act No. 7633 states that "the grantee, its successors or assigns shall be liable to pay the same taxes on their real estate, buildings and personal property, exclusive of this franchise, as other persons or corporations are now or hereafter may be required by law to pay." The Court views this subsequent piece of legislation as an express and real intention on the part of Congress to once again remove from the LGCs delegated taxing power, all of the

franchisees (Bayantels) properties that are actually, directly and exclusively used in the pursuit of its franchise. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 144256. June 8, 2005] ALTERNATIVE CENTER FOR ORGANIZATIONAL REFORMS AND DEVELOPMENT, INC. (ACORD), BALAY MINDANAW FOUNDATION, INC. (BMFI); BARRIOS, INC.; CAMARINES SUR NGO-PO DEVELOPMENT NETWORK, INC. (CADENET); CENTER FOR PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE (CPAG); ENVIRONMENTAL LEGAL ASSISTANCE CENTER, INC. (ELAC); FELLOWSHIP FOR ORGANIZING ENDEAVORS (FORGE); FOUNDATION FOR LOCAL AUTONOMY AND GOOD GOVERNNANCE, INC. (FLAGG); INSTITUTE OF POLITICS AND GOVERNANCE (IPG); KAISAHAN PARA SA KAUNLARAN NG KANAYUNAN AT REPORMANG PANSAKAHAN (KAISAHAN); MANGGAGAGAWANG KABABAIHANG MITHI AY PAGLAYA (MAKALAYA); NAGA CITY PEOPLES COUNCIL (NCPC); NGO-PO COUNCIL OF CAMARINES SUR FOR COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION AND EMPOWERMENT, INC. (NPCCS); PAILIG DEVELOPMENT FOUNDATION INC. (PDFI); PHILIPPINE ECUMENICAL ACTION FOR COMMUNITY EMPOWERMENT FOUNDATION, INC. (PEACE FOUNDATION, INC.); PHILIPPINE PARTNERSHIP FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF HUMAN RESOURCES IN RURAL AREAS (PHILDHRRA); PILIPINA, INC. (ANG KILUSAN NG KABABAIHANG PILIPINO); SENTRO NG ALTERNATIBONG LINGAP PANLIGAL (SALIGAN); URBAN LAND REFORM TASK FORCE (ULRTF); ADELINO C. LAVADOR; PUNONG BARANGAY ISABEL MENDEZ; PUNONG BARANGAY CAROLINA ROMANOS, petitioners, vs. HON. RONALDO ZAMORA, in his capacity as Executive Secretary, HON. BENJAMIN DIOKNO, in his capacity as Secretary, Department of Budget and Management, HON. LEONOR MAGTOLISBRIONES, in her capacity as National Treasurer, and the COMMISSION ON AUDIT, respondents. DECISION CARPIO MORALES, J.: Pursuant to Section 22, Article VII of the Constitution[1] mandating the President to submit to Congress a budget of expenditures within thirty days before the opening of every regular session, then President Joseph Ejercito Estrada submitted the National Expenditures Program for Fiscal Year 2000. In the said Program, the President proposed an Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) in the amount of P121,778,000,000 following the formula provided for in Section 284 of the Local Government Code of 1992, viz: SECTION 284. Allotment of Internal Revenue Taxes. Local government units shall have a share in the national internal revenue taxes based on the collection of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year as follows: (a) On the first year of the effectivity of this Code, thirty percent (30%); (b) On the second year, thirty-five percent (35%); and (c) On the third year and thereafter, forty percent (40%). x x x (Emphasis supplied) On February 16, 2000, the President approved House Bill No. 8374 a bill sponsored in the Senate by then Senator John H. Osmea who was the Chairman of the Committee on Finance. This bill became Republic Act No. 8760, AN ACT APPROPRIATING FUNDS FOR THE OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES FROM JANUARY ONE TO DECEMBER THIRTY-ONE, TWO THOUSAND, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES. The act, otherwise known as the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the Year 2000, provides under the heading ALLOCATIONS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS that the IRA for local government units shall amount to P111,778,000,000: XXXVII. ALLOCATIONS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS A. INTERNAL REVENUE ALLOTMENT For apportionment of the shares of local government units in the internal revenue taxes in accordance with the purpose indicated hereunder . ..P111,778,000,000 New Appropriations, by Purpose Current Operating Expenditures Maintenance

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and Other Personal Operating Capital Services Expenses Outlays Total A. PURPOSE(S) a. Internal Revenue Allotment P111,778,000,000 P111,778, 000,000 xxx TOTAL NEW APPROPRIATIONS P111,778,000,000 In another part of the GAA, under the heading UNPROGRAMMED FUND, it is provided that an amount of P10,000,000,000 (P10 Billion), apart from the P111,778,000,000 mentioned above, shall be used to fund the IRA, which amount shall be released only when the original revenue targets submitted by the President to Congress can be realized based on a quarterly assessment to be conducted by certain committees which the GAA specifies, namely, the Development Budget Coordinating Committee, the Committee on Finance of the Senate, and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives. LIV. UNPROGRAMMED FUND For fund requirements in accordance with the purposes indicated hereunder P48,681,831,000 A. PURPOSE(S) xxxx 6. Additional Operational Requirements and Projects of P14,788,764,000 Agencies xxxx Special Provisions 1. Release of the Fund. The amounts herein appropriated shall be released only when the revenue collections exceed the original revenue targets submitted by the President of the Philippines to Congress pursuant to Section 22, Article VII of the Constitution or when the corresponding funding or receipts for the purpose have been realized except in the special cases covered by specific procedures in Special Provision Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 13 and 14 herein: PROVIDED, That in cases of foreign-assisted projects, the existence of a perfected loan agreement shall be sufficient compliance for the issuance of a Special Allotment Release Order covering the loan proceeds: PROVIDED, FURTHER, That no amount of the Unprogrammed Fund shall be funded out of the savings generated from programmed items in this Act. xxxx 4. Additional Operational Requirements and Projects of Agencies. The appropriations for Purpose 6 Additional Operational Requirements and Projects of Agencies herein indicated shall be released only when the original revenue targets submitted by the President of the Philippines to Congress pursuant to Section 22, Article VII of the Constitution can be realized based on a quarterly assessment of the Development Budget Coordinating Committee, the Committee on Finance of the Senate and the Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives and shall be used to fund the following: xxxx Internal Revenue Allotments Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses P10,000,000,000 -------------------Total, IRA P10,000,000,000 xxxx Total P14,788,764, 000 x x x x (Emphasis supplied) Thus, while the GAA appropriates P111,778,000,000 of IRA as Programmed Fund, it appropriates a separate amount of P10 Billion of IRA under the classification of Unprogrammed Fund, the latter amount to be released only upon the occurrence of the condition stated in the GAA. On August 22, 2000, a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and peoples organizations, along with three barangay officials filed with this Court the petition at bar, for Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus

With Application for Temporary Restraining Order, against respondents then Executive Secretary Ronaldo Zamora, then Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management Benjamin Diokno, then National Treasurer Leonor MagtolisBriones, and the Commission on Audit, challenging the constitutionality of above-quoted provision of XXXVII (ALLOCATIONS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS) referred to by petitioners as Section 1, XXXVII (A), and LIV (UNPROGRAMMED FUND) Special Provisions 1 and 4 of the GAA (the GAA provisions). Petitioners contend that: 1. SECTION 1, XXXVII (A) AND LIV, SPECIAL PROVISIONS 1 AND 4, OF THE YEAR 2000 GAA ARE NULL AND VOID FOR BEING UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS THEY VIOLATE THEAUTONOMY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BY UNLAWFULLY REDUCING BY TEN BILLION PESOS (P10 BILLION) THE INTERNAL REVENUE ALLOTMENTS DUE TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS AND WITHHOLDING THE RELEASE OF SUCH AMOUNT BY PLACING THE SAME UNDER UNPROGRAMMED FUNDS. THIS VIOLATES THE CONSTITUTIONAL MANDATE IN ART. X, SEC. 6, THAT THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS JUST SHARE IN THE NATIONAL TAXES SHALL BE AUTOMATICALLY RELEASED TO THEM. IT ALSO VIOLATES THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE, SPECIFICALLY, SECS. 18, 284, AND 286. 2. SECTION 1, XXXVII (A) AND LIV, SPECIAL PROVISIONS 1 AND 4, OF THE YEAR 2000 GAA ARE NULL AND VOID FOR BEING UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS THEY VIOLATE THE AUTONOMY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS BY PLACING TEN BILLION PESOS (P10 BILLION) OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE ALLOTMENTS DUE TO THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, EFFECTIVELY AND PRACTICALLY, WITHIN THE CONTROL OF THE CENTRAL AUTHORITIES. 3. SECTION 1, XXXVII (A) AND LIV, SPECIAL PROVISIONS 1 AND 4, OF THE YEAR 2000 GAA ARE NULL AND VOID FOR BEING UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS THE PLACING OF P10 BILLION PESOS OF THE IRA UNDER UNPROGRAMMED FUNDS CONSTITUTES AN UNDUE DELEGATION OF LEGISLATIVE POWER TO THE RESPONDENTS. 4. SECTION 1, XXXVII (A) AND LIV, SPECIAL PROVISIONS 1 AND 4, OF THE YEAR 2000 GAA ARE NULL AND VOID FOR BEING UNCONSTITUTIONAL AS THE PLACING OF P10 BILLION PESOS OF THE IRA UNDER UNPROGRAMMED FUNDS CONSTITUTES AN AMENDMENT OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991, WHICH CANNOT BE DONE IN A GENERAL APPROPRIATIONS ACT AND WHICH PURPOSE WAS NOT REFLECTED IN THE TITLE OF THE YEAR 2000 GAA. 5. THE YEAR 2000 GAAS REDUCTION OF THE IRA UNDERMINES THE FOUNDATION OF OUR LOCAL GOVERNANCE SYSTEM WHICH IS ESSENTIAL TO THE EFFICIENT OPERATION OF THE GOVERNMENT AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE NATION. 6. THE CONGRESS AND THE EXECUTIVE, IN PASSING AND APPROVING, RESPECTIVELY, THE YEAR 2000 GAA, AND THE RESPONDENTS, IN IMPLEMENTING THE SAID YEAR 2000 GAA, INSOFAR AS SECTION 1, XXXVII (A) AND LIV, SPECIAL PROVISIONS 1 AND 4, ARE CONCERNED, ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION AS THEY TRANSGRESSED THE CONSTITUTION AND THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODES PROHIBITION ON ANY INVALID REDUCTION AND WITHHOLDING OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENTS IRA. (Underscoring supplied) After the parties had filed their respective memoranda, a MOTION FOR INTERVENTION/MOTION TO ADMIT ATTACHED PETITION FOR INTERVENTION was filed on October 22, 2001 by the Province of Batangas, represented by then Governor Hermilando I. Mandanas. On November 6, 2001, the Province of Nueva Ecija, represented by Governor Tomas N. Joson III, likewise filed a MOTION FOR LEAVE OF COURT TO INTERVENE AND FILE PETITION-IN-INTERVENTION. The motions for intervention, both of which adopted the arguments of the main petition,[2] were granted by this Court.
[3]

Although the effectivity of the Year 2000 GAA has ceased, this Court shall nonetheless proceed to resolve the issues raised in the present case, it being impressed with public interest. The ruling of this Court in the case of The Province of Batangas v. Romulo,[4] wherein GAA provisions relating to the IRA were likewise challenged, is in point, to wit: Granting arguendo that, as contended by the respondents, the resolution of the case had already been overtaken by supervening events as the IRA, including the LGSEF, for 1999, 2000 and 2001, had already been released and the government is now operating under a new appropriations law, still, there is compelling reason for this Court to resolve the

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substantive issue raised by the instant petition. Supervening events, whether intended or accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of the Constitution. Even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, the Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar and public. Another reason justifying the resolution by this Court of the substantive issue now before it is the rule that courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review. For the GAAs in the coming years may contain provisos similar to those now being sought to be invalidated, and yet, the question may not be decided before another GAA is enacted. It, thus, behooves this Court to make a categorical ruling on the substantive issue now.[5] Passing on the arguments of all parties, bearing in mind the dictum that the court should not form a rule of constitutional law broader than is required by the precise facts to which it is applied,[6] this Court finds that only the following issues need to be resolved in the present petition: (1) whether the petition contains proper verifications and certifications against forum-shopping, (2) whether petitioners have the requisite standing to file this suit, and (3) whether the questioned provisions violate the constitutional injunction that the just share of local governments in the national taxes or the IRA shall be automatically released. Sufficiency of Verification and Certification Against Forum-Shopping Respondents assail as improperly executed petitioners verifications and certifications against forum-shopping as they merely state that the allegations of the Petition are true of our knowledge and belief instead of true and correct of our personal knowledge or based on authentic records as required under Rule 7, Section 4 of the Rules of Court.[7] Jurisprudence is on petitioners side. In Decano v. Edu, [8] this Court held: Respondents finally raise a technical point referring to the allegedly defective verification of the petition filed in the trial court, contending that the clause in the verification statement "that I have read the contents of the said petition; and that [to] the best of my knowledge are true and correct" is insufficient since under section 6 of Rule 7, it is required that the person verifying must have read the pleading and that the allegations thereof are true of his own knowledge. We do not see any reason for rendering the said verification void. The statement to the best of my knowledge are true and correct referring to the allegations in the petition does not mean mere knowledge, information and belief. It constitutes substantial compliance with the requirement of section 6 of Rule 7, as held in Madrigal vs. Rodas (80 Phil. 252.). At any rate, this petty technicality deserves scant consideration where the question at issue is one purely of law and there is no need of delving into the veracity of the allegations in the petition, which are not disputed at all by respondents. As we have held time and again, imperfections of form and technicalities of procedure are to be disregarded except where substantial rights would otherwise be prejudiced. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Respondents go on to claim that the same verifications were signed by persons who were not authorized by the incorporated cause-oriented groups which they claim to represent, hence, the Petition should be treated as an unsigned pleading. Indeed, only duly authorized natural persons may execute verifications in behalf of juridical entities such as petitioners NGOs and peoples organizations. As this Court held in Santos v. CA,In fact, physical actions, e.g., signing and delivery of documents, may be performed on behalf of the corporate entity only by specifically authorized individuals.[9] Nonetheless, the present petition cannot be treated as an unsigned pleading. For even if the rule that representatives of corporate entities must present the requisite authorization were to be strictly applied, there would remain among the multi-group-petitioners the individuals who validly executed verifications in their own names, namely, petitioners Adelino C. Lavador, Punong Barangay Isabel Mendez, and Punong Barangay Carolina Romanos.

At all events, in light of the following ruling of this Court in Shipside Inc. v. CA:[10] . . . in Loyola, Roadway, and Uy, the Court excused noncompliance with the requirement as to the certificate of nonforum shopping. With more reason should we allow the instant petition since petitioner herein did submit a certification on non-forum shopping, failing only to show proof that the signatory was authorized to do so. That petitioner subsequently submitted a secretarys certificate attesting that Balbin was authorized to file an action on behalf of petitioner likewise mitigates this oversight. It must also be kept in mind that while the requirement of the certificate of non-forum shopping is mandatory, nonetheless the requirements must not be interpreted too literally and thus defeat the objective of preventing the undesirable practice of forum-shopping (Bernardo v. NLRC, 255 SCRA 108 [1996]). Lastly, technical rules of procedure should be used to promote, not frustrate justice. While the swift unclogging of court dockets is a laudable objective, the granting of substantial justice is an even more urgent ideal. (Underscoring supplied), a too literal interpretation must be avoided if it defeats the objective of preventing the practice of forum shopping. Standing Respondents assail petitioners standing in this controversy, proffering that it is the local government units each having a separate juridical entity which stand to be injured. The subsequent intervention of the provinces of Batangas and Nueva Ecija which have adopted the arguments of petitioners has, however, made the question of standing academic.[11] Respondents, contending that petitioners have no cause of action against them as they claim to have no responsibility with respect to the mandate of the GAA provisions, proffer that the committees mentioned in the GAA provisions, namely, the Development Budget Coordinating Committee, Committee on Finance of the Senate, and Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives, should instead have been impleaded. Respondents position does not lie. The GAA provisions being challenged were not to be implemented solely by the committees specifically mentioned therein, for they being in the nature of appropriations provisions, they were also to be implemented by the executive branch, particularly the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the National Treasurer. The task of the committees related merely to the conduct of the quarterly assessment required in the provisions, and not in the actual release of the IRA which is the duty of the executive. Since the present controversy centers on the proper manner of releasing the IRA, the impleaded respondents are the proper parties to this suit. In fact in earlier petitions likewise involving the constitutionality of provisions of previous general appropriations acts which this Court granted, the therein respondent officials were the same as those in the present case, e.g., Guingona v. Carague[12] and PHILCONSA v. Enriquez.
[13]

Constitutionality of the GAA Provisions Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution provides: SECTION 6. Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be automatically released to them. Petitioners argue that the GAA violated this constitutional mandate when it made the release of IRA contingent on whether revenue collections could meet the revenue targets originally submitted by the President, rather than making the release automatic. Respondents counterargue that the above constitutional provision is addressed not to the legislature but to the executive, hence, the same does not prevent the legislature from imposing conditions upon the release of the IRA. They cite the exchange between Commissioner (now Chief Justice) Davide and Commissioner Nolledo in the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission on the above-quoted Sec. 6, Art. X of the Constitution, to wit: THE PRESIDENT. How about the second sentence? MR. DAVIDE. The second sentence would be a new section that would be Section 13. As modified it will read as follows: LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS SHALL HAVE A JUST SHARE, AS DETERMINED BY LAW, in the national taxes WHICH SHALL BE automatically PERIODICALLY released to them. MR. NOLLEDO. That will be Section 12, subsection (1) in the amendment. MR. DAVIDE. No, we will just delete that because the second would be another section so Section 12 would only be this: LOCAL GOVERNMENT UNITS SHALL HAVE A JUST SHARE, AS

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DETERMINED BY LAW, in the national taxes WHICH SHALL BE automatically PERIODICALLY released to them. MR. NOLLEDO. But the word PERIODICALLY may mean possibly withholding the automatic release to them by adopting certain periods of automatic release. If we use the word automatically without PERIODICALLY, the latter may be already contemplated by automatically. So, the Committee objects to the word PERIODICALLY. MR. DAVIDE. If we do not say PERIODICALLY, it might be very, very difficult to comply with it because these are taxes collected and actually released by the national government every quarter. It is not that upon collection a portion should immediately be released. It is quarterly. Otherwise, the national government will have to remit everyday and that would be very expensive. MR. NOLLEDO. That is not hindered by the word automatically. But if we put automatically and PERIODICALLY at the same time, that means certain periods have to be observed as will be set forth by theBudget Officer thereby negating the meaning of automatically. MR. DAVIDE. On the other hand, if we do not state PERIODICALLY, it may be done every semester; it may be done at the end of the year. It is still automatic release. MR. NOLLEDO. As far as the Committee is concerned, we vigorously object to the word PERIODICALLY. MR. DAVIDE. Only the word PERIODICALLY? MR. NOLLEDO. If the Commissioner is amenable to deleting that, we will accept the amendment. MR. DAVIDE. I will agree to the deletion of the word PERIODICALLY. MR. NOLLEDO. Thank you. The Committee accepts the amendment. (Emphasis supplied)[14] In the above exchange of statements, it is clear that although Commissioners Davide and Nolledo held different views with regard to the proper wording of the constitutional provision, they shared a common assumption that the entity which would execute the automatic release of internal revenue was the executive department. Commissioner Davide referred to the national government as the entity that collects and remits internal revenue. Similarly, Commissioner Nolledo alluded to the Budget Officer, who is clearly under the executive branch. Respondents thus infer that the subject constitutional provision merely prevents the executive branch of the government from unilaterally withholding the IRA, but not the legislature from authorizing the executive branch to withhold the same. In the words of respondents, This essentially means that the President or any member of the Executive Department cannot unilaterally, i.e.,without the backing of statute, withhold the release of the IRA.[15] Respondents position does not lie. As the Constitution lays upon the executive the duty to automatically release the just share of local governments in the national taxes, so it enjoins the legislature not to pass laws that might prevent the executive from performing this duty. To hold that the executive branch may disregard constitutional provisions which define its duties, provided it has the backing of statute, is virtually to make the Constitution amendable by statute a proposition which is patently absurd. Moreover, there is merit in the argument of the intervenor Province of Batangas that, if indeed the framers intended to allow the enactment of statutes making the release of IRA conditional instead of automatic, then Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution would have been worded differently. Instead of reading Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be automatically released to them (italics supplied), it would have read as follows, so the Province of Batangas posits: Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be [automatically] released to them as provided by law, or, Local government units shall have a just share in the national taxes which shall be [automatically] released to them as provided by law, or Local government units shall have a just share, as determined by law, in the national taxes which shall be automatically released to them subject to exceptions Congress may provide.[16] (Italics supplied)

Since, under Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution, only the just share of local governments is qualified by the words as determined by law, and not the release thereof, the plain implication is that Congress is not authorized by the Constitution to hinder or impede the automatic release of the IRA. Indeed, that Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution did bind the legislative just as much as the executive branch was presumed in the ruling of this Court in the case of The Province of Batangas v. Romulo[17] which is analogous in many respects to the one at bar. In Batangas, the petitioner therein challenged the constitutionality of certain provisos of the GAAs for FY 1999, 2000, and 2001 which set up the Local Government Service Equalization Fund (LGSEF). The LGSEF was a portion of the IRA which was to be released only upon a finding of the Oversight Committee on Devolution that the LGU concerned had complied with the guidelines issued by said committee. This Court measured the challenged legislative acts against Article X, Section 6 and declared them unconstitutional a ruling which presupposes that the legislature, like the executive, is mandated by said constitutional provision to ensure that the just share of local governments in the national taxes are automatically released. Respondents, in further support of their claim that the automatic release requirement in the Constitution constrains only the executive branch and not the legislature, cite three statutory provisions whereby the legislature authorized the executive branch to withhold the IRA in certain circumstances, namely, Section 70 of the Philippine National Police Reform and Reorganization Act of 1998,[18] Section 531(e) of the Local Government Code,[19] and Section 10 of Republic Act 7924 (1995).[20] Towards the same end, respondents also cite Rule XXXII, Article 383(c) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code.[21] While statutes and implementing rules are entitled to great weight in constitutional construction as indicators of contemporaneous interpretation, such interpretation is not necessarily binding or conclusive on the courts. In Taada v. Cuenco, the Court held: As a consequence, where the meaning of a constitutional provision is clear, a contemporaneous or practical . . . executive interpretation thereof is entitled to no weight and will not be allowed to distort or in any way change its natural meaning. The reason is that the application of the doctrine of contemporaneous construction is more restricted as applied to the interpretation of constitutional provisions than when applied to statutory provisions, and that except as to matters committed by the constitution itself to the discretion of some other department, contemporaneous or practical construction is not necessarily binding upon the courts, even in a doubtful case. Hence, if in the judgment of the court, such construction is erroneous and its further application is not made imperative by any paramount considerations of public policy, it may be rejected. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied, citations omitted)[22] The validity of the legislative acts assailed in the present case should, therefore, be assessed in light of Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution. Again, in Batangas,[23] this Court interpreted the subject constitutional provision as follows: When parsed, it would be readily seen that this provision mandates that (1) the LGUs shall have a just share in the national taxes; (2) the just share shall be determined by law; and (3) the just share shall be automatically released to the LGUs. xxx Websters Third New International Dictionary defines automatic as involuntary either wholly or to a major extent so that any activity of the will is largely negligible; of a reflex nature; without volition; mechanical; like or suggestive of an automaton. Further, the word automatically is defined as in an automatic manner: without thought or conscious intention. Being automatic, thus, connotes something mechanical, spontaneous and perfunctory. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)[24] Further on, the Court held: To the Courts mind, the entire process involving the distribution and release of the LGSEF is constitutionally impermissible. The LGSEF is part of the IRA or just share of the LGUs in the national taxes. To subject its distribution and release to the vagaries of the implementing rules and regulations, including the guidelines and mechanisms unilaterally prescribed by the Oversight Committee from time to time, as sanctioned by the assailed provisos in the GAAs of

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1999, 2000 and 2001 and the OCD resolutions, makes the release not automatic, a flagrant violation of the constitutional and statutory mandate that the just share of the LGUs shall be automatically released to them. The LGUs are, thus, placed at the mercy of the Oversight Committee. Where the law, the Constitution in this case, is clear and unambiguous, it must be taken to mean exactly what it says, and courts have no choice but to see to it that the mandate is obeyed. Moreover, as correctly posited by the petitioner, the use of the word shall connotes a mandatory order. Its use in a statute denotes an imperative obligation and is inconsistent with the idea of discretion. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied)[25] While automatic release implies that the just share of the local governments determined by law should be released to them as a matter of course, the GAA provisions, on the other hand, withhold its release pending an event which is not even certain of occurring. To rule that the term automatic release contemplates such conditional release would be to strip the term automatic of all meaning. Additionally, to interpret the term automatic release in such a broad manner would be inconsistent with the ruling in Pimentel v. Aguirre.[26] In the said case, the executive withheld the release of the IRA pending an assessment very similar to the one provided in the GAA. This Court ruled that such withholding contravened the constitutional mandate of an automatic release, viz: Section 4 of AO 372 cannot, however, be upheld. A basic feature of local fiscal autonomy is the automatic release of the shares of LGUs in the national internal revenue. This is mandated by no less than the Constitution. The Local Government Code specifies further that the release shall be made directly to the LGU concerned within five (5) days after every quarter of the year and shall not be subject to any lien or holdback that may be imposed by the national government for whatever purpose. As a rule, the term shall is a word of command that must be given a compulsory meaning. The provision is, therefore, imperative. Section 4 of AO 372, however, orders the withholding, effective January 1, 1998, of 10 percent of the LGUs' IRA pending the assessment and evaluation by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee of the emerging fiscal situation in the country. Such withholding clearly contravenes the Constitution and the law. x x x[27] (Italics in the original; underscoring supplied) There is no substantial difference between the withholding of IRA involved in Pimentel and that in the present case, except that here it is the legislature, not the executive, which has authorized the withholding of the IRA. The distinction notwithstanding, the ruling in Pimentel remains applicable. As explained above, Article X, Section 6 of the Constitution the same provision relied upon in Pimentel enjoins both the legislative and executive branches of government. Hence, as in Pimentel, under the same constitutional provision, the legislative is barred from withholding the release of the IRA. It bears stressing, however, that in light of the proviso in Section 284 of the Local Government Code which reads: Provided, That in the event that the national government incurs an unmanageable public sector deficit, the President of the Philippines is hereby authorized, upon the recommendation of Secretary of Finance, Secretary of Interior and Local Government and Secretary of Budget and Management, and subject to consultation with the presiding officers of both Houses of Congress and the presidents of the "liga," to make the necessary adjustments in the internal revenue allotment of local government units but in no case shall the allotment be less than thirty percent (30%) of the collection of national internal revenue taxes of the third fiscal year preceding the current fiscal year: Provided, further, That in the first year of the effectivity of this Code, the local government units shall, in addition to the thirty percent (30%) internal revenue allotment which shall include the cost of devolved functions for essential public services, be entitled to receive the amount equivalent to the cost of devolved personal services. (Underscoring supplied), the only possible exception to mandatory automatic release of the IRA is, as held in Batangas: if the national internal revenue collections for the current fiscal year is less than 40 percent of the

collections of the preceding third fiscal year, in which case what should be automatically released shall be a proportionate amount of the collections for the current fiscal year. The adjustment may even be made on a quarterly basis depending on the actual collections of national internal revenue taxes for the quarter of the current fiscal year. x x x[28] A final word. This Court recognizes that the passage of the GAA provisions by Congress was motivated by the laudable intent to lower the budget deficit in line with prudent fiscal management.[29] The pronouncement in Pimentel, however, must be echoed: [T]he rule of law requires that even the best intentions must be carried out within the parameters of the Constitution and the law. Verily, laudable purposes must be carried out by legal methods.[30] WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. XXXVII and LIV Special Provisions 1 and 4 of the Year 2000 GAA are hereby declared unconstitutional insofar as they set apart a portion of the IRA, in the amount of P10 Billion, as part of the UNPROGRAMMED FUND. SO ORDERED. 2/7/00 3:50 PM THIRD DIVISION [G. R. No. 131512. January 20, 2000] LAND TRANSPORTATION OFFICE [LTO], represented by Assistant Secretary Manuel F. Bruan, LTO Regional Office, Region X represented by its Regional Director, Timoteo A. Garcia; and LTO Butuan represented by Rosita G. Sadiaga, its Registrar, petitioners, vs. CITY OF BUTUAN, represented in this case by Democrito D. Plaza II, City Mayor, respondents. DECISION VITUG, J.: The 1987 Constitution enunciates the policy that the territorial and political subdivisions shall enjoy local autonomy.[1] In obedience to that, mandate of the fundamental law, Republic Act ("R.A.") No.7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code,[2] expresses that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy in order to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals, and that it is a basic aim of the State to provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. While the Constitution seeks to strengthen local units and ensure their viability, clearly, however, it has never been the intention of that organic law to create an imperium in imperio and install an intra sovereign political subdivision independent of a single sovereign state. The Court is asked in this instance to resolve the issue of whether under the present set up the power of the Land Registration Office ("LTO") to register, tricycles in particular, as well as to issue licenses for the driving thereof, has likewise devolved to local government units. The Regional Trial Court (Branch 2) of Butuan City held:[3] that the authority to register tricycles, the grant of the corresponding franchise, the issuance of tricycle drivers' license, and the collection of fees therefor had all been vested in the Local Government Units ("LGUs"). Accordingly, it decreed the issuance of a permanent writ of injunction against LTO, prohibiting and enjoining LTO, as well as its employees and other persons acting in its behalf, from (a) registering tricycles and (b) issuing licenses to drivers of tricycles. The Court of Appeals, on appeal to it, sustained the trial court. Maniks The adverse rulings of both the court a quo and the appellate court prompted the LTO to file the instant petition for review on certiorari to annul and set aside the decision,[4] dated 17 November 1997, of the Court of Appeals affirming the permanent injunctive writ order of the Regional Trial Court (Branch 2) of Butuan City. Respondent City of Butuan asserts that one of the salient provisions introduced by the Local Government Code is in the area of local taxation which allows LGUs to collect registration fees or charges along with, in its view, the corresponding issuance of all kinds of licenses or permits for the driving of tricycles. The 1987 Constitution provides: "Each local government unit shall have the power to create its own sources of revenues and to levy taxes, fees, and charges subject to such guidelines and limitations as the Congress may

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provide, consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy. Such taxes, fees, and charges shall accrue exclusively to the local governments."[5] Section 129 and Section 133 of the Local Government Code read: "SEC. 129. Power to Create Sources of Revenue. - Each local government unit shall exercise its power to create its own sources of revenue and to levy taxes, fees, and charges subject to the provisions herein, consistent with the basic policy of local autonomy. Such taxes, fees, and charges shall accrue exclusively to the local government units." "SEC. 133. Common Limitations on the Taxing Powers of Local Government Units. - Unless otherwise provided herein, the exercise of the taxing powers of provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays shall not extend to the levy of the following: "xxx.......xxx.......xxx. "(I) Taxes, fees or charges for the registration of motor vehicles and for the issuance of all kinds of licenses or permits for the driving thereof, except tricycles." Relying on the foregoing provisions of the law, the Sangguniang Panglungsod ("SP") of Butuan, on 16 August 1992, passed SP Ordinance No.916-92 entitled "An Ordinance Regulating the Operation of Tricycles-for-Hire, providing mechanism for the issuance of Franchise, Registration and Permit, and Imposing Penalties for Violations thereof and for other Purposes." The ordinance provided for, among other things, the payment of franchise fees for the grant of the franchise of tricycles-for-hire, fees for the registration of the vehicle, and fees for the issuance of a permit for the driving thereof. Manikan Petitioner LTO explains that one of the functions of the national government that, indeed, has been transferred to local government units is the franchising authority over tricycles-for-hire of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board ("LTFRB") but not, it asseverates, the authority of LTO to register all motor vehicles and to issue to qualified persons of licenses to drive such vehicles. In order to settle the variant positions of the parties, the City of Butuan, represented by its City Mayor Democrito D. Plaza, filed on 28 June 1994 with the trial court a petition for "prohibition, mandamus, injunction with a prayer for preliminary restraining order ex-parte" seeking the declaration of the validity of SP Ordinance No.962-93 and the prohibition of the registration of tricycles-for-hire and the issuance of licenses for the driving thereof by the LTO. LTO opposed the prayer in the petition. On 20 March 1995, the trial court rendered a resolution; the dispositive portion read: "In view of the foregoing, let a permanent injunctive writ be issued against the respondent Land Transportation Office and the other respondents, prohibiting and enjoining them, their employees, officers, attorney's or other persons acting in their behalf from forcing or compelling Tricycles to be registered with, and drivers to secure their licenses from respondent LTO or secure franchise from LTFRB and from collecting fees thereon. It should be understood that the registration, franchise of tricycles and driver's license/permit granted or issued by the City of Butuan are valid only within the territorial limits of Butuan City. "No pronouncement as to costs."[6] Petitioners timely moved for a reconsideration of the above resolution but it was to no avail. Petitioners then appealed to the Court of Appeals. In its now assailed decision, the appellate court, on 17 November 1997, sustained the trial court. It ruled: "WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby DISMISSED and the questioned permanent injunctive writ issued by the court a quo dated March 20, 1995 AFFIRMED."[7] Coming up to this Court, petitioners raise this sole assignment of error, to wit: Oldmis o "The Court of Appeals [has] erred in sustaining the validity of the writ of injunction issued by the trial court which enjoined LTO from (1) registering tricycles-for-hire and (2) issuing licenses for the driving thereof since the Local Government Code devolved only the franchising authority of the LTFRB. Functions of the LTO were not devolved to the LGU's."[8] The petition is impressed with merit.

The Department of Transportation and Communications[9] ("DOTC"), through the LTO and the LTFRB, has since been tasked with implementing laws pertaining to land transportation. The LTO is a line agency under the DOTC whose powers and functions, pursuant to Article III, Section 4 (d) (1),[10] of R.A. No.4136, otherwise known as Land Transportation and Traffic Code, as amended, deal primarily with the registration of all motor vehicles and the licensing of drivers thereof. The LTFRB, upon the other hand, is the governing body tasked by E.O. No. 202, dated 19 June 1987, to regulate the operation of public utility or "for hire" vehicles and to grant franchises or certificates of public convenience ("CPC").[11] Finely put, registration and licensing functions are vested in the LTO while franchising and regulatory responsibilities had been vested in the LTFRB. Under the Local Government Code, certain functions of the DOTC were transferred to the LGUs, thusly: "SEC. 458. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. - Ncm "xxx.......xxx.......xxx "(3) Subject to the provisions of Book II of this Code, enact ordinances granting franchises and authorizing the issuance of permits or licenses, upon such conditions and for such purposes intended to promote the general welfare of the inhabitants of the city and pursuant to this legislative authority shall: "xxx.......xxx.......xxx. "(VI) Subject to the guidelines prescribed by the Department of Transportation and Communications, regulate the operation of tricycles and grant franchises for the operation thereof within the territorial jurisdiction of the city." (Emphasis supplied) LGUs indubitably now have the power to regulate the operation of tricycles-for-hire and to grant franchises for the operation thereof. "To regulate" means to fix, establish, or control; to adjust by rule, method, or established mode; to direct by rule or restriction; or to subject to governing principles or laws.[12] A franchise is defined to be a special privilege to do certain things conferred by government on an individual or corporation, and which does not belong to citizens generally of common right.[13] On the other hand, "to register" means to record formally and exactly, to enroll, or to enter precisely in a list or the like,[14] and a "driver's license" is the certificate or license issued by the government which authorizes a person to operate a motor vehicle.[15] The devolution of the functions of the DOTC, performed by the LTFRB, to the LGUs, as so aptly observed by the Solicitor General, is aimed at curbing the alarming increase of accidents in national highways involving tricycles. It has been the perception that local governments are in good position to achieve the end desired by the law-making body because of their proximity to the situation that can enable them to address that serious concern better than the national government. It may not be amiss to state, nevertheless, that under Article 458 (a)[3-VI] of the Local Government Code, the power of LGUs to regulate the operation of tricycles and to grant franchises for the operation thereof is still subject to the guidelines prescribed by the DOTC. In compliance therewith, the Department of Transportation and Communications ("DOTC") issued "Guidelines to Implement the Devolution of LTFRBs Franchising Authority over Tricycles-For-Hire to Local Government units pursuant to the Local Government Code." Pertinent provisions of the guidelines state: "In lieu of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) in the DOTC, the Sangguniang Bayan/Sangguniang Panglungsod (SB/SP) shall perform the following: "(a) Issue, amend, revise, renew, suspend, or cancel MTOP and prescribe the appropriate terms and conditions therefor; Ncmmis "xxx.......xxx.......xxx. "Operating Conditions: "1. For safety reasons, no tricycles should operate on national highways utilized by 4 wheel vehicles greater than 4 tons and where normal speed exceed 40 KPH. However, the SB/SP may provide exceptions if there is no alternative routs. "2. Zones must be within the boundaries of the municipality/city. However, existing zones within more than one municipality/city shall be maintained, provided that operators serving said zone shall secure MTOP's from each of the municipalities/cities having jurisdiction over the areas covered by the zone. "3. A common color for tricycles-for-hire operating in the same zone may be imposed. Each unit shall be assigned and bear an

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identification number, aside from its LTO license plate number. "4. An operator wishing to stop service completely, or to suspend service for more than one month, should report in writing such termination or suspension to the SB/SP which originally granted the MTOP prior thereto. Transfer to another zone may be permitted upon application. "5. The MTOP shall be valid for three (3) years, renewable for the same period. Transfer to another zone, change of ownership of unit or transfer of MTOP shall be construed as an amendment to an MTOP and shall require appropriate approval of the SB/SP. "6. Operators shall employ only drivers duly licensed by LTO for tricycles-for-hire. "7. No tricycle-for-hire shall be allowed to carry more passengers and/or goods than it is designed for. "8. A tricycle-for-hire shall be allowed to operate like a taxi service, i.e., service is rendered upon demand and without a fixed route within a zone."[16] Such as can be gleaned from the explicit language of the statute, as well as the corresponding guidelines issued by DOTC, the newly delegated powers pertain to the franchising and regulatory powers theretofore exercised by the LTFRB and not to the functions of the LTO relative to the registration of motor vehicles and issuance of licenses for the driving thereof. Clearly unaffected by the Local Government Code are the powers of LTO under R.A. No.4136 requiring the registration of all kinds of motor vehicles "used or operated on or upon any public highway" in the country. Thus "SEC. 5. All motor vehicles and other vehicles must be registered. - (a) No motor vehicle shall be used or operated on or upon any public highway of the Philippines unless the same is properly registered for the current year in accordance with the provisions of this Act (Article 1, Chapter II, R.A. No. 4136). Scnc m The Commissioner of Land Transportation and his deputies are empowered at anytime to examine and inspect such motor vehicles to determine whether said vehicles are registered, or are unsightly, unsafe, improperly marked or equipped, or otherwise unfit to be operated on because of possible excessive damage to highways, bridges and other infrastructures.[17] The LTO is additionally charged with being the central repository and custodian of all records of all motor vehicles.[18] The Court shares the apprehension of the Solicitor General if the above functions were to likewise devolve to local government units; he states: "If the tricycle registration function of respondent LTO is decentralized, the incidence of theft of tricycles will most certainly go up, and stolen tricycles registered in one local government could be registered in another with ease. The determination of ownership thereof will also become very difficult. "Fake driver's licenses will likewise proliferate. This likely scenario unfolds where a tricycle driver, not qualified by petitioner LTO's testing, could secure a license from one municipality, and when the same is confiscated, could just go another municipality to secure another license. "Devolution will entail the hiring of additional personnel charged with inspecting tricycles for road worthiness, testing drivers, and documentation. Revenues raised from tricycle registration may not be enough to meet salaries of additional personnel and incidental costs for tools and equipment."[19] The reliance made by respondents on the broad taxing power of local government units, specifically under Section 133 of the Local Government Code, is tangential. Police power and taxation, along with eminent domain, are inherent powers of sovereignty which the State might share with local government units by delegation given under a constitutional or a statutory fiat. All these inherent powers are for a public purpose and legislative in nature but the similarities just about end there. The basic aim of police power is public good and welfare. Taxation, in its case, focuses on the power of government to raise revenue in order to support its existence and carry out its legitimate objectives. Although correlative to each other in many respects, the grant of one does not necessarily carry with it the grant of the other. The two powers are, by tradition and jurisprudence, separate and distinct powers, varying in their respective concepts, character, scopes and limitations. To construe the tax provisions of Section 133(1) indistinctively would result in the repeal to

that extent of LTO's regulatory power which evidently has not been intended. If it were otherwise, the law could have just said so in Section 447 and 458 of Book III of the Local Government Code in the same manner that the specific devolution of LTFRB's power on franchising of tricycles has been provided. Repeal by implication is not favored.[20] The power over tricycles granted under Section 458(a)(3)(VI) of the Local Government Code to LGUs is the power to regulate their operation and to grant franchises for the operation thereof. The exclusionary clause contained in the tax provisions of Section 133(1) of the Local Government Code must not be held to have had the effect of withdrawing the express power of LTO to cause the registration of all motor vehicles and the issuance of licenses for the driving thereof. These functions of the LTO are essentially regulatory in nature, exercised pursuant to the police power of the State, whose basic objectives are to achieve road safety by insuring the road worthiness of these motor vehicles and the competence of drivers prescribed by R. A. 4136. Not insignificant is the rule that a statute must not be construed in isolation but must be taken in harmony with the extant body of laws.[21] Sdaa miso The Court cannot end this decision without expressing its own serious concern over the seeming laxity in the grant of franchises for the operation of tricycles-forhire and in allowing the indiscriminate use by such vehicles on public highways and principal thoroughfares. Senator Aquilino C. Pimentel, Jr., the principal author, and sponsor of the bill that eventually has become to be known as the Local Government Code, has aptly remarked: "Tricycles are a popular means of transportation, specially in the countryside. They are, unfortunately, being allowed to drive along highways and principal thoroughfares where they pose hazards to their passengers arising from potential collisions with buses, cars and jeepneys. "The operation of tricycles within a municipality may be regulated by the Sangguniang Bayan. In this connection, the Sangguniang concerned would do well to consider prohibiting the operation of tricycles along or across highways invite collisions with faster and bigger vehicles and impede the flow of traffic."[22] The need for ensuring public safety and convenience to commuters and pedestrians alike is paramount. It might be well, indeed, for public officials concerned to pay heed to a number of provisions in our laws that can warrant in appropriate cases an incurrence of criminal and civil liabilities. Thus The Revised Penal Code "Art. 208. Prosecution of offenses; negligence and tolerance. The penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period and suspension shall be imposed upon any public officer, or officer of the law, who, in dereliction of the duties of his office, shall maliciously refrain from instituting prosecution for the punishment of violators of the law, or shall tolerate the commission of offenses." Sdaad The Civil Code "Art. 27. Any person suffering material or moral loss because a public servant or employee refuses or neglects, without just cause, to perform his official duty may file an action for damages and other relief against the latter, without prejudice to any disciplinary administrative action that may be taken." "Art. 34. When a member of a city or municipal police force refuses or fails to render aid or protection to any person in case of danger to life or property, such peace officer shall be primarily liable for damages, and the city or municipality shall be subsidiarily responsible therefor. The civil action herein recognized shall be independent of any criminal, proceedings, and a preponderance of evidence shall suffice to support such action." "Art. 2189. Provinces, cities and municipalities shall be liable for damages for the death of, or injuries suffered by, any person by reason of the defective condition of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control or supervision." The Local Government Code "Sec. 24. Liability for Damages. - Local government units and their officials are not exempt from liability for death or injury to persons or damage to property." WHEREFORE, the assailed decision which enjoins the Land Transportation Office from requiring the due registration of tricycles and a license for the driving thereof is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. No pronouncements on costs. Let copies of this decision be likewise furnished the Department of Interior and Local Governments, the

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Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Transportation and Communication. SO ORDERED. EN BANC [G.R. No. 138810. September 29, 2004] BATANGAS CATV, INC., petitioner, vs. THE COURT OF APPEALS, THE BATANGAS CITY SANGGUNIANG PANLUNGSOD and BATANGAS CITY MAYOR, respondents. DECISION SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: In the late 1940s, John Walson, an appliance dealer in Pennsylvania, suffered a decline in the sale of television (tv) sets because of poor reception of signals in his community. Troubled, he built an antenna on top of a nearby mountain. Using coaxial cable lines, he distributed the tv signals from the antenna to the homes of his customers. Walsons innovative idea improved his sales and at the same time gave birth to a new telecommunication system -- the Community Antenna Television (CATV) or Cable Television.[1] This technological breakthrough found its way in our shores and, like in its country of origin, it spawned legal controversies, especially in the field of regulation. The case at bar is just another occasion to clarify a shady area. Here, we are tasked to resolve the inquiry -- may a local government unit (LGU) regulate the subscriber rates charged by CATV operators within its territorial jurisdiction? This is a petition for review on certiorari filed by Batangas CATV, Inc. (petitioner herein) against the Sangguniang Panlungsod and the Mayor of Batangas City (respondents herein) assailing the Court of Appeals (1) Decision[2] dated February 12, 1999 and (2) Resolution[3] dated May 26, 1999, in CA-G.R. CV No. 52361.[4] The Appellate Court reversed and set aside the Judgment[5]dated October 29, 1995 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 7, Batangas City in Civil Case No. 4254,[6] holding that neither of the respondents has the power to fix the subscriber rates of CATV operators, such being outside the scope of the LGUs power. The antecedent facts are as follows: On July 28, 1986, respondent Sangguniang Panlungsod enacted Resolution No. 210[7] granting petitioner a permit to construct, install, and operate a CATV system in Batangas City. Section 8 of the Resolution provides that petitioner is authorized to charge its subscribers the maximum rates specified therein, provided, however, that any increase of rates shall be subject to the approval of the Sangguniang Panlungsod.[8] Sometime in November 1993, petitioner increased its subscriber rates from P88.00 to P180.00 per month. As a result, respondent Mayor wrote petitioner a letter[9] threatening to cancel its permit unless it secures the approval of respondent Sangguniang Panlungsod, pursuant to Resolution No. 210. Petitioner then filed with the RTC, Branch 7, Batangas City, a petition for injunction docketed as Civil Case No. 4254. It alleged that respondent Sangguniang Panlungsod has no authority to regulate the subscriber rates charged by CATV operators because under Executive Order No. 205, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) has the sole authority to regulate the CATV operation in the Philippines. On October 29, 1995, the trial court decided in favor of petitioner, thus: WHEREFORE, as prayed for, the defendants, their representatives, agents, deputies or other persons acting on their behalf or under their instructions, are hereby enjoined from canceling plaintiffs permit to operate a Cable Antenna Television (CATV) system in the City of Batangas or its environs or in any manner, from interfering with the authority and power of the National Telecommunications Commission to grant franchises to operate CATV systems to qualified applicants, and the right of plaintiff in fixing its service rates which needs no prior approval of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Batangas City. The counterclaim of the plaintiff is hereby dismissed. No pronouncement as to costs. IT IS SO ORDERED.[10]

The trial court held that the enactment of Resolution No. 210 by respondent violates the States deregulation policy as set forth by then NTC Commissioner Jose Luis A. Alcuaz in his Memorandum dated August 25, 1989. Also, it pointed out that the sole agency of the government which can regulate CATV operation is the NTC, and that the LGUs cannot exercise regulatory power over it without appropriate legislation. Unsatisfied, respondents elevated the case to the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. CV No. 52361. On February 12, 1999, the Appellate Court reversed and set aside the trial courts Decision, ratiocinating as follows: Although the Certificate of Authority to operate a Cable Antenna Television (CATV) System is granted by the National Telecommunications Commission pursuant to Executive Order No. 205, this does not preclude the Sangguniang Panlungsod from regulating the operation of the CATV in their locality under the powers vested upon it by Batas Pambansa Bilang 337, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1983. Section 177 (now Section 457 paragraph 3 (ii) of Republic Act 7160) provides: Section 177. Powers and Duties The Sangguniang Panlungsod shall: a) Enact such ordinances as may be necessary to carry into effect and discharge the responsibilities conferred upon it by law, and such as shall be necessary and proper to provide for health and safety, comfort and convenience, maintain peace and order, improve the morals, and promote the prosperity and general welfare of the community and the inhabitants thereof, and the protection of property therein; xxx d) Regulate, fix the license fee for, and tax any business or profession being carried on and exercised within the territorial jurisdiction of the city, except travel agencies, tourist guides, tourist transports, hotels, resorts, de luxe restaurants, and tourist inns of international standards which shall remain under the licensing and regulatory power of the Ministry of Tourism which shall exercise such authority without infringement on the taxing and regulatory powers of the city government; Under cover of the General Welfare Clause as provided in this section, Local Government Units can perform just about any power that will benefit their constituencies. Thus, local government units can exercise powers that are: (1) expressly granted; (2) necessarily implied from the power that is expressly granted; (3) necessary, appropriate or incidental for its efficient and effective governance; and (4) essential to the promotion of the general welfare of their inhabitants. (Pimentel, The Local Government Code of 1991, p. 46) Verily, the regulation of businesses in the locality is expressly provided in the Local Government Code. The fixing of service rates is lawful under the General Welfare Clause. Resolution No. 210 granting appellee a permit to construct, install and operate a community antenna television (CATV) system in Batangas City as quoted earlier in this decision, authorized the grantee to impose charges which cannot be increased except upon approval of the Sangguniang Bayan. It further provided that in case of violation by the grantee of the terms and conditions/requirements specifically provided therein, the City shall have the right to withdraw the franchise. Appellee increased the service rates from EIGHTY EIGHT PESOS (P88.00) to ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY PESOS (P180.00) (Records, p. 25) without the approval of appellant. Such act breached Resolution No. 210 which gives appellant the right to withdraw the permit granted to appellee.[11] Petitioner filed a motion for reconsideration but was denied.[12] Hence, the instant petition for review on certiorari anchored on the following assignments of error: I THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN HOLDING THAT THE GENERAL WELFARE CLAUSE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE AUTHORIZES RESPONDENT SANGGUNIANG PANLUNGSOD TO EXERCISE THE REGULATORY FUNCTION SOLELY LODGED WITH THE NATIONAL TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 205, INCLUDING THE AUTHORITY TO FIX AND/OR APPROVE THE SERVICE RATES OF CATV OPERATORS; AND II THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN REVERSING THE DECISION APPEALED FROM AND DISMISSING PETITIONERS COMPLAINT.[13]

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Petitioner contends that while Republic Act No. 7160, the Local Government Code of 1991, extends to the LGUs the general power to perform any act that will benefit their constituents, nonetheless, it does not authorize them to regulate the CATV operation. Pursuant to E.O. No. 205, only the NTC has the authority to regulate the CATV operation, including the fixing of subscriber rates. Respondents counter that the Appellate Court did not commit any reversible error in rendering the assailed Decision. First, Resolution No. 210 was enacted pursuant to Section 177(c) and (d) of Batas Pambansa Bilang 337, the Local Government Code of 1983, which authorizes LGUs to regulate businesses. The term businesses necessarily includes the CATV industry. Andsecond, Resolution No. 210 is in the nature of a contract between petitioner and respondents, it being a grant to the former of a franchise to operate a CATV system. To hold that E.O. No. 205 amended its terms would violate the constitutional prohibition against impairment of contracts.
[14]

The petition is impressed with merit. Earlier, we posed the question -- may a local government unit (LGU) regulate the subscriber rates charged by CATV operators within its territorial jurisdiction? A review of pertinent laws and jurisprudence yields a negative answer. President Ferdinand E. Marcos was the first one to place the CATV industry under the regulatory power of the national government.[15] On June 11, 1978, he issued Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 1512[16] establishing a monopoly of the industry by granting Sining Makulay, Inc., an exclusive franchise to operate CATV system in any place within the Philippines. Accordingly, it terminated all franchises, permits or certificates for the operation of CATV system previously granted by local governments or by any instrumentality or agency of the national government.[17] Likewise, it prescribed the subscriber rates to be charged by Sining Makulay, Inc. to its customers.[18] On July 21, 1979, President Marcos issued Letter of Instruction (LOI) No. 894 vesting upon the Chairman of the Board of Communications direct supervision over the operations of Sining Makulay, Inc. Three days after, he issued E.O. No. 546[19] integrating the Board of Communications[20] and the Telecommunications Control Bureau[21] to form a single entity to be known as the National Telecommunications Commission. Two of its assigned functions are: a. Issue Certificate of Public Convenience for the operation of communications utilities and services, radio communications systems, wire or wireless telephone or telegraph systems, radio and television broadcasting system and other similar public utilities; b. Establish, prescribe and regulate areas of operation of particular operators of public service communications; and determine and prescribe charges or rates pertinent to the operation of such public utility facilities and services except in cases where charges or rates are established by international bodies or associations of which the Philippines is a participating member or by bodies recognized by the Philippine Government as the proper arbiter of such charges or rates; Although Sining Makulay Inc.s exclusive franchise had a life term of 25 years, it was cut short by the advent of the 1986 Revolution. Upon President Corazon C. Aquinos assumption of power, she issued E.O. No. 205[22] opening the CATV industry to all citizens of the Philippines. It mandated the NTC to grant Certificates of Authority to CATV operators and to issue the necessary implementing rules and regulations. On September 9, 1997, President Fidel V. Ramos issued E.O. No. 436[23] prescribing policy guidelines to govern CATV operation in the Philippines. Cast in more definitive terms, it restated the NTCs regulatory powers over CATV operations, thus: SECTION 2. The regulation and supervision of the cable television industry in the Philippines shall remain vested solely with the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC). SECTION 3. Only persons, associations, partnerships, corporations or cooperatives, granted a Provisional Authority or Certificate of

Authority by the Commission may install, operate and maintain a cable television system or render cable television service within a service area. Clearly, it has been more than two decades now since our national government, through the NTC, assumed regulatory power over the CATV industry. Changes in the political arena did not alter the trend. Instead, subsequent presidential issuances further reinforced the NTCs power. Significantly, President Marcos and President Aquino, in the exercise of their legislative power, issued P.D. No. 1512, E.O. No. 546 and E.O. No. 205. Hence, they have the force and effect of statutes or laws passed by Congress.[24] That the regulatory power stays with the NTC is also clear from President Ramos E.O. No. 436 mandating that the regulation and supervision of the CATV industry shall remain vested solely in the NTC. Blacks Law Dictionary defines sole as without another or others.[25] The logical conclusion, therefore, is that in light of the above laws and E.O. No. 436, the NTC exercises regulatory power over CATV operators to the exclusion of other bodies. But, lest we be misunderstood, nothing herein should be interpreted as to strip LGUs of their general power to prescribe regulations under the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code. It must be emphasized that when E.O. No. 436 decrees that the regulatory power shall be vested solely in the NTC, it pertains to the regulatory power over those matters which are peculiarly within the NTCs competence, such as, the: (1) determination of rates, (2) issuance of certificates of authority, (3) establishment of areas of operation, (4) examination and assessment of the legal, technical and financial qualifications of applicant operators, (5) granting of permits for the use of frequencies, (6) regulation of ownership and operation, (7) adjudication of issues arising from its functions, and (8) other similar matters.[26] Within these areas, the NTC reigns supreme as it possesses the exclusive power to regulate -- a power comprising varied acts, such as to fix, establish, or control; to adjust by rule, method or established mode; to direct by rule or restriction; or to subject to governing principles or laws.[27] Coincidentally, respondents justify their exercise of regulatory power over petitioners CATV operation under the general welfare clause of the Local Government Code of 1983. The Court of Appeals sustained their stance. There is no dispute that respondent Sangguniang Panlungsod, like other local legislative bodies, has been empowered to enact ordinances and approve resolutions under the general welfare clause of B.P. Blg. 337, the Local Government Code of 1983. That it continues to posses such power is clear under the new law, R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code of 1991). Section 16 thereof provides: SECTION 16. General Welfare. Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among others, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant, scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants. In addition, Section 458 of the same Code specifically mandates: SECTION 458. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The Sangguniang Panlungsod, as the legislative body of the city, shall enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code and in the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the city as provided for under Section 22 of this Code, x x x: The general welfare clause is the delegation in statutory form of the police power of the State to LGUs. [28] Through this, LGUs may prescribe regulations to protect the lives, health, and property of their constituents and maintain peace and order within their respective territorial jurisdictions. Accordingly, we have upheld enactments providing, for instance, the regulation of gambling,[29] the occupation of rig

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drivers,[30] the installation and operation of pinball machines,[31] the maintenance and operation of cockpits, [32] the exhumation and transfer of corpses from public burial grounds,[33] and the operation of hotels, motels, and lodging houses[34] as valid exercises by local legislatures of the police power under the general welfare clause. Like any other enterprise, CATV operation maybe regulated by LGUs under the general welfare clause. This is primarily because the CATV system commits the indiscretion of crossing public properties. (It uses public properties in order to reach subscribers.) The physical realities of constructing CATV system the use of public streets, rights of ways, the founding of structures, and the parceling of large regions allow an LGU a certain degree of regulation over CATV operators.[35] This is the same regulation that it exercises over all private enterprises within its territory. But, while we recognize the LGUs power under the general welfare clause, we cannot sustain Resolution No. 210. We are convinced that respondents strayed from the well recognized limits of its power. The flaws in Resolution No. 210 are: (1) it violates the mandate of existing laws and (2) it violates the States deregulation policy over the CATV industry. I. Resolution No. 210 is an enactment of an LGU acting only as agent of the national legislature. Necessarily, its act must reflect and conform to the will of its principal. To test its validity, we must apply the particular requisites of a valid ordinance as laid down by the accepted principles governing municipal corporations. [36] Speaking for the Court in the leading case of United States vs. Abendan,[37] Justice Moreland said: An ordinance enacted by virtue of the general welfare clause is valid, unless it contravenes the fundamental law of the Philippine Islands, or an Act of the Philippine Legislature, or unless it is against public policy, or is unreasonable, oppressive, partial, discriminating, or in derogation of common right. In De la Cruz vs. Paraz,[38] we laid the general rule that ordinances passed by virtue of the implied power found in the general welfare clause must be reasonable, consonant with the general powers and purposes of the corporation, and not inconsistent with the laws or policy of the State. The apparent defect in Resolution No. 210 is that it contravenes E.O. No. 205 and E.O. No. 436 insofar as it permits respondent Sangguniang Panlungsod to usurp a power exclusively vested in the NTC, i.e., the power to fix the subscriber rates charged by CATV operators. As earlier discussed, the fixing of subscriber rates is definitely one of the matters within the NTCs exclusive domain. In this regard, it is appropriate to stress that where the state legislature has made provision for the regulation of conduct, it has manifested its intention that the subject matter shall be fully covered by the statute, and that a municipality, under its general powers, cannot regulate the same conduct.[39] In Keller vs. State,[40] it was held that: Where there is no express power in the charter of a municipality authorizing it to adopt ordinances regulating certain matters which are specifically covered by a general statute, a municipal ordinance, insofar as it attempts to regulate the subject which is completely covered by a general statute of the legislature, may be rendered invalid. x x x Where the subject is of statewide concern, and the legislature has appropriated the field and declared the rule, its declaration is binding throughout the State. A reason advanced for this view is that such ordinances are in excess of the powers granted to the municipal corporation.[41] Since E.O. No. 205, a general law, mandates that the regulation of CATV operations shall be exercised by the NTC, an LGU cannot enact an ordinance or approve a resolution in violation of the said law. It is a fundamental principle that municipal ordinances are inferior in status and subordinate to the laws of the state. An ordinance in conflict with a state law of general character and statewide application is universally held to be invalid.[42] The principle is frequently expressed in the declaration that municipal authorities, under a general grant of power, cannot adopt ordinances which infringe the spirit of a state law or repugnant to the general policy of the state.[43] In every power to pass ordinances given to

a municipality, there is an implied restriction that the ordinances shall be consistent with the general law.[44] In the language of Justice Isagani Cruz (ret.), this Court, in Magtajas vs. Pryce Properties Corp., Inc.,[45] ruled that: The rationale of the requirement that the ordinances should not contravene a statute is obvious. Municipal governments are only agents of the national government. Local councils exercise only delegated legislative powers conferred on them by Congress as the national lawmaking body. The delegate cannot be superior to the principal or exercise powers higher than those of the latter. It is a heresy to suggest that the local government units can undo the acts of Congress, from which they have derived their power in the first place, and negate by mere ordinance the mandate of the statute. Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so it may destroy. As it may destroy, it may abridge and control. Unless there is some constitutional limitation on the right, the legislature might, by a single act, and if we can suppose it capable of so great a folly and so great a wrong, sweep from existence all of the municipal corporations in the State, and the corporation could not prevent it. We know of no limitation on the right so far as to the corporation themselves are concerned. They are, so to phrase it, the mere tenants at will of the legislature. This basic relationship between the national legislature and the local government units has not been enfeebled by the new provisions in the Constitution strengthening the policy of local autonomy. Without meaning to detract from that policy, we here confirm that Congress retains control of the local government units although in significantly reduced degree now than under our previous Constitutions. The power to create still includes the power to destroy. The power to grant still includes the power to withhold or recall. True, there are certain notable innovations in the Constitution, like the direct conferment on the local government units of the power to tax, which cannot now be withdrawn by mere statute. By and large, however, the national legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or modify or violate it. Respondents have an ingenious retort against the above disquisition. Their theory is that the regulatory power of the LGUs is granted by R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code of 1991), a handiwork of the national lawmaking authority. They contend that R.A. No. 7160 repealed E.O. No. 205 (issued by President Aquino). Respondents argument espouses a bad precedent. To say that LGUs exercise the same regulatory power over matters which are peculiarly within the NTCs competence is to promote a scenario of LGUs and the NTC locked in constant clash over the appropriate regulatory measure on the same subject matter. LGUs must recognize that technical matters concerning CATV operation are within the exclusive regulatory power of the NTC. At any rate, we find no basis to conclude that R.A. No. 7160 repealed E.O. No. 205, either expressly or impliedly. It is noteworthy that R.A. No. 7160 repealing clause, which painstakingly mentions the specific laws or the parts thereof which are repealed, does not include E.O. No. 205, thus: SECTION 534. Repealing Clause. (a) Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, otherwise known as the Local Government Code." Executive Order No. 112 (1987), and Executive Order No. 319 (1988) are hereby repealed. (b) Presidential Decree Nos. 684, 1191, 1508 and such other decrees, orders, instructions, memoranda and issuances related to or concerning the barangay are hereby repealed. (c) The provisions of Sections 2, 3, and 4 of Republic Act No. 1939 regarding hospital fund; Section 3, a (3) and b (2) of Republic Act. No. 5447 regarding the Special Education Fund; Presidential Decree No. 144 as amended by Presidential Decree Nos. 559 and 1741; Presidential Decree No. 231 as amended; Presidential Decree No. 436 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 558; and Presidential Decree Nos. 381, 436, 464, 477, 526, 632, 752, and 1136 are hereby repealed and rendered of no force and effect. (d) Presidential Decree No. 1594 is hereby repealed insofar as it governs locally-funded projects. (e) The following provisions are hereby repealed or amended insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Code: Sections 2, 16, and 29 of Presidential Decree No. 704; Section 12 of Presidential Decree No. 87, as amended; Sections 52, 53, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, and 74 of Presidential Decree No. 463, as amended; and Section 16 of Presidential Decree No. 972, as amended, and

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(f) All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. Neither is there an indication that E.O. No. 205 was impliedly repealed by R.A. No. 7160. It is a settled rule that implied repeals are not lightly presumed in the absence of a clear and unmistakable showing of such intentions. In Mecano vs. Commission on Audit,[46] we ruled: Repeal by implication proceeds on the premise that where a statute of later date clearly reveals an intention on the part of the legislature to abrogate a prior act on the subject, that intention must be given effect. Hence, before there can be a repeal, there must be a clear showing on the part of the lawmaker that the intent in enacting the new law was to abrogate the old one. The intention to repeal must be clear and manifest; otherwise, at least, as a general rule, the later act is to be construed as a continuation of, and not a substitute for, the first act and will continue so far as the two acts are the same from the time of the first enactment. As previously stated, E.O. No. 436 (issued by President Ramos) vests upon the NTC the power to regulate the CATV operation in this country. So also Memorandum Circular No. 8-9-95, the Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No. 7925 (the Public Telecommunications Policy Act of the Philippines). This shows that the NTCs regulatory power over CATV operation is continuously recognized. It is a canon of legal hermeneutics that instead of pitting one statute against another in an inevitably destructive confrontation, courts must exert every effort to reconcile them, remembering that both laws deserve a becoming respect as the handiwork of coordinate branches of the government.[47] On the assumption of a conflict between E.O. No. 205 and R.A. No. 7160, the proper action is not to uphold one and annul the other but to give effect to both by harmonizing them if possible. This recourse finds application here. Thus, we hold that the NTC, under E.O. No. 205, has exclusive jurisdiction over matters affecting CATV operation, including specifically the fixing of subscriber rates, but nothing herein precludes LGUs from exercising its general power, under R.A. No. 7160, to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, peace, education, good order or safety and general welfare of their constituents. In effect, both laws become equally effective and mutually complementary. The grant of regulatory power to the NTC is easily understandable. CATV system is not a mere local concern. The complexities that characterize this new technology demand that it be regulated by a specialized agency. This is particularly true in the area of rate-fixing. Rate fixing involves a series of technical operations. [48] Consequently, on the hands of the regulatory body lies the ample discretion in the choice of such rational processes as might be appropriate to the solution of its highly complicated and technical problems. Considering that the CATV industry is so technical a field, we believe that the NTC, a specialized agency, is in a better position than the LGU, to regulate it. Notably, in United States vs. Southwestern Cable Co.,[49] the US Supreme Court affirmed the Federal Communications Commissions (FCCs) jurisdiction over CATV operation. The Court held that the FCCs authority over cable systems assures the preservation of the local broadcast service and an equitable distribution of broadcast services among the various regions of the country. II. Resolution No. 210 violated the States deregulation policy. Deregulation is the reduction of government regulation of business to permit freer markets and competition. [50] Oftentimes, the State, through its regulatory agencies, carries out a policy of deregulation to attain certain objectives or to address certain problems. In the field of telecommunications, it is recognized that many areas in the Philippines are still unserved or underserved. Thus, to encourage private sectors to venture in this field and be partners of the government in stimulating the growth and development of telecommunications, the State promoted the policy of deregulation. In the United States, the country where CATV originated, the Congress observed, when it adopted the

Telecommunications Act of 1996, that there was a need to provide a pro-competitive, deregulatory national policy framework designed to accelerate rapidly private sector deployment of advanced telecommunications and information technologies and services to all Americans by opening all telecommunications markets to competition. The FCC has adopted regulations to implement the requirements of the 1996 Act and the intent of the Congress. Our country follows the same policy. The fifth Whereas Clause of E.O. No. 436 states: WHEREAS, professionalism and self-regulation among existing operators, through a nationally recognized cable television operators association, have enhanced the growth of the cable television industry and must therefore be maintained along with minimal reasonable government regulations; This policy reaffirms the NTCs mandate set forth in the Memorandum dated August 25, 1989 of Commissioner Jose Luis A. Alcuaz, to wit: In line with the purpose and objective of MC 4-08-88, Cable Television System or Community Antenna Television (CATV) is made part of the broadcast media to promote the orderly growth of the Cable Television Industry it being in its developing stage. Being part of the Broadcast Media, the service rates of CATV are likewise considered deregulated in accordance with MC 06-2-81 dated 25 February 1981, the implementing guidelines for the authorization and operation of Radio and Television Broadcasting stations/systems. Further, the Commission will issue Provisional Authority to existing CATV operators to authorize their operations for a period of ninety (90) days until such time that the Commission can issue the regular Certificate of Authority. When the State declared a policy of deregulation, the LGUs are bound to follow. To rule otherwise is to render the States policy ineffective. Being mere creatures of the State, LGUs cannot defeat national policies through enactments of contrary measures. Verily, in the case at bar, petitioner may increase its subscriber rates without respondents approval. At this juncture, it bears emphasizing that municipal corporations are bodies politic and corporate, created not only as local units of local self-government, but as governmental agencies of the state.[51] The legislature, by establishing a municipal corporation, does not divest the State of any of its sovereignty; absolve itself from its right and duty to administer the public affairs of the entire state; or divest itself of any power over the inhabitants of the district which it possesses before the charter was granted.[52] Respondents likewise argue that E.O. No. 205 violates the constitutional prohibition against impairment of contracts, Resolution No. 210 of Batangas City Sangguniang Panlungsod being a grant of franchise to petitioner. We are not convinced. There is no law specifically authorizing the LGUs to grant franchises to operate CATV system. Whatever authority the LGUs had before, the same had been withdrawn when President Marcos issued P.D. No. 1512 terminating all franchises, permits or certificates for the operation of CATV system previously granted by local governments. Today, pursuant to Section 3 of E.O. No. 436, only persons, associations, partnerships, corporations or cooperatives granted a Provisional Authority or Certificate of Authority by the NTC may install, operate and maintain a cable television system or render cable television service within a service area. It is clear that in the absence of constitutional or legislative authorization, municipalities have no power to grant franchises.[53] Consequently, the protection of the constitutional provision as to impairment of the obligation of a contract does not extend to privileges, franchises and grants given by a municipality in excess of its powers, or ultra vires.[54] One last word. The devolution of powers to the LGUs, pursuant to the Constitutional mandate of ensuring their autonomy, has bred jurisdictional tension between said LGUs and the State. LGUs must be reminded that they merely form part of the whole. Thus, when the Drafters of the 1987 Constitution enunciated the policy of ensuring the autonomy of local governments,[55] it was never their intention to create an imperium in imperio and install an intra-sovereign political subdivision independent of a single sovereign state. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The assailed Decision of the Court of Appeals dated February 12, 1999 as well as its Resolution dated May 26, 1999 in CA-G.R. CV No. 52461, are hereby REVERSED. The RTC Decision in Civil Case No. 4254 is AFFIRMED.

