CASE DIGEST: Bankers Association vs. COMELEC

G.R. No. 206794 : November 26, 2013




The petitioners included a prayer for the issuance of a TRO to assail the legality of the Commission on Elections (Comelec's) Resolution No. 9688dated May 7, 2013, entitled "In the Matter of Implementing a Money Ban to Deter and Prevent Vote-Buying in Connection with the May 13, 2013 National and Local Elections" (Money Ban Resolution).

Under the Money Ban Resolution, the Comelec resolved:

1. To prohibit the withdrawal of cash, encashment of checks and conversion of any monetary instrument into cash from May 8 to 13, 2013 exceeding One Hundred Thousand Pesos (P100,000.00) or its equivalent in any foreign currency, per day in banks, finance companies, quasi-banks, pawnshops, remittance companies and institutions performing similar functions. However, all other non-cash transactions are not covered.

For this purpose, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and other financial agencies of the government are hereby deputized to implement with utmost dispatch and ensure strict compliance with this resolution without violating the provisions of Republic Act No. 1405, as amended, and Republic Act No. 6426.

2. To prohibit the possession, transportation and/or carrying of cash exceeding Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) or its equivalent in any foreign currency from May 8 to May 13, 2013. For this purpose, all cash being transported and carried exceeding such amount shall be presumed for the purpose of vote-buying and electoral fraud in violation of the money ban.

3. All withdrawals of cash or encashment of checks or series of withdrawals or encashment of checks in cash involving a total amount exceeding Five Hundred Thousand Pesos (P500,000.00) within one (1) banking day from date of the publication of this resolution until May 13, 2013 shall be presumed to be for the purpose of accumulating funds for vote-buying and election fraud and shall therefore be treated as a "suspicious transaction" under Republic Act No. 9160 or the "Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001" as amended by Republic Act No. 9194. For this purpose, the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is hereby deputized to monitor and initiate investigations, and if necessary, inquire into and examine the deposit and related accounts involved in the suspected transaction pursuant to procedure and requirements of Republic Act No. 10167.

The Comelecs Resolution No. 9688-A,issued on May 9, 2013, amended the Money Ban Resolution by:

1. exempting withdrawals that are routine, regular and made in the ordinary course of business of the withdrawing client on the basis of the prevailing "Know-Your-Client/Customer" policy of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which requires banks "not only to establish the identity of their clients but also to have background knowledge of their normal business transactions,"and

2. presuming that the possession or transportation of cash in excess ofP500,000.00 from May 8 to 13, 2013 was for the purpose of vote-buying and electoral fraud when the same was without tenable justification or whenever attended by genuine reason engendering belief that the money would be used for vote-buying.

The Comelec issued Resolution No. 9688-A on the same day that the petitioners filed the present petition.

On May 10, 2013, the Court issued a Status Quo Ante Order,enjoining the parties to maintain the status quo prevailing before the issuance of the Money Ban Resolution. Hence, this petition.

ISSUE: Whether or not the issue regarding the implementation of the Money Ban Resolution was moot?

HELD: Petition dismissed.

By its express terms, the Money Ban Resolution was effective only for a specific and limited time during the May 13, 2013 elections, i.e., from May 8 to 13, 2013. The Court issued a Status Quo Ante Order on May 10, 2013; thus, the Money Ban Resolution was not in force during the most critical period of the elections from May 10, 2013 to actual election day. With the May 13, 2013 elections over, the Money Ban Resolution no longer finds any application so that the issues raised have become moot and academic.

POLITICAL LAW: power of judicial review

The power of judicial review is limited to actual cases or controversies.The Court, as a rule, will decline to exercise jurisdiction over a case and proceed to dismiss it when the issues posed have been mooted by supervening events. Mootness intervenes when a ruling from the Court no longer has any practical value and, from this perspective, effectively ceases to be a justiciable controversy."[W]ithout a justiciable controversy, the [petition would] become a [plea] for declaratory relief, over which the Supreme Court has no original jurisdiction."

While the Court has recognized exceptions in applying the "moot and academic" principle, these exceptions relate only to situations where: (1) there is a grave violation of the Constitution; (2) the situation is of exceptional character and paramount public interest is involved; (3) the constitutional issue raised requires formulation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and (4) the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

In the present case, we find it unnecessary to consider the presence of the first, second and third requirements when nothing in the facts and surrounding circumstances indicate the presence of the fourth requirement, i.e., the case is capable of repetition yet evading review.

We note that the Comelec did not make any parallel move on or about the May 13, 2013 elections to address the evil that its Money Ban Resolution sought to avoid and, in fact, it did not issue a similar resolution for the October 28, 2013 barangay elections. If the May 13, 2013 elections had come and gone without any need for the measures the assailed Resolution put in place and if no such measure was necessary in the elections that immediately followed (i.e., the October 28, 2013 barangay elections), we believe that it is now premature for the Court to assume that a similar Money Ban Resolution would be issued in the succeeding elections such that we now have to consider the legality of the Comelec measure that is presently assailed.

We consider it significant that the BSP and the Monetary Board continue to possess full and sufficient authority to address the Comelecs concerns and to limit banking transactions to legitimate purposes without need for any formal Comelec resolution if and when the need arises. Congress, too, at this point, should have taken note of this case and has the plenary authority, through its lawmaking powers, to address the circumstances and evils the Money Ban Resolution sought to address. In other words, Congress can very well act to consider the required measures for future elections, thus rendering unnecessary further action on the merits of the assailed Money Ban Resolution at this point.