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Digest: Javellana v. Executive Secretary (50 SCRA 103, 1973)

Digest: Javellana v. Executive Secretary (50 SCRA 103, 1973)


On March 16, 1967, Congress of the Philippines passed Resolution No. 2, which was amended by Resolution No. 4 of said body, adopted on June 17, 1969, calling a Convention to propose amendments to the Constitution of the Philippines.

Said Resolution No. 2, as amended, was implemented by Republic Act No. 6132, approved on August 24, 1970, pursuant to the provisions of which the election of delegates to the said Convention was held on November 10, 1970, and the 1971 Constitutional Convention began to perform its functions on June 1, 1971.

While the Convention was in session on September 21, 1972, the President issued Proclamation No. 1081 placing the entire Philippines under Martial Law.

the Convention approved its Proposed Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines. Then, the President of the Philippines issued Presidential Decree No. 73, “submitting to the Filipino people for ratification or rejection the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines proposed by the 1971 Constitutional Convention, and appropriating funds therefor,” as well as setting the plebiscite for said ratification or rejection of the Proposed Constitution on January 15, 1973.

Then Charito Planas filed a case against the Commission on Elections, the Treasurer of the Philippines and the Auditor General, to enjoin said “respondents or their agents from implementing Presidential Decree No. 73, in any manner, until further orders of the Court,” upon the grounds, inter alia, that said Presidential Decree “has no force and effect as law because the calling … of such plebiscite, the setting of guidelines for the conduct of the same, the prescription of the ballots to be used and the question to be answered by the voters, and the appropriation of public funds for the purpose, are, by the Constitution, lodged exclusively in Congress …,” and “there is no proper submission to the people of said Proposed Constitution set for January 15, 1973, there being no freedom of speech, press and assembly, and there being no sufficient time to inform the people of the contents thereof.”

The President had issued an order temporarily suspending the effects of Proclamation No. 1081, for the purpose of free and open debate on the Proposed Constitution. He then announced the postponement of the plebiscite for the ratification or rejection of the Proposed Constitution. No formal action to this effect was taken until January 7, 1973, when General Order No. 20 was issued, directing “that the plebiscite scheduled to be held on January 15, 1978, be postponed until further notice.” Said General Order No. 20, moreover, “suspended in the meantime” the “order of December 17, 1972, temporarily suspending the effects of Proclamation No. 1081 for purposes of free and open debate on the proposed Constitution.”

Because of these events relative to the postponement of the aforementioned plebiscite, the Court deemed it fit to refrain from deciding the aforementioned cases, for neither the date nor the conditions under which said plebiscite would be held were known or announced officially. The Congress then scheduled to meet  in regular session and since the main objection to Presidential Decree No. 73 was that the President does not have the legislative authority to call a plebiscite and appropriate funds therefor, which Congress unquestionably could do, particularly in view of the formal postponement of the plebiscite by the President reportedly after consultation with, among others, the leaders of Congress and the Commission on Elections the Court deemed it more imperative to defer its final action on these cases.

The petitioners in Case G.R. No. 
L-35948 filed an “urgent motion,” praying that said case be decided “as soon as possible, preferably not later than January 15, 1973.”

Then the Court issued a resolution requiring the respondents in said three (3) cases to comment on said “urgent motion” and “manifestation,” “not later than Tuesday noon, January 16, 1973.” Prior thereto, or on January 15, 1973, shortly before noon, the petitioners in said Case G.R. No. L-35948 riled a “supplemental motion for issuance of restraining order and inclusion of additional respondents,” praying:

“… that a restraining order be issued enjoining and restraining respondent Commission on Elections, as well as the Department of Local Governments and its head, Secretary Jose Roño; the Department of Agrarian Reforms and its head, Secretary Conrado Estrella; the National Ratification Coordinating Committee and its Chairman, Guillermo de Vega; their deputies, subordinates and substitutes, and all other officials and persons who may be assigned such task, from collecting, certifying, and announcing and reporting to the President or other officials concerned, the so-called Citizens’ Assemblies referendum results allegedly obtained when they were supposed to have met during the period comprised between January 10 and January 15, 1973, on the two questions quoted in paragraph 1 of this Supplemental Urgent Motion.”