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No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 111097 July 20, 1994 MAYOR PABLO P. MAGTAJAS & THE CITY OF CAGAYAN DE ORO, petitioners, vs. PRYCE PROPERTIES CORPORATION, INC. & PHILIPPINE AMUSEMENT AND GAMING CORPORATION,respondents. Aquilino G. Pimentel, Jr. and Associates for petitioners. R.R. Torralba & Associates for private respondent. CRUZ, J.: There was instant opposition when PAGCOR announced the opening of a casino in Cagayan de Oro City. Civic organizations angrily denounced the project. The religious elements echoed the objection and so did the women's groups and the youth. Demonstrations were led by the mayor and the city legislators. The media trumpeted the protest, describing the casino as an affront to the welfare of the city. The trouble arose when in 1992, flush with its tremendous success in several cities, PAGCOR decided to expand its operations to Cagayan de Oro City. To this end, it leased a portion of a building belonging to Pryce Properties Corporation, Inc., one of the herein private respondents, renovated and equipped the same, and prepared to inaugurate its casino there during the Christmas season. The reaction of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City was swift and hostile. On December 7, 1992, it enacted Ordinance No. 3353 reading as follows: ORDINANCE NO. 3353 AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE ISSUANCE OF BUSINESS PERMIT AND CANCELLING EXISTING BUSINESS PERMIT TO ANY ESTABLISHMENT FOR THE USING AND ALLOWING TO BE USED ITS PREMISES OR PORTION THEREOF FOR THE OPERATION OF CASINO. BE IT ORDAINED by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro, in session assembled that: Sec. 1. That pursuant to the policy of the city banning the operation of casino within its territorial jurisdiction, no business permit shall be issued to any person, partnership or corporation for the operation of casino within the city limits. Sec. 2. That it shall be a violation of existing business permit by any persons, partnership or corporation to use its business establishment or portion thereof, or allow the use thereof by others for casino operation and other gambling activities. Sec. 3. PENALTIES. Any violation of such existing business permit as defined in the preceding section shall suffer the following penalties, to wit: a) Suspension of the business permit for sixty (60) days for the first offense and a fine of P1,000.00/day b) Suspension of the business permit for Six (6) months for the second offense, and a fine of P3,000.00/day c) Permanent revocation of the business permit and imprisonment of One (1) year, for the third and subsequent offenses. Sec. 4. This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days from publication thereof. Nor was this all. On January 4, 1993, it adopted a sterner Ordinance No. 3375-93 reading as follows: ORDINANCE NO. 3375-93 AN ORDINANCE PROHIBITING THE OPERATION OF CASINO AND PROVIDING PENALTY FOR VIOLATION THEREFOR. WHEREAS, the City Council established a policy as early as 1990 against CASINO under its Resolution No. 2295; WHEREAS, on October 14, 1992, the City Council passed another Resolution No. 2673, reiterating its policy against the establishment of CASINO; WHEREAS, subsequently, thereafter, it likewise passed Ordinance No. 3353, prohibiting the issuance of Business Permit and to cancel existing Business Permit to any establishment for the using and allowing to be used its premises or portion thereof for the operation of CASINO; WHEREAS, under Art. 3, section 458, No. (4), sub paragraph VI of the Local Government Code of 1991 (Rep. Act 7160) and under Art. 99, No. (4), Paragraph VI of the implementing rules of the Local Government Code, the City Council as the Legislative Body shall enact measure to suppress any activity inimical to public morals and general welfare of the people and/or regulate or prohibit

such activity pertaining to amusement or entertainment in order to protect social and moral welfare of the community; NOW THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED by the City Council in session duly assembled that: Sec. 1. The operation of gambling CASINO in the City of Cagayan de Oro is hereby prohibited. Sec. 2. Any violation of this Ordinance shall be subject to the following penalties: a) Administrative fine of P5,000.00 shall be imposed against the proprietor, partnership or corporation undertaking the operation, conduct, maintenance of gambling CASINO in the City and closure thereof; b) Imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than one (1) year or a fine in the amount of P5,000.00 or both at the discretion of the court against the manager, supervisor, and/or any person responsible in the establishment, conduct and maintenance of gambling CASINO. Sec. 3. This Ordinance shall take effect ten (10) days after its publication in a local newspaper of general circulation. Pryce assailed the ordinances before the Court of Appeals, where it was joined by PAGCOR as intervenor and supplemental petitioner. Their challenge succeeded. On March 31, 1993, the Court of Appeals declared the ordinances invalid and issued the writ prayed for to prohibit their enforcement. 1 Reconsideration of this decision was denied on July 13, 1993. 2 Cagayan de Oro City and its mayor are now before us in this petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. 3 They aver that the respondent Court of Appeals erred in holding that: 1. Under existing laws, the Sangguniang Panlungsod of the City of Cagayan de Oro does not have the power and authority to prohibit the establishment and operation of a PAGCOR gambling casino within the City's territorial limits. 2. The phrase "gambling and other prohibited games of chance" found in Sec. 458, par. (a), sub-par. (1) (v) of R.A. 7160 could only mean "illegal gambling." 3. The questioned Ordinances in effect annul P.D. 1869 and are therefore invalid on that point. 4. The questioned Ordinances are discriminatory to casino and partial to cockfighting and are therefore invalid on that point. 5. The questioned Ordinances are not reasonable, not consonant with the general powers and purposes of the instrumentality concerned and inconsistent with the laws or policy of the State. 6. It had no option but to follow the ruling in the case of Basco, et al. v. PAGCOR, G.R. No. 91649, May 14, 1991, 197 SCRA 53 in disposing of the issues presented in this present case. PAGCOR is a corporation created directly by P.D. 1869 to help centralize and regulate all games of chance, including casinos on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines. In Basco v. Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corporation, 4 this Court sustained the constitutionality of the decree and even cited the benefits of the entity to the national economy as the third highest revenue-earner in the government, next only to the BIR and the Bureau of Customs. Cagayan de Oro City, like other local political subdivisions, is empowered to enact ordinances for the purposes indicated in the Local Government Code. It is expressly vested with the police power under what is known as the General Welfare Clause now embodied in Section 16 as follows: Sec. 16. General Welfare. Every local government unit shall exercise the powers expressly granted, those necessarily implied therefrom, as well as powers necessary, appropriate, or incidental for its efficient and effective governance, and those which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare. Within their respective territorial jurisdictions, local government units shall ensure and support, among other things, the preservation and enrichment of culture, promote health and safety, enhance the right of the people to a balanced ecology, encourage and support the development of appropriate and self-reliant scientific and technological capabilities, improve public morals, enhance economic prosperity and social justice, promote full employment among their residents, maintain peace and order, and preserve the comfort and convenience of their inhabitants. In addition, Section 458 of the said Code specifically declares that: Sec. 458. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The Sangguniang Panlungsod, as the legislative body of the city, shall enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the city and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code and in the

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proper exercise of the corporate powers of the city as provided for under Section 22 of this Code, and shall: (1) Approve ordinances and pass resolutions necessary for an efficient and effective city government, and in this connection, shall: xxx xxx xxx (v) Enact ordinances intended to prevent, suppress and impose appropriate penalties for habitual drunkenness in public places, vagrancy, mendicancy, prostitution, establishment and maintenance of houses of ill repute,gambling and other prohibited games of chance, fraudulent devices and ways to obtain money or property, drug addiction, maintenance of drug dens, drug pushing, juvenile delinquency, the printing, distribution or exhibition of obscene or pornographic materials or publications, and such other activities inimical to the welfare and morals of the inhabitants of the city; This section also authorizes the local government units to regulate properties and businesses within their territorial limits in the interest of the general welfare. 5 The petitioners argue that by virtue of these provisions, the Sangguniang Panlungsod may prohibit the operation of casinos because they involve games of chance, which are detrimental to the people. Gambling is not allowed by general law and even by the Constitution itself. The legislative power conferred upon local government units may be exercised over all kinds of gambling and not only over "illegal gambling" as the respondents erroneously argue. Even if the operation of casinos may have been permitted under P.D. 1869, the government of Cagayan de Oro City has the authority to prohibit them within its territory pursuant to the authority entrusted to it by the Local Government Code. It is submitted that this interpretation is consonant with the policy of local autonomy as mandated in Article II, Section 25, and Article X of the Constitution, as well as various other provisions therein seeking to strengthen the character of the nation. In giving the local government units the power to prevent or suppress gambling and other social problems, the Local Government Code has recognized the competence of such communities to determine and adopt the measures best expected to promote the general welfare of their inhabitants in line with the policies of the State. The petitioners also stress that when the Code expressly authorized the local government units to prevent and suppress gambling and other prohibited games of chance, like craps, baccarat, blackjack and roulette, it meant allforms of gambling without distinction. Ubi lex non distinguit, nec nos distinguere debemos. 6 Otherwise, it would have expressly excluded from the scope of their power casinos and other forms of gambling authorized by special law, as it could have easily done. The fact that it did not do so simply means that the local government units are permitted to prohibit all kinds of gambling within their territories, including the operation of casinos. The adoption of the Local Government Code, it is pointed out, had the effect of modifying the charter of the PAGCOR. The Code is not only a later enactment than P.D. 1869 and so is deemed to prevail in case of inconsistencies between them. More than this, the powers of the PAGCOR under the decree are expressly discontinued by the Code insofar as they do not conform to its philosophy and provisions, pursuant to Par. (f) of its repealing clause reading as follows: (f) All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. It is also maintained that assuming there is doubt regarding the effect of the Local Government Code on P.D. 1869, the doubt must be resolved in favor of the petitioners, in accordance with the direction in the Code calling for its liberal interpretation in favor of the local government units. Section 5 of the Code specifically provides: Sec. 5. Rules of Interpretation. In the interpretation of the provisions of this Code, the following rules shall apply: (a) Any provision on a power of a local government unit shall be liberally interpreted in its favor, and in case of doubt, any question thereon shall be resolved in favor of devolution of powers and of the lower local government unit. Any fair and reasonable doubt as to the existence of

the power shall be interpreted in favor of the local government unit concerned; xxx xxx xxx (c) The general welfare provisions in this Code shall be liberally interpreted to give more powers to local government units in accelerating economic development and upgrading the quality of life for the people in the community; . . . (Emphasis supplied.) Finally, the petitioners also attack gambling as intrinsically harmful and cite various provisions of the Constitution and several decisions of this Court expressive of the general and official disapprobation of the vice. They invoke the State policies on the family and the proper upbringing of the youth and, as might be expected, call attention to the old case of U.S. v. Salaveria, 7 which sustained a municipal ordinance prohibiting the playing of panguingue. The petitioners decry the immorality of gambling. They also impugn the wisdom of P.D. 1869 (which they describe as "a martial law instrument") in creating PAGCOR and authorizing it to operate casinos "on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines." This is the opportune time to stress an important point. The morality of gambling is not a justiciable issue. Gambling is not illegal per se. While it is generally considered inimical to the interests of the people, there is nothing in the Constitution categorically proscribing or penalizing gambling or, for that matter, even mentioning it at all. It is left to Congress to deal with the activity as it sees fit. In the exercise of its own discretion, the legislature may prohibit gambling altogether or allow it without limitation or it may prohibit some forms of gambling and allow others for whatever reasons it may consider sufficient. Thus, it has prohibited jueteng and monte but permits lotteries, cockfighting and horse-racing. In making such choices, Congress has consulted its own wisdom, which this Court has no authority to review, much less reverse. Well has it been said that courts do not sit to resolve the merits of conflicting theories. 8 That is the prerogative of the political departments. It is settled that questions regarding the wisdom, morality, or practicibility of statutes are not addressed to the judiciary but may be resolved only by the legislative and executive departments, to which the function belongs in our scheme of government. That function is exclusive. Whichever way these branches decide, they are answerable only to their own conscience and the constituents who will ultimately judge their acts, and not to the courts of justice. The only question we can and shall resolve in this petition is the validity of Ordinance No. 3355 and Ordinance No. 3375-93 as enacted by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City. And we shall do so only by the criteria laid down by law and not by our own convictions on the propriety of gambling. The tests of a valid ordinance are well established. A long line of decisions 9 has held that to be valid, an ordinance must conform to the following substantive requirements: 1) It must not contravene the constitution or any statute. 2) It must not be unfair or oppressive. 3) It must not be partial or discriminatory. 4) It must not prohibit but may regulate trade. 5) It must be general and consistent with public policy. 6) It must not be unreasonable. We begin by observing that under Sec. 458 of the Local Government Code, local government units are authorized to prevent or suppress, among others, "gambling and other prohibited games of chance." Obviously, this provision excludes games of chance which are not prohibited but are in fact permitted by law. The petitioners are less than accurate in claiming that the Code could have excluded such games of chance but did not. In fact it does. The language of the section is clear and unmistakable. Under the rule of noscitur a sociis, a word or phrase should be interpreted in relation to, or given the same meaning of, words with which it is associated. Accordingly, we conclude that since the word "gambling" is associated with "and other prohibited games of chance," the word should be read as referring to only illegal gambling which, like the other prohibited games of chance, must be prevented or suppressed. We could stop here as this interpretation should settle the problem quite conclusively. But we will not. The vigorous efforts of the petitioners on behalf of the inhabitants of Cagayan de Oro City, and the earnestness of their advocacy, deserve more than short shrift from this Court. The apparent flaw in the ordinances in question is that they contravene P.D. 1869 and the public policy embodied therein insofar as they prevent PAGCOR from exercising the power conferred on it to operate a casino in Cagayan de Oro City. The

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petitioners have an ingenious answer to this misgiving. They deny that it is the ordinances that have changed P.D. 1869 for an ordinance admittedly cannot prevail against a statute. Their theory is that the change has been made by the Local Government Code itself, which was also enacted by the national lawmaking authority. In their view, the decree has been, not really repealed by the Code, but merely "modified pro tanto" in the sense that PAGCOR cannot now operate a casino over the objection of the local government unit concerned. This modification of P.D. 1869 by the Local Government Code is permissible because one law can change or repeal another law. It seems to us that the petitioners are playing with words. While insisting that the decree has only been "modifiedpro tanto," they are actually arguing that it is already dead, repealed and useless for all intents and purposes because the Code has shorn PAGCOR of all power to centralize and regulate casinos. Strictly speaking, its operations may now be not only prohibited by the local government unit; in fact, the prohibition is not only discretionary but mandated by Section 458 of the Code if the word "shall" as used therein is to be given its accepted meaning. Local government units have now no choice but to prevent and suppress gambling, which in the petitioners' view includes both legal and illegal gambling. Under this construction, PAGCOR will have no more games of chance to regulate or centralize as they must all be prohibited by the local government units pursuant to the mandatory duty imposed upon them by the Code. In this situation, PAGCOR cannot continue to exist except only as a toothless tiger or a white elephant and will no longer be able to exercise its powers as a prime source of government revenue through the operation of casinos. It is noteworthy that the petitioners have cited only Par. (f) of the repealing clause, conveniently discarding the rest of the provision which painstakingly mentions the specific laws or the parts thereof which are repealed (or modified) by the Code. Significantly, P.D. 1869 is not one of them. A reading of the entire repealing clause, which is reproduced below, will disclose the omission: Sec. 534. Repealing Clause. (a) Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, otherwise known as the "Local Government Code," Executive Order No. 112 (1987), and Executive Order No. 319 (1988) are hereby repealed. (b) Presidential Decree Nos. 684, 1191, 1508 and such other decrees, orders, instructions, memoranda and issuances related to or concerning the barangay are hereby repealed. (c) The provisions of Sections 2, 3, and 4 of Republic Act No. 1939 regarding hospital fund; Section 3, a (3) and b (2) of Republic Act. No. 5447 regarding the Special Education Fund; Presidential Decree No. 144 as amended by Presidential Decree Nos. 559 and 1741; Presidential Decree No. 231 as amended; Presidential Decree No. 436 as amended by Presidential Decree No. 558; and Presidential Decree Nos. 381, 436, 464, 477, 526, 632, 752, and 1136 are hereby repealed and rendered of no force and effect. (d) Presidential Decree No. 1594 is hereby repealed insofar as it governs locally-funded projects. (e) The following provisions are hereby repealed or amended insofar as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Code: Sections 2, 16, and 29 of Presidential Decree No. 704; Sections 12 of Presidential Decree No. 87, as amended; Sections 52, 53, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, and 74 of Presidential Decree No. 463, as amended; and Section 16 of Presidential Decree No. 972, as amended, and (f) All general and special laws, acts, city charters, decrees, executive orders, proclamations and administrative regulations, or part or parts thereof which are inconsistent with any of the provisions of this Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. Furthermore, it is a familiar rule that implied repeals are not lightly presumed in the absence of a clear and unmistakable showing of such intention. In Lichauco & Co. v. Apostol, 10 this Court explained: The cases relating to the subject of repeal by implication all proceed on the assumption that if the act of later date clearly reveals an intention on the part of the lawmaking power to abrogate the prior law, this intention must be given effect; but there must always be a sufficient revelation of this intention, and it has become an

unbending rule of statutory construction that the intention to repeal a former law will not be imputed to the Legislature when it appears that the two statutes, or provisions, with reference to which the question arises bear to each other the relation of general to special. There is no sufficient indication of an implied repeal of P.D. 1869. On the contrary, as the private respondent points out, PAGCOR is mentioned as the source of funding in two later enactments of Congress, to wit, R.A. 7309, creating a Board of Claims under the Department of Justice for the benefit of victims of unjust punishment or detention or of violent crimes, and R.A. 7648, providing for measures for the solution of the power crisis. PAGCOR revenues are tapped by these two statutes. This would show that the PAGCOR charter has not been repealed by the Local Government Code but has in fact been improved as it were to make the entity more responsive to the fiscal problems of the government. It is a canon of legal hermeneutics that instead of pitting one statute against another in an inevitably destructive confrontation, courts must exert every effort to reconcile them, remembering that both laws deserve a becoming respect as the handiwork of a coordinate branch of the government. On the assumption of a conflict between P.D. 1869 and the Code, the proper action is not to uphold one and annul the other but to give effect to both by harmonizing them if possible. This is possible in the case before us. The proper resolution of the problem at hand is to hold that under the Local Government Code, local government units may (and indeed must) prevent and suppress all kinds of gambling within their territories except only those allowed by statutes like P.D. 1869. The exception reserved in such laws must be read into the Code, to make both the Code and such laws equally effective and mutually complementary. This approach would also affirm that there are indeed two kinds of gambling, to wit, the illegal and those authorized by law. Legalized gambling is not a modern concept; it is probably as old as illegal gambling, if not indeed more so. The petitioners' suggestion that the Code authorizes them to prohibit all kinds of gambling would erase the distinction between these two forms of gambling without a clear indication that this is the will of the legislature. Plausibly, following this theory, the City of Manila could, by mere ordinance, prohibit the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from conducting a lottery as authorized by R.A. 1169 and B.P. 42 or stop the races at the San Lazaro Hippodrome as authorized by R.A. 309 and R.A. 983. In light of all the above considerations, we see no way of arriving at the conclusion urged on us by the petitioners that the ordinances in question are valid. On the contrary, we find that the ordinances violate P.D. 1869, which has the character and force of a statute, as well as the public policy expressed in the decree allowing the playing of certain games of chance despite the prohibition of gambling in general. The rationale of the requirement that the ordinances should not contravene a statute is obvious. Municipal governments are only agents of the national government. Local councils exercise only delegated legislative powers conferred on them by Congress as the national lawmaking body. The delegate cannot be superior to the principal or exercise powers higher than those of the latter. It is a heresy to suggest that the local government units can undo the acts of Congress, from which they have derived their power in the first place, and negate by mere ordinance the mandate of the statute. Municipal corporations owe their origin to, and derive their powers and rights wholly from the legislature. It breathes into them the breath of life, without which they cannot exist. As it creates, so it may destroy. As it may destroy, it may abridge and control. Unless there is some constitutional limitation on the right, the legislature might, by a single act, and if we can suppose it capable of so great a folly and so great a wrong, sweep from existence all of the municipal corporations in the State, and the corporation could not prevent it. We know of no limitation on the right so far as to the corporation themselves are concerned. They are, so to phrase it, the mere tenants at will of the legislature. 11 This basic relationship between the national legislature and the local government units has not been enfeebled by the new provisions in the Constitution strengthening the policy of local autonomy. Without meaning to detract from that policy, we here confirm that Congress retains control of the local government units although in significantly reduced degree now than under our previous Constitutions. The power to create still includes the power to destroy. The power to grant still includes the power to withhold or recall. True, there are certain notable innovations in the Constitution, like the direct conferment on

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the local government units of the power to tax, 12which cannot now be withdrawn by mere statute. By and large, however, the national legislature is still the principal of the local government units, which cannot defy its will or modify or violate it. The Court understands and admires the concern of the petitioners for the welfare of their constituents and their apprehensions that the welfare of Cagayan de Oro City will be endangered by the opening of the casino. We share the view that "the hope of large or easy gain, obtained without special effort, turns the head of the workman"13 and that "habitual gambling is a cause of laziness and ruin." 14 In People v. Gorostiza, 15 we declared: "The social scourge of gambling must be stamped out. The laws against gambling must be enforced to the limit." George Washington called gambling "the child of avarice, the brother of iniquity and the father of mischief." Nevertheless, we must recognize the power of the legislature to decide, in its own wisdom, to legalize certain forms of gambling, as was done in P.D. 1869 and impliedly affirmed in the Local Government Code. That decision can be revoked by this Court only if it contravenes the Constitution as the touchstone of all official acts. We do not find such contravention here. We hold that the power of PAGCOR to centralize and regulate all games of chance, including casinos on land and sea within the territorial jurisdiction of the Philippines, remains unimpaired. P.D. 1869 has not been modified by the Local Government Code, which empowers the local government units to prevent or suppress only those forms of gambling prohibited by law. Casino gambling is authorized by P.D. 1869. This decree has the status of a statute that cannot be amended or nullified by a mere ordinance. Hence, it was not competent for the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Cagayan de Oro City to enact Ordinance No. 3353 prohibiting the use of buildings for the operation of a casino and Ordinance No. 3375-93 prohibiting the operation of casinos. For all their praiseworthy motives, these ordinances are contrary to P.D. 1869 and the public policy announced therein and are therefore ultra vires and void. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED and the challenged decision of the respondent Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED, with costs against the petitioners. It is so ordered. G.R. No. 149743 February 18, 2005 LEONARDO TAN, ROBERT UY and LAMBERTO TE, petitioners, vs. SOCORRO Y. PEREA, Respondent. DECISION TINGA, J.: The resolution of the present petition effectively settles the question of how many cockpits may be allowed to operate in a city or municipality. There are two competing values of high order that come to fore in this casethe traditional power of the national government to enact police power measures, on one hand, and the vague principle of local autonomy now enshrined in the Constitution on the other. The facts are simple, but may be best appreciated taking into account the legal milieu which frames them. In 1974, Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 449, otherwise known as the Cockfighting Law of 1974, was enacted. Section 5(b) of the Decree provided for limits on the number of cockpits that may be established in cities and municipalities in the following manner: Section 5. Cockpits and Cockfighting in General. (b) Establishment of Cockpits. Only one cockpit shall be allowed in each city or municipality, except that in cities or municipalities with a population of over one hundred thousand, two cockpits may be established, maintained and operated. With the enactment of the Local Government Code of 1991,1 the municipal sangguniang bayan were empowered, "[a]ny law to the contrary notwithstanding," to "authorize and license the establishment, operation and maintenance of cockpits, and regulate cockfighting and commercial breeding of gamecocks."2 In 1993, the Sangguniang Bayan of the municipality of Daanbantayan,3 Cebu Province, enacted Municipal Ordinance No. 6 (Ordinance No. 6), Series of 1993, which served as the Revised Omnibus Ordinance prescribing and promulgating the rules and regulations governing

cockpit operations in Daanbantayan.4 Section 5 thereof, relative to the number of cockpits allowed in the municipality, stated: Section 5. There shall be allowed to operate in the Municipality of Daanbantayan, Province of Cebu, not more than its equal number of cockpits based upon the population provided for in PD 449, provided however, that this specific section can be amended for purposes of establishing additional cockpits, if the Municipal population so warrants.5 Shortly thereafter, the Sangguniang Bayan passed an amendatory ordinance, Municipal Ordinance No. 7 (Ordinance No. 7), Series of 1993, which amended the aforequoted Section 5 to now read as follows: Section 5. Establishment of Cockpit. There shall be allowed to operate in the Municipality of Daanbantayan, Province of Cebu, not more than three (3) cockpits.6 On 8 November 1995, petitioner Leonardo Tan (Tan) applied with the Municipal Gamefowl Commission for the issuance of a permit/license to establish and operate a cockpit in Sitio Combado, Bagay, in Daanbantayan. At the time of his application, there was already another cockpit in operation in Daanbantayan, operated by respondent Socorro Y. Perea (Perea), who was the duly franchised and licensed cockpit operator in the municipality since the 1970s. Pereas franchise, per records, was valid until 2002.7 The Municipal Gamefowl Commission favorably recommended to the mayor of Daanbantayan, petitioner Lamberto Te (Te), that a permit be issued to Tan. On 20 January 1996, Te issued a mayors permit allowing Tan "to establish/operate/conduct" the business of a cockpit in Combado, Bagay, Daanbantayan, Cebu for the period from 20 January 1996 to 31 December 1996.8 This act of the mayor served as cause for Perea to file a Complaint for damages with a prayer for injunction against Tan, Te, and Roberto Uy, the latter allegedly an agent of Tan.9 Perea alleged that there was no lawful basis for the establishment of a second cockpit. She claimed that Tan conducted his cockpit fights not in Combado, but in Malingin, at a site less than five kilometers away from her own cockpit. She insisted that the unlawful operation of Tans cockpit has caused injury to her own legitimate business, and demanded damages of at least Ten Thousand Pesos (P10,000.00) per month as actual damages, One Hundred Fifty Thousand Pesos (P150,000.00) as moral damages, and Fifty Thousand Pesos (P50,000.00) as exemplary damages. Perea also prayed that the permit issued by Te in favor of Tan be declared as null and void, and that a permanent writ of injunction be issued against Te and Tan preventing Tan from conducting cockfights within the municipality and Te from issuing any authority for Tan to pursue such activity.10 The case was heard by the Regional Trial Court (RTC),11 Branch 61 of Bogo, Cebu, which initially granted a writ of preliminary injunction.12 During trial, herein petitioners asserted that under the Local Government Code of 1991, the sangguniang bayan of each municipality now had the power and authority to grant franchises and enact ordinances authorizing the establishment, licensing, operation and maintenance of cockpits.13 By virtue of such authority, the Sangguniang Bayan of Daanbantayan promulgated Ordinance Nos. 6 and 7. On the other hand, Perea claimed that the amendment authorizing the operation of not more than three (3) cockpits in Daanbantayan violated Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law of 1974, which allowed for only one cockpit in a municipality with a population as Daanbantayan.14 In a Decision dated 10 March 1997, the RTC dismissed the complaint. The court observed that Section 5 of Ordinance No. 6, prior to its amendment, was by specific provision, an implementation of the Cockfighting Law.15Yet according to the RTC, questions could be raised as to the efficacy of the subsequent amendment under Ordinance No. 7, since under the old Section 5, an amendment allowing additional cockpits could be had only "if the municipal population so warrants."16 While the RTC seemed to doubt whether this condition had actually been fulfilled, it nonetheless declared that since the case was only for damages, "the [RTC] cannot grant more relief than that prayed for."17 It ruled that there was no evidence, testimonial or documentary, to show that plaintiff had actually suffered damages. Neither was there evidence that Te, by issuing the permit to Tan, had acted in bad faith, since such issuance was pursuant to municipal ordinances that nonetheless remained in force.18 Finally, the RTC noted that the assailed permit had expired on 31 December 1996, and there was no showing that it had been renewed.19 Perea filed a Motion for Reconsideration which was denied in an Order dated 24 February 1998. In this Order, the RTC

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categorically stated that Ordinance Nos. 6 and 7 were "valid and legal for all intents and purpose[s]."20The RTC also noted that the Sangguniang Bayan had also promulgated Resolution No. 78-96, conferring on Tan a franchise to operate a cockpit for a period of ten (10) years from February 1996 to 2006.21 This Resolution was likewise affirmed as valid by the RTC. The RTC noted that while the ordinances seemed to be in conflict with the Cockfighting Law, any doubt in interpretation should be resolved in favor of the grant of more power to the local government unit, following the principles of devolution under the Local Government Code.22 The Decision and Order of the RTC were assailed by Perea on an appeal with the Court of Appeals which on 21 May 2001, rendered the Decision now assailed.23 The perspective from which the Court of Appeals viewed the issue was markedly different from that adopted by the RTC. Its analysis of the Local Government Code, particularly Section 447(a)(3)(V), was that the provision vesting unto the sangguniang bayan the power to authorize and license the establishment of cockpits did not do away with the Cockfighting Law, as these two laws are not necessarily inconsistent with each other. What the provision of the Local Government Code did, according to the Court of Appeals, was to transfer to the sangguniang bayan powers that were previously conferred on the Municipal Gamefowl Commission.24 Given these premises, the appellate court declared as follows: Ordinance No. 7 should [be] held invalid for allowing, in unconditional terms, the operation of "not more than three cockpits in Daan Bantayan" (sic), clearly dispensing with the standard set forth in PD 449. However, this issue appears to have been mooted by the expiration of the Mayors Permit granted to the defendant which has not been renewed.25 As to the question of damages, the Court of Appeals agreed with the findings of the RTC that Perea was not entitled to damages. Thus, it affirmed the previous ruling denying the claim for damages. However, the Court of Appeals modified the RTCs Decision in that it now ordered that Tan be enjoined from operating a cockpit and conducting any cockfights within Daanbantayan.26 Thus, the present Petition for Review on Certiorari. Petitioners present two legal questions for determination: whether the Local Government Code has rendered inoperative the Cockfighting Law; and whether the validity of a municipal ordinance may be determined in an action for damages which does not even contain a prayer to declare the ordinance invalid.27 As the denial of the prayer for damages by the lower court is not put in issue before this Court, it shall not be passed upon on review. The first question raised is particularly interesting, and any definitive resolution on that point would have obvious ramifications not only to Daanbantayan, but all other municipalities and cities. However, we must first determine the proper scope of judicial inquiry that we could engage in, given the nature of the initiatory complaint and the rulings rendered thereupon, the exact point raised in the second question. Petitioners claim that the Court of Appeals, in declaring Ordinance No. 7 as invalid, embarked on an unwarranted collateral attack on the validity of a municipal ordinance.28 Pereas complaint, which was for damages with preliminary injunction, did not pray for the nullity of Ordinance No. 7. The Municipality of Daanbantayan as a local government unit was not made a party to the case, nor did any legal counsel on its behalf enter any appearance. Neither was the Office of the Solicitor General given any notice of the case.29 These concerns are not trivial.30 Yet, we must point out that the Court of Appeals did not expressly nullify Ordinance No. 7, or any ordinance for that matter. What the appellate court did was to say that Ordinance No. 7"should therefore be held invalid" for being in violation of the Cockfighting Law.31 In the next breath though, the Court of Appeals backtracked, saying that "this issue appears to have been mooted by the expiration of the Mayors Permit granted" to Tan.32 But our curiosity is aroused by the dispositive portion of the assailed Decision, wherein the Court of Appeals enjoined Tan "from operating a cockpit and conducting any cockfights within" Daanbantayan.33 Absent the invalidity of Ordinance No. 7, there would be no basis for this injunction. After all, any future operation of a cockpit

by Tan in Daanbantayan, assuming all other requisites are complied with, would be validly authorized should Ordinance No. 7 subsist. So it seems, for all intents and purposes, that the Court of Appeals did deem Ordinance No. 7 a nullity. Through such resort, did the appellate court in effect allow a collateral attack on the validity of an ordinance through an action for damages, as the petitioners argue? The initiatory Complaint filed by Perea deserves close scrutiny. Immediately, it can be seen that it is not only an action for damages, but also one for injunction. An action for injunction will require judicial determination whether there exists a right in esse which is to be protected, and if there is an act constituting a violation of such right against which injunction is sought. At the same time, the mere fact of injury alone does not give rise to a right to recover damages. To warrant the recovery of damages, there must be both a right of action for a legal wrong inflicted by the defendant, and damage resulting to the plaintiff therefrom. In other words, in order that the law will give redress for an act causing damage, there must be damnum et injuriathat act must be not only hurtful, but wrongful.34 Indubitably, the determination of whether injunction or damages avail in this case requires the ascertainment of whether a second cockpit may be legally allowed in Daanbantayan. If this is permissible, Perea would not be entitled either to injunctive relief or damages. Moreover, an examination of the specific allegations in the Complaint reveals that Perea therein puts into question the legal basis for allowing Tan to operate another cockpit in Daanbantayan. She asserted that "there is no lawful basis for the establishment of a second cockpit considering the small population of [Daanbantayan],"35 a claim which alludes to Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law which prohibits the establishment of a second cockpit in municipalities of less than ten thousand (10,000) in population. Perea likewise assails the validity of the permit issued to Tan and prays for its annulment, and also seeks that Te be enjoined from issuing any special permit not only to Tan, but also to "any other person outside of a duly licensed cockpit in Daanbantayan, Cebu."36 It would have been preferable had Perea expressly sought the annulment of Ordinance No. 7. Yet it is apparent from her Complaint that she sufficiently alleges that there is no legal basis for the establishment of a second cockpit. More importantly, the petitioners themselves raised the valid effect of Ordinance No. 7 at the heart of their defense against the complaint, as adverted to in their Answer.37 The averment in the Answer that Ordinance No. 7 is valid can be considered as an affirmative defense, as it is the allegation of a new matter which, while hypothetically admitting the material allegations in the complaint, would nevertheless bar recovery.38 Clearly then, the validity of Ordinance No. 7 became a justiciable matter for the RTC, and indeed Perea squarely raised the argument during trial that said ordinance violated the Cockfighting Law.391awphi1.nt Moreover, the assailed rulings of the RTC, its Decision and subsequent Order denying Pereas Motion for Reconsideration, both discuss the validity of Ordinance No. 7. In the Decision, the RTC evaded making a categorical ruling on the ordinances validity because the case was "only for damages, [thus the RTC could] not grant more relief than that prayed for." This reasoning is unjustified, considering that Perea also prayed for an injunction, as well as for the annulment of Tans permit. The resolution of these two questions could very well hinge on the validity of Ordinance No. 7. Still, in the Order denying Pereas Motion for Reconsideration, the RTC felt less inhibited and promptly declared as valid not only Ordinance No. 7, but also Resolution No. 78-96 of the Sangguniang Bayan dated 23 February 1996, which conferred on Tan a franchise to operate a cockpit from 1996 to 2006.40 In the Order, the RTC ruled that while Ordinance No. 7 was in apparent conflict with the Cockfighting Law, the ordinance was justified under Section 447(a)(3)(v) of the Local Government Code. This express affirmation of the validity of Ordinance No. 7 by the RTC was the first assigned error in Pereas appeal to the Court of Appeals.41 In their Appellees Brief before the appellate court, the petitioners likewise argued that Ordinance No. 7 was valid and that the Cockfighting Law was repealed by the Local Government Code.42 On the basis of these arguments, the Court of Appeals rendered its assailed Decision, including its ruling that the Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law remains in

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effect notwithstanding the enactment of the Local Government Code. Indubitably, the question on the validity of Ordinance No. 7 in view of the continuing efficacy of Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law is one that has been fully litigated in the courts below. We are comfortable with reviewing that question in the case at bar and make dispositions proceeding from that key legal question. This is militated by the realization that in order to resolve the question whether injunction should be imposed against the petitioners, there must be first a determination whether Tan may be allowed to operate a second cockpit in Daanbantayan. Thus, the conflict between Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law and Ordinance No. 7 now ripens for adjudication. In arguing that Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law has been repealed, petitioners cite the following provisions of Section 447(a)(3)(v) of the Local Government Code: Section 447. Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The sangguniang bayan, as the legislative body of the municipality, shall enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the municipality and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code and in the proper exercise of the corporate powers of the municipality as provided for under Section 22 of this Code, and shall: .... (3) Subject to the provisions of Book II of this Code, grant franchises, enact ordinances authorizing the issuance of permits or licenses, or enact ordinances levying taxes, fees and charges upon such conditions and for such purposes intended to promote the general welfare of the inhabitants of the municipality, and pursuant to this legislative authority shall: .... (v) Any law to the contrary notwithstanding, authorize and license the establishment, operation, and maintenance of cockpits, and regulate cockfighting and commercial breeding of gamecocks; Provided, that existing rights should not be prejudiced; For the petitioners, Section 447(a)(3)(v) sufficiently repeals Section 5(b) of the Cockfighting Law, vesting as it does on LGUs the power and authority to issue franchises and regulate the operation and establishment of cockpits in their respective municipalities, any law to the contrary notwithstanding. However, while the Local Government Code expressly repealed several laws, the Cockfighting Law was not among them. Section 534(f) of the Local Government Code declares that all general and special laws or decrees inconsistent with the Code are hereby repealed or modified accordingly, but such clause is not an express repealing clause because it fails to identify or designate the acts that are intended to be repealed.43 It is a cardinal rule in statutory construction that implied repeals are disfavored and will not be so declared unless the intent of the legislators is manifest.44 As laws are presumed to be passed with deliberation and with knowledge of all existing ones on the subject, it is logical to conclude that in passing a statute it is not intended to interfere with or abrogate a former law relating to the same subject matter, unless the repugnancy between the two is not only irreconcilable but also clear and convincing as a result of the language used, or unless the latter Act fully embraces the subject matter of the earlier.45 Is the one-cockpit-per-municipality rule under the Cockfighting Law clearly and convincingly irreconcilable with Section 447(a)(3)(v) of the Local Government Code? The clear import of Section 447(a)(3)(v) is that it is the sangguniang bayan which is empowered to authorize and license the establishment, operation and maintenance of cockpits, and regulate cockfighting and commercial breeding of gamecocks, notwithstanding any law to the contrary. The necessity of the qualifying phrase "any law to the contrary notwithstanding" can be discerned by examining the history of laws pertaining to the authorization of cockpit operation in this country. Cockfighting, or sabong in the local parlance, has a long and storied tradition in our culture and was prevalent even during the Spanish occupation. When the newlyarrived Americans proceeded to organize a governmental structure in the Philippines, they recognized cockfighting as an activity that needed to be regulated, and it was deemed that it was the local municipal council that was

best suited to oversee such regulation. Hence, under Section 40 of Act No. 82, the general act for the organization of municipal governments promulgated in 1901, the municipal council was empowered "to license, tax or close cockpits". This power of the municipal council to authorize or license cockpits was repeatedly recognized even after the establishment of the present Republic in 1946.46 Such authority granted unto the municipal councils to license the operation of cockpits was generally unqualified by restrictions.47 The Revised Administrative Code did impose restrictions on what days cockfights could be held.48 However, in the 1970s, the desire for stricter licensing requirements of cockpits started to see legislative fruit. The Cockfighting Law of 1974 enacted several of these restrictions. Apart from the one-cockpit-per-municipality rule, other restrictions were imposed, such as the limitation of ownership of cockpits to Filipino citizens.49 More importantly, under Section 6 of the Cockfighting Law, it was the city or municipal mayor who was authorized to issue licenses for the operation and maintenance of cockpits, subject to the approval of the Chief of Constabulary or his authorized representatives.50 Thus, the sole discretion to authorize the operation of cockpits was removed from the local government unit since the approval of the Chief of Constabulary was now required. P.D. No. 1802 reestablished the Philippine Gamefowl Commission51 and imposed further structure in the regulation of cockfighting. Under Section 4 thereof, city and municipal mayors with the concurrence of their respective sangguniang panglunsod or sangguniang bayan, were given the authority to license and regulate cockfighting, under the supervision of the City Mayor or the Provincial Governor. However, Section 4 of P.D. No. 1802 was subsequently amended, removing the supervision exercised by the mayor or governor and substituting in their stead the Philippine Gamefowl Commission. The amended provision ordained: Sec. 4. City and Municipal Mayors with the concurrence of their respective "Sanggunians" shall have the authority to license and regulate regular cockfighting pursuant to the rules and regulations promulgated by the Commission and subject to its review and supervision. The Court, on a few occasions prior to the enactment of the Local Government Code in 1991, had opportunity to expound on Section 4 as amended. A discussion of these cases will provide a better understanding of the qualifier "any law to the contrary notwithstanding" provided in Section 447(a)(3)(v). In Philippine Gamefowl Commission v. Intermediate Appellate Court,52 the Court, through Justice Cruz, asserted that the conferment of the power to license and regulate municipal cockpits in municipal authorities is in line with the policy of local autonomy embodied in the Constitution.53 The Court affirmed the annulment of a resolution of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission which ordered the revocation of a permit issued by a municipal mayor for the operation of a cockpit and the issuance of a new permit to a different applicant. According to the Court, the Philippine Gamefowl Commission did not possess the power to issue cockpit licenses, as this was vested by Section 4 of P.D. No. 1802, as amended, to the municipal mayor with the concurrence of the sanggunian. It emphasized that the Philippine Gamefowl Commission only had review and supervision powers, as distinguished from control, over ordinary cockpits.54 The Court also noted that the regulation of cockpits was vested in municipal officials, subject only to the guidelines laid down by the Philippine Gamefowl Commission.55 The Court conceded that "[if] at all, the power to review includes the power to disapprove; but it does not carry the authority to substitute ones own preferences for that chosen by the subordinate in the exercise of its sound discretion." The twin pronouncements that it is the municipal authorities who are empowered to issue cockpit licenses and that the powers of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission were limited to review and supervision were affirmed in Deang v. Intermediate Appellate Court,56 Municipality of Malolos v. Libangang Malolos Inc.57 and Adlawan v. Intermediate Appellate Court.58 But notably in Cootauco v. Court of Appeals,59 the Court especially noted thatPhilippine Gamefowl Commission did indicate that the Commissions "power of review includes the power to disapprove."60 Interestingly, Justice Cruz, the writer of Philippine Gamefowl Commission, qualified his concurrence in Cootauco "subject to the reservations made in [Philippine Gamefowl Commission] regarding the review powers of the PGC over cockpit licenses issued by city and municipal mayors."611awphi1.nt These cases reiterate what has been the traditional prerogative of municipal officials to control the issuances of

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licenses for the operation of cockpits. Nevertheless, the newly-introduced role of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission vis--vis the operation of cockpits had caused some degree of controversy, as shown by the cases above cited. Then, the Local Government Code of 1991 was enacted. There is no more forceful authority on this landmark legislation than Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., its principal author. In his annotations to the Local Government Code, he makes the following remarks relating to Section 447(a) (3)(v): 12. Licensing power. In connection with the power to grant licenses lodged with it, the Sangguniang Bayan may now regulate not only businesses but also occupations, professions or callings that do not require government examinations within its jurisdiction.l^vvphi1.net It may also authorize and license the establishment, operation and maintenance of cockpits, regulate cockfighting, and the commercial breeding of gamecocks. Existing rights however, may not be prejudiced. The power to license cockpits and permits for cockfighting has been removed completely from the Gamefowl Commission. Thus, that part of the ruling of the Supreme Court in the case of Municipality of Malolos v. Libangang Malolos, Inc. et al., which held that "the regulation of cockpits is vested in the municipal councils guidelines laid down by the Philippine Gamefowl Commission" is no longer controlling. Under [Section 447(a)(3)(v)], the power of the Sanggunian concerned is no longer subject to the supervision of the Gamefowl Commission.62 The above observations may be faulted somewhat in the sense that they fail to acknowledge the Courts consistent position that the licensing power over cockpits belongs exclusively to the municipal authorities and not the Philippine Gamefowl Commission. Yet these views of Senator Pimentel evince the apparent confusion regarding the role of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission as indicated in the cases previously cited, and accordingly bring the phrase Section 447(a)(3)(v) used in "any law to the contrary notwithstanding" into its proper light. The qualifier serves notice, in case it was still doubtful, that it is the sanggunian bayan concerned alone which has the power to authorize and license the establishment, operation and maintenance of cockpits, and regulate cockfighting and commercial breeding of gamecocks within its territorial jurisdiction. Given the historical perspective, it becomes evident why the legislature found the need to use the phrase "any law to the contrary notwithstanding" in Section 447(a)(3)(v). However, does the phrase similarly allow the Sangguniang Bayan to authorize more cockpits than allowed under Section 5(d) of the Cockfighting Law? Certainly, applying the test of implied repeal, these two provisions can stand together. While the sanggunian retains the power to authorize and license the establishment, operation, and maintenance of cockpits, its discretion is limited in that it cannot authorize more than one cockpit per city or municipality, unless such cities or municipalities have a population of over one hundred thousand, in which case two cockpits may be established. Considering that Section 447(a)(3)(v) speaks essentially of the identity of the wielder of the power of control and supervision over cockpit operation, it is not inconsistent with previous enactments that impose restrictions on how such power may be exercised. In short, there is no dichotomy between affirming the power and subjecting it to limitations at the same time. Perhaps more essential than the fact that the two controverted provisions are not inconsistent when put together, the Court recognizes that Section 5(d) of the Cockfighting Law arises from a valid exercise of police power by the national government. Of course, local governments are similarly empowered under Section 16 of the Local Government Code.l^vvphi1.net The national government ought to be attuned to the sensitivities of devolution and strive to be sparing in usurping the prerogatives of local governments to regulate the general welfare of their constituents. We do not doubt, however, the ability of the national government to implement police power measures that affect the subjects of municipal government, especially if the subject of regulation is a condition of universal character irrespective of territorial jurisdictions.

Cockfighting is one such condition. It is a traditionally regulated activity, due to the attendant gambling involved63 or maybe even the fact that it essentially consists of two birds killing each other for public amusement. Laws have been enacted restricting the days when cockfights could be held,64 and legislation has even been emphatic that cockfights could not be held on holidays celebrating national honor such as Independence Day65 and Rizal Day.66 The Whereas clauses of the Cockfighting Law emphasize that cockfighting "should neither be exploited as an object of commercialism or business enterprise, nor made a tool of uncontrolled gambling, but more as a vehicle for the preservation and perpetuation of native Filipino heritage and thereby enhance our national identity."67 The obvious thrust of our laws designating when cockfights could be held is to limit cockfighting and imposing the one-cockpit-per-municipality rule is in line with that aim. Cockfighting is a valid matter of police power regulation, as it is a form of gambling essentially antagonistic to the aims of enhancing national productivity and self-reliance.68Limitation on the number of cockpits in a given municipality is a reasonably necessary means for the accomplishment of the purpose of controlling cockfighting, for clearly more cockpits equals more cockfights. If we construe Section 447(a)(3)(v) as vesting an unlimited discretion to the sanggunian to control all aspects of cockpits and cockfighting in their respective jurisdiction, this could lead to the prospect of daily cockfights in municipalities, a certain distraction in the daily routine of life in a municipality. This certainly goes against the grain of the legislation earlier discussed. If the arguments of the petitioners were adopted, the national government would be effectively barred from imposing any future regulatory enactments pertaining to cockpits and cockfighting unless it were to repeal Section 447(a)(3)(v). A municipal ordinance must not contravene the Constitution or any statute, otherwise it is void.69 Ordinance No. 7 unmistakably contravenes the Cockfighting Law in allowing three cockpits in Daanbantayan. Thus, no rights can be asserted by the petitioners arising from the Ordinance. We find the grant of injunction as ordered by the appellate court to be well-taken. WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED. Costs against petitioners. SO ORDERED.

G.R. No. 112497 August 4, 1994 HON. FRANKLIN M. DRILON, in his capacity as SECRETARY OF JUSTICE, petitioner, vs. MAYOR ALFREDO S. LIM, VICE-MAYOR JOSE L. ATIENZA, CITY TREASURER ANTHONY ACEVEDO, SANGGUNIANG PANGLUNSOD AND THE CITY OF MANILA, respondents. The City Legal Officer for petitioner. Angara, Abello, Concepcion, Regala & Cruz for Caltex (Phils.). Joseph Lopez for Sangguniang Panglunsod of Manila. L.A. Maglaya for Petron Corporation. CRUZ, J.: The principal issue in this case is the constitutionality of Section 187 of the Local Government Code reading as follows: Procedure For Approval And Effectivity Of Tax Ordinances And Revenue Measures; Mandatory Public Hearings. The procedure for approval of local tax ordinances and revenue measures shall be in accordance with the provisions of this Code: Provided, That public hearings shall be conducted for the purpose prior to the enactment thereof; Provided, further, That any question on the constitutionality or legality of tax ordinances or revenue measures may be raised on appeal within thirty (30) days from the effectivity thereof to the Secretary of Justice who shall render a decision within sixty (60) days from the date of receipt of the appeal: Provided, however, That such appeal shall not have the effect of suspending the effectivity of the ordinance and the accrual and payment of the tax, fee, or charge levied therein: Provided, finally, That within thirty (30) days after receipt of the decision or the lapse of the sixty-day period without the Secretary of Justice acting upon the appeal, the aggrieved party may file appropriate proceedings with a court of competent jurisdiction. Pursuant thereto, the Secretary of Justice had, on appeal to him of four oil companies and a taxpayer, declared Ordinance No. 7794, otherwise known as the Manila Revenue Code, null and void for non-compliance with the prescribed procedure in

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the enactment of tax ordinances and for containing certain provisions contrary to law and public policy. 1 In a petition for certiorari filed by the City of Manila, the Regional Trial Court of Manila revoked the Secretary's resolution and sustained the ordinance, holding inter alia that the procedural requirements had been observed. More importantly, it declared Section 187 of the Local Government Code as unconstitutional because of its vesture in the Secretary of Justice of the power of control over local governments in violation of the policy of local autonomy mandated in the Constitution and of the specific provision therein conferring on the President of the Philippines only the power of supervision over local governments. 2 The present petition would have us reverse that decision. The Secretary argues that the annulled Section 187 is constitutional and that the procedural requirements for the enactment of tax ordinances as specified in the Local Government Code had indeed not been observed. Parenthetically, this petition was originally dismissed by the Court for non-compliance with Circular 1-88, the Solicitor General having failed to submit a certified true copy of the challenged decision. 3 However, on motion for reconsideration with the required certified true copy of the decision attached, the petition was reinstated in view of the importance of the issues raised therein. We stress at the outset that the lower court had jurisdiction to consider the constitutionality of Section 187, this authority being embraced in the general definition of the judicial power to determine what are the valid and binding laws by the criterion of their conformity to the fundamental law. Specifically, BP 129 vests in the regional trial courts jurisdiction over all civil cases in which the subject of the litigation is incapable of pecuniary estimation, 4even as the accused in a criminal action has the right to question in his defense the constitutionality of a law he is charged with violating and of the proceedings taken against him, particularly as they contravene the Bill of Rights. Moreover, Article X, Section 5(2), of the Constitution vests in the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over final judgments and orders of lower courts in 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. In the exercise of this jurisdiction, lower courts are advised to act with the utmost circumspection, bearing in mind the consequences of a declaration of unconstitutionality upon the stability of laws, no less than on the doctrine of separation of powers. As the questioned act is usually the handiwork of the legislative or the executive departments, or both, it will be prudent for such courts, if only out of a becoming modesty, to defer to the higher judgment of this Court in the consideration of its validity, which is better determined after a thorough deliberation by a collegiate body and with the concurrence of the majority of those who participated in its discussion. 5 It is also emphasized that every court, including this Court, is charged with the duty of a purposeful hesitation before declaring a law unconstitutional, on the theory that the measure was first carefully studied by the executive and the legislative departments and determined by them to be in accordance with the fundamental law before it was finally approved. To doubt is to sustain. The presumption of constitutionality can be overcome only by the clearest showing that there was indeed an infraction of the Constitution, and only when such a conclusion is reached by the required majority may the Court pronounce, in the discharge of the duty it cannot escape, that the challenged act must be struck down. In the case before us, Judge Rodolfo C. Palattao declared Section 187 of the Local Government Code unconstitutional insofar as it empowered the Secretary of Justice to review tax ordinances and, inferentially, to annul them. He cited the familiar distinction between control and supervision, the first being "the power of an officer to alter or modify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for the latter," while the second is "the power of a superior officer to see to it that lower officers perform their functions in accordance with law." 6 His conclusion was that the challenged section gave to the Secretary the power of control and not of supervision only as vested by the

Constitution in the President of the Philippines. This was, in his view, a violation not only of Article X, specifically Section 4 thereof, 7and of Section 5 on the taxing powers of local governments, 8 and the policy of local autonomy in general. We do not share that view. The lower court was rather hasty in invalidating the provision. Section 187 authorizes the Secretary of Justice to review only the constitutionality or legality of the tax ordinance and, if warranted, to revoke it on either or both of these grounds. When he alters or modifies or sets aside a tax ordinance, he is not also permitted to substitute his own judgment for the judgment of the local government that enacted the measure. Secretary Drilon did set aside the Manila Revenue Code, but he did not replace it with his own version of what the Code should be. He did not pronounce the ordinance unwise or unreasonable as a basis for its annulment. He did not say that in his judgment it was a bad law. What he found only was that it was illegal. All he did in reviewing the said measure was determine if the petitioners were performing their functions in accordance with law, that is, with the prescribed procedure for the enactment of tax ordinances and the grant of powers to the city government under the Local Government Code. As we see it, that was an act not of control but of mere supervision. An officer in control lays down the rules in the doing of an act. If they are not followed, he may, in his discretion, order the act undone or re-done by his subordinate or he may even decide to do it himself. Supervision does not cover such authority. The supervisor or superintendent merely sees to it that the rules are followed, but he himself does not lay down such rules, nor does he have the discretion to modify or replace them. If the rules are not observed, he may order the work done or re-done but only to conform to the prescribed rules. He may not prescribe his own manner for the doing of the act. He has no judgment on this matter except to see to it that the rules are followed. In the opinion of the Court, Secretary Drilon did precisely this, and no more nor less than this, and so performed an act not of control but of mere supervision. The case of Taule v. Santos 9 cited in the decision has no application here because the jurisdiction claimed by the Secretary of Local Governments over election contests in the Katipunan ng Mga Barangay was held to belong to the Commission on Elections by constitutional provision. The conflict was over jurisdiction, not supervision or control. Significantly, a rule similar to Section 187 appeared in the Local Autonomy Act, which provided in its Section 2 as follows: A tax ordinance shall go into effect on the fifteenth day after its passage, unless the ordinance shall provide otherwise: Provided, however, That the Secretary of Finance shall have authority to suspend the effectivity of any ordinance within one hundred and twenty days after receipt by him of a copy thereof, if, in his opinion, the tax or fee therein levied or imposed is unjust, excessive, oppressive, or confiscatory, or when it is contrary to declared national economy policy, and when the said Secretary exercises this authority the effectivity of such ordinance shall be suspended, either in part or as a whole, for a period of thirty days within which period the local legislative body may either modify the tax ordinance to meet the objections thereto, or file an appeal with a court of competent jurisdiction; otherwise, the tax ordinance or the part or parts thereof declared suspended, shall be considered as revoked. Thereafter, the local legislative body may not reimpose the same tax or fee until such time as the grounds for the suspension thereof shall have ceased to exist. That section allowed the Secretary of Finance to suspend the effectivity of a tax ordinance if, in his opinion, the tax or fee levied was unjust, excessive, oppressive or confiscatory. Determination of these flaws would involve the exercise of judgment or discretion and not merely an examination of whether or not the requirements or limitations of the law had been observed; hence, it would smack of control rather than mere supervision. That power was never questioned before this Court but, at any rate, the Secretary of Justice is not given the same latitude under Section 187. All he is permitted to do is ascertain the constitutionality or legality of the tax measure, without the right to declare that, in his opinion, it is unjust, excessive, oppressive or confiscatory. He has no discretion on this matter. In fact, Secretary Drilon set aside the Manila Revenue Code only on two grounds, to with, the inclusion therein of certain ultra vires provisions and non-compliance with the prescribed procedure in its enactment. These grounds affected the legality, not the wisdom or reasonableness, of the tax measure. The issue of non-compliance with the prescribed procedure in the enactment of the Manila Revenue Code is another matter.

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In his resolution, Secretary Drilon declared that there were no written notices of public hearings on the proposed Manila Revenue Code that were sent to interested parties as required by Art. 276(b) of the Implementing Rules of the Local Government Code nor were copies of the proposed ordinance published in three successive issues of a newspaper of general circulation pursuant to Art. 276(a). No minutes were submitted to show that the obligatory public hearings had been held. Neither were copies of the measure as approved posted in prominent places in the city in accordance with Sec. 511(a) of the Local Government Code. Finally, the Manila Revenue Code was not translated into Pilipino or Tagalog and disseminated among the people for their information and guidance, conformably to Sec. 59(b) of the Code. Judge Palattao found otherwise. He declared that all the procedural requirements had been observed in the enactment of the Manila Revenue Code and that the City of Manila had not been able to prove such compliance before the Secretary only because he had given it only five days within which to gather and present to him all the evidence (consisting of 25 exhibits) later submitted to the trial court. To get to the bottom of this question, the Court acceded to the motion of the respondents and called for the elevation to it of the said exhibits. We have carefully examined every one of these exhibits and agree with the trial court that the procedural requirements have indeed been observed. Notices of the public hearings were sent to interested parties as evidenced by Exhibits G-1 to 17. The minutes of the hearings are found in Exhibits M, M-1, M-2, and M-3. Exhibits B and C show that the proposed ordinances were published in the Balita and the Manila Standard on April 21 and 25, 1993, respectively, and the approved ordinance was published in the July 3, 4, 5, 1993 issues of the Manila Standard and in the July 6, 1993 issue of Balita, as shown by Exhibits Q, Q-1, Q-2, and Q-3. The only exceptions are the posting of the ordinance as approved but this omission does not affect its validity, considering that its publication in three successive issues of a newspaper of general circulation will satisfy due process. It has also not been shown that the text of the ordinance has been translated and disseminated, but this requirement applies to the approval of local development plans and public investment programs of the local government unit and not to tax ordinances. We make no ruling on the substantive provisions of the Manila Revenue Code as their validity has not been raised in issue in the present petition. WHEREFORE, the judgment is hereby rendered REVERSING the challenged decision of the Regional Trial Court insofar as it declared Section 187 of the Local Government Code unconstitutional but AFFIRMING its finding that the procedural requirements in the enactment of the Manila Revenue Code have been observed. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 133064. September 16, 1999] JOSE C. MIRANDA, ALFREDO S. DIRIGE, MANUEL H. AFIADO, MARIANO V. BABARAN and ANDRES R. CABUYADAO, petitioners, vs. HON. ALEXANDER AGUIRRE, In his capacity as Executive Secretary; HON. EPIMACO VELASCO, in his capacity as Secretary of Local Government, HON. SALVADOR ENRIQUEZ, in his capacity as Secretary of Budget, THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS HON. BENJAMIN G. DY, in his capacity as Governor of Isabela, THE HONORABLE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN OF ISABELA, ATTY. BALTAZAR PICIO, in his capacity as Provincial Administrator, and MR. ANTONIO CHUA, in his capacity as Provincial Treasurer, respondents, GIORGIDI B. AGGABAO, intervenor. DECISION PUNO, J.: This is a petition for a writ of prohibition with prayer for preliminary injunction assailing the constitutionality of Republic Act No. 8528 converting the city of Santiago, Isabela from an independent component city to a component city. On May 5, 1994, Republic Act No. 7720 which converted the municipality of Santiago, Isabela into an independent component city was signed into law. On July 4, 1994, the people of Santiago ratified R.A. No. 7720 in a plebiscite.1

On February 14, 1998, Republic Act No. 8528 was enacted. It amended R.A. No. 7720. Among others, it changed the status of Santiago from an independent component city to a component city, viz: AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN SECTIONS OF REPUBLIC ACT NUMBERED 7720 AN ACT CONVERTING THE MUNICIPALITY OF SANTIAGO INTO AN INDEPENDENT COMPONENT CITY TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF SANTIAGO. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled: SECTION 1. Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7720 is hereby amended by deleting the words an independent thereon so that said Section will read as follows: SEC. 2. The City of Santiago. The Municipality of Santiago shall be converted into a component city to be known as the City of Santiago, hereinafter referred to as the City, which shall comprise of the present territory of the Municipality of Santiago, Isabela. The territorial jurisdiction of the City shall be within the present metes and bounds of the Municipality of Santiago. Sec. 2. Section 51 of Republic Act No. 7720 is hereby amended deleting the entire section and in its stead substitute the following: SEC. 51. Election of Provincial Governor, Vice-Governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members, and any Elective Provincial Position for the Province of Isabela.- The voters of the City of Santiago shall be qualified to vote in the elections of the Provincial Governor, Vice-Governor, Sangguniang Panlalawigan members and other elective provincial positions of the Province of Isabela, and any such qualified voter can be a candidate for such provincial positions and any elective provincial office. Sec. 3. Repealing Clause.- All existing laws or parts thereof inconsistent with the provisions of this Act are hereby repealed or modified accordingly. Sec. 4. Effectivity.- This Act shall take effect upon its approval. Approved. Petitioners assail the constitutionality of R.A. No. 8528.2 They alleged as ground the lack of provision in R.A. No. 8528 submitting the law for ratification by the people of Santiago City in a proper plebiscite. Petitioner Miranda was the mayor of Santiago at the time of the filing of the petition at bar. Petitioner Afiado is the President of the Liga ng mga Barangay ng Santiago City. Petitioners Dirige, Cabuyadao and Babaran are residents of Santiago City. In their Comment, respondent provincial officials of Isabela defended the constitutionality of R.A. No. 8528. They assailed the standing of petitioners to file the petition at bar. They also contend that the petition raises a political question over which this Court lacks jurisdiction. Another Comment was filed by the Solicitor General for the respondent public officials. The Solicitor General also contends that petitioners are not real parties in interest. More importantly, it is contended that R.A. No. 8528 merely reclassified Santiago City from an independent component city to a component city. It allegedly did not involve any creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units, hence, a plebiscite of the people of Santiago is unnecessary. A third Comment similar in tone was submitted by intervenor Giorgidi B. Aggabao,3 a member of the provincial board of Isabela.4 He contended that both the Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991 do not require a plebiscite to approve a law that merely allowed qualified voters of a city to vote in provincial elections. The rules implementing the Local Government Code cannot require a plebiscite. He also urged that petitioners lacked locus standi. Petitioners filed a Reply to meet the arguments of the respondents and the intervenor. They defended their standing. They also stressed the changes that would visit the city of Santiago as a result of its reclassification. We find merit in the petition. First. The challenge to the locus standi of petitioners cannot succeed. It is now an ancient rule that the constitutionality of law can be challenged by one who will sustain a direct injury as a result of its enforcement.5Petitioner Miranda was the mayor of Santiago City when he filed the present petition in his own right as mayor and not on behalf of the city, hence, he did not need the consent of the city council of Santiago City. It is also indubitable that the change of status of the city of Santiago from independent component city to a mere component city will affect his powers as mayor, as will be shown hereafter. The injury that he would sustain from the enforcement of R.A. No. 8528 is direct and immediate and not

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a mere generalized grievance shared with the people of Santiago City. Similarly, the standing of the other petitioners rests on a firm foundation. They are residents and voters in the city of Santiago. They have the right to be heard in the conversion of their city thru a plebiscite to be conducted by the COMELEC. The denial of this right in R.A. No. 8528 gives them proper standing to strike the law as unconstitutional. Second. The plea that this court back off from assuming jurisdiction over the petition at bar on the ground that it involves a political question has to be brushed aside. This plea has long lost its appeal especially in light of Section 1 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which defines judicial power as including 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. To be sure, the cut between a political and justiciable issue has been made by this Court in many cases and need no longer mystify us. In Taada v. Cuenco,6 we held: x x x The term political question connotes what it means in ordinary parlance, namely, a question of policy. It refers to those questions which under the Constitution are to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity; or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. It is concerned with issues dependent upon the wisdom, not legality, of a particular measure. In Casibang v. Aquino,7 we defined a justiciable issue as follows: A purely justiciable issue implies a given right, legally demandable and enforceable, an act or omission violative of such right, and a remedy granted and sanctioned by law, for said breach of right. Clearly, the petition at bar presents a justiciable issue. Petitioners claim that under Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution they have a right to approve or disapprove R.A. No. 8528 in a plebiscite before it can be enforced. It ought to be self-evident that whether or not petitioners have the said right is a legal not a political question. For whether or not laws passed by Congress comply with the requirements of the Constitution pose questions that this Court alone can decide. The proposition that this Court is the ultimate arbiter of the meaning and nuances of the Constitution need not be the subject of a prolix explanation. Third. The threshold issue is whether R.A. No. 8528 is unconstitutional for its failure to provide that the conversion of the city of Santiago from an independent component city to a component city should be submitted to its people in a proper plebiscite. We hold that the Constitution requires a plebiscite. Section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides: No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, or 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 units directly affected. This constitutional requirement is reiterated in Section 10, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code (R.A. No. 7160), thus: Sec. 10. 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 units directly affected. The power to create, divide, merge, abolish or substantially alter boundaries of local government units belongs to Congress.8 This power is part of the larger power to enact laws which the Constitution vested in Congress.9 The exercise of the power must be in accord with the mandate of the Constitution. In the case at bar, the issue is whether the downgrading of Santiago City from an independent component city to a mere component city requires the approval of the people of Santiago City in a plebiscite. The resolution of the issue depends on whether or not the downgrading falls within the meaning of creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of municipalities per

Section 10, Article X of the Constitution. A close analysis of the said constitutional provision will reveal that the creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units involve a common denominator - - - material change in the political and economic rights of the local government units directly affected as well as the people therein. It is precisely for this reason that the Constitution requires the approval of the people in the political units directly affected. It is not difficult to appreciate the rationale of this constitutional requirement. The 1987 Constitution, more than any of our previous Constitutions, gave more reality to the sovereignty of our people for it was borne out of the people power in the 1986 EDSA revolution. Its Section 10, Article X addressed the undesirable practice in the past whereby local government units were created, abolished, merged or divided on the basis of the vagaries of politics and not of the welfare of the people. Thus, the consent of the people of the local government unit directly affected was required to serve as a checking mechanism to any exercise of legislative power creating, dividing, abolishing, merging or altering the boundaries of local government units. It is one instance where the people in their sovereign capacity decide on a matter that affects them - - - direct democracy of the people as opposed to democracy thru peoples representatives. This plebiscite requirement is also in accord with the philosophy of the Constitution granting more autonomy to local government units. The changes that will result from the downgrading of the city of Santiago from an independent component city to a component city are many and cannot be characterized as insubstantial. For one, the independence of the city as a political unit will be diminished. The city mayor will be placed under the administrative supervision of the provincial governor. The resolutions and ordinances of the city council of Santiago will have to be reviewed by the Provincial Board of Isabela. Taxes that will be collected by the city will now have to be shared with the province. Petitioners pointed out these far reaching changes on the life of the people of the city of Santiago, viz:10 Although RESPONDENTS would like to make it appear that R.A. No. 8528 had merely re-classified Santiago City from an independent component city into a component city, the effect when challenged (sic) the Act were operational would be, actually, that of conversion. Consequently, there would be substantial changes in the political culture and administrative responsibilities of Santiago City, and the Province of Isabela. Santiago City from an independent component city will revert to the Province of Isabela, geographically, politically and administratively. Thus, the territorial land area of Santiago City will be added to the land area comprising the province of Isabela. This will be to the benefit or advantage of the Provincial Government of Isabela on account of the subsequent increase of its share from the internal revenue allotment (IRA) from the National Government (Section 285, R.A. No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991). The IRA is based on land area and population of local government units, provinces included. The nature or kinds, and magnitude of the taxes collected by the City Government, and which taxes shall accrue solely to the City Government, will be redefined (Section 151, R.A. No. 7160), and may be shared with the province such as taxes on sand, gravel and other quarry resources (Section 138, R.A. No. 7160), professional taxes (Section 139, R.A. No. 7160), or amusement taxes (Section 140, R.A. No. 7160). The Provincial Government will allocate operating funds for the City. Inarguably, there would be a (sic) diminished funds for the local operations of the City Government because of reduced shares of the IRA in accordance with the schedule set forth by Section 285 of the R.A. No. 7160. The City Governments share in the proceeds in the development and utilization of national wealth shall be diluted since certain portions shall accrue to the Provincial Government (Section 292, R.A. No.7160). The registered voters of Santiago City will vote for and can be voted as provincial officials (Section 451 and 452 [c], R.A. No. 7160). The City Mayor will now be under the administrative supervision of the Provincial Governor who is tasked by law to ensure that every component city and municipality within the territorial jurisdiction of the province acts within the scope of its prescribed powers and functions (Section 29 and 465 (b) (2) (i), R.A. No. 7160), and to review (Section 30, R.A. No. 7160) all executive orders submitted by the former (Section 455 (b) (1) (xii), R.A. No. 7160) and (R)eportorial requirements with respect to the local governance and state of affairs of the city

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(Section 455 (b) (1) (xx), R.A. No. 7160). Elective city officials will also be effectively under the control of the Provincial Governor (Section 63, R.A. No. 7160). Such will be the great change in the state of the political autonomy of what is now Santiago City where by virtue of R.A. No. 7720, it is the Office of the President which has supervisory authority over it as an independent component city (Section 25, R.A. No. 7160; Section 4 (ARTICLE X), 1987 Constitution). The resolutions and ordinances adopted and approved by the Sangguniang Panlungsod will be subject to the review of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (Sections 56, 468 (a) (1) (i), 468 (a) (2) (vii), and 469 (c) (4), R.A. No. 7160). Likewise, the decisions in administrative cases by the former could be appealed and acted upon by the latter (Section 67, R.A. No. 7160). It is markworthy that when R.A. No. 7720 upgraded the status of Santiago City from a municipality to an independent component city, it required the approval of its people thru a plebiscite called for the purpose. There is neither rhyme nor reason why this plebiscite should not be called to determine the will of the people of Santiago City when R.A. No. 8528 downgrades the status of their city. Indeed, there is more reason to consult the people when a law substantially diminishes their right. Rule II, Article 6, paragraph (f) (1) of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Local Government Code is in accord with the Constitution when it provides that: (f) Plebiscite - (1) no creation, conversion, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries of LGUS shall take effect unless approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose in the LGU or LGUs affected. The plebiscite shall be conducted by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) within one hundred twenty (120) days from the effectivity of the law or ordinance prescribing such action, unless said law or ordinance fixes another date. x x x. The rules cover all conversions, whether upward or downward in character, so long as they result in a material change in the local government unit directly affected, especially a change in the political and economic rights of its people. A word on the dissenting opinions of our esteemed brethren. Mr. Justice Buena justifies R.A. No. 8528 on the ground that Congress has the power to amend the charter of Santiago City. This power of amendment, however, is limited by Section 10, Article X of the Constitution. Quite clearly, when an amendment of a law involves the creation, merger, division, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units, a plebiscite in the political units directly affected is mandatory. He also contends that the amendment merely caused a transition in the status of Santiago as a city. Allegedly, it is a transition because no new city was created nor was a former city dissolved by R.A. No. 8528. As discussed above, the spirit of Section 10, Article X of the Constitution calls for the people of the local government unit directly affected to vote in a plebiscite whenever there is a material change in their rights and responsibilities. They may call the downgrading of Santiago to a component city as a mere transition but they cannot blink away from the fact that the transition will radically change its physical and political configuration as well as the rights and responsibilities of its people. On the other hand, our esteemed colleague, Mr. Justice Mendoza, posits the theory that "only if the classification involves changes in income, population, and land area of the local government unit is there a need for such changes to be approved by the people x x x." With due respect, such an interpretation runs against the letter and spirit of section 10, Article X of the 1987 Constitution which, to repeat, states: "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 units directly affected." It is clear that the Constitution imposes two conditions - - - first, the creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundary of a local government unit must meet the criteria fixed by the Local Government Code on income, population and land area and second, the law must be approved by the

people "by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected." In accord with the Constitution, sections 7, 8, and 9 of the Local Government Code fixed the said criteria and they involve requirements on income, population and land area. These requirements, however, are imposed to help assure the economic viability of the local government unit concerned. They were not imposed to determine the necessity for a plebiscite of the people. Indeed, the Local Government Code does not state that there will be no more plebiscite after its requirements on income, population and land area have been satisfied. On the contrary, section 10, Chapter 2 of the Code provides: "No creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries of local government units shall take effect unless approved by a majority of the votes casts in a plebiscite called for the purpose in the political unit or units directly affected. Said plebiscite shall be conducted by the COMELEC within one hundred twenty (120) days from the date of the effectivity of the law or ordinance effecting such action, unless said law or ordinance fixes another date."11 Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the principal author of the Local Government Code of 1991, opines that the plebiscite is absolute and mandatory.12 It cannot be overstressed that the said two requirements of the Constitution have different purposes. The criteria fixed by the Local Government Code on income, population and land area are designed to achieve aneconomic purpose. They are to be based on verified indicators, hence, section 7, Chapter 2 of the Local Government Code requires that these "indicators shall be attested by the Department of Finance, the National Statistics Office, and the Lands Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources." In contrast, the people's plebiscite is required to achieve a political purpose --- to use the people's voice as a check against the pernicious political practice of gerrymandering. There is no better check against this excess committed by the political representatives of the people themselves than the exercise of direct people power. As wellobserved by one commentator, as the creation, division, merger, abolition, or substantial alteration of boundaries are "xxx basic to local government, it is also imperative that these acts be done not only by Congress but also be approved by the inhabitants of the locality concerned. xxx By giving the inhabitants a hand in their approval, the provision will also eliminate the old practice of gerrymandering and minimize legislative action designed for the benefit of a few politicians. Hence, it promotes the autonomy of local government units."13 The records show that the downgrading of Santiago City was opposed by certain segments of its people. In the debates in Congress, it was noted that at the time R.A. No. 8528 was proposed, Santiago City has been converted to an independent component city barely two and a half (2 1/2) years ago and the conversion was approved by a majority of 14,000 votes. Some legislators expressed surprise for the sudden move to downgrade the status of Santiago City as there had been no significant change in its socio-economic-political status. The only reason given for the downgrading is to enable the people of the city to aspire for the leadership of the province. To say the least, the alleged reason is unconvincing for it is the essence of an independent component city that its people can no longer participate or be voted for in the election of officials of the province. The people of Santiago City were aware that they gave up that privilege when they voted to be independent from the province of Isabela. There was an attempt on the part of the Committee on Local Government to submit the downgrading of Santiago City to its people via a plebiscite. The amendment to this effect was about to be voted upon when a recess was called. After the recess, the chairman of the Committee anounced the withdrawal of the amendment "after a very enlightening conversation with the elders of the Body." We quote the debates, viz:14 "BILL ON SECOND READING H.B. No. 8729 - City of Santiago "Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I move that we consider House Bill No. 8729 as reported out under Committee Report No. 971. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] there being none, the motion is approved. "Consideration of House Bill No. 8729 is now in order. With the permission of the Body, the Secretary will read only the title of the bill without prejudice to inserting in the Record the whole text thereof. "The Acting Secretary [Atty. Raval]. House Bill No. 8729, entitled

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AN ACT AMENDING CERTAIN SECTIONS OF R.A. NO. 7720 ENTITLED "AN ACT CONVERTING THE MUNICIPALITY OF SANTIAGO INTO AN INDEPENDENT COMPONENT CITY TO BE KNOWN AS THE CITY OF SANTIAGO _______________________________________________________ The following is the full text of H.B. No. 8729 Insert _______________________________________________________ "Senator Tatad. Mr. President, for the sponsorship, I ask that the distinguished Chairman of the Committee on Local Government be recognized. "The President. Senator Sotto is recognized. SPONSORSHIP SPEECH OF SENATOR SOTTO "Mr. President. House Bill No. 8729, which was introduced in the House by Congressman Antonio M. Abaya as its principal author, is a simple measure which merely seeks to convert the City of Santiago into a component city of the Province of Isabela. "The City of Santiago is geographically located within, and is physically an integral part of the Province of Isabela. As an independent component city, however, it is completely detached and separate from the said province as a local political unit. To use the language of the Explanatory Note of the proposed bill, the City of Santiago is an island in the provincial milieu. "The residents of the city no longer participate in the elections, nor are they qualified to run for any elective positions in the Province of Isabela. "The Province of Isabela, on the other hand, is no longer vested with the power and authority of general supervision over the city and its officials, which power and authority are now exercised by the Office of the President, which is very far away from Santiago City. Being geographically located within the Province of Isabela, the City of Santiago is affected, one way or the other, by the happenings in the said province, and is benefited by its progress and development. Hence, the proposed bill to convert the City of Santiago into a component city of Isabela. "Mr. President, it is my pleasure, therefore, to present for consideration of this august Body Committee Report No. 971 of the Committee on Local Government , recommending approval, with our proposed committee amendment, of House Bill No. 8729. "Thank you, Mr. President. "The President. The Majority Leader is recognized. "Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I moved (sic) that we close the period of interpellations. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the period of interpellations is closed. "Senator Tatad. I move that we now consider the committee amendments. "Senator Roco. Mr. President. "The President. What is the pleasure of Senator Roco? "Senator Roco. Mr. President, may I ask for a reconsideration of the ruling on the motion to close the period of interpellations just to be able to ask a few questions? "Senator Tatad. May I move for a reconsideration of my motion, Mr. President. "The President. Is there any objection to the reconsideration of the closing of the period of interpellations? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. "Senator Roco is recognized. "Senator Roco. Will the distinguished gentleman yield for some questions? "Senator Sotto. Willingly, Mr. President. "Senator Roco. Mr. President, together with the Chairman of the Committee on Local Government, we were with the sponsors when we approved this bill to make Santiago a City. That was about two and a half years ago. At that time, I remember it was the cry of the city that it be independent. Now we are deleting that word independent. "Mr. President, only because I was a co-author and a co-sponsor, for the Record, I want some explanation on what happened between then and now that has made us decide that the City of Santiago should cease to be independent and should now become a component city. "Senator Sotto. Mr. President, the officials of the province said during the public hearing that they are no longer vested with the power and authority of general supervision over the city. The power and authority is now

being exercised by the Office of the President and it is quite far from the City of Santiago. "In the public hearing, we also gathered that there is a clamor from some sectors that they want to participate in the provincial elections. "Senator Roco. Mr. President, I did not mean to delay this. I did want it on record, however. I think there was a majority of 14,000 who approved the charter, and maybe we owe it to those who voted for that charter some degree of respect. But if there has been a change of political will, there has been a change of political will, then so be it. "Thank you, Mr. President. "Senator Sotto. Mr. President, to be very frank about it, that was a very important point raised by Senator Roco, and I will have to place it on the Record of the Senate that the reason why we are proposing a committee amendment is that, originally, there was an objection on the part of the local officials and those who oppose it by incorporating a plebiscite in this bill. That was the solution. Because there were some sectors in the City of Santiago who were opposing the reclassification or reconversion of the city into a component city. "Senator Roco. All I wanted to say, Mr. President -- because the two of us had special pictures (sic) in the city -- is that I thought it should be put on record that we have supported originally the proposal to make it an independent city. But now if it is their request, then, on the manifestation of the Chairman, let it be so. "Thank you. "Senator Drilon. Mr. President. "Senator Drilon. Will the gentleman yield for a few questions, Mr. President? "Senator Sotto. Yes, Mr. President. "Senator Drilon. Mr. President, further to the interpellation of our good friend, the Senator from Bicol, on the matter of the opinion of the citizens of Santiago City, there is a resolution passed by the Sanggunian on January 30, 1997 opposing the conversion of Santiago from an independent city. "This opposition was placed on records during the committee hearings. And that is the reason why, as mentioned by the good sponsor, one of the amendments is that a plebiscite be conducted before the law takes effect. "The question I would like to raise-- and I would like to recall the statement of our Minority Leader -- is that, at this time we should not be passing it for a particular politician. "In this particular case, it is obvious that this bill is being passed in order that the additional territory be added to the election of the provincial officials of the province of Isabela. "Now, is this for the benefit of any particular politician, Mr. President. "Senator Sotto. If it is, I am not aware of it, Mr. President. "Senator Alvarez. Mr. President. "The President. With the permission of the two gentlemen on the Floor, Senator Alvarez is recognized. "Senator Alvarez. As a born inbred citizen of this city, Mr. President, may I share some information. "Mr. President, if we open up the election of the city to the provincial leadership, it will not be to the benefit of the provincial leadership, because the provincial leadership will then campaign in a bigger territory. "As a matter of fact, the ones who will benefit from this are the citizens of Santiago who will now be enfranchised in the provincial electoral process, and whose children will have the opportunity to grow into provincial leadership. This is one of the prime reasons why this amendment is being put forward. "While it is true that there may have been a resolution by the city council, those who signed the resolution were not the whole of the council. This bill was sponsored by the congressman of that district who represents a constituency, the voice of the district. "I think, Mr. President, in considering which interest is paramount, whose voice must be heard, and if we have to fathom the interest of the people, the law which has been crafted here in accordance with the rules should be given account, as we do give account to many of the legislations coming from the House on local issues. "Senator Drilon. Mr. President, the reason why I am raising this question is that, as Senator Roco said, just two-and-a-half years ago we passed a bill which indeed disenfranchized--if we want to use that phrase-- the citizens of the City of Santiago in the matter of the

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provincial election. Two-and-a-half years after, we are changing the rule. "In the original charter, the citizens of the City of Santiago participated in a plebiscite in order to approve the conversion of the city into an independent city. I believe that the only way to resolve this issue raised by Senator Roco is again to subject this issue to another plebiscite as part of the provision of this proposed bill and as will be proposed by the Committee Chairman as an amendment. "Thank you very much, Mr. President. "Senator Alvarez. Mr. President, the Constitution does not require that the change from an independent to a component city be subjected to a plebiscite. Sections 10, 11, 12 of Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides as follows: Sec. 10. 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 units directly affected. This change from an independent city into a component city is none of those enumerated. So the proposal coming from the House is in adherence to this constitutional mandate which does not require a plebiscite. Senator Sotto. Mr. President, the key word here is conversion. The word conversion appears in that provision wherein we must call a plebiscite. During the public hearing, the representative of Congressman Abaya was insisting that this is not a conversion; this is merely a reclassification. But it is clear in the bill. We are amending a bill that converts, and we are converting it into a component city. That is how the members of the committee felt. That is why we have proposed an amendment to this, and this is to incorporate a plebiscite in as much as there is no provision on incorporating a plebiscite. Because we would like not only to give the other people of Santiago a chance or be enfranchised as far as the leadership of the province is concerned, but also we will give a chance to those who are opposing it. To them, this is the best compromise. Let the people decide, instead of the political leaders of Isabela deciding for them. "Senator Tatad. Mr. President. "The President. The Majority Leader is recognized. "Senator Tatad. At this point, Mr. President, I think we can move to close the period of interpellations. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. "Senator Tatad. I move that we now consider the committee amendments, Mr. President. "The President. Is there any objection? Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. "Senator Sotto. On page 2, after line 13, insert a new Section 3, as follows: "SEC. 3. SECTION 49 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7720 IS HEREBY AMENDED BY DELETING THE ENTIRE SECTION AND IN ITS STEAD SUBSTITUTE THE FOLLOWING: "SEC. 49. PLEBISCITE. - THE CONVERSION OF THE CITY OF SANTIAGO INTO A COMPONENT CITY OF THE PROVINCE OF ISABELA SHALL TAKE EFFECT UPON THE RATIFICATION OF THIS ACT BY A MAJORITY OF THE PEOPLE OF SAID CITY IN A PLEBISCITE WHICH SHALL BE HELD FOR THE PURPOSE WITHIN SIXTY (60) DAYS FROM THE APPROVAL OF THIS ACT. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS SHALL CONDUCT AND SUPERVISE SUCH PLEBISCITE. "The President. Is there any objection? "Senator Enrile. Mr. President. "The President. Senator Enrile is recognized. "Senator Enrile. I object to this committee amendment, Mr. President. "SUSPENSION OF SESSION "Senator Tatad. May I ask for a one-minute suspension of the session. "The President. The session is suspended for a few minutes if there is no objection. [There was none] "It was 7:54 p.m. "RESUMPTION OF SESSION "At 7:57 p.m., the session was resumed. "The President. The session is resumed. "Senator Sotto is recognized.

