De Castro v. JBC (G.R. No. 191002; April 20, 2010)


FACTS: The Court Dismisses the petitions for certiorari and mandamus in G.R. No. 191002 and G.R. No. 191149, and the petition for mandamus in G.R. No. 191057 for being premature.
To summarize the arguments and submissions of the various motions for reconsideration, in the aforegiven order:

1. The consolidated petitions should have been dismissed for prematurity, because the JBC has not yet decided at the time the petitions were filed whether the incumbent President has the power to appoint the new Chief Justice, and because the JBC, having yet to interview the candidates, has not submitted a short list to the President.

2. The statement in the decision that there is a doubt on whether a JBC short list is necessary for the President to appoint a Chief Justice should be struck down as bereft of constitutional and legal basis. The statement undermines the independence of the JBC.

3. The JBC will abide by the final decision of the Court, but in accord with its constitutional mandate and its implementing rules and regulations.

For his part, petitioner Estelito P. Mendoza (A.M. No. 10-2-5-SC) submits his comment even if the OSG and the JBC were the only ones the Court has required to do so. He states that the motions for reconsideration were directed at the administrative matter he initiated and which the Court resolved. His comment asserts:

1. The grounds of the motions for reconsideration were already resolved by the decision and the separate opinion.

2. The administrative matter he brought invoked the Courts power of supervision over the JBC as provided by Section 8(1), Article VIII of the Constitution, as distinguished from the Courts adjudicatory power under Section 1, Article VIII. In the former, the requisites for judicial review are not required, which was why Valenzuela was docketed as an administrative matter. Considering that the JBC itself has yet to take a position on when to submit the short list to the proper appointing authority, it has effectively solicited the exercise by the Court of its power of supervision over the JBC.

3. To apply Section 15, Article VII to Section 4(1) and Section 9, Article VIII is to amend the Constitution.

4. The portions of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission quoted in the dissent of Justice Carpio Morales, as well as in some of the motions for reconsideration do not refer to either Section 15, Article VII or Section 4(1), Article VIII, but to Section 13, Article VII (on nepotism).

It deny the motions for reconsideration for lack of merit, for all the matters being thereby raised and argued, not being new, have all been resolved by the decision of March 17, 2010

ISSUES: Is the decision on March 17 2010 controlling?

Did the Constitutional Commission extend to the Judiciary the ban on presidential appointments during the period stated in Section 15, Article VII?

HELD: Stare decisis derives its name from the Latin maxim stare decisis et non quieta movere, i.e., to adhere to precedent and not to unsettle things that are settled. It simply means that a principle underlying the decision in one case is deemed of imperative authority, controlling the decisions of like cases in the same court and in lower courts within the same jurisdiction, unless and until the decision in question is reversed or overruled by a court of competent authority. The decisions relied upon as precedents are commonly those of appellate courts, because the decisions of the trial courts may be appealed to higher courts and for that reason are probably not the best evidence of the rules of law laid down.Judicial decisions assume the same authority as a statute itself and, until authoritatively abandoned, necessarily become, to the extent that they are applicable, the criteria that must control the actuations, not only of those called upon to abide by them, but also of those duty-bound to enforce obedience to them. In a hierarchical judicial system like ours, the decisions of the higher courts bind the lower courts, but the courts of co-ordinate authority do not bind each other. The one highest court does not bind itself, being invested with the innate authority to rule according to its best lights.

The Court, as the highest court of the land, may be guided but is not controlled by precedent. Thus, the Court, especially with a new membership, is not obliged to follow blindly a particular decision that it determines, after re-examination, to call for a rectification. The adherence to precedents is strict and rigid in a common-law setting like the United Kingdom, where judges make law as binding as an Act of Parliament. But ours is not a common-law system; hence, judicial precedents are not always strictly and rigidly followed. A judicial pronouncement in an earlier decision may be followed as a precedent in a subsequent case only when its reasoning and justification are relevant, and the court in the latter case accepts such reasoning and justification to be applicable to the case. The application of the precedent is for the sake of convenience and stability.

For the intervenors to insist that Valenzuela ought not to be disobeyed, or abandoned, or reversed, and that its wisdom should guide, if not control, the Court in this case is, therefore, devoid of rationality and foundation. They seem to conveniently forget that the Constitution itself recognizes the innate authority of the Court en banc to modify or reverse a doctrine or principle of law laid down in any decision rendered en banc or in division.

The deliberations that the dissent of Justice Carpio Morales quoted from the records of the Constitutional Commission did not concern either Section 15, Article VII or Section 4(1), Article VIII, but only Section 13, Article VII, a provision on nepotism. The records of the Constitutional Commission show that Commissioner Hilario G. Davide, Jr. had proposed to include judges and justices related to the President within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity among the persons whom the President might not appoint during his or her tenure. In the end, however, Commissioner Davide, Jr. withdrew the proposal to include the Judiciary in Section 13, Article VII "(t)o avoid any further complication,"such that the final version of the second paragraph of Section 13, Article VII even completely omits any reference to the Judiciary, to wit:

Section 13. The spouse and relatives by consanguinity or affinity within the fourth civil degree of the President shall not during his tenure be appointed as Members of the Constitutional Commissions, or the Office of the Ombudsman, or as Secretaries, Undersecretaries, chairmen or heads of bureaus or offices, including government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries. DENIED.