On the same date, the Court passed a resolution requiring the respondents in said case G.R. No. L-35948 to file “file an answer to the said motion not later than 4 P.M., Tuesday, January 16, 1973,” and setting the motion for hearing “on January 17, 1973, at 9:30 a.m.” While the case was being heard, on the date last mentioned, at noontime, the Secretary of Justice called on the writer of this opinion and said that, upon instructions of the President, he (the Secretary of Justice) was delivering to him (the writer) a copy of Proclamation No. 1102, which had just been signed by the President. Thereupon, the writer returned to the Session Hall and announced to the Court, the parties in G.R. No. L-35948 inasmuch as the hearing in connection therewith was still going on and the public there present that the President had, according to information conveyed by the Secretary of Justice, signed said Proclamation No. 1102, earlier that morning.


The Ratification Case
On January 20, 1973, Josue Javellana filed Case G.R. No. L-36142 against the Executive Secretary and the Secretaries of National Defense, Justice and Finance, to restrain said respondents “and their subordinates or agents from implementing any of the provisions of the propose Constitution not found in the present Constitution” referring to that of 1935. The petition therein, filed by Josue Javellana, as a “Filipino citizen, and a qualified and registered voter” and as “a class suit, for himself, and in behalf of all citizens and voters similarly situated,” was amended on or about January 24, 1973. After reciting in substance the facts set forth in the decision in the plebiscite cases, Javellana alleged that the President had announced “the immediate implementation of the New Constitution, thru his Cabinet, respondents including,” and that the latter “are acting without, or in excess of jurisdiction in implementing the said proposed Constitution” upon the ground: “that the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, is without authority to create the Citizens Assemblies”; that the same “are without power to approve the proposed Constitution …”; “that the President is without power to proclaim the ratification by the Filipino people of the proposed Constitution”; and “that the election held to ratify the proposed Constitution was not a free election, hence null and void.”



1.    Whether the issue of the validity of Proclamation No. 1102 is a justiciable, or political and therefore non-justiciable, question?

2.    Whether the Constitution has proposed by the 1971 Constitutional Convention been ratified validly (with substantial, if not strict, compliance) conformably to the applicable constitutional and statutory provisions?

3.    Whether the aforementioned proposed Constitution has acquiesced in (with or without valid ratification) by the people? (acquiesced – “permission” given by silence or passiveness. Acceptance or agreement by keeping quiet or by not making objections.)

4.    Whether petitioners are entitled to relief?

5.    Whether the aforementioned proposed Constitution is in force?


1.    On the first issue involving the political-question doctrine Justices Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando, Teehankee and myself, or six (6) members of the Court, hold that the issue of the validity of Proclamation No. 1102 presents a justiciable and non-political question. Justices Makalintal and Castro did not vote squarely on this question, but, only inferentially, in their discussion of the second question. Justice Barredo qualified his vote, stating that “inasmuch as it is claimed there has been approval by the people, the Court may inquire into the question of whether or not there has actually been such an approval, and, in the affirmative, the Court should keep hands-off out of respect to the people’s will, but, in negative, the Court may determine from both factual and legal angles whether or not Article XV of the 1935 Constitution been complied with.” Justices Makasiar, Antonio, Esguerra, or three (3) members of the Court hold that the issue is political and “beyond the ambit of judicial inquiry.

2.    On the second question of validity of the ratification, Justices Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando, Teehankee and myself, or six (6) members of the Court also hold that the Constitution proposed by the 1971 Constitutional Convention was not validly ratified in accordance with Article XV, section 1 of the 1935 Constitution, which provides only one way for ratification, i.e., “in an election or plebiscite held in accordance with law and participated in only by qualified and duly registered voters.