"Senator Sotto. Mr. President, after a very enlightening conversation with the elders of the Body, I withdraw my amendment. "The President. The amendment is withdrawn. "Senator Maceda. Mr. President. "The President. Senator Maceda is recognized. "Senator Maceda. We wish to thank the sponsor for the withdrawal of the amendment. "Mr. President, with due respect to the Senator from Isabela -- I am no great fan of the Senator from Isabela -- but it so happens that this is a local bill affecting not only his province but his own city where he is a resident and registered voter. "So, unless the issue is really a matter of life and death and of national importance, senatorial courtesy demands that we, as much as possible, accommodate the request of the Senator from Isabela as we have done on matters affecting the district of other senators. I need not remind them. "Thank you anyway, Mr. President. "Senator Alvarez. Mr. President. "The President. Senator Alvarez is recognized. "Senator Alvarez. Mr. President, may I express my deepest appreciation for the statement of the gentleman from Ilocos and Laguna. Whatever he may have said, the feeling is not mutual. At least for now, I have suddenly become his great fan for the evening. "May I put on record, Mr. President, that I campaigned against the cityhood of Santiago not because I do not want it to be a city but because it had disenfranchised the young men of my city from aspiring for the leadership of the province. The town is the gem of the province. How could we extricate the town from the province? "But I would like to thank the gentleman, Mr. President, and also the Chairman of the Committee. "Senator Tatad. Mr. President. "The President. The Majority Leader is recognized. "Senator Tatad. There being no committee amendments, I move that the period of committee amendments be closed. "The President. Shall we amend the title of this bill by removing the word independent preceding component city? "Senator Sotto. No, Mr. President. We are merely citing the title. The main title of this House Bill No. 8729 is An Act Amending Certain Sections of Republic Act 7720. The title is the title of Republic Act 7720. So, I do not think that we should amend that anymore. "The President. What is the pending motion? Will the gentleman kindly state the motion? "Senator Tatad. I move that we close the period of committee amendments. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the motion is approved. "Senator Tatad. Unless there are any individual amendments, I move that we close the period of individual amendments. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, the period of individual amendments is closed. "APPROVAL OF H.B. NO. 8729 ON SECOND READING "Senator Tatad. Mr. President, I move that we vote on Second Reading on House Bill No. 8729. "The President. Is there any objection? [Silence] There being none, we shall now vote on Second Reading on House Bill No. 8729. "As many as are in favor of the bill, say aye. "Several Members. Aye As many as are against the bill, say nay. [Silence] "House Bill No. 8729 is approved on Second Reading." The debates cannot but raise some quizzical eyebrows on the real purpose for the downgrading of the city of Santiago. There is all the reason to listen to the voice of the people of the city via a plebiscite. In the case of Tan, et al. vs. COMELEC,15 BP 885 was enacted partitioning the province of Negros Occidental without consulting its people in a plebiscite. In his concurring opinion striking down the law as unconstitutional, Chief Justice Teehankee cited the illicit political purpose behind its enactment, viz: "The scenario, as petitioners urgently asserted, was to have the creation of the new Province a fait accompli by the time elections are held on February 7, 1986. The transparent purpose is unmistakably so that the new Governor and other officials shall by then have been installed in office, ready to function for purposes of the election for President and VicePresident. Thus, the petitioners reported after the event: With indecent haste, the plebiscite was held; Negros del Norte was set up and proclaimed by President Marcos as in existence; a

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new set of government officials headed by Governor Armando Gustilo was appointed; and, by the time the elections were held on February 7, 1986, the political machinery was in place to deliver the solid North to exPresident Marcos. The rest is history. What happened in Negros del Norte during the elections - the unashamed use of naked power and resources - contributed in no small way to arousing peoples power and steel the ordinary citizen to perform deeds of courage and patriotism that makes one proud to be a Filipino today. "The challenged Act is manifestly void and unconstitutional. Consequently, all the implementing acts complained of, viz. the plebiscite, the proclamation of a new province of Negros del Norte and the appointment of its officials are equally void. The limited holding of the plebiscite only in the areas of the proposed new province (as provided by Section 4 of the Act) to the exclusion of the voters of the remaining areas of the integral province of Negros Occidental (namely, the three cities of Bacolod, Bago and La Carlota and the Municipalities of Las Castellana, Isabela, Moises Padilla, Pontevedra, Hinigaran, Himamaylan, Kabankalan, Murcia, Valladolid, San Enrique, Ilog, Cauayan, Hinoba-an and Sipalay and Candoni), grossly contravenes and disregards the mandate of Article XI, section 3 of the then prevailing 1973 Constitution that no province may be created or divided or its boundary substantially altered without the approval of a majority of the votes in a plebiscite in the unit or units affected. It is plain that all the cities and municipalities of the province of Negros Occidental, not merely those of the proposed new province, comprise the units affected. It follows that the voters of the whole and entire province of Negros Occidental have to participate and give their approval in the plebiscite, because the whole province is affected by its proposed division and substantial alteration of its boundary. To limit the plebiscite to only the voters of the areas to be partitioned and seceded from the province is as absurd and illogical as allowing only the secessionists to vote for the secession that they demanded against the wishes of the majority and to nullify the basic principle of majority rule. Mr. Justice Mendoza and Mr. Justice Buena also cite two instances when allegedly independent component cities were downgraded into component cities without need of a plebiscite. They cite the City of Oroquieta, Misamis Occidental,16 and the City of San Carlos, Pangasinan17 whose charters were amended to allow their people to vote and be voted upon in the election of officials of the province to which their city belongs without submitting the amendment to a plebiscite. With due respect, the cities of Oroquieta and San Carlos are not similarly situated as the city of Santiago. The said two cities then were not independent component cities unlike the city of Santiago. The two cities were chartered but were not independent component cities for both were not highly urbanized cities which alone were considered independent cities at that time. Thus, when the case of San Carlos City was under consideration by the Senate, Senator Pimentel explained:18 "x x x Senator Pimentel. The bill under consideration, Mr. President, merely empowers the voters of San Carlos to vote in the elections of provincial officials. There is no intention whatsoever to downgrade the status of the City of San Carlos and there is no showing whatsoever that the enactment of this bill will, in any way, diminish the powers and prerogatives already enjoyed by the City of San Carlos. In fact, the City of San Carlos as of now, is a component city. It is not a highly urbanized city. Therefore, this bill merely, as we said earlier, grants the voters of the city, the power to vote in provincial elections, without in any way changing the character of its being a component city. It is for this reason that I vote in favor of this bill. It was Senator Pimentel who also sponsored the bill19 allowing qualified voters of the city of Oroquieta to vote in provincial elections of the province of Misamis Occidental. In his sponsorship speech, he explained that the right to vote being given to the people of Oroquieta City was consistent with its status as a component city.20 Indeed, during the debates, former Senator Neptali Gonzales pointed out the need to remedy the anomalous situation then obtaining xxx where voters of one component city can vote in the provincial election while

the voters of another component city cannot vote simply because their charters so provide.21 Thus, Congress amended other charters of component cities prohibiting their people from voting in provincial elections. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is granted. Republic Act No. 8528 is declared unconstitutional and the writ of prohibition is hereby issued commanding the respondents to desist from implementing said law. SO ORDERED. LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES(LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS in his personal capacity as taxpayer, Petitioners, - versus COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; MUNICIPALITY OF BAYBAY, PROVINCE OF LEYTE; MUNICIPALITY OF BOGO, PROVINCE OF CEBU;MUNICIPALITY OF CATBALOGAN,PROVINCE OF WESTERN SAMAR;MUNICIPALITY OF TANDAG, PROVINCE OF SURIGAO DEL SUR;MUNICIPALITY OF BORONGAN, PROVINCEOF EASTERN SAMAR; and MUNICIPALITYOF TAYABAS, PROVINCE OF QUEZON, Respondents. CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention. x-------------------------------------------x LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS in his personal capacity as taxpayer, Petitioners, - versus COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; MUNICIPALITY OF LAMITAN, PROVINCE OF BASILAN; MUNICIPALITY OF TABUK, PROVINCE OF KALINGA; MUNICIPALITY OF BAYUGAN, PROVINCE OF AGUSAN DEL SUR;MUNICIPALITY OF BATAC, PROVINCE OF ILOCOS NORTE; MUNICIPALITY OF MATI,PROVINCE OF DAVAO ORIENTAL; and MUNICIPALITY OF GUIHULNGAN,PROVINCE OF NEGROS ORIENTAL, Respondents. CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF

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CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OFCALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention. x-------------------------------------------x LEAGUE OF CITIES OF THE PHILIPPINES (LCP) represented by LCP National President JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF ILOILO represented by MAYOR JERRY P. TREAS, CITY OF CALBAYOG represented by MAYOR MEL SENEN S. SARMIENTO, and JERRY P. TREAS in his personal capacity as taxpayer, Petitioners, - versus COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; MUNICIPALITY OF CABADBARAN, PROVINCE OF AGUSAN DEL NORTE; MUNICIPALITY OF CARCAR, PROVINCE OF CEBU; and MUNICIPALITY OF EL SALVADOR, MISAMIS ORIENTAL, Respondents. CITY OF TARLAC, CITY OF SANTIAGO, CITY OF IRIGA, CITY OF LIGAO, CITY OF LEGAZPI, CITY OF TAGAYTAY, CITY OF SURIGAO, CITY OF BAYAWAN, CITY OF SILAY, CITY OF GENERAL SANTOS, CITY OF ZAMBOANGA, CITY OF GINGOOG, CITY OF CAUAYAN, CITY OF PAGADIAN, CITY OF SAN CARLOS, CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, CITY OF TACURONG, CITY OF TANGUB, CITY OF OROQUIETA, CITY OF URDANETA, CITY OF VICTORIAS, CITY OF CALAPAN, CITY OF HIMAMAYLAN, CITY OF BATANGAS, CITY OF BAIS, CITY OF CADIZ, and CITY OF TAGUM, Petitioners-In-Intervention. x----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------x DECISION VELASCO, JR. J.: Ratio legis est anima. The spirit rather than the letter of the law. A statute must be read according to its spirit or intent,[1] for what is within the spirit is within the statute although it is not within its letter, and that which is within the letter but not within the spirit is not within the statute.[2] Put a bit differently, that which is within the intent of the lawmaker is as much within the statute as if within the letter; and that which is within the letter of the statute is not within the statute unless within the intent of the lawmakers.[3]Withal, courts ought not to interpret and should not accept an interpretation that would defeat the intent of the law and its legislators.[4] So as it is exhorted to pass on a challenge against the validity of an act of Congress, a co-equal branch of government, it behooves the Court to have at once one principle in mind: the presumption of constitutionality of statutes.[5] This presumption finds its roots in the tripartite system of government and the corollary separation of powers, which enjoins the three great departments of the government to accord a becoming courtesy for each others acts, and not to interfere inordinately with the exercise by one of its official functions. Towards this end, courts ought to reject assaults against the validity of statutes, barring of course their clear unconstitutionality. To doubt is to sustain, the theory in context being that the law is the product of earnest studies by Congress to ensure that no constitutional prescription or concept is infringed.

[6]

Consequently, before a law duly challenged is nullified, an unequivocal breach of, or a clear conflict with, the Constitution, not merely a doubtful or argumentative one, must be demonstrated in such a manner as to leave no doubt in the mind of the Court.[7] BACKGROUND The consolidated petitions for prohibition commenced by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), City of Iloilo, City of Calbayog, and Jerry P. Treas[8] assail the constitutionality of the sixteen (16) laws,[9] each converting the municipality covered thereby into a city (cityhood laws, hereinafter) and seek to enjoin the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from conducting plebiscites pursuant to subject laws. By Decision[10] dated November 18, 2008, the Court en banc, by a 6-5 vote, granted the petitions and nullified the sixteen (16) cityhood laws for being violative of the Constitution, specifically its Section 10, Article X and the equal protection clause. Subsequently, respondent local government units (LGUs) moved for reconsideration, raising, as one of the issues, the validity of the factual premises not contained in the pleadings of the parties, let alone established, which became the bases of the Decision subject of reconsideration.[11] By Resolution of March 31, 2009, a divided Court denied the motion for reconsideration. A second motion for reconsideration followed in which respondent LGUs prayed as follows: WHEREFORE, respondents respectfully pray that the Honorable Court reconsider its Resolution dated March 31, 2009, in so far as it denies for lack of merit respondents Motion for Reconsideration dated December 9, 2008 and in lieu thereof, considering that new and meritorious arguments are raised by respondents Motion for Reconsideration dated December 9, 2008 to grant afore-mentioned Motion for Reconsideration dated December 9, 2008 and dismiss the Petitions For Prohibition in the instant case. Per Resolution dated April 28, 2009, the Court, voting 6-6, disposed of the motion as follows: By a vote of 6-6, the Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of 31 March 2009 is DENIED for lack of merit. The motion is denied since there is no majority that voted to overturn the Resolution of 31 March 2009. The Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision of 18 November 2008 is DENIED for being a prohibited pleading, and the Motion for Leave to Admit Attached Petition in Intervention x x x filed by counsel for Ludivina T. Mas, et al. are also DENIED. No further pleadings shall be entertained. Let entry of judgment be made in due course. x x x On May 14, 2009, respondent LGUs filed a Motion to Amend the Resolution of April 28, 2009 by Declaring Instead that Respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of March 31, 2009 and Motion for Leave to File and to Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain Unresolved and to Conduct Further Proceedings Thereon. Per its Resolution of June 2, 2009, the Court declared the May 14, 2009 motion adverted to as expunged in light of the entry of judgment made on May 21, 2009. Justice Leonardo-De Castro, however, taking common cause with Justice Bersamin to grant the motion for reconsideration of the April 28, 2009 Resolution and to recall the entry of judgment, stated the observation, and with reason, that the entry was effected before the Court could act on the aforesaid motion which was filed within the 15-day period counted from receipt of the April 28, 2009 Resolution.[12] Forthwith, respondent LGUs filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009 to which some of the petitioners and petitioners-in-intervention filed their respective comments. The Court will now rule on this incident. But first, we set and underscore some basic premises:

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(1) The initial motion to reconsider the November 18, 2008 Decision, as Justice Leonardo-De Castro noted, indeed raised new and substantial issues, inclusive of the matter of the correctness of the factual premises upon which the said decision was predicated. The 6-6 vote on the motion for reconsideration per the Resolution of March 31, 2009, which denied the motion on the sole ground that the basic issues have already been passed upon reflected a divided Court on the issue of whether or not the underlying Decision of November 18, 2008 had indeed passed upon the basic issues raised in the motion for reconsideration of the said decision; (2) The aforesaid May 14, 2009 Motion to Amend Resolution of April 28, 2009 was precipitated by the tie vote which served as basis for the issuance of said resolution. This May 14, 2009 motionwhich mainly argued that a tie vote is inadequate to declare a law unconstitutional remains unresolved; and (3) Pursuant to Sec. 4(2), Art. VIII of the Constitution, all cases involving the constitutionality of a law shall be heard by the Court en banc and decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon. The basic issue tendered in this motion for reconsideration of the June 2, 2009 Resolution boils down to whether or not the required vote set forth in the aforesaid Sec. 4(2), Art. VIII is limited only to the initial vote on the petition or also to the subsequent voting on the motion for reconsideration where the Court is called upon and actually votes on the constitutionality of a law or like issuances. Or, as applied to this case, would a minute resolution dismissing, on a tie vote, a motion for reconsideration on the sole stated groundthat the basic issues have already been passed suffice to hurdle the voting requirement required for a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the cityhood laws in question? The 6-6 vote on the motion to reconsider the Resolution of March 31, 2009, which denied the initial motion on the sole ground that the basic issues had already been passed upon betrayed an evenly divided Court on the issue of whether or not the underlying Decision of November 18, 2008 had indeed passed upon the issues raised in the motion for reconsideration of the said decision. But at the end of the day, the single issue that matters and the vote that really counts really turn on the constitutionality of the cityhood laws. And be it remembered that the inconclusive 6-6 tie vote reflected in the April 28, 2009 Resolution was the last vote on the issue of whether or not the cityhood laws infringe the Constitution. Accordingly, the motions of the respondent LGUs, in light of the 6-6 vote, should be deliberated anew until the required concurrence on the issue of the validity or invalidity of the laws in question is, on the merits, secured. It ought to be clear that a deadlocked vote does not reflect the majority of the Members contemplated in Sec. 4 (2) of Art. VIII of the Constitution, which requires that: All cases involving the constitutionality of a treaty, international or executive agreement, or law shall be heard by the Supreme Court en banc, x x x shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon. (Emphasis added.) Webster defines majority as a number greater than half of a total.[13] In plain language, this means 50% plus one. In Lambino v. Commission on Elections, Justice, now Chief Justice, Puno, in a separate opinion, expressed the view that a deadlocked vote of six (6) is not a majority and a non-majority cannot write a rule with precedential value.[14] As may be noted, the aforequoted Sec. 4 of Art. VIII, as couched, exacts a majority vote in the determination of a

case involving the constitutionality of a statute, without distinguishing whether such determination is made on the main petition or thereafter on a motion for reconsideration. This is as it should be, for, to borrow from the late Justice Ricardo J. Francisco: x x x [E]ven assuming x x x that the constitutional requirement on the concurrence of the majority was initially reached in the x x x ponencia, the same is inconclusive as it was still open for review by way of a motion for reconsideration.[15] To be sure, the Court has taken stock of the rule on a tie-vote situation, i.e., Sec. 7, Rule 56 and the complementary A.M. No. 99-1-09- SC, respectively, providing that: SEC. 7. Procedure if opinion is equally divided. Where the court en banc is equally divided in opinion, or the necessary majority cannot be had, the case shall again be deliberated on, and if after such deliberation no decision is reached, the original action commenced in the court shall be dismissed; in appealed cases, the judgment or order appealed from shall stand affirmed; and on all incidental matters, the petition or motion shall be denied. A.M. No. 99-1-09-SC x x x A motion for reconsideration of a decision or resolution of the Court En Banc or of a Division may be granted upon a vote of a majority of the En Banc or of a Division, as the case may be, who actually took part in the deliberation of the motion. If the voting results in a tie, the motion for reconsideration is deemed denied. But since the instant cases fall under Sec. 4 (2), Art. VIII of the Constitution, the aforequoted provisions ought to be applied in conjunction with the prescription of the Constitution that the cases shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the instant cases and voted thereon. To repeat, the last vote on the issue of the constitutionality of the cityhood bills is that reflected in the April 28, 2009 Resolutiona 6-6 deadlock. On the postulate then that first, the finality of the November 18, 2008 Decision has yet to set in, the issuance of the precipitate[16] entry of judgment notwithstanding, andsecond, the deadlocked vote on the second motion for reconsideration did not definitely settle the constitutionality of the cityhood laws, the Court is inclined to take another hard look at the underlying decision. Without belaboring in their smallest details the arguments for and against the procedural dimension of this disposition, it bears to stress that the Court has the power to suspend its own rules when the ends of justice would be served thereby.[17] In the performance of their duties, courts should not be shackled by stringent rules which would result in manifest injustice. Rules of procedure are only tools crafted to facilitate the attainment of justice. Their strict and rigid application must be eschewed, if they result in technicalities that tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice. Substantial rights must not be prejudiced by a rigid and technical application of the rules in the altar of expediency. When a case is impressed with public interest, a relaxation of the application of the rules is in order.[18] Time and again, this Court has suspended its own rules or excepted a particular case from their operation whenever the higher interests of justice so require.[19] While perhaps not on all fours with the case, because it involved a purely business transaction, what the Court said in Chuidian v. Sandiganbayan[20] is most apropos: To reiterate what the Court has said in Ginete vs. Court of Appeals and other cases, the rules of procedure should be viewed as mere instruments designed to facilitate the attainment of justice. They are not to be applied with severity and rigidity when such application would clearly defeat the very rationale for their conception and existence. Even the Rules of Court reflects this principle. The power to suspend or even disregard rules, inclusive of the one-motion rule, can be so pervasive and compelling as to alter even that which this Court has already declared to be final. The peculiarities of this case impel us to do so now.

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The Court, by a vote of 6-4, grants the respondent LGUs motion for reconsideration of the Resolution of June 2, 2009, as well as their May 14, 2009 motion to consider the second motion for reconsideration of the November 18, 2008 Decision unresolved, and also grants said second motion for reconsideration. This brings us to the substantive aspect of the case. The Undisputed Factual Antecedents in Brief During the 11th Congress,[21] fifty-seven (57) cityhood bills were filed before the House of Representatives.[22] Of the fifty-seven (57), thirty-three (33) eventually became laws. The twenty-four (24) other bills were not acted upon. Later developments saw the introduction in the Senate of Senate Bill (S. Bill) No. 2157[23] to amend Sec. 450 of Republic Act No. (RA) 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code (LGC) of 1991. The proposed amendment sought to increase the income requirement to qualify for conversion into a city from PhP 20 million average annual income to PhP 100 million locally generated income. In March 2001, S. Bill No. 2157 was signed into law as RA 9009 to take effect on June 30, 2001. As thus amended by RA 9009, Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 now provides that [a] municipality x x x may be converted into a component city if it has a [certified] locally generated average annual income x x x of at least [PhP 100 million] for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices. After the effectivity of RA 9009, the Lower House of the 12th Congress adopted in July 2001 House (H.) Joint Resolution No. 29[24] which, as its title indicated, sought to exempt from the income requirement prescribed in RA 9009 the 24 municipalities whose conversions into cities were not acted upon during the previous Congress. The 12thCongress ended without the Senate approving H. Joint Resolution No. 29. Then came the 13th Congress (July 2004 to June 2007), which saw the House of Representatives re-adopting H. Joint Resolution No. 29 as H. Joint Resolution No. 1 and forwarding it to the Senate for approval. The Senate, however, again failed to approve the joint resolution. During the Senate session held on November 6, 2006, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. asserted that passing H. Resolution No. 1 would, in net effect, allow a wholesale exemption from the income requirement imposed under RA 9009 on the municipalities. For this reason, he suggested the filing by the House of Representatives of individual bills to pave the way for the municipalities to become cities and then forwarding them to the Senate for proper action.[25] Heeding the advice, sixteen (16) municipalities filed, through their respective sponsors, individual cityhood bills. Common to all 16 measures was a provision exempting the municipality covered from the PhP 100 million income requirement. As of June 7, 2007, both Houses of Congress had approved the individual cityhood bills, all of which eventually lapsed into law on various dates. Each cityhood law directs the COMELEC, within thirty (30) days from its approval, to hold a plebiscite to determine whether the voters approve of the conversion. As earlier stated, the instant petitions seek to declare the cityhood laws unconstitutional for violation of Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution, as well as for violation of the equal-protection clause. The wholesale conversion of municipalities into cities, the petitioners bemoan, will reduce the share of existing cities in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), since more cities will partake of the internal revenue set aside for all cities under Sec. 285 of the LGC of 1991.[26] Petitioners-in-intervention, LPC members themselves, would later seek leave and be allowed to intervene.

Aside from their basic plea to strike down as unconstitutional the cityhood laws in question, petitioners and petitioners-in-intervention collectively pray that an order issue enjoining the COMELEC from conducting plebiscites in the affected areas. An alternative prayer would urge the Court to restrain the poll body from proclaiming the plebiscite results. On July 24, 2007, the Court en banc resolved to consolidate the petitions and the petitions-in-intervention. On March 11, 2008, it heard the parties in oral arguments. The Issues In the main, the issues to which all others must yield pivot on whether or not the cityhood laws violate (1) Sec. 10. Art. X of the Constitution and (2) the equal protection clause. In the November 18, 2008 Decision granting the petitions, Justice Antonio T. Carpio, for the Court, resolved the twin posers in the affirmative and accordingly declared the cityhood laws unconstitutional, deviating as they do from the uniform and non-discriminatory income criterion prescribed by the LGC of 1991. In so doing, the ponencia veritably agreed with the petitioners that the Constitution, in clear and unambiguous language, requires that all the criteria for the creation of a city shall be embodied and written in the LGC, and not in any other law. After a circumspect reflection, the Court is disposed to reconsider. Petitioners threshold posture, characterized by a strained interpretation of the Constitution, if accorded cogency, would veritably curtail and cripple Congress valid exercise of its authority to create political subdivisions. By constitutional design[27] and as a matter of long-established principle, the power to create political subdivisions or LGUs is essentially legislative in character.[28] But even without any constitutional grant, Congress can, by law, create, divide, merge, or altogether abolish or alter the boundaries of a province, city, or municipality. We said as much in the fairly recent case, Sema v. CIMELEC.[29] The 1987 Constitution, under its Art. X, Sec. 10, nonetheless provides for the creation of LGUs, thus: Section 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay shall 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 units directly affected. (Emphasis supplied.) As may be noted, the afore-quoted provision specifically provides for the creation of political subdivisions in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code, subject to the approval of the voters in the unit concerned. The criteria referred to are the verifiable indicators of viability, i.e., area, population, and income, now set forth in Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991, as amended by RA 9009. The petitioners would parlay the thesis that these indicators or criteria must be written only in the LGC and not in any other statute. Doubtless, the code they are referring to is the LGC of 1991. Pushing their point, they conclude that the cityhood laws that exempted the respondent LGUs from the income standard spelled out in the amendatory RA 9009 offend the Constitution. Petitioners posture does not persuade. The supposedly infringed Art. X, Sec. 10 is not a new constitutional provision. Save for the use of the term barrio in lieu of barangay, may be instead of shall, the change of the phrase unit or units to political unit and the addition of the modifier directly to the word affected, the aforesaid provision is a substantial reproduction of Art. XI, Sec. 3 of the 1973 Constitution, which reads: Section 3. No province, city, municipality, or barrio 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 unit or units affected. (Emphasis supplied.)

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It bears notice, however, that the code similarly referred to in the 1973 and 1987 Constitutions is clearly but a law Congress enacted. This is consistent with the aforementioned plenary power of Congress to create political units. Necessarily, since Congress wields the vast poser of creating political subdivisions, surely it can exercise the lesser authority of requiring a set of criteria, standards, or ascertainable indicators of viability for their creation. Thus, the only conceivable reason why the Constitution employs the clause in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code is to lay stress that it is Congress alone, and no other, which can impose the criteria. The eminent constitutionalist, Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., in his treatise on Constitutional Law, specifically on the subject provision, explains: Prior to 1965, there was a certain lack of clarity with regard to the power to create, divide, merge, dissolve, or change the boundaries of municipal corporations. The extent to which the executive may share in this power was obscured by Cardona v. Municipality of Binangonan. [30] Pelaez v. Auditor General subsequently clarified the Cardona case when the Supreme Court said that the authority to create municipal corporations is essentially legislative in nature.[31] Pelaez, however, conceded that the power to fix such common boundary, in order to avoid or settle conflicts of jurisdiction between adjoining municipalities, may partake of an administrative natureinvolving as it does, the adoption of means and ways to carry into effect the law creating said municipalities.[32] Pelaez was silent about division, merger, and dissolution of municipal corporations. But since division in effect creates a new municipality, and both dissolution and merger in effect abolish a legal creation, it may fairly be inferred that these acts are also legislative in nature. Section 10 [Art. X of the 1987 Constitution], which is a legacy from the 1973 Constitution, goes further than the doctrine in the Pelaez case. It not only makes creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries of provinces, cities, municipalities x x x subject to criteria established in the local government code, thereby declaring these actions properly legislative, but it also makes creation, division, merger, abolition or substantial alteration of boundaries subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.[33] x x x (Emphasis added.) It remains to be observed at this juncture that when the 1987 Constitution speaks of the LGC, the reference cannot be to any specific statute or codification of laws, let alone the LGC of 1991.[34] Be it noted that at the time of the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, Batas Pambansa Blg. (BP) 337, the then LGC, was still in effect. Accordingly, had the framers of the 1987 Constitution intended to isolate the embodiment of the criteria only in the LGC, then they would have actually referred to BP 337. Also, they would then not have provided for the enactment by Congress of a new LGC, as they did in Art. X, Sec. 3[35] of the Constitution. Consistent with its plenary legislative power on the matter, Congress can, via either a consolidated set of laws or a much simpler, single-subject enactment, impose the said verifiable criteria of viability. These criteria need not be embodied in the local government code, albeit this code is the ideal repository to ensure, as much as possible, the element of uniformity. Congress can even, after making a codification, enact an amendatory law, adding to the existing layers of indicators earlier codified, just as efficaciously as it may reduce the same. In this case, the amendatory RA 9009 upped the already codified income requirement from PhP 20 million to PhP 100 million. At the end of the day, the passage of amendatory laws is no different from the enactment of laws, i.e., the cityhood laws specifically exempting a particular political subdivision from the criteria earlier mentioned. Congress, in enacting the exempting law/s, effectively decreased the already codified indicators.

Petitioners theory that Congress must provide the criteria solely in the LGC and not in any other law strikes the Court as illogical. For if we pursue their contention to its logical conclusion, then RA 9009 embodying the new and increased income criterion would, in a way, also suffer the vice of unconstitutionality. It is startling, however, that petitioners do not question the constitutionality of RA 9009, as they in fact use said law as an argument for the alleged unconstitutionality of the cityhood laws. As it were, Congress, through the medium of the cityhood laws, validly decreased the income criterion vis--vis the respondent LGUs, but without necessarily being unreasonably discriminatory, as shall be discussed shortly, by reverting to the PhP 20 million threshold what it earlier raised to PhP 100 million. The legislative intent not to subject respondent LGUs to the more stringent requirements of RA 9009 finds expression in the following uniform provision of the cityhood laws: Exemption from Republic Act No. 9009. The City of x x x shall be exempted from the income requirement prescribed under Republic Act No. 9009. In any event, petitioners constitutional objection would still be untenable even if we were to assume purely ex hypothesi the correctness of their underlying thesis, viz: that the conversion of a municipality to a city shall be in accordance with, among other things, the income criterion set forth in the LGC of 1991, and in no other; otherwise, the conversion is invalid. We shall explain. Looking at the circumstances behind the enactment of the laws subject of contention, the Court finds that the LGCamending RA 9009, no less, intended the LGUs covered by the cityhood laws to be exempt from the PhP 100 million income criterion. In other words, the cityhood laws, which merely carried out the intent of RA 9009, adhered, in the final analysis, to the criteria established in the Local Government Code, pursuant to Sec. 10, Art. X of the 1987 Constitution. We shall now proceed to discuss this exemption angle.[36] Among the criteria established in the LGC pursuant to Sec.10, Art. X of the 1987 Constitution are those detailed in Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 under the heading Requisites for Creation. The section sets the minimum income qualifying bar before a municipality or a cluster of barangays may be considered for cityhood. Originally, Sec. 164 of BP 337 imposed an average regular annual income of at least ten million pesos for the last three consecutive years as a minimum income standard for a municipal-to-city conversion. The LGC that BP 337 established was superseded by the LGC of 1991 whose then Sec. 450 provided that [a] municipality or cluster of barangays may be converted into a component city if it has an average annual income, x x x of at least twenty million pesos (P20,000,000.00) for at least two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices x x x. RA 9009 in turn amended said Sec. 450 by further increasing the income requirement to PhP 100 million, thus: Section 450. Requisites for Creation. (a) A municipality or a cluster of barangays may be converted into a component city if it has a locally generated average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least One Hundred Million Pesos (P100,000,000.00) for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites: xxxx (c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, transfers, and non-recurring income. (Emphasis supplied.) The legislative intent is not at all times accurately reflected in the manner in which the resulting law is couched. Thus, applying a verba legis[37] or strictly literal interpretation of a statute may render it meaningless and lead to inconvenience, an absurd situation or injustice.[38] To obviate this aberration, and bearing in mind the principle that the intent or the spirit of the law is the law itself,[39] resort should be to the rule that the spirit of the law controls its letter.[40]

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It is in this respect that the history of the passage of RA 9009 and the logical inferences derivable therefrom assume relevancy in discovering legislative intent.[41] The rationale behind the enactment of RA 9009 to amend Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 can reasonably be deduced from Senator Pimentels sponsorship speech on S. Bill No. 2157. Of particular significance is his statement regarding the basis for the proposed increase from PhP 20 million to PhP 100 million in the income requirement for municipalities wanting to be converted into cities, viz: Senator Pimentel. Mr. President, I would have wanted this bill to be included in the whole set of proposed amendments that we have introduced to precisely amend the [LGC]. However, it is a fact that there is a mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities. Whereas in 1991, when the [LGC] was approved, there were only 60 cities, today the number has increased to 85 cities, with 41 more municipalities applying for conversion x x x. At the rate we are going, I am apprehensive that before long this nation will be a nation of all cities and no municipalities. It is for that reason, Mr. President, that we are proposing among other things, that the financial requirement, which, under the [LGC], is fixed at P20 million, be raised to P100 million to enable a municipality to have the right to be converted into a city, and the P100 million should be sourced from locally generated funds. Congress to be sure knew, when RA 9009 was being deliberated upon, of the pendency of several bills on cityhood, wherein the applying municipalities were qualified under the then obtaining PhP 20 million-income threshold. These included respondent LGUs. Thus, equally noteworthy is the ensuing excerpts from the floor exchange between then Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senator Pimentel, the latter stopping short of saying that the income threshold of PhP 100 million under S. Bill No. 2157 would not apply to municipalities that have pending cityhood bills, thus: THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would like to ask for some clarificatory point. x x x THE PRESIDENT. This is just on the point of the pending bills in the Senate which propose the conversion of a number of municipalities into cities and which qualify under the present standard. We would like to know the view of the sponsor: Assuming that this bill becomes a law, will the Chamber apply the standard as proposed in this bill to those bills which are pending for consideration? SENATOR PIMENTEL, Mr. President, it might not be fair to make this bill x x x [if] approved, retroact to the bills that are pending in the Senate for conversion from municipalities to cities. THE PRESIDENT. Will there be an appropriate language crafted to reflect that view? Or does it not become a policy of the Chamber, assuming that this bill becomes a law x x x that it will apply to those bills which are already approved by the House under the old version of the [LGC] and are now pending in the Senate? The Chair does not know if we can craft a language which will limit the application to those which are not yet in the Senate. Or is that a policy that the Chamber will adopt? SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, personally, I do not think it is necessary to put that provision because what we are saying here will form part of the interpretation of this bill. Besides, if there is no retroactivity clause, I do not think that the bill would have any retroactive effect. THE PRESIDENT. So the understanding is that those bills which are already pending in the Chamber will not be affected. SENATOR PIMENTEL. These will not be affected, Mr. President.[42] (Emphasis and underscoring supplied.)

What the foregoing Pimental-Drilon exchange eloquently indicates are the following complementary legislative intentions: (1) the then pending cityhood bills would be outside the pale of the minimum income requirement of PhP 100 million that S. Bill No. 2159 proposes; and (2) RA 9009 would not have any retroactive effect insofar as the cityhood bills are concerned. Given the foregoing perspective, it is not amiss to state that the basis for the inclusion of the exemption clause of the cityhood laws is the clear-cut intent of Congress of not according retroactive effect to RA 9009. Not only do the congressional records bear the legislative intent of exempting the cityhood laws from the income requirement of PhP 100 million. Congress has now made its intention to exempt express in the challenged cityhood laws. Legislative intent is part and parcel of the law, the controlling factor in interpreting a statute. In construing a statute, the proper course is to start out and follow the true intent of the Legislature and to adopt the sense that best harmonizes with the context and promotes in the fullest manner the policy and objects of the legislature.[43] In fact, any interpretation that runs counter to the legislative intent is unacceptable and invalid.[44] Torres v. Limjap could not have been more precise: The intent of a Statute is the Law. If a statute is valid, it is to have effect according to the purpose and intent of the lawmaker. The intent is x x x the essence of the law and the primary rule of construction is to ascertain and give effect to that intent. The intention of the legislature in enacting a law is the law itself, and must be enforced when ascertained, although it may not be consistent with the strict letter of the statute. Courts will not follow the letter of a statute when it leads away from the true intent and purpose of the legislature and to conclusions inconsistent with the general purpose of the act. Intent is the spirit which gives life to a legislative enactment. In construing statutes the proper course is to start out and follow the true intent of the legislature x x x.[45] (Emphasis supplied.) As emphasized at the outset, behind every law lies the presumption of constitutionality.[46] Consequently, to him who would assert the unconstitutionality of a statute belongs the burden of proving otherwise. Laws will only be declared invalid if a conflict with the Constitution is beyond reasonable doubt. [47] Unfortunately for petitioners and petitioners-inintervention, they failed to discharge their heavy burden. It is contended that the deliberations on the cityhood bills and the covering joint resolution were undertaken in the 11th and/or the 12th Congress. Accordingly, so the argument goes, such deliberations, more particularly those on the unapproved resolution exempting from RA 9009 certain municipalities, are without significance and would not qualify as extrinsic aids in construing the cityhood laws that were passed during the 13th Congress, Congress not being a continuing body. The argument is specious and glosses over the reality that the cityhood billswhich were already being deliberated upon even perhaps before the conception of RA 9009were again being considered during the 13th Congress after being tossed around in the two previous Congresses. And specific reference to the cityhood bills was also made during the deliberations on RA 9009. At the end of the day, it is really immaterial if Congress is not a continuing legislative body. What is important is that the debates, deliberations, and proceedings of Congress and the steps taken in the enactment of the law, in this case the cityhood laws in relation to RA 9009 or vice versa, were part of its legislative history and may be consulted, if appropriate, as aids in the interpretation of the law.[48] And of course the earlier cited Drilon-Pimentel exchange on whether or not the 16 municipalities in question would be covered by RA 9009 is another vital link to the historical chain of the cityhood bills. This and other proceedings on the bills are spread in the Congressional journals, which cannot be conveniently reduced to pure rhetoric without meaning whatsoever, on the simplistic and non-sequitur pretext that Congress is not a continuing body and that unfinished business in either chamber is deemed terminated at the end of the term of Congress. This brings us to the challenge to the constitutionality of cityhood laws on equal protection grounds.

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To the petitioners, the cityhood laws, by granting special treatment to respondent municipalities/LGUs by way of exemption from the standard PhP 100 million minimum income requirement, violate Sec.1, Art. III of the Constitution, which in part provides that no person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Petitioners challenge is not well taken. At its most basic, the equal protection clause proscribes undue favor as well as hostile discrimination. Hence, a law need not operate with equal force on all persons or things to be conformable with Sec. 1, Art. III of the Constitution. The equal protection guarantee is embraced in the broader and elastic concept of due process, every unfair discrimination being an offense against the requirements of justice and fair play. It has nonetheless come as a separate clause in Sec. 1, Art. III of the Constitution to provide for a more specific protection against any undue discrimination or antagonism from government. Arbitrariness in general may be assailed on the basis of the due process clause. But if a particular challenged act partakes of an unwarranted partiality or prejudice, the sharper weapon to cut it down is the equal protection clause.[49] This constitutional protection extends to all persons, natural or artificial, within the territorial jurisdiction. Artificial persons, as the respondent LGUs herein, are, however, entitled to protection only insofar as their property is concerned.[50] In the proceedings at bar, petitioner LCP and the intervenors cannot plausibly invoke the equal protection clause, precisely because no deprivation of property results by virtue of the enactment of the cityhood laws. The LCPs claim that the IRA of its member-cities will be substantially reduced on account of the conversion into cities of the respondent LGUs would not suffice to bring it within the ambit of the constitutional guarantee. Indeed, it is presumptuous on the part of the LCP member-cities to already stake a claim on the IRA, as if it were their property, as the IRA is yet to be allocated. For the same reason, the municipalities that are not covered by the uniform exemption clause in the cityhood laws cannot validly invoke constitutional protection. For, at this point, the conversion of a municipality into a city will only affect its status as a political unit, but not its property as such. As a matter of settled legal principle, the fundamental right of equal protection does not require absolute equality. It is enough that all persons or things similarly situated should be treated alike, both as to rights or privileges conferred and responsibilities or obligations imposed. The equal protection clause does not preclude the state from recognizing and acting upon factual differences between individuals and classes. It recognizes that inherent in the right to legislate is the right to classify,[51] necessarily implying that the equality guaranteed is not violated by a legislation based on reasonable classification. Classification, to be reasonable, must (1) rest on substantial distinctions; (2) be germane to the purpose of the law; (3) not be limited to existing conditions only; and (4) apply equally to all members of the same class.[52] The Court finds that all these requisites have been met by the laws challenged as arbitrary and discriminatory under the equal protection clause. As things stand, the favorable treatment accorded the sixteen (16) municipalities by the cityhood laws rests on substantial distinction. Indeed, respondent LGUs, which are subjected only to the erstwhile PhP 20 million income criterion instead of the stringent income requirement prescribed in RA 9009, are substantially different from other municipalities desirous to be cities. Looking back, we note that respondent LGUs had pending cityhood bills before the passage of RA 9009. There lies part of the tipping difference. And years before the enactment of the amendatory RA 9009, respondents LGUs had already met the income criterion exacted for cityhood under the LGC of 1991. Due to extraneous circumstances, however, the bills for their conversion remained unacted upon by Congress. As aptly observed by then Senator, now Manila Mayor, Alfredo Lim in his speech sponsoring H. Joint Resolution No. 1, or the cityhood bills, respondent LGUs saw themselves

confronted with the changing of the rules in the middle of the game. Some excerpts of Senator Lims sponsorship speech: x x x [D]uring the Eleventh Congress, fifty-seven (57) municipalities applied for city status, confident that each has met the requisites for conversion under Section 450 of the [LGC], particularly the income threshold of P20 million. Of the 57 that filed, thirty-two (32) were enacted into law; x x x while the rest twenty-four (24) in all failed to pass through Congress. Shortly before the long recess of Congress in February 2001, to give way to the May elections x x x, Senate Bill No. 2157, which eventually became [RA] 9009, was passed into law, effectively raising the income requirement for creation of cities to a whooping P100 million x x x. Much as the proponents of the 24 cityhood bills then pending struggled to beat the effectivity of the law on June 30, 2001, events that then unfolded were swift and overwhelming that Congress just did not have the time to act on the measures. Some of these intervening events were x x x the impeachment of President Estrada x x x and the May 2001 elections. The imposition of a much higher income requirement for the creation of a city x x x was unfair; like any sport changing the rules in the middle of the game. Undaunted, they came back during the [12th] Congress x x x. They filed House Joint Resolution No. 29 seeking exemption from the higher income requirement of RA 9009. For the second time, [however], time ran out from them. For many of the municipalities whose Cityhood Bills are now under consideration, this year, at the closing days of the [13th] Congress, marks their ninth year appealing for fairness and justice. x x x I, for one, share their view that fairness dictates that they should be given a legal remedy by which they could be allowed to prove that they have all the necessary qualifications for city status using the criteria set forth under the [LGC] prior to its amendment by RA 9009. Hence, when House Joint Resolution No. 1 reached the Senate x x x I immediately set the public hearing x x x. On July 25, 2006, I filed Committee Report No. 84 x x x. On September 6, I delivered the sponsorship x x x. x x x By November 14, the measure had reverted to the period of individual amendments. This was when the then acting majority leader, x x x informed the Body that Senator Pimentel and the proponents of House Joint Resolution No. 1 have agreed to the proposal of the Minority Leader for the House to first approve the individual Cityhood Bills of the qualified municipalities, along with the provision exempting each of them from the higher income requirement of RA 9009. x x x This led to the certification issued by the proponents shortlisting fourteen (14) municipalities deemed to be qualified for city-status. Acting on the suggestion of Senator Pimentel, the proponents lost no time in working for the approval by the House of Representatives of their individual Cityhood Bills, each containing a provision of exemption from the higher income requirement of RA 9009. On the last session day of last year, December 21, the House transmitted to the Senate the Cityhood Bills of twelve out of the 14 pre-qualified municipalities. Your Committee immediately conducted the public hearing x x x. The whole process I enumerated [span] three Congresses x x x. In essence, the Cityhood Bills now under consideration will have the same effect as that of House Joint Resolution No. 1 because each of the 12 bills seeks exemption from the higher income requirement of RA 9009. The proponents are invoking the exemption on the basis of justice and fairness. Each of the 12 municipalities has all the requisites for conversion into a component city based on the old requirements set forth under Section 450 of the [LGC], prior to its amendment by RA 9009, namely: x x x[53] (Emphasis supplied.)

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In hindsight, the peculiar conditions, as depicted in Senator Lims speech, which respondent LGUs found themselves in were unsettling. They were qualified cityhood applicants before the enactment of RA 009. Because of events they had absolutely nothing to do with, a spoiler in the form of RA 9009 supervened. Now, then, to impose on them the much higher income requirement after what they have gone through would appear to be indeed unfair, to borrow from Senator Lim. Thus, the imperatives of fairness dictate that they should be given a legal remedy by which they would be allowed to prove that they have all the necessary qualifications for city status, using the criteria set forth under the LGC of 1991 prior to its amendment by RA 9009. Truly, the peculiar conditions of respondent LGUs, which are actual and real, provide sufficient grounds for legislative classification. To be sure, courts, regardless of doubts they might be entertaining, cannot question the wisdom of the congressional classification, if reasonable, or the motivation underpinning the classification.[54] By the same token, they do not sit to determine the propriety or efficacy of the remedies Congress has specifically chosen to extend. That is its prerogative. The power of the Legislature to make distinctions and classifications among persons is, to reiterate, neither curtailed nor denied by the equal protection clause. A law can be violative of the constitutional limitation only when the classification is without reasonable basis. The classification is also germane to the purpose of the law. The exemption of respondent LGUs/municipalities from the PhP 100 million income requirement was meant to reduce the inequality occasioned by the passage of the amendatory RA 9009. From another perspective, the exemption was unquestionably designed to insure that fairness and justice would be accorded respondent LGUs. Let it be noted that what were then the cityhood bills covering respondent LGUs were part and parcel of the original 57 conversion bills filed in the 11th Congress, 33 of those became laws before the adjournment of that Congress. The then bills of the challenged cityhood laws were not acted upon due, inter alia, to the impeachment of then President Estrada, the related jueteng scandal investigations conducted before, and the EDSA events that followed the aborted impeachment. While the equal protection guarantee frowns upon the creation of a privileged class without justification, inherent in the equality clause is the exhortation for the Legislature to pass laws promoting equality or reducing existing inequalities. The enactment of the cityhood laws was in a real sense an attempt on the part of Congress to address the inequity dealt the respondent LGUs. These laws positively promoted the equality and eliminated the inequality, doubtless unintended, between respondent municipalities and the thirty-three (33) other municipalities whose cityhood bills were enacted during the 11th Congress. Respondent municipalities and the 33 other municipalities, which had already been elevated to city status, were all found to be qualified under the old Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991 during the 11th Congress. As such, both respondent LGUs and the 33 other former municipalities are under like circumstances and conditions. There is, thus, no rhyme or reason why an exemption from the PhP 100 million requirement cannot be given to respondent LGUs. Indeed, to deny respondent LGUs/municipalities the same rights and privileges accorded to the 33 other municipalities when, at the outset they were similarly situated, is tantamount to denying the former the protective mantle of the equal protection clause. In effect, petitioners and petitioners-inintervention are creating an absurd situation in which an alleged violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution is remedied by another violation of the same clause. The irony is not lost to the Court. Then too the non-retroactive effect of RA 9009 is not limited in application only to conditions existing at the time of its enactment. It is intended to apply for all time, as long as the contemplated conditions obtain. To be more precise, the legislative intent underlying the enactment of RA 9009 to exclude would-be-cities from the PhP 100 million criterion would hold sway, as long as the

corresponding cityhood bill has been filed before the effectivity of RA 9009 and the concerned municipality qualifies for conversion into a city under the original version of Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991. Viewed in its proper light, the common exemption clause in the cityhood laws is an application of the non-retroactive effect of RA 9009 on the cityhood bills. It is not a declaration of certain rights, but a mere declaration of prior qualification and/or compliance with the non-retroactive effect of RA 9009. Lastly and in connection with the third requisite, the uniform exemption clause would apply to municipalities that had pending cityhood bills before the passage of RA 9009 and were compliant with then Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991, which prescribed an income requirement of PhP 20 million. It is hard to imagine, however, if there are still municipalities out there belonging in context to the same class as the sixteen (16) respondent LGUs. Municipalities that cannot claim to belong to the same class as the 16 cannot seek refuge in the cityhood laws. The former have to comply with the PhP 100 million income requirement imposed by RA 9009. A final consideration. The existence of the cities consequent to the approval of the creating, but challenged, cityhood laws in the plebiscites held in the affected LGUs is now an operative fact. New cities appear to have been organized and are functioning accordingly, with new sets of officials and employees. Other resulting events need not be enumerated. The operative fact doctrine provides another reason for upholding the constitutionality of the cityhood laws in question. In view of the foregoing discussion, the Court ought to abandon as it hereby abandons and sets aside the Decision of November 18, 2008 subject of reconsideration. And by way of summing up the main arguments in support of this disposition, the Court hereby declares the following: (1) Congress did not intend the increased income requirement in RA 9009 to apply to the cityhood bills which became the cityhood laws in question. In other words, Congress intended the subject cityhood laws to be exempted from the income requirement of PhP 100 million prescribed by RA 9009; (2) The cityhood laws merely carry out the intent of RA 9009, now Sec. 450 of the LGC of 1991, to exempt respondent LGUs from the PhP 100 million income requirement; (3) The deliberations of the 11th or 12th Congress on unapproved bills or resolutions are extrinsic aids in interpreting a law passed in the 13th Congress. It is really immaterial if Congress is not a continuing body. The hearings and deliberations during the 11th and 12th Congress may still be used as extrinsic reference inasmuch as the same cityhood bills which were filed before the passage of RA 9009 were being considered during the 13th Congress. Courts may fall back on the history of a law, as here, as extrinsic aid of statutory construction if the literal application of the law results in absurdity or injustice. (4) The exemption accorded the 16 municipalities is based on the fact that each had pending cityhood bills long before the enactment of RA 9009 that substantially distinguish them from other municipalities aiming for cityhood. On top of this, each of the 16 also met the PhP 20 million income level exacted under the original Sec. 450 of the 1991 LGC. And to stress the obvious, the cityhood laws are presumed constitutional. As we see it, petitioners have not overturned the presumptive constitutionality of the laws in question. WHEREFORE, respondent LGUs Motion for Reconsideration dated June 2, 2009, their Motion to Amend the Resolution of April 28, 2009 by Declaring Instead that Respondents Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution of March 31, 2009 and Motion for Leave to File and to Admit Attached Second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision Dated November 18, 2008 Remain Unresolved and to Conduct Further Proceedings, dated May 14, 2009, and their second Motion for Reconsideration of the Decision dated November 18, 2008 are GRANTED. The June 2, 2009, the March 31, 2009, and April 31, 2009 Resolutions are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The entry of judgment made on May 21, 2009 must accordingly be RECALLED.

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The instant consolidated petitions and petitions-inintervention are DISMISSED. The cityhood laws, namely Republic Act Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491 are declared VALID and CONSTITUTIONAL. SO ORDERED. EN BANC G.R. No. 180050 February 10, 2010 RODOLFO G. NAVARRO, VICTOR F. BERNAL, and RENE O. MEDINA, Petitioners, vs. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY EDUARDO ERMITA, representing the President of the Philippines; Senate of the Philippines, represented by the SENATE PRESIDENT; House of Representatives, represented by the HOUSE SPEAKER; GOVERNOR ROBERT ACE S. BARBERS, representing the mother province of Surigao del Norte; GOVERNOR GERALDINE ECLEO VILLAROMAN, representing the new Province of Dinagat Islands, Respondents. DECISION PERALTA, J.: This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court seeking to nullify Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9355, otherwise known as An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands, for being unconstitutional. Petitioners Rodolfo G. Navarro, Victor F. Bernal, and Rene O. Medina aver that they are taxpayers and residents of the Province of Surigao del Norte. They have served the Province of Surigao del Norte once as Vice- Governor and members of the Provincial Board, respectively. They claim to have previously filed a similar petition, which was dismissed on technical grounds.1 They allege that the creation of the Dinagat Islands as a new province, if uncorrected, perpetuates an illegal act of Congress, and unjustly deprives the people of Surigao del Norte of a large chunk of its territory, Internal Revenue Allocation and rich resources from the area. The facts are as follows: The mother province of Surigao del Norte was created and established under R.A. No. 2786 on June 19, 1960. The province is composed of three main groups of islands: (1) the Mainland and Surigao City; (2) Siargao Island and Bucas Grande; and (3) Dinagat Island, which is composed of seven municipalities, namely, Basilisa, Cagdianao, Dinagat, Libjo, Loreto, San Jose, and Tubajon. Based on the official 2000 Census of Population and Housing conducted by the National Statistics Office (NSO),2the population of the Province of Surigao del Norte as of May 1, 2000 was 481,416, broken down as follows: Mainland 281,111 Surigao City 118,534 Siargao Island & Bucas Grande 93,354 Dinagat Island 106,951 Under Section 461 of R.A. No. 7610, otherwise known as The Local Government Code, a province may be created if it has an average annual income of not less than P20 million based on 1991 constant prices as certified by the Department of Finance, and a population of not less than 250,000 inhabitants as certified by the NSO, or a contiguous territory of at least 2,000 square kilometers as certified by the Lands Management Bureau. The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two or more islands or is separated by a chartered city or cities, which do not contribute to the income of the province. On April 3, 2002, the Office of the President, through its Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs, advised the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of the Province of Surigao del Norte of the deficient population in the proposed Province of Dinagat Islands.3 In July 2003, the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte conducted a special census, with the assistance of an NSO District Census Coordinator, in the Dinagat Islands to determine its actual population in support of the house bill creating the Province of Dinagat Islands. The special census yielded a population count of 371,576 inhabitants in the proposed province. The NSO, however, did not certify the result of the special census. On July 30, 2003, Surigao del Norte Provincial Governor Robert Lyndon S. Barbers issued Proclamation No. 01, which declared as official, for all purposes, the 2003 Special Census in Dinagat Islands showing a population of 371,576.4

The Bureau of Local Government Finance certified that the average annual income of the proposed Province of Dinagat Islands for calendar year 2002 to 2003 based on the 1991 constant prices was P82,696,433.23. The land area of the proposed province is 802.12 square kilometers. On August 14, 2006 and August 28, 2006, the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively, passed the bill creating the Province of Dinagat Islands. It was approved and enacted into law as R.A. No. 9355 on October 2, 2006 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. On December 2, 2006, a plebiscite was held in the mother Province of Surigao del Norte to determine whether the local government units directly affected approved of the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands into a distinct and independent province comprising the municipalities of Basilisa, Cagdianao, Dinagat, Libjo (Albor), Loreto, San Jose, and Tubajon. The result of the plebiscite yielded 69,943 affirmative votes and 63,502 negative votes.5 On December 3, 2006, the Plebiscite Provincial Board of Canvassers proclaimed that the creation of Dinagat Islands into a separate and distinct province was ratified and approved by the majority of the votes cast in the plebiscite.6 On January 26, 2007, a new set of provincial officials took their oath of office following their appointment by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Another set of provincial officials was elected during the synchronized national and local elections held on May 14, 2007. On July 1, 2007, the elected provincial officials took their oath of office; hence, the Province of Dinagat Islands began its corporate existence.7 Petitioners contended that the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands under R.A. No. 9355 is not valid because it failed to comply with either the population or land area requirement prescribed by the Local Government Code. Petitioners prayed that R.A. No. 9355 be declared unconstitutional, and that all subsequent appointments and elections to the new vacant positions in the newly created Province of Dinagat Islands be declared null and void. They also prayed for the return of the municipalities of the Province of Dinagat Islands and the return of the former districts to the mother Province of Surigao del Norte. Petitioners raised the following issues: I WHETHER OR NOT REPUBLIC ACT NO. 9355, CREATING THE NEW PROVINCE OF DINAGAT ISLANDS, COMPLIED WITH THE CONSTITUTION AND STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS UNDER SECTION 461 OF REPUBLIC ACT NO. 7160, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE OF 1991. II WHETHER OR NOT THE CREATION OF DINAGAT AS A NEW PROVINCE BY THE RESPONDENTS IS AN ACT OF GERRYMANDERING. III WHETHER OR NOT THE RESULT OF THE PLEBISCITE IS CREDIBLE AND TRULY REFLECTS THE MANDATE OF THE PEOPLE.8 In her Memorandum, respondent Governor Geraldine B. EcleoVillaroman of the Province of Dinagat Islands raises procedural issues. She contends that petitioners do not have the legal standing to question the constitutionality of the creation of the Province of Dinagat, since they have not been directly injured by its creation and are without substantial interest over the matter in controversy. Moreover, she alleges that the petition is moot and academic because the existence of the Province of Dinagat Islands has already commenced; hence, the petition should be dismissed. The contention is without merit. In Coconut Oil Refiners Association, Inc. v. Torres,9 the Court held that in cases of paramount importance where serious constitutional questions are involved, the standing requirements may be relaxed and a suit may be allowed to prosper even where there is no direct injury to the party claiming the right of judicial review. In the same vein, with respect to other alleged procedural flaws, even assuming the existence of such defects, the Court, in the exercise of its discretion, brushes aside these technicalities and takes cognizance of the petition considering its importance and in keeping with the duty to determine whether the other branches of the government have kept themselves within the limits of the Constitution.10 Further, supervening events, whether intended or accidental, cannot prevent the Court from rendering a decision if there is a grave violation of the Constitution.11 The courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is capable of repetition, yet evading review.12

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The main issue is whether or not R.A. No. 9355 violates Section 10, Article X of the Constitution. Petitioners contend that the proposed Province of Dinagat Islands is not qualified to become a province because it failed to comply with the land area or the population requirement, despite its compliance with the income requirement. It has a total land area of only 802.12 square kilometers, which falls short of the statutory requirement of at least 2,000 square kilometers. Moreover, based on the NSO 2000 Census of Population, the total population of the proposed Province of Dinagat Islands is only 106,951, while the statutory requirement is a population of at least 250,000 inhabitants. Petitioners allege that in enacting R.A. No. 9355 into law, the House of Representatives and the Senate erroneously relied on paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991, which states that "[t]he land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands."13 The preceding italicized provision contained in the Implementing Rules and Regulations is not expressly or impliedly stated as an exemption to the land area requirement in Section 461 of the Local Government Code. Petitioners assert that when the Implementing Rules and Regulations conflict with the law that they seek to implement, the law prevails. On the other hand, respondents contend in their respective Memoranda that the Province of Dinagat Islands met the legal standard for its creation.1avvphi1 First, the Bureau of Local Government Finance certified that the average annual income of the proposed Province of Dinagat Islands for the years 2002 to 2003 based on the 1991 constant prices was P82,696,433.25. Second, the Lands Management Bureau certified that though the land area of the Province of Dinagat Islands is 802.12 square kilometers, it is composed of one or more islands; thus, it is exempt from the required land area of 2,000 square kilometers under paragraph 2 of Article 9 of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code. Third, in the special census conducted by the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte, with the assistance of a District Census Coordinator of the NSO, the number of inhabitants in the Province of Dinagat Islands as of 2003, or almost three years before the enactment of R.A. No. 9355 in 2006, was 371,576, which is more than the minimum requirement of 250,000 inhabitants. In his Memorandum, respondent Governor Ace S. Barbers contends that although the result of the special census conducted by the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte on December 2, 2003 was never certified by the NSO, it is credible since it was conducted with the aid of a representative of the NSO. He alleged that the lack of certification by the NSO was cured by the presence of NSO officials, who testified during the deliberations on House Bill No. 884 creating the Province of Dinagat Islands, and who questioned neither the conduct of the special census nor the validity of the result. The Ruling of the Court The petition is granted. The constitutional provision on the creation of a province in Section 10, Article X of the Constitution states: SEC. 10. 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 units directly affected."14 Pursuant to the Constitution, the Local Government Code of 1991 prescribed the criteria for the creation of a province, thus: SEC. 461. 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: Provided, That, the creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population, and income of the original unit or

units at the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein. (b) The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a chartered city or cities which do not contribute to the income of the province. (c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, trust funds, transfers, and non-recurring income.15 As a clarification of the territorial requirement, the Local Government Code requires a contiguous territory of at least 2,000 square kilometers, as certified by the Lands Management Bureau. However, the territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a chartered city or cities that do not contribute to the income of the province. If a proposed province is composed of two or more islands, does "territory," under Sec. 461 of the Local Government Code, include not only the land mass above the water, but also that which is beneath it? To answer the question above, the discussion in Tan v. Commission on Elections (COMELEC)16 is enlightening. In Tan v. COMELEC, petitioners therein contended that Batas Pambansa Blg. 885, creating the new Province of Negros del Norte, was unconstitutional for it was not in accord with Art. XI, Sec. 3 of the Constitution, and Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, the former Local Government Code. Although what was applicable then was the 1973 Constitution and the former Local Government Code, the provisions pertinent to the case are substantially similar to the provisions in this case. Art. XI, Sec. 3 of the 1973 Constitution provides: Sec. 3. No province, city, municipality or barrio (barangay in the 1987 Constitution) 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 the approval by a majority of the votes in a plebiscite in the unit or units affected. The requisites for the creation of a province in Sec. 197 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 337 are similar to the requisites in Sec. 461 of the Local Government Code of 1991, but the requirements for population and territory/land area are lower now, while the income requirement is higher. Sec. 197 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, the former Local Government Code, provides: SEC. 197.Requisites for Creation.A province may be created if it has a territory of at least three thousand five hundred square kilometers, a population of at least five hundred thousand persons, an average estimated annual income, as certified by the Ministry of Finance, of not less than ten million pesos for the last three consecutive years, and its creation shall not reduce the population and income of the mother province or provinces at the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements under this section. The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two or more islands. The average estimated annual income shall include the income allotted for both the general and infrastructure funds, exclusive of trust funds, transfers and nonrecurring income.17 In Tan v. COMELEC, petitioners therein filed a case for Prohibition for the purpose of stopping the COMELEC from conducting the plebiscite scheduled on January 3, 1986. Since the Court was in recess, it was unable to consider the petition on time. Petitioners filed a supplemental pleading, averring that the plebiscite sought to be restrained by them was held as scheduled, but there were still serious issues raised in the case affecting the legality, constitutionality and validity of such exercise which should properly be passed upon and resolved by the Court. At issue in Tan was the land area of the new Province of Negros del Norte, and the validity of the plebiscite, which did not include voters of the parent Province of Negros Occidental, but only those living within the territory of the new Province of Negros del Norte. The Court held that the plebiscite should have included the people living in the area of the proposed new province and those living in the parent province. However, the Court did not direct the conduct of a new plebiscite, because the factual and legal basis for the creation of the new province did not exist as it failed to satisfy the land area requirement; hence, Batas Pambansa Blg. 885, creating the new Province of Negros del Norte, was declared unconstitutional. The Court found that the land area of the new province was only about 2,856 square kilometers, which was below the statutory requirement then of 3,500 square kilometers. Respondents in Tan insisted that when the Local Government Code speaks of the required territory of the province to be

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created, what is contemplated is not only the land area, but also the land and water over which the said province has jurisdiction and control. The respondents submitted that in this regard, the marginal sea within the three mile limit should be considered in determining the extent of the territory of the new province. The Court stated that "[s]uch an interpretation is strained, incorrect and fallacious."18 It held: The last sentence of the first paragraph of Section 197 is most revealing. As so stated therein the "territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two or more islands." The use of the word territory in this particular provision of the Local Government Code and in the very last sentence thereof, clearly, reflects that "territory" as therein used, has reference only to the mass of land area and excludes the waters over which the political unit exercises control. Said sentence states that the "territory need not be contiguous." Contiguous means (a) in physical contact; (b) touching along all or most of one side; (c) near, [n]ext, or adjacent (Webster's New World Dictionary, 1972 Ed., p. 307). "Contiguous," when employed as an adjective, as in the above sentence, is only used when it describes physical contact, or a touching of sides of two solid masses of matter. The meaning of particular terms in a statute may be ascertained by reference to words associated with or related to them in the statute (Animal Rescue League vs. Assessors, 138 A.L.R., p. 110). Therefore, in the context of the sentence above, what need not be "contiguous" is the "territory" the physical mass of land area. There would arise no need for the legislators to use the word contiguous if they had intended that the term "territory" embrace not only land area but also territorial waters. It can be safely concluded that the word territory in the first paragraph of Section 197 is meant to be synonymous with "land area" only. The words and phrases used in a statute should be given the meaning intended by the legislature (82 C.J.S., p. 636). The sense in which the words are used furnished the rule of construction (In re Winton Lumber Co., 63 p. 2d., p. 664).19 The discussion of the Court in Tan on the definition and usage of the terms "territory," and "contiguous," and the meaning of the provision, "The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two or more islands," contained in Sec. 197 of the former Local Government Code, which provides for the requisites in the creation of a new province, is applicable in this case since there is no reason for a change in their respective definitions, usage, or meaning in its counterpart provision in the present Local Government Code contained in Sec. 461 thereof. The territorial requirement in the Local Government Code is adopted in the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 (IRR),20 thus: ART. 9. Provinces.(a) Requisites for creationA province shall not be created unless the following requisites on income and either population or land area are present: (1) Income An average annual income of not less than Twenty Million Pesos (P20,000,000.00) for the immediately preceding two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices, as certified by DOF. The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, special accounts, transfers, and nonrecurring income; and (2) Population or land area - Population which shall not be less than two hundred fifty thousand (250,000) inhabitants, as certified by National Statistics Office; or land area which must be contiguous with an area of at least two thousand (2,000) square kilometers, as certified by LMB. The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a chartered city or cities which do not contribute to the income of the province. The land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands. The territorial jurisdiction of a province sought to be created shall be properly identified by metes and bounds. However, the IRR went beyond the criteria prescribed by Section 461 of the Local Government Code when it added the italicized portion above stating that "[t]he land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands." Nowhere in the Local Government Code is the said provision stated or implied. Under Section 461 of the Local Government Code, the only instance when the territorial or land area

requirement need not be complied with is when there is already compliance with the population requirement. The Constitution requires that the criteria for the creation of a province, including any exemption from such criteria, must all be written in the Local Government Code.21 There is no dispute that in case of discrepancy between the basic law and the rules and regulations implementing the said law, the basic law prevails, because the rules and regulations cannot go beyond the terms and provisions of the basic law.22 Hence, the Court holds that the provision in Sec. 2, Art. 9 of the IRR stating that "[t]he land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands" is null and void. Respondents, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, argue that rules and regulations have the force and effect of law as long as they are germane to the objects and purposes of the law. They contend that the exemption from the land area requirement of 2,000 square kilometers is germane to the purpose of the Local Government Code to develop political and territorial subdivisions into self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals.23 They assert that in Holy Spirit Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Defensor,24 the Court declared as valid the implementing rules and regulations of a statute, even though the administrative agency added certain provisions in the implementing rules that were not found in the law. In Holy Spirit Homeowners Association, Inc. v. Defensor, the provisions in the implementing rules and regulations, which were questioned by petitioner therein, merely filled in the details in accordance with a known standard. The law that was questioned was R.A. No. 9207, otherwise known as "National Government Center (NGC) Housing and Land Utilization Act of 2003." It was therein declared that the "policy of the State [was] to secure the land tenure of the urban poor. Toward this end, lands located in the NGC, Quezon City shall be utilized for housing, socioeconomic, civic, educational, religious and other purposes." Section 5 of R.A. No. 9207 created the National Government Center Administration Committee, which was tasked to administer, formulate the guidelines and policies and implement the land disposition of the areas covered by the law. Petitioners therein contended that while Sec. 3.2 (a.1) of the IRR fixed the selling rate of a lot at P700.00 per sq. m., R.A. No. 9207 did not provide for the price. In addition, Sec. 3.2 (c.1) of the IRR penalizes a beneficiary who fails to execute a contract to sell within six (6) months from the approval of the subdivision plan by imposing a price escalation, while there is no such penalty imposed by R.A. No. 9207. Thus, they conclude that the assailed provisions conflict with R.A. No. 9207 and should be nullified. In Holy Spirit Homeowners Association, Inc., the Court held: Where a rule or regulation has a provision not expressly stated or contained in the statute being implemented, that provision does not necessarily contradict the statute. A legislative rule is in the nature of subordinate legislation, designed to implement a primary legislation by providing the details thereof. All that is required is that the regulation should be germane to the objects and purposes of the law; that the regulation be not in contradiction to but in conformity with the standards prescribed by the law. In Section 5 of R.A. No. 9207, the Committee is granted the power to administer, formulate guidelines and policies, and implement the disposition of the areas covered by the law. Implicit in this authority and the statutes objective of urban poor housing is the power of the Committee to formulate the manner by which the reserved property may be allocated to the beneficiaries. Under this broad power, the Committee is mandated to fill in the details such as the qualifications of beneficiaries, the selling price of the lots, the terms and conditions governing the sale and other key particulars necessary to implement the objective of the law. These details are purposely omitted from the statute and their determination is left to the discretion of the Committee because the latter possesses special knowledge and technical expertise over these matters. The Committees authority to fix the selling price of the lots may be likened to the rate-fixing power of administrative agencies. In case of a delegation of rate-fixing power, the only standard which the legislature is required to prescribe for the guidance of the administrative authority is that the rate be reasonable and just. However, it has been held that even in the absence of an express requirement as to reasonableness, this standard may be implied. In this regard, petitioners do not even claim that the selling price of the lots is unreasonable.

