Ut magis valeat quam pereat & the Constitution

To determine the merits of the issues raised in the instant petitions, the Supreme Court has, necessarily, turned to the Constitution itself and has employed well-settled principles of constitutional construction. They are the following:

[1] Verba legis;
[2] Ratio legis est anima; and
[3] Ut magis valeat quam pereat.

Ut magis valeat quam pereat. The Constitution is to be interpreted as a whole. Thus, in Chiongbian v. De Leon, the Court, through Chief Justice Manuel Moran declared:

[T]he members of the Constitutional Convention could not have dedicated a provision of our Constitution merely for the benefit of one person without considering that it could also affect others. When they adopted subsection 2, they permitted, if not willed, that said provision should function to the full extent of its substance and its terms, not by itself alone, but in conjunction with all other provisions of that great document.

Likewise, still in Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, the Court affirmed that:

It is a well-established rule in constitutional construction that no one provision of the Constitution is to be separated from all the others, to be considered alone, but that all the provisions bearing upon a particular subject are to be brought into view and to be so interpreted as to effectuate the great purposes of the instrument. Sections bearing on a particular subject should be considered and interpreted together as to effectuate the whole purpose of the Constitution and one section is not to be allowed to defeat another, if by any reasonable construction, the two can be made to stand together.

In other words, the court must harmonize them, if practicable, and must lean in favor of a construction which will render every word operative, rather than one which may make the words idle and nugatory.

If, however, the plain meaning of the word is not found to be clear, resort to other aids is available. In still the same case of Civil Liberties Union v. Executive Secretary, the Court expounded:

While it is permissible in this jurisdiction to consult the debates and proceedings of the constitutional convention in order to arrive at the reason and purpose of the resulting Constitution, resort thereto may be had only when other guides fail as said proceedings are powerless to vary the terms of the Constitution when the meaning is clear. Debates in the constitutional convention "are of value as showing the views of the individual members, and as indicating the reasons for their votes, but they give us no light as to the views of the large majority who did not talk, much less of the mass of our fellow citizens whose votes at the polls gave that instrument the force of fundamental law. We think it safer to construe the constitution from what appears upon its face." The proper interpretation therefore depends more on how it was understood by the people adopting it than in the framers's understanding thereof. (Francisco vs. House of Representatives; G.R. No. 160261; November 10, 2003)