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Apr 17, 2008

63 PHIL 143


In the elections of Sept. 17, 1935, petitioner Jose A. Angara and the respondents Pedro Ynsua, Miguel Castillo, and Dionisio Mayor were candidates voted for the position of members of the National Assembly for the first district of Tayabas. On Oct. 7, 1935, the provincial board of canvassers proclaimed Angara as member-elect of the National Assembly and on Nov. 15, 1935, he took his oath of office.

On Dec. 3, 1935, the National Assembly passed Resolution No. 8, which in effect, fixed the last date to file election protests. On Dec. 8, 1935, Ynsua filed before the Electoral Commission a "Motion of Protest" against Angara and praying, among other things, that Ynsua be named/declared elected Member of the National Assembly or that the election of said position be nullified. On Dec. 9, 1935, the Electoral Commission adopted a resolution (No. 6) stating that last day for filing of protests is on Dec. 9.

Angara contended that the Constitution confers exclusive jurisdiction upon the Electoral Commission solely as regards the merits of contested elections to the National Assembly and the Supreme Court therefore has no jurisdiction to hear the case.


(1) Whether or not the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over the Electoral Commision and the subject matter of the controversy upon the foregoing related facts, and in the affirmative,
(2) Whether or not the said Electoral Commission acted without or in excess of its jurisdiction in assuming to take cognizance of the protest filed against the election of the herein petitioner notwithstanding the previous confirmation of such election by resolution of the National Assembly


On the issue of jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

The separation of powers is a fundamental principle of a system of government. It obtains not through a single provision but by actual division in our Constitution that each department of the government has exclusive cognizance of matters within its jurisdiction, and is supreme within its own sphere. But it does not follow from that fact that the three powers are to be kept separate and that the Constitution intended them to be absolutely restrained and independent of each other. The Constitution has provided for an elaborate system of checks and balances to secure coordination in the workings of the various departments of the government.

In case of conflict, the judicial department is the only constitutional organ which can be called upon to determine the proper allocation of powers between the several departments and among the integral and constituent units thereof.

As any human production, our Constitution is of course lacking perfection and perfectability, but as much as it was within the power of our people, acting through their delegates to so provide, that instrument which is the expression of their sovereignty however limited, has established a republican government intended to operate and function as a harmonious whole, under a system of checks and balances and subject to the specific limitations and restrictions provided in the said instrument.

The Constitution itself has provided for the instrumentality of the judiciary as the rational way. When the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them. This is in truth all that is involved in what is termed "judicial supremacy" which properly is the power of judicial review under the Constitution.

Even then, this power of judicial review is limited to actual cases and controversies to be exercised after full opportunity of argument by the parties and limited further to the constitutional question raised or the very lis mota presented. Courts accord the presumption of constitutionality to legislative enactments, not only because the legislature is presumed to abide by the Constitution, but also because the judiciary in the determination of actual cases and controversies must respect the wisdom and justice of the people as expressed through their representatives in the executive and legislative departments of government.

In the case at bar, here is then presented an actual controversy involving as it does a conflict of a grave constitutional nature between the National Assembly on the one hand, and the Electoral Commission on the other. Although the Electoral Commission may not be interfered with, when and while acting wihtin the limits of its authority, it does not follow that it is beyond the reach of the constitutional mechanism adopted by the people and that it is not subject to constitutional restrictions. The Electoral Commission is not a separate department of the government, and even if it were, conflicting claims of authority under the fundamental law between departmental powers and agencies of the government are necessarily determined by the judiciary in justiciable and appropriate cases.

The court has jurisdiction over the Electoral Commission and the subject matter of the present controversy for the purpose of determining the character, scope, and extent of the constitutional grant to the Electoral Commission as "the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the members of the National Assembly."

On the issue of jurisdiction of the Electoral Commission

The creation of the Electoral Commission was designed to remedy certain errors of which the framers of our Constitution were cognizant. The purpose was to transfer in its totality all the powers previously exercised by the legislature in matters pertaining to contested elections of its members, to an independent and impartial tribunal.

The Electoral Commission is a constitutional creation, invested with the necessary authority in the performance and exercise of the limited and specific function assigned to it by the Constitution. Although it is not a power in our tripartite scheme of government, it is, to all intents and purposes, when acting within the limits of its authority, an independent organ.

The grant of power to the Electoral Commission to judge all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of members of the National Assembly, is intended to be as complete and unimpaired as if it had remained originally in the legislature. The express lodging of that power in the Electoral Commission is an implied denial in the exercise of that power by the National Assembly. And thus, it is as effective a restriction upon the legislative power as an express prohibition in the Constitution.

The creation of the Electoral Commission carried with it ex necessitate rei the power regulative in character to limit the time within which protests instructed to its cognizance should be filed. Therefore, the incidental power to promulgate such rules necessary for the proper exercise of its exclusive power to judge all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of members of the National Assembly, must be deemed by necessary implication to have been lodged also in the Electoral Commission.

It appears that on Dec. 9, 1935, the Electoral Commission met for the first time and approved a resolution fixing said date as the last day for the filing of election protests. When, therefore, the National Assembly passed its resolution of Dec. 3, 1935, confirming the election of the petitioner to the National Assembly, the Electoral Commission had not yet met; neither does it appear that said body had actually been organized.

While there might have been good reason for the legislative practice of confirmation of the election of members of the legislature at the time the power to decide election contests was still lodged in the legislature, confirmation alone by the legislature cannot be construed as depriving the Electoral Commission of the authority incidental to its constitutional power to be "the sole judge of all contests...", to fix the time for the filing of said election protests.


The Electoral Commission is acting within the legitimate exercise of its constitutional prerogative in assuming to take cognizance of the protest filed by the respondent, Pedro Ynsua against he election of the herein petitioner, Jose A. Angara, and that the resolution of the National Assembly on Dec. 3, 1935, cannot in any manner toll the time for filing protest against the election, returns, and qualifications of the members of the National Assembly, nor prevent the filing of protests within such time as the rules of the Electoral Commission might prescribe.


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