What is the legal effect of a decision of the Supreme Court where a majority concurred only in the result and not in the ratio decidendi thereof?
Is it doctrinal in nature?
Does it comply with Section 14 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution which mandates that the courts shall clearly present the findings of fact and law in their decisions?
My answer is in the negative.
The issue is the crux of the ongoing partisan attempt to oust Chief Justice Reynato Puno from office.
Art. VIII, Sec. 14 of the 1987 Constitution provides that “no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based”; and that “no petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied without stating the legal basis therefor.”
Former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban states: “Second, I believe that the subject decision is unconstitutional, not because it lacks doctrinal value, but because it violates Sec. 14 of Article VIII of the Constitution that states, “No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and law on which it is based.” Per Velarde v Social Justice Party (June 28, 2004), a decision that violates this provision is void and non-existent.
He adds: “An ‘in the result’ vote concurs with the conclusion of the decision, but not with its premises and reasons. The majority who merely concurred “in the result” did not express “clearly and distinctly the facts and law” justifying their vote. In effect, the majority did not state at all the bases of the judgment”.
Justice Cruz states in his column: “This provision is a reiteration of the original rule included in the Commonwealth Constitution to further strengthen the right to notice and hearing guaranteed by the due process clause. It is intended to prevent the court from ruling on any case by simply holding, without more, “Judgment is hereby rendered in favor of X and against Y.” Such arbitrariness is anathema under the Bill of Rights. The parties are entitled to know how a decision has been reached and to appeal from it if it is permitted. This would not be possible if the pertinent facts and the applicable laws are not examined and resolved to support the reasoned decision.”
Columnist Amado Doronilla explains the political motive of the powers-that-be: “If impeachment proceedings against Puno are initiated in Congress, Kampi voting as a party could muster enough votes to impeach Puno. If Puno is impeached, the administration will be free to appoint a new chief justice who will be accommodating to Charter change through a constituent assembly. Puno is known to be against Charter change through a constituent assembly created by Congress voting as one chamber. This explains why Puno is alarmed.”
Reproduced below are the recent columns of Retired Supreme Court Justice Isagani Cruz, Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, and respected columnist Amado Doronilla. We all share the same view on the above matter.
Concurring only in the result
By Isagani A. Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:34:00 01/18/2009
THERE is now a suspect movement to impeach Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno for his refusal to promulgate a decision against a sitting member of the House of Representatives on the ground of non-citizenship. The sketchy reports from the media say it was written by recently retired Justice Ruben Reyes and concurred in without qualification by three or five members of the Supreme Court, with the rest of the justices concurring only in the result.
The threat to impeach Puno has more bark than bite. What is more believable is the suspicion that it has been initiated to remove the chief justice because of his known opposition to the administration’s oft-defeated Cha-cha schemes and replace him with someone more sympathetic to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s dream of perpetuating herself in illicit power. She is again involving the supposedly apolitical Judiciary with this latest machination of her cohorts against a respected jurist, no less than the chief justice himself, to insure her quest for her eternal glorification.
I believe the chief’s reason for not promulgating the so-called decision is based on Art. VIII, Sec. 14 of the Constitution, which says:
“No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based.
“No petition for review or motion for reconsideration of a decision of the court shall be refused due course or denied without stating the legal basis therefor.”
This provision is a reiteration of the original rule included in the Commonwealth Constitution to further strengthen the right to notice and hearing guaranteed by the due process clause. It is intended to prevent the court from ruling on any case by simply holding, without more, “Judgment is hereby rendered in favor of X and against Y.” Such arbitrariness is anathema under the Bill of Rights. The parties are entitled to know how a decision has been reached and to appeal from it if it is permitted. This would not be possible if the pertinent facts and the applicable laws are not examined and resolved to support the reasoned decision.
The above-quoted provision was not observed in the Reyes ponencia that Chief Justice Puno has not promulgated to date. He is correct in refusing to do so because it is not supported by the majority vote required by the Constitution. Decisions of the Supreme Court en banc require the conformity of at least eight of the 15 members, which was not reached in the case under consideration. (The singular exception is where a quorum of only eight deliberates on a constitutional question that can be decided by only five of them, but that is another story.)
The news accounts say that nine justices concurred with the Reyes ponencia only “in the result,” with the other five or three members concurring without any reservation and thus agreeing with the facts and the law on which it was based. But there were only four or at most only six of them and so they could not constitute the majority of the Court to render a valid and binding decision.
As for the other nine justices, what they concurred in was only in the result, which meant they did not agree with the facts and the law approved in the ponencia.
The result they were supporting had no basis at all and was therefore an empty gesture. Unlike the justices who merely concurred and thereby indicated their full agreement with the facts and the law that supported the result, the nine justices who concurred only in the result rejected the factual and legal basis discussed in the Reyes ponencia. In effect, they agreed with its dispositive portion but did not say why. Their votes were clearly invalid for not complying with the requirements of Art. VIII, Sec. 14, of the Constitution.
I think those who concurred with Justice Reyes but only in the result did so out of compañerismo with their colleague or agreement with the winner in the case. But they could not accept the reasons given for sustaining her, which is why they could not concur with the ponencia in full without any ifs or buts. Chief Justice Puno was correct in refusing to promulgate the so-called decision as it was supported by only a minority of the Court.
This is only my own personal opinion, and the chief may have his own legal justification. But in any case, the move to impeach him for his perfectly valid stand is making a mountain out of a molehill. The members of the lower House would again demonstrate their ignorance of the Constitution by plotting against the innocent Chief Justice Puno instead of impeaching, not him, but their sainted Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her many unconstitutional sins.
I conclude with recollection of a similar case but with a different ending. In Frivaldo v. Commission on Elections, 257 SCRA 727, the Supreme Court finally upheld the petitioner, in what was more of a sentimental tribute than a judicial decision, by reversing established doctrines in three earlier cases against him.
Only five justices concurred completely, four agreed pro hac vice (only for that particular case), three in the result, one dissented, and two did not take part. The lone dissenter was Hilario G. Davide Jr. who later became chief justice in his own time.
Who gains from Puno’s impeachment?
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:40:00 01/16/2009
The Supreme Court has come under a storm of controversy after withholding the promulgation of a draft decision upholding a verdict of the Commission on Elections that disqualified Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong from sitting as a representative of Negros Oriental province in the House of Representatives on the grounds that she is a Chinese citizen.
Limkaichong won the congressional election in 2007, defeating Olivia Paras, wife of former congressman Jacinto Paras, by more than 7,000 votes.
The Court en banc decided unanimously in a resolution to withhold promulgation of the draft decision. The draft, although signed by 14 justices, except Chief Justice Reynato Puno, was confidential since it was still to be deliberated upon by the Court.
The non-promulgation of the decision, dated July 15, 2008, sparked a flurry of rumors during the past two weeks that moves were afoot in Congress that the Chief Justice faced impeachment by Congress for sitting on the draft decision, penned by Justice Ruben Reyes who retired last Jan. 2.
Court spokesman Midas Marquez has acknowledged the threat, saying “we have heard of the ouster moves but we don’t’ know where they are coming from.” He said Puno was “accused of sitting on that case and of not promulgating the decision despite the signature of 14 other justices.”
Although an impeachment complaint has yet to be lodged with the House of Representatives, Puno himself did not discount such an attempt by administration allies in the House to pave the way for the appointment of a chief justice who might be more amendable to current proposals to change the Constitution to make way for