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The provision on the price escalation clause as a penalty imposed to a beneficiary who fails to execute a contract to sell within the prescribed period is also within the Committees authority to formulate guidelines and policies to implement R.A. No. 9207. The Committee has the power to lay down the terms and conditions governing the disposition of said lots, provided that these are reasonable and just. There is nothing objectionable about prescribing a period within which the parties must execute the contract to sell. This condition can ordinarily be found in a contract to sell and is not contrary to law, morals, good customs, public order, or public policy.25 Hence, the provisions in the implementing rules and regulations that were questioned in Holy Spirit Homeowners Association, Inc. merely filled in the necessary details to implement the objective of the law in accordance with a known standard, and were thus germane to the purpose of the law. In this case, the pertinent provision in the IRR did not fill in any detail in accordance with a known standard provided for by the law. Instead, the IRR added an exemption to the standard or criteria prescribed by the Local Government Code in the creation of a province as regards the land area requirement, which exemption is not found in the Code. As such, the provision in the IRR that the land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one or more islands is not in conformity with the standard or criteria prescribed by the Local Government Code; hence, it is null and void. Contrary to the contention of respondents, the extraneous provision cannot be considered as germane to the purpose of the law to develop territorial and political subdivisions into self-reliant communities because, in the first place, it already conflicts with the criteria prescribed by the law in creating a territorial subdivision. Further, citing Galarosa v. Valencia,26 the Office of the Solicitor General contends that the IRRs issued by the Oversight Committee composed of members of the legislative and executive branches of the government are entitled to great weight and respect, as they are in the nature of executive construction. The case is not in point. In Galarosa, the issue was whether or not Galarosa could continue to serve as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan beyond June 30, 1992, the date when the term of office of the elective members of theSangguniang Bayan of Sorsogon expired. Galarosa was the incumbent president of the Katipunang Bayan or Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) of the Municipality of Sorsogon, Province of Sorsogon; and was appointed as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Sorsogon pursuant to Executive Order No. 342 in relation to Sec. 146 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, the former Local Government Code. Sec. 494 of the Local Government Code of 199127 states that the duly elected presidents of the liga [ng mga barangay] at the municipal, city and provincial levels, including the component cities and municipalities of Metropolitan Manila, shall serve as ex officio members of the sangguniang bayan, sangguniang panglungsod, and sangguniang panlalawigan, respectively. They shall serve as such only during their term of office as presidents of the liga chapters which, in no case, shall be beyond the term of office of the sanggunian concerned. The section, however, does not fix the specific duration of their term as liga president. The Court held that this was left to the by-laws of the liga pursuant to Art. 211(g) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991. Moreover, there was no indication that Secs. 49128 and 494 should be given retroactive effect to adversely affect the presidents of the ABC; hence, the said provisions were to be applied prospectively. The Court stated that there is no law that prohibits ABC presidents from holding over as members of theSangguniang Bayan. On the contrary, the IRR, prepared and issued by the Oversight Committee upon specific mandate of Sec. 533 of the Local Government Code, expressly recognizes and grants the hold-over authority to the ABC presidents under Art. 210, Rule XXIX.29 The Court upheld the application of the hold-over doctrine in the provisions of the IRR and the issuances of the DILG, whose purpose was to prevent a hiatus in the government pending the time when the successor may be chosen and inducted into office. The Court held that Sec. 494 of the Local Government Code could not have been intended to allow a gap in the

representation of the barangays, through the presidents of the ABC, in the sanggunian. Since the term of office of the punong barangays elected in the March 28, 1989 election and the term of office of the presidents of the ABC had not yet expired, and taking into account the special role conferred upon, and the broader powers and functions vested in the barangays by the Code, it was inferred that the Code never intended to deprive thebarangays of their representation in the sangguniang bayan during the interregnum when the liga had yet to be formally organized with the election of its officers. Under the circumstances prevailing in Galarosa, the Court considered the relevant provisions in the IRR formulated by the Oversight Committee and the pertinent issuances of the DILG in the nature of executive construction, which were entitled to great weight and respect. Courts determine the intent of the law from the literal language of the law within the laws four corners.30 If the language of the law is plain, clear and unambiguous, courts simply apply the law according to its express terms.31If a literal application of the law results in absurdity, impossibility or injustice, then courts may resort to extrinsic aids of statutory construction like the legislative history of the law,32 or may consider the implementing rules and regulations and pertinent executive issuances in the nature of executive construction. In this case, the requirements for the creation of a province contained in Sec. 461 of the Local Government Code are clear, plain and unambiguous, and its literal application does not result in absurdity or injustice. Hence, the provision in Art. 9(2) of the IRR exempting a proposed province composed of one or more islands from the land-area requirement cannot be considered an executive construction of the criteria prescribed by the Local Government Code. It is an extraneous provision not intended by the Local Government Code and, therefore, is null and void. Whether R.A. No. 9355 complied with the requirements of Section 461 of the Local Government Code in creating the Province of Dinagat Islands It is undisputed that R.A. No. 9355 complied with the income requirement specified by the Local Government Code. What is disputed is its compliance with the land area or population requirement. R.A. No. 9355 expressly states that the Province of Dinagat Islands "contains an approximate land area of eighty thousand two hundred twelve hectares (80,212 has.) or 802.12 sq. km., more or less, including Hibuson Island and approximately forty-seven (47) islets x x x."33 R.A. No. 9355, therefore, failed to comply with the land area requirement of 2,000 square kilometers. The Province of Dinagat Islands also failed to comply with the population requirement of not less than 250,000 inhabitants as certified by the NSO. Based on the 2000 Census of Population conducted by the NSO, the population of the Province of Dinagat Islands as of May 1, 2000 was only 106,951. Although the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte conducted a special census of population in Dinagat Islands in 2003, which yielded a population count of 371,000, the result was not certified by the NSO as required by the Local Government Code.34 Moreover, respondents failed to prove that with the population count of 371,000, the population of the original unit (mother Province of Surigao del Norte) would not be reduced to less than the minimum requirement prescribed by law at the time of the creation of the new province.35 Respondents contended that the lack of certification by the NSO was cured by the presence of the officials of the NSO during the deliberations on the house bill creating the Province of Dinagat Islands, since they did not object to the result of the special census conducted by the Provincial Government of Surigao del Norte. The contention of respondents does not persuade. Although the NSO representative to the Committee on Local Government deliberations dated November 24, 2005 did not object to the result of the provincial governments special census, which was conducted with the assistance of an NSO district census coordinator, it was agreed by the participants that the said result was not certified by the NSO, which is the requirement of the Local Government Code. Moreover, the NSO representative, Statistician II Ma. Solita C. Vergara, stated that based on their computation, the population requirement of 250,000 inhabitants would be attained by the Province of Dinagat Islands by the year 2065. The computation was based on the growth rate of the population, excluding migration. The pertinent portion of the deliberation on House Bill No. 884 creating the Province of Dinagat reads:

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THE CHAIRMAN (Hon. Alfredo S. Lim): . . . There is no problem with the land area requirement and to the income requirement. The problem is with the population requirement. xxxx Now because of this question, we would like to make it of record the stand and reply of National Statistics Office. Can we hear now from Ms. Solita Vergara? MS. VERGARA. We only certify population based on the counts proclaimed by the President. And in this case, we only certify the population based on the results of the 2000 census of population and housing. THE CHAIRMAN. Is that MS. VERGARA. Sir, as per Batas Pambansa, BP 72, we only follow kung ano po yong mandated by the law. So, as mandated by the law, we only certify those counts proclaimed official by the President. THE CHAIRMAN. But the government of Surigao del Norte is headed by Governor Robert Lyndon Ace Barbers and they conducted this census in year 2003 and yours was conducted in year 2000. So, within that time frame, three years, there could be an increase in population or transfer of residents, is that possible? MS. VERGARA. Yes, sir, but then we only conduct census of population every 10 years and we conduct special census every five years. So, in this case, maybe by next year, we will be conducting the 2006. THE CHAIRMAN. But next year will be quite a long time, the matter is now being discussed on the table. So, is that the only thing you could say that its not authorized by National Statistics Office? MS. VERGARA. Yes, sir. We have passed a resolution orders to the provincial officesto our provincial offices stating that we can provide assistance in the conduct, but then we cannot certify the result of the conduct as official. THE CHAIRMAN. May we hear from the Honorable Governor Robert Lyndon Ace Barbers, your reply on the statement of the representative from National Statistics Office. MR. BARBERS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, good morning. Yes, your Honor, we have conducted a special census in the year 2003. We were accompanied by one of the employees from the Provincial National Statistics Office. However, we also admit the fact that our special census or the special census we conducted in 2003 was not validated or certified by the National Statistics Office, as provided by law. So, we admit on our part that the certification that I have issued based on the submission of records of each locality or each municipality from Dinagat Island[s] were true and correct based on our level, not on National Statistics Office level. But with that particular objection of Executive Director Ericta on what we have conducted, I believe, your Honor, it will be, however, moot and academic in terms of the provision under the Local Government Code on the requirements in making one area a province because what we need is a minimum of 20 million, as stated by the Honorable Chairman and, of course, the land area. Now, in terms of the land area, Dinagat Island[s] is exempted because xxx the area is composed of more than one island. In fact, there are about 47 low tide and high tide, less than 40? xxxx THE CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Governor. xxxx xxxx THE CHAIRMAN. Although the claim of the governor is, even if we hold in abeyance this questioned requirement, the other two requirements, as mandated by law, is already achieved the income and the land area. MS. VERGARA. We do not question po the results of any locally conducted census, kasi po talagang we provide assistance while theyre conducting their own census. But then, ang requirement po kasi is, basta we will not certify we will not certify any population count as a result noong kanilang locally conducted census. Eh, sa Local Government Code po, we all know na ang xxx nire-require nila is a certification provided by National Statistics Office. Yon po yong requirement, di ba po? THE CHAIRMAN. Oo. But a certification, even though not issued, cannot go against actual reality because thats just a bureaucratic requirement. Ang ibig kong sabihin, ipagpalagay, a couple isang lalaki, isang babae nagmamahalan sila. As an offshoot of this undying love, nagkaroon ng mga anak, hindi ba, pero hindi kasal, its a live-in situation. Ang tanong ko lang, whether eventually, they got married or not, that love remains. And we cannot

deny also the existence of the offspring out of that love, di ba? Kayayon lang. Okay. So, we just skip on this. MS. VERGARA. Your Honor. REP. ECLEO (GLENDA). Mr. Chairman. THE CHAIRMAN. Please, Ms. Vergara. MS. VERGARA. Yong sinasabi nyo po, sir, bale we computed the estimated population po ng Dinagat Province for the next years. So, based on our computation, mari-reach po ng Dinagat Provinceyong requirement na 250,000 population by the year 2065 pa po based on the growth rates during the period of . THE CHAIRMAN. 2065? MS. VERGARA. 2065 po. xxxx THE CHAIRMAN. . . . [T]his is not the center of our argument since, as stated by the governor, kahit ha huwag na munang iconsider itong population requirement, eh, nakalagpas naman sila doon sa income and land area, hindi ba? Okay. Lets give the floor to Congresswoman Ecleo. REP. ECLEO (GLENDA). Thank you, Mr. Chairman. This is in connection with the special census. Before this was done, I went to the NSO. I talked to Administrator Ericta on the population. Then, I was told that the population, official population of Dinagat is 106,000. So, I told them that I want a special census to be conducted because there are so many houses that were not reached by the government enumerators, and I want to have my own or our own special census with the help of the provincial government. So, that is how it was conducted. Then, they told me that the official population of the proposed province will be on 2010. But at this moment, that is the official population of 106,000, even if our special census, we came up with 371,000 plus. So, that is it. THE CHAIRMAN. Thank you, Congresswoman. Your insights will be reflected in my reply to Senate President Drilon, so that he can also answer the letter of Bishop Cabahug. MS. VERGARA. Mr. Chairman, may clarifications lang din po ako. THE CHAIRMAN. Please. MS. VERGARA. Yon po sa sinasabi naming estimated population, we only based the computation doon sa growth rate lang po talaga, excluding the migration. xxxx MR. CHAIRMAN. Nong mga residents. MS. VERGARA. Yes, sir, natural growth lang po talaga siya.36 To reiterate, when the Dinagat Islands was proclaimed a new province on December 3, 2006, it had an official population of only 106,951 based on the NSO 2000 Census of Population. Less than a year after the proclamation of the new province, the NSO conducted the 2007 Census of Population. The NSO certified that as of August 1, 2007, Dinagat Islands had a total population of only 120,813,37 which was still below the minimum requirement of 250,000 inhabitants.38 In fine, R.A. No. 9355 failed to comply with either the territorial or the population requirement for the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands. The Constitution clearly mandates that the creation of local government units must follow the criteria established in the Local Government Code.39 Any derogation of or deviation from the criteria prescribed in the Local Government Code violates Sec. 10, Art. X of the Constitution.40 Hence, R.A. No. 9355 is unconstitutional for its failure to comply with the criteria for the creation of a province prescribed in Sec. 461 of the Local Government Code. Whether the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands is an act of gerrymandering Petitioners contend that the creation of the Province of Dinagat Islands is an act of gerrymandering on the ground that House Bill No. 884 excluded Siargao Island, with a population of 118,534 inhabitants, from the new province for complete political dominance by Congresswoman Glenda EcleoVillaroman. According to petitioners, if Siargao were included in the creation of the new province, the territorial requirement of 2,000 square kilometers would have been easily satisfied and the enlarged area would have a bigger population of 200,305 inhabitants based on the 2000 Census of Population by the NSO. But House Bill No. 884 excluded Siargao Island, because its inclusion would result in uncertain political control. Petitioners aver that, in the past, Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman lost her congressional seat twice to a member of an influential family based in Siargao. Therefore, the only way to complete political dominance is by gerrymandering, to carve a new province in Dinagat Islands where the Philippine Benevolent Members Association (PMBA), represented by the Ecleos, has the numbers.

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The argument of petitioners is unsubstantiated. "Gerrymandering" is a term employed to describe an apportionment of representative districts so contrived as to give an unfair advantage to the party in power.41 Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, defined "gerrymandering" as the formation of one legislative district out of separate territories for the purpose of favoring a candidate or a party.42 The Constitution proscribes gerrymandering, as it mandates each legislative district to comprise, as far as practicable, a contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.43 As stated by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Province of Dinagat Islands consists of one island and about 47 islets closely situated together, without the inclusion of separate territories. It is an unsubstantiated allegation that the province was created to favor Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman. Allegations of fraud and irregularities during the plebiscite cannot be resolved in a special civil action for certiorari Lastly, petitioners alleged that R.A. No. 9355 was ratified by a doubtful mandate in a plebiscite held on December 2, 2005, where the "yes votes" were 69,9343, while the "no votes" were 63,502. They contend that the 100% turnout of voters in the precincts of San Jose, Basilisa, Dinagat, Cagdianao and Libjo was contrary to human experience, and that the results were statistically improbable. Petitioners admit that they did not file any electoral protest questioning the results of the plebiscite, because they lacked the means to finance an expensive and protracted election case. Allegations of fraud and irregularities in the conduct of a plebiscite are factual in nature; hence, they cannot be the subject of this special civil action for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, which is a remedy designed only for the correction of errors of jurisdiction, including grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.44 Petitioners should have filed the proper action with the Commission on Elections. However, petitioners admittedly chose not to avail themselves of the correct remedy. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. Republic Act No. 9355, otherwise known as [An Act Creating the Province of Dinagat Islands], is hereby declared unconstitutional. The proclamation of the Province of Dinagat Islands and the election of the officials thereof are declared NULL and VOID. The provision in Article 9 (2) of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991 stating, "The land area requirement shall not apply where the proposed province is composed of one (1) or more islands," is declared NULL and VOID. No costs. SO ORDERED.

G. R. No. 95245 November 8, 1991 -versusHON. COURT OF APPEALS and LUIS T. SANTOS, in his capacity as the Secretary of the DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, Respondents.

RESOLUTION PADILLA, J.: Before the Court for resolution are the various issues raised by Rodolfo T. Ganzon's urgent motion, dated 7 September 1991, wherein he asks the Court to dissolve the temporary restraining order [TRO] it had issued, dated 5 September 1991, against the TRO earlier issued by the Court of Appeals in CA-G. R. SP No. 25840 entitled Ganzon vs. Santos, et al. On 5 August 1991, the Court's decision in the present case was promulgated, upholding the validity of the orders of preventive suspension issued by respondent Secretary Santos, the dispositive part of which decision reads: WHEREFORE, premises considered, the petitions are dismissed. The Temporary Restraining Order issued is lifted. The suspensions of the petitioners are affirmed; Provided, that the petitioner, Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon, may not be made to serve future suspensions on account of any of the remaining administrative charges pending against him for acts committed prior to August 11, 1988. The Secretary of Interior is ordered to consolidate all such administrative cases pending against Mayor Ganzon. The sixty-day suspension against the petitioner, Mary Ann Rivera Artieda, is affirmed. No costs.[1] A brief summary of the facts that led to this Court's decision of 5 August 1991 ["main decision", for brevity] is as follows: 1. Sometime in 1988, a series of ten [10] administrative complaints were filed by various city officials, against petitioner Ganzon, the elected City Mayor of Iloilo City, on various charges such as abuse of authority, oppression, grave misconduct and others. 2. In the course of the hearing of the administrative cases, respondent Secretary Santos issued against petitioner Ganzon three [3] separate orders of preventive suspension dated 11 August 1988, 11 October 1988, and 3 May 1990, each of the orders to last for a 60-day period. Petitioner assailed the validity of the said orders by filing with the Court of Appeals two [2] separate petitions for prohibition docketed CA-G. R. SP No. 16417 and CA-G. R. SP No. 20736. On 7 September 1988 and 5 July 1990, the appellate court rendered the decision in CA-G. R. SP Nos. 16417 and 20736 dismissing the petitions for lack of merit. Hence, petitioner Ganzon filed with this Court two [2] separate petitions assailing the decision in CA-G. R. SP No. 16417 [subject of G. R. No. 93252], and that in CA-G. R. SP No. 20736 [subject of G. R. No. 95245].[2] 3. On 26 June 1990, we issued a temporary restraining order barring the respondent Secretary from implementing the suspension orders, and restraining the enforcement of the Court of Appeals' two [2] decisions. However, it appears that even before the promulgation on 5 August 1991 of the main decision, respondent Secretary Santos had issued on 3 July 1991 against petitioner Ganzon another order of preventive suspension in connection with Administrative Case No. 51-90 filed by complainant Octavius J. Jopson, which order states: It appearing from a perusal of the complaint as well as the answer in Administrative Case No 51-90, entitled Octavius J. Jopson, Complainant, versus, Mayor Rodolfo T. Ganzon, Respondent, for Oppression, etc., that there is reasonable ground to believe that Respondent has committed the act or acts complained of, as prayed for by Complainant Jopson, you are hereby preventively suspended from office for a period of sixty [60] days effective immediately. [Emphasis supplied]. On 6 July 1991, petitioner Ganzon filed his "extremely urgent motion" (with supplemental motions later filed) questioning the validity of the said last mentioned suspension order. This Court issued a resolution dated 9 July 1991, requiring respondents to comment on petitioner's urgent motion. After the main decision in the present petitions was rendered by the Court on

RODOLFO T. GANZON, Petitioner, G. R. No. 93252 November 8, 1991 -versusCOURT OF APPEALS and LUIS T. SANTOS, Respondents. ______________________________ MARY ANN RIVERA ARTIEDA, Petitioner, G. R. No. 93746 November 8, 1991 -versusHON. LUIS SANTOS, in his capacity as Secretary of the DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT, NICANOR M. PATRICIO, in his capacity as Chief, Legal Service of the DEPARTMENT OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT and SALVADOR CABALUNA, Respondents. _____________________________________ RODOLFO T. GANZON, Petitioner,

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5 August 1991, respondents filed motions dated, 9 and 29 August 1991 alleging therein that the issues raised in petitioner's motion [6 July 1991] were rendered moot and academic by the said decision, and seeking clarification on whether it was still necessary to comply with this Court's Resolutions requiring respondents to file comment on petitioner's said motion of 6 July 1991. Meanwhile, on 29 August 1991, respondent Santos issued a memorandum addressed to petitioner Ganzon, in connection with the 5 August 1991 main decision, stating therein that the third order of preventive suspension issued against petitioner on 3 May 1990 shall be deemed in force and effect. The memorandum states: The Supreme Court, in its Decision in the above-referred cases, which affirmed the authority of the Secretary of Local Government to discipline local elective officials, explicitly states that: We are, therefore, allowing Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon to suffer the duration of his third suspension and lifting for the purpose, the Temporary Restraining Order earlier issued . . . In view thereof, the third preventive suspension imposed on you, photocopy of which is hereto attached, is hereby deemed in force. On 30 August 1991, petitioner Ganzon filed with the Court of Appeals a petition for mandamus, docketed CA-G. R. SP No. 25480 against respondents. On the same day, petitioner filed in these petitions his "manifestation and compliance," alleging that he had already fully served the suspension orders issued against him, in compliance with the main decision of 5 August 1991, and that he should be allowed to re-assume his office starting 4 September 1991. Meanwhile, in reaction to the Memorandum dated 29 August 1991 issued by respondent Santos, petitioner filed in CA-G. R. SP No. 25840 a motion praying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, which motion was granted by the Court of Appeals, when on 3 September 1991, it [CA] issued the said TRO. On 4 September 1991, respondents filed with this Court a motion asking for the issuance of a restraining order addressed to the Court of Appeals and against the TRO issued in CA-G. R. SP No. 25840. Granting respondents' motion, this Court on 5 September 1991, issued a temporary restraining order directing the Court of Appeals to cease and desist from implementing the TRO it had issued dated 3 September 1991, immediately suspending the implementation of the order of the Secretary of Interior and Local Government dated 29 August 1991. On 9 September 1991, petitioner Ganzon filed a motion to dissolve this Court's restraining order dated 5 September 1991. The records show that petitioner Ganzon, to this date, remains suspended from office [as the elected Mayor of Iloilo City] and since the order of preventive suspension dated 3 July 1991 [the fourth suspension order][3] was issued against him by respondent Secretary; in other words, he has been serving the said fourth suspension order which is to expire after a period of 60 days, or on 4 September 1991. Similar to the argument raised in his petition filed with the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 25840, petitioner Ganzon, in support of his plea for the lifting of the TRO dated 5 September 1991 issued by this Court, In Re: TRO dated 3 September 1991, issued by Court of Appeals, contends that inasmuch as he has already served fully the suspension orders issued against him, in compliance with the mandate of this Court's decision dated 5 August 1991, coupled with the fact that he had also completely served by 4 September 1991 the fourth order of preventive suspension dated 3 July 1991, he should, therefore, be allowed to re-assume his office starting 4 September 1991. On the other hand, respondent Secretary maintains that petitioner Ganzon can be allowed to return to his office [as Mayor of Iloilo City] only after 19 October 1991, as it is only after such date when petitioner may be said to have fully served the preventive suspension orders as decreed in the main decision and in the order dated 3 July 1991 [fourth suspension]. The question then is when petitioner Ganzon may be allowed to re-assume his position and duties as mayor of Iloilo City. Is it only after 19 October 1991 as claimed by respondents, or at some earlier date? The answer to this question would depend on how

petitioner has served the preventive suspension orders issued against him. We note that the main decision refers to three [3] orders of preventive suspension each to last for 60 days. The first dated 11 August 1988, was admittedly fully served by petitioner. The second order dated 11 October 1988 was not served because its enforcement was restrained by an order of the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City upon petition of petitioner himself. [4] As to the third order dated 3 May 1990, the main decision states that petitioner is allowed to serve the duration of said third suspension order. It would seem, therefore, that after petitioner has served in full the third suspension order as decreed in the main decision, he can then return to his official duties as Iloilo City Mayor. However, We must also take note of the supervening 3 July 1991 order, again suspending petitioner from office for another 60 days, which order was issued even before the main decision of 5 August 1991 was promulgated. [The records show, however, that petitioner has in fact fully served the fourth suspension order, as admitted by respondents no less. This will be discussed shortly; but any issue on its validity is now moot and academic.[5] Besides, it is clear that this fourth suspension order is not one of the three orders covered by and subject of the main decision]. Considering, nonetheless, the necessity of serving the third and fourth orders of suspension, there is need to look into when petitioner started to serve these orders so as to determine when their service expires. Petitioner contends that the following are the periods within which he stayed out of his office as he was serving the orders of preventive suspension issued against him: From Up to and Including May 4, 1990 May 18, 1990[6] June 9, 1990 June 26, 1990[7] July 5, 1991 September 3, 1991[8] Petitioner argues that for the periods of 4 May to 18 May 1990, and 9 June to 26 June 1990, he was serving the third suspension order; whereas for the period of 5 July to 3 September 1991, he was then serving the fourth suspension order. On the other hand, respondent Secretary contends that as to the third order of preventive suspension, dated 3 May 1990, petitioner served it only from 4 May 1990 to 19 May 1990. [9] Respondent denies that from 11 June to 30 June 1990, [10]petitioner had served again the third suspension order. As to the fourth suspension order, respondent Secretary confirms that petitioner served it starting from 5 July 1991 to 3 September 1991.[11] As regards the third suspension order, it is noted that though both parties admit that petitioner started serving it on 4 May 1990, they however differ as to when the service ended [petitioner claims he served it even after 18 May 1990, whereas, respondent claims it ended 19 May 1990]. In view of this divergence, the Court rules that the third order was served by petitioner from 4 May 1990 up to 18 May 1990 only, the latter date being the date when the Court of Appeals issued a TRO in CA-G. R. SP No. 20736,[12] and thus, interrupted petitioner's service of the suspension orders and enabled him re-assume his office as Iloilo City Mayor. We also do not accept petitioner's contention that from 9 June 1990 up to 26 June 1990[13] he again started to serve the third suspension order, inasmuch as during the period of 9 June 1990 to 26 June 1990, the records show that he was then in office discharging the functions of the Mayor of Iloilo City. [14] In sum, we rule that petitioner served the third suspension order only from 4 May 1990 up to 18 May 1990. The period from 4 May 1990 to 18 May 1990 is equivalent to fourteen [14] days.[15] Hence, as to the third suspension order [3 May 1990], petitioner having served fourteen [14] days of the 60-day preventive suspension imposed in the order, 46 days still remained to be served by him as decreed in the main decision. If we follow the mandate of such main decision which ordained that the third order be served and that the temporary restraining order[16] against it be lifted, it would follow that the remaining 46 days should be served starting 5 August 1991 (date of promulgation of main decision) until fully served. Another way to serve the 46 days would be to begin serving it only on 4 September 1991 [the day after 3 September 1991 which was the last day of service for the fourth suspension order] or until 20 October 1991 [the 46th day from 4 September 1990]. However, We take note of the fact that petitioner has already fully served the 60-day fourth order of preventive suspension which started 5 July 1991 [that is, even before the main

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decision was rendered] and ended on 3 September 1991. Petitioner raises the issue of whether he could or should be allowed to serve the third and the fourth orders "simultaneously". If We allow his submission and accept "simultaneous service", it would mean the following: that from 5 August 1991 [the date the TRO issued by this Court was lifted] up to 3 September 1991 [the last day for serving the fourth order], twenty-nine [29] days have elapsed; that these twenty-nine [29] days which form part of his service for the fourth order can be also credited to his favor by treating said twenty-nine [29] days as forming part of his service of the third order; if this were so, he would need to serve only seventeen [17] days more to complete the service of the third order; said seventeen [17] days from 3 September 1991 will expire on 20 September 1991, which would be the last day for serving the third suspension order. Respondents however object to adopting the idea of "simultaneous service," of preventive suspensions as, according of them, this is not allowed under the Local Government Code. We agree with petitioner that he can be allowed the benefit of simultaneous service of the third and fourth suspension orders, for the following reasons. If simultaneous service of two [2] suspension orders is allowed, this would work in favor of the petitioner [an elective local official] as the balance of his third preventive suspension would, in effect, be reduced from 46 days to 17 days. It will be recalled that, in the main decision, noting that successive suspensions have been inflicted on Mayor Ganzon we stated that what "is intriguing is that respondent Secretary has been cracking down, so to speak, on the Mayor piecemeal apparently, to pin him down ten times the pain, when he, the respondent Secretary could have pursued a consolidated effort."[17] Surely, allowing petitioner to serve simultaneously the overlapping third and fourth suspensions will favor him, [and presumably the local constituency] and certainly lessen if not offset the harsh effects of whatever motive may be behind the intriguing action of the respondent Secretary in issuing those successive suspension orders. Furthermore, We may already take judicial notice of the recently-approved Local Government Code of 1991 [recently signed into law by the President][18] which provides [as to imposition of preventive suspensions] as follows: Sec. 63. Preventive Suspension.xxx xxx xxx (b) that, any single preventive suspension of local elective official shall not extend beyond sixty [60] days: Provided,further that in the event that several administrative cases are filed against an elective official, he cannot be preventively suspended for more than ninety [90] days within a single year on the same ground or grounds existing and known at the time of the first suspension. [Emphasis supplied]. Since we can allow, as we here allow, under the bizarre circumstances of this case, petitioner to serve the third and fourth orders simultaneously [insofar as they overlap], this means that, as explained earlier, petitioner shall serve only 17 days more [not 46 days] to complete the service of the third order, that is, starting from 3 September 1991 and ending on 20 September 1991. Hence, as of this latter date, petitioner has complied with the mandate of the main decision for he has already fully served the third preventive suspension which ended on 20 September 1991. But then another issue is raised by respondents, i.e. that considering that the main decision refers to the first, second and third orders of preventive suspension [as far as Mayor Ganzon is concerned], petitioner, apart from serving the third order [the first one having been fully served], should also serve the second order [for another 60 days] as the latter has admittedly not been serve yet due to a restraining order issued by a trial court,[19] and considering that the dispositive portion of the main decision decreed that "suspensions of petitioners [including the other petitioner Artieda in G.R. No. 93746] are affirmed." We agree with the respondents on this point. The main decision refers to the three [3] suspension orders: the first, the second and the third. As shown earlier, the first and the third orders have already been served. It is only the second order which seems to have

been unserved. If we follow the decision which states that the three [3] suspensions are affirmed, there appears to be no reason why the second order should not be served for another 60-day period. However, there is no cogent reason why, under the bizarre circumstances of this case where the respondent Secretary has chosen to impose preventive suspensions piecemeal, instead of consolidating the several administrative cases of similar nature and close vintage We cannot allow the concept of simultaneous service to apply to the second order [as we did in the third order]. It would follow then that the second order is also fully served to this date for the service of said second order would have started on 5 August 1991 when the main decision was rendered as this was the time when this Court found and affirmed the validity of the three [3] suspension orders, including the second order. The 60-day period from 5 August 1991 expired on 4 October 1991. It appears that, as to the second preventive suspension, petitioner manifested that there is still an existing preliminary injunction issued by the RTC of Iloilo City, Branch 33 in Special Civil Action No. 18312, entitled Ganzon vs. Santos, et al.[20] One may ask as to the status of the case pending with the RTC, Iloilo City, Branch 33 insofar as the said case involves the issue on the validity of the second preventive suspension order. Under the main decision of this Court, dated 5 August 1991, second preventive suspension has been affirmed; under the present resolution, said second preventive suspension has been served. Consequently, Special Civil Action No. 18312 before the Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City has been rendered moot and academic, insofar as the second preventive suspension order is concerned. As to the petition [docketed CA-G. R. SP No. 25840] filed with the Court of Appeals, which involves the question of the validity of the fourth order, and which has clearly been served, petitioner admitted that he filed it, on the belief that it was the proper remedy for his reinstatement to office; thinking that his suspensions have been served and ended.[21] As we have ruled that petitioner has served the suspension orders decreed in the main decision and in the light of the finding of this Court that the fourth preventive suspension order has been served, the issues raised in CA-G. R. SP No. 25840; have also become moot and academic, warranting dismissal thereof. WHEREFORE, the urgent motion of petitioner dated 7 September 1991 is hereby granted. The temporary restraining order dated 5 September 1991 is hereby lifted. Respondents are ordered to allow petitioner to re-assume his office as elected Mayor of Iloilo City effective immediately. The Court of Appeals is directed to dismiss CA-G. R. SP No. 25840 for having become moot and academic. The Regional Trial Court of Iloilo City, Branch 33, before which petitioner's action for prohibition [Special Civil Action No. 18312] is pending is also ordered to dismiss the said case for having become moot and academic insofar as petitioner prays therein to enjoin his [second] preventive suspension. This resolution is without prejudice to the administrative cases [where the first, second, third and fourth preventive suspension orders were issued] proceeding on the merits thereof. Also, as decreed in the main decision of 5 August 1991, petitioner, Mayor Rodolfo Ganzon, may not be made to serve future suspensions on account of any of the remaining administrative charges pending against him for acts committed prior to August 11, 1988. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 131255. May 20, 1998] HON. EDUARDO NONATO JOSON, in his capacity as the Governor of the Province of Nueva Ecija, petitioner, vs. EXECUTIVE SECRETARY RUBEN D. TORRES, the DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR & LOCAL GOVERNMENTS, represented by SECRETARY ROBERT Z. BARBERS and UNDERSECRETARY MANUEL R. SANCHEZ, MR. OSCAR C. TINIO, in his capacity as Provincial ViceGovernor of Nueva Ecija, and MR. LORETO P. PANGILINAN, MR. CRISPULO S. ESGUERRA, MS. SOLITA C. SANTOS, MR.VICENTE C. PALILIO, and MR. NAPOLEON G. INTERIOR, in their capacity as Provincial Board Members of Nueva Ecija, respondents. DECISION PUNO, J.: The case at bar involves the validity of the suspension from office of petitioner Eduardo Nonato Joson as Governor of the province of Nueva Ecija. Private respondent Oscar C. Tinio is the Vice-Governor of said province while private respondents Loreto P. Pangilinan, Crispulo S. Esguerra, Solita C. Santos,

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Vicente C. Palilio and Napoleon G. Interior are members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. On September 17, 1996, private respondents filed with the Office of the President a letter-complaint dated September 13, 1997 charging petitioner with grave misconduct and abuse of authority. Private respondents alleged that in the morning of September 12, 1996, they were at the session hall of the provincial capitol for a scheduled session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan when petitioner belligerently barged into the Hall; petitioner angrily kicked the door and chairs in the Hall and uttered threatening words at them; close behind petitioner were several men with long and short firearms who encircled the area. Private respondents claim that this incident was an offshoot of their resistance to a pending legislative measure supported by petitioner that the province of Nueva Ecija obtain a loan of P150 million from the Philippine National Bank; that petitioner's acts were intended to harass them into approving this loan; that fortunately, no session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan was held that day for lack of quorum and the proposed legislative measure was not considered; that private respondents opposed the loan because the province of Nueva Ecija had an unliquidated obligation of more than P70 million incurred without prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan; that the provincial budget officer and treasurer had earlier disclosed that the province could not afford to contract another obligation; that petitioner's act of barging in and intimidating private respondents was a serious insult to the integrity and independence of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan; and that the presence of his private army posed grave danger to private respondents' lives and safety. Private respondents prayed for the suspension or removal of petitioner; for an emergency audit of the provincial treasury of Nueva Ecija; and for the review of the proposed loan in light of the financial condition of the province, to wit: "In this regard, we respectfully request for the following assistance from your good office: 1. To immediately suspend Governor N. [sic] Joson considering the actual dangers that we are facing now, and provide adequate police security detail for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Nueva Ecija. Should the evidence warrant after investigation, to order his removal from office. 2. To conduct an emergency audit of the provincial treasury of Nueva Ecija by the auditors from the Commission on Audit Central Office with adequate police security assistance. Should the evidence so warrant, to file necessary charges against responsible and accountable officers. 3. To advise the Philippine National Bank to review the capability of the province of Nueva Ecija to secure more loans and the feasibility of the same in the light of the present financial condition of the province. Or if said loan will be contrary to sound banking practice, recommend its disapproval."[1] The letter-complaint was submitted with the joint affidavit of Elnora Escombien and Jacqueline Jane Perez, two (2) employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan who witnessed the incident. The letter was endorsed by Congressmen Eleuterio Violago and Pacifico Fajardo of the Second and Third Districts of Nueva Ecija, former Congressman Victorio Lorenzo of the Fourth District, and Mayor Placido Calma, President of the Mayors' League of said province.[2] The President acted on the complaint by writing on its margin the following: "17 Sep 96 To: SILG info Exec. Sec. and Sec. of Justice: 1. Noted. There appears no justification for the use of force, intimidation or armed followers in the situation of 12 Sep at the Session Hall. 2. Take appropriate preemptive and investigative actions. 3. BREAK NOT the PEACE. FIDEL V. RAMOS (Signed)."[3] President Ramos noted that the situation of "12 Sep at the Session Hall," i.e., the refusal of the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to approve the proposed loan, did not appear to justify "the use of force, intimidation or armed followers." He thus instructed the then Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments (SILG) Robert

Barbers to "[t]ake appropriate preemptive and investigative actions," but to "[b]reak not the peace." The letter-complaint together with the President's marginal notes were sent to Secretary Robert Z. Barbers on September 20, 1996. Acting upon the instructions of the President, Secretary Barbers notified petitioner of the case against him[4] and attached to the notice a copy of the complaint and its annexes. In the same notice, Secretary Barbers directed petitioner "to submit [his] verified/sworn answer thereto, not a motion to dismiss, together with such documentary evidence that [he] has in support thereof, within fifteen (15) days from receipt."[5] Immediately thereafter, Secretary Barbers proceeded to Nueva Ecija and summoned petitioner and private respondents to a conference to settle the controversy. The parties entered into an agreement whereby petitioner promised to maintain peace and order in the province while private respondents promised to refrain from filing cases that would adversely affect their peaceful co-existence.[6] The peace agreement was not respected by the parties and the private respondents reiterated their lettercomplaint. Petitioner was again ordered to file his answer to the letter-complaint within fifteen days from receipt. Petitioner received a copy of this order on November 13, 1996. On the same day, petitioner requested for an extension of thirty (30) days to submit his answer because he was "trying to secure the services of legal counsel experienced in administrative law practice."[7] The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), acting through Director Almario de los Santos, Officer-In-Charge of the Legal Service, granted the motion, with the thirty-day extension to be reckoned, however, from November 13, 1996, i.e., the day petitioner received the order to answer.[8] In a letter dated December 9, 1996, petitioner moved for another extension of thirty (30) days to file his answer. He stated that he had already sent letters to various law firms in Metro Manila but that he had not yet contracted their services; that the advent of the Christmas season kept him busy with "numerous and inevitable official engagements."[9] The DILG granted the request for extension "for the last time up to January 13 only."[10] On January 7, 1997, petitioner requested for another extension of thirty (30) days to file his answer. According to him, the Christmas season kept him very busy and preoccupied with his numerous official engagements; that the law firms he invited to handle his case have favorably replied but that he needed time to confer with them personally; and that during this period, he, with the help of his friends, was exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement of the case.[11] The DILG granted petitioner's request "for the last time" but gave him an extension of only ten (10) days from January 13, 1997 to January 23, 1997. The DILG also informed him that his "failure to submit answer will be considered a waiver and that the plaintiff [shall] be allowed to present his evidence ex-parte."[12] Petitioner moved for reconsideration of the order. He reiterated his prayer for an extension of thirty (30) days on the following grounds: (a) that he was still in the process of choosing competent and experienced counsel; (b) that some law firms refused to accept his case because it was perceived to be politically motivated; and (c) the multifarious activities, appointments and official functions of his office hindered his efforts to secure counsel of choice.[13] Three months later, on April 22, 1997, Undersecretary Manuel Sanchez, then Acting Secretary of the DILG, issued an order declaring petitioner in default and to have waived his right to present evidence. Private respondents were ordered to present their evidence ex-parte. The order reads as follows: "ORDER It appearing that respondent failed to submit his answer to the complaint despite the grant to him of three (3) extensions, such unreasonable failure is deemed a waiver of his right to present evidence in his behalf pursuant to Section 4, Rule 4 of Administrative Order No. 23 dated December 17, 1992, as amended. Respondent is hereby declared in default, meanwhile, complainants are directed to present their evidence exparte. However, considering the prohibition on the conduct of administrative investigation due to the forthcoming barangay elections, complainants will be notified on the date after the barangay election for them to present their evidence. SO ORDERED."[14] Two days later, on April 24, 1997, the law firm of Padilla, Jimenez, Kintanar & Asuncion, representing petitioner, filed with the DILG an "Entry of Appearance with Motion for Time to File Answer Ad Cautelam."

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Petitioner received a copy of the order of default on May 2, 1997. Through counsel, he moved for reconsideration. On May 19, 1997, Undersecretary Sanchez reconsidered the order of default in the interest of justice. He noted the appearance of petitioner's counsel and gave petitioner "for the last time" fifteen (15) days from receipt to file his answer.[15] On June 23, 1997, Undersecretary Sanchez issued an order stating that petitioner's counsel, whose office is in Manila, should have received a copy of the May 19, 1997 order ten days after mailing on May 27, 1997. Since petitioner still failed to file his answer, he was deemed to have waived his right to present evidence in his behalf. Undersecretary Sanchez reinstated the order of default and directed private respondents to present their evidence ex-parte on July 15, 1997.[16] The following day, June 24, 1997, petitioner, through counsel, filed a "Motion to Dismiss." Petitioner alleged that the letter-complaint was not verified on the day it was filed with the Office of the President; and that the DILG had no jurisdiction over the case and no authority to require him to answer the complaint. On July 4, 1997, petitioner filed an "Urgent ExParte Motion for Reconsideration" of the order of June 23, 1997 reinstating the order of default. Petitioner also prayed that the hearing on the merits of the case be held in abeyance until after the "Motion to Dismiss" shall have been resolved. On July 11, 1997, on recommendation of Secretary Barbers, Executive Secretary Ruben Torres issued an order, by authority of the President, placing petitioner under preventive suspension for sixty (60) days pending investigation of the charges against him.[17] Secretary Barbers directed the Philippine National Police to assist in the implementation of the order of preventive suspension. In petitioner's stead, Secretary Barbers designated Vice-Governor Oscar Tinio as Acting Governor until such time as petitioner's temporary legal incapacity shall have ceased to exist.[18] Forthwith, petitioner filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition with the Court of Appeals challenging the order of preventive suspension and the order of default.[19] Meanwhile, the proceedings before the DILG continued. On August 20, 1997, Undersecretary Sanchez issued an order denying petitioner's "Motion to Dismiss" and "Urgent Ex-Parte Motion for Reconsideration." In the same order, he required the parties to submit their position papers within an inextendible period of ten days from receipt after which the case shall be deemed submitted for resolution, to wit: "WHEREFORE, for lack of merit, both motions are denied. However, for this office to have a better appreciation of the issues raised in the instant case, the parties, through their respective counsels are hereby directed to submit their position papers within a period of ten (10) days from receipt hereof, which period is inextendible, after which the case is deemed submitted for resolution."[20] On August 27, 1997, petitioner filed with the DILG a "Motion to Lift Order of Preventive Suspension." On September 10, 1997, petitioner followed this with a "Motion to Lift Default Order and Admit Answer Ad Cautelam."[21] Attached to the motion was the "Answer Ad Cautelam"[22] and sworn statements of his witnesses. On the other hand, complainants (private respondents herein) manifested that they were submitting the case for decision based on the records, the complaint and affidavits of their witnesses.[23] In his Answer Ad Cautelam, petitioner alleged that in the morning of September 12, 1996, while he was at his district office in the town of Munoz, he received a phone call from Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Jose del Mundo. Del Mundo, who belonged to petitioner's political party, informed him that Vice-Governor Tinio was enraged at the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan who were in petitioner's party because they refused to place on the agenda the ratification of the proposed P150 million loan of the province. Petitioner repaired to the provincial capitol to advise his party-mates on their problem and at the same time attend to his official functions. Upon arrival, he went to the Session Hall and asked the members present where Vice-Governor Tinio was. However, without waiting for their reply, he left the Hall and proceeded to his office.

Petitioner claimed that there was nothing in his conduct that threatened the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan or caused alarm to the employees. He said that like ViceGovernor Tinio, he was always accompanied by his official security escorts whenever he reported for work. He also alleged that the joint affidavit of Elnora Escombien and Jacqueline Jane Perez was false. Escombien was purportedly not inside the session hall during the incident but was at her desk at the office and could not in any way have seen petitioner in the hall. To attest to the truth of his allegations, petitioner submitted three (3) joint affidavits -- two (2) affidavits executed by six (6) and ten (10) employees, respectively, of the provincial government, and a third by four members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan.[24] On September 11, 1997, petitioner filed an "Urgent Motion for Reconsideration" of the order of August 20, 1997 denying his motion to dismiss. The "Urgent Motion for Reconsideration" was rejected by Undersecretary Sanchez on October 8, 1997. Undersecretary Sanchez, however, granted the "Motion to Lift Default Order and to Admit Answer Ad Cautelam" and admitted the "Answer Ad Cautelam" as petitioner's position paper pursuant to the order of August 20, 1997.[25] On October 15, 1997, petitioner filed a "Motion to Conduct Formal Investigation." Petitioner prayed that a formal investigation of his case be conducted pursuant to the provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991 and Rule 7 of Administrative Order No. 23; and that this be held at the province of Nueva Ecija.[26] On October 29, 1997, petitioner submitted a "Manifestation and Motion" before the DILG reiterating his right to a formal investigation. In the meantime, on October 24, 1997, the Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's petition.[27] Hence this recourse. The proceedings before the DILG continued however. In an order dated November 11, 1997, the DILG denied petitioner's "Motion to Conduct Formal Investigation" declaring that the submission of position papers substantially complies with the requirements of procedural due process in administrative proceedings.[28] A few days after filing the petition before this Court, petitioner filed a "Motion for Leave to File Herein Incorporated Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction." Petitioner alleged that subsequent to the institution of this petition, the Secretary of the Interior and Local Governments rendered a resolution on the case finding him guilty of the offenses charged.[29] His finding was based on the position papers and affidavits of witnesses submitted by the parties. The DILG Secretary found the affidavits of complainants' witnesses to be "more natural, reasonable and probable" than those of herein petitioner Joson's.[30] On January 8, 1998, the Executive Secretary, by authority of the President, adopted the findings and recommendation of the DILG Secretary. He imposed on petitioner the penalty of suspension from office for six (6) months without pay, to wit: "WHEREFORE, as recommended by the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, respondent Nueva Ecija Governor Eduardo Nonato Joson is hereby found guilty of the offenses charged and is meted the penalty of suspension from office for a period of six (6) months without pay."[31] On January 14, 1998, we issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the implementation of the order of the Executive Secretary. On January 19, 1998, private respondents submitted a Manifestation informing this Court that the suspension of petitioner was implemented on January 9, 1998; that on the same day, private respondent Oscar Tinio was installed as Acting Governor of the province; and that in view of these events, the temporary restraining order had lost its purpose and effectivity and was fait accompli.[32] We noted this Manifestation. In his petition, petitioner alleges that: "I THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN HOLDING THAT RULES OF PROCEDURE AND EVIDENCE SHOULD NOT BE STRICTLY APPLIED IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE DISCIPLINARY AND CLEARLY PUNITIVE PROCEEDINGS IN THE CASE AGAINST PETITIONER GOVERNOR EDNO JOSON; II THE COURT OF APPEALS GRAVELY ERRED IN APPLYING THE ALTER-EGO PRINCIPLE BECAUSE, CONTRARY TO LAW, IT WAS THE SECRETARY OF THE DILG WHO WAS EXERCISING THE POWERS OF THE PRESIDENT WHICH ARE CLEARLY VESTED BY LAW ONLY UPON HIM OR THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY. III THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE PETITIONER WAS PROPERLY DECLARED IN DEFAULT WHEN HE FILED A MOTION TO DISMISS INSTEAD OF AN ANSWER, AS

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DIRECTED BY THE DILG, BECAUSE A MOTION TO DISMISS BASED ON JURISDICTIONAL GROUNDS IS NOT A PROHIBITIVE [sic] PLEADING IN ADMINISTRATIVE DISCIPLINARY CASES. IV THE COURT OF APPEALS ERRED IN RULING THAT THE IMPOSITION OF PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION AGAINST THE PETITIONER WAS PROPER BECAUSE THERE WAS NO JOINDER OF ISSUES YET UPON ITS IMPOSITION AND THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF GUILT AGAINST PETITIONER."[33] In his "Motion for Leave to File Herein Incorporated Urgent Motion for the Issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order and/or a Writ of Preliminary Injunction," petitioner also claims that: "I THE RESOLUTION OF JANUARY 8, 1998 AND THE MEMORANDA ISSUED PURSUANT THERETO (i.e., ANNEXES "C," "D," "E," "F," AND "G" HEREOF) WERE ISSUED WITH UNDUE HASTE, IN VIOLATION OF THE PERTINENT PROVISIONS OF THE 1991 LOCAL GOVERNMENT CODE AND ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER NO. 23, AND IN COMPLETE DISREGARD OF PETITIONER'S CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS. II THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE INVALID RESOLUTION OF JANUARY 8, 1998 (ANNEX "C" HEREOF) BY THE PUBLIC RESPONDENTS ENTITLES PETITIONER TO THE IMMEDIATE ISSUANCE OF THE TEMPORARY RESTRAINING ORDER/WRIT OF PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION HEREIN PRAYED FOR."[34] We find merit in the petition. Administrative disciplinary proceedings against elective local officials are governed by the Local Government Code of 1991, the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code of 1991, and Administrative Order No. 23 entitled "Prescribing the Rules and Procedures on the Investigation of Administrative Disciplinary Cases Against Elective Local Officials of Provinces, Highly Urbanized Cities, Independent Component Cities, and Cities and Municipalities in Metropolitan Manila."[35] In all matters not provided in A.O. No. 23, the Rules of Court and the Administrative Code of 1987 apply in a suppletory character.[36] I Section 60 of Chapter 4, Title II, Book I of the Local Government Code enumerates the grounds for which an elective local official may be disciplined, suspended or removed from office. Section 60 reads: "Sec. 60. Grounds for Disciplinary Actions. -- An elective local official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office on any of the following grounds: (a) Disloyalty to the Republic of the Philippines; (b) Culpable violation of the Constitution; (c) Dishonesty, oppression, misconduct in office, gross negligence, or dereliction of duty; (d) Commission of any offense involving moral turpitude or an offense punishable by at least prision mayor; (e) Abuse of authority; (f) Unauthorized absence for fifteen (15) consecutive working days, except in the case of members of the sangguniang panlalawigan, sangguniang panlunsod, sangguniang bayan, and sangguniang barangay; (g) Application for, or acquisition of, foreign citizenship or residence or the status of an immigrant of another country; and (h) Such other grounds as may be provided in this Code and other laws. An elective local official may be removed from office on the grounds enumerated above by order of the proper court." When an elective local official commits an act that falls under the grounds for disciplinary action, the administrative complaint against him must be verified and filed with any of the following: "Sec. 61. Form and Filing of Administrative Complaints.-A verified complaint against any erring local elective official shall be prepared as follows: (a) A complaint against any elective official of a province, a highly urbanized city, an independent component city or component city shall be filed before the Office of the President. (b) A complaint against any elective official of a municipality shall be filed before the sangguniang panlalawigan whose decision may be appealed to the Office of the President; and (c) A complaint against any elective barangay official shall be filed before the sangguniang panlungsod

or sangguniang bayan concerned whose decision shall be final and executory."[37] An administrative complaint against an erring elective official must be verified and filed with the proper government office. A complaint against an elective provincial or city official must be filed with the Office of the President. A complaint against an elective municipal official must be filed with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan while that of a barangay official must be filed before the Sangguniang Panlungsod or Sangguniang Bayan. In the instant case, petitioner Joson is an elective official of the province of Nueva Ecija. The letter-complaint against him was therefore properly filed with the Office of the President. According to petitioner, however, the lettercomplaint failed to conform with the formal requirements set by the Code. He alleges that the complaint was not verified by private respondents and was not supported by the joint affidavit of the two witnesses named therein; that private respondents later realized these defects and surreptitiously inserted the verification and sworn statement while the complaint was still pending with the Office of the President. [38] To prove his allegations, petitioner submitted: (a) the sworn statement of private respondent Solita C. Santos attesting to the alleged fact that after the letter-complaint was filed, ViceGovernor Tinio made her and the other members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan sign an additional page which he had later notarized; and (b) the fact that the verification of the letter-complaint and the joint affidavit of the witnesses do not indicate the document, page or book number of the notarial register of the notary public before whom they were made.[39] We find no merit in the contention of the petitioner. The absence of the document, page or book number of the notarial register of the subscribing officer is insufficient to prove petitioner's claim. The lack of these entries may constitute proof of neglect on the part of the subscribing officer in complying with the requirements for notarization and proper verification. They may give grounds for the revocation of his notarial commission.[40] But they do not indubitably prove that the verification was inserted or intercalated after the lettercomplaint was filed with the Office of the President. Nor is the fact of intercalation sufficiently established by the affidavit of Solita C. Santos. Private respondent Santos was one of the signatories to the letter-complaint. In her affidavit, she prayed that she be dropped as one of the complainants since she had just joined the political party of petitioner Joson. She decided to reveal the intercalation because she was disillusioned with the "dirty tactics" of Vice-Governor Tinio to grab power from petitioner Joson.[41] Private respondent Santos cannot in any way be considered an unbiased witness. Her motive and change of heart render her affidavit suspect. Assuming, nonetheless, that the letter-complaint was unverified when submitted to the Office of the President, the defect was not fatal. The requirement of verification was deemed waived by the President himself when he acted on the complaint. Verification is a formal, not jurisdictional requisite. [42] Verification is mainly intended to secure an assurance that the allegations therein made are done in good faith or are true and correct and not mere speculation.[43] The lack of verification is a mere formal defect.[44] The court may order the correction of the pleading, if not verified, or act on the unverified pleading if the attending circumstances are such that a strict compliance with the rule may be dispensed with in order that the ends of justice may be served.[45] II In his second assigned error, petitioner questions the jurisdiction and authority of the DILG Secretary over the case. He contends that under the law, it is the Office of the President that has jurisdiction over the letter-complaint and that the Court of Appeals erred in applying the alter-ego principle because the power to discipline elective local officials lies with the President, not with the DILG Secretary. Jurisdiction over administrative disciplinary actions against elective local officials is lodged in two authorities: the Disciplining Authority and the Investigating Authority. This is explicit from A.O. No. 23, to wit: "Sec. 2. Disciplining Authority. All administrative complaints, duly verified, against elective local officials mentioned in the preceding Section shall be acted upon by the President. The President, who may act through the Executive Secretary, shall hereinafter be referred to as the Disciplining Authority." Sec. 3. Investigating Authority. The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government is hereby designated as the

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Investigating Authority. He may constitute an Investigating Committee in the Department of the Interior and Local Government for the purpose. The Disciplining Authority may, however, in the interest of the service, constitute a Special Investigating Committee in lieu of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government."[46] Pursuant to these provisions, the Disciplining Authority is the President of the Philippines, whether acting by himself or through the Executive Secretary. The Secretary of the Interior and Local Government is the Investigating Authority, who may act by himself or constitute an Investigating Committee. The Secretary of the DILG, however, is not the exclusive Investigating Authority. In lieu of the DILG Secretary, the Disciplining Authority may designate a Special Investigating Committee. The power of the President over administrative disciplinary cases against elective local officials is derived from his power of general supervision over local governments. Section 4, Article X of the 1987 Constitution provides: "Sec. 4. The President of the Philippines shall exercise general supervision over local governments. Provinces with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions."[47] The power of supervision means "overseeing or the authority of an officer to see that the subordinate officers perform their duties."[48] If the subordinate officers fail or neglect to fulfill their duties, the official may take such action or step as prescribed by law to make them perform their duties.[49] The President's power of general supervision means no more than the power of ensuring that laws are faithfully executed, or that subordinate officers act within the law.[50] Supervision is not incompatible with discipline.[51] And the power to discipline and ensure that the laws be faithfully executed must be construed to authorize the President to order an investigation of the act or conduct of local officials when in his opinion the good of the public service so requires. [52] Thus: "Independently of any statutory provision authorizing the President to conduct an investigation of the nature involved in this proceeding, and in view of the nature and character of the executive authority with which the President of the Philippines is invested, the constitutional grant to him of power to exercise general supervision over all local governments and to take care that the laws be faithfully executed must be construed to authorize him to order an investigation of the act or conduct of the petitioner herein. Supervision is not a meaningless thing. It is an active power. It is certainly not without limitation, but it at least implies authority to inquire into facts and conditions in order to render the power real and effective. If supervision is to be conscientious and rational, and not automatic and brutal, it must be founded upon a knowledge of actual facts and conditions disclosed after careful study and investigation."[53] The power to discipline evidently includes the power to investigate. As the Disciplining Authority, the President has the power derived from the Constitution itself to investigate complaints against local government officials. A. O. No. 23, however, delegates the power to investigate to the DILG or a Special Investigating Committee, as may be constituted by the Disciplining Authority. This is not undue delegation, contrary to petitioner Joson's claim. The President remains the Disciplining Authority. What is delegated is the power to investigate, not the power to discipline.[54] Moreover, the power of the DILG to investigate administrative complaints is based on the alter-ego principle or the doctrine of qualified political agency. Thus: "Under this doctrine, which recognizes the establishment of a single executive, all executive and administrative organizations are adjuncts of the Executive Department, the heads of the various executive departments are assistants and agents of the Chief Executive, and, except in cases where the Chief Executive is required by the Constitution or law to act in person or the exigencies of the situation demand that he act personally, the multifarious executive and administrative functions of the Chief Executive are performed by and through the

executive departments, and the acts of the Secretaries of such departments, performed and promulgated in the regular course of business, are, unless disapproved or reprobated by the Chief Executive presumptively the acts of the Chief Executive."[55] This doctrine is corollary to the control power of the President. [56] The power of control is provided in the Constitution, thus: "Sec. 17. The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus, and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed."[57] Control is said to be the very heart of the power of the presidency.[58] As head of the Executive Department, the President, however, may delegate some of his powers to the Cabinet members except when he is required by the Constitution to act in person or the exigencies of the situation demand that he acts personally.[59] The members of Cabinet may act for and in behalf of the President in certain matters because the President cannot be expected to exercise his control (and supervisory) powers personally all the time. Each head of a department is, and must be, the President's alter ego in the matters of that department where the President is required by law to exercise authority.[60] The procedure how the Disciplining and Investigating Authorities should exercise their powers is distinctly set forth in the Local Government Code and A.O. No. 23. Section 62 of the Code provides: "Sec. 62. Notice of Hearing.-- (a) Within seven (7) days after the administrative complaint is filed, the Office of the President or the sanggunian concerned, as the case may be, shall require the respondent to submit his verified answer within fifteen (15) days from receipt thereof, and commence investigation of the case within ten (10) days after receipt of such answer of the respondent. xxx." Sections 1 and 3, Rule 5[61] of A.O. No. 23 provide: "Sec. 1. Commencement. Within forty-eight (48) hours from receipt of the answer, the Disciplining Authority shall refer the complaint and answer, together with their attachments and other relevant papers, to the Investigating Authority who shall commence the investigation of the case within ten (10) days from receipt of the same. "x x x "Sec. 3. Evaluation. Within twenty (20) days from receipt of the complaint and answer, the Investigating Authority shall determine whether there is a prima facie case to warrant the institution of formal administrative proceedings." When an administrative complaint is therefore filed, the Disciplining Authority shall issue an order requiring the respondent to submit his verified answer within fifteen (15) days from notice. Upon filing of the answer, the Disciplining Authority shall refer the case to the Investigating Authority for investigation. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that the DILG Secretary usurped the power of the President when he required petitioner to answer the complaint. Undisputably, the lettercomplaint was filed with the Office of the President but it was the DILG Secretary who ordered petitioner to answer. Strictly applying the rules, the Office of the President did not comply with the provisions of A.O. No. 23. The Office should have first required petitioner to file his answer. Thereafter, the complaint and the answer should have been referred to the Investigating Authority for further proceedings. Be that as it may, this procedural lapse is not fatal. The filing of the answer is necessary merely to enable the President to make a preliminary assessment of the case.[62] The President found the complaint sufficient in form and substance to warrant its further investigation. The judgment of the President on the matter is entitled to respect in the absence of grave abuse of discretion. III In his third assigned error, petitioner also claims that the DILG erred in declaring him in default for filing a motion to dismiss. He alleges that a motion to dismiss is not a pleading prohibited by the law or the rules and therefore the DILG Secretary should have considered it and given him time to file his answer. It is true that a motion to dismiss is not a pleading prohibited under the Local Government Code of 1991 nor in A.O. No. 23. Petitioner, however, was instructed not to file a motion to dismiss in the order to file answer. Thrice, he requested for extension of time to file his answer citing as reasons the search for competent counsel and the demands of his official duties. And thrice, his requests were granted. Even the order of default was reconsidered and petitioner was given additional

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time to file answer. After all the requests and seven months later, he filed a motion to dismiss! Petitioner should know that the formal investigation of the case is required by law to be finished within one hundred twenty (120) days from the time of formal notice to the respondent. The extensions petitioner requested consumed fifty-five (55) days of this period.[63] Petitioner, in fact, filed his answer nine (9) months after the first notice. Indeed, this was more than sufficient time for petitioner to comply with the order to file answer. The speedy disposition of administrative complaints is required by public service. The efficiency of officials under investigation is impaired when a case hangs over their heads. Officials deserve to be cleared expeditiously if they are innocent, also expeditiously if guilty, so that the business of government will not be prejudiced.[64] IV In view of petitioner's inexcusable failure to file answer, the DILG did not err in recommending to the Disciplining Authority his preventive suspension during the investigation. Preventive suspension is authorized under Section 63 of the Local Government Code, viz: "Sec. 63. Preventive Suspension.-- (a) Preventive suspension may be imposed: (1) By the President, if the respondent is an elective official of a province, a highly urbanized or an independent component city; x x x. (b) Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after the issues are joined, when the evidence of guilt is strong, and given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence; Provided, That, any single preventive suspension of local elective officials shall not extend beyond sixty (60) days: Provided, further, That in the event that several administrative cases are filed against an elective official, he cannot be preventively suspended for more than ninety (90) days within a single year on the same ground or grounds existing and known at the time of the first suspension. x x x." In sum, preventive suspension may be imposed by the Disciplining Authority at any time (a) after the issues are joined; (b) when the evidence of guilt is strong; and (c) given the gravity of the offense, there is great probability that the respondent, who continues to hold office, could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence. Executive Secretary Torres, on behalf of the President, imposed preventive suspension on petitioner Joson after finding that: "x x x DILG Secretary Robert Z. Barbers, in a memorandum for the President, dated 23 June 1997, recommends that respondent be placed under preventive suspension considering that all the requisites to justify the same are present. He stated therein that: 'Preventive suspension may be imposed at any time after the issues are joined, that is, after respondent has answered the complaint, when the evidence of guilt is strong and, given the gravity of the offense, there is a great possibility that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence (Sec. 3, Rule 6 of Administrative Order No. 23). The failure of respondent to file his answer despite several opportunities given him is construed as a waiver of his right to present evidence in his behalf (Sec. 4, Rule 4 of Administrative Order No. 23). The requisite of joinder of issues is squarely met with respondent's waiver of right to submit his answer. The act of respondent in allegedly barging violently into the session hall of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in the company of armed men constitutes grave misconduct. The allegations of complainants are bolstered by the joint-affidavit of two (2) employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Respondent who is the chief executive of the province is in a position to influence the witnesses. Further, the history of violent confrontational politics in the province dictates that extreme precautionary measures be taken.' Upon scrutiny of the records and the facts and circumstances attendant to this case, we concur with the

findings of the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government and find merit in the aforesaid recommendation. WHEREFORE, and as recommended by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, respondent EDUARDO N. JOSON, Governor of Nueva Ecija, is hereby placed under PREVENTIVE SUSPENSION FOR A PERIOD OF SIXTY (60) DAYS, effective 11 July 1997, pending investigation of the charges filed against him. SO ORDERED."[65] Executive Secretary Torres found that all the requisites for the imposition of preventive suspension had been complied with. Petitioner's failure to file his answer despite several opportunities given him was construed as a waiver of his right to file answer and present evidence; and as a result of this waiver, the issues were deemed to have been joined. The Executive Secretary also found that the evidence of petitioner Joson's guilt was strong and that his continuance in office during the pendency of the case could influence the witnesses and pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the evidence against him. V We now come to the validity of the January 8, 1998 Resolution of the Executive Secretary finding petitioner guilty as charged and imposing on him the penalty of suspension from office for six (6) months from office without pay. Petitioner claims that the suspension was made without formal investigation pursuant to the provisions of Rule 7 of A.O. No. 23. Petitioner filed a "Motion To Conduct Formal Investigation" three months before the issuance of the order of suspension and this motion was denied by the DILG for the following reasons: "On November 19, 1997, complainants, through counsel, filed a Manifestation calling our attention to the Decision dated October 24, 1997 of the Court of Appeals, Fifth Division in CAG.R. SP No. 44694, entitled "Eduardo Nonato Joson versus Executive Secretary Ruben D. Torres, et. al." In the aforestated decision, the Court of Appeals resolved to sustain the authority of this Department to investigate this administrative case and has likewise validated the order of default as well as the order of preventive suspension of the respondent. We offer no objection and concur with the assertion of respondent that he has the right for the conduct of formal investigation. However, before there shall be a formal investigation, joinder of issues must already be present or respondent's answer has already been filed. In the case at bar, the admission of respondent's answer after having been declared in default was conditioned on the fact of submission of position papers by the parties, after which, the case shall be deemed submitted for resolution. Respondent, instead of submitting his position paper filed his subject motion while complainants manifested to forego the submission of position paper and submit the case for resolution on the basis of the pleadings on hand. Settled is the rule that in administrative proceedings, technical rules of procedure and evidence are not strictly applied (Concerned Officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System v. Vasquez, 240 SCRA 502). The essence of due process is to be found in the reasonable opportunity to be heard and to submit evidence one may have in support of one's defense (Tajonera v. Lamaroza, 110 SCRA 438). To be heard does not only mean verbal arguments in court; one may be heard also through pleadings. Where opportunity to be heard, either through oral arguments or pleadings, is accorded, there is no denial of procedural due process (Juanita Y. Say, et. al;. vs. IAC, G.R. No. 73451). Thus, when respondent failed to submit his position paper as directed and insisted for the conduct of formal investigation, he was not denied of his right of procedural process. WHEREFORE, the Motion for the Conduct of Formal Investigation, for lack of merit, is DENIED. SO ORDERED."[66] The denial of petitioner's Motion to Conduct Formal Investigation is erroneous. Petitioner's right to a formal investigation is spelled out in the following provisions of A.O. No. 23, viz: "SEC. 3 Evaluation. Within twenty (20) days from receipt of the complaint and answer, the Investigating Authority shall determine whether there is a prima facie case to warrant the institution of formal administrative proceedings. SEC. 4. Dismissal motu proprio. If the Investigating Authority determines that there is no prima facie case to warrant the institution of formal administrative proceedings, it shall, within the same period prescribed under the preceding Section, submit its recommendation to the Disciplining Authority for

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the motu proprio dismissal of the case, together with the recommended decision, resolution, and order. SEC. 5. Preliminary conference. If the Investigating Authority determines that there is prima facie case to warrant the institution of formal administrative proceedings, it shall, within the same period prescribed under the preceding Section, summon the parties to a preliminary conference to consider the following: a) whether the parties desire a formal investigation or are willing to submit the case for resolution on the basis of the evidence on record; and b) If the parties desire a formal investigation, to consider the simplification of issues, the possibility of obtaining stipulation or admission of facts and of documents, specifically affidavits and depositions, to avoid unnecessary proof, the limitation of number of witnesses, and such other matters as may be aid the prompt disposition of the case. The Investigating Authority shall encourage the parties and their counsels to enter, at any stage of the proceedings, into amicable settlement, compromise and arbitration, the terms and conditions of which shall be subject to the approval of the Disciplining Authority. After the preliminary conference, the Investigating Authority shall issue an order reciting the matters taken up thereon, including the facts stipulated and the evidences marked, if any. Such order shall limit the issues for hearing to those not disposed of by agreement or admission of the parties, and shall schedule the formal investigation within ten (10) days from its issuance, unless a later date is mutually agreed in writing by the parties concerned."[67] The records show that on August 27, 1997, petitioner submitted his Answer Ad Cautelam where he disputed the truth of the allegations that he barged into the session hall of the capitol and committed physical violence to harass the private respondents who were opposed to any move for the province to contract a P150 million loan from PNB. In his Order of October 8, 1997, Undersecretary Sanchez admitted petitioner's Answer Ad Cautelam but treated it as a position paper. On October 15, 1997, petitioner filed a Motion to Conduct Formal Investigation. Petitioner reiterated this motion on October 29, 1997. Petitioner's motion was denied on November 11, 1997. Secretary Barbers found petitioner guilty as charged on the basis of the parties' position papers. On January 8, 1998, Executive Secretary Torres adopted Secretary Barbers' findings and recommendations and imposed on petitioner the penalty of six (6) months suspension without pay. The rejection of petitioner's right to a formal investigation denied him procedural due process. Section 5 of A. O. No. 23 provides that at the preliminary conference, the Investigating Authority shall summon the parties to consider whether they desire a formal investigation. This provision does not give the Investigating Authority the discretion to determine whether a formal investigation would be conducted. The records show that petitioner filed a motion for formal investigation. As respondent, he is accorded several rights under the law, to wit: "Sec. 65. Rights of Respondent. -- The respondent shall be accorded full opportunity to appear and defend himself in person or by counsel, to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, and to require the attendance of witnesses and the production of documentary evidence in his favor through compulsory process of subpoena or subpoena duces tecum." An erring elective local official has rights akin to the constitutional rights of an accused.[68] These rights are essentially part of procedural due process.[69] The local elective official has the (1) right to appear and defend himself in person or by counsel; (2) the right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him; and (3) the right to compulsory attendance of witness and the production of documentary evidence. These rights are reiterated in the Rules Implementing the Local Government Code[70] and in A.O. No. 23.[71] Well to note, petitioner formally claimed his right to a formal investigation after his Answer Ad Cautelam has been admitted by Undersecretary Sanchez. Petitioner's right to a formal investigation was not satisfied when the complaint against him was decided on the basis of position papers. There is nothing in the Local Government Code and its Implementing Rules and Regulations nor in A.O. No. 23 that provide that

administrative cases against elective local officials can be decided on the basis of position papers. A.O. No. 23 states that the Investigating Authority may require the parties to submit their respective memoranda but this is only after formal investigation and hearing.[72] A.O. No. 23 does not authorize the Investigating Authority to dispense with a hearing especially in cases involving allegations of fact which are not only in contrast but contradictory to each other. These contradictions are best settled by allowing the examination and crossexamination of witnesses. Position papers are often-times prepared with the assistance of lawyers and their artful preparation can make the discovery of truth difficult. The jurisprudence cited by the DILG in its order denying petitioner's motion for a formal investigation applies to appointive officials and employees. Administrative disciplinary proceedings against elective government officials are not exactly similar to those against appointive officials. In fact, the provisions that apply to elective local officials are separate and distinct from appointive government officers and employees. This can be gleaned from the Local Government Code itself. In the Local Government Code, the entire Title II of Book I of the Code is devoted to elective officials. It provides for their qualifications and election,[73] vacancies and succession, [74] local legislation,[75] disciplinary actions,[76] and recall. [77] Appointive officers and employees are covered in Title III of Book I of the Code entitled "Human Resources and Development." All matters pertinent to human resources and development in local government units are regulated by "the civil service law and such rules and regulations and other issuances promulgated thereto, unless otherwise provided in the Code."[78] The "investigation and adjudication of administrative complaints against appointive local officials and employees as well as their suspension and removal" are "in accordance with the civil service law and rules and other pertinent laws," the results of which "shall be reported to the Civil Service Commission."[79] It is the Administrative Code of 1987, specifically Book V on the Civil Service, that primarily governs appointive officials and employees. Their qualifications are set forth in the Omnibus Rules Implementing Book V of the said Code. The grounds for administrative disciplinary action in Book V are much more in number and are specific than those enumerated in the Local Government Code against elective local officials.[80] The disciplining authority in such actions is the Civil Service Commission[81] although the Secretaries and heads of agencies and instrumentalities, provinces, cities and municipalities are also given the power to investigate and decide disciplinary actions against officers and employees under their jurisdiction. [82] When a complaint is filed and the respondent answers, he must "indicate whether or not he elects a formal investigation if his answer is not considered satisfactory."[83] If the officer or employee elects a formal investigation, the direct evidence for the complainant and the respondent "consist[s] of the sworn statement and documents submitted in support of the complaint and answer, as the case may be, without prejudice to the presentation of additional evidence deemed necessary x x x, upon which the cross-examination by respondent and the complainant, respectively, is based."[84] The investigation is conducted without adhering to the technical rules applicable in judicial proceedings."[85] Moreover, the appointive official or employee may be removed or dismissed summarily if (1) the charge is serious and the evidence of guilt is strong; (2) when the respondent is a recidivist; and (3) when the respondent is notoriously undesirable.[86] The provisions for administrative disciplinary actions against elective local officials are markedly different from appointive officials.[87] The rules on the removal and suspension of elective local officials are more stringent. The procedure of requiring position papers in lieu of a hearing in administrative cases is expressly allowed with respect to appointive officials but not to those elected. An elective official, elected by popular vote, is directly responsible to the community that elected him. The official has a definite term of office fixed by law which is relatively of short duration. Suspension and removal from office definitely affects and shortens this term of office. When an elective official is suspended or removed, the people are deprived of the services of the man they had elected. Implicit in the right of suffrage is that the people are entitled to the services of the elective official of their choice.[88] Suspension and removal are thus imposed only after the elective official is accorded his rights and the evidence against him strongly dictates their imposition. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the Resolution of January 8, 1998 of the public respondent Executive Secretary is declared null and void and is set aside. No Cost.

