Final legislative action; journal entry rule

The journal of the proceedings of each House of Congress is no ordinary record. (Astorga v. Villegas, G.R. No. L-23475, April 30, 1974)

After both houses have given final approval to a bill, a final copy of the bill, known as the "enrolled bill," shall be printed, and certified as correct by the Secretary of the Senate and the Secretary General of the House of Representatives. After which, it will be signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. 

A bill may become a law, even without the President’s signature, if the President does not sign a bill within 30 days from receipt in his office. A bill may also become a law without the President’s signature if Congress overrides a presidential veto by two-thirds vote.

Under the enrolled bill rule, once an election for the adoption of a statute is held, the procedural method by which the measure was placed on the ballot cannot be challenged with a lawsuit since judicial inquiry into legislative procedure is barred as an intrusion into the internal affairs of the lawmaking body.

The enrolled bill rule is a principle of judicial interpretation of rules of procedure in legislative bodies. Under the doctrine, once a bill passes a legislative body and is signed into law, the courts assume that all rules of procedure in the enactment process were properly followed.

In the United States, the rule was adopted by the Supreme Court in Field v. Clark, 143 U.S. 649 (1892). In effect, the court ruled that the enrolled bill signed by the presiding officers of the two houses of Congress was the best evidence of what had been passed, being on balance better evidence than the journals of the respective houses, so it should not be called into question.

The signing by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and, by the President of the Senate, in open session, of an enrolled bill, is an official attestation by the two houses of such bill as one that has passed Congress. It is a declaration by the two houses, through their presiding officers, to the President, that a bill, thus attested, has received, in due form, the sanction of the legislative branch of the government, and that it is delivered to him in obedience to the constitutional requirement that all bills which pass Congress shall be presented to him. And when a bill, thus attested, receives his approval, and is deposited in the public archives, its authentication as a bill that has passed Congress should be deemed complete and unimpeachable. As the President has no authority to approve a bill not passed by Congress, an enrolled Act in the custody of the Secretary of State, and having the official attestations of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, of the President of the Senate, and of the President of the United States, carries, on its face, a solemn assurance by the legislative and executive departments of the government, charged, respectively, with the duty of enacting and executing the laws, that it was passed by Congress. The respect due to coequal and independent departments requires the judicial department to act upon that assurance, and to accept, as having passed Congress, all bills authenticated in the manner stated; leaving the courts to determine, when the question properly arises, whether the Act, so authenticated, is in conformity with the Constitution. (G.R. No. L-23475, April 30, 1974)

It may be noted that the enrolled bill theory is based mainly on "the respect due to coequal and independent departments," which requires the judicial department "to accept, as having passed Congress, all bills authenticated in the manner stated." Thus it has also been stated in other cases that if the attestation is absent and the same is not required for the validity of a statute, the courts may resort to the journals and other records of Congress for proof of its due enactment. This was the logical conclusion reached in a number of decisions, although they are silent as to whether the journals may still be resorted to if the attestation of the presiding officers is present. (G.R. No. L-23475, April 30, 1974)