Macalintal v. PET (G.R. No. 191618; November 23, 2010)


FACTS: Atty. Romulo Macalintal questions the constitutionality of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal(PET) as an illegal and unauthorized progeny of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution.

ISSUES: Whether the creation of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal is unconstitutional for being a violation of paragraph 7, Section 4 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.Whether the designation of members of the supreme court as members of the presidential electoral tribunal is unconstitutional for being a violation of Section 12, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution

HELD: First Issue: Petitioner, a prominent election lawyer who has filed several cases before this Court involving constitutional and election law issues, including, among others, the constitutionality of certain provisions of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9189 (The Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2003),cannot claim ignorance of: (1) the invocation of our jurisdiction under Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution; and (2) the unanimous holding thereon. Unquestionably, theoverarching frameworkaffirmed inTecson v. Commission on Electionsis that the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction to decide presidential and vice-presidential election protests while concurrentlyacting as an independent Electoral Tribunal.

Verba legisdictates that wherever possible, the words used in the Constitution must be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed, in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails. However, where there is ambiguity or doubt, the words of the Constitution should be interpreted in accordance with the intent of its framers orratio legis et anima. A doubtful provision must be examined in light of the history of the times, and the condition and circumstances surrounding the framing of the Constitution. Last,ut magis valeat quam pereat the Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole.

By the same token, the PET is not a separate and distinct entity from the Supreme Court, albeit it has functions peculiar only to the Tribunal. It is obvious that the PET was constituted in implementation of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, and it faithfully complies not unlawfully defies the constitutional directive. The adoption of a separate seal, as well as the change in the nomenclature of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices into Chairman and Members of the Tribunal, respectively, was designed simply to highlight the singularity and exclusivity of the Tribunals functions as a special electoral court. the PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent,but not separate, from the judicial department,i.e., the Supreme Court.

Second Issue: It is also beyond cavil that when the Supreme Court, as PET, resolves a presidential or vice-presidential election contest, it performs what is essentially a judicial power. In the landmark case ofAngara v. Electoral Commission,Justice Jose P. Laurel enucleated that "it would be inconceivable if the Constitution had not provided for a mechanism by which to direct the course of government along constitutional channels." In fact,Angarapointed out that "[t]he Constitution is a definition of the powers of government." And yet, at that time, the 1935 Constitution did not contain the expanded definition of judicial power found in Article VIII, Section 1, paragraph 2 of the present Constitution. DENIED.