Sanidad vs COMELEC


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  THE CONSTITUTION OF THE PHILIPPINES SANIDAD VS. COMELEC 73 SCRA 333 (1976) FACTS: President Marcos issued P.D. 991 calling for a national referendum on October 16, 1976 for the Citizens Assemblies ( “ Barangay ” ) to resolve, among other things, the issues of martial law, the interim assembly, its replacement, the powers of such replacement, the period of its existence, the length of the period for the exercise by the President of his present powers. Thereafter, P.D.1031 was issued, amending P.D. 991 by declaring the provisions of P.D. 229 applicable as to the manner of voting and canvassing of votes in barangays for the national referendum-plebiscite of October 16, 1976. P.D. 1033 was also issued, declaring therein that the question of the continuance of martial law will be submitted for referendum at the same time as the submission of his (President) proposed amendments to the Constitution through a plebiscite on October 16, 1976. Petitioner Sanidad filed suit for Prohibition and Preliminary Injunction, seeking to enjoin the COMELEC from holding and conducting said Referendum-Plebiscite on the basis that under the 1935 and 1973 Constitution, there is no grant to the incumbent President to exercise the constituent power to propose amendments to the new Constitution, hence, the Referendum-Plebiscite on October 16 has no legal basis. Petitioner Guzman filed another action asserting that the power to propose amendments to or revision of the Constitution during the transition period is expressly conferred to the interim  National Assembly under sec.16, Art. XVII of the Constitution. A similar action was instituted by petitioners Gonzales and Salapantan arguing that: 1. Even granting him legislative powers under the martial law, the incumbent President cannot act as a constituent assembly to propose amendments to the Constitution, 2. A referendum-plebiscite is untenable under the Constitutions of 1935 and 1973, 3. The submission of the proposed amendments in such a short period of time for deliberation renders the plebiscite a nullity, 4. To lift martial law, the President need not consult the people via referendum, and 5. Allowing 15-year-olds to vote would amount to an amendment of the Constitution, which confines the right of suffrage to those citizens of the Philippines 18 years of age and above. The Solicitor General, in his comment for respondent COMELEC, maintains that: 1. Petitioners have no standing to sue 2. The issue raised is political in nature, beyond judicial cognizance of the court 3. At this state of the transition period, only the incumbent President has the authority to exercise constituent power 4. The referendum-plebiscite is a step towards normalization. ISSUES: Do the petitioners have the standing to sue? 1. Is the question of the constitutionality of the Presidential Decrees 991, 1031, and 1033 political or judicial?  2. Does the President possess the power to propose amendments to the Constitution as well as set up the required machinery and prescribe the procedure for the ratification of his proposal, in the absence of an interim National Assembly? 3. Is the submission to the people of the proposed amendments within the time frame allowed therefore a sufficient and proper submission? HELD: 1. YES. At the instance of taxpayers, laws providing for the disbursement of public funds may be enjoined upon the theory that the expenditure of public funds by the State for the purpose of executing an unconstitutional act constitutes a misapplication of such funds. 2. It is a judicial question. 3. YES. If the President has been legitimately discharging the legislative functions of the Interim Assembly, there is no reason why he cannot validly discharge the function of that assembly to  propose amendments to the Constitution, which is but adjunct, although peculiar, to its gross legislative power. This is not to say that the President has converted his office into a constituent assembly of that nature normally constituted by the legislature. Rather, with the Interim Assembly not convened and only the Presidency and Supreme Court in operation, the urges of absolute necessity render it imperative upon the President to act as agent for and in behalf of the people to  propose amendments to the Constitution. Parenthetically, by its very constitution, the Supreme Court possesses no capacity to propose amendments without constitutional infractions. For the President to shy away from that actuality and decline to undertake the amending process would leave the governmental machinery at a stalemate or create in the powers of the State a destructive vacuum. After all, the constituent assemblies or constitutional conventions, like the President now, are mere agents of the people. 4. YES. Art. XVI of the Constitution makes no provision as to the specific date when the plebiscite shall be held, but simply states that ―” it shall be held not later than 3 months after the approval of such amendment or revision. ”  The period from September 21 to October 16, or a period of three weeks is not too short for free debates or discussions on the referendum-plebiscite issues. The issues are not new. They are the issues of the day, and the people have been living with them since the proclamation of martial law four years ago. The referendums of 1973 and 1975 carried the same issue of martial law. That notwithstanding, the contested brief period for discussion is not without counterparts in previous plebiscites for constitutional amendments.
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