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SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 147870. July 31, 2002] RAMIR R. PABLICO, petitioner, vs. ALEJANDRO A. VILLAPANDO, respondent. DECISION YNARES-SANTIAGO, J.: May local legislative bodies and/or the Office of the President, on appeal, validly impose the penalty of dismissal from service on erring elective local officials? This purely legal issue was posed in connection with a dispute over the mayoralty seat of San Vicente, Palawan. Considering that the term of the contested office expired on June 30, 2001,[1]the present case may be dismissed for having become moot and academic. [2] Nonetheless, we resolved to pass upon the abovestated issue concerning the application of certain provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991. The undisputed facts are as follows: On August 5, 1999, Solomon B. Maagad, and Renato M. Fernandez, both members of the Sangguniang Bayan of San Vicente, Palawan, filed with the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan an administrative complaint against respondent Alejandro A. Villapando, then Mayor of San Vicente, Palawan, for abuse of authority and culpable violation of the Constitution.[3]Complainants alleged that respondent, on behalf of the municipality, entered into a consultancy agreement with Orlando M. Tiape, a defeated mayoralty candidate in the May 1998 elections. They argue that the consultancy agreement amounted to an appointment to a government position within the prohibited one-year period under Article IX-B, Section 6, of the 1987 Constitution. In his answer, respondent countered that he did not appoint Tiape, rather, he merely hired him. He invoked Opinion No. 106, s. 1992, of the Department of Justice dated August 21, 1992, stating that the appointment of a defeated candidate within one year from the election as a consultant does not constitute an appointment to a government office or position as prohibited by the Constitution. On February 1, 2000, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan found respondent guilty of the administrative charge and imposed on him the penalty of dismissal from service.[4]Respondent appealed to the Office of the President which, on May 29, 2000, affirmed the decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan.[5] Pending respondents motion for reconsideration of the decision of the Office of the President, or on June 16, 2000, petitioner Ramir R. Pablico, then Vice-mayor of San Vicente, Palawan, took his oath of office as Municipal Mayor. Consequently, respondent filed with the Regional Trial Court of Palawan a petition for certiorari and prohibition with preliminary injunction and prayer for a temporary restraining order, docketed as SPL Proc. No. 3462.[6] The petition, seeks to annul, inter alia, the oath administered to petitioner. The Executive Judge granted a Temporary Restraining Order effective for 72 hours, as a result of which petitioner ceased from discharging the functions of mayor. Meanwhile, the case was raffled to Branch 95 which, on June 23, 2000, denied respondents motion for extension of the 72-hour temporary restraining order.[7] Hence, petitioner resumed his assumption of the functions of Mayor of San Vicente, Palawan. On July 4, 2000, respondent instituted a petition for certiorari and prohibition before the Court of Appeals seeking to annul: (1) the May 29, 2000 decision of the Office of the President; (2) the February 1, 2000, decision of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan; and (3) the June 23, 2000 order of the Regional Trial Court of Palawan, Branch 95. On March 16, 2001, the Court of Appeals[8] declared void the assailed decisions of the Office of the President and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan, and ordered petitioner to vacate the Office of Mayor of San Vicente, Palawan.[9] A motion for reconsideration was denied on April 23, 2001.[10] Hence, the instant petition for review. The pertinent portion of Section 60 of the Local Government Code of 1991 provides: Section 60. Grounds for Disciplinary Actions. An elective local official may be disciplined, suspended, or removed from office on any of the following grounds: xxx xxx xxx

An elective local official may be removed from office on the grounds enumerated above by order of the proper court. (Emphasis supplied) It is clear from the last paragraph of the aforecited provision that the penalty of dismissal from service upon an erring elective local official may be decreed only by a court of law. Thus, inSalalima, et al. v. Guingona, et al.,[11] we held that [t]he Office of the President is without any power to remove elected officials, since such power is exclusively vested in the proper courts as expressly provided for in the last paragraph of the aforequoted Section 60. Article 124 (b), Rule XIX of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code, however, adds that (b) An elective local official may be removed from office on the grounds enumerated in paragraph (a) of this Article [The grounds enumerated in Section 60, Local Government Code of 1991] by order of the proper court or the disciplining authority whichever first acquires jurisdiction to the exclusion of the other. The disciplining authority referred to pertains to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan/Panlungsod/Bayan and the Office of the President.[12] As held in Salalima,[13] this grant to the disciplining authority of the power to remove elective local officials is clearly beyond the authority of the Oversight Committee that prepared the Rules and Regulations. No rule or regulation may alter, amend, or contravene a provision of law, such as the Local Government Code. Implementing rules should conform, not clash, with the law that they implement, for a regulation which operates to create a rule out of harmony with the statute is a nullity. Even Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr., the principal author of the Local Government Code of 1991, expressed doubt as to the validity of Article 124 (b), Rule XIX of the implementing rules.[14] Verily, the clear legislative intent to make the subject power of removal a judicial prerogative is patent from the deliberations in the Senate quoted as follows: xxx xxx xxx Senator Pimentel. This has been reserved, Mr. President, including the issue of whether or not the Department Secretary or the Office of the President can suspend or remove an elective official. Senator Saguisag. For as long as that is open for some later disposition, may I just add the following thought: It seems to me that instead of identifying only the proper regional trial court or the Sandiganbayan, and since we know that in the case of a regional trial court, particularly, a case may be appealed or may be the subject of an injunction, in the framing of this later on, I would like to suggest that we consider replacing the phrase PROPER REGIONAL TRIAL COURT OR THE SANDIGANBAYAN simply by COURTS. Kasi po, maaaring sabihin nila na mali iyong regional trial court o ang Sandiganbayan. Senator Pimentel. OR THE PROPER COURT. Senator Saguisag. OR THE PROPER COURT. Senator Pimentel. Thank you. We are willing to accept that now, Mr. President. Senator Saguisag. It is to be incorporated in the phraseology that will craft to capture the other ideas that have been elevated. xxx xxx x x x.[15] It is beyond cavil, therefore, that the power to remove erring elective local officials from service is lodged exclusively with the courts. Hence, Article 124 (b), Rule XIX, of the Rules and Regulations Implementing the Local Government Code, insofar as it vests power on the disciplining authority to remove from office erring elective local officials, is void for being repugnant to the last paragraph of Section 60 of the Local Government Code of 1991. The law on suspension or removal of elective public officials must be strictly construed and applied, and the authority in whom such power of suspension or removal is vested must exercise it with utmost good faith, for what is involved is not just an ordinary public official but one chosen by the people through the exercise of their constitutional right of suffrage. Their will must not be put to naught by the caprice or partisanship of the disciplining authority. Where the disciplining authority is given only the power to suspend and not the power to remove, it should not be permitted to manipulate the law by usurping the power to remove.[16] As explained by the Court in Lacson v. Roque:[17] the abridgment of the power to remove or suspend an elective mayor is not without its own justification, and was, we think, deliberately intended by the lawmakers. The evils resulting from a restricted authority to suspend or remove must have been weighed against the injustices and harms to

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the public interests which would be likely to emerge from an unrestrained discretionary power to suspend and remove. WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the instant petition for review is DENIED. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 161081. May 10, 2005] RAMON M. ATIENZA, in his capacity as ViceGovernor of the Province of Occidental Mindoro, petitioner, vs. JOSE T. VILLAROSA, in his capacity as Governor of the Province of Occidental Mindoro, respondent. DECISION CALLEJO, SR., J.: Before the Court is the petition for review on certiorari filed by Ramon M. Atienza, in his capacity as Vice-Governor of the Province of Occidental Mindoro, seeking to reverse and set aside the Decision[1] dated November 28, 2003 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. SP No. 72069. The assailed decision dismissed the petition for prohibition under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court filed by petitioner Atienza which had sought to enjoin the implementation of the Memoranda dated June 25, 2002 and July 1, 2002 issued by Jose T. Villarosa, Governor of the same province. The present case arose from the following undisputed facts: Petitioner Atienza and respondent Villarosa were the ViceGovernor and Governor, respectively, of the Province of Occidental Mindoro. On June 26, 2002, the petitioner Vice-Governor received the Memorandum dated June 25, 2002 issued by the respondent Governor concerning the AUTHORITY TO SIGN PURCHASE ORDERS OF SUPPLIES, MATERIALS, EQUIPMENT[S], INCLUDING FUEL, REPAIRS AND MAINTENANCE OF THE SANGGUNIANG PANLALAWIGAN. The said memorandum reads: For proper coordination and to ensure efficient and effective local government administration particularly on matters pertaining to supply and property management, effective immediately, all Purchase Orders issued in connection with the procurement of supplies, materials and equipment[s] including fuel, repairs and maintenance needed in the transaction of public business or in the pursuit of any undertaking, project or activity of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, this province, shall be approved by the undersigned in his capacity as the local chief executive of the province. The provision of DILG Opinion No. 148-1993 which states that the authority to sign Purchase Orders of supplies, materials and equipment[s] of the Sanggunian belongs to the local chief executive, serves as basis of this memorandum. For strict compliance.[2] In reply to the above memorandum, the petitioner ViceGovernor wrote the respondent Governor stating that: We are of the opinion that purchase orders for supplies, materials and equipment are included under those as authorized for signature by the Vice-chief executive of the Sanggunian on the basis of the DILG Opinion No. 96-1995 as affirmed by the COA Opinions on June 28, April 11 and February 9, 1994 and coursing it to the Governor for his approval is no longer necessary, the fact that [Secs.] 466 and 468, RA 7160 already provides for the separation of powers between the executive and legislative. Such authority even include everything necessary for the legislative research program of the Sanggunian.[3] Unimpressed, the respondent Governor issued the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002 relating to the TERMINATION OF CONTRACT OF SERVICES OF CASUAL/JOB ORDER EMPLOYEES AND REAPPOINTMENT OF THE RESPECTIVE RECOMMENDEES. The said memorandum reads: For faithful and appropriate enforcement and execution of laws and issuances and to promote efficiency in the government service, effective immediately, all existing contract of employment casual/job order basis and reappointment of the recommendees entered into by Vice-Governor Ramon M. Atienza are hereby terminated for being unauthorized. Aside from being signed by the unauthorized signatory, the following facts regarding the appointments were considered:

1. The appointment of 28 clerks on top of existing permanent employees is a clear manifestation of an excessive and bloated bureaucracy; 2. The appointment of an X-ray Technician detailed at the Provincial Health Office and some clerks detailed at various offices in the province were not proper to be assigned by the Vice-Governor; 3. The appointment of 30 messengers, utility workers and drivers ran counter to COA Opinion as cited in the letter of the undersigned dated 28 June 2002, addressed to the ViceGovernor. However, in order to accommodate the Vice-Governor and the members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the undersigned, in his capacity as the local chief executive of the province, will allow four (4) casual/job order employees to be assigned to the Vice-Governor and one (1) casual/job order employee to be assigned to each member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The Vice-Governor and all the Sanggunian Members are hereby directed to submit immediately the names of their recommendees to the undersigned for immediate approval of their respective appointments. Please be guided accordingly.[4] On July 3, 2002, the respondent Governor issued another Memorandum regarding the ENFORCIBILITY (sic) OF PREVIOUS MEMORANDA ISSUED ON JUNE 20, 26 AND JULY 1, 2002. It provides that: Please be properly advised that the Memoranda dated June 20, 26 and July 1, 2002 issued by the undersigned regarding the issuance of permit to travel and authority to sign Purchase Orders of supplies, materials, equipment, including fuel, repairs and maintenance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, is to be strictly adhered to for compliance. Likewise for strict compliance is the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002 with reference to the Cancellation of the Appointment of Casual/Job Order Employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members/Office of the Vice-Governor previously signed by Vice-Governor Ramon M. Atienza. Please be guided accordingly.[5] In his Letter dated July 9, 2002, the petitioner Vice-Governor invoked the principle of separation of powers as applied to the local government units, i.e., the respondent, as the Governor, the head of the executive branch, and the petitioner, as the Vice-Governor, the head of the legislative branch, which is the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The petitioner Vice-Governor reiterated his request for the respondent to make a deeper study on the matter before implementing his memoranda. The request, however, went unheeded as the respondent Governor insisted on obliging the department heads of the provincial government to comply with the memoranda. The petitioner Vice-Governor thus filed with the Court of Appeals the petition for prohibition assailing as having been issued with grave abuse of discretion the respondent Governors Memoranda dated June 25, 2002 and July 1, 2002. The petitioner Vice-Governor claimed that these memoranda excluded him from the use and enjoyment of his office in violation of the pertinent provisions of Republic Act No. 7160, or the Local Government Code of 1991, and its implementing rules and regulations. It was prayed that the respondent Governor be enjoined from implementing the assailed memoranda. The appellate court, in its Decision dated November 28, 2003, dismissed the petition for prohibition. Citing Section 344[6] of Rep. Act No. 7160, the CA upheld the authority of the respondent Governor to issue the Memorandum dated June 25, 2002 as it recognized his authority to approve the purchase orders. The said provision provides in part that approval of the disbursement voucher by the local chief executive himself shall be required whenever local funds are disbursed. The CA explained that Section 466(a)(1)[7] of the same Code, relied upon by the petitioner Vice-Governor, speaks of the authority of the Vice-Governor to sign all warrants drawn on the public treasury for all expenditures appropriated for the operation of the sangguniang panlalawigan. In declaring this provision inapplicable, the CA reasoned that the approval of purchase orders is different from the power of the ViceGovernor to sign warrants drawn against the public treasury. Section 361[8] was, likewise, held to be inapplicable ratiocinating, thus: [R]equisitioning, which is provided under Section 361 of RA 7160, is the act of requiring that something be furnished. In the procurement function, it is the submission of written requests for supplies and materials and the like. It could be inferred that, in the scheme of things, approval of purchase requests is different from approval of purchase orders. Thus, the inapplicability of Section 361.

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Anent the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002, the CA ruled that the issue on whether it could be enjoined had already been rendered moot and academic. The CA pointed out that the subject of the said memorandum could no longer be enjoined or restrained as the termination of the employees had already been effected. It opined that where the act sought to be enjoined in the prohibition proceedings had already been performed and there is nothing more to restrain, the case is already moot and academic. The petitioner Vice-Governor now seeks recourse to this Court alleging that the appellate court committed reversible error in ruling that it is the Governor, and not the Vice-Governor, who has the authority to sign purchase orders of supplies, materials, equipment, including fuel, repairs and maintenance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The petitioner Vice-Governor, likewise, takes exception to the holding of the CA that the issue relating to the July 1, 2002 Memorandum had been rendered moot and academic. He points out that the appointment of casual/job order employees is exercised by the appointing authority every six months in the case of casual employees and per job order as to job order employees. Thus, while the July 1, 2002 Memorandum had already been implemented, what is being sought to be enjoined is the respondent Governors continued usurpation of the petitioner Vice-Governors authority to appoint the employees of theSangguniang Panlalawigan under the pertinent provisions of Rep. Act No. 7160. For his part, the respondent Governor maintains that his Memoranda dated June 25, 2002 and July 1, 2002 are valid. He asserts that the approval of purchase orders is different from the power of the Vice-Governor to sign warrants drawn against the provincial treasury under Section 466(a)(1) of Rep. Act No. 7160. Rather, he insists on the application of the last clause in Section 344 which states that the approval of the disbursement by the local chief executive is required whenever local funds are disbursed. The respondent Governor likewise defends the validity of the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002 stating that it was issued upon finding that the petitioner Vice-Governor appointed, among others, 28 clerks on top of the existing permanent employees resulting in an excessive and bloated bureaucracy. He concedes the appointing power of the Vice-Governor but submits that this is limited to the employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and that he is not authorized to appoint officials and employees of the Office of the Vice-Governor. As correctly presented by the appellate court, the issues for resolution in this case are: A. Who between the petitioner and the respondent is authorized to approve purchase orders issued in connection with the procurement of supplies, materials, equipment, including fuel, repairs and maintenance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan? B. Does respondent Villarosa, as local chief executive, have the authority to terminate or cancel the appointments of casual/job order employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Members and the Office of the Vice-Governor?[9] Before resolving the foregoing issues, it is noted that petitioner Atienza and respondent Villarosa had ceased to be the Vice-Governor and Governor, respectively, of the Province of Occidental Mindoro effective June 30, 2004 when the newly-elected officials of the province took their oaths of offices. The petitioner Vice-Governor did not run for re-election during the May 2004 elections while the respondent Governor did not succeed in his re-election bid. The expiration of their terms of offices has effectively rendered the case moot. However, even in cases where supervening events had made the cases moot, the Court did not hesitate to resolve the legal or constitutional issues raised to formulate controlling principles to guide the bench, bar and the public.[10] In this case, there is compelling reason for the Court to resolve the issues presented in order to clarify the scope of the respective powers of the Governor and Vice-Governor under the pertinent provisions of the Local Government Code of 1991. To resolve the substantive issues presented in the instant case, it is well to recall that Rep. Act No. 7160 was enacted to give flesh to the constitutional mandate to provide for a more responsive and accountable local

government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanism of recall, initiative and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units.[11] In this connection, the provisions of Rep. Act No. 7160 are anchored on principles that give effect to decentralization. Among these principles are: [t]here shall be an effective allocation among the different local government units of their respective powers, functions, responsibilities, and resources; [t]here shall be established in every local government unit an accountable, efficient, and dynamic organizational structure and operating mechanism that will meet the priority needs and service requirements of its communities; [p]rovinces with respect to component cities and municipalities, and cities and municipalities with respect to component barangays, shall ensure that the acts of their component units are within the scope of their prescribed powers and functions; and [e]ffective mechanisms for ensuring the accountability of local government units to their respective constituents shall be strengthened in order to upgrade continually the quality of local leadership.[12] With these guideposts, the Court shall now address the issue on who between the Governor and Vice-Governor is authorized to approve purchase orders issued in connection with the procurement of supplies, materials, equipment, including fuel, repairs and maintenance of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. We hold that it is the Vice-Governor who has such authority. Under Rep. Act No. 7160, local legislative power for the province is exercised by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan[13] and the Vice-Governor is its presiding officer.[14] Being vested with legislative powers, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan enacts ordinances, resolutions and appropriates funds for the general welfare of the province in accordance with the provisions of Rep. Act No. 7160.[15] The same statute vests upon the ViceGovernor the power to: (1) Be the presiding officer of the sangguniang panlalawigan and sign all warrants drawn on the provincial treasury for all expenditures appropriated for the operation of the sangguniang panlalawigan. [16] Further, Section 344 provides: Sec. 344. Certification on, and Approval of, Vouchers. No money shall be disbursed unless the local budget officer certifies to the existence of appropriation that has been legally made for the purpose, the local accountant has obligated said appropriation, and the local treasurer certifies to the availability of funds for the purpose. Vouchers and payrolls shall be certified to and approved by the head of the department or office who has administrative control of the fund concerned, as to validity, propriety and legality of the claim involved. Except in cases of disbursements involving regularly recurring administrative expenses such as payrolls for regular or permanent employees, expenses for light, water, telephone and telegraph services, remittances to government creditor agencies such as the GSIS, SSS, LBP, DBP, National Printing Office, Procurement Service of the DBM and others, approval of the disbursement voucher by the local chief executive himself shall be required whenever local funds are disbursed. In cases of special or trust funds, disbursements shall be approved by the administrator of the fund. In case of temporary absence or incapacity of the department head or chief of office, the officer next-in-rank shall automatically perform his function and he shall be fully responsible therefor. Reliance by the CA on the clause approval of the disbursement voucher by the local chief executive himself shall be required whenever local funds are disbursed of the above section (Section 344) to rule that it is the Governor who has the authority to approve purchase orders for the supplies, materials or equipment for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is misplaced. This clause cannot prevail over the more specific clause of the same provision which provides that vouchers and payrolls shall be certified to and approved by the head of the department or office who has administrative control of the fund concerned. The Vice-Governor, as the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, has administrative control of the funds of the said body. Accordingly, it is the Vice-Governor who has the authority to approve disbursement vouchers for expenditures appropriated for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. On this point, Section 39 of the Manual on the New Government Accounting System for Local Government Units,

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prepared by the Commission on Audit (COA), is instructive: Sec. 39. Approval of Disbursements. Approval of disbursements by the Local Chief Executive (LCE) himself shall be required whenever local funds are disbursed, except for regularly recurring administrative expenses such as: payrolls for regular or permanent employees, expenses for light, water, telephone and telegraph services, remittances to government creditor agencies such as GSIS, BIR, PHILHEALTH, LBP, DBP, NPO, PS of the DBM and others, where the authority to approve may be delegated. Disbursement vouchers for expenditures appropriated for the operation of the Sanggunian shall be approved by the provincial Vice Governor, the city ViceMayor or the municipal Vice-Mayor, as the case may be.
[17]

While Rep. Act No. 7160 is silent as to the matter, the authority granted to the Vice-Governor to sign all warrants drawn on the provincial treasury for all expenditures appropriated for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as well as to approve disbursement vouchers relating thereto necessarily includes the authority to approve purchase orders covering the same applying the doctrine of necessary implication. This doctrine is explained, thus: No statute can be enacted that can provide all the details involved in its application. There is always an omission that may not meet a particular situation. What is thought, at the time of enactment, to be an all-embracing legislation may be inadequate to provide for the unfolding of events of the future. So-called gaps in the law develop as the law is enforced. One of the rules of statutory construction used to fill in the gap is the doctrine of necessary implication. The doctrine states that what is implied in a statute is as much a part thereof as that which is expressed. Every statute is understood, by implication, to contain all such provisions as may be necessary to effectuate its object and purpose, or to make effective rights, powers, privileges or jurisdiction which it grants, including all such collateral and subsidiary consequences as may be fairly and logically inferred from its terms. Ex necessitate legis. And every statutory grant of power, right or privilege is deemed to include all incidental power, right or privilege. This is so because the greater includes the lesser, expressed in the maxim, in eo plus sit, simper inest et minus.[18] Warrants are order[s] directing the treasurer of the municipality to pay money out of funds in city treasury which are or may become available for purpose specified to designated person[s].[19] Warrants of a municipal corporation are generally orders payable when funds are found. They are issued for the payment of general municipal debts and expenses subject to the rule that they shall be paid in the order of presentation.[20] The ordinary meaning of voucher is a document which shows that services have been performed or expenses incurred. It covers any acquittance or receipt discharging the person or evidencing payment by him. When used in connection with disbursement of money, it implies some instrument that shows on what account or by what authority a particular payment has been made, or that services have been performed which entitle the party to whom it is issued to payment.[21] Purchase order, on the other hand, is an authorization by the issuing party for the recipient to provide materials or services for which issuing party agrees to pay; it is an offer to buy which becomes binding when those things ordered have been provided.[22] When an authorized person approves a disbursement voucher, he certifies to the correctness of the entries therein, among others: that the expenses incurred were necessary and lawful, the supporting documents are complete and the availability of cash therefor. Further, the person who performed the services or delivered the supplies, materials or equipment is entitled to payment. [23] On the other hand, the terms and conditions for the procurement of supplies, materials or equipment, in particular, are contained in a purchase order. The tenor of a purchase order basically directs the supplier to deliver the articles enumerated and subject to the terms and conditions specified therein.[24] Hence, the express authority to approve disbursement vouchers and, in effect, authorize the payment of money claims for supplies, materials or equipment, necessarily includes the

authority to approve purchase orders to cause the delivery of the said supplies, materials or equipment. Since it is the Vice-Governor who approves disbursement vouchers and approves the payment for the procurement of the supplies, materials and equipment needed for the operation of theSangguniang Panlalawigan, then he also has the authority to approve the purchase orders to cause the delivery of the said supplies, materials or equipment. Indeed, the authority granted to the Vice-Governor to sign all warrants drawn on the provincial treasury for all expenditures appropriated for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan as well as to approve disbursement vouchers relating thereto is greater and includes the authority to approve purchase orders for the procurement of the supplies, materials and equipment necessary for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Anent the second issue, the appellate court likewise committed reversible error in holding that the implementation of the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002 had rendered the petition moot and academic. It is recognized that courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is capable of repetition yet evading review.[25] Even if the employees whose contractual or job order employment had been terminated by the implementation of the July 1, 2002 Memorandum may no longer be reinstated, still, similar memoranda may be issued by other local chief executives. Hence, it behooves the Court to resolve whether the Governor has the authority to terminate or cancel the appointments of casual/job order employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and the Office of the ViceGovernor. We hold that the Governor, with respect to the appointment of the officials and employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, has no such authority. Among the powers granted to the Governor under Section 465 of Rep. Act No. 7160 are: Sec. 465. The Chief Executive: Powers, Duties, Functions and Compensation. (a) The provincial governor, as the chief executive of the provincial government, shall exercise such powers and perform such duties and functions as provided by this Code and other laws. (b) For efficient, effective and economical governance the purpose of which is the general welfare of the province and its inhabitants pursuant to Section 16 of this Code, the provincial governor shall: (v) Appoint all officials and employees whose salaries and wages are wholly or mainly paid out of provincial funds and whose appointments are not otherwise provided for in this Code, as well as those he may be authorized by law to appoint. On the other hand, Section 466 vests on the Vice-Governor the power to, among others: (2) Subject to civil service law, rules and regulations, appoint all officials and employees of the sangguniang panlalawigan, except those whose manner of appointment is specifically provided in this Code. Thus, while the Governor has the authority to appoint officials and employees whose salaries are paid out of the provincial funds, this does not extend to the officials and employees of theSangguniang Panlalawigan because such authority is lodged with the Vice-Governor. In the same manner, the authority to appoint casual and job order employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan belongs to the Vice-Governor. The authority of the Vice-Governor to appoint the officials and employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan is anchored on the fact that the salaries of these employees are derived from the appropriation specifically for the said local legislative body. Indeed, the budget source of their salaries is what sets the employees and officials of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan apart from the other employees and officials of the province. Accordingly, the appointing power of the ViceGovernor is limited to those employees of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, as well as those of the Office of the ViceGovernor, whose salaries are paid out of the funds appropriated for the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. As a corollary, if the salary of an employee or official is charged against the provincial funds, even if this employee reports to the Vice-Governor or is assigned to his office, the Governor retains the authority to appoint the said employee pursuant to Section 465(b)(v) of Rep. Act No. 7160. However, in this case, it does not appear whether the contractual/job order employees, whose appointments were terminated or cancelled by the Memorandum dated July 1, 2002 issued by the respondent Governor, were paid out of the provincial funds or the funds of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Nonetheless, the validity of the said

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memorandum cannot be upheld because it absolutely prohibited the respondent Vice-Governor from exercising his authority to appoint the employees, whether regular or contractual/job order, of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and restricted such authority to one of recommendatory nature only.[26] This clearly constituted an encroachment on the appointment power of the respondent Vice- Governor under Section 466(a)(2) of Rep. Act No. 7160. At this juncture, it is well to note that under Batas Pambansa Blg. 337, the Local Government Code prior to Rep. Act No. 7160, the Governor was the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan: Sec. 205. Composition. (1) Each provincial government shall have a provincial legislature hereinafter known as the sangguniang panlalawigan, upon which shall be vested the provincial legislative power. (2) The sangguniang panlalawigan shall be composed of the governor, vice-governor, elective members of the said sanggunian, and the presidents of the katipunang panlalawigan and the kabataang barangayprovincial federation who shall be appointed by the President of the Philippines. Sec. 206. Sessions. (3) The governor, who shall be the presiding officer of the sangguniang panlalawigan, shall not be entitled to vote except in case of a tie. With Rep. Act No. 7160, the union of legislative and executive powers in the office of the local chief executive under the BP Blg. 337 has been disbanded, so that either department now comprises different and nonintermingling official personalities with the end in view of ensuring a better delivery of public service and provide a system of check and balance between the two.[27] Senator Aquilino Pimentel, the principal author of Rep. Act No. 7160, explained that the Vice-Governor is now the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. The City Vice-Mayor presides at meetings of the Sangguniang Panlungsod and the Municipal Vice-Mayor at the sessions of the Sangguniang Bayan. The idea is to distribute powers among elective local officials so that the legislative, which is the Sanggunian, can properly check the executive, which is the Governor or the Mayor and vice versa and exercise their functions without any undue interference from one by the other.[28] The avowed intent of Rep. Act. No. 7160, therefore, is to vest on the Sangguniang Panlalawigan independence in the exercise of its legislative functions vis-a-vis the discharge by the Governor of the executive functions. The Memoranda dated June 25, 2002 and July 1, 2002 of the respondent Governor, which effectively excluded the petitioner Vice-Governor, the presiding officer of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, from signing the purchase orders for the procurement of supplies, materials or equipment needed for the operation of the Sangguniang Panlalawiganas well as from appointing its casual and job order employees, constituted undue interference with the latters functions. The assailed memoranda are clearly not in keeping with the intent of Rep. Act No. 7160 and their implementation should thus be permanently enjoined. WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED. The Memoranda dated June 25, 2002 and July 1, 2002 issued by respondent Governor Jose T. Villarosa are NULL AND VOID. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 154829 : December 10, 2003] ARSENIO A. LATASA, Petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and ROMEO SUNGA,Respondents. DECISION AZCUNA, J.: This is a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court which seeks to challenge the resolution issued by the First Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) dated April 27, 2001 in SPA Case No. 01-059 entitled, Romeo M. Sunga, Petitioner, versus Arsenio A. Latasa, respondent, and the Resolution of the COMELEC en banc denying herein petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. The assailed Resolution denied due course to the certificate of candidacy of petitioner Arsenio A. Latasa, declaring him disqualified to run for mayor of Digos City, Davao del Sur Province in the May 14, 2001

elections, ordering that all votes cast in his favor shall not be counted, and if he has been proclaimed winner, declaring said proclamation null and void. The facts are fairly simple. Petitioner Arsenio A. Latasa, was elected mayor of the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur in the elections of 1992, 1995, and 1998. During petitioners third term, the Municipality of Digos was declared a component city, to be known as the City of Digos. A plebiscite conducted on September 8, 2000 ratified Republic Act No. 8798 entitled, An Act Converting the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur Province into a Component City to be known as the City of Digos or the Charter of the City of Digos. This event also marked the end of petitioners tenure as mayor of the Municipality of Digos. However, under Section 53, Article IX of the Charter, petitioner was mandated to serve in a hold-over capacity as mayor of the new City of Digos. Hence, he took his oath as the city mayor. On February 28, 2001, petitioner filed his certificate of candidacy for city mayor for the May 14, 2001elections. He stated therein that he is eligible therefor, and likewise disclosed that he had already served for three consecutive terms as mayor of the Municipality of Digos and is now running for the first time for the position of city mayor. On March 1, 2001, private respondent Romeo M. Sunga, also a candidate for city mayor in the said elections, filed before the COMELEC a Petition to Deny Due Course, Cancel Certificate of Candidacy and/ or For Disqualification1 against petitioner Latasa. Respondent Sunga alleged therein that petitioner falsely represented in his certificate of candidacy that he is eligible to run as mayor of Digos City since petitioner had already been elected and served for three consecutive terms as mayor from 1992 to 2001. On March 5, 2001, petitioner Latasa filed his Answer,2 arguing that he did not make any false representation in his certificate of candidacy since he fully disclosed therein that he had served as mayor of the Municipality of Digos for three consecutive terms. Moreover, he argued that this fact does not bar him from filing a certificate of candidacy for the May 14, 2001 elections since this will be the first time that he will be running for the post of city mayor. Both parties submitted their position papers on March 19, 2001.3 On April 27, 2001, respondent COMELECs First Division issued a Resolution, the dispositive portion of which reads, as follows: Wherefore, premises considered, the respondents certificate of candidacy should be cancelled for being a violation of the three (3)-term rule proscribed by the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code of 1991.4 Petitioner filed his Motion for Reconsideration dated May 4, 2001,5 which remained unacted upon until the day of the elections, May 14, 2001. On May 16, 2001, private respondent Sunga filed an Ex Parte Motion for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order Enjoining the City Board of Canvassers From Canvassing or Tabulating Respondents Votes, and From Proclaiming Him as the Duly Elected Mayor if He Wins the Elections.6 Despite this, however, petitioner Latasa was still proclaimed winner on May 17, 2001, having garnered the most number of votes. Consequently, private respondent Sunga filed, on May 27, 2001, a Supplemental Motion7 which essentially sought the annulment of petitioners proclamation and the suspension of its effects. On July 1, 2001, petitioner was sworn into and assumed his office as the newly elected mayor of DigosCity. It was only on August 27, 2002 that the COMELEC en banc issued a Resolution denying petitioners Motion for Reconsideration. Hence, this petition. It cannot be denied that the Court has previously held in Mamba-Perez v. COMELEC8 that after an elective official has been proclaimed as winner of the elections, the COMELEC has no jurisdiction to pass upon his qualifications. An opposing partys remedies after proclamation would be to file a petition forquo warranto within ten days after the proclamation. On the other hand, certain peculiarities in the present case reveal the fact that its very heart is something which this Court considers of paramount interest. This Court notes from the very beginning that petitioner himself was already entertaining some doubt as to whether or not he is indeed eligible to run for city mayor in the May 14, 2001 elections. In his certificate of candidacy, after the phrase I am eligible, petitioner inserted a footnote and indicated: * Having served three (3) term[s] as municipal mayor and now running for the first time as city mayor.9 Time and again, this Court has held that rules of procedure are only tools designed to facilitate the attainment of justice, such

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that when rigid application of the rules tend to frustrate rather than promote substantial justice, this Court is empowered to suspend their operation. We will not hesitate to set aside technicalities in favor of what is fair and just.10 The spirit embodied in a Constitutional provision must not be attenuated by a rigid application of procedural rules. The present case raises a novel issue with respect to an explicit Constitutional mandate: whether or not petitioner Latasa is eligible to run as candidate for the position of mayor of the newly-created City ofDigos immediately after he served for three consecutive terms as mayor of the Municipality of Digos. As a rule, in a representative democracy, the people should be allowed freely to choose those who will govern them. Article X, Section 8 of the Constitution is an exception to this rule, in that it limits the range of choice of the people. Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. An examination of the historical background of the subject Constitutional provision reveals that the members of the Constitutional Commission were as much concerned with preserving the freedom of choice of the people as they were with preventing the monopolization of political power. In fact, they rejected a proposal set forth by Commissioner Edmundo Garcia that after serving three consecutive terms or nine years, there should be no further re-election for local and legislative officials.11 The members, instead, adopted the alternative proposal of Commissioner Christian Monsod that such officials be simply barred from running for the same position in the succeeding election following the expiration of the third consecutive term: MR. MONSOD: Madam President, I was reflecting on this issue earlier and I asked to speak because in this draft Constitution, we are recognizing peoples power. We have said that now there is a new awareness, a new kind of voter, a new kind of Filipino. And yet at the same time, we are prescreening candidates among whom they will choose. We are saying that this 48-member Constitutional Commission has decreed that those who have served for a period of nine years are barred from running for the same position. The argument is that there may be other positions. But there are some people who are very skilled and good at legislation, and yet are not of a national stature to be Senators. They may be perfectly honest, perfectly competent and with integrity. They get voted into office at the age of 25, which is the age we provide for Congressmen. And at 34 years old we put them into pasture. Second, we say that we want to broaden the choices of the people. We are talking here only of congressional or senatorial seats. We want to broaden the peoples choice but we are making prejudgment today because we exclude a certain number of people. We are, in effect, putting an additional qualification for office that the officials must have not have served a total of more than a number of years in their lifetime. Third, we are saying that by putting people to pasture, we are creating a reserve of statesmen, but the future participation of these statesmen is limited. Their skills may be only in some areas, but we are saying that they are going to be barred from running for the same position. Madam President, the ability and capacity of a statesman depend as well on the day-to-day honing of his skills and competence, in intellectual combat, in concern and contact with the people, and here we are saying that he is going to be barred from the same kind of public service. I do not think it is in our place today to make such a very important and momentous decision with respect to many of our countrymen in the future who may have a lot more years ahead of them in the service of their country. If we agree that we will make sure that these people do not set up structures that will perpetuate them, then let us give them this rest period of three years or whatever it is. Maybe during that time, we would even agree that their fathers or mothers or relatives of the second degree

should not run. But let us not bar them for life after serving the public for number of years.12 The framers of the Constitution, by including this exception, wanted to establish some safeguards against the excessive accumulation of power as a result of consecutive terms. As Commissioner Blas Ople stated during the deliberations: x x x I think we want to prevent future situations where, as a result of continuous service and frequent re-elections, officials from the President down to the municipal mayor tend to develop a proprietary interest in their positions and to accumulate these powers and perquisites that permit them to stay on indefinitely or to transfer these posts to members of their families in a subsequent election. x x x 13 An elective local official, therefore, is not barred from running again in for same local government post, unless two conditions concur: 1.) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms to the same local government post, and 2.) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.14 In the present case, petitioner states that a city and a municipality have separate and distinct personalities. Thus they cannot be treated as a single entity and must be accorded different treatment consistent with specific provisions of the Local Government Code. He does not deny the fact that he has already served for three consecutive terms as municipal mayor. However, he asserts that when Digos was converted from a municipality to a city, it attained a different juridical personality. Therefore, when he filed his certificate of candidacy for city mayor, he cannot be construed as vying for the same local government post. For a municipality to be converted into a city, the Local Government Code provides: SECTION 450. Requisites for Creation. - (a) A municipality or a cluster of barangays may be converted into a component city it has an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least Twenty million pesos (20,000,000.00) for the last two (2) consecutive years based on 1991 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites: (i) a contiguous territory of at least one hundred (100) square kilometers, as certified by the Land Management Bureau; or, (ii) a population of not less than one hundred fifty thousand (150,000) inhabitants, as certified by the National Statistics Office. Provided, That, the creation thereof shall not reduce the land area, population, and income of the original unit or units at the time of said creation to less than the minimum requirements prescribed herein. (b) The territorial jurisdiction of a newly-created city shall be properly identified by metes and bounds. The requirement on land are shall not apply where the city proposed to be created is composed of one (1) or more island. The territory need not be contiguous if it comprises two (2) or more islands. (c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, transfers, and non-recurring income.15 Substantial differences do exist between a municipality and a city. For one, there is a material change in the political and economic rights of the local government unit when it is converted from a municipality to a city and undoubtedly, these changes affect the people as well.16 It is precisely for this reason why Section 10, Article X of the Constitution mandates that no province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, without the approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected. As may be gleaned from the Local Government Code, the creation or conversion of a local government unit is done mainly to help assure its economic viability. Such creation or conversion is based on verified indicators: Section 7. Creation and Conversion. --- As a general rule, the creation of a local government unit or its conversion from one level to another shall be based on verifiable indicators or viability and projected capacity to provide services, to wit: (a) Income. --- It must be sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and services and special functions commensurate with the size of its population, as expected of the local government unit concerned; (b) Population. --- It shall be determined as the total number of inhabitants within the territorial jurisdiction of the local government unit concerned; and (c) Land Area. --- It must be contiguous, unless it comprises two (2) or more islands or is separated by a local government unit independent of the others; properly identified by metes and bounds with technical descriptions; and sufficient to

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provide for such basic services and facilities to meet the requirements of its populace. Compliance with the foregoing indicators shall be attested to by the Department of Finance (DOF), the National Statistics Office (NSO), and the Lands Management Bureau (LMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).17 On the other hand, Section 2 of the Charter of the City of Digos provides: Section 2. The City of Digos --The Municipality of Digos shall be converted into a component city to be known as the City of Digos, hereinafter referred to as the City, which shall comprise the present territory of the Municipality of Digos, Davao del Sur Province. The territorial jurisdiction of the City shall be within the present metes and bounds of the Municipality of Digos. x x x Moreover, Section 53 of the said Charter further states: Section 53. Officials of the City of Digos. --- The present elective officials of the Municipality of Digosshall continue to exercise their powers and functions until such a time that a new election is held and the duly-elected officials shall have already qualified and assumed their offices. x x x. As seen in the aforementioned provisions, this Court notes that the delineation of the metes and bounds of the City of Digos did not change even by an inch the land area previously covered by theMunicipality of Digos. This Court also notes that the elective officials of the Municipality of Digoscontinued to exercise their powers and functions until elections were held for the new city officials. True, the new city acquired a new corporate existence separate and distinct from that of the municipality. This does not mean, however, that for the purpose of applying the subject Constitutional provision, the office of the municipal mayor would now be construed as a different local government post as that of the office of the city mayor. As stated earlier, the territorial jurisdiction of the City of Digos is the same as that of the municipality. Consequently, the inhabitants of the municipality are the same as those in the city. These inhabitants are the same group of voters who elected petitioner Latasa to be their municipal mayor for three consecutive terms. These are also the same inhabitants over whom he held power and authority as their chief executive for nine years. This Court must distinguish the present case from previous cases ruled upon this Court involving the same Constitutional provision. In Borja, Jr. v. COMELEC,18 the issue therein was whether a vice-mayor who became the mayor by operation of law and who served the remainder of the mayors term should be considered to have served a term in that office for the purpose of the three-term limit under the Constitution. Private respondent in that case was first elected as vicemayor, but upon the death of the incumbent mayor, he occupied the latters post for the unexpired term. He was, thereafter, elected for two more terms. This Court therein held that when private respondent occupied the post of the mayor upon the incumbents death and served for the remainder of the term, he cannot be construed as having served a full term as contemplated under the subject constitutional provision. The term served must be one for which [the official concerned] was elected. It must also be noted that in Borja, the private respondent therein, before he assumed the position of mayor, first served as the vice-mayor of his local government unit. The nature of the responsibilities and duties of the vicemayor is wholly different from that of the mayor. The vice-mayor does not hold office as chief executive over his local government unit. In the present case, Petitioner, upon ratification of the law converting the municipality to a city, continued to hold office as chief executive of the same territorial jurisdiction. There were changes in the political and economic rights of Digos as local government unit, but no substantial change occurred as to petitioners authority as chief executive over the inhabitants of Digos. In Lonzanida v. COMELEC,19 petitioner was elected and served two consecutive terms as mayor from 1988 to 1995. He then ran again for the same position in the May 1995 elections, won and discharged his duties as mayor. However, his opponent contested his proclamation and filed an election protest before the Regional Trial Court, which ruled that there was a failure of elections and

declared the position of mayor vacant. The COMELEC affirmed this ruling and petitioner acceded to the order to vacate the post. During the May 1998 elections, petitioner therein again filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor. A petition to disqualify him was filed on the ground that he had already served three consecutive terms. This Court ruled, however, that petitioner therein cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995 elections, and that said petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term by reason of involuntary relinquishment of office. In the present case, petitioner Latasa was, without a doubt, duly elected as mayor in the May 1998 elections. Can he then be construed as having involuntarily relinquished his office by reason of the conversion of Digos from municipality to city? This Court believes that he did involuntarily relinquish his office as municipal mayor since the said office has been deemed abolished due to the conversion. However, the very instant he vacated his office as municipal mayor, he also assumed office as city mayor. Unlike in Lonzanida, where petitioner therein, for even just a short period of time, stepped down from office, petitioner Latasa never ceased from acting as chief executive of the local government unit. He never ceased from discharging his duties and responsibilities as chief executive of Digos. In Adormeo v. COMELEC,20 this Court was confronted with the issue of whether or not an assumption to office through a recall election should be considered as one term in applying the three-term limit rule. Private respondent, in that case, was elected and served for two consecutive terms as mayor. He then ran for his third term in the May 1998 elections, but lost to his opponent. In June 1998, his opponent faced recall proceedings and in the recall elections of May 2000, private respondent won and served for the unexpired term. For the May 2001 elections, private respondent filed his certificate of candidacy for the office of mayor. This was questioned on the ground that he had already served as mayor for three consecutive terms. This Court held therein that private respondent cannot be construed as having been elected and served for three consecutive terms. His loss in the May 1998 elections was considered by this Court as an interruption in the continuity of his service as mayor. For nearly two years, private respondent therein lived as a private citizen. The same, however, cannot be said of petitioner Latasa in the present case. Finally, in Socrates v. COMELEC,21 the principal issue was whether or not private respondent Edward M. Hagedorn was qualified to run during the recall elections. Therein respondent Hagedorn had already served for three consecutive terms as mayor from 1992 until 2001 and did not run in the immediately following regular elections. On July 2, 2002, the barangay officials of Puerto Princesa convened themselves into a Preparatory Recall Assembly to initiate the recall of the incumbent mayor, Victorino Dennis M. Socrates. On August 23, 2002, respondent Hagedorn filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in the recall election. A petition for his disqualification was filed on the ground that he cannot run for the said post during the recall elections for he was disqualified from running for a fourth consecutive term. This Court, however, ruled in favor of respondent Hagedorn, holding that the principle behind the three-term limit rule is to prevent consecutiveness of the service of terms, and that there was in his case a break in such consecutiveness after the end of his third term and before the recall election. It is evident that in the abovementioned cases, there exists a rest period or a break in the service of the local elective official. In Lonzanida, petitioner therein was a private citizen a few months before the next mayoral elections. Similarly, in Adormeo and Socrates, the private respondents therein lived as private citizens for two years and fifteen months respectively. Indeed, the law contemplates a rest period during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit. This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution specifically included an exception to the peoples freedom to choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil of a single person accumulating excessive power over a particular territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged stay in the same office. To allow petitioner Latasa to vie for the position of city mayor after having served for three consecutive terms as a municipal mayor would obviously defeat the very intent of the framers when they wrote this exception. Should he be allowed another three consecutive terms as mayor of the City of Digos, petitioner would then be possibly holding office as chief executive over the same territorial jurisdiction and

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inhabitants for a total of eighteen consecutive years. This is the very scenario sought to be avoided by the Constitution, if not abhorred by it. Finally, respondent Sunga claims that applying the principle in Labo v. COMELEC,22 he should be deemed the mayoralty candidate with the highest number of votes. On the contrary, this Court held in Labo that the disqualification of a winning candidate does not necessarily entitle the candidate with the highest number of votes to proclamation as the winner of the elections. As an obiter, the Court merely mentioned that the rule would have been different if the electorate, fully aware in fact and in law of a candidates disqualification so as to bring such awareness within the realm of notoriety, would nonetheless cast their votes in favor of the ineligible candidate. In such case, the electorate may be said to have waived the validity and efficacy of their votes by notoriously misapplying their franchise or throwing away their votes, in which case, the eligible candidate obtaining the next higher number of votes may be deemed elected. The same, however, cannot be said of the present case. This Court has consistently ruled that the fact that a plurality or a majority of the votes are cast for an ineligible candidate at a popular election, or that a candidate is later declared to be disqualified to hold office, does not entitle the candidate who garnered the second highest number of votes to be declared elected. The same merely results in making the winning candidates election a nullity.23 In the present case, moreover, 13,650 votes were cast for private respondent Sunga as against the 25,335 votes cast for petitioner Latasa.24 The second placer is obviously not the choice of the people in that particular election. In any event, a permanent vacancy in the contested office is thereby created which should be filled by succession.25 WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 182867 November 25, 2008 ROBERTO LACEDA, SR., petitioner, vs. RANDY L. LIMENA and COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondents. RESOLUTION QUISUMBING, J.: From this Court's June 10, 2008 Resolution1 dismissing his petition for certiorari, petitioner Roberto Laceda, Sr. filed the instant motion for reconsideration,2 insisting that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the Resolutions dated January 15, 20083and May 7, 20084 in SPA No. 07-028 (BRGY). The facts are as follows: Petitioner Roberto Laceda, Sr., and private respondent Randy L. Limena were candidates for Punong Barangay of Barangay Panlayaan, West District, Sorsogon City, during the October 29, 2007 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. On October 23, 2007, Limena filed a petition for disqualification and/or declaration as an ineligible candidate5 against Laceda before the COMELEC, contending that Laceda had already served as Punong Barangay for Brgy. Panlayaan for three consecutive terms since 1994, and was thus prohibited from running for the fourth time under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 91646which provides: SEC. 2. Term of Office.-The term of office of all barangay and sangguniang kabataan officials after the effectivity of this Act shall be three (3) years. No barangay elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position: Provided, however, That the term of office shall be reckoned from the 1994 barangay elections. Voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official was elected. Limena likewise attached the following certification from the Department of the Interior and Local Government: THIS IS TO CERTIFY that per records in this office HON. ROBERTO LACEDA, SR., incumbent Punong Barangay of Panlayaan, West District, Sorsogon City. was elected as Punong Barangay during the May 9, 1994, May 12, 1997 and July 15, 2002 Barangay Elections. He resigned from office on March 20, 1995 to run as Municipal Councilor.

Hence, he is covered by the three-term rule of paragraph 2, Section 2 of RA 9164 which provides that: "No barangay elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position: Provided, however, that the term of office shall be reckoned from the 1994 barangay elections. Voluntary renunciation of office [for] any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official was elected."7 xxxx In his Answer,8 Laceda admitted having served as Punong Barangay of Panlayaan for three consecutive terms. However, he asserted that when he was elected for his first two terms, Sorsogon was still a municipality, and that when he served his third term, the Municipality of Sorsogon had already been merged with the Municipality of Bacon to form a new political unit, the City of Sorsogon, pursuant to Republic Act No. 8806.9 Thus, he argued that his third term was actually just his first in the new political unit and that he was accordingly entitled to run for two more terms. Laceda likewise argued that assuming he had already served three consecutive terms, Rep. Act No. 9164 which imposes the three-term limit, cannot be made to apply to him as it would violate his vested right to office. He alleged that when he was elected in 1994 the prohibition did not exist. Had he known that there will be a law preventing him to run for the fourth time, he would not have run for office in 1994 as he was looking forward to the election in 2007.10 On January 15, 2008, the COMELEC declared Laceda disqualified and cancelled his certificate of candidacy: WHEREFORE, this Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVED, to declare Respondent Roberto Laceda, Sr. DISQUALIFIED from running as Punong Barangay of Panlayaan, West District, Sorsogon City and consequently denies due course and cancels his Certificate of Candidacy. SO ORDERED.11 Laceda moved for reconsideration, but his motion was denied by the COMELEC in a Resolution dated May 7, 2008. Aggrieved, Laceda filed a petition for certiorari before this Court. On June 10, 2008, this Court dismissed the petition for failure to sufficiently show that any grave abuse of discretion was committed by the COMELEC in rendering the assailed Resolutions of January 15, 2008 and May 7, 2008. Hence, this motion for reconsideration. Laceda insists that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in basing its decision on the requisites enunciated in Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections12 for the application of the three-term prohibition in Section 4313 of the Local Government Code.14 Laceda argues that said case is inapplicable since it involved the position of municipal mayor while the instant case concerned the position of Punong Barangay. He likewise insists that he served his third term in a new political unit and therefore he should not be deemed already to have served a third term as Punong Barangay for purposes of applying the three-term limit.15 For reasons hereafter discussed, the motion for reconsideration cannot prosper. Section 2 of Rep. Act No. 9164, like Section 43 of the Local Government Code from which it was taken, is primarily intended to broaden the choices of the electorate of the candidates who will run for office, and to infuse new blood in the political arena by disqualifying officials from running for the same office after a term of nine years. This Court has held that for the prohibition to apply, two requisites must concur: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post and (2) that he or she has fully served three consecutive terms.16 In this case, while it is true that under Rep. Act No. 8806 the municipalities of Sorsogon and Bacon were merged and converted into a city thereby abolishing the former and creating Sorsogon City as a new political unit, it cannot be said that for the purpose of applying the prohibition in Section 2 of Rep. Act No. 9164, the office of Punong Barangay of Barangay Panlayaan, Municipality of Sorsogon, would now be construed as a different local government post as that of the office of Punong Barangay of Barangay Panlayaan, Sorsogon City. The territorial jurisdiction of Barangay Panlayaan, Sorsogon City, is the same as before the conversion. Consequently, the inhabitants of the barangay are the same. They are the same group of voters who elected Laceda to be their Punong Barangay for three consecutive terms and over whom Laceda held power and authority as their Punong Barangay. Moreover, Rep. Act No. 8806 did not interrupt Laceda's term. In Latasa v. Commission on Elections,17 which involved a similar question, this Court held that where a person has been

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elected for three consecutive terms as a municipal mayor and prior to the end or termination of such three-year term the municipality has been converted by law into a city, without the city charter interrupting his term until the end of the three-year term, the prohibition applies to prevent him from running for the fourth time as city mayor thereof, there being no break in the continuity of the terms. Thus, conformably with the democratic intent of Rep. Act No. 9164 and this Court's ruling in Latasa v. Commission on Elections, we hold that the prohibition in Section 2 of said statute applies to Laceda. The COMELEC did not err nor commit any abuse of discretion when it declared him disqualified and cancelled his certificate of candidacy. WHEREFORE, petitioner Roberto Laceda, Sr.'s Motion for Reconsideration18 dated July 25, 2008 assailing this Court's Resolution dated June 10, 2008 is DENIED with FINALITY. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 167591 May 9, 2007 ATTY. VENANCIO Q. RIVERA III and ATTY. NORMANDICK DE GUZMAN, Petitioners, vs. COMELEC and MARINO "BOKING" MORALES, Respondents. x---------------------------------------------x G.R. No. 170577 May 9, 2007 ANTHONY D. DEE, Petitioner, vs. COMELEC and MARINO "BOKING" MORALES, Respondents. DECISION SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J.: For our resolution are two consolidated petitions for certiorari under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, assailing the Resolutions dated March 14, 2005 and November 8, 2005 of the COMELEC En Banc. G.R. No. 167591 ATTY. VENANCIO Q. RIVERA III and ATTY. NORMANDICK DE GUZMAN v. COMELEC and MARINO "BOKING" MORALES In the May 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections, respondent Marino "Boking" Morales ran as candidate for mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga for the term commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. Prior thereto or on January 5, 2004, he filed his Certificate of Candidacy. On January 10, 2004, Attys. Venancio Q. Rivera and Normandick De Guzman, petitioners, filed with the Second Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) a petition to cancel respondent Morales Certificate of Candidacy on the ground that he was elected and had served three previous consecutive terms as mayor of Mabalacat. They alleged that his candidacy violated Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43 (b) of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7160, also known as the Local Government Code. In his answer to the petition, respondent Morales admitted that he was elected mayor of Mabalacat for the term commencing July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1998 (first term) and July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2004 (third term), but he served the second term from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001 only as a "caretaker of the office" or as a "de facto officer" because of the following reasons: a. He was not validly elected for the second term 1998 to 2001 since his proclamation as mayor was declared void by the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 57, Angeles City in its Decision dated April 2, 2001 in Election Protest Case (EPC) No. 98-131. The Decision became final and executory on August 6, 2001; and b. He was preventively suspended by the Ombudsman in an anti-graft case from January 16, 1999 to July 15, 1999. On May 6, 2004, the COMELEC Second Division rendered its Resolution finding respondent Morales disqualified to run for the position of municipal mayor on the ground that he had already served three (3) consecutive terms. Accordingly, his Certificate of Candidacy was cancelled. On May 7, 2004, he filed with the COMELEC En Banc a motion for reconsideration. On March 14, 2005, the COMELEC En Banc issued a Resolution granting respondent Morales motion for reconsideration and setting aside that of the Second

Division. The COMELEC En Banc held that since the Decision in EPC No. 98-131 of the RTC, Branch 57, Angeles City declared respondent Morales proclamation void, his discharge of the duties in the Office of the Mayor in Mabalacat is that of a de facto officer or a de facto mayor. Therefore, his continuous service for three consecutive terms has been severed. Hence, this petition for certiorari. G.R. No. 170577 ANTHONY DEE v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and MARIO "BOKING" MORALES On May 24, 2004, after respondent Morales was proclaimed the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat for the term commencing July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007, petitioner Anthony Dee, also a candidate for mayor, filed with the RTC, Branch 61, Angeles City a petition for quo warranto against the said respondent. Petitioner alleged that respondent Morales, having served as mayor for three consecutive terms, is ineligible to run for another term or fourth term. The case was docketed as Civil Case No. 11503. In his answer, respondent Morales raised the following defenses: a. He was not validly elected for the term 1998 to 2001 since the RTC, Branch 57, Angeles City declared in its Decision that his proclamation as mayor of Mabalacat was void. Petitioner Dee was then proclaimed the duly elected mayor; and b. He was preventively suspended for six months by the Ombudsman, during the same term in an anti-graft case, an interruption in the continuity of his service as municipal mayor of Mabalacat.1 In its Decision dated November 22, 2004, the RTC dismissed petitioner Dees petition for quo warranto on the ground that respondent Morales did not serve the three-term limit since he was not the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat, but petitioner Dee in the May 1998 elections for the term 1998 to 2001, thus: Respondent, Marino Morales, was not the duly elected mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga in the May 1998 elections for the term 1998 to 2001 because although he was proclaimed as the elected mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga by the Municipal Board of Canvassers, had assumed office and discharged the duties of mayor, his close rival, the herein petitioner, Anthony D. Dee, was declared the duly elected Mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga in the Decision promulgated on April 2, 2001 in Election Protest EPC No. 98-131 filed by Anthony Dee against herein respondent, Marino Morales, and decided by RTC, Br. 57, Angeles City. x x x. Petitioner Dee interposed an appeal to the COMELEC First Division, alleging that respondent Morales violated the threeterm limit rule when he ran for re-election (fourth time) as mayor in the 2004 elections. Consequently, his proclamation as such should be set aside. In a Resolution dated July 29, 2005 the COMELEC First Division issued a Resolution dismissing the appeal. It held that respondent Morales cannot be deemed to have served as mayor of Mabalacat during the term 1998 to 2001 because his proclamation was declared void by the RTC, Branch 57 of Angeles City. He only served as a caretaker, thus, his service during that term should not be counted. On August 12, 2005, petitioner Dee filed with the COMELEC En Banc a motion for reconsideration. In a Resolution dated November 8, 2005, the COMELEC En Banc affirmed the questioned Resolution of the Second Division. Hence, petitioner Dees instant petition for certiorari. Both cases may be decided based on the same facts and issues. It is undisputed that respondent Morales was elected to the position of mayor of Mabalacat for the following consecutive terms: a) July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1998 b) July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001 c) July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2004 d) July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007 THE PRINCIPAL ISSUE. Respondent Morales argued and the Comelec held that the July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2007 term is not his fourth because his second term, July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001 to which he was elected and which he served, may not be counted since his proclamation was declared void by the RTC, Branch 57 of Angeles City. Respondent Morales is wrong. This Court, through Mr. Justice Cancio C. Garcia, resolved the same issue in Ong v. Alegre2 with identical facts, thus: To digress a bit, the May 1998 elections saw both Alegre and Francis opposing each other for the office of mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte, with the latter being subsequently proclaimed by the COMELEC winner in the contest. Alegre

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subsequently filed an election protest, docketed as Election Case No. 6850 before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) at Daet, Camarines Norte. In it, the RTC declared Alegre as the duly elected mayor in that 1998 mayoralty contest, albeit the decision came out only on July 4, 2001, when Francis had fully served the 1998-2001 mayoralty term and was in fact already starting to serve the 20012004 term as mayor-elected for the municipality of San Vicente. xxx A resolution of the issues thus formulated hinges on the question of whether or not petitioner Francis assumption of office as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for the mayoralty term 1998 to 2001 should be considered as full service for the purpose of the three-term limit rule. Respondent COMELEC resolved the question in the affirmative. Petitioner Francis, on the other hand, disagrees. He argues that, while he indeed assumed office and discharged the duties as Mayor of San Vicente for three consecutive terms, his proclamation as mayorelected in the May 1998 election was contested and eventually nullified per the Decision of the RTC of Daet, Camarines Norte dated July 4, 2001. Pressing the point, petitioner argues, citing Lonzanida v. Comelec, that a proclamation subsequently declared void is no proclamation at all and one assuming office on the strength of a protested proclamation does so as a presumptive winner and subject to the final outcome of the election protest. xxx For the three-term limit for elective local government officials to apply, two conditions or requisites must concur, to wit: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three (3) consecutive terms in the same local government post, and (2) that he has fully served three (3) consecutive terms. With the view we take of the case, the disqualifying requisites are present herein, thus effectively barring petitioner Francis from running for mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte in the May 10, 2004 elections. There can be no dispute about petitioner Francis Ong having been duly elected mayor of that municipality in the May 1995 and again in the May 2001 elections and serving the July 1, 1995-June 30, 1998 and the July 1, 2001-June 30, 2004 terms in full. The herein controversy revolves around the 1998-2001 mayoral term, albeit there can also be no quibbling that Francis ran for mayor of the same municipality in the May 1998 elections and actually served the 1998-2001 mayoral term by virtue of a proclamation initially declaring him mayor-elect of the municipality of San Vicente. The question that begs to be addressed, therefore, is whether or not Francis assumption of office as Mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte from July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001, may be considered as one full term service in the context of the consecutive three-term limit rule. We hold that such assumption of office constitutes, for Francis, "service for the full term," and should be counted as a full term served in contemplation of the three-term limit prescribed by the constitutional and statutory provisions, supra, barring local elective officials from being elected and serving for more than three consecutive terms for the same position. It is true that the RTC-Daet, Camarines Norte ruled in Election Protest Case No. 6850, that it was Francis opponent (Alegre) who "won" in the 1998 mayoralty race and, therefore, was the legally elected mayor of San Vicente. However, that disposition, it must be stressed, was without practical and legal use and value, having been promulgated after the term of the contested office has expired. Petitioner Francis contention that he was only a presumptive winner in the 1998 mayoralty derby as his proclamation was under protest did not make him less than a duly elected mayor. His proclamation by the Municipal Board of Canvassers of San Vicente as the duly elected mayor in the 1998 mayoralty election coupled by his assumption of office and his continuous exercise of the functions thereof from start to finish of the term, should legally be taken as service for a full term in contemplation of the three-term rule. The absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view is not hard to discern. Such contrary view would mean that Alegre would-under the three-term rule-be considered as having served a term by virtue of a veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when

another actually served such term pursuant to a proclamation made in due course after an election. Petitioner cites, but, to our mind, cannot seek refuge from the Courts ruling in Lonzanida v. Comelec, citing Borja v. Comelec. In Lonzanida, petitioner Lonzanida was elected and served for two consecutive terms as mayor of San Antonio, Zambales prior to the May 8, 1995 elections. He then ran again for the same position in the May 1995 elections, won and discharged his duties as Mayor. However, his opponent contested his proclamation and filed an election protest before the RTC of Zambales, which, in a decision dated January 8, 1997, ruled that there was afailure of elections and declared the position vacant. The COMELEC affirmed this ruling and petitioner Lonzanida acceded to the order to vacate the post. Lonzanida assumed the office and performed his duties up to March 1998 only. Now, during the May 1998 elections, Lonzanida again ran for mayor of the same town. A petition to disqualify, under the three-term rule, was filed and was eventually granted. There, the Court held that Lonzanida cannot be considered as having been duly elected to the post in the May 1995 election, and that he did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoralty term by reason of involuntary relinquishment of office. As the Court pointedly observed, Lonzanida "cannot be deemed to have served the May 1995 to 1998 term because he was ordered to vacate [and in fact vacated] his post before the expiration of the term." The difference between the case at bench and Lonzanida is at once apparent. For one, in Lonzanida, the result of the mayoralty elections was declared a nullity for the stated reason of "failure of election," and, as a consequence thereof, the proclamation of Lonzanida as mayor-elect was nullified, followed by an order for him to vacate the office of the mayor. For another, Lonzanida did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term, there being an involuntary severance from office as a result of legal processes. In fine, there was an effective interruption of the continuity of service. On the other hand, the failure-of-election factor does not obtain in the present case. But more importantly, here, there was actually no interruption or break in the continuity of Francis service respecting the 1998-2001 term. Unlike Lonzanida, Francis was never unseated during the term in question; he never ceased discharging his duties and responsibilities as mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for the entire period covering the 1998-2001 term. It bears stressing that in Ong v. Alegre cited above, Francis Ong was elected and assumed the duties of the mayor of San Vicente, Camarines Norte for three consecutive terms. But his proclamation as mayor in the May 1998 election was declared void by the RTC of Daet, Camarines Norte in its Decision dated July 4, 2001. As ruled by this Court, his service for the term 1998 to 2001 is for the full term. Clearly, the three-term limit rule applies to him. Indeed, there is no reason why this ruling should not also apply to respondent Morales who is similarly situated. Here, respondent Morales invoked not only Lonzanida v. COMELEC,3 but also Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections4 which is likewise inapplicable. The facts in Borja are: Private respondent Jose T. Capco was elected vice-mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1998 for a term ending June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, he became mayor, by operation of law, upon the death of the incumbent, Cesar Borja. On May 11, 1992, he ran and was elected mayor for a term of three years which ended on June 30, 1995. On May 8, 1995, he was reelected mayor for another term of three years ending June 30, 1998. On March 27, 1998, private respondent Capco filed a certificate of candidacy for mayor of Pateros relative to the May 11, 1998 elections, Petitioner Benjamin U. Borja, Jr., who was also a candidate for mayor, sought Capcos disqualification on the theory that the latter would have already served as mayor for three consecutive terms by June 30, 1998 and would therefore be ineligible to serve for another term after that. On April 30, 1998, the Second Division of the Commission on Elections ruled in favor of petitioner and declared private respondent Capco disqualified from running for reelection as mayor of Pateros. However, on motion of private respondent, the COMELEC en banc, voting 5-2, reversed the decision and declared Capco eligible to run for mayor in the May 11, 1998 elections. x x x This Court held that Capcos assumption of the office of mayor upon the death of the incumbent may not be regarded as a "term" under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code). He held the position from September 2, 1989 to June 30, 1992,

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a period of less than three years. Moreover, he was not elected to that position. Similarly, in Adormeo v. COMELEC,5 this Court ruled that assumption of the office of mayor in a recall election for the remaining term is not the "term" contemplated under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code). As the Court observed, there was a "break" in the service of private respondent Ramon T. Talanga as mayor. He was a "private citizen" for a time before running for mayor in the recall elections. Here, respondent Morales was elected for the term July 1, 1998 to June 30, 2001. He assumed the position. He served as mayor until June 30, 2001. He was mayor for the entire period notwithstanding the Decision of the RTC in the electoral protest case filed by petitioner Dee ousting him (respondent) as mayor. To reiterate, as held in Ong v. Alegre,6 such circumstance does not constitute an interruption in serving the full term. Section 8, Article X of the Constitution can not be more clear and explicit The term of the office of elected local officials x x x, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. x x x Upon the other hand, Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160 (the Local Government Code) clearly provides: No local official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms in the same position. x x x Respondent Morales is now serving his fourth term. He has been mayor of Mabalacat continuously without any break since July 1, 1995. In just over a month, by June 30, 2007, he will have been mayor of Mabalacat for twelve (12) continuous years. In Latasa v. Comelec,7 the Court explained the reason for the maximum term limit, thus: The framers of the Constitution, by including this exception, wanted to establish some safeguards against the excessive accumulation of power as a result of consecutive terms. As Commissioner Blas Ople stated during the deliberations: x x x I think we want to prevent future situations where, as a result of continuous service and frequent reelections, officials from the President down to the municipal mayor tend to develop a proprietary interest in their positions and to accumulate these powers and prerequisites that permit them to stay on indefinitely or to transfer these posts to members of their families in a subsequent election. x x x xxx It is evident that in the abovementioned cases, there exists a rest period or a break in the service of local elective official. In Lonzanida, petitioner therein was a private citizen a few months before the next mayoral elections. Similarly, in Adormeo and Socrates, the private respondents therein lived as private citizens for two years and fifteen months respectively. Indeed, the law contemplates a rest period during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit. This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution specifically included an exception to the peoples freedom to choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil of a single person accumulating excessive power over a particular territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged stay in the same office. To allow petitioner Latasa to vie for the position of city mayor after having served for three consecutive terms as municipal mayor would obviously defeat the very intent of the framers when they wrote this exception. Should he be allowed another three consecutive term as mayor of the City of Digos, petitioner would then be possibly holding office as chief executive over the same territorial jurisdiction and inhabitants for a total of eighteen consecutive years. This is the very scenario sought to be avoided by the Constitution, if not abhorred by it. This is the very situation in the instant case. Respondent Morales maintains that he served his second term (1998 to 2001) only as a "caretaker of the office" or as a "de facto officer." Section 8, Article X of the Constitution is violated and its purpose defeated when an official serves in the same position for three consecutive terms. Whether as "caretaker" or "de facto" officer, he exercises the powers and enjoys the prerequisites of the office which enables him "to stay on indefinitely".

Respondent Morales should be promptly ousted from the position of mayor of Mabalacat. G.R. No. 167591 Having found respondent Morales ineligible, his Certificate of Candidacy dated December 30, 2003 should be cancelled. The effect of the cancellation of a Certificate of Candidacy is provided under Sections 6 and 7 of R.A. No. 6646, thus: SECTION 6. Effect of Disqualification Case. Any candidate who has been declared by final judgment to be disqualified shall not be voted for, and the votes cast for him shall not be counted. If for any reason a candidate is not declared by final judgment before an election to be disqualified and he is voted for and receives the winning number of votes in such election, the Court or Commission shall continue with the trial and hearing of the action, inquiry, or protest and, upon motion of the complainant or any intervenor, may during the pendency thereof order the suspension of the proclamation of such candidate whenever the evidence of guilt is strong. SECTION 7. Petition to Deny Due Course To or Cancel a Certificate of Candidacy. The procedure hereinabove provided shall apply to petitions to deny due course to or cancel a certificate of candidacy as provided in Section 78 of Batas Pambansa Blg. 881. in relation to Section 211 of the Omnibus Election Code, which provides: SEC. 211. Rules for the appreciation of ballots. In the reading and appreciation of ballots, every ballot shall be presumed to be valid unless there is clear and good reason to justify its rejection. The board of election inspectors shall observe the following rules, bearing in mind that the object of the election is to obtain the expression of the voters will: xxx 19. Any vote in favor of a person who has not filed a certificate of candidacy or in favor of a candidate for an office for which he did not present himself shall be considered as a stray vote but it shall not invalidate the whole ballot. xxx In the light of the foregoing, respondent Morales can not be considered a candidate in the May 2004 elections. Not being a candidate, the votes cast for him SHOULD NOT BE COUNTED and must be considered stray votes. G.R. No. 170577 Since respondent Morales is DISQUALIFIED from continuing to serve as mayor of Mabalacat, the instant petition for quo warranto has become moot. Going back to G.R. No. 167591, the question now is whether it is the vice-mayor or petitioner Dee who shall serve for the remaining portion of the 2004 to 2007 term. In Labo v. Comelec,8 this Court has ruled that a second place candidate cannot be proclaimed as a substitute winner, thus: The rule, therefore, is: the ineligibility of a candidate receiving majority votes does not entitle the eligible candidate receiving the next highest number of votes to be declared elected. A minority or defeated candidate cannot be deemed elected to the office. xxx It is therefore incorrect to argue that since a candidate has been disqualified, the votes intended for the disqualified candidate should, in effect, be considered null and void. This would amount to disenfranchising the electorate in whom sovereignty resides. At the risk of being repetitious, the people of Baguio City opted to elect petitioner Labo bona fide, without any intention to misapply their franchise, and in the honest belief that Labo was then qualified to be the person to whom they would entrust the exercise of the powers of the government. Unfortunately, petitioner Labo turned out to be disqualified and cannot assume the office. Whether or not the candidate whom the majority voted for can or cannot be installed, under no circumstances can minority or defeated candidate be deemed elected to the office. Surely, the 12,602 votes cast for petitioner Ortega is not a larger number than the 27,471 votes cast for petitioner Labo (as certified by the Election Registrar of Baguio City; rollo, p. 109; GR No. 105111). xxx As a consequence of petitioners ineligibility, a permanent vacancy in the contested office has occurred. This should now be filled by the vice-mayor in accordance with Section 44 of the Local Government Code, to wit: Sec. 44. Permanent vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice-Governor, Mayor and Vice-Mayor. (a) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vicegovernor or the vice-mayor concerned shall become the governor or mayor. x x x

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WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 167591 is GRANTED. Respondent Morales Certificate of Candidacy dated December 30, 2003 is cancelled. In view of the vacancy in the Office of the Mayor in Mabalacat, Pampanga, the vice-mayor elect of the said municipality in the May 10, 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections is hereby declared mayor and shall serve as such for the remaining duration of the term July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. The petition in G.R. No. 170577 is DISMISSED for being moot. This Decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 182088 January 30, 2009 ROBERTO L. DIZON, Petitioner, vs COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and MARINO P. MORALES, Respondents. DECISION CARPIO, J.: The Case This is a petition for certiorari and prohibition, with prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction under Rule 65 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. The present petition seeks the reversal of the Resolution dated 27 July 2007 of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) Second Division which dismissed the petition to disqualify and/or to cancel Marino P. Morales (Morales) certificate of candidacy, as well as the Resolution dated 14 February 2008 of the COMELEC En Banc which denied Roberto L. Dizons (Dizon) motion for reconsideration. The Facts The COMELEC Second Division stated the facts as follows: Roberto L. Dizon, hereinafter referred to as petitioner, is a resident and taxpayer of the Municipality of Mabalacat, Pampanga. Marino P. Morales, hereinafter referred to as respondent, is the incumbent Mayor of the Municipality of Mabalacat, Pampanga. Petitioner alleges respondent was proclaimed as the municipal mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga during the 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2004 elections and has fully served the same. Respondent filed his Certificate of Candidacy on March 28, 2007 again for the same position and same municipality. Petitioner argues that respondent is no longer eligible and qualified to run for the same position for the May 14, 2007 elections under Section 43 of the Local Government Code of 1991. Under the said provision, no local elective official is allowed to serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms for the same position. Respondent, on the other hand, asserts that he is still eligible and qualified to run as Mayor of the Municipality of Mabalacat, Pampanga because he was not elected for the said position in the 1998 elections. He avers that the Commission en banc in SPA Case No. A-04-058, entitled Atty. Venancio Q. Rivera III and Normandick P. De Guzman vs. Mayor Marino P. Morales, affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Angeles City declaring Anthony D. Dee as the duly elected Mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga in the 1998 elections. Respondent alleges that his term should be reckoned from 2001 or when he was proclaimed as Mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga. Respondent further asserts that his election in 2004 is only for his second term. Hence, the three term rule provided under the Local Government Code is not applicable to him. Respondent further argues that the grounds stated in the instant petition are not covered under Section 78 of the Omnibus Election Code. Respondent further contend [sic] that even if it is covered under the aforementioned provision, the instant petition failed to allege any material misrepresentation in the respondents Certificate of Candidacy.1 The Ruling of the COMELEC Second Division In its Resolution dated 27 July 2007, the COMELEC Second Division took judicial notice of this Courts ruling in the consolidated cases of Atty. Venancio Q. Rivera III v. COMELEC and Marino "Boking" Morales in G.R. No. 167591 and Anthony Dee v. COMELEC and Marino "Boking" Morales in G.R. No. 170577 (Rivera case) promulgated on 9 May 2007. The pertinent portions of the COMELEC Second Divisions ruling read as follows:

Respondent was elected as mayor of Mabalacat from July 1, 1995 to June 30, 1998. There was no interruption of his second term from 1998 to 2001. He was able to exercise the powers and enjoy the position of a mayor as "caretaker of the office" or a "de facto officer" until June 30, 2001 notwithstanding the Decision of the RTC in an electoral protest case. He was again elected as mayor from July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2003 [sic]. It is worthy to emphasize that the Supreme Court ruled that respondent has violated the three-term limit under Section 43 of the Local Government Code. Respondent was considered not a candidate in the 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections. Hence, his failure to qualify for the 2004 elections is a gap and allows him to run again for the same position in the May 14, 2007 National and Local Elections. WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES to DENY the instant Petition to Cancel the Certificate of Candidacy and/or Petition for the Disqualification of Marino P. Morales for lack of merit.2 Dizon filed a motion for reconsideration before the COMELEC En Banc. The Ruling of the COMELEC En Banc The COMELEC En Banc affirmed the resolution of the COMELEC Second Division. The pertinent portions of the COMELEC En Bancs Resolution read as follows: Respondents certificate of candidacy for the May 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections was cancelled pursuant to the above-mentioned Supreme Court decision which was promulgated on May 9, 2007. As a result, respondent was not only disqualified but was also not considered a candidate in the May 2004 elections. Another factor which is worth mentioning is the fact that respondent has relinquished the disputed position on May 16, 2007. The vice-mayor elect then took his oath and has assumed office as mayor of Mabalacat on May 17, 2007 until the term ended on June 30, 2007. For failure to serve for the full term, such involuntary interruption in his term of office should be considered a gap which renders the three-term limit inapplicable. The three-term limit does not apply whenever there is an involuntary break. The Constitution does not require that the interruption or hiatus to be a full term of three years. What the law requires is for an interruption, break or a rest period from a candidates term of office "for any length of time." The Supreme Court in the case of Latasa v. Comelec ruled: Indeed, the law contemplates a rest period during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit. In sum, the three-term limit is not applicable in the instant case for lack of the two conditions: 1) respondent was not the duly-elected mayor of Mabalacat for the July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007 term primordially because he was not even considered a candidate thereat; and 2) respondent has failed to serve the entire duration of the term of office because he has already relinquished the disputed office on May 16, 2007 which is more than a month prior to the end of his supposed term. xxx WHEREFORE, premises considered, the Commission RESOLVED, as it hereby RESOLVES, to DENY the instant Motion for Reconsideration for LACK OF MERIT. The Resolution of the Commission Second Division is hereby AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED.3 The Issues Dizon submits that the factual findings made in the Rivera case should still be applied in the present case because Morales had, except for one month and 14 days, served the full term of 2004-2007. Morales assumption of the mayoralty position on 1 July 2007 makes the 2007-2010 term Morales fifth term in office. Dizon raises the following grounds before this Court: 1. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION WHEN IT RULED THAT RESPONDENT MORALES DID NOT VIOLATE THE THREE-YEAR TERM LIMIT WHEN HE RAN AND WON AS MAYOR OF MABALACAT, PAMPANGA DURING THE MAY 14, 2007 ELECTION. 2. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT RULED THAT DUE TO THIS HONORABLE COURTS RULING IN THE AFORESAID CONSOLIDATED CASES, RESPONDENT MORALES FOURTH TERM IS CONSIDERED A GAP IN THE LATTERS SERVICE WHEN HE FILED HIS CERTIFICATE OF CANDIDACY FOR THE 2007 ELECTIONS.

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3. THE COMELEC GRAVELY ABUSED ITS DISCRETION WHEN IT RULED THAT THE FOURTH TERM OF MORALES WAS INTERRUPTED WHEN HE "RELINQUISHED" HIS POSITION FOR ONE MONTH AND 14 DAYS PRIOR TO THE MAY 14, 2007 ELECTION.4 The Ruling of the Court The petition has no merit. The present case covers a situation wherein we have previously ruled that Morales had been elected to the same office and had served three consecutive terms, and wherein we disqualified and removed Morales during his fourth term. Dizon claims that Morales is currently serving his fifth term as mayor. Is the 2007-2010 term really Morales fifth term? The Effect of our Ruling in the Rivera Case In our decision promulgated on 9 May 2007, this Court unseated Morales during his fourth term. We cancelled his Certificate of Candidacy dated 30 December 2003. This cancellation disqualified Morales from being a candidate in the May 2004 elections. The votes cast for Morales were considered stray votes. The dispositive portion in theRivera case reads: WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 167591 is GRANTED. Respondent Morales Certificate of Candidacy dated December 30, 2003 is cancelled. In view of the vacancy in the Office of the Mayor of Mabalacat, Pampanga, the vicemayor elect of the said municipality in the May 10, 2004 Synchronized National and Local Elections is hereby declared mayor and shall serve as such for the remaining duration of the term July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2007. The petition in G.R. No. 170577 is DISMISSED for being moot. This Decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED.5 Article X, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution reads: The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 43(b) of the Local Government Code restated Article X, Section 8 of the 1987 Constitution as follows: No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. For purposes of determining the resulting disqualification brought about by the three-term limit, it is not enough that an individual has served three consecutive terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to the same position for the same number of times.6 There should be a concurrence of two conditions for the application of the disqualification: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post and (2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.7lavvphil.net In the Rivera case, we found that Morales was elected as mayor of Mabalacat for four consecutive terms: 1 July 1995 to 30 June 1998, 1 July 1998 to 30 June 2001, 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2004, and 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2007. We disqualified Morales from his candidacy in the May 2004 elections because of the three-term limit. Although the trial court previously ruled that Morales proclamation for the 1998-2001 term was void, there was no interruption of the continuity of Morales service with respect to the 1998-2001 term because the trial courts ruling was promulgated only on 4 July 2001, or after the expiry of the 1998-2001 term. Our ruling in the Rivera case served as Morales involuntary severance from office with respect to the 2004-2007 term. Involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service.8 Our decision in the Rivera case was promulgated on 9 May 2007 and was effective immediately. The next day, Morales notified the vice mayors office of our decision. The vice mayor assumed the office of the mayor from 17 May 2007 up to 30 June 2007. The assumption by the vice mayor of the office of the mayor, no matter how short it may seem to Dizon, interrupted Morales continuity of service. Thus, Morales did not hold office for the full term of 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2007.

2007-2010: Morales Fifth Term? Dizon claims that the 2007-2010 term is Morales fifth term in office. Dizon asserts that even after receipt of our decision on 10 May 2007, Morales "waited for the election to be held on 14 May 2007 to ensure his victory for a fifth term."9 We concede that Morales occupied the position of mayor of Mabalacat for the following periods: 1 July 1995 to 30 June 1998, 1 July 1998 to 30 June 2001, 1 July 2001 to 30 June 2004, and 1 July 2004 to 16 May 2007. However, because of his disqualification, Morales was not the duly elected mayor for the 2004-2007 term. Neither did Morales hold the position of mayor of Mabalacat for the full term. Morales cannot be deemed to have served the full term of 2004-2007 because he was ordered to vacate his post before the expiration of the term. Morales occupancy of the position of mayor of Mabalacat from 1 July 2004 to 16 May 2007 cannot be counted as a term for purposes of computing the three-term limit. Indeed, the period from 17 May 2007 to 30 June 2007 served as a gap for purposes of the three-term limit rule. Thus, the present 1 July 2007 to 30 June 2010 term is effectively Morales first term for purposes of the three-term limit rule. Dizon alleges that Morales "was able to serve his fourth term as mayor through lengthy litigations. x x x In other words, he was violating the rule on three-term limit with impunity by the sheer length of litigation and profit from it even more by raising the technicalities arising therefrom."10 To this, we quote our ruling in Lonzanida v. COMELEC: The respondents harp on the delay in resolving the election protest between petitioner and his then opponent Alvez which took roughly about three years and resultantly extended the petitioners incumbency in an office to which he was not lawfully elected. We note that such delay cannot be imputed to the petitioner. There is no specific allegation nor proof that the delay was due to any political maneuvering on his part to prolong his stay in office. Moreover, protestant Alvez, was not without legal recourse to move for the early resolution of the election protest while it was pending before the regional trial court or to file a motion for the execution of the regional trial courts decision declaring the position of mayor vacant and ordering the vice-mayor to assume office while the appeal was pending with the COMELEC. Such delay which is not here shown to have been intentionally sought by the petitioner to prolong his stay in office cannot serve as basis to bar his right to be elected and to serve his chosen local government post in the succeeding mayoral election.11 WHEREFORE, we DISMISS the petition. We AFFIRM the Resolution of the Commission on Elections En Bancdated 14 February 2008 as well as the Resolution of the Commission on Elections Second Division dated 27 July 2007. SO ORDERED. EN BANC [G.R. No. 180444, April 09, 2008] FEDERICO T. MONTEBON AND ELEANOR M. ONDOY, PETITIONERS, VS. COMMISSION ON ELECTION AND SESINANDO F. POTENCIOSO, JR., RESPONDENTS. DECISION YNARES-SATIAGO, J.: This petition[1] for certiorari assails the June 2, 2007 Resolution[2] of the First Division of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) in SPA No. 07-421, denying the petition for disqualification filed by petitioners Federico T. Montebon and Eleanor M. Ondoy against respondent Sesinando F. Potencioso, Jr., as well as the September 28, 2007 Resolution[3] of the COMELEC En Banc denying the motion for reconsideration. Petitioners Montebon and Ondy and respondent Potencioso, Jr. were candidates for municipal councilor of the Municipality of Tuburan, Cebu for the May 14, 2007 Synchronized National and Local Elections. On April 30, 2007, petitioners and other candidates[4] for municipal councilor filed a petition for disqualification against respondent with the COMELEC alleging that respondent had been elected and served three consecutive terms as municipal councilor in 1998-2001, 20012004, and 2004-2007. Thus, he is proscribed from running for the same position in the 2007 elections as it would be his fourth consecutive term. In his answer, respondent admitted that he had been elected

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for three consecutive terms as municipal councilor. However, he claimed that the service of his second term in 2001-2004 was interrupted on January 12, 2004 when he succeeded as vice mayor of Tuburan due to the retirement of Vice Mayor Petronilo L. Mendoza. Consequently, he is not disqualified from vying for the position of municipal councilor in the 2007 elections. In the hearing of May 10, 2007, the parties were directed to file their respective memoranda. In petitioners' memorandum, they maintained that respondent's assumption of office as vice-mayor in January 2004 should not be considered an interruption in the service of his second term since it was a voluntary renunciation of his office as municipal councilor. They argued that, according to the law, voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the official concerned was elected. On the other hand, respondent alleged that a local elective official is not disqualified from running for the fourth consecutive time to the same office if there was an interruption in one of the previous three terms. On June 2, 2007, the COMELEC First Division denied the petition for disqualification ruling that respondent's assumption of office as vice-mayor should be considered an interruption in the continuity of his service. His second term having been involuntarily interrupted, respondent should thus not be disqualified to seek reelection as municipal councilor.[5] On appeal, the COMELEC En Banc upheld the ruling of the First Division, as follows: Respondent's assumption to the office of the vice-mayor of Tuburan in January 2004 during his second term as councilor is not a voluntary renunciation of the latter office. The same therefore operated as an effective disruption in the full service of his second term as councilor. Thus, in running for councilor again in the May 14, 2007 Elections, respondent is deemed to be running only for a second consecutive term as councilor of Tuburan, the first consecutive term fully served being his 2004-2007 term. Petitioner Montebon's and Ondoy's June 9, 2007 manifestation and omnibus motion are hereby declared moot and academic with the instant disposition of their motion for reconsideration. WHEREFORE, premises considered, petitioners' motion for reconsideration is hereby DENIED for lack of merit. SO ORDERED.[6] Petitioners filed the instant petition for certiorari on the ground that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in ruling that respondent's assumption of office as vicemayor in January 2004 interrupted his 2001-2004 term as municipal councilor. The petition lacks merit. The 1987 Constitution bars and disqualifies local elective officials from serving more than three consecutive terms in the same post. Section 8, Article X thereof states: Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law shall be three years and no such officials shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 43 of the Local Government Code also provides: Sec. 43. Term of Office. (b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected.

In Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections,[7] the Court held that the two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: 1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post; and 2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms. [8] In Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections,[9] the Court emphasized that the term limit for elective officials must be taken to refer to the right to be elected as well as the right to serve in the same elective position. Thus, for the disqualification to apply, it is not enough that the official has been elected three consecutive times; he must also have served three consecutive terms in the same position.[10] While it is undisputed that respondent was elected municipal councilor for three consecutive terms, the issue lies on whether he is deemed to have fully served his second term in view of his assumption of office as vice-mayor of Tuburan on January 12, 2004. Succession in local government offices is by operation of law. [11] Section 44[12] of Republic Act No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, provides that if a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member shall become vice mayor. Thus: SEC. 44. Permanent Vacancies in the Offices of the Governor, Vice Governor, Mayor, and Vice Mayor. - (a) If a permanent vacancy occurs in the office of the governor or mayor, the vice governor or vice mayor concerned shall become the governor or mayor. If a permanent vacancy occurs in the offices of the governor, vice governor, mayor or vice mayor, the highest ranking sanggunian member or, in case of his permanent inability, the second highest ranking sanggunian member, shall become the governor, vice governor, mayor or vice mayor, as the case may be. Subsequent vacancies in the said office shall be filled automatically by the other sanggunian members according to their ranking as defined herein. x x x In this case, a permanent vacancy occurred in the office of the vice mayor due to the retirement of Vice Mayor Mendoza. Respondent, being the highest ranking municipal councilor, succeeded him in accordance with law. It is clear therefore that his assumption of office as vice-mayor can in no way be considered a voluntary renunciation of his office as municipal councilor. In Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections, the Court explained the concept of voluntary renunciation as follows: The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states, `Voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which he was elected.' The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the people's choice and grant their elected official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the renounced term in the computation of the three term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service.[13] (Emphasis added) Thus, respondent's assumption of office as vice-mayor in January 2004 was an involuntary severance from his office as municipal councilor, resulting in an interruption in the service of his 2001-2004 term. It cannot be deemed to have been by reason of voluntary renunciation because it was by operation of law. We quote with approval the ruling of the COMELEC that The legal successor is not given any option under the law on whether to accept the vacated post or not. Section 44 of the Local Government Code makes no exception. Only if the highest-ranking councilor is permanently unable to succeed to the post does the law speak of alternate succession. Under no circumstances can simple refusal of the official concerned be considered as permanent inability within the contemplation of law. Essentially therefore, the successor cannot refuse to assume the office that he is mandated to occupy by virtue of succession. He can only do so if for some reason he is permanently unable to succeed and occupy the post vacated. xxxx Thus, succession by law to a vacated government office is characteristically not voluntary since it involves the performance of a public duty by a government official, the nonperformance of which exposes said official to possible

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administrative and criminal charges of dereliction of duty and neglect in the performance of public functions. It is therefore more compulsory and obligatory rather than voluntary.[14] WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED for lack of merit. The June 2, 2007 Resolution of the COMELEC First Division denying the petition for disqualification and the September 28, 2007 Resolution of the COMELEC en banc denying the motion for reconsideration, are AFFIRMED. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 184082 March 17, 2009 NICASIO BOLOS, JR., Petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and REY ANGELES CINCONIEGUE, Respondents. DECISION PERALTA, J.: This is a petition for certiorari, under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court, alleging that the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the Resolutions promulgated on March 4, 2008 and August 7, 2008 holding that petitioner Nicasio Bolos, Jr. is disqualified as a candidate for the position of Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the October 29, 2007 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections on the ground that he has served the three-term limit provided in the Constitution and Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991. The facts are as follows: For three consecutive terms, petitioner was elected to the position of Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the Barangay Elections held in 1994, 1997 and 2002. In May 2004, while sitting as the incumbent Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, petitioner ran for Municipal Councilor of Dauis, Bohol and won. He assumed office as Municipal Councilor on July 1, 2004, leaving his post asPunong Barangay. He served the full term of the Sangguniang Bayan position, which was until June 30, 2007. Thereafter, petitioner filed his Certificate of Candidacy for Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the October 29, 2007 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. Respondent Rey Angeles Cinconiegue, the incumbent Punong Barangay and candidate for the same office, filed before the COMELEC a petition for the disqualification of petitioner as candidate on the ground that he had already served the three-term limit. Hence, petitioner is no longer allowed to run for the same position in accordance with Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43 (b) of R.A. No. 7160. Cinconiegue contended that petitioners relinquishment of the position of Punong Barangay in July 2004 was voluntary on his part, as it could be presumed that it was his personal decision to run as municipal councilor in the May 14, 2004 National and Local Elections. He added that petitioner knew that if he won and assumed the position, there would be a voluntary renunciation of his post as Punong Barangay. In his Answer, petitioner admitted that he was elected as Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol in the last three consecutive elections of 1994, 1997 and 2002. However, he countered that in the May 14, 2004 National and Local Elections, he ran and won as Municipal Councilor of Dauis, Bohol. By reason of his assumption of office as Sangguniang Bayan member, his remaining term of office as Punong Barangay, which would have ended in 2007, was left unserved. He argued that his election and assumption of office as Sangguniang Bayanmember was by operation of law; hence, it must be considered as an involuntary interruption in the continuity of his last term of service. Pursuant to Section 10 of COMELEC Resolution No. 8297 dated September 6, 2007, the petition was heard by the Provincial Election Supervisor of Bohol. Upon completion of the proceedings, the evidence, records of the case, and

the Hearing Officers action on the matter were endorsed to and received by the Commission on November 21, 2007. The issue before the COMELEC was whether or not petitioners election, assumption and discharge of the functions of the Office of Sangguniang Bayan member can be considered as voluntary renunciation of his office asPunong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol which will render unbroken the continuity of his service asPunong Barangay for the full term of office, that is, from 2004 to 2007. If it is considered a voluntary renunciation, petitioner will be deemed to have served three consecutive terms and shall be disqualified to run for the same position in the October 29, 2007 elections. But if it is considered as an involuntary renunciation, petitioners service is deemed to have been interrupted; hence, he is not barred from running for another term. In a Resolution1 dated March 4, 2008, the First Division of the COMELEC ruled that petitioners relinquishment of the office of Punong Barangay of Biking, Dauis, Bohol, as a consequence of his assumption of office asSangguniang Bayan member of Dauis, Bohol, on July 1, 2004, was a voluntary renunciation of the Office ofPunong Barangay. The dispositive portion of the Resolution reads: WHEREFORE, in view of the foregoing, the Commission (First Division) GRANTS the petition. Respondent NICASIO BOLOS, JR., having already served as Punong Barangay of Barangay Biking, Dauis, Bohol for three consecutive terms is hereby DISQUALIFIED from being a candidate for the same office in the October 29, 2007 Barangay and SK Elections. Considering that respondent had already been proclaimed, said proclamation is hereby ANNULLED. Succession to said office shall be governed by the provisions of Section 44 of the Local Government Code.2 Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied by the COMELEC en banc in a Resolution3 dated August 7, 2008. Hence, this petition for certiorari raising this lone issue: WHETHER OR NOT THE HONORABLE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS ACTED WITHOUT OR IN EXCESS OF ITS JURISDICTION AMOUNTING TO LACK OF JURISDICTION OR WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION IN DISQUALIFYING [PETITIONER] AS A CANDIDATE FOR PUNONG BARANGAY IN THE OCTOBER 29, 2007 BARANGAY AND SANGGUNIANG KABATAAN ELECTIONS AND, SUBSEQUENTLY, ANNULLING HIS PROCLAMATION.4 The main issue is whether or not there was voluntary renunciation of the Office of Punong Barangay by petitioner when he assumed office as Municipal Councilor so that he is deemed to have fully served his third term as Punong Barangay, warranting his disqualification from running for the same position in the October 29, 2007 Barangayand Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. Petitioner contends that he is qualified to run for the position of Punong Barangay in the October 29, 2007Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections since he did not serve continuously three consecutive terms. He admits that in the 1994, 1997 and 2002 Barangay elections, he was elected as Punong Barangay for three consecutive terms. Nonetheless, while serving his third term as Punong Barangay, he ran as Municipal Councilor of Dauis, Bohol, and won. On July 1, 2004, he assumed office and, consequently, left his post as Punong Barangay by operation of law. He averred that he served the full term as member of the Sangguniang Bayan until June 30, 2007. On October 29, 2007, he filed his Certificate of Candidacy for Punong Barangay and won. Hence, the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in disqualifying him as a candidate for Punong Barangay since he did not complete his third term by operation of law. The argument does not persuade. The three-term limit for elective local officials is contained in Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, which provides: Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years, and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. David v. Commission on Elections5 elucidates that the Constitution did not expressly prohibit Congress from fixing any term of office for barangay officials, thereby leaving to the lawmakers full discretion to fix such term in accordance with the exigencies of public service. The discussions in the Constitutional Commission showed that the term of office of barangay officials would be "[a]s may be determined by law," and more precisely, "[a]s provided for in the Local

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Government Code."6 Section 43(b) of the Local Government Code provides thatbarangay officials are covered by the three-term limit, while Section 43(c)7 thereof states that the term of office ofbarangay officials shall be five (5) years. The cited provisions read, thus: Sec. 43. Term of Office. x x x (b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. (c) The term of barangay officials and members of the sangguniang kabataan shall be for five (5) years, which shall begin after the regular election of barangay officials on the second Monday of May 1997:Provided, That the sangguniang kabataan members who were elected in the May 1996 elections shall serve until the next regular election of barangay officials. Socrates v. Commission on Elections8 held that the rule on the three-term limit, embodied in the Constitution and the Local Government Code, has two parts: x x x The first part provides that an elective local official cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms. The clear intent is that only consecutive terms count in determining the three-term limit rule. The second part states that voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time does not interrupt the continuity of service. The clear intent is that involuntary severance from office for any length of time interrupts continuity of service and prevents the service before and after the interruption from being joined together to form a continuous service or consecutive terms. After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term. 9 In Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections,10 the Court stated that the second part of the rule on the three-term limit shows the clear intent of the framers of the Constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the threeterm limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected official full service of a term. The Court held that two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: (1) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same government post; and (2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms.11 In this case, it is undisputed that petitioner was elected as Punong Barangay for three consecutive terms, satisfying the first condition for disqualification. What is to be determined is whether petitioner is deemed to have voluntarily renounced his position as Punong Barangay during his third term when he ran for and won as Sangguniang Bayan member and assumed said office. The Court agrees with the COMELEC that there was voluntary renunciation by petitioner of his position as Punong Barangay. The COMELEC correctly held: It is our finding that Nicasio Bolos, Jr.s relinquishment of the office of Punong Barangay of Biking, Dauis, Bohol, as a consequence of his assumption to office as Sangguniang Bayan member of Dauis, Bohol, on July 1, 2004, is a voluntary renunciation. As conceded even by him, respondent (petitioner herein) had already completed two consecutive terms of office when he ran for a third term in the Barangay Elections of 2002. When he filed his certificate of candidacy for the Office of Sangguniang Bayan of Dauis, Bohol, in the May 10, 2004 [elections], he was not deemed resigned. Nonetheless, all the acts attending his pursuit of his election as municipal councilor point out to an intent and readiness to give up his post as Punong Barangay once elected to the higher elective office, for it was very unlikely that respondent had filed his Certificate of Candidacy for the Sangguniang Bayan post, campaigned and exhorted the municipal electorate to vote for him as such and then after being elected and proclaimed, return to his former position. He knew that his election as municipal councilor would entail abandonment of the position he held, and he intended to forego of it. Abandonment, like resignation, is voluntary.12

Indeed, petitioner was serving his third term as Punong Barangay when he ran for Sangguniang Bayan member and, upon winning, assumed the position of Sangguniang Bayan member, thus, voluntarily relinquishing his office as Punong Barangay which the Court deems as a voluntary renunciation of said office. Petitioner erroneously argues that when he assumed the position of Sangguniang Bayan member, he left his post as Punong Barangay by operation of law; hence, he did not fully serve his third term as Punong Barangay. The term "operation of law" is defined by the Philippine Legal Encyclopedia13 as "a term describing the fact that rights may be acquired or lost by the effect of a legal rule without any act of the person affected." Black's Law Dictionary also defines it as a term that "expresses the manner in which rights, and sometimes liabilities, devolve upon a person by the mere application to the particular transaction of the established rules of law, without the act or cooperation of the party himself."14 An interruption in the service of a term of office, by operation of law, is exemplified in Montebon v. Commission on Elections.15 The respondent therein, Sesinando F. Potencioso, Jr., was elected and served three consecutive terms as Municipal Councilor of Tuburan, Cebu in 1998-2001, 20012004, and 2004-2007. However, during his second term, he succeeded as Vice-Mayor of Tuburan due to the retirement of the Vice-Mayor pursuant to Section 44 of R.A. No. 7160.16 Potenciosos assumption of office as Vice-Mayor was considered an involuntary severance from his office as Municipal Councilor, resulting in an interruption in his second term of service.17 The Court held that it could not be deemed to have been by reason of voluntary renunciation because it was by operation of law.18 Hence, Potencioso was qualified to run as candidate for municipal councilor of the Municipality of Tuburan, Cebu in the May 14, 2007 Synchronized National and Local Elections. Further, in Borja, Jr. v. Commission on Elections,19 respondent therein, Jose T. Capco, Jr., was elected as Vice-Mayor of Pateros on January 18, 1988 for a term ending on June 30, 1992. On September 2, 1989, Capco became Mayor, by operation of law, upon the death of the incumbent, Cesar Borja. Thereafter, Capco was elected and served as Mayor for two more terms, from 1992 to 1998. On March 27, 1998, Capco filed a Certificate of Candidacy for Mayor of Pateros in the May 11, 1998 election. Capcos disqualification was sought on the ground that he would have already served as Mayor for three consecutive terms by June 30, 1998; hence, he would be ineligible to serve for another term. The Court declared that the term limit for elective local officials must be taken to refer to the right to be elected as well as the right to serve the same elective position.20 The Court held that Capco was qualified to run again as mayor in the next election because he was not elected to the office of mayor in the first term but simply found himself thrust into it by operation of law.21 Neither had he served the full term because he only continued the service, interrupted by the death, of the deceased mayor.22 The vicemayors assumption of the mayorship in the event of the vacancy is more a matter of chance than of design.23 Hence, his service in that office should not be counted in the application of any term limit.24 In this case, petitioner did not fill in or succeed to a vacancy by operation of law. He instead relinquished his office as Punong Barangay during his third term when he won and assumed office as Sangguniang Bayan member of Dauis, Bohol, which is deemed a voluntary renunciation of the Office of Punong Barangay. In fine, the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the Resolutions dated March 4, 2008 and August 7, 2008, disqualifying petitioner from being a candidate for Punong Barangay in the October 29, 2007 Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan Elections. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED. The COMELEC Resolutions dated March 4, 2008 and August 7, 2008 are hereby AFFIRMED. No pronouncement as to costs. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 184836 December 23, 2009 SIMON B. ALDOVINO, JR., DANILO B. FALLER AND FERDINAND N. TALABONG, Petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS AND WILFREDO F. ASILO, Respondents. DECISION

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BRION, J.: Is the preventive suspension of an elected public official an interruption of his term of office for purposes of the three-term limit rule under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43(b) of Republic Act No. 7160 (RA 7160, or the Local Government Code)? The respondent Commission on Elections (COMELEC) ruled that preventive suspension is an effective interruption because it renders the suspended public official unable to provide complete service for the full term; thus, such term should not be counted for the purpose of the three-term limit rule. The present petition1 seeks to annul and set aside this COMELEC ruling for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction. THE ANTECEDENTS The respondent Wilfredo F. Asilo (Asilo) was elected councilor of Lucena City for three consecutive terms: for the 1998-2001, 2001-2004, and 2004-2007 terms, respectively. In September 2005 or during his 2004-2007 term of office, the Sandiganbayan preventively suspended him for 90 days in relation with a criminal case he then faced.This Court, however, subsequently lifted the Sandiganbayans suspension order; hence, he resumed performing the functions of his office and finished his term. In the 2007 election, Asilo filed his certificate of candidacy for the same position. The petitioners Simon B. Aldovino, Jr., Danilo B. Faller, and Ferdinand N. Talabong (the petitioners) sought to deny due course to Asilos certificate of candidacy or to cancel it on the ground that he had been elected and had served for three terms; his candidacy for a fourth term therefore violated the threeterm limit rule under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution and Section 43(b) of RA 7160. The COMELECs Second Division ruled against the petitioners and in Asilos favour in its Resolution of November 28, 2007. It reasoned out that the three-term limit rule did not apply, as Asilo failed to render complete service for the 2004-2007 term because of the suspension the Sandiganbayan had ordered. The COMELEC en banc refused to reconsider the Second Divisions ruling in its October 7, 2008 Resolution; hence, the PRESENT PETITION raising the following ISSUES: 1. Whether preventive suspension of an elected local official is an interruption of the three-term limit rule; and 2. Whether preventive suspension is considered involuntary renunciation as contemplated in Section 43(b) of RA 7160 Thus presented, the case raises the direct issue of whether Asilos preventive suspension constituted an interruption that allowed him to run for a 4th term. THE COURTS RULING We find the petition meritorious. General Considerations The present case is not the first before this Court on the three-term limit provision of the Constitution, but is the first on the effect of preventive suspension on the continuity of an elective officials term. To be sure, preventive suspension, as an interruption in the term of an elective public official, has been mentioned as an example in Borja v. Commission on Elections.2 Doctrinally, however, Borja is not a controlling ruling; it did not deal with preventive suspension, but with the application of the three-term rule on the term that an elective official acquired by succession. a. The Three-term Limit Rule: The Constitutional Provision Analyzed Section 8, Article X of the Constitution states: Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. Section 43 (b) of RA 7160 practically repeats the constitutional provision, and any difference in wording does not assume any significance in this case. As worded, the constitutional provision fixes the term of a local elective office and limits an elective officials stay in office to no more than three consecutive terms. This is the first branch of the rule embodied in Section 8, Article X.

Significantly, this provision refers to a "term" as a period of time three years during which an official has title to office and can serve. Appari v. Court of Appeals,3 a Resolution promulgated on November 28, 2007, succinctly discusses what a "term" connotes, as follows: The word "term" in a legal sense means a fixed and definite period of time which the law describes that an officer may hold an office. According to Mechem, the term of office is the period during which an office may be held. Upon expiration of the officers term, unless he is authorized by law to holdover, his rights, duties and authority as a public officer must ipso facto cease. In the law of public officers, the most and natural frequent method by which a public officer ceases to be such is by the expiration of the terms for which he was elected or appointed. [Emphasis supplied].1avvphi1 A later case, Gaminde v. Commission on Audit,4 reiterated that "[T]he term means the time during which the officer may claim to hold office as of right, and fixes the interval after which the several incumbents shall succeed one another." The "limitation" under this first branch of the provision is expressed in the negative "no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms." This formulation no more than three consecutive terms is a clear command suggesting the existence of an inflexible rule. While it gives no exact indication of what to "serve. . . three consecutive terms" exactly connotes, the meaning is clear reference is to the term, not to the service that a public official may render.1awphi1 In other words, the limitation refers to the term. The second branch relates to the provisions express initiative to prevent any circumvention of the limitation through voluntary severance of ties with the public office; it expressly states that voluntary renunciation of office "shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected." This declaration complements the term limitation mandated by the first branch. A notable feature of the second branch is that it does not textually state that voluntary renunciation is the only actual interruption of service that does not affect "continuity of service for a full term" for purposes of the three-term limit rule. It is a pure declaratory statement of what does not serve as an interruption of service for a full term, but the phrase "voluntary renunciation," by itself, is not without significance in determining constitutional intent. The word "renunciation" carries the dictionary meaning of abandonment. To renounce is to give up, abandon, decline, or resign.5 It is an act that emanates from its author, as contrasted to an act that operates from the outside. Read with the definition of a "term" in mind, renunciation, as mentioned under the second branch of the constitutional provision, cannot but mean an act that results in cutting short the term, i.e., the loss of title to office. The descriptive word "voluntary" linked together with "renunciation" signifies an act of surrender based on the surenderees own freely exercised will; in other words, a loss of title to office by conscious choice. In the context of the three-term limit rule, such loss of title is not considered an interruption because it is presumed to be purposely sought to avoid the application of the term limitation. The following exchanges in the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission on the term "voluntary renunciation" shed further light on the extent of the term "voluntary renunciation": MR. MAAMBONG. Could I address the clarificatory question to the Committee? This term "voluntary renunciation" does not appear in Section 3 [of Article VI]; it also appears in Section 6 [of Article VI]. MR DAVIDE. Yes. MR. MAAMBONG. It is also a recurring phrase all over the Constitution. Could the Committee please enlighten us exactly what "voluntary renunciation" mean? Is this akin to abandonment? MR. DAVIDE. Abandonment is voluntary. In other words, he cannot circumvent the restriction by merely resigning at any given time on the second term. MR. MAAMBONG. Is the Committee saying that the term "voluntary renunciation" is more general than abandonment and resignation? MR. DAVIDE. It is more general, more embracing.6 From this exchange and Commissioner Davides expansive interpretation of the term "voluntary renunciation," the framers intent apparently was to close all gaps that an elective official may seize to defeat the three-term limit rule, in the way that voluntary renunciation has been rendered unavailable as a mode of defeating the three-term limit rule. Harking back to the text of the constitutional provision, we

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note further that Commissioner Davides view is consistent with the negative formulation of the first branch of the provision and the inflexible interpretation that it suggests. This examination of the wording of the constitutional provision and of the circumstances surrounding its formulation impresses upon us the clear intent to make term limitation a high priority constitutional objective whose terms must be strictly construed and which cannot be defeated by, nor sacrificed for, values of less than equal constitutional worth. We view preventive suspension vis--vis term limitation with this firm mindset. b. Relevant Jurisprudence on the Three-term Limit Rule Other than the above-cited materials, jurisprudence best gives us a lead into the concepts within the provisions contemplation, particularly on the "interruption in the continuity of service for the full term" that it speaks of. Lonzanida v. Commission on Elections7 presented the question of whether the disqualification on the basis of the three-term limit applies if the election of the public official (to be strictly accurate, the proclamation as winner of the public official) for his supposedly third term had been declared invalid in a final and executory judgment. We ruled that the two requisites for the application of the disqualification (viz., 1. that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post; and 2. that he has fully served three consecutive terms) were not present. In so ruling, we said: The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the renounced term in the computation of the three term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. The petitioner vacated his post a few months before the next mayoral elections, not by voluntary renunciation but in compliance with the legal process of writ of execution issued by the COMELEC to that effect. Such involuntary severance from office is an interruption of continuity of service and thus, the petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term. [Emphasis supplied] Our intended meaning under this ruling is clear: it is severance from office, or to be exact, loss of title, that renders the three-term limit rule inapplicable. Ong v. Alegre8 and Rivera v. COMELEC,9 like Lonzanida, also involved the issue of whether there had been a completed term for purposes of the three-term limit disqualification. These cases, however, presented an interesting twist, as their final judgments in the electoral contest came after the term of the contested office had expired so that the elective officials in these cases were never effectively unseated. Despite the ruling that Ong was never entitled to the office (and thus was never validly elected), the Court concluded that there was nevertheless an election and service for a full term in contemplation of the three-term rule based on the following premises: (1) the final decision that the third-termer lost the election was without practical and legal use and value, having been promulgated after the term of the contested office had expired; and (2) the official assumed and continuously exercised the functions of the office from the start to the end of the term. The Court noted in Ong the absurdity and the deleterious effect of a contrary view that the official (referring to the winner in the election protest) would, under the three-term rule, be considered to have served a term by virtue of a veritably meaningless electoral protest ruling, when another actually served the term pursuant to a proclamation made in due course after an election. This factual variation led the Court to rule differently fromLonzanida. In the same vein, the Court in Rivera rejected the theory that the official who finally lost the election contest was merely a "caretaker of the office" or a mere "de facto officer." The Court obeserved that Section 8, Article X of the Constitution is violated and its purpose defeated when an official fully served in the same position for three consecutive terms. Whether as "caretaker" or "de facto"

officer, he exercised the powers and enjoyed the perquisites of the office that enabled him "to stay on indefinitely." Ong and Rivera are important rulings for purposes of the threeterm limitation because of what they directly imply. Although the election requisite was not actually present, the Court still gave full effect to the three-term limitation because of the constitutional intent to strictly limit elective officials to service for three terms. By so ruling, the Court signalled how zealously it guards the three-term limit rule. Effectively, these cases teach us to strictly interpret the term limitation rule in favor of limitation rather than its exception. Adormeo v. Commission on Elections10 dealt with the effect of recall on the three-term limit disqualification. The case presented the question of whether the disqualification applies if the official lost in the regular election for the supposed third term, but was elected in a recall election covering that term. The Court upheld the COMELECs ruling that the official was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms. The Court reasoned out that for nearly two years, the official was a private citizen; hence, the continuity of his mayorship was disrupted by his defeat in the election for the third term. Socrates v. Commission on Elections11 also tackled recall vis-vis the three-term limit disqualification. Edward Hagedorn served three full terms as mayor. As he was disqualified to run for a fourth term, he did not participate in the election that immediately followed his third term. In this election, the petitioner Victorino Dennis M. Socrates was elected mayor. Less than 1 years after Mayor Socrates assumed the functions of the office, recall proceedings were initiated against him, leading to the call for a recall election. Hagedorn filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in the recall election, but Socrates sought his disqualification on the ground that he (Hagedorn) had fully served three terms prior to the recall election and was therefore disqualified to run because of the three-term limit rule. We decided in Hagedorns favor, ruling that: After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term. Any subsequent election, like a recall election, is no longer covered by the prohibition for two reasons. First, a subsequent election like a recall election is no longer an immediate reelection after three consecutive terms. Second, the intervening period constitutes an involuntary interruption in the continuity of service. When the framers of the Constitution debated on the term limit of elective local officials, the question asked was whether there would be no further election after three terms, or whether there would be "no immediate reelection" after three terms. xxxx Clearly, what the Constitution prohibits is an immediate reelection for a fourth term following three consecutive terms. The Constitution, however, does not prohibit a subsequent reelection for a fourth term as long as the reelection is not immediately after the end of the third consecutive term. A recall election mid-way in the term following the third consecutive term is a subsequent election but not an immediate reelection after the third term. Neither does the Constitution prohibit one barred from seeking immediate reelection to run in any other subsequent election involving the same term of office. What the Constitution prohibits is a consecutive fourth term.12 Latasa v. Commission on Elections13 presented the novel question of whether a municipal mayor who had fully served for three consecutive terms could run as city mayor in light of the intervening conversion of the municipality into a city. During the third term, the municipality was converted into a city; the cityhood charter provided that the elective officials of the municipality shall, in a holdover capacity, continue to exercise their powers and functions until elections were held for the new city officials. The Court ruled that the conversion of the municipality into a city did not convert the office of the municipal mayor into a local government post different from the office of the city mayor the territorial jurisdiction of the city was the same as that of the municipality; the inhabitants were the same group of voters who elected the municipal mayor for 3 consecutive terms; and they were the same inhabitants over whom the municipal mayor held power and authority as their chief executive for nine years. The Court said: This Court reiterates that the framers of the Constitution specifically included an exception to the peoples freedom to choose those who will govern them in order to avoid the evil of a single person accumulating excessive power over a particular

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territorial jurisdiction as a result of a prolonged stay in the same office. To allow petitioner Latasa to vie for the position of city mayor after having served for three consecutive terms as a municipal mayor would obviously defeat the very intent of the framers when they wrote this exception. Should he be allowed another three consecutive terms as mayor of the City of Digos, petitioner would then be possibly holding office as chief executive over the same territorial jurisdiction and inhabitants for a total of eighteen consecutive years. This is the very scenario sought to be avoided by the Constitution, if not abhorred by it.14 Latasa instructively highlights, after a review of Lonzanida, Adormeo and Socrates, that no three-term limit violation results if a rest period or break in the service between terms or tenure in a given elective post intervened. In Lonzanida, the petitioner was a private citizen with no title to any elective office for a few months before the next mayoral elections. Similarly, in Adormeo and Socrates, the private respondents lived as private citizens for two years and fifteen months, respectively. Thus, these cases establish that the law contemplates a complete break from office during which the local elective official steps down and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit. Seemingly differing from these results is the case of Montebon v. Commission on Elections,15 where the highest-ranking municipal councilor succeeded to the position of vice-mayor by operation of law. The question posed when he subsequently ran for councilor was whether his assumption as vice-mayor was an interruption of his term as councilor that would place him outside the operation of the three-term limit rule. We ruled that an interruption had intervened so that he could again run as councilor. This result seemingly deviates from the results in the cases heretofore discussed since the elective official continued to hold public office and did not become a private citizen during the interim. The common thread that identifies Montebon with the rest, however, is that the elective official vacated the office of councilor and assumed the higher post of vice-mayor by operation of law. Thus, for a time he ceased to be councilor an interruption that effectively placed him outside the ambit of the three-term limit rule. c. Conclusion Based on Law and Jurisprudence From all the above, we conclude that the "interruption" of a term exempting an elective official from the three-term limit rule is one that involves no less than the involuntary loss of title to office. The elective official must have involuntarily left his office for a length of time, however short, for an effective interruption to occur. This has to be the case if the thrust of Section 8, Article X and its strict intent are to be faithfully served, i.e., to limit an elective officials continuous stay in office to no more than three consecutive terms, using "voluntary renunciation" as an example and standard of what does not constitute an interruption. Thus, based on this standard, loss of office by operation of law, being involuntary, is an effective interruption of service within a term, as we held in Montebon. On the other hand, temporary inability or disqualification to exercise the functions of an elective post, even if involuntary, should not be considered an effective interruption of a term because it does not involve the loss of title to office or at least an effective break from holding office; the office holder, while retaining title, is simply barred from exercising the functions of his office for a reason provided by law. An interruption occurs when the term is broken because the office holder lost the right to hold on to his office, and cannot be equated with the failure to render service. The latter occurs during an office holders term when he retains title to the office but cannot exercise his functions for reasons established by law. Of course, the term "failure to serve" cannot be used once the right to office is lost; without the right to hold office or to serve, then no service can be rendered so that none is really lost. To put it differently although at the risk of repetition, Section 8, Article X both by structure and substance fixes an elective officials term of office and limits his stay in office to three consecutive terms as an inflexible rule that is stressed, no less, by citing voluntary renunciation as an example of a circumvention. The provision should

be read in the context of interruption of term, not in the context of interrupting the full continuity of the exercise of the powers of the elective position. The "voluntary renunciation" it speaks of refers only to the elective officials voluntary relinquishment of office and loss of title to this office. It does not speak of the temporary "cessation of the exercise of power or authority" that may occur for various reasons, with preventive suspension being only one of them. To quote Latasa v. Comelec:16 Indeed, [T]he law contemplates a rest period during which the local elective official steps down from office and ceases to exercise power or authority over the inhabitants of the territorial jurisdiction of a particular local government unit. [Emphasis supplied]. Preventive Suspension and the Three-Term Limit Rule a. Nature of Preventive Suspension Preventive suspension whether under the Local Government Code,17 the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,18 or the Ombudsman Act19 is an interim remedial measure to address the situation of an official who have been charged administratively or criminally, where the evidence preliminarily indicates the likelihood of or potential for eventual guilt or liability. Preventive suspension is imposed under the Local Government Code "when the evidence of guilt is strong and given the gravity of the offense, there is a possibility that the continuance in office of the respondent could influence the witnesses or pose a threat to the safety and integrity of the records and other evidence." Under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, it is imposed after a valid information (that requires a finding of probable cause) has been filed in court, while under the Ombudsman Act, it is imposed when, in the judgment of the Ombudsman, the evidence of guilt is strong; and (a) the charge involves dishonesty, oppression or grave misconduct or neglect in the performance of duty; or (b) the charges would warrant removal from the service; or (c) the respondents continued stay in office may prejudice the case filed against him. Notably in all cases of preventive suspension, the suspended official is barred from performing the functions of his office and does not receive salary in the meanwhile, but does not vacate and lose title to his office; loss of office is a consequence that only results upon an eventual finding of guilt or liability. Preventive suspension is a remedial measure that operates under closely-controlled conditions and gives a premium to the protection of the service rather than to the interests of the individual office holder. Even then, protection of the service goes only as far as a temporary prohibition on the exercise of the functions of the officials office; the official is reinstated to the exercise of his position as soon as the preventive suspension is lifted. Thus, while a temporary incapacity in the exercise of power results, no position is vacated when a public official is preventively suspended. This was what exactly happened to Asilo. That the imposition of preventive suspension can be abused is a reality that is true in the exercise of all powers and prerogative under the Constitution and the laws. The imposition of preventive suspension, however, is not an unlimited power; there are limitations built into the laws20 themselves that the courts can enforce when these limitations are transgressed, particularly when grave abuse of discretion is present. In light of this well-defined parameters in the imposition of preventive suspension, we should not view preventive suspension from the extreme situation that it can totally deprive an elective office holder of the prerogative to serve and is thus an effective interruption of an election officials term. Term limitation and preventive suspension are two vastly different aspects of an elective officials service in office and they do not overlap. As already mentioned above, preventive suspension involves protection of the service and of the people being served, and prevents the office holder from temporarily exercising the power of his office. Term limitation, on the other hand, is triggered after an elective official has served his three terms in office without any break. Its companion concept interruption of a term on the other hand, requires loss of title to office. If preventive suspension and term limitation or interruption have any commonality at all, this common point may be with respect to the discontinuity of service that may occur in both. But even on this point, they merely run parallel to each other and never intersect; preventive suspension, by its nature, is a temporary incapacity to render serviceduring an unbroken term; in the context of term limitation, interruption of service occurs after there has been abreak in the term.

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b. Preventive Suspension and the Intent of the Three-Term Limit Rule Strict adherence to the intent of the three-term limit rule demands that preventive suspension should not be considered an interruption that allows an elective officials stay in office beyond three terms. A preventive suspension cannot simply be a term interruption because the suspended official continues to stay in office although he is barred from exercising the functions and prerogatives of the office within the suspension period.The best indicator of the suspended officials continuity in office is the absence of a permanent replacement and the lack of the authority to appoint one since no vacancy exists. To allow a preventively suspended elective official to run for a fourth and prohibited term is to close our eyes to this reality and to allow a constitutional violation through sophistry by equating the temporary inability to discharge the functions of office with the interruption of term that the constitutional provision contemplates. To be sure, many reasons exist, voluntary or involuntary some of them personal and some of them by operation of law that may temporarily prevent an elective office holder from exercising the functions of his office in the way that preventive suspension does. A serious extended illness, inability through force majeure, or the enforcement of a suspension as a penalty, to cite some involuntary examples, may prevent an office holder from exercising the functions of his office for a time without forfeiting title to office. Preventive suspension is no different because it disrupts actual delivery of service for a time within a term. Adopting such interruption of actual service as the standard to determine effective interruption of term under the three-term rule raises at least the possibility of confusion in implementing this rule, given the many modes and occasions when actual service may be interrupted in the course of serving a term of office. The standard may reduce the enforcement of the three-term limit rule to a case-to-case and possibly see-sawing determination of what an effective interruption is. c. Preventive Suspension and Voluntary Renunciation Preventive suspension, because it is imposed by operation of law, does not involve a voluntary act on the part of the suspended official, except in the indirect sense that he may have voluntarily committed the act that became the basis of the charge against him. From this perspective, preventive suspension does not have the element of voluntariness that voluntary renunciation embodies. Neither does it contain the element of renunciation or loss of title to office as it merely involves the temporary incapacity to perform the service that an elective office demands. Thus viewed, preventive suspension is by its very nature the exact opposite of voluntary renunciation; it is involuntary and temporary, and involves only the actual delivery of service, not the title to the office. The easy conclusion therefore is that they are, by nature, different and non-comparable. But beyond the obvious comparison of their respective natures is the more important consideration of how they affect the three-term limit rule. Voluntary renunciation, while involving loss of office and the total incapacity to render service, is disallowed by the Constitution as an effective interruption of a term. It is therefore not allowed as a mode of circumventing the three-term limit rule. Preventive suspension, by its nature, does not involve an effective interruption of a term and should therefore not be a reason to avoid the three-term limitation. It can pose as a threat, however, if we shall disregard its nature and consider it an effective interruption of a term. Let it be noted that a preventive suspension is easier to undertake than voluntary renunciation, as it does not require relinquishment or loss of office even for the briefest time. It merely requires an easily fabricated administrative charge that can be dismissed soon after a preventive suspension has been imposed. In this sense, recognizing preventive suspension as an effective interruption of a term can serve as a circumvention more potent than the voluntary renunciation that the Constitution expressly disallows as an interruption. Conclusion To recapitulate, Asilos 2004-2007 term was not interrupted by the Sandiganbayan-imposed preventive suspension in 2005, as preventive suspension does not

interrupt an elective officials term. Thus, the COMELEC refused to apply the legal command of Section 8, Article X of the Constitution when it granted due course to Asilos certificate of candidacy for a prohibited fourth term. By so refusing, the COMELEC effectively committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction; its action was a refusal to perform a positive duty required by no less than the Constitution and was one undertaken outside the contemplation of law.21 WHEREFORE, premises considered, we GRANT the petition and accordingly NULLIFY the assailed COMELEC rulings. The private respondent Wilfredo F. Asilo is declared DISQUALIFIED to run, and perforce to serve, as Councilor of Lucena City for a prohibited fourth term. Costs against private respondent Asilo. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 111511 October 5, 1993 ENRIQUE T. GARCIA, ET AL., petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and LUCILA PAYUMO, ET AL., respondents. Alfonso M. Cruz Law Offices for petitioners. Romulo C. Felizmea, Crisostomo Banzon and Horacio Apostol for private respondents. PUNO, J.: The EDSA revolution of 1986 restored the reality that the people's might is not a myth. The 1987 Constitution then included people power as an article of faith and Congress was mandated to p ass laws for its effective exercise. The Local Government Code of 1991 was enacted providing for two (2) modes of initiating the recall from office of local elective officials who appear to have lost the confidence of the electorate. One of these modes is recall through the initiative of a preparatory recall assembly. In the case at bench, petitioners assail this mode of initiatory recall as unconstitutional. The challenge cannot succeed. We shall first unfurl the facts. Petitioner Enrique T. Garcia was elected governor of the province of Bataan in the May 11, 1992 elections. In the early evening of July 1993, some mayors, vice-mayors and members of the Sangguniang Bayan of the twelve (12) municipalities of the province met at the National Power Corporation compound in Bagac, Bataan. At about 12:30 A.M of the following day, July 2, 1993, they proceeded to the Bagac town plaza where they constituted themselves into a Preparatory Recall Assembly to initiate the recall election of petitioner Garcia. The mayor of Mariveles, Honorable Oscar, de los Reyes, and the mayor of Dinalupihan, the Honorable Lucila Payumo, were chosen as Presiding Officer and Secretary of the Assembly, respectively. Thereafter, the Vice-Mayor of Limay, the Honorable Ruben Roque, was recognized and he moved that a resolution be passed for the recall of the petitioner on the ground of "loss of confidence." 1 The motion was "unanimously seconded." 2 The resolution states: RESOLUTION NO. 1 Whereas, the majority of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly in the Province of Bataan have voluntarily constituted themselves for the purpose of the recall of the incumbent provincial governor of the province of Bataan, Honorable Enrique T. Garcia pursuant to the provisions of Section 70, paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Republic Act 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991; Whereas, the total number of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly in the province of Bataan is One Hundred and Forty- Six (146) composed of all mayors, vicemayors and members of the Sangguniang Bayan of all the 12 towns of the province of Bataan; Whereas, the majority of all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly, after a serious and careful deliberation have decided to adopt this resolution for the recall of the incumbent provincial governor Garcia for loss of confidence; Now, therefore, be it resolved, as it is hereby resolved that having lost confidence on the incumbent governor of Bataan, Enrique T. Garcia, recall proceedings be immediately initiated against him; Resolved further, that copy of this resolution be furnished the Honorable Commission on Elections, Manila and the Provincial Election Supervisor, Balanga, Bataan. One hundred forty-six (146) names appeared in Resolution No. 1 but only eighty (80) carried the signatures of the members of the PRA. Of the eighty (80) signatures, only seventy-four (74) were found genuine. 3 The PRAC of the province had a

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membership of one hundred forty-four (144) 4 and its majority was seventy-three (73). On July 7, 1993, petitioners filed with the respondent COMELEC a petition to deny due course to said Resolution No. 1. Petitioners alleged that the PRAC failed to comply with the "substantive and procedural requirement" laid down in Section 70 of R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991. In a per curiamResolution promulgated August 31, 1993, the respondent COMELEC dismissed the petition and scheduled the recall elections for the position of Governor of Bataan on October 11 , 1993. Petitioners then filed with Us a petition for certiorari and prohibition with writ of preliminary injunction to annul the said Resolution of the respondent COMELEC on various grounds. They urged that section 70 of R.A. 7160 allowing recall through the initiative of the PRAC is unconstitutional because: (1) the people have the sole and exclusive right to decide whether or not to initiate proceedings, and (2) it violated the right of elected local public officials belonging to the political minority to equal protection of law. They also argued that the proceedings followed by the PRAC in passing Resolution No. I suffered from numerous defects, the most fatal of which was the deliberate failure to send notices of the meeting to sixty-five (65) members of the assembly. On September 7, 1993, We required the respondents to file their Comments within a nonextendible period of ten (10) days. 5 On September 16, 1993, We set petition for hearing on September 21, 1993 at 11 A.M. After the hearing, We granted the petition on ground that the sending of selective notices to members of the PRAC violated the due process protection of the Constitution and fatally flawed the enactment of Resolution No. 1. We ruled: xxx xxx xxx After deliberation, the Court opts not to resolve the alleged constitutional infirmity of sec. 70 of R.A. No. 7160 for its resolution is not unavoidable to decide the merits of the petition. The petition can be decided on the equally fundamental issues of: (1) whether or not all the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly were notified of its meeting; and (2) assuming lack of notice, whether or not it would vitiate the proceedings of the assembly including its Resolution No. 1. The failure to give notice to all members of the assembly, especially to the members known to be political allies of petitioner Garcia was admitted by both counsels of the respondents. They did not deny that only those inclined to agree with the resolution of recall were notified as a matter of political strategy and security. They justified these selective notices on the ground that the law does not specifically mandate the giving of notice. We reject this submission of the respondents. The due process clause of the Constitution requiring notice as an element of fairness is inviolable and should always be considered as part and parcel of every law in case of its silence. The need for notice to all the members of the assembly is also imperative for these members represent the different sectors of the electorate of Bataan. To the extent that they are not notified of the meeting of the assembly, to that extent is the sovereign voice of the people they represent nullified. The resolution to recall should articulate the majority will of the members of the assembly but the majority will can be genuinely determined only after all the members of the assembly have been given a fair opportunity to express the will of their constituents. Needless to stress, the requirement of notice is indispensable in determining the collective wisdom of the members of the Preparatory Recall Assembly. Its non-observance is fatal to the validity of the resolution to recall petitioner Garcia as Governor of the province of Bataan. The petition raises other issues that are not only prima impressionis but also of transcendental importance to the rightful exercise of the sovereign right of the people to recall their elected officials. The Court shall discuss these issues in a more extended decision. In accord with this Resolution, it appears that on September 22, 1993, the Honorable Mayor of Dinalupihan, Oscar de los Reyes again sent Notice of Session to the members of the PRAC to "convene in session on September 26, 1993 at the town plaza of Balanga, Bataan at 8:30 o'clock in the morning." 6 From news reports, the PRAC convened in session and eighty-seven (87) of its members once more passed a resolution calling for the

recall of petitioner Garcia. 7 On September 27, 1993, petitioners filed with Us a Supplemental Petition and Reiteration of Extremely Urgent Motion for a resolution of their contention that section 70 of R.A. 7160 is unconstitutional. We find the original Petition and the Supplemental Petition assailing the constitutionality of section 70 of R.A. 7160 insofar as it allows a preparatory recall assembly initiate the recall of local elective officials as bereft of merit. Every law enjoys the presumption of validity. The presumption rests on the respect due to the wisdom, integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative, by which the law is passed, and the Chief Executive, by whom the law is approved, 8 For upholding the Constitution is not the responsibility of the judiciary alone but also the duty of the legislative and executive. 9 To strike down a law as unconstitutional, there must be a clear and unequivocal showing that what the fundamental law prohibits, the statute permits. 10 The annulment cannot be decreed on a doubtful, and arguable implication. The universal rule of legal hermeneutics is that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of a law. 11 Recall is a mode of removal of a public officer by the people before the end of his term of office. The people's prerogative to remove a public officer is an incident of their sovereign power and in the absence of constitutional restraint, the power is implied in all governmental operations. Such power has been held to be indispensable for the proper administration of public affairs. 12 Not undeservedly, it is frequently described as a fundamental right of the people in a representative democracy. 13 Recall is a mode of removal of elective local officials made its maiden appearance in our 1973 Constitution. 14 It was mandated in section 2 of Article XI entitled Local Government, viz: Sec. 2. The Batasang Pambansa shall enact a local government code which may not thereafter be amended except by a majority vote of all its Members, defining a more responsive and accountable local government structure with an effective system of recall, allocating among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and providing for the qualifications, election and removal, term, salaries, powers, functions, and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units. However, any change in the existing form of local government shall not take effect until ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose. (Emphasis supplied) The Batasang Pambansa then enacted BP 337 entitled "The Local Government Code of 1983." Section 54 of its Chapter 3 provided only one mode of initiating the recall elections of local elective officials, i.e., by petition of at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned,viz: Sec. 54. By Whom Exercised; Requisites. (1) The power of recall shall be exercised by the registered voters of the unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (2) Recall shall be validly initiated only upon petition of at least twenty-five percent (25%) of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned based on the election in which the local official sought to be recalled was elected. Our legal history does not reveal any instance when this power of recall as provided by BP 337 was exercised by our people. In February 1986, however, our people more than exercised their right of recall for they resorted to revolution and they booted of office the highest elective officials of the land. The successful use of people power to remove public officials who have forfeited the trust of the electorate led to its firm institutionalization in the 1987 Constitution. Its Article XIII expressly recognized the Role and Rights of People's Organizations, viz: Sec. 15. The State shall respect the role of independent people's organizations to enable the people to pursue and protect, within the democratic framework, their legitimate and collective interests and aspirations through peaceful and lawful means. People's organizations are bona fide associations of citizens with demonstrated capacity to promote the public interest and with identifiable leadership, membership, and structure. Sec. 16. The right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political, and economic decision-making shall not be abridged. The State shall, by laws, facilitate the establishment of adequate consultation mechanisms.

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Section 3 of its Article X also reiterated the mandate for Congress to enact a local government code which "shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative and referendum. . .," viz : Sec. 3. The Congress shall enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsible and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum, allocate among the different local government units their powers, responsibilities, and resources, and provide for the qualifications, election, appointment and removal, term, salaries, powers and functions and duties of local officials, and all other matters relating to the organization and operation of the local units. In response to this constitutional call, Congress enacted R.A. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991, which took effect on January 1, 1992. In this Code, Congress provided for a second mode of initiating the recall process through a preparatory recall assembly which in the provincial level is composed of all mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities. We quote the pertinent provisions of R.A. 7160, viz: CHAPTER 5 RECALL Sec. 69. By Whom Exercised. The power of recall for loss of confidence shall be exercised by the registered voters of a local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. Sec. 70. Initiation of the Recall Process. (a) Recall may be initiated by a preparatory recall assembly or by the registered voters of the local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (b) There shall be a preparatory recall assembly in every province, city, district, and municipality which shall be composed of the following: (1) Provincial Level. all mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities; (2) City level. All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the city; (3) Legislative District level. In cases where sangguniang panlalawigan members are elected by district, all elective municipal officials in the district; in cases where sangguniang panglungsod members are elected by district , all elective barangay officials in the district; and (4) Municipal level. All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the municipality. (c) A majority of all the preparatory recall assembly members may convene in session in a public place and initiate a recall proceeding against any elective official in the local government unit concerned. Recall of provincial, city, or municipal officials shall be validly initiated through a resolution adopted by a majority of all the members of the preparatory recall assembly concerned during its session called for the purpose. (d) Recall of any elective provincial, city, municipal, or barangay official may be validly initiated upon petition of at least twenty-five (25) percent of the total number of registered voters in the local government unit concerned during the election which in the local official sought to be recalled was elected. Sec. 71. Election Recall Upon the filing of a valid resolution petition for with the appropriate local office of the Comelec, the Commission or its duly authorized representative shall set the date of the election on recall, which shall not be later than thirty (30) days after the filing of the resolution or petition recall in the case of the barangay, city, or municipal officials, forty-five (45) days in the case of provincial officials. The official or officials sought to be recalled shall automatically be considered as duly registered candidate or candidates to the pertinent positions and, like other candidates, shall be entitled to be voted upon. Sec. 72. Effectivity of Recall. The recall of an elective local official shall be effective only upon the election and proclamation of a successor in the person of the candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast during the election on recall. Should the official sought to be recalled receive the highest number of votes,

confidence in him is thereby affirmed, and he shall continue in office. Sec. 73. Prohibition from Resignation. The elective local official sought to be recalled shall not be allowed to resign while the recall process is in progress. Sec. 74. Limitations on Recall. (a) Any elective local official may be the subject of a recall election only once during his term of office for loss of confidence. (b) No recall shall take place within one (1) year from the date of the official's assumption to office or one (1) year immediately preceding regular election. A reading of the legislative history of these recall provisions will reveal that the idea of empowering a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall from office of local elective officials originated from the House of Representatives A reading of the legislative history of these recall provisions will reveal that the idea of empowering a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall from office of local elective officials, originated from the House of Representatives and not the Senate. 15 The legislative records reveal there were two (2) principal reasons why this alternative mode of initiating the recall process thru an assembly was adopted, viz: (a) to diminish the difficulty of initiating recall thru the direct action of the people; and (b) to cut down on its expenses. 16 Our lawmakers took note of the undesirable fact that the mechanism initiating recall by direct action of the electorate was utilized only once in the City of Angeles, Pampanga, but even this lone attempt to recall the city mayor failed. Former Congressman Wilfredo Cainglet explained that this initiatory process by direct action of the people was too cumbersome, too expensive and almost impossible to implement. 17 Consequently, our legislators added in the a second mode of initiating the recall of local officials thru a preparatory recall assembly. They brushed aside the argument that this second mode may cause instability in the local government units due to its imagined ease. We have belabored the genesis of our recall law for it can light up many of the unillumined interstices of the law. In resolving constitutional disputes, We should not be beguiled by foreign jurisprudence some of which are hardly applicable because they have been dictated by different constitutional settings and needs. Prescinding from this proposition, We shall now resolve the contention of petitioners that the alternative mode of allowing a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the process of recall is unconstitutional. It is first postulated by the petitioners that "the right to recall does not extend merely to the prerogative of the electorate to reconfirm or withdraw their confidence on the official sought to be recalled at a special election. Such prerogative necessarily includes the sole and exclusive right to decide on whether to initiate a recall proceedings or not." 18 We do not agree. Petitioners cannot point to any specific provision of the Constitution that will sustain this submission. To be sure, there is nothing in the Constitution that will remotely suggest that the people have the "sole and exclusive right to decide on whether to initiate a recall proceeding." The Constitution did not provide for any mode, let alone a single mode, of initiating recall elections. 19 Neither did it prohibit the adoption of multiple modes of initiating recall elections. The mandate given by section 3 of Article X of the Constitution is for Congress to "enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum . . ." By this constitutional mandate, Congress was clearly given the power to choose the effective mechanisms of recall as its discernment dictates. The power given was to select which among the means and methods of initiating recall elections are effective to carry out the judgment of the electorate. Congress was not straightjacketed to one particular mechanism of initiating recall elections. What the Constitution simply required is that the mechanisms of recall, whether one or many, to be chosen by Congress should be effective. Using its constitutionally granted discretion, Congress deemed it wise to enact an alternative mode of initiating recall elections to supplement the former mode of initiation by direct action of the people. Congress has made its choice as called for by the Constitution and it is not the prerogative of this Court to supplant this judgment. The choice may be erroneous but even then, the remedy against a bad law is to seek its amendment or repeal by the legislative. By the principle of separation of powers, it is the legislative that determines the necessity, adequacy, wisdom and expediency of any law. 20

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Petitioners also positive thesis that in passing Resolution 1, the Bataan Preparatory Recall Assembly did not only initiate the process of recall but had de facto recalled petitioner Garcia from office, a power reserved to the people alone. To quote the exact language of the petitioners: "The initiation of a recall through the PRA effectively shortens and ends the term of the incumbent local officials. Precisely, in the case of Gov. Garcia, an election was scheduled by the COMELEC on 11 October 1993 to determine who has the right to assume the unexpired portion of his term of office which should have been until June 1995. Having been relegated to the status of a mere candidate for the same position of governor (by operation of law) he has, therefore, been effectively recalled." 21In their Extremely Urgent Clarificatory Manifestation, 22 petitioners put the proposition more bluntly stating that a "PRA resolution of recall is the re call itself." Again, the contention cannot command our concurrence. Petitioners have misconstrued the nature of the initiatory process of recall by the PRAC. They have embraced the view that initiation by the PRAC is not initiation by the people. This is a misimpression for initiation by the PRAC is also initiation by the people, albeit done indirectly through their representatives. It is not constitutionally impermissible for the people to act through their elected representatives. Nothing less than the paramount task of drafting our Constitution is delegated by the people to their representatives, elected either to act as a constitutional convention or as a congressional constituent assembly. The initiation of a recall process is a lesser act and there is no rhyme or reason why it cannot be entrusted to and exercised by the elected representatives of the people. More far out is petitioners' stance that a PRA resolution of recall is the recall itself. It cannot be seriously doubted that a PRA resolution of recall merely, starts the process. It is part of the process but is not the whole process. This ought to be self evident for a PRA resolution of recall that is not submitted to the COMELEC for validation will not recall its subject official. Likewise, a PRA resolution of recall that is rejected by the people in the election called for the purpose bears no effect whatsoever. The initiatory resolution merely sets the stage for the official concerned to appear before the tribunal of the people so he can justify why he should be allowed to continue in office. Before the people render their sovereign judgment, the official concerned remains in office but his right to continue in office is subject to question. This is clear in section 72 of the Local Government Code which states that "the recall of an elective local officialshall be effective only upon the election and proclamation of a successor in the person of the candidate receiving the highest number of votes cast during the election on recall." We shall next settle the contention of petitioners that the disputed law infracts the equal protection clause of the Constitution. Petitioners asseverate: 5.01.2. It denied petitioners the equal protection of the laws for the local officials constituting the majority party can constitute itself into a PRA and initiate the recall of a duly elected provincial official belonging to the minority party thus rendering ineffectual his election by popular mandate. Relevantly, the assembly could, to the prejudice of the minority (or even partyless) incumbent official, effectively declare a local elective position vacant (and demand the holding of a special election) for purely partisan political ends regardless of the mandate of the electorate. In the case at bar, 64 of the 74 signatories to the recall resolution have been political opponents of petitioner Garcia, not only did they not vote for him but they even campaigned against him in the 1992 elections. Petitioners' argument does not really assail the law but its possible abuse by the members of the PRAC while exercising their right to initiate recall proceedings. More specifically, the fear is expressed that the members of the PRAC may inject political color in their decision as they may initiate recall proceedings only against their political opponents especially those belonging to the minority. A careful reading of the law, however, will ineluctably show that it does not give an asymmetrical treatment to locally elected officials belonging to the political minority. First to be considered is the politically neutral composition of the preparatory recall assembly. Sec. 70 (b) of the Code provides:

Sec. 70. Initiation of the Recall Process. (a) Recall may be initiated by a preparatory recall assembly or by the registered voters of the local government unit to which the local elective official subject to such recall belongs. (b) There shall be a preparatory recall assembly in every province, city, district, and municipality which shall be composed of the following: (1) Provincial level. All mayors, vice-mayors and sanggunian members of the municipalities and component cities; (2) City level. All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the city; (3) Legislative District Level. In cases where sangguniang panlalawigan members are elected by district, all elective municipal officials in the district; and in cases where sangguniang panglungsod members are elected by district, all elective barangay officials in the district; and (4) Municipal level. All punong barangay and sangguniang barangay members in the municipality. Under the law, all mayors, vice-mayors and sangguniang members of the municipalities and component cities are made members of the preparatory recall assembly at the provincial level. Its membership is not apportioned to political parties. No significance is given to the political affiliation of its members. Secondly, the preparatory recall assembly, at the provincial level includes all the elected officials in the province concerned. Considering their number, the greater probability is that no one political party can control its majority. Thirdly, sec. 69 of the Code provides that the only ground to recall a locally elected public official is loss of confidence of the people. The members of the PRAC are in the PRAC not in representation of their political parties but as representatives of the people. By necessary implication, loss of confidence cannot be premised on mere differences in political party affiliation. Indeed, our Constitution encourages multi-party system for the existence of opposition parties is indispensable to the growth and nurture of democratic system. Clearly then, the law as crafted cannot be faulted for discriminating against local officials belonging to the minority. The fear that a preparatory recall assembly may be dominated by a political party and that it may use its power to initiate the recall of officials of opposite political persuasions, especially those belonging to the minority, is not a ground to strike down the law as unconstitutional. To be sure, this argument has long been in disuse for there can be no escape from the reality that all powers are susceptible of abuse. The mere possibility of abuse cannot, however, infirm per se the grant of power to an individual or entity. To deny power simply because it can be abused by the grantee is to render government powerless and no people need an impotent government. There is no democratic government that can operate on the basis of fear and distrust of its officials, especially those elected by the people themselves. On the contrary, all our laws assume that officials, whether appointed or elected, will act in good faith and will perform the duties of their office. Such presumption follows the solemn oath that they took after assumption of office, to faithfully execute all our laws. Moreover, the law instituted safeguards to assure that the initiation of the recall process by a preparatory recall assembly will not be corrupted by extraneous influences. As explained above, the diverse and distinct composition of the membership of a preparatory recall assembly guarantees that all the sectors of the electorate province shall be heard. It is for this reason that in Our Resolution of September 21, 1993, We held that notice to all the members of the recall assembly is a condition sine qua non to the validity of its proceedings. The law also requires a qualified majority of all the preparatory recall assembly members to convene in session and in a public place. It also requires that the recall resolution by the said majority must be adopted during its session called for the purpose. The underscored words carry distinct legal meanings and purvey some of the parameters limiting the power of the members of a preparatory recall assembly to initiate recall proceedings. Needless to state, compliance with these requirements is necessary, otherwise, there will be no valid resolution of recall which can be given due course by the COMELEC. Furthermore, it cannot be asserted with certitude that the members of the Bataan preparatory recall assembly voted strictly along narrow political lines. Neither the respondent COMELEC nor this Court made a judicial inquiry as to the reasons that led the members of the said recall assembly to cast a vote of lack of confidence against petitioner Garcia. That inquiry was not undertaken for to do so would require crossing the forbidden borders of the political thicket. Former Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., a major author of the subject law in his

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book The Local Government Code of 1991: The Key to National Development, stressed the same reason why the substantive content of a vote of lack of confidence is beyond any inquiry, thus: There is only one ground for the recall of local government officials: loss of confidence. This means that the people may petition or the Preparatory Recall Assembly may resolve to recall any local elective officials without specifying any particular ground except loss of confidence. There is no need for them to bring up any charge of abuse or corruption against the local elective officials who are the subject of any recall petition. In the case of Evardone vs. Commission on Elections, et al., 204 SCRA 464, 472 (1991), the Court ruled that "loss of confidence" as a ground for recall is a political question. In the words of the Court, "whether or not the electorate of the municipality of Sulat has lost confidence in the incumbent mayor is a political question. Any assertion therefore that the members of the Bataan preparatory recall assembly voted due to their political aversion to petitioner Garcia is at best a surmise. Petitioners also contend that the resolution of the members of the preparatory recall assembly subverted the will of the electorate of the province of Bataan who elected petitioner Garcia with a majority of 12,500 votes. Again, the contention proceeds from the erroneous premise that the resolution of recall is the recall itself. It refuses to recognize the reality that the resolution of recall is a mere proposal to the electorate of Bataan to subject petitioner to a new test of faith. The proposal will still be passed upon by the sovereign electorate of Bataan. As this judgment has yet to be expressed, it is premature to conclude that the sovereign will of the electorate of Bataan has been subverted. The electorate of Bataan may or may not recall petitioner Garcia in an appropriate election. If the electorate re-elects petitioner Garcia, then the proposal to recall him made by the preparatory recall assembly is rejected. On the other hand, if the electorate does not re-elect petitioner Garcia, then he has lost the confidence of the people which he once enjoyed. The judgment will write finis to the political controversy. For more than judgments of courts of law, the judgment of the tribunal of the people is final for "sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanates from them." In sum, the petition at bench appears to champion the sovereignty of the people, particularly their direct right to initiate and remove elective local officials thru recall elections. If the petition would succeed, the result will be a return to the previous system of recall elections which Congress found should be improved. The alternative mode of initiating recall proceedings thru a preparatory recall assembly is, however, an innovative attempt by Congress to remove impediments to the effective exercise by the people of their sovereign power to check the performance of their elected officials. The power to determine this mode was specifically given to Congress and is not proscribed by the Constitution. IN VIEW WHEREOF, the original Petition and the Supplemental Petition assailing the constitutionality of section 70 of R.A. 7160 insofar as it allows a preparatory recall assembly to initiate the recall process are dismissed for lack of merit. This decision is immediately executory. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 147927. February 4, 2002] RAYMUNDO M. ADORMEO, petitioner, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and RAMON Y. TALAGA, JR., respondents. DECISION QUISUMBING, J.: Before us is a petition for certiorari, with a prayer for a writ of preliminary injunction and/or temporary restraining order, to nullify and set aside the resolution dated May 9, 2001 of public respondent Commission on Elections in Comelec SPA No. 01-055, which granted the motion for reconsideration and declared private respondent Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr., qualified to run for Mayor in Lucena City for the May 14, 2001 election. Petitioner prays that votes cast in private respondents favor should not be counted; and should it happen that private respondent had been already proclaimed the winner, his proclamation should be declared null and void.