Justice Barredo qualified his vote, stating that “(A)s to whether or not the 1973 Constitution has been validly ratified pursuant to Article XV, I still maintain that in the light of traditional concepts regarding the meaning and intent of said Article, the referendum in the Citizens’ Assemblies, specially in the manner the votes therein were cast, reported and canvassed, falls short of the requirements thereof. In view, however, of the fact that I have no means of refusing to recognize as a judge that factually there was voting and that the majority of the votes were for considering as approved the 1973 Constitution without the necessity of the usual form of plebiscite followed in past ratifications, I am constrained to hold that, in the political sense, if not in the orthodox legal sense, the people may be deemed to have cast their favorable votes in the belief that in doing so they did the part required of them by Article XV, hence, it may be said that in its political aspect, which is what counts most, after all, said Article has been substantially complied with, and, in effect, the 1973 Constitution has been constitutionally ratified.”

Justices Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra, or three (3) members of the Court hold that under their view there has been in effect substantial compliance with the constitutional requirements for valid ratification.

3.    On the third question of acquiescence by the Filipino people in the aforementioned proposed Constitution, no majority vote has been reached by the Court.

Four (4) of its members, namely, Justices Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra hold that “the people have already accepted the 1973 Constitution.”

Two (2) members of the Court, namely, Justice Zaldivar and myself hold that there can be no free expression, and there has even been no expression, by the people qualified to vote all over the Philippines, of their acceptance or repudiation of the proposed Constitution under Martial Law. Justice Fernando states that “(I)f it is conceded that the doctrine stated in some American decisions to the effect that independently of the validity of the ratification, a new Constitution once accepted acquiesced in by the people must be accorded recognition by the Court, I am not at this stage prepared to state that such doctrine calls for application in view of the shortness of time that has elapsed and the difficulty of ascertaining what is the mind of the people in the absence of the freedom of debate that is a concomitant feature of martial law.” 88

Three (3) members of the Court express their lack of knowledge and/or competence to rule on the question. Justices Makalintal and Castro are joined by Justice Teehankee in their statement that “Under a regime of martial law, with the free expression of opinions through the usual media vehicle restricted, (they) have no means of knowing, to the point of judicial certainty, whether the people have accepted the Constitution.”

4.    On the fourth question of relief, six (6) members of the Court, namely, Justices Makalintal, Castro, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra voted to DISMISS the petition. Justice Makalintal and Castro so voted on the strength of their view that “(T)he effectivity of the said Constitution, in the final analysis, is the basic and ultimate question posed by these cases to resolve which considerations other than judicial, an therefore beyond the competence of this Court, 90 are relevant and unavoidable.” 91

Four (4) members of the Court, namely, Justices Zaldivar, Fernando, Teehankee and myself voted to deny respondents’ motion to dismiss and to give due course to the petitions.

5.    On the fifth question of whether the new Constitution of 1973 is in force: Four (4) members of the Court, namely, Justices Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra hold that it is in force by virtue of the people’s acceptance thereof;

Four (4) members of the Court, namely, Justices Makalintal, Castro, Fernando and Teehankee cast no vote thereon on the premise stated in their votes on the third question that they could not state with judicial certainty whether the people have accepted or not accepted the Constitution; and

Two (2) members of the Court, namely, Justice Zaldivar and myself voted that the Constitution proposed by the 1971 Constitutional Convention is not in force; with the result that there are not enough votes to declare that the new Constitution is not in force.

ACCORDINGLY, by virtue of the majority of six (6) votes of Justices Makalintal, Castro, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra with the four (4) dissenting votes of the Chief Justice and Justices Zaldivar, Fernando and Teehankee, all the aforementioned cases are hereby dismissed. This being the vote of the majority, there is no further judicial obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and effect.

Source and Credit to: jhenrodis.wordpress

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