The uncontroverted facts are as follows: Petitioner and private respondent were the only candidates who filed their certificates of candidacy for mayor of Lucena City in the May 14, 2001 elections. Private respondent was then the incumbent mayor. Private respondent Talaga, Jr. was elected mayor in May 1992. He served the full term. Again, he was re-elected in 1995-1998. In the election of 1998, he lost to Bernard G. Tagarao. In the recall election of May 12, 2000, he again won and served the unexpired term of Tagarao until June 30, 2001. On March 2, 2001, petitioner filed with the Office of the Provincial Election Supervisor, Lucena City a Petition to Deny Due Course to or Cancel Certificate of Candidacy and/or Disqualification of Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr., on the ground that the latter was elected and had served as city mayor for three (3) consecutive terms as follows: (1) in the election of May 1992, where he served the full term; (2) in the election of May 1995, where he again served the full term; and, (3) in the recall election of May 12, 2000, where he served only the unexpired term of Tagarao after having lost to Tagarao in the 1998 election. Petitioner contended that Talagas candidacy as Mayor constituted a violation of Section 8, Article X of the 1987 Constitution which provides: Sec. 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. On March 9, 2001, private respondent responded that he was not elected City Mayor for three (3) consecutive terms but only for two (2) consecutive terms. He pointed to his defeat in the 1998 election by Tagarao. Because of his defeat the consecutiveness of his years as mayor was interrupted, and thus his mayorship was not for three consecutive terms of three years each. Respondent added that his service from May 12, 2001 until June 30, 2001 for 13 months and eighteen (18) days was not a full term, in the contemplation of the law and the Constitution. He citesLonzanida vs. COMELEC, G.R. No. 135150, 311 SCRA 602, 611 (1999), as authority to the effect that to apply disqualification under Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, two (2) conditions must concur, to wit: (a) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post, and (b) that he has fully served three (3) consecutive terms. On April 20, 2001, the COMELEC, through the First Division, found private respondent Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr. disqualified for the position of city mayor on the ground that he had already served three (3) consecutive terms, and his Certificate of Candidacy was ordered withdrawn and/or cancelled. On April 27, 2001, private respondent filed a motion for reconsideration reiterating that three (3) consecutive terms means continuous service for nine (9) years and that the two (2) years service from 1998 to 2000 by Tagarao who defeated him in the election of 1998 prevented him from having three consecutive years of service. He added that Tagaraos tenure from 1998 to 2000 could not be considered as a continuation of his mayorship. He further alleged that the recall election was not a regular election, but a separate special election specifically to remove incompetent local officials. On May 3, 2001, petitioner filed his Opposition to private respondents Motion for Reconsideration stating therein that serving the unexpired term of office is considered as one (1) term.[1]Petitioner further contended that Article 8 of the Constitution speaks of term and does not mention tenure. The fact that private respondent was not elected in the May 1998 election to start a term that began on June 30, 1998 was of no moment, according to petitioner, and what matters is that respondent was elected to an unexpired term in the recall election which should be considered one full term from June 30, 1998 to June 30, 2001. On May 9, 2001, the COMELEC en banc ruled in favor of private respondent Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr.. It reversed the First Divisions ruling and held that 1) respondent was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms because he did not win in the May 11, 1998 elections; 2) that he was installed only as mayor by reason of his victory in the recall elections; 3) that his victory in the recall elections was not considered a term of office and is not included in the 3-term disqualification rule, and 4) that he did not fully serve the three (3) consecutive terms, and his loss in the May 11, 1998 elections is considered an interruption in the continuity of his service as Mayor of Lucena City.

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On May 19, 2001, after canvassing, private respondent was proclaimed as the duly elected Mayor of Lucena City. Petitioner is now before this Court, raising the sole issue: WHETHER OR NOT PUBLIC RESPONDENT COMELEC ACTED WITH GRAVE ABUSE OF DISCRETION AMOUNTING TO LACK OR EXCESS OF JURISDICTION WHEN IT ISSUED ITS RESOLUTION DATED MAY 9, 2001, DECLARING PRIVATE RESPONDENT RAMON Y. TALAGA, JR., QUALIFIED TO RUN FOR MAYOR IN LUCENA CITY FOR THE MAY 14, 2001 ELECTIONS.[2] Stated differently, was private respondent disqualified to run for mayor of Lucena City in the May 14, 2001 elections?[3] This issue hinges on whether, as provided by the Constitution, he had already served three consecutive terms in that office. Petitioner contends that private respondent was disqualified to run for city mayor by reason of the threeterm rule because the unexpired portion of the term of office he served after winning a recall election, covering the period May 12, 2000 to June 30, 2001 is considered a full term. He posits that to interpret otherwise, private respondent would be serving four (4) consecutive terms of 10 years, in violation of Section 8, Article X of 1987 Constitution[4] and Section 43 (b) of R.A. 7160, known as the Local Government Code. Section 43. Term of Office. xxx (b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official concerned was elected. Private respondent, in turn, maintains that his service as city mayor of Lucena is not consecutive. He lost his bid for a second re-election in 1998 and between June 30, 1998 to May 12, 2000, during Tagaraos incumbency, he was a private citizen, thus he had not been mayor for 3 consecutive terms. In its comment, the COMELEC restated its position that private respondent was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms having lost his third bid in the May 11, 1998 elections, said defeat is an interruption in the continuity of service as city mayor of Lucena. The issue before us was already addressed in Borja, Jr. vs. COMELEC, 295 SCRA 157, 169 (1998), where we held, To recapitulate, the term limit for elective local officials must be taken to refer to the right to be elected as well as the right to serve in the same elective position. Consequently, it is not enough that an individual hasserved three consecutive terms in an elective local office, he must also have been elected to the same position for the same number of times before the disqualification can apply. This point can be made clearer by considering the following case or situation: xxx Case No. 2. Suppose B is elected mayor and, during his first term, he is twice suspended for misconduct for a total of 1 year. If he is twice reelected after that, can he run for one more term in the next election? Yes, because he has served only two full terms successively. xxx To consider C as eligible for reelection would be in accord with the understanding of the Constitutional Commission that while the people should be protected from the evils that a monopoly of political power may bring about, care should be taken that their freedom of choice is not unduly curtailed. Likewise, in the case of Lonzanida vs. COMELEC, 311 SCRA 602, 611 (1999), we said, This Court held that the two conditions for the application of the disqualification must concur: a) that the official concerned has been elected for three consecutive terms in the same local government post and 2) that he has fully served three consecutive terms. Accordingly, COMELECs ruling that private respondent was not elected for three (3) consecutive terms should be upheld. For nearly two years he was a private citizen. The continuity of his mayorship was disrupted by his defeat in the 1998 elections. Patently untenable is petitioners contention that COMELEC in allowing respondent Talaga, Jr. to run in the May 1998 election violates Article X, Section 8 of 1987 Constitution.[5] To bolster his case, respondent adverts to

the comment of Fr. Joaquin Bernas, a Constitutional Commission member, stating that in interpreting said provision that if one is elected representative to serve the unexpired term of another, that unexpired, no matter how short, will be considered one term for the purpose of computing the number of successive terms allowed.[6] As pointed out by the COMELEC en banc, Fr. Bernas comment is pertinent only to members of the House of Representatives. Unlike local government officials, there is no recall election provided for members of Congress.[7] Neither can respondents victory in the recall election be deemed a violation of Section 8, Article X of the Constitution as voluntary renunciation for clearly it is not. In Lonzanida vs. COMELEC, we said: The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states, Voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which he was elected. The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the renounced term in the computation of the three term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. The petitioner vacated his post a few months before the next mayoral elections, not by voluntary renunciation but in compliance with the legal process of writ of execution issued by the COMELEC to that effect. Such involuntary severance from office is an interruption of continuity of service and thus, the petitioner did not fully serve the 1995-1998 mayoral term.
[8]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is hereby DISMISSED. The resolution of public respondent Commission on Elections dated May 9, 2001, in Comelec SPA No. 01-055 is AFFIRMED. Costs against petitioner. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 154512. November 12, 2002] VICTORINO DENNIS M. SOCRATES, Mayor of Puerto Princesa City, petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, THE PREPARATORY RECALL ASSEMBLY (PRA) of Puerto Princesa City, PRA Interim Chairman Punong Bgy. MARK DAVID HAGEDORN, PRA Interim Secretary Punong Bgy. BENJAMIN JARILLA, PRA Chairman and Presiding Officer Punong Bgy. EARL S. BUENVIAJE and PRA Secretary Punong Bgy. CARLOS ABALLA, JR. respondents. [G.R. No. 154683. November 12, 2002] VICENTE S. SANDOVAL, JR., petitioner, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondent. [G.R. Nos. 155083-84. November 12, 2002] MA. FLORES P. ADOVO, MERCY E. GILO and BIENVENIDO OLLAVE, SR., petitioners, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and EDWARD S. HAGEDORN, respondents. DECISION CARPIO, J.: The Case Before us are consolidated petitions for certiorari[1] seeking the reversal of the resolutions issued by the Commission on Elections (COMELEC for brevity) in relation to the recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The Antecedents On July 2, 2002, 312 out of 528 members of the then incumbent barangay officials of the Puerto Princesa convened themselves into a Preparatory Recall Assembly (PRA for brevity) at the Gymnasium of Barangay San Jose from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon. The PRA was convened to initiate the recall[2] of Victorino Dennis M. Socrates (Socrates for brevity) who assumed office as Puerto Princesas mayor on June 30, 2001. The members of the PRA designated Mark David M. Hagedorn, president of the Association of Barangay Captains, as interim chair of the PRA. On the same date, the PRA passed Resolution No. 01-02 (Recall Resolution for brevity) which declared its loss of confidence in Socrates and called for his recall. The PRA requested the COMELEC to schedule the recall election for mayor within 30 days from receipt of the Recall Resolution. On July 16, 2002, Socrates filed with the COMELEC a petition, docketed as E.M. No. 02-010 (RC), to nullify and deny due course to the Recall Resolution.

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On August 14, 2002, the COMELEC en banc[3] promulgated a resolution dismissing for lack of merit Socrates petition. The COMELEC gave due course to the Recall Resolution and scheduled the recall election on September 7, 2002. On August 21, 2002, the COMELEC en banc promulgated Resolution No. 5673 prescribing the calendar of activities and periods of certain prohibited acts in connection with the recall election. The COMELEC fixed the campaign period from August 27, 2002 to September 5, 2002 or a period of 10 days. On August 23, 2002, Edward M. Hagedorn (Hagedorn for brevity) filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in the recall election. On August 17, 2002, Ma. Flores F. Adovo (Adovo for brevity) and Merly E. Gilo (Gilo for brevity) filed a petition before the COMELEC, docketed as SPA No. 02492, to disqualify Hagedorn from running in the recall election and to cancel his certificate of candidacy. On August 30, 2002, a certain Bienvenido Ollave, Sr. (Ollave for brevity) filed a petition-in-intervention in SPA No. 02-492 also seeking to disqualify Hagedorn. On the same date, a certain Genaro V. Manaay filed another petition, docketed as SPA No. 02-539, against Hagedorn alleging substantially the same facts and involving the same issues. The petitions were all anchored on the ground that Hagedorn is disqualified from running for a fourth consecutive term, having been elected and having served as mayor of the city for three (3) consecutive full terms immediately prior to the instant recall election for the same post. Subsequently, SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02539 were consolidated. In a resolution promulgated on September 20, 2002, the COMELECs First Division[4] dismissed for lack of merit SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02-539. The COMELEC declared Hagedorn qualified to run in the recall election. The COMELEC also reset the recall election from September 7, 2002 to September 24, 2002. On September 23, 2002, the COMELEC en banc promulgated a resolution denying the motion for reconsideration of Adovo and Gilo. The COMELEC affirmed the resolution declaring Hagedorn qualified to run in the recall election. Hence, the instant consolidated petitions. G.R. No. 154512 Petitioner Socrates seeks to nullify the COMELEC en banc resolution dated August 14, 2002 in E.M. No. 02-010 (RC) which gave due course to the Recall Resolution and scheduled the recall election on September 7, 2002. Socrates alleges that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in upholding the Recall Resolution. Socrates cites the following circumstances as legal infirmities attending the convening of the PRA and its issuance of the Recall Resolution: (1) not all members of the PRA were notified of the meeting to adopt the resolution; (2) the proof of service of notice was palpably and legally deficient; (3) the members of the PRA were themselves seeking a new electoral mandate from their respective constituents; (4) the adoption of the resolution was exercised with grave abuse of authority; and (5) the PRA proceedings were conducted in a manner that violated his and the publics constitutional right to information. G.R. No. 154683 Petitioner Vicente S. Sandoval, Jr. seeks to annul COMELEC Resolution No. 5673 dated August 21, 2002 insofar as it fixed the recall election on September 7, 2002, giving the candidates only a ten-day campaign period. He prayed that the COMELEC be enjoined from holding the recall election on September 7, 2002 and that a new date be fixed giving the candidates at least an additional 15 days to campaign. In a resolution dated September 3, 2002, the Court en banc enjoined the COMELEC from implementing Resolution No. 5673 insofar as it fixed the date of the recall election on September 7, 2002. The Court directed the COMELEC to give the candidates an additional fifteen 15 days from September 7, 2002 within which to campaign. Accordingly, on September 9, 2002, the COMELEC en banc issued Resolution No. 5708 giving the candidates an additional 15 days from September 7, 2002 within which to campaign. Thus, the COMELEC reset the recall election to September 24, 2002. G.R. Nos. 155083-84

Petitioners Adovo, Gilo and Ollave assail the COMELECs resolutions dated September 20, 2002 and September 23, 2002 in SPA Nos. 02-492 and 02-539 declaring Hagedorn qualified to run for mayor in the recall election. They likewise prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order to enjoin the proclamation of the winning candidate in the recall election. Petitioners argue that the COMELEC gravely abused its discretion in upholding Hagedorns qualification to run for mayor in the recall election despite the constitutional and statutory prohibitions against a fourth consecutive term for elective local officials. In a resolution dated September 24, 2002, the Court ordered the COMELEC to desist from proclaiming any winning candidate in the recall election until further orders from the Court. Petitioners were required to post a P20,000 bond. On September 27, 2002, Socrates filed a motion for leave to file an attached petition for intervention seeking the same reliefs as those sought by Adovo, Gilo and Ollave. In the meantime, Hagedorn garnered the highest number of votes in the recall election with 20,238 votes. Rival candidates Socrates and Sandoval obtained 17,220 votes and 13,241 votes, respectively. Hagedorn filed motions to lift the order restraining the COMELEC from proclaiming the winning candidate and to allow him to assume office to give effect to the will of the electorate. On October 1, 2002, the Court granted Socrates motion for leave to file a petition for intervention. The Issues The issues for resolution of the Court are: 1. In G.R. No. 154512, whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in giving due course to the Recall Resolution and scheduling the recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa. 2. In G.R. Nos.155083-84, whether Hagedorn is qualified to run for mayor in the recall election of Puerto Princesa on September 24, 2002. In G.R. No. 154683, the issue of whether the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in fixing a campaign period of only 10 days has become moot. Our Resolution of September 3, 2002 and COMELEC Resolution No. 5708 granted an additional 15 days for the campaign period as prayed for by petitioner. First Issue: Validity of the Recall Resolution. Petitioner Socrates argues that the COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in upholding the Recall Resolution despite the absence of notice to 130 PRA members and the defective service of notice to other PRA members. The COMELEC, however, found that On various dates, in the month of June 2002, the proponents for the Recall of incumbent City Mayor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates sent notices of the convening of the PRA to the members thereof pursuant to Section 70 of the Local Government Code. Copies of the said notice are in Volumes I and II entitled Notices to PRA. Likewise, Proof of Service for each of the said notices were attached to the Petition and marked as Annex G of Volumes II and III of the Petition. Notices were likewise posted in conspicuous places particularly at the Barangay Hall. Photos establishing the same were attached to the Petition and marked as Annex H. The proponents likewise utilized the broadcast mass media in the dissemination of the convening of the PRA. Notices of the convening of the Puerto Princesa PRA were also sent to the following: [a list of 25 names of provincial elective officials, print and broadcast media practitioners, PNP officials, COMELEC city, regional and national officials, and DILG officials]. xxx The City Election Officer of Puerto Princesa City in her Certification dated 10 July 2002 certified that upon a thorough and careful verification of the signatures appearing in PRA Resolution 01-02, x x x the majority of all members of the PRA concerned approved said resolution. She likewise certified that not a single member/signatory of the PRA complained or objected as to the veracity and authenticity of their signatures. The Provincial Election Supervisor of Palawan, Atty. Urbano Arlando, in his Indorsement dated 10 July 2002, stated, upon proper review, all documents submitted are found in order. The Acting Director IV, Region IV, in his study dated 30 July 2002 submitted the following recommendations: This Office, after evaluating the documents filed, finds the instant Petition sufficient in form and substance. That the PRA was validly constituted and that the majority of all members

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thereof approved Resolution No. 01-02 calling for the recall of Mayor Victorino Dennis M. Socrates. x x x . This Court is bound by the findings of fact of the COMELEC on matters within the competence and expertise of the COMELEC, unless the findings are patently erroneous. In Malonzo v. COMELEC,[5] which also dealt with alleged defective service of notice to PRA members, we ruled that Needless to state, the issue of propriety of the notices sent to the PRA members is factual in nature, and the determination of the same is therefore a function of the COMELEC. In the absence of patent error, or serious inconsistencies in the findings, the Court should not disturb the same. The factual findings of the COMELEC, based on its own assessments and duly supported by gathered evidence, are conclusive upon the court, more so, in the absence of a substantiated attack on the validity of the same. In the instant case, we do not find any valid reason to hold that the COMELECs findings of fact are patently erroneous. Socrates also claims that the PRA members had no authority to adopt the Recall Resolution on July 2, 2002 because a majority of PRA members were seeking a new electoral mandate in the barangay elections scheduled on July 15, 2002. This argument deserves scant consideration considering that when the PRA members adopted the Recall Resolution their terms of office had not yet expired. They were all de jure sangguniang barangay members with no legal disqualification to participate in the recall assembly under Section 70 of the Local Government Code. Socrates bewails that the manner private respondents conducted the PRA proceedings violated his constitutional right to information on matters of public concern. Socrates, however, admits receiving notice of the PRA meeting and of even sending his representative and counsel who were present during the entire PRA proceedings. Proponents of the recall election submitted to the COMELEC the Recall Resolution, minutes of the PRA proceedings, the journal of the PRA assembly, attendance sheets, notices sent to PRA members, and authenticated master list of barangay officials in Puerto Princesa. Socrates had the right to examine and copy all these public records in the official custody of the COMELEC. Socrates, however, does not claim that the COMELEC denied him this right. There is no legal basis in Socrates claim that respondents violated his constitutional right to information on matters of public concern. Thus, we rule that the COMELEC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in upholding the validity of the Recall Resolution and in scheduling the recall election on September 24, 2002. Second Issue: Hagedorns qualification to run for mayor in the recall election of September 24, 2002. The three-term limit rule for elective local officials is found in Section 8, Article X of the Constitution, which states: Section 8. The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. This three-term limit rule is reiterated in Section 43 (b) of RA No. 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, which provides: Section 43. Term of Office. (a) x x x (b) No local elective official shall serve for more than three (3) consecutive terms in the same position. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which the elective official was elected. These constitutional and statutory provisions have two parts. The first part provides that an elective local official cannot serve for more than three consecutive terms. The clear intent is that only consecutive terms count in determining the three-term limit rule. The second part states that voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time does not interrupt the continuity of service. The

clear intent is that involuntary severance from office for any length of time interrupts continuity of service and prevents the service before and after the interruption from being joined together to form a continuous service or consecutive terms. After three consecutive terms, an elective local official cannot seek immediate reelection for a fourth term. The prohibited election refers to the next regular election for the same office following the end of the third consecutive term. Any subsequent election, like a recall election, is no longer covered by the prohibition for two reasons. First, a subsequent election like a recall election is no longer an immediate reelection after three consecutive terms. Second, the intervening period constitutes an involuntary interruption in the continuity of service. When the framers of the Constitution debated on the term limit of elective local officials, the question asked was whether there would be no further election after three terms, or whether there would be no immediate reelection after three terms. This is clear from the following deliberations of the Constitutional Commission: THE PRESIDENT: The Acting Floor Leader is recognized. MR. ROMULO:[6] We are now ready to discuss the two issues, as indicated on the blackboard, and these are Alternative No. I where there is no further election after a total of three terms and Alternative No. 2where there is no immediate reelection after three successive terms.[7] The Journal of the Constitutional Commission reports the following manifestation on the term of elective local officials: MANIFESTATION OF MR. ROMULO Upon resumption of session, Mr. Romulo manifested that the Body would proceed to the consideration of two issues on the term of Representatives and local officials, namely: 1) Alternative No. 1 (no further reelection after a total of three terms), and 2) Alternative No. 2 (no immediate reelection after three successive terms).[8] The framers of the Constitution used the same no immediate reelection question in voting for the term limits of Senators[9] and Representatives of the House.[10] Clearly, what the Constitution prohibits is an immediate reelection for a fourth term following three consecutive terms. The Constitution, however, does not prohibit a subsequent reelection for a fourth term as long as the reelection is not immediately after the end of the third consecutive term. A recall election mid-way in the term following the third consecutive term is a subsequent election but not an immediate reelection after the third term. Neither does the Constitution prohibit one barred from seeking immediate reelection to run in any other subsequent election involving the same term of office. What the Constitution prohibits is a consecutive fourth term. The debates in the Constitutional Commission evidently show that the prohibited election referred to by the framers of the Constitution is the immediate reelectionafter the third term, not any other subsequent election. If the prohibition on elective local officials is applied to any election within the three-year full term following the three-term limit, then Senators should also be prohibited from running in any election within the six-year full term following their twoterm limit. The constitutional provision on the term limit of Senators is worded exactly like the term limit of elective local officials, thus: No Senator shall serve for more than two consecutive terms. Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected.[11] In the debates on the term limit of Senators, the following exchange in the Constitutional Convention is instructive: GASCON:[12] I would like to ask a question with regard to the issue after the second term. We will allow the Senator to rest for a period of time before he can run again? DAVIDE:[13] That is correct. GASCON: And the question that we left behind before - if the Gentleman will remember - was: How long will that period of rest be? Will it be one election which is three years or one term which is six years? DAVIDE: If the Gentleman will remember, Commissioner Rodrigo expressed the view that during the election following the expiration of the first 12 years, whether such election will be on the third or on the sixth year thereafter, this particular member of the Senate can run. So, it is not really a period of hibernation for six years. That was the Committees stand.

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GASCON: So, effectively, the period of rest would be three years at the least.[14] (Emphasis supplied) The framers of the Constitution thus clarified that a Senator can run after only three years[15] following his completion of two terms. The framers expressly acknowledged that the prohibited election refers only to the immediate reelection, and not to any subsequent election, during the six-year period following the two term limit. The framers of the Constitution did not intend the period of rest of an elective official who has reached his term limit to be the full extent of the succeeding term. In the case of Hagedorn, his candidacy in the recall election on September 24, 2002 is not an immediate reelection after his third consecutive term which ended on June 30, 2001. The immediate reelection that the Constitution barred Hagedorn from seeking referred to the regular elections in 2001. Hagedorn did not seek reelection in the 2001 elections. Hagedorn was elected for three consecutive terms in the 1992, 1995 and 1998 elections and served in full his three consecutive terms as mayor of Puerto Princesa. Under the Constitution and the Local Government Code, Hagedorn could no longer run for mayor in the 2001 elections. The Constitution and the Local Government Code disqualified Hagedorn, who had reached the maximum three-term limit, from running for a fourth consecutive term as mayor. Thus, Hagedorn did not run for mayor in the 2001 elections.[16] Socrates ran and won as mayor of Puerto Princesa in the 2001 elections. After Hagedorn ceased to be mayor on June 30, 2001, he became a private citizen until the recall election of September 24, 2002 when he won by 3,018 votes over his closest opponent, Socrates. From June 30, 2001 until the recall election on September 24, 2002, the mayor of Puerto Princesa was Socrates. During the same period, Hagedorn was simply a private citizen. This period is clearly an interruption in the continuity of Hagedorns service as mayor, not because of his voluntary renunciation, but because of a legal prohibition. Hagedorns three consecutive terms ended on June 30, 2001. Hagedorns new recall term from September 24, 2002 to June 30, 2004 is not a seamless continuation of his previous three consecutive terms as mayor. One cannot stitch together Hagedorns previous three-terms with his new recall term to make the recall term a fourth consecutive term because factually it is not. An involuntary interruption occurred from June 30, 2001 to September 24, 2002 which broke the continuity or consecutive character of Hagedorns service as mayor. In Lonzanida v. Comelec,[17] the Court had occasion to explain interruption of continuity of service in this manner: x x x The second sentence of the constitutional provision under scrutiny states, Voluntary renunciation of office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of service for the full term for which he was elected. The clear intent of the framers of the constitution to bar any attempt to circumvent the three-term limit by a voluntary renunciation of office and at the same time respect the peoples choice and grant their elected official full service of a term is evident in this provision. Voluntary renunciation of a term does not cancel the renounced term in the computation of the three-term limit; conversely, involuntary severance from office for any length of time short of the full term provided by law amounts to an interruption of continuity of service. x x x. (Emphasis supplied) In Hagedorns case, the nearly 15-month period he was out of office, although short of a full term of three years, constituted an interruption in the continuity of his service as mayor. The Constitution does not require the interruption or hiatus to be a full term of three years. The clear intent is that interruption for any length of time, as long as the cause is involuntary, is sufficient to break an elective local officials continuity of service. In the recent case of Adormeo v. Comelec and Talaga, [18] a unanimous Court reiterated the rule that an interruption consisting of a portion of a term of office breaks the continuity of service of an elective local official. In Adormeo, Ramon Y. Talaga, Jr. had served two consecutive full terms as mayor of Lucena City. In his third bid for election as mayor in 1998, Talaga lost to Bernard G. Tagarao. However, in the recall election of

May 12, 2000, Talaga won and served the unexpired term of Tagarao from May 12, 2000 to June 30, 2001. When Talaga ran again for mayor in the 2001 elections, Raymundo Adormeo, the other candidate for mayor, petitioned for Talagas disqualification on the ground that Talaga had already served three consecutive terms as mayor. Thus, the issue in Adormeo was whether Talagas recall term was a continuation of his previous two terms so that he was deemed to have already served three consecutive terms as mayor. The Court ruled that Talaga was qualified to run in the 2001 elections, stating that the period from June 30, 1998 to May 12, 2000 when Talaga was out of office interrupted the continuity of his service as mayor. Talagas recall term as mayor was not consecutive to his previous two terms because of this interruption, there having been a break of almost two years during which time Tagarao was the mayor. We held in Adormeo that the period an elective local official is out of office interrupts the continuity of his service and prevents his recall term from being stitched together as a seamless continuation of his previous two consecutive terms. In the instant case, we likewise hold that the nearly 15 months Hagedorn was out of office interrupted his continuity of service and prevents his recall term from being stitched together as a seamless continuation of his previous three consecutive terms. The only difference between Adormeo and the instant case is the time of the interruption. In Adormeo, the interruption occurred after the first two consecutive terms. In the instant case, the interruption happened after the first three consecutive terms. In both cases, the respondents were seeking election for a fourth term. In Adormeo, the recall term of Talaga began only from the date he assumed office after winning the recall election. Talagas recall term did not retroact to include the tenure in office of his predecessor. If Talagas recall term was made to so retroact, then he would have been disqualified to run in the 2001 elections because he would already have served three consecutive terms prior to the 2001 elections. One who wins and serves a recall term does not serve the full term of his predecessor but only the unexpired term. The period of time prior to the recall term, when another elective official holds office, constitutes an interruption in continuity of service. Clearly, Adormeo established the rule that the winner in the recall election cannot be charged or credited with the full term of three years for purposes of counting the consecutiveness of an elective officials terms in office. In the same manner, Hagedorns recall term does not retroact to include the tenure in office of Socrates. Hagedorn can only be disqualified to run in the September 24, 2002 recall election if the recall term is made to retroact to June 30, 2001, for only then can the recall term constitute a fourth consecutive term. But to consider Hagedorns recall term as a full term of three years, retroacting to June 30, 2001, despite the fact that he won his recall term only last September 24, 2002, is to ignore reality. This Court cannot declare as consecutive or successive terms of office which historically and factually are not. Worse, to make Hagedorns recall term retroact to June 30, 2001 creates a legal fiction that unduly curtails the freedom of the people to choose their leaders through popular elections. The concept of term limits is in derogation of the sovereign will of the people to elect the leaders of their own choosing. Term limits must be construed strictly to give the fullest possible effect to the sovereign will of the people. As this Court aptly stated in Borja, Jr. v. Comelec: Thus, a consideration of the historical background of Art. X, 8 of the Constitution reveals that the members of the Constitutional Commission were as much concerned with preserving the freedom of choice of the people as they were with preventing the monopolization of political power. Indeed, they rejected a proposal put forth by Commissioner Edmundo F. Garcia that after serving three consecutive terms or nine years there should be no further reelection for local and legislative officials. Instead, they adopted the alternative proposal of Commissioner Christian Monsod that such officials be simply barred from running for the same position in the succeeding election following the expiration of the third consecutive term. Monsod warned against prescreening candidates [from] whom the people will choose as a result of the proposed absolute disqualification, considering that the draft constitution contained provisions recognizing people's power.[19] (Emphasis supplied)

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A necessary consequence of the interruption of continuity of service is the start of a new term following the interruption. An official elected in recall election serves the unexpired term of the recalled official. This unexpired term is in itself one term for purposes of counting the three-term limit. This is clear from the following discussion in the Constitutional Commission: SUAREZ:[20] For example, a special election is called for a Senator, and the Senator newly elected would have to serve the unexpired portion of the term. Would that mean that serving the unexpired portion of the term is already considered one term? So, half a term, which is actually the correct statement, plus one term would disqualify the Senator concerned from running? Is that the meaning of this provision on disqualification, Madam President? DAVIDE: Yes, because we speak of term, and if there is a special election, he will serve only for the unexpired portion of that particular term plus one more term for the Senator and two more terms for the Members of the Lower House.[21] Although the discussion referred to special elections for Senators and Representatives of the House, the same principle applies to a recall election of local officials. Otherwise, an elective local official who serves a recall term can serve for more than nine consecutive years comprising of the recall term plus the regular three full terms. A local official who serves a recall term should know that the recall term is in itself one term although less than three years. This is the inherent limitation he takes by running and winning in the recall election. In summary, we hold that Hagedorn is qualified to run in the September 24, 2002 recall election for mayor of Puerto Princesa because: 1. Hagedorn is not running for immediate reelection following his three consecutive terms as mayor which ended on June 30, 2001; 2. Hagedorns continuity of service as mayor was involuntarily interrupted from June 30, 2001 to September 24, 2002 during which time he was a private citizen; 3. Hagedorns recall term from September 24, 2002 to June 30, 2004 cannot be made to retroact to June 30, 2001 to make a fourth consecutive term because factually the recall term is not a fourth consecutive term; and 4. Term limits should be construed strictly to give the fullest possible effect to the right of the electorate to choose their leaders. WHEREFORE, the petitions in G.R. Nos. 154512, 154683 and 155083-84 are DISMISSED. The temporary restraining order issued by this Court on September 24, 2002 enjoining the proclamation of the winning candidate for mayor of Puerto Princesa in the recall election of September 24, 2002 is lifted. No costs. SO ORDERED. [G.R. No. 149736.December 17, 2002] MENDOZA & IBARRA vs. COMELEC & ROMAN EN BANC Gentlemen: Quoted hereunder, for your information, is a resolution of this Court dated 17 DEC 2002. G.R. No. 149736(Melanio L. Mendoza and Mario E. Ibarra, petitioners, vs. Commission on Elections and Leonardo B. Roman, respondents.) For resolution is a petition for certiorari filed by petitioners Melanio L. Mendoza and Mario E. Ibarra, seeking to set aside the resolution of the Commission on Elections, dated August 15, 2001, in EPC No. 2001-5 and to declare respondent Leonardo B. Roman's election as governor of Bataan on May 14, 2001 as null and void for allegedly being contrary to Art. X, 8 of the Constitution, which provides that: The term of office of elective local officials, except barangay officials, which shall be determined by law, shall be three years and no such official shall serve for more than three consecutive terms.Voluntary renunciation of the office for any length of time shall not be considered as an interruption in the continuity of his service for the full term for which he was elected. After due deliberation, the Court voted 8 to 7 to DISMISS the petition: VITUG, J., joined by YNARES-SANTIAGO, J., voted to dismiss the petition.He contended that as revealed by the records of the Constitutional Commission, the Constitution envisions

a continuous and an uninterrupted service for three full terms before the proscription applies.Therefore, not being a full term, a recall term should not be counted or used as a basis for the disqualification whether served prior (as in this case) or subsequent (as in the Socrates case) to the nineyear, full three-term limit. MENDOZA, J., in whose opinion QUISUMBING, J. joined, voted to dismiss the petition on the ground that, in accordance with the ruling inBorja, Jr. v. COMELEC, 295 SCRA 157 (1998); Arcos v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 133639, Oct. 6, 1998 (res.); Lonzanida v. COMELEC, 311 SCRA 602 (1999); and Adormeo v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 147927, Feb. 4, 2002, a term during which succession to a local elective office takes place or a recall election is held should not be counted in determining whether an elective local official has served more than three consecutive terms.He argued that the Constitution does not prohibit elective local officials from serving for more than three consecutive terms because, in fact, it excludes from the three-term limit interruptions in the continuity of service, so long as such interruptions are not due to the voluntary renunciation of the office by an incumbent.Hence, the period from June 28, 1994 to June 30, 1995, during which respondent Leonardo B. Roman served as governor of Bataan by virtue of a recall election held in 1993, should not be counted.Since on May 14, 2001 respondent had previously served as governor of Bataan for only two consecutive terms (1995-1998 and 1998-2001), his election on that day was actually only his third term for the same position. PANGANIBAN, J., joined by PUNO, J., also voted to dismiss the petition.He argued that a recall term should not be considered as one full term, because a contrary interpretation would in effect cut short the elected official's service to less than nine years and shortchange his constituents.The desire to prevent monopoly of political power should be balanced against the need to uphold the voters' obvious preference who, in the present case, is Roman who received 97 percent of the votes cast.He explained that, in Socrates, he also voted to affirm the clear choice of the electorate, because in a democracy the people should, as much as legally possible, be governed by leaders freely chosen by them in credible elections.He concluded that, in election cases, when two conflicting legal positions are of almost equal weight, the scales of justice should be tilted in favor of the people's overwhelming choice. AZCUNA, J., joined by BELLOSILLO, J., also voted to dismiss, arguing that it is clear from the constitutional provision that the disqualification applies only if the terms are consecutive and the service is full and continuous.Hence, service for less than a term, except only in case of voluntary renunciation, should not count to disqualify an elective local official from running for the same position.This case is different from Socrates, where the full three consecutive terms had been continuously served so that disqualification had clearly attached. On the other hand, SANDOVAL-GUTIERREZ, J., with whom DAVIDE, JR., C.J., and AUSTRIA-MARTINEZ, CORONA, and CALLEJO, SR., JJ. concurred, holds the view that the recall term served by respondent Roman, comprising the period June 28, 1994 to June 30, 1995, should be considered as one term.Since he thereafter served for two consecutive terms from 1995 to 1998 and from 1998 to 2001, his election on May 14, 2001 was actually his fourth term and contravenes Art. X, 8 of the Constitution.For this reason, she voted to grant the petition and to declare respondent's election on May 14, 2001 as null and void. CARPIO, J., joined by CARPIO MORALES, J., also dissented and voted to grant the petition.He held that a recall term constitutes one term and that to totally ignore a recall term in determining the three-term limit would allow local officials to serve for more than nine consecutive years contrary to the manifest intent of the framers of the Constitution.He contended that respondent Roman's election in 2001 cannot exempt him from the three-term limit imposed by the Constitution. WHEREFORE, THE PETITION FOR CERTIORARI IS DISMISSED. [G.R. No. 130230. April 15, 2005] METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY, petitioner, vs. DANTE O. GARIN, respondent. DECISION CHICO-NAZARIO, J.:

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At issue in this case is the validity of Section 5(f) of Republic Act No. 7924 creating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which authorizes it to confiscate and suspend or revoke drivers licenses in the enforcement of traffic laws and regulations. The issue arose from an incident involving the respondent Dante O. Garin, a lawyer, who was issued a traffic violation receipt (TVR) and his drivers license confiscated for parking illegally along Gandara Street, Binondo, Manila, on 05 August 1995. The following statements were printed on the TVR: YOU ARE HEREBY DIRECTED TO REPORT TO THE MMDA TRAFFIC OPERATIONS CENTER PORT AREA MANILA AFTER 48 HOURS FROM DATE OF APPREHENSION FOR DISPOSITION/APPROPRIATE ACTION THEREON. CRIMINAL CASE SHALL BE FILED FOR FAILURE TO REDEEM LICENSE AFTER 30 DAYS. VALID AS TEMPORARY DRIVERS LICENSE FOR SEVEN DAYS FROM DATE OF APPREHENSION.[1] Shortly before the expiration of the TVRs validity, the respondent addressed a letter[2] to then MMDA Chairman Prospero Oreta requesting the return of his drivers license, and expressing his preference for his case to be filed in court. Receiving no immediate reply, Garin filed the original complaint[3] with application for preliminary injunction in Branch 260 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Paraaque, on 12 September 1995, contending that, in the absence of any implementing rules and regulations, Sec. 5(f) of Rep. Act No. 7924 grants the MMDA unbridled discretion to deprive erring motorists of their licenses, pre-empting a judicial determination of the validity of the deprivation, thereby violating the due process clause of the Constitution. The respondent further contended that the provision violates the constitutional prohibition against undue delegation of legislative authority, allowing as it does the MMDA to fix and impose unspecified and therefore unlimited - fines and other penalties on erring motorists. In support of his application for a writ of preliminary injunction, Garin alleged that he suffered and continues to suffer great and irreparable damage because of the deprivation of his license and that, absent any implementing rules from the Metro Manila Council, the TVR and the confiscation of his license have no legal basis. For its part, the MMDA, represented by the Office of the Solicitor General, pointed out that the powers granted to it by Sec. 5(f) of Rep. Act No. 7924 are limited to the fixing, collection and imposition of fines and penalties for traffic violations, which powers are legislative and executive in nature; the judiciary retains the right to determine the validity of the penalty imposed. It further argued that the doctrine of separation of powers does not preclude admixture of the three powers of government in administrative agencies.[4] The MMDA also refuted Garins allegation that the Metro Manila Council, the governing board and policy making body of the petitioner, has as yet to formulate the implementing rules for Sec. 5(f) of Rep. Act No. 7924 and directed the courts attention to MMDA Memorandum Circular No. TT-95-001 dated 15 April 1995. Respondent Garin, however, questioned the validity of MMDA Memorandum Circular No. TT-95-001, as he claims that it was passed by the Metro Manila Council in the absence of a quorum. Judge Helen Bautista-Ricafort issued a temporary restraining order on 26 September 1995, extending the validity of the TVR as a temporary drivers license for twenty more days. A preliminary mandatory injunction was granted on 23 October 1995, and the MMDA was directed to return the respondents drivers license. On 14 August 1997, the trial court rendered the assailed decision[5] in favor of the herein respondent and held that: a. There was indeed no quorum in that First Regular Meeting of the MMDA Council held on March 23, 1995, hence MMDA Memorandum Circular No. TT-95-001, authorizing confiscation of drivers licenses upon issuance of a TVR, is void ab initio. b. The summary confiscation of a drivers license without first giving the driver an opportunity to be heard; depriving him of a property right (drivers license) without DUE PROCESS; not filling (sic) in Court the complaint of supposed traffic infraction, cannot be justified by any legislation (and is) hence unconstitutional.

WHEREFORE, the temporary writ of preliminary injunction is hereby made permanent; th(e) MMDA is directed to return to plaintiff his drivers license; th(e) MMDA is likewise ordered to desist from confiscating drivers license without first giving the driver the opportunity to be heard in an appropriate proceeding. In filing this petition,[6] the MMDA reiterates and reinforces its argument in the court below and contends that a license to operate a motor vehicle is neither a contract nor a property right, but is a privilege subject to reasonable regulation under the police power in the interest of the public safety and welfare. The petitioner further argues that revocation or suspension of this privilege does not constitute a taking without due process as long as the licensee is given the right to appeal the revocation. To buttress its argument that a licensee may indeed appeal the taking and the judiciary retains the power to determine the validity of the confiscation, suspension or revocation of the license, the petitioner points out that under the terms of the confiscation, the licensee has three options: 1. To voluntarily pay the imposable fine, 2. To protest the apprehension by filing a protest with the MMDA Adjudication Committee, or 3. To request the referral of the TVR to the Public Prosecutors Office. The MMDA likewise argues that Memorandum Circular No. TT95-001 was validly passed in the presence of a quorum, and that the lower courts finding that it had not was based on a misapprehension of facts, which the petitioner would have us review. Moreover, it asserts that though the circular is the basis for the issuance of TVRs, the basis for the summary confiscation of licenses is Sec. 5(f) of Rep. Act No. 7924 itself, and that such power is self-executory and does not require the issuance of any implementing regulation or circular. Meanwhile, on 12 August 2004, the MMDA, through its Chairman Bayani Fernando, implemented Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 2004, outlining the procedures for the use of the Metropolitan Traffic Ticket (MTT) scheme. Under the circular, erring motorists are issued an MTT, which can be paid at any Metrobank branch. Traffic enforcers may no longer confiscate drivers licenses as a matter of course in cases of traffic violations. All motorists with unredeemed TVRs were given seven days from the date of implementation of the new system to pay their fines and redeem their license or vehicle plates.[7] It would seem, therefore, that insofar as the absence of a prima facie case to enjoin the petitioner from confiscating drivers licenses is concerned, recent events have overtaken the Courts need to decide this case, which has been rendered moot and academic by the implementation of Memorandum Circular No. 04, Series of 2004. The petitioner, however, is not precluded from reimplementing Memorandum Circular No. TT-95-001, or any other scheme, for that matter, that would entail confiscating drivers licenses. For the proper implementation, therefore, of the petitioners future programs, this Court deems it appropriate to make the following observations: 1. A license to operate a motor vehicle is a privilege that the state may withhold in the exercise of its police power. The petitioner correctly points out that a license to operate a motor vehicle is not a property right, but a privilege granted by the state, which may be suspended or revoked by the state in the exercise of its police power, in the interest of the public safety and welfare, subject to the procedural due process requirements. This is consistent with our rulings in Pedro v. Provincial Board of Rizal[8] on the license to operate a cockpit, Tan v. Director of Forestry[9] and Oposa v. Factoran[10] on timber licensing agreements, and Surigao Electric Co., Inc. v. Municipality of Surigao[11] on a legislative franchise to operate an electric plant. Petitioner cites a long list of American cases to prove this point, such as State ex. Rel. Sullivan,[12] which states in part that, the legislative power to regulate travel over the highways and thoroughfares of the state for the general welfare is extensive. It may be exercised in any reasonable manner to conserve the safety of travelers and pedestrians. Since motor vehicles are instruments of potential danger, their registration and the licensing of their operators have been required almost from their first appearance. The right to operate them in public places is not a natural and unrestrained right, but a privilege subject to reasonable regulation, under the police power, in the interest of the public safety and welfare. The power to license imports further power to withhold or to revoke such license upon noncompliance with prescribed conditions.

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Likewise, the petitioner quotes the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in Commonwealth v. Funk,[13] to the effect that: Automobiles are vehicles of great speed and power. The use of them constitutes an element of danger to persons and property upon the highways. Carefully operated, an automobile is still a dangerous instrumentality, but, when operated by careless or incompetent persons, it becomes an engine of destruction. The Legislature, in the exercise of the police power of the commonwealth, not only may, but must, prescribe how and by whom motor vehicles shall be operated on the highways. One of the primary purposes of a system of general regulation of the subject matter, as here by the Vehicle Code, is to insure the competency of the operator of motor vehicles. Such a general law is manifestly directed to the promotion of public safety and is well within the police power. The common thread running through the cited cases is that it is the legislature, in the exercise of police power, which has the power and responsibility to regulate how and by whom motor vehicles may be operated on the state highways. 2. The MMDA is not vested with police power. In Metro Manila Development Authority v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc.,[14] we categorically stated that Rep. Act No. 7924 does not grant the MMDA with police power, let alone legislative power, and that all its functions are administrative in nature. The said case also involved the herein petitioner MMDA which claimed that it had the authority to open a subdivision street owned by the Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. to public traffic because it is an agent of the state endowed with police power in the delivery of basic services in Metro Manila. From this premise, the MMDA argued that there was no need for the City of Makati to enact an ordinance opening Neptune Street to the public. Tracing the legislative history of Rep. Act No. 7924 creating the MMDA, we concluded that the MMDA is not a local government unit or a public corporation endowed with legislative power, and, unlike its predecessor, the Metro Manila Commission, it has no power to enact ordinances for the welfare of the community. Thus, in the absence of an ordinance from the City of Makati, its own order to open the street was invalid. We restate here the doctrine in the said decision as it applies to the case at bar: police power, as an inherent attribute of sovereignty, is the power vested by the Constitution in the legislature to make, ordain, and establish all manner of wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes and ordinances, either with penalties or without, not repugnant to the Constitution, as they shall judge to be for the good and welfare of the commonwealth, and for the subjects of the same. Having been lodged primarily in the National Legislature, it cannot be exercised by any group or body of individuals not possessing legislative power. The National Legislature, however, may delegate this power to the president and administrative boards as well as the lawmaking bodies of municipal corporations or local government units (LGUs). Once delegated, the agents can exercise only such legislative powers as are conferred on them by the national lawmaking body. Our Congress delegated police power to the LGUs in the Local Government Code of 1991.[15] A local government is a political subdivision of a nation or state which is constituted by law and has substantial control of local affairs.[16] Local government units are the provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays, which exercise police power through their respective legislative bodies. Metropolitan or Metro Manila is a body composed of several local government units. With the passage of Rep. Act No. 7924 in 1995, Metropolitan Manila was declared as a "special development and administrative region" and the administration of "metro-wide" basic services affecting the region placed under "a development authority" referred to as the MMDA. Thus: . . . [T]he powers of the MMDA are limited to the following acts: formulation, coordination, regulation, implementation, preparation, management, monitoring, setting of policies, installation of a system and administration.There is no syllable in R. A. No. 7924 that grants the MMDA police power, let alone legislative power. Even the Metro Manila Council has not been delegated any legislative power. Unlike the legislative bodies of the local government

units, there is no provision in R. A. No. 7924 that empowers the MMDA or its Council to "enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare" of the inhabitants of Metro Manila. The MMDA is, as termed in the charter itself, a "development authority." It is an agency created for the purpose of laying down policies and coordinating with the various national government agencies, people's organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector for the efficient and expeditious delivery of basic services in the vast metropolitan area. All its functions are administrative in nature and these are actually summed up in the charter itself, viz: Sec. 2. Creation of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. -- -x x x. The MMDA shall perform planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila, without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters. . Clearly, the MMDA is not a political unit of government. The power delegated to the MMDA is that given to the Metro Manila Council to promulgate administrative rules and regulations in the implementation of the MMDAs functions. There is no grant of authority to enact ordinances and regulations for the general welfare of the inhabitants of the metropolis. [17] (footnotes omitted, emphasis supplied) Therefore, insofar as Sec. 5(f) of Rep. Act No. 7924 is understood by the lower court and by the petitioner to grant the MMDA the power to confiscate and suspend or revoke drivers licenseswithout need of any other legislative enactment, such is an unauthorized exercise of police power. 3. Sec. 5(f) grants the MMDA with the duty to enforce existing traffic rules and regulations. Section 5 of Rep. Act No. 7924 enumerates the Functions and Powers of the Metro Manila Development Authority. The contested clause in Sec. 5(f) states that the petitioner shall install and administer a single ticketing system, fix, impose and collect fines and penalties for all kinds of violations of traffic rules and regulations, whether moving or nonmoving in nature, and confiscate and suspend or revoke drivers licenses in the enforcement of such traffic laws and regulations, the provisions of Rep. Act No. 4136[18] and P.D. No. 1605[19] to the contrary notwithstanding, and that (f)or this purpose, the Authority shall enforce all traffic laws and regulations in Metro Manila, through its traffic operation center, and may deputize members of the PNP, traffic enforcers of local government units, duly licensed security guards, or members of non-governmental organizations to whom may be delegated certain authority, subject to such conditions and requirements as the Authority may impose. Thus, where there is a traffic law or regulation validly enacted by the legislature or those agencies to whom legislative powers have been delegated (the City of Manila in this case), the petitioner is not precluded and in fact is duty-bound to confiscate and suspend or revoke drivers licenses in the exercise of its mandate of transport and traffic management, as well as the administration and implementation of all traffic enforcement operations, traffic engineering services and traffic education programs.[20] This is consistent with our ruling in Bel-Air that the MMDA is a development authority created for the purpose of laying down policies and coordinating with the various national government agencies, peoples organizations, non-governmental organizations and the private sector, which may enforce, but not enact, ordinances. This is also consistent with the fundamental rule of statutory construction that a statute is to be read in a manner that would breathe life into it, rather than defeat it,[21] and is supported by the criteria in cases of this nature that all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the constitutionality of a statute.[22] A last word. The MMDA was intended to coordinate services with metro-wide impact that transcend local political boundaries or would entail huge expenditures if provided by the individual LGUs, especially with regard to transport and traffic management,[23] and we are aware of the valiant efforts of the petitioner to untangle the increasingly traffic-snarled roads of Metro Manila. But these laudable intentions are limited by the MMDAs enabling law, which we can but interpret, and petitioner must be reminded that its efforts in this respect must be authorized by a valid law, or ordinance, or regulation arising from a legitimate source. WHEREFORE, the petition is DISMISSED.

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SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 170656 August 15, 2007 THE METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY and BAYANI FERNANDO as Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, petitioners, vs. VIRON TRANSPORTATION CO., INC., respondent. x --------------------------------------------- x G.R. No. 170657 August 15, 2007 HON. ALBERTO G. ROMULO, Executive Secretary, the METROPOLITAN MANILA DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY and BAYANI FERNANDO as Chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority,petitioners, vs. MENCORP TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM, INC., respondent. DECISION CARPIO MORALES, J.: The following conditions in 1969, as observed by this Court: Vehicles have increased in number. Traffic congestion has moved from bad to worse, from tolerable to critical. The number of people who use the thoroughfares has multiplied x x x,1 have remained unchecked and have reverberated to this day. Traffic jams continue to clog the streets of Metro Manila, bringing vehicles to a standstill at main road arteries during rush hour traffic and sapping peoples energies and patience in the process. The present petition for review on certiorari, rooted in the traffic congestion problem, questions the authority of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) to order the closure of provincial bus terminals along Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. Specifically challenged are two Orders issued by Judge Silvino T. Pampilo, Jr. of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila, Branch 26 in Civil Case Nos. 03-105850 and 03106224. The first assailed Order of September 8, 2005,2 which resolved a motion for reconsideration filed by herein respondents, declared Executive Order (E.O.) No. 179, hereafter referred to as the E.O., "unconstitutional as it constitutes an unreasonable exercise of police power." The second assailed Order of November 23, 20053 denied petitioners motion for reconsideration. The following facts are not disputed: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo issued the E.O. on February 10, 2003, "Providing for the Establishment of Greater Manila Mass Transport System," the pertinent portions of which read: WHEREAS, Metro Manila continues to be the center of employment opportunities, trade and commerce of the Greater Metro Manila area; WHEREAS, the traffic situation in Metro Manila has affected the adjacent provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna, and Rizal, owing to the continued movement of residents and industries to more affordable and economically viable locations in these provinces; WHEREAS, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is tasked to undertake measures to ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila and ensure the convenient and efficient travel of commuters within its jurisdiction; WHEREAS, a primary cause of traffic congestion in Metro Manila has been the numerous buses plying the streets that impedes [sic] the flow of vehicles and commuters due to the inefficient connectivity of the different transport modes; WHEREAS, the MMDA has recommended a plan to decongest traffic by eliminating the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and providing more convenient access to the mass transport system to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities that would integrate the existing transport modes, namely the buses, the railbased systems of the LRT, MRT and PNR and to facilitate and ensure efficient travel through the improved connectivity of the different transport modes; WHEREAS, the national government must provide the necessary funding requirements to immediately implement and render operational these projects; and

extent to MMDA such other assistance as may be warranted to ensure their expeditious prosecution. NOW, THEREFORE, I, GLORIA MACAPAGALARROYO, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, do hereby order: Section 1. THE PROJECT. The project shall be identified as GREATER MANILA TRANSPORT SYSTEM Project. Section 2. PROJECT OBJECTIVES. In accordance with the plan proposed by MMDA, the project aims to develop four (4) interim intermodal mass transport terminals to integrate the different transport modes, as well as those that shall hereafter be developed, to serve the commuting public in the northwest, north, east, south, and southwest of Metro Manila. Initially, the project shall concentrate on immediately establishing the mass transport terminals for the north and south Metro Manila commuters as hereinafter described. Section 3. PROJECT IMPLEMENTING AGENCY. The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), is hereby designated as the implementing Agency for the project. For this purpose, MMDA is directed to undertake such infrastructure development work as may be necessary and, thereafter, manage the project until it may be turned-over to more appropriate agencies, if found suitable and convenient. Specifically, MMDA shall have the following functions and responsibilities: a) Cause the preparation of the Master Plan for the projects, including the designs and costing; b) Coordinate the use of the land and/or properties needed for the project with the respective agencies and/or entities owning them; c) Supervise and manage the construction of the necessary structures and facilities; d) Execute such contracts or agreements as may be necessary, with the appropriate government agencies, entities, and/or private persons, in accordance with existing laws and pertinent regulations, to facilitate the implementation of the project; e) Accept, manage and disburse such funds as may be necessary for the construction and/or implementation of the projects, in accordance with prevailing accounting and audit polices and practice in government. f) Enlist the assistance of any national government agency, office or department, including local government units, government-owned or controlled corporations, as may be necessary; g) Assign or hire the necessary personnel for the above purposes; and h) Perform such other related functions as may be necessary to enable it to accomplish the objectives and purposes of this Executive Order.4 (Emphasis in the original; underscoring supplied) As the above-quoted portions of the E.O. noted, the primary cause of traffic congestion in Metro Manila has been the numerous buses plying the streets and the inefficient connectivity of the different transport modes;5 and the MMDA had "recommended a plan to decongest traffic by eliminating the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and providing more and convenient access to the mass transport system to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities"6 which plan is referred to under the E.O. as the Greater Manila Mass Transport System Project (the Project). The E.O. thus designated the MMDA as the implementing agency for the Project. Pursuant to the E.O., the Metro Manila Council (MMC), the governing board and policymaking body of the MMDA, issued Resolution No. 03-07 series of 20037 expressing full support of the Project. Recognizing the imperative to integrate the different transport modes via the establishment of common bus parking terminal areas, the MMC cited the need to remove the bus terminals located along major thoroughfares of Metro Manila.8 On February 24, 2003, Viron Transport Co., Inc. (Viron), a domestic corporation engaged in the business of public transportation with a provincial bus operation,9 filed a petition for declaratory relief10 before the RTC11 of Manila. In its petition which was docketed as Civil Case No. 03-105850, Viron alleged that the MMDA, through Chairman Fernando, was "poised to issue a Circular, Memorandum or Order closing, or tantamount to closing, all provincial bus terminals along EDSA and in the whole of the Metropolis under the pretext of traffic regulation."12 This impending move, it stressed, would mean the closure of its bus terminal in Sampaloc, Manila and two others in Quezon City. Alleging that the MMDAs authority does not include the power to direct provincial bus operators to abandon their existing bus

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terminals to thus deprive them of the use of their property, Viron asked the court to construe the scope, extent and limitation of the power of the MMDA to regulate traffic under R.A. No. 7924, "An Act Creating the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, Defining its Powers and Functions, Providing Funds Therefor and For Other Purposes." Viron also asked for a ruling on whether the planned closure of provincial bus terminals would contravene the Public Service Act and related laws which mandate public utilities to provide and maintain their own terminals as a requisite for the privilege of operating as common carriers.13 Mencorp Transportation System, Inc. (Mencorp), another provincial bus operator, later filed a similar petition for declaratory relief14 against Executive Secretary Alberto G. Romulo and MMDA Chairman Fernando. Mencorp asked the court to declare the E.O. unconstitutional and illegal for transgressing the possessory rights of owners and operators of public land transportation units over their respective terminals. Averring that MMDA Chairman Fernando had begun to implement a plan to close and eliminate all provincial bus terminals along EDSA and in the whole of the metropolis and to transfer their operations to common bus terminals,15 Mencorp prayed for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and/or writ of preliminary injunction to restrain the impending closure of its bus terminals which it was leasing at the corner of EDSA and New York Street in Cubao and at the intersection of Blumentritt, Laon Laan and Halcon Streets in Quezon City. The petition was docketed as Civil Case No. 03-106224 and was raffled to Branch 47 of the RTC of Manila. Mencorps petition was consolidated on June 19, 2003 with Virons petition which was raffled to Branch 26 of the RTC, Manila. Mencorps prayer for a TRO and/or writ of injunction was denied as was its application for the issuance of a preliminary injunction.16 In the Pre-Trial Order17 issued by the trial court, the issues were narrowed down to whether 1) the MMDAs power to regulate traffic in Metro Manila included the power to direct provincial bus operators to abandon and close their duly established and existing bus terminals in order to conduct business in a common terminal; (2) the E.O. is consistent with the Public Service Act and the Constitution; and (3) provincial bus operators would be deprived of their real properties without due process of law should they be required to use the common bus terminals. Upon the agreement of the parties, they filed their respective position papers in lieu of hearings. By Decision18 of January 24, 2005, the trial court sustained the constitutionality and legality of the E.O. pursuant to R.A. No. 7924, which empowered the MMDA to administer Metro Manilas basic services including those of transport and traffic management. The trial court held that the E.O. was a valid exercise of the police power of the State as it satisfied the two tests of lawful subject matter and lawful means, hence, Virons and Mencorps property rights must yield to police power. On the separate motions for reconsideration of Viron and Mencorp, the trial court, by Order of September 8, 2005, reversed its Decision, this time holding that the E.O. was "an unreasonable exercise of police power"; that the authority of the MMDA under Section (5)(e) of R.A. No. 7924 does not include the power to order the closure of Virons and Mencorps existing bus terminals; and that the E.O. is inconsistent with the provisions of the Public Service Act. Petitioners motion for reconsideration was denied by Resolution of November 23, 2005. Hence, this petition, which faults the trial court for failing to rule that: (1) the requisites of declaratory relief are not present, there being no justiciable controversy in Civil Case Nos. 03-105850 and 03-106224; and (2) the President has the authority to undertake or cause the implementation of the Project.19 Petitioners contend that there is no justiciable controversy in the cases for declaratory relief as nothing in the body of the E.O. mentions or orders the closure and elimination of bus terminals along the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila. Viron and Mencorp, they argue, failed to produce any letter or communication from

the Executive Department apprising them of an immediate plan to close down their bus terminals. And petitioners maintain that the E.O. is only an administrative directive to government agencies to coordinate with the MMDA and to make available for use government property along EDSA and South Expressway corridors. They add that the only relation created by the E.O. is that between the Chief Executive and the implementing officials, but not between third persons. The petition fails. It is true, as respondents have pointed out, that the alleged deficiency of the consolidated petitions to meet the requirement of justiciability was not among the issues defined for resolution in the Pre-Trial Order of January 12, 2004. It is equally true, however, that the question was repeatedly raised by petitioners in their Answer to Virons petition,20 their Comment of April 29, 2003 opposing Mencorps prayer for the issuance of a TRO,21 and their Position Paper of August 23, 2004.22 In bringing their petitions before the trial court, both respondents pleaded the existence of the essential requisites for their respective petitions for declaratory relief,23 and refuted petitioners contention that a justiciable controversy was lacking.24 There can be no denying, therefore, that the issue was raised and discussed by the parties before the trial court. The following are the essential requisites for a declaratory relief petition: (a) there must be a justiciable controversy; (b) the controversy must be between persons whose interests are adverse; (c) the party seeking declaratory relief must have a legal interest in the controversy; and (d) the issue invoked must be ripe for judicial determination.25 The requirement of the presence of a justiciable controversy is satisfied when an actual controversy or theripening seeds thereof exist between the parties, all of whom are sui juris and before the court, and the declaration sought will help in ending the controversy.26 A question becomes justiciable when it is translated into a claim of right which is actually contested.27 In the present cases, respondents resort to court was prompted by the issuance of the E.O. The 4th Whereas clause of the E.O. sets out in clear strokes the MMDAs plan to "decongest traffic by eliminating the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and providing more convenient access to the mass transport system to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities x x x." (Emphasis supplied) Section 2 of the E.O. thereafter lays down the immediate establishment of common bus terminals for north- and southbound commuters. For this purpose, Section 8 directs the Department of Budget and Management to allocate funds of not more than one hundred million pesos (P100,000,000) to cover the cost of the construction of the north and south terminals. And the E.O. was made effective immediately. The MMDAs resolve to immediately implement the Project, its denials to the contrary notwithstanding, is also evident from telltale circumstances, foremost of which was the passage by the MMC of Resolution No. 03-07, Series of 2003 expressing its full support of the immediate implementation of the Project. Notable from the 5th Whereas clause of the MMC Resolution is the plan to "remove the bus terminals located along major thoroughfares of Metro Manila and an urgent need to integrate the different transport modes." The 7thWhereas clause proceeds to mention the establishment of the North and South terminals. As alleged in Virons petition, a diagram of the GMA-MTS North Bus/Rail Terminal had been drawn up, and construction of the terminal is already in progress. The MMDA, in its Answer28 and Position Paper,29 in fact affirmed that the government had begun to implement the Project. It thus appears that the issue has already transcended the boundaries of what is merely conjectural or anticipatory. Under the circumstances, for respondents to wait for the actual issuance by the MMDA of an order for the closure of respondents bus terminals would be foolhardy for, by then, the proper action to bring would no longer be for declaratory relief which, under Section 1, Rule 6330 of the Rules of Court, must be brought before there is a breach or violation of rights. As for petitioners contention that the E.O. is a mere administrative issuance which creates no relation with third persons, it does not persuade. Suffice it to stress that to ensure the success of the Project for which the concerned government agencies are directed to coordinate their activities and resources, the existing bus terminals owned, operated or leased by third persons like respondents would have to be

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eliminated; and respondents would be forced to operate from the common bus terminals. It cannot be gainsaid that the E.O. would have an adverse effect on respondents. The closure of their bus terminals would mean, among other things, the loss of income from the operation and/or rentals of stalls thereat. Precisely, respondents claim a deprivation of their constitutional right to property without due process of law. Respondents have thus amply demonstrated a "personal and substantial interest in the case such that [they have] sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of [the E.O.s] enforcement."31 Consequently, the established rule that the constitutionality of a law or administrative issuance can be challenged by one who will sustain a direct injury as a result of its enforcement has been satisfied by respondents. On to the merits of the case. Respondents posit that the MMDA is devoid of authority to order the elimination of their bus terminals under the E.O. which, they argue, is unconstitutional because it violates both the Constitution and the Public Service Act; and that neither is the MMDA clothed with such authority under R.A. No. 7924. Petitioners submit, however, that the real issue concerns the Presidents authority to undertake or to cause the implementation of the Project. They assert that the authority of the President is derived from E.O. No. 125, "Reorganizing the Ministry of Transportation and Communications Defining its Powers and Functions and for Other Purposes," her residual power and/or E.O. No. 292, otherwise known as the Administrative Code of 1987. They add that the E.O. is also a valid exercise of the police power. E.O. No. 125,32 which former President Corazon Aquino issued in the exercise of legislative powers, reorganized the then Ministry (now Department) of Transportation and Communications. Sections 4, 5, 6 and 22 of E.O. 125, as amended by E.O. 125-A,33 read: SECTION 4. Mandate. The Ministry shall be the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity of the Executive Branch of the government in the promotion, development and regulation of dependable and coordinated networks of transportation and communication systems as well as in the fast, safe, efficient and reliable postal, transportation and communications services. To accomplish such mandate, the Ministry shall have the following objectives: (a) Promote the development of dependable and coordinated networks of transportation and communications systems; (b) Guide government and private investment in the development of the countrys intermodal transportation and communications systems in a most practical, expeditious, and orderly fashion for maximum safety, service, and cost effectiveness; (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) xxxx SECTION 5. Powers and Functions. To accomplish its mandate, the Ministry shall have the following powers and functions: (a) Formulate and recommend national policies and guidelines for the preparation and implementation of integrated and comprehensive transportation and communications systems at the national, regional and local levels; (b) Establish and administer comprehensive and integrated programs for transportation and communications, and for this purpose, may call on any agency, corporation, or organization, whether public or private, whose development programs include transportation and communications as an integral part thereof, to participate and assist in the preparation and implementation of such program; (c) Assess, review and provide direction to transportation and communications research and development programs of the government in coordination with other institutions concerned; (d) Administer all laws, rules and regulations in the field of transportation and communications; (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) xxxx

SECTION 6. Authority and Responsibility. The authority and responsibility for the exercise of the mandate of the Ministry and for the discharge of its powers and functions shall be vested in the Minister of Transportation and Communications, hereinafter referred to as the Minister, who shall have supervision and control over the Ministry and shall be appointed by the President. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) SECTION 22. Implementing Authority of Minister. The Minister shall issue such orders, rules, regulations and other issuances as may be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the provisions of this Executive Order. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) It is readily apparent from the abovequoted provisions of E.O. No. 125, as amended, that the President, then possessed of and exercising legislative powers, mandated the DOTC to be the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity to promote, develop and regulate networks of transportation and communications. The grant of authority to the DOTC includes the power toestablish and administer comprehensive and integrated programs for transportation and communications. As may be seen further, the Minister (now Secretary) of the DOTC is vested with the authority and responsibility to exercise the mandate given to the department. Accordingly, the DOTC Secretary is authorized to issue such orders, rules, regulations and other issuances as may be necessary to ensure the effective implementation of the law. Since, under the law, the DOTC is authorized to establish and administer programs and projects for transportation, it follows that the President may exercise the same power and authority to order the implementation of the Project, which admittedly is one for transportation. Such authority springs from the Presidents power of control over all executive departments as well as the obligation for the faithful execution of the laws under Article VII, Section 17 of the Constitution which provides: SECTION 17. The President shall have control of all the executive departments, bureaus and offices. He shall ensure that the laws be faithfully executed. This constitutional provision is echoed in Section 1, Book III of the Administrative Code of 1987. Notably, Section 38, Chapter 37, Book IV of the same Code defines the Presidents power of supervision and control over the executive departments, viz: SECTION 38. Definition of Administrative Relationships. Unless otherwise expressly stated in the Code or in other laws defining the special relationships of particular agencies, administrative relationships shall be categorized and defined as follows: (1) Supervision and Control. Supervision and control shall include authority to act directlywhenever a specific function is entrusted by law or regulation to a subordinate; direct the performance of duty; restrain the commission of acts; review, approve, reverse or modify acts and decisions of subordinate officials or units; determine priorities in the execution of plans and programs. Unless a different meaning is explicitly provided in the specific law governing the relationship of particular agencies the word "control" shall encompass supervision and control as defined in this paragraph. x x x (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) Thus, whenever a specific function is entrusted by law or regulation to a subordinate, the President may act directly or merely direct the performance of a duty.34 Respecting the Presidents authority to order the implementation of the Project in the exercise of the police power of the State, suffice it to stress that the powers vested in the DOTC Secretary to establish and administer comprehensive and integrated programs for transportation and communications and to issue orders, rules and regulations to implement such mandate (which, as previously discussed, may also be exercised by the President) have been so delegated for the good and welfare of the people. Hence, these powers partake of the nature of police power. Police power is the plenary power vested in the legislature to make, ordain, and establish wholesome and reasonable laws, statutes and ordinances, not repugnant to the Constitution, for the good and welfare of the people.35 This power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, education, good order or safety, and general welfare of the people flows from the recognition that salus populi est suprema lex the welfare of the people is the supreme law. While police power rests primarily with the legislature, such power may be delegated, as it is in fact increasingly being delegated.36 By virtue of a valid delegation, the power may be exercised by the President and administrative boards37 as well

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as by the lawmaking bodies of municipal corporations or local governments under an express delegation by the Local Government Code of 1991.38 The authority of the President to order the implementation of the Project notwithstanding, the designation of the MMDA as the implementing agency for the Project may not be sustained. It is ultra vires, there being no legal basis therefor. It bears stressing that under the provisions of E.O. No. 125, as amended, it is the DOTC, and not the MMDA, which is authorized to establish and implement a project such as the one subject of the cases at bar. Thus, the President, although authorized to establish or cause the implementation of the Project, must exercise the authority through the instrumentality of the DOTC which, by law, is the primary implementing and administrative entity in the promotion, development and regulation of networks of transportation, and the one so authorized to establish and implement a project such as the Project in question. By designating the MMDA as the implementing agency of the Project, the President clearly overstepped the limits of the authority conferred by law, rendering E.O. No. 179 ultra vires. In another vein, the validity of the designation of MMDA flies in the absence of a specific grant of authority to it under R.A. No. 7924. To recall, R.A. No. 7924 declared the Metropolitan Manila area39 as a "special development and administrative region" and placed the administration of "metro-wide" basic services affecting the region under the MMDA. Section 2 of R.A. No. 7924 specifically authorizes the MMDA to perform "planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services," including transport and traffic management.40 Section 5 of the same law enumerates the powers and functions of the MMDA as follows: (a) Formulate, coordinate and regulate the implementation of medium and long-term plans and programs for the delivery of metro-wide services, land use and physical development within Metropolitan Manila, consistent with national development objectives and priorities; (b) Prepare, coordinate and regulate the implementation of medium-term investment programs for metro-wide services which shall indicate sources and uses of funds for priority programs and projects, and which shall include the packaging of projects and presentation to funding institutions; (c) Undertake and manage on its own metro-wide programs and projects for the delivery of specific services under its jurisdiction, subject to the approval of the Council. For this purpose, MMDA can create appropriate project management offices; (d) Coordinate and monitor the implementation of such plans, programs and projects in Metro Manila; identify bottlenecks and adopt solutions to problems of implementation; (e) The MMDA shall set the policies concerning traffic in Metro Manila, and shall coordinate and regulate the implementation of all programs and projects concerning traffic management, specifically pertaining to enforcement, engineering and education. Upon request, it shall be extended assistance and cooperation, including but not limited to, assignment of personnel, by all other government agencies and offices concerned; (f) Install and administer a single ticketing system, fix, impose and collect fines and penalties for all kinds of violations of traffic rules and regulations, whether moving or non-moving in nature, and confiscate and suspend or revoke drivers licenses in the enforcement of such traffic laws and regulations, the provisions of RA 4136 and PD 1605 to the contrary notwithstanding. For this purpose, the Authority shall impose all traffic laws and regulations in Metro Manila, through its traffic operation center, and may deputize members of the PNP, traffic enforcers of local government units, duly licensed security guards, or members of nongovernmental organizations to whom may be delegated certain authority, subject to such conditions and requirements as the Authority may impose; and (g) Perform other related functions required to achieve the objectives of the MMDA, including the undertaking of

delivery of basic services to the local government units, when deemed necessary subject to prior coordination with and consent of the local government unit concerned." (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) The scope of the function of MMDA as an administrative, coordinating and policy-setting body has been settled inMetropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) v. BelAir Village Association, Inc.41 In that case, the Court stressed: Clearly, the scope of the MMDAs function is limited to the delivery of the seven (7) basic services. One of these is transport and traffic management which includes the formulation and monitoring of policies, standards and projects to rationalize the existing transport operations, infrastructure requirements, the use of thoroughfares and promotion of the safe movement of persons and goods. It also covers the mass transport system and the institution of a system of road regulation, the administration of all traffic enforcement operations, traffic engineering services and traffic education programs, including the institution of a single ticketing system in Metro Manila for traffic violations. Under this service, the MMDA is expressly authorized to "to set the policies concerning traffic" and "coordinate and regulate the implementation of all traffic management programs." In addition, the MMDA may install and administer a single ticketing system," fix, impose and collect fines and penalties for all traffic violations. It will be noted that the powers of the MMDA are limited to the following acts: formulation, coordination, regulation, implementation, preparation, management, monitoring, setting of policies, installation of a system and administration. There is no syllable in R.A. No. 7924 that grants the MMDA police power, let alone legislative power. Even the Metro Manila Council has not been delegated any legislative power. Unlike the legislative bodies of the local government units, there is no provision in R.A. No. 7924 that empowers the MMDA or its Council to enact ordinances, approve resolutions and appropriate funds for the general welfare of the inhabitants of Metro Manila. The MMDA is, as termed in the charter itself, a development authority. It is an agency created for the purpose of laying down policies and coordinating with the various national government agencies, peoples organizations, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector for the efficient and expeditious delivery of basic services in the vast metropolitan area. All its functions are administrative in nature and these are actually summed up in the charter itself, viz: SECTION 2. Creation of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority. . . . The MMDA shall perform planning, monitoring and coordinative functions, and in the process exercise regulatory and supervisory authority over the delivery of metro-wide services within Metro Manila, without diminution of the autonomy of the local government units concerning purely local matters.42 (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) In light of the administrative nature of its powers and functions, the MMDA is devoid of authority to implement the Project as envisioned by the E.O; hence, it could not have been validly designated by the President to undertake the Project. It follows that the MMDA cannot validly order the elimination of respondents terminals. Even the MMDAs claimed authority under the police power must necessarily fail in consonance with the above-quoted ruling in MMDA v. Bel-Air Village Association, Inc. and this Courts subsequent ruling in Metropolitan Manila Development Authority v. Garin43 that the MMDA is not vested with police power. Even assuming arguendo that police power was delegated to the MMDA, its exercise of such power does not satisfy the two tests of a valid police power measure, viz: (1) the interest of the public generally, as distinguished from that 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.44 Stated differently, the police power legislation must be firmly grounded on public interest and welfare and a reasonable relation must exist between the purposes and the means. As early as Calalang v. Williams,45 this Court recognized that traffic congestion is a public, not merely a private, concern. The Court therein held that public welfare underlies the contested statute authorizing the Director of Public Works to promulgate rules and regulations to regulate and control traffic on national roads.

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Likewise, in Luque v. Villegas,46 this Court emphasized that public welfare lies at the bottom of any regulatory measure designed "to relieve congestion of traffic, which is, to say the least, a menace to public safety."47 As such, measures calculated to promote the safety and convenience of the people using the thoroughfares by the regulation of vehicular traffic present a proper subject for the exercise of police power. Notably, the parties herein concede that traffic congestion is a public concern that needs to be addressed immediately. Indeed, the E.O. was issued due to the felt need to address the worsening traffic congestion in Metro Manila which, the MMDA so determined, is caused by the increasing volume of buses plying the major thoroughfares and the inefficient connectivity of existing transport systems. It is thus beyond cavil that the motivating force behind the issuance of the E.O. is the interest of the public in general. Are the means employed appropriate and reasonably necessary for the accomplishment of the purpose. Are they not duly oppressive? With the avowed objective of decongesting traffic in Metro Manila, the E.O. seeks to "eliminate[e] the bus terminals now located along major Metro Manila thoroughfares and provid[e] more convenient access to the mass transport system to the commuting public through the provision of mass transport terminal facilities x x x."48 Common carriers with terminals along the major thoroughfares of Metro Manila would thus be compelled to close down their existing bus terminals and use the MMDA-designated common parking areas. In Lucena Grand Central Terminal, Inc. v. JAC Liner, Inc.,49 two city ordinances were passed by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Lucena, directing public utility vehicles to unload and load passengers at the Lucena Grand Central Terminal, which was given the exclusive franchise to operate a single common terminal. Declaring that no other terminals shall be situated, constructed, maintained or established inside or within the city of Lucena, thesanggunian declared as inoperable all temporary terminals therein. The ordinances were challenged before this Court for being unconstitutional on the ground that, inter alia, the measures constituted an invalid exercise of police power, an undue taking of private property, and a violation of the constitutional prohibition against monopolies. Citing De la Cruz v. Paras50 and Lupangco v. Court of Appeals,51 this Court held that the assailed ordinances were characterized by overbreadth, as they went beyond what was reasonably necessary to solve the traffic problem in the city. And it found that the compulsory use of the Lucena Grand Terminal was unduly oppressive because it would subject its users to fees, rentals and charges. The true role of Constitutional Law is to effect an equilibrium between authority and liberty so that rights are exercised within the framework of the law and the laws are enacted with due deference to rights. A due deference to the rights of the individual thus requires a more careful formulation of solutions to societal problems. From the memorandum filed before this Court by petitioner, it is gathered that the Sangguniang Panlungsod had identified the cause of traffic congestion to be the indiscriminate loading and unloading of passengers by buses on the streets of the city proper, hence, the conclusion that the terminals contributed to the proliferation of buses obstructing traffic on the city streets. Bus terminals per se do not, however, impede or help impede the flow of traffic. How the outright proscription against the existence of all terminals, apart from that franchised to petitioner, can be considered as reasonably necessary to solve the traffic problem, this Court has not been enlightened. If terminals lack adequate space such that bus drivers are compelled to load and unload passengers on the streets instead of inside the terminals, then reasonable specifications for the size of terminals could be instituted, with permits to operate the same denied those which are unable to meet the specifications. In the subject ordinances, however, the scope of the proscription against the maintenance of terminals is so broad that even entities which might be able to provide facilities better than the

franchised terminal are barred from operating at all. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) As in Lucena, this Court fails to see how the prohibition against the existence of respondents terminals can be considered a reasonable necessity to ease traffic congestion in the metropolis. On the contrary, the elimination of respondents bus terminals brings forth the distinct possibility and the equally harrowing reality of traffic congestion in the common parking areas, a case of transference from one site to another. Less intrusive measures such as curbing the proliferation of "colorum" buses, vans and taxis entering Metro Manila and using the streets for parking and passenger pick-up points, as respondents suggest, might even be more effective in easing the traffic situation. So would the strict enforcement of traffic rules and the removal of obstructions from major thoroughfares. As to the alleged confiscatory character of the E.O., it need only to be stated that respondents certificates of public convenience confer no property right, and are mere licenses or privileges.52 As such, these must yield to legislation safeguarding the interest of the people. Even then, for reasons which bear reiteration, the MMDA cannot order the closure of respondents terminals not only because no authority to implement the Project has been granted nor legislative or police power been delegated to it, but also because the elimination of the terminals does not satisfy the standards of a valid police power measure. Finally, an order for the closure of respondents terminals is not in line with the provisions of the Public Service Act. Paragraph (a), Section 13 of Chapter II of the Public Service Act (now Section 5 of Executive Order No. 202, creating the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board or LFTRB) vested the Public Service Commission (PSC, now the LTFRB) with "x x x jurisdiction, supervision and control over all public services and their franchises, equipment and other properties x x x." Consonant with such grant of authority, the PSC was empowered to "impose such conditions as to construction, equipment, maintenance, service, or operation as the public interests and convenience may reasonably require"53 in approving any franchise or privilege. Further, Section 16 (g) and (h) of the Public Service Act54 provided that the Commission shall have the power, upon proper notice and hearing in accordance with the rules and provisions of this Act, subject to the limitations and exceptions mentioned and saving provisions to the contrary: (g) To compel any public service to furnish safe, adequate, and proper service as regards the manner of furnishing the same as well as the maintenance of the necessary material and equipment. (h) To require any public service to establish, construct, maintain, and operate any reasonable extension of its existing facilities, where in the judgment of said Commission, such extension is reasonable and practicable and will furnish sufficient business to justify the construction and maintenance of the same and when the financial condition of the said public service reasonably warrants the original expenditure required in making and operating such extension. (Emphasis and underscoring supplied) The establishment, as well as the maintenance of vehicle parking areas or passenger terminals, is generally considered a necessary service to be provided by provincial bus operators like respondents, hence, the investments they have poured into the acquisition or lease of suitable terminal sites. Eliminating the terminals would thus run counter to the provisions of the Public Service Act. This Court commiserates with the MMDA for the roadblocks thrown in the way of its efforts at solving the pestering problem of traffic congestion in Metro Manila. These efforts are commendable, to say the least, in the face of the abominable traffic situation of our roads day in and day out. This Court can only interpret, not change, the law, however. It needs only to be reiterated that it is the DOTC as the primary policy, planning, programming, coordinating, implementing, regulating and administrative entity to promote, develop and regulate networks of transportation and communications which has the power to establish and administer a transportation project like the Project subject of the case at bar. No matter how noble the intentions of the MMDA may be then, any plan, strategy or project which it is not authorized to implement cannot pass muster. WHEREFORE, the Petition is, in light of the foregoing disquisition, DENIED. E.O. No. 179 is declared NULL and VOID for being ultra vires.

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SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 89651 November 10, 1989 DATU FIRDAUSI I.Y. ABBAS, DATU BLO UMPAR ADIONG, DATU MACALIMPOWAC DELANGALEN, CELSO PALMA, ALI MONTANA BABAO, JULMUNIR JANNARAL, RASHID SABER, and DATU JAMAL ASHLEY ABBAS, representing the other taxpayers of Mindanao, petitioners, vs. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, and HONORABLE GUILLERMO C. CARAGUE, DEPARTMENT SECRETARY OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT, respondents. G.R. No. 89965 November 10, 1989 ATTY. ABDULLAH D. MAMA-O, petitioner, vs. HON. GUILLERMO CARAGUE, in his capacity as the Secretary of the Budget, and the COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, respondents. Abbas, Abbas, Amora, Alejandro-Abbas & Associates for petitioners in G.R. Nos. 89651 and 89965. Abdullah D. Mama-o for and in his own behalf in 89965. CORTES, J.: The present controversy relates to the plebiscite in thirteen (13) provinces and nine (9) cities in Mindanao and Palawan, 1 scheduled for November 19, 1989, in implementation of Republic Act No. 6734, entitled "An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao." These consolidated petitions pray that the Court: (1) enjoin the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from conducting the plebiscite and the Secretary of Budget and Management from releasing funds to the COMELEC for that purpose; and (2) declare R.A. No. 6734, or parts thereof, unconstitutional . After a consolidated comment was filed by Solicitor General for the respondents, which the Court considered as the answer, the case was deemed submitted for decision, the issues having been joined. Subsequently, petitioner Mama-o filed a "Manifestation with Motion for Leave to File Reply on Respondents' Comment and to Open Oral Arguments," which the Court noted. The arguments against R.A. 6734 raised by petitioners may generally be categorized into either of the following: (a) that R.A. 6734, or parts thereof, violates the Constitution, and (b) that certain provisions of R.A. No. 6734 conflict with the Tripoli Agreement. The Tripoli Agreement, more specifically, the Agreement Between the government of the Republic of the Philippines of the Philippines and Moro National Liberation Front with the Participation of the Quadripartie Ministerial Commission Members of the Islamic Conference and the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference" took effect on December 23, 1976. It provided for "[t]he establishment of Autonomy in the southern Philippines within the realm of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines" and enumerated the thirteen (13) provinces comprising the "areas of autonomy." 2 In 1987, a new Constitution was ratified, which the for the first time provided for regional autonomy, Article X, section 15 of the charter provides that "[t]here shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines." To effectuate this mandate, the Constitution further provides: Sec. 16. The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that the laws are faithfully executed. Sec. 17. All powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted by this Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government. Sec. 18. The Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region with the assistance and participation of the regional consultative commission composed of representatives appointed by the President from a list of nominees from multisectoral bodies. The organic act shall

define the basic structure of government for the region consisting of the executive and representative of the constituent political units. The organic acts shall likewise provide for special courts with personal, family, and property law jurisdiction consistent with the provisions of this Constitution and national laws. The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only the provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region. Sec. 19 The first Congress elected under this Constitution shall, within eighteen months from the time of organization of both Houses, pass the organic acts for the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. Sec. 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over: (1) Administrative organization; (2) Creation of sources of revenues; (3) Ancestral domain and natural resources; (4) Personal, family, and property relations; (5) Regional urban and rural planning development; (6) Economic, social and tourism development; (7) Educational policies; (8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and (9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region. Sec. 21. The preservation of peace and order within the regions shall be the responsibility of the local police agencies which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized in accordance with applicable laws. The defense and security of the region shall be the responsibility of the National Government. Pursuant to the constitutional mandate, R.A. No. 6734 was enacted and signed into law on August 1, 1989. 1. The Court shall dispose first of the second category of arguments raised by petitioners, i.e. that certain provisions of R.A. No. 6734 conflict with the provisions of the Tripoli Agreement. Petitioners premise their arguments on the assumption that the Tripoli Agreement is part of the law of the land, being a binding international agreement . The Solicitor General asserts that the Tripoli Agreement is neither a binding treaty, not having been entered into by the Republic of the Philippines with a sovereign state and ratified according to the provisions of the 1973 or 1987 Constitutions, nor a binding international agreement. We find it neither necessary nor determinative of the case to rule on the nature of the Tripoli Agreement and its binding effect on the Philippine Government whether under public international or internal Philippine law. In the first place, it is now the Constitution itself that provides for the creation of an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao. The standard for any inquiry into the validity of R.A. No. 6734 would therefore be what is so provided in the Constitution. Thus, any conflict between the provisions of R.A. No. 6734 and the provisions of the Tripoli Agreement will not have the effect of enjoining the implementation of the Organic Act. Assuming for the sake of argument that the Tripoli Agreement is a binding treaty or international agreement, it would then constitute part of the law of the land. But as internal law it would not be superior to R.A. No. 6734, an enactment of the Congress of the Philippines, rather it would be in the same class as the latter [SALONGA, PUBLIC INTERNATIONAL LAW 320 (4th ed., 1974), citing Head Money Cases, 112 U.S. 580 (1884) and Foster v. Nelson, 2 Pet. 253 (1829)]. Thus, if at all, R.A. No. 6734 would be amendatory of the Tripoli Agreement, being a subsequent law. Only a determination by this Court that R.A. No. 6734 contravened the Constitution would result in the granting of the reliefs sought. 3 2. The Court shall therefore only pass upon the constitutional questions which have been raised by petitioners. Petitioner Abbas argues that R.A. No. 6734 unconditionally creates an autonomous region in Mindanao, contrary to the aforequoted provisions of the Constitution on the autonomous region which make the creation of such region dependent upon the outcome of the plebiscite. In support of his argument, petitioner cites Article II, section 1(1) of R.A. No. 6734 which declares that "[t]here is hereby created the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to be composed of provinces and cities voting favorably in the plebiscite called for the purpose, in accordance with Section 18, Article X of the Constitution." Petitioner contends that the tenor of the above provision makes the creation of an

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autonomous region absolute, such that even if only two provinces vote in favor of autonomy, an autonomous region would still be created composed of the two provinces where the favorable votes were obtained. The matter of the creation of the autonomous region and its composition needs to be clarified. Firs, the questioned provision itself in R.A. No. 6734 refers to Section 18, Article X of the Constitution which sets forth the conditions necessary for the creation of the autonomous region. The reference to the constitutional provision cannot be glossed over for it clearly indicates that the creation of the autonomous region shall take place only in accord with the constitutional requirements. Second, there is a specific provision in the Transitory Provisions (Article XIX) of the Organic Act, which incorporates substantially the same requirements embodied in the Constitution and fills in the details, thus: SEC. 13. The creation of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao shall take effect when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units provided in paragraph (2) of Sec. 1 of Article II of this Act in a plebiscite which shall be held not earlier than ninety (90) days or later than one hundred twenty (120) days after the approval of this Act: Provided, That only the provinces and cities voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The provinces and cities which in the plebiscite do not vote for inclusion in the Autonomous Region shall remain the existing administrative determination, merge the existing regions. Thus, under the Constitution and R.A. No 6734, the creation of the autonomous region shall take effect only when approved by a majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite, and only those provinces and cities where a majority vote in favor of the Organic Act shall be included in the autonomous region. The provinces and cities wherein such a majority is not attained shall not be included in the autonomous region. It may be that even if an autonomous region is created, not all of the thirteen (13) provinces and nine (9) cities mentioned in Article II, section 1 (2) of R.A. No. 6734 shall be included therein. The single plebiscite contemplated by the Constitution and R.A. No. 6734 will therefore be determinative of (1) whether there shall be an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao and (2) which provinces and cities, among those enumerated in R.A. No. 6734, shall compromise it. [See III RECORD OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION 482-492 (1986)]. As provided in the Constitution, the creation of the Autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao is made effective upon the approval "by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose" [Art. X, sec. 18]. The question has been raised as to what this majority means. Does it refer to a majority of the total votes cast in the plebiscite in all the constituent units, or a majority in each of the constituent units, or both? We need not go beyond the Constitution to resolve this question. If the framers of the Constitution intended to require approval by a majority of all the votes cast in the plebiscite they would have so indicated. Thus, in Article XVIII, section 27, it is provided that "[t]his Constitution shall take effect immediately upon its ratification by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite held for the purpose ... Comparing this with the provision on the creation of the autonomous region, which reads: The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region. [Art. X, sec, 18, para, 2]. it will readily be seen that the creation of the autonomous region is made to depend, not on the total majority vote in the plebiscite, but on the will of the majority in each of the constituent units and the proviso underscores this. for if the intention of the framers of the Constitution was to get the majority of the totality of the votes cast, they could have simply adopted the same phraseology as that used for the ratification of the Constitution, i.e. "the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite called for the purpose."

It is thus clear that what is required by the Constitution is a simple majority of votes approving the organic Act in individual constituent units and not a double majority of the votes in all constituent units put together, as well as in the individual constituent units. More importantly, because of its categorical language, this is also the sense in which the vote requirement in the plebiscite provided under Article X, section 18 must have been understood by the people when they ratified the Constitution. Invoking the earlier cited constitutional provisions, petitioner Mama-o, on the other hand, maintains that only those areas which, to his view, share common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics should be properly included within the coverage of the autonomous region. He insists that R.A. No. 6734 is unconstitutional because only the provinces of Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Lanao del Sur, Lanao del Norte and Maguindanao and the cities of Marawi and Cotabato, and not all of the thirteen (13) provinces and nine (9) cities included in the Organic Act, possess such concurrence in historical and cultural heritage and other relevant characteristics. By including areas which do not strictly share the same characteristics. By including areas which do not strictly share the same characteristic as the others, petitioner claims that Congress has expanded the scope of the autonomous region which the constitution itself has prescribed to be limited. Petitioner's argument is not tenable. The Constitution lays down the standards by which Congress shall determine which areas should constitute the autonomous region. Guided by these constitutional criteria, the ascertainment by Congress of the areas that share common attributes is within the exclusive realm of the legislature's discretion. Any review of this ascertainment would have to go into the wisdom of the law. This the Court cannot do without doing violence to the separation of governmental powers. [Angara v. Electoral Commission, 63 Phil 139 (1936); Morfe v. Mutuc, G.R. No. L20387, January 31, 1968, 22 SCRA 424]. After assailing the inclusion of non-Muslim areas in the Organic Act for lack of basis, petitioner Mama-o would then adopt the extreme view that other non-Muslim areas in Mindanao should likewise be covered. He argues that since the Organic Act covers several non-Muslim areas, its scope should be further broadened to include the rest of the non-Muslim areas in Mindanao in order for the other non-Muslim areas denies said areas equal protection of the law, and therefore is violative of the Constitution. Petitioner's contention runs counter to the very same constitutional provision he had earlier invoked. Any determination by Congress of what areas in Mindanao should compromise the autonomous region, taking into account shared historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics, would necessarily carry with it the exclusion of other areas. As earlier stated, such determination by Congress of which areas should be covered by the organic act for the autonomous region constitutes a recognized legislative prerogative, whose wisdom may not be inquired into by this Court. Moreover, equal protection permits of reasonable classification [People v. Vera, 65 Phil. 56 (1963); Laurel v. Misa, 76 Phil. 372 (1946); J.M. Tuason and Co. v. Land tenure Administration, G.R. No. L-21064, February 18, 1970, 31 SCRA 413]. In Dumlao v. Commission on Elections G.R. No. 52245, January 22, 1980, 95 SCRA 392], the Court ruled that once class may be treated differently from another where the groupings are based on reasonable and real distinctions. The guarantee of equal protection is thus not infringed in this case, the classification having been made by Congress on the basis of substantial distinctions as set forth by the Constitution itself. Both petitions also question the validity of R.A. No. 6734 on the ground that it violates the constitutional guarantee on free exercise of religion [Art. III, sec. 5]. The objection centers on a provision in the Organic Act which mandates that should there be any conflict between the Muslim Code [P.D. No. 1083] and the Tribal Code (still be enacted) on the one had, and the national law on the other hand, the Shari'ah courts created under the same Act should apply national law. Petitioners maintain that the islamic law (Shari'ah) is derived from the Koran, which makes it part of divine law. Thus it may not be subjected to any "man-made" national law. Petitioner Abbas supports this objection by enumerating possible instances of conflict between provisions of the Muslim Code and national law, wherein an application of national law might be offensive to a Muslim's religious convictions. As enshrined in the Constitution, judicial power includes the duty to settle actual controversies involving rights which are

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legally demandable and enforceable. [Art. VIII, Sec. 11. As a condition precedent for the power to be exercised, an actual controversy between litigants must first exist [Angara v. Electoral Commission, supra; Tan v. Macapagal, G.R. No. L-34161, February 29, 1972, 43 SCRA 677]. In the present case, no actual controversy between real litigants exists. There are no conflicting claims involving the application of national law resulting in an alleged violation of religious freedom. This being so, the Court in this case may not be called upon to resolve what is merely a perceived potential conflict between the provisions the Muslim Code and national law. Petitioners also impugn the constitutionality of Article XIX, section 13 of R.A. No. 6734 which, among others, states: . . . Provided, That only the provinces and cities voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The provinces and cities which in the plebiscite do not vote for inclusion in the Autonomous Region shall remain in the existing administrative regions:Provided, however, that the President may, by administrative determination, merge the existing regions. According to petitioners, said provision grants the President the power to merge regions, a power which is not conferred by the Constitution upon the President. That the President may choose to merge existing regions pursuant to the Organic Act is challenged as being in conflict with Article X, Section 10 of the Constitution which 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 units directly affected. It must be pointed out that what is referred to in R.A. No. 6734 is the merger of administrative regions, i.e. Regions I to XII and the National Capital Region, which are mere groupings of contiguous provinces for administrative purposes [Integrated Reorganization Plan (1972), which was made as part of the law of the land by Pres. dec. No. 1, Pres. Dec. No. 742]. Administrative regions are not territorial and political subdivisions like provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays [see Art. X, sec. 1 of the Constitution]. While the power to merge administrative regions is not expressly provided for in the Constitution, it is a power which has traditionally been lodged with the President to facilitate the exercise of the power of general supervision over local governments [see Art. X, sec. 4 of the Constitution]. There is no conflict between the power of the President to merge administrative regions with the constitutional provision requiring a plebiscite in the merger of local government units because the requirement of a plebiscite in a merger expressly applies only to provinces, cities, municipalities or barangays, not to administrative regions. Petitioners likewise question the validity of provisions in the Organic Act which create an Oversight Committee to supervise the transfer to the autonomous region of the powers, appropriations, and properties vested upon the regional government by the organic Act [Art. XIX, Secs. 3 and 4]. Said provisions mandate that the transfer of certain national government offices and their properties to the regional government shall be made pursuant to a schedule prescribed by the Oversight Committee, and that such transfer should be accomplished within six (6) years from the organization of the regional government. It is asserted by petitioners that such provisions are unconstitutional because while the Constitution states that the creation of the autonomous region shall take effect upon approval in a plebiscite, the requirement of organizing an Oversight committee tasked with supervising the transfer of powers and properties to the regional government would in effect delay the creation of the autonomous region. Under the Constitution, the creation of the autonomous region hinges only on the result of the plebiscite. if the Organic Act is approved by majority of the votes cast by constituent units in the scheduled plebiscite, the creation of the autonomous region immediately takes effect delay the creation of the autonomous region. Under the constitution, the creation of the autonomous region hinges only on the result of the plebiscite. if the Organic Act is approved by majority of the votes cast by constituent units in the scheduled plebiscite, the creation

of the autonomous region immediately takes effect. The questioned provisions in R.A. No. 6734 requiring an oversight Committee to supervise the transfer do not provide for a different date of effectivity. Much less would the organization of the Oversight Committee cause an impediment to the operation of the Organic Act, for such is evidently aimed at effecting a smooth transition period for the regional government. The constitutional objection on this point thus cannot be sustained as there is no bases therefor. Every law has in its favor the presumption of constitutionality [Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad, 47 Phil. 387 (1925); Salas v. Jarencio, G.R. No. L-29788, August 30, 1979, 46 SCRA 734; Morfe v. Mutuc, supra; Peralta v. COMELEC, G.R. No. L-47771, March 11, 1978, 82 SCRA 30]. Those who petition this Court to declare a law, or parts thereof, unconstitutional must clearly establish the basis for such a declaration. otherwise, their petition must fail. Based on the grounds raised by petitioners to challenge the constitutionality of R.A. No. 6734, the Court finds that petitioners have failed to overcome the presumption. The dismissal of these two petitions is, therefore, inevitable. WHEREFORE, the petitions are DISMISSED for lack of merit. SO ORDERED. EN BANC [G.R. No. 93054 : December 4, 1990.] 192 SCRA 100 Cordillera Regional Assembly Member ALEXANDER P. ORDILLO, (Banaue), Ifugao Provincial Board Member CORAZON MONTINIG, (Mayoyao), Former Vice-Mayor MARTIN UDAN (Banaue), Municipal Councilors MARTIN GANO, (Lagawe), and TEODORO HEWE, (Hingyon), Barangay Councilman PEDRO W. DULAG (Lamut); Aguinaldo residents SANDY B. CHANGIWAN, and DONATO TIMAGO; Lamut resident REY ANTONIO; Kiangan residents ORLANDO PUGUON, and REYNAND DULDULAO; Lagawe residents TOMAS KIMAYONG, GREGORIO DANGO, GEORGE B. BAYWONG, and VICENTE LUNAG; Hingyon residents PABLO M. DULNUAN and CONSTANCIO GANO; Mayoyao residents PEDRO M. BAOANG, LEONARDO IGADNA, and MAXIMO IGADNA; and Banaue residents PUMA-A CULHI, LATAYON BUTTIG, MIGUEL PUMELBAN, ANDRES ORDILLO, FEDERICO MARIANO, SANDY BINOMNGA, GABRIEL LIMMANG, ROMEO TONGALI, RUBEN BAHATAN, MHOMDY GABRIEL, and NADRES GHAMANG, Petitioners, vs. THE COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS; The Honorable FRANKLIN M. DRILON, Secretary of Justice; Hon. CATALINO MACARAIG, Executive Secretary; The Cabinet Officer for Regional Development; Hon. GUILLERMO CARAGUE, Secretary of Budget and Management; and Hon. ROSALINA S. CAJUCOM, OIC, National Treasurer, Respondents. DECISION GUTIERREZ, JR., J.: The question raised in this petition is whether or not the province of Ifugao, being the only province which voted favorably for the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region can, alone, legally and validly constitute such Region. The antecedent facts that gave rise to this petition are as follows: On January 30, 1990, the people of the provinces of Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Abra and Kalinga-Apayao and the city of Baguio cast their votes in a plebiscite held pursuant to Republic Act No. 6766 entitled "An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Cordillera Autonomous Region." The official Commission on Elections (COMELEC) results of the plebiscite showed that the creation of the Region was approved by a majority of 5,889 votes in only the Ifugao Province and was overwhelmingly rejected by 148,676 votes in the rest of the provinces and city above-mentioned. Consequently, the COMELEC, on February 14, 1990, issued Resolution No. 2259 stating that the Organic Act for the Region has been approved and/or ratified by majority of the votes cast only in the province of Ifugao. On the same date, the Secretary of Justice issued a memorandum for the President reiterating the COMELEC resolution and provided: ". . . [A]nd considering the proviso in Sec. 13(A) that only the provinces and city voting favorably shall be included in the CAR, the province of Ifugao being the only province which voted favorably then, alone, legally and validly constitutes the CAR." (Rollo, p. 7)

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As a result of this, on March 8, 1990, Congress enacted Republic Act No. 6861 setting the elections in the Cordillera Autonomous Region of Ifugao on the first Monday of March 1991.: nad Even before the issuance of the COMELEC resolution, the Executive Secretary on February 5, 1990 issued a Memorandum granting authority to wind up the affairs of the Cordillera Executive Board and the Cordillera Regional Assembly created under Executive Order No. 220. On March 9, 1990, the petitioner filed a petition with COMELEC to declare the non-ratification of the Organic Act for the Region. The COMELEC merely noted said petition. On March 30, 1990, the President issued Administrative Order No. 160 declaring among others that the Cordillera Executive Board and Cordillera Regional Assembly and all the offices created under Executive Order No. 220 were abolished in view of the ratification of the Organic Act.nad The petitioners maintain that there can be no valid Cordillera Autonomous Region in only one province as the Constitution and Republic Act No. 6766 require that the said Region be composed of more than one constituent unit. The petitioners, then, pray that the Court: (1) declare null and void COMELEC resolution No. 2259, the memorandum of the Secretary of Justice, the memorandum of the Executive Secretary, Administrative Order No. 160, and Republic Act No. 6861 and prohibit and restrain the respondents from implementing the same and spending public funds for the purpose and (2) declare Executive Order No. 220 constituting the Cordillera Executive Board and the Cordillera Regional Assembly and other offices to be still in force and effect until another organic law for the Autonomous Region shall have been enacted by Congress and the same is duly ratified by the voters in the constituent units. We treat the Comments of the respondents as an answer and decide the case. This petition is meritorious. The sole province of Ifugao cannot validly constitute the Cordillera Autonomous Region. It is explicit in Article X, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution that: "Section 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordillera consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines." (Emphasis Supplied) The keywords provinces, cities, municipalities and geographical areas connote that "region" is to be made up of more than one constituent unit. The term "region" used in its ordinary sense means two or more provinces. This is supported by the fact that the thirteen (13) regions into which the Philippines is divided for administrative purposes are groupings of contiguous provinces. (Integrated Reorganization Plan (1972), which was made as part of the law of the land by P.D. No. 1; P.D. No. 742) Ifugao is a province by itself. To become part of a region, it must join other provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas. It joins other units because of their common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures and other relevant characteristics. The Constitutional requirements are not present in this case.- nad The well-established rule in statutory construction that the language of the Constitution, as much as possible should be understood in the sense it has in common use and that the words used in constitutional provisions are to be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed, must then, be applied in this case. (See Baranda v. Gustilo, 165 SCRA 757, 770, [1988]; J.M. Tuason & Co., Inc. v. Land Tenure Administration, 31 SCRA 413, 422-423 [1970]). Aside from the 1987 Constitution, a reading of the provisions of Republic Act No. 6766 strengthens the petitioner's position that the Region cannot be constituted from only one province. Article III, Sections 1 and 2 of the Statute provide that the Cordillera Autonomous Region is to be administered by the Cordillera government consisting of the Regional

Government and local government units. It further provides that: "SECTION 2. The Regional Government shall exercise powers and functions necessary for the proper governance and development of all provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangay or ili within the Autonomous Region . . ." From these sections, it can be gleaned that Congress never intended that a single province may constitute the autonomous region. Otherwise, we would be faced with the absurd situation of having two sets of officials, a set of provincial officials and another set of regional officials exercising their executive and legislative powers over exactly the same small area. Article V, Sections 1 and 4 of Republic Act 6766 vest the legislative power in the Cordillera Assembly whose members shall be elected from regional assembly districts apportioned among provinces and the cities composing the Autonomous Region. chanrobles virtual law library If we follow the respondent's position, the members of such Cordillera Assembly shall then be elected only from the province of Ifugao creating an awkward predicament of having two legislative bodies the Cordillera Assembly and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan exercising their legislative powers over the province of Ifugao. And since Ifugao is one of the smallest provinces in the Philippines, population-wise, it would have too many government officials for so few people.:cralaw Article XII, Section 10 of the law creates a Regional Planning and Development Board composed of the Cordillera Governor, all the provincial governors and city mayors or their representatives, two members of the Cordillera Assembly, and members representing the private sector. The Board has a counterpart in the provincial level called the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator. The Board's functions (Article XII, Section 10, par. 2, Republic Act No. 6766) are almost similar to those of the Provincial Coordinator's (Title Four, Chapter 3, Article 10, Section 220 (4), Batas Pambansa Blg. 337 Local Government Code). If it takes only one person in the provincial level to perform such functions while on the other hand it takes an entire Board to perform almost the same tasks in the regional level, it could only mean that a larger area must be covered at the regional level. The respondent's theory of the Autonomous Region being made up of a single province must, therefore, fail. Article XXI, Section 13 (B) (c) alloting the huge amount of Ten Million Pesos (P10,000,000.00) to the Regional Government for its initial organizational requirements cannot be construed as funding only a lone and small province. These sections of Republic Act No. 6766 show that a one province Cordillera Autonomous Region was never contemplated by the law creating it. The province of Ifugao makes up only 11% of the total population of the areas enumerated in Article I, Section 2 (b) of Republic Act No. 6766 which include Benguet, Mountain Province, Abra, Kalinga-Apayao and Baguio City. It has the second smallest number of inhabitants from among the provinces and city above mentioned. The Cordillera population is distributed in round figures as follows: Abra, 185,000; Benguet, 486,000; Ifugao, 149,000; Kalinga-Apayao, 214,000; Mountain Province, 116,000; and Baguio City, 183,000; Total population of these five provinces and one city; 1,332,000 according to the 1990 Census (Manila Standard, September 30, 1990, p. 14). There are other provisions of Republic Act No. 6766 which are either violated or which cannot be complied with. Section 16 of Article V calls for a Regional Commission on Appointments with the Speaker as Chairman and are (6) members coming from different provinces and cities in the Region. Under the respondents' view, the Commission would have a Chairman and only one member. It would never have a quorum. Section 3 of Article VI calls for cabinet members, as far as practicable, to come from various provinces and cities of the Region. Section 1 of Article VII creates a system of tribal courts for the various indigenous cultural communities of the Region. Section 9 of Article XV requires the development of a common regional language based upon the various languages and dialects in the region which regional language in turn is expected to enrich the national language. The entirety of Republic Act No. 6766 creating the Cordillera Autonomous Region is infused with provisions which rule against the sole province of Ifugao constituting the Region.:cralaw To contemplate the situation envisioned by the respondent would not only violate the letter and intent of the Constitution

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and Republic Act No. 6766 but would also be impractical and illogical. Our decision in Abbas, et al. v. COMELEC, (G.R. No. 89651, November 10, 1969), is not applicable in the case at bar contrary to the view of the Secretary of Justice. The Abbas case laid down the rate on the meaning of majority in the phrase "by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units called for the purpose" found in the Constitution, Article X, Section 18. It stated: x x x ". . . [I]t is thus clear that what is required by the Constitution is simple majority of votes approving the Organic Act in individual constituent units and not a double majority of the votes in all constituent units put together, as well as in the individual constituent units." This was the pronouncement applied by the Secretary of Justice in arriving at his conclusion stated in his Memorandum for the President that: x x x ". . . [i]t is believed that the creation of the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) as mandated by R.A. No. 6766 became effective upon its approval by the majority of the votes cast in the province of Ifugao. And considering the proviso in Section 13 (a) that only the provinces and city voting favorably shall be included in the CAR, the province of Ifugao being the only province which voted favorably can, alone, legally and validly constitute the CAR." (Rollo. p. 40). The plebiscites mandated by the Constitution and Republic Act No. 6766 for the Cordillera and Republic Act No. 6734 for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao determine (1) whether there shall be an autonomous region in the Cordillera and in Muslim Mindanao and (2) which provinces and cities, among those enumerated in the two Republic Acts, shall comprise said Autonomous Regions. (See III, Record of the Constitutional Commission, 487-492 [1986]). The Abbas case established the rule to follow on which provinces and cities shall comprise the autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao which is, consequently, the same rule to follow with regard to the autonomous region in the Cordillera. However, there is nothing in the Abbas decision which deals with the issue on whether an autonomous region, in either Muslim Mindanao or Cordillera could exist despite the fact that only one province or one city is to constitute it.chanrobles virtual law library Stated in another way, the issue in this case is whether the sole province of Ifugao can validly and legally constitute the Cordillera Autonomous Region. The issue is not whether the province of Ifugao is to be included in the Cordillera Autonomous Region. It is the first issue which the Court answers in the instant case. WHEREFORE, the petition is hereby GRANTED. Resolution No. 2259 of the Commission on Elections, insofar as it upholds the creation of an autonomous region, the February 14, 1990 memorandum of the Secretary of Justice, the February 5, 1990 memorandum of the Executive Secretary, Administrative Order No. 160, and Republic Act No. 6861 are declared null and void while Executive Order No. 220 is declared to be still in force and effect until properly repealed or amended. SO ORDERED. CORDILLERA BROAD COALITION, Petitioner, G. R. No. 79956 January 29, 1990 -versusCOMMISSION ON AUDIT, Respondent. ___________________________________ LILIA YARANON and BONA BAUTISTA, Assisted by Their Spouses, BRAULIO D. YARANON and DEMETRIO D. BAUTISTA, JR., Respectively, JAMES BRETT and SINAI C. HAMADA, Petitioners, G. R. No. 82217 January 29, 1990

-versusCOMMISSION ON AUDIT, HON. CATALINO MACARAIG, Executive Secretary, HON. VICENTE JAYME, Secretary of Finance, HON. GUILLERMO N. CARAGUE, Secretary of Budget and Management, and HON. ROSALINA S. CAJUCOM, OIC National Treasurer, Respondents.

DECISION CORTES, J.: In these consolidated Petitions, the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 220 dated July 15, 1987, which created the [Cordillera Administrative Region] is assailed on the primary ground that it pre-empts the enactment of an organic act by Congress and the creation of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras conditional on the approval of the act through a plebiscite. Relative to the creation of autonomous regions, the Constitution, in Article X, provides: AUTONOMOUS REGIONS Sec. 15. There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines. Sec. 16. The President shall exercise general supervision over autonomous regions to ensure that laws are faithfully executed. Sec. 17. All powers, functions, and responsibilities not granted under the Constitution or by law to the autonomous regions shall be vested in the National Government. Sec. 18. The Congress shall enact an organic act for each autonomous region with the assistance and participation of the regional consultative commission composed of representatives appointed by the President from a list of nominees from multisectoral bodies. The organic act shall define the basic structure of government for the region consisting of the executive department and legislative assembly, both of which shall be elective and representative of the constituent political units. The organic acts shall likewise provide for special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction consistent with the provisions of this Constitution and national laws. The creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose, provided that only provinces, cities, and geographic areas voting favorably in such plebiscite shall be included in the autonomous region. Sec. 19. The first Congress elected under this Constitution shall, within eighteen months from the time of organization of both Houses, pass the organic acts for the autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. Sec. 20. Within its territorial jurisdiction and subject to the provisions of this Constitution and national laws, the organic act of autonomous regions shall provide for legislative powers over: (1) Administrative organization; (2) Creation of sources of revenues; (3) Ancestral domain and natural resources; (4) Personal, family and property relations; (5) Regional urban and rural planning development; (6) Economic, social and tourism development ; (7) Educational policies; (8) Preservation and development of the cultural heritage; and (9) Such other matters as may be authorized by law for the promotion of the general welfare of the people of the region. Sec. 21. The preservation of peace and order within the regions shall be the responsibility of the local police agencies which shall be organized, maintained, supervised, and utilized in accordance with applicable laws. The defense and security of the regions shall be the responsibility of the National Government. A study of E. O. No. 220 would be incomplete without reference to its historical background.

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In April 1986, just after the EDSA Revolution, Fr. Conrado M. Balweg, S.V.D., broke off, on ideological grounds, from the Communist Party of the Philippines [CPP] and its military arm, the New People's Army [NPA]. After President Aquino was installed into office by People Power, she advocated a policy of national reconciliation. She called on all revolutionary forces to a peace dialogue. The CPLA heeded this call of the President. After the preliminary negotiations, President Aquino and some members of her Cabinet flew to Mt. Data in the Mountain Province on September 13, 1986 and signed with Fr. Conrado M. Balweg [as Commander of the CPLA] and Ama Mario Yag-ao [as President of Cordillera Bodong Administration, the civil government of the CPLA] a ceasefire agreement that signified the cessation of hostilities [Whereas No. 7, E .O. 220]. The parties arrived at an agreement in principle: the Cordillera people shall not undertake their demands through armed and violent struggle but by peaceful means, such as political negotiations. The negotiations shall be a continuing process until the demands of the Cordillera people shall have been substantially granted. On March 27, 1987, Ambassador Pelaez [Acting as Chief Negotiator of the government], in pursuance of the September 13, 1986 agreement, flew to the Mansion House, Baguio City, and signed with Fr. Balweg [as Chairman of the Cordillera Panel] a joint agreement, paragraphs 2 and 3 of which, state: Par. 2. Work together in drafting an Executive Order to create a preparatory body that could perform policymaking and administrative functions and undertake consultations and studies leading to a draft organic act for the Cordilleras. Par. 3. Have representatives from the Cordillera panel join the study group of the R.P. Panel in drafting the Executive Order. Pursuant to the above joint agreement, E. O. 220 was drafted by a panel of the Philippine government and of the representatives of the Cordillera people. On July 15, 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino signed the joint draft into law, known now as E. O. 220. [Rejoinder; G. R. No. 82217, pp. 2-3]. Executive Order No. 220 issued by the President in the exercise of her legislative powers under Art. XVIII, Sec. 6 of the 1987 Constitution, created the Cordillera Administrative Region [CAR] , which covers the provinces of Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga-Apayao and Mountain Province and the City of Baguio [Secs. 1 and 2]. It was created to accelerate economic and social growth in the region and to prepare for the establishment of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras [Sec. 3]. Its main function is to coordinate the planning and implementation of programs and services in the region, particularly, to coordinate with the local government units as well as with the executive departments of the National Government in the supervision of field offices and in identifying, planning, monitoring, and accepting projects and activities in the region [Sec. 5]. It shall also monitor the implementation of all ongoing national and local government projects in the region [Sec. 20]. The CAR shall have a Cordillera Regional Assembly as a policyformulating body and a Cordillera Executive Board as an implementing arm [Secs. 7, 8 and 10]. The CAR and the Assembly and Executive Board shall exist until such time as the autonomous regional government is established and organized [Sec. 17]. Explaining the rationale for the issuance of E. O. No. 220, its last "Whereas" clause provides: WHEREAS, pending the convening of the first Congress and the enactment of the organic act for a Cordillera autonomous region, there is an urgent need, in the interest of national security and public order, for the President to reorganize immediately the existing administrative structure in the Cordilleras to suit it to the existing political realities therein and the Government's legitimate concerns in the areas, without attempting to pre-empt the constitutional duty of the first Congress to undertake the creation of an autonomous region on a permanent basis. During the pendency of this case, Republic Act No. 6766 entitled "An Act Providing for an Organic Act for the Cordillera Autonomous Region," was enacted and signed into law. The Act recognizes the CAR and the offices and

agencies created under E. O. No. 220 and its transitory nature is reinforced in Art. XXI of R. A. No. 6766, to wit: SEC. 3. The Cordillera Executive Board, the Cordillera Region Assembly as well as all offices and agencies created under Execute Order No. 220 shall cease to exist immediately upon the ratification of this Organic Act. All funds, properties and assets of the Cordillera Executive Board and the Cordillera Regional Assembly shall automatically be transferred to the Cordillera Autonomous Government. I. It is well-settled in our jurisdiction that respect for the inherent and stated powers and prerogatives of the law-making body as well as faithful adherence to the principle of separation of powers, require that its enactment be accorded the presumption of constitutionality. Thus, in any challenge to the constitutionality of a statute, the burden of clearly and unequivocally proving its unconstitutionality always rests upon the challenger. Conversely, failure to so prove will necessarily defeat the challenge. We shall be guided by these principles in considering these consolidated petitions. In these cases, petitioners principally argue that by issuing E. O. No. 220, the President, in the exercise of her legislative powers prior to the convening of the first Congress under the 1987 Constitution, has virtually preempted Congress from its mandated task of enacting an organic act and created an autonomous region in the Cordilleras. We have carefully studied the Constitution and E. O. No. 220 and We have come to the conclusion that petitioners' assertions are unfounded. Events subsequent to the issuance of E. O. No. 220 also bear out this conclusion. 1. A reading of E. O. No. 220 will easily reveal that what it actually envisions is the consolidation and coordination of the delivery of services of line departments and agencies of the National Government in the areas covered by the administrative region as a step preparatory to the grant of autonomy to the Cordilleras. It does not create the autonomous region contemplated in the Constitution. It merely provides for transitory measures in anticipation of the enactment of an organic act and the creation of an autonomous region. In short, it prepares the ground for autonomy. This does not necessarily conflict with the provisions of the Constitution on autonomous regions, as we shall show later. The Constitution outlines a complex procedure for the creation of an autonomous region in the Cordilleras. A Regional Consultative Commission shall first be created. The President shall then appoint the members of a Regional Consultative Commission from a list of nominees from multi-sectoral bodies. The Commission shall assist Congress in preparing the organic act for the autonomous region. The organic act shall be passed by the first Congress under the 1987 Constitution within eighteen months from the time of its organization and enacted into law. Thereafter, there shall be held a plebiscite for the approval of the organic act [Art. X, Sec. 18]. Only then, after its approval in the plebiscite, shall the autonomous region be created. Undoubtedly, all of these will take time. The President, in 1987 still exercising legislative powers as the first Congress had not yet convened, saw it fit to provide for some measures to address the urgent needs of the Cordilleras in the meantime that the organic act had not yet been passed and the autonomous region created. These measures We find in E. O. No. 220. The steps taken by the President are obviously perceived by petitioners, particularly petitioner Yaranon who views E. O. No. 220 as capitulation to the Cordillera People's Liberation Army [CPLA] of Balweg, as unsound, but the Court cannot inquire into the wisdom of the measures taken by the President. We can only inquire into whether or not the measures violate the Constitution. But as We have seen earlier, they do not. 2. Moreover, the transitory nature of the CAR does not necessarily mean that it is, as petitioner Cordillera Broad Coalition asserts, "the interim autonomous region in the Cordilleras" [Petition, G. R. No. 79956, p. 25]. The Constitution provides for a basic structure of government in the autonomous region composed of an elective executive and legislature and special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction [Art. X, Sec. 18]. Using this as a guide, We find that E. O. No. 220 did not establish an autonomous regional government. It created a region, covering a specified area, for administrative purposes with the main objective of coordinating the planning and implementation of programs and services [Secs. 2 and 5]. To determine policy, it created a representative assembly, to convene yearly only for a five-day regular session, tasked with, among others,

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identifying priority projects and development programs [Sec. 9]. To serve as an implementing body, it created the Cordillera Executive Board composed of the Mayor of Baguio City, provincial governors and representatives of the Cordillera Bodong Administration, ethno-linguistic groups and non-governmental organizations as regular members and all regional directors of the line departments of the National Government as exofficio members and headed by an Executive Director [Secs. 10 and 11]. The bodies created by E. O. No. 220 do not supplant the existing local governmental structure; nor are they autonomous government agencies. They merely constitute the mechanism for an "umbrella" that brings together the existing local governments, the agencies of the National Government, the ethno-linguistic groups or tribes and non-governmental organizations in a concerted effort to spur development in the Cordilleras. The creation of the CAR for purposes of administrative coordination is underscored by the mandate of E. O. No. 220 for the President and appropriate national departments and agencies to make available sources of funds for priority development programs and projects recommended by the CAR [Sec. 21] and the power given to the President to call upon the appropriate executive departments and agencies of the National Government to assist the CAR [Sec. 24]. 3. Subsequent to the issuance of E. O. No. 220, the Congress, after it was convened, enacted Republic Act No. 6658 which created the Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission. The President then appointed its members. The Commission prepared a draft organic act which became the basis for the deliberations of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The result was Republic Act No. 6766, the organic act for the Cordillera autonomous region which was signed into law on October 23, 1989. A plebiscite for the approval of the organic act, to be conducted shortly, shall complete the process outlined in the Constitution. In the meantime, E. O. No. 220 had been in force and effect for more than two years and We find that, despite E. O. No. 220, the autonomous region in the Cordilleras is still to be created, showing the lack of basis of petitioners' assertion. Events have shown that petitioners' fear that E. O. No. 220 was a "shortcut" for the creation of the autonomous region in the Cordilleras was totally unfounded. Clearly, petitioners' principal challenge has failed. II. A collateral issue raised by petitioners is the nature of the CAR: whether or not it is a territorial and political subdivision. The Constitution provides in Article X: Section 1. The territorial and political subdivisions of the Republic of the Philippines are the provinces, cities, municipalities, and barangays. There shall be autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras as hereinafter provided. xxx xxx xxx Sec. 10. 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 units directly affected. We have seen earlier that the CAR is not the autonomous region in the Cordilleras contemplated by the Constitution. Thus, We now address petitioners' assertion that E. O. No. 220 contravenes the Constitution by creating a new territorial and political subdivision. After carefully considering the provisions of E. O. No. 220, We find that it did not create a new territorial and political subdivision or merge existing ones into a larger subdivision. 1. Firstly, the CAR is not a public corporation or a territorial and political subdivision. It does not have a separate juridical personality, unlike provinces, cities and municipalities. Neither is it vested with the powers that are normally granted to public corporations, e.g., the power to sue and be sued, the power to own and dispose of property, the power to create its own sources of revenue, etc. As stated earlier, the CAR was created primarily to coordinate the planning and implementation of programs and services in the covered areas.

The creation of administrative regions for the purpose of expediting the delivery of services is nothing new. The Integrated Reorganization Plan of 1972 which was made as part of the law of the land by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1 established eleven [11] regions, later increased to twelve [12], with definite regional centers and required departments and agencies of the Executive Branch of the National Government to set up field offices therein. The functions of the regional offices to be established pursuant to the Reorganization Plan are: [1] to implement laws, policies, plans, programs, rules and regulations of the department or agency in the regional areas; [2] to provide economical, efficient and effective service to the people in the area; [3] to coordinate with regional offices of other departments, bureaus and agencies in the area; [4] to coordinate with local government units in the area; and [5] to perform such other functions as may be provided by law. [See Part II, chap. III, art. 1, of the Reorganization Plan]. We can readily see that the CAR is in the same genre as the administrative regions created under the Reorganization Plan albeit under E. O. No. 220, the operation of the CAR requires the participation not only of the line departments and agencies of the National Government but also the local governments, ethno-linguistic groups and non-governmental organizations in bringing about the desired objectives and the appropriation of funds solely for that purpose. 2. Then, considering the control and supervision exercised by the President over the CAR and the offices created under E. O. No. 220 and considering further the indispensable participation of the line departments of the National Government, the CAR may be considered more than anything else as a regional coordinating agency of the National Government, similar to the regional development councils which the President may create under the Constitution [Art. X, Sec. 14]. These councils are "composed of local government officials, regional heads of departments and other government offices, and representatives from non-governmental organizations within the region for purposes of administrative decentralization to strengthen the autonomy of the units therein and to accelerate the economic and social growth and development of the units in the region." [Ibid.] In this wise, the CAR may be considered as a more sophisticated version of the regional development council. III. Finally, petitioners incidentally argue that the creation of the CAR contravened the constitutional guarantee of the local autonomy for the provinces [Abra, Benguet, Ifugao, KalingaApayao and Mountain Province] and city [Baguio City] which compose the CAR. We find first a need to clear up petitioners' apparent misconception of the concept of local autonomy. It must be clarified that the constitutional guarantee of local autonomy in the Constitution [Art. X, Sec. 2] refers to the administrative autonomy of local government units or cast in more technical language, the decentralization of government authority [Villegas v. Subido, G. R. No. L-31004, January 8, 1971, 37 SCRA 1]. Local autonomy is not unique to the 1987 Constitution, it being guaranteed also under the 1973 Constitution [Art. II, Sec. 10]. And while there was no express guarantee under the 1935 Constitution, the Congress enacted the Local Autonomy Act [R. A. No. 2264] and the Decentralization Act [R.A. No. 5185], which ushered the irreversible march towards further enlargement of local autonomy in the country [Villegas v. Subido, supra]. On the other hand, the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras which is peculiar to the 1987 Constitution, contemplates the grant of political autonomy and not just administrative autonomy of these regions. Thus, the provision in the Constitution for an autonomous regional government with a basic structure consisting of an executive department and a legislative assembly and special courts with personal, family and property law jurisdiction in each of the autonomous regions [Art. X, Sec. 18]. As we have said earlier, the CAR is a mere transitory coordinating agency that would prepare the stage for political autonomy for the Cordilleras. It fills in the resulting gap in the process of transforming a group of adjacent territorial and political subdivisions already enjoying local or administrative autonomy into an autonomous region vested with political autonomy. Anent petitioners' objection, We note the obvious failure to show how the creation of the CAR has actually diminished the local autonomy of the covered provinces and city. It cannot be over-emphasized that pure speculation and a resort to

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probabilities are insufficient to cause the invalidation of E. O. No. 220. WHEREFORE, the petitions are dismissed for lack of merit. SO ORDERED. G.R. No. 149848 November 25, 2004 ARSADI M. DISOMANGCOP and RAMIR M. DIMALOTANG, petitioners, vs. THE SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS SIMEON A. DATUMANONG and THE SECRETARY OF BUDGET and MANAGEMENT EMILIA T. BONCODIN, respondents. DECISION TINGA, J.: At stake in the present case is the fate of regional autonomy for Muslim Mindanao which is the epochmaking, Constitution-based project for achieving national unity in diversity. Challenged in the instant petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus with prayer for a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction1 (Petition) are the constitutionality and validity of Republic Act No. 8999 (R.A. 8999),2 entitled "An Act Establishing An Engineering District in the First District of the Province of Lanao del Sur and Appropriating Funds Therefor," and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Department Order No. 119 (D.O. 119)3 on the subject, "Creation of Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office." The Background The uncontested legal and factual antecedents of the case follow. For the first time in its history after three Constitutions, the Philippines ordained the establishment of regional autonomy with the adoption of the 1987 Constitution. Sections 14 and 15, Article X mandate the creation of autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras. Section 15 specifically provides that "[t]here shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and in the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines." To effectuate this mandate, the Charter devotes a number of provisions under Article X.5 Pursuant to the constitutional mandate, Republic Act No. 6734 (R.A. 6734), entitled "An Act Providing for An Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao," was enacted and signed into law on 1 August 1989. The law called for the holding of a plebiscite in the provinces of Basilan, Cotabato, Davao del Sur, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Palawan, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Norte, and Zamboanga del Sur, and the cities of Cotabato, Dapitan, Dipolog, General Santos, Iligan, Marawi, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga.6 In the ensuing plebiscite held on 19 November 1989, only four (4) provinces voted for the creation of an autonomous region, namely: Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. These provinces became the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).7 The law contains elaborate provisions on the powers of the Regional Government and the areas of jurisdiction which are reserved for the National Government.8 In accordance with R.A. 6734, then President Corazon C. Aquino issued on 12 October 1990, Executive Order No. 426 (E.O. 426), entitled "Placing the Control and Supervision of the Offices of the Department of Public Works and Highways within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao under the Autonomous Regional Government, and for other purposes." Sections 1 to 39 of the Executive Order are its operative provisions. ARMM was formally organized on 6 November 1990. President Corazon C. Aquino flew to Cotabato, the seat of the Regional Government, for the inauguration. At that point, she had already signed seven (7) Executive Orders devolving to ARMM the powers of seven (7) cabinet departments, namely: (1) local government; (2) labor and employment; (3) science and technology; (4) public works and highways; (5) social welfare and development; (6) tourism; and (7) environment and national resources.10

Nearly nine (9) years later, on 20 May 1999, then Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Gregorio R. Vigilar issued D.O. 119 which reads, thus: Subject: Creation of Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office Pursuant to Sections 6 and 25 of Executive Order No. 124 dated 30 January 1987, there is hereby created a DPWH Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office which shall have jurisdiction over all national infrastructure projects and facilities under the DPWH within Marawi City and the province of Lanao del Sur. The headquarters of the Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office shall be at the former quarters of the Marawi City Engineering Office. Personnel of the above-mentioned Sub-District Engineering Office shall be made up of employees of the National Government Section of the former Marawi City Engineering Office who are now assigned with the Iligan City Sub-District Engineering Office as may be determined by the DPWH Region XII Regional Director. (Emphasis supplied) Almost two (2) years later, on 17 January 2001, then President Joseph E. Estrada approved and signed into law R.A. 8999. The text of the law reads: AN ACT ESTABLISHING AN ENGINEERING DISTRICT IN THE FIRST DISTRICT OF THE PROVINCE OF LANAO DEL SUR AND APPROPRIATING FUNDS THEREFOR Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the Philippines in Congress assembled: SECTION 1. The City of Marawi and the municipalities comprising the First District of the Province of Lanao del Sur are hereby constituted into an engineering district to be known as the First Engineering District of the Province of Lanao del Sur. SEC. 2. The office of the engineering district hereby created shall be established in Marawi City, Province of Lanao del Sur. SEC. 3. The amount necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act shall be included in the General Appropriations Act of the year following its enactment into law. Thereafter, such sums as may be necessary for the maintenance and continued operation of the engineering district office shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act. SEC. 4. This Act shall take effect upon its approval. (Emphasis supplied) Congress later passed Republic Act No. 9054 (R.A. 9054), entitled "An Act to Strengthen and Expand the Organic Act for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Amending for the Purpose Republic Act No. 6734, entitled An Act Providing for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, as Amended." Like its forerunner, R.A. 9054 contains detailed provisions on the powers of the Regional Government and the retained areas of governance of the National Government.11 R.A. 9054 lapsed into law12 on 31 March 2001. It was ratified in a plebiscite held on 14 August 2001. The province of Basilan and the City of Marawi also voted to join ARMM on the same date. R.A. 6734 and R.A. 9054 are collectively referred to as the ARMM Organic Acts. On 23 July 2001, petitioners Arsadi M. Disomangcop (Disomangcop) and Ramir M. Dimalotang (Dimalotang) addressed a petition to then DPWH Secretary Simeon A. Datumanong, seeking the revocation of D.O. 119 and the nonimplementation of R.A. 8999. No action, however, was taken on the petition.13 Consequently, petitioners Disomangcop and Dimalotang filed the instant petition, in their capacity as Officer-in-Charge and District Engineer/Engineer II, respectively, of the First Engineering District of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DPWHARMM) in Lanao del Sur. Petitioners seek the following principal reliefs: (1) to annul and set aside D.O. 119; (2) to prohibit respondent DPWH Secretary from implementing D.O. 119 and R.A. 8999 and releasing funds for public works projects intended for Lanao del Sur and Marawi City to the Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office and other administrative regions of DPWH; and (3) to compel the Secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to release all funds for public works projects intended for Marawi City and the First District of Lanao del Sur to the DPWH-ARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur only; and to compel respondent DPWH Secretary to let the DPWHARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur implement all public works projects within its jurisdictional area.14 The petition includes an urgent application for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) and, after hearing, a writ of preliminary injunction, to enjoin respondent DBM Secretary from releasing funds for public works projects in Lanao del Sur to entities other than the DPWH-ARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur, and also to restrain the DPWH

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Secretary from allowing others besides the DPWH-ARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur to implement public works projects in Lanao del Sur.15 To support their petition, petitioners allege that D.O. 119 was issued with grave abuse of discretion and that it violates the constitutional autonomy of the ARMM. They point out that the challenged Department Order has tasked the Marawi Sub-District Engineering Office with functions that have already been devolved to the DPWHARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur.16 Petitioners also contend that R.A. 8999 is a piece of legislation that was not intelligently and thoroughly studied, and that the explanatory note to House Bill No. 995 (H.B. 995) from which the law originated is questionable. Petitioners assert as well that prior to the sponsorship of the law, no public hearing nor consultation with the DPWH-ARMM was made. The House Committee on Public Works and Highways (Committee) failed to invite a single official from the affected agency. Finally, petitioners argue that the law was skillfully timed for signature by former President Joseph E. Estrada during the pendency of the impeachment proceedings.17 In its resolution of 8 October 2001, the Court required respondents to file their comment.18 In compliance, respondents DPWH Secretary and DBM Secretary, through the Solicitor General, filed on 7 January 2002, their Comment. In their Comment,19 respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor General, maintain the validity of D.O. 119, arguing that it was issued in accordance with Executive Order No. 124 (E.O. 124).20 In defense of the constitutionality of R.A. 8999, they submit that the powers of the autonomous regions did not diminish the legislative power of Congress.21 Respondents also contend that the petitioners have no locus standi or legal standing to assail the constitutionality of the law and the department order. They note that petitioners have no personal stake in the outcome of the controversy.22 Asserting their locus standi, petitioners in their Memorandum23 point out that they will suffer actual injury as a result of the enactments complained of.24 Jurisdictional Considerations First, the jurisdictional predicates. The 1987 Constitution is explicit in defining the scope of judicial power. It establishes the authority of the courts to determine in an appropriate action the validity of acts of the political departments. It speaks of judicial prerogative in terms of duty.25 Jurisprudence has laid down the following requisites for the exercise of judicial power: First, there must be before the Court an actual case calling for the exercise of judicial review. Second, the question before the Court 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. Fifth, the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.26 In seeking to nullify acts of the legislature and the executive department on the ground that they contravene the Constitution, the petition no doubt raises a justiciable controversy. As held in Taada v. Angara,27 "where an action of the legislative branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it becomes not only the right but in fact the duty of the judiciary to settle the dispute." But in deciding to take jurisdiction over this petition questioning acts of the political departments of government, the Court will not review the wisdom, merits, or propriety thereof, but will strike them down only on either of two grounds: (1) unconstitutionality or illegality and (2) grave abuse of discretion.28 For an abuse to be grave, the power must be exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility. The abuse of discretion must be patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of a positive duty, or a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined or to act in contemplation of law. There is grave abuse of discretion when respondent acts in a capricious or whimsical manner in the exercise of its judgment as to be equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.29 The challenge to the legal standing of petitioners cannot succeed. Legal standing or locus standi is defined as a personal and substantial interest in the case such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the governmental act that is being challenged. The

term "interest" means a material interest, an interest in issue affected by the decree, as distinguished from a mere interest in the question involved, or a mere incidental interest.30 A party challenging the constitutionality of a law, act, or statute must show "not only that the law is invalid, but also that he has sustained or is in immediate, or imminent danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that he suffers thereby in some indefinite way." He must show that he has been, or is about to be, denied some right or privilege to which he is lawfully entitled, or that he is about to be subjected to some burdens or penalties by reason of the statute complained of.31 But following the new trend, this Court is inclined to take cognizance of a suit although it does not satisfy the requirement of legal standing when paramount interests are involved. In several cases, the Court has adopted a liberal stance on the locus standi of a petitioner where the petitioner is able to craft an issue of transcendental significance to the people.32 In the instant case, petitioner Disomangcop holds the position of Engineer IV. When he filed this petition, he was the Officerin-Charge, Office of the District Engineer of the First Engineering District of DPWH-ARMM, Lanao del Sur. On the other hand, petitioner Dimalotang is an Engineer II and President of the rank and file employees also of the First Engineering District of DPWH-ARMM in Lanao del Sur. Both are charged with the duty and responsibility of supervising and implementing all public works projects to be undertaken and being undertaken in Lanao del Sur which is the area of their jurisdiction.33 It is thus not far-fetched that the creation of the Marawi SubDistrict Engineering Office under D.O. 119 and the creation of and appropriation of funds to the First Engineering District of Lanao del Sur as directed under R.A. 8999 will affect the powers, functions and responsibilities of the petitioners and the DPWH-ARMM. As the two offices have apparently been endowed with functions almost identical to those of DPWHARMM First Engineering District in Lanao del Sur, it is likely that petitioners are in imminent danger of being eased out of their duties and, not remotely, even their jobs. Their material and substantial interests will definitely be prejudiced by the enforcement of D.O. 119 and R.A. 8999. Such injury is direct and immediate. Thus, they can legitimately challenge the validity of the enactments subject of the instant case. Points of Contention In the petition before us, petitioners contend that R.A. 8999 and D.O. 119 are unconstitutional and were issued with grave abuse of discretion. We agree in part. Republic Act No. 8999 At the outset, let it be made clear that it is not necessary to declare R.A. No. 8999 unconstitutional for the adjudication of this case. The accepted rule is that the Court will not resolve a constitutional question unless it is the lis mota of the case, or if the case can be disposed of or settled on other grounds.34 The plain truth is the challenged law never became operative and was superseded or repealed by a subsequent enactment. The ARMM Organic Acts are deemed a part of the regional autonomy scheme. While they are classified as statutes, the Organic Acts are more than ordinary statutes because they enjoy affirmation by a plebiscite.35Hence, the provisions thereof cannot be amended by an ordinary statute, such as R.A. 8999 in this case. The amendatory law has to be submitted to a plebiscite. We quote excerpts of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission: FR. BERNAS. Yes, that is the reason I am bringing this up. This thing involves some rather far-reaching consequences also in relation to the issue raised by Commissioner Romulo with respect to federalism. Are we, in effect, creating new categories of laws? Generally, we have statutes and constitutional provisions. Is this organic act equivalent to a constitutional provision? If it is going to be equivalent to a constitutional provision, it would seem to me that the formulation of the provisions of the organic act will have to be done by the legislature, acting as a constituent assembly, and therefore, subject to the provisions of the Article on Amendments. That is the point that I am trying to bring up. In effect, if we opt for federalism, it would really involve an act of the National Assembly or Congress acting as a constituent assembly and present amendments to this Constitution, and the end product itself would be a constitutional provision which would only be amendable according to the processes indicated in the Constitution.

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MR. OPLE. Madam President, may I express my personal opinion in this respect. I think to require Congress to act as a constituent body before enacting an organic act would be to raise an autonomous region to the same level as the sovereign people of the whole country. And I think the powers of the Congress should be quite sufficient in enacting a law, even if it is now exalted to the level of an organic act for the purpose of providing a basic law for an autonomous region without having to transform itself into a constituent assembly. We are dealing still with one subordinate subdivision of the State even if it is now vested with certain autonomous powers on which its own legislature can pass laws. FR. BERNAS. So the questions I have raised so far with respect to this organic act are: What segment of the population will participate in the plebiscite? In what capacity would the legislature be acting when it passes this? Will it be a constituent assembly or merely a legislative body? What is the nature, therefore, of this organic act in relation to ordinary statutes and the Constitution? Finally, if we are going to amend this organic act, what process will be followed? MR. NOLLEDO. May I answer that, please, in the light of what is now appearing in our report. First, only the people who are residing in the units composing the regions should be allowed to participate in the plebiscite. Second, the organic act has the character of a charter passed by the Congress, not as a constituent assembly, but as an ordinary legislature and, therefore, the organic act will still be subject to amendments in the ordinary legislative process as now constituted, unless the Gentlemen has another purpose. FR. BERNAS. But with plebiscite again. MR. NOLLEDO. Those who will participate in the plebiscite are those who are directly affected, the inhabitants of the units constitutive of the region. (Emphasis supplied)36 Although R.A. 9054 was enacted later, it reaffirmed the imperativeness of the plebiscite requirement.37 In fact, R.A. 9054 itself, being the second or later ARMM Organic Act, was subjected to and ratified in a plebiscite. The first ARMM Organic Act, R.A. 6074, as implemented by E.O. 426, devolved the functions of the DPWH in the ARMM which includes Lanao del Sur (minus Marawi City at the time)38 to the Regional Government. By creating an office with previously devolved functions, R.A. 8999, in essence, sought to amend R.A. 6074. The amendatory law should therefore first obtain the approval of the people of the ARMM before it could validly take effect. Absent compliance with this requirement, R.A. 8999 has not even become operative. From another perspective, R.A. 8999 was repealed and superseded by R.A. 9054. Where a statute of later date clearly reveals an intention on the part of the legislature to abrogate a prior act on the subject, that intention must be given effect. Of course, the intention to repeal must be clear and manifest.39 Implied repeal by irreconcilable inconsistency takes place when the two statutes cover the same subject matter; they are clearly inconsistent and incompatible with each other that they cannot be reconciled or harmonized; and both cannot be given effect, that is, that one law cannot be enforced without nullifying the other.40 The Court has also held that statutes should be construed in light of the objective to be achieved and the evil or mischief to be suppressed, and they should be given such construction as will advance the object, suppress the mischief and secure the benefits intended.41 R.A. 9054 is anchored on the 1987 Constitution. It advances the constitutional grant of autonomy by detailing the powers of the ARG covering, among others, Lanao del Sur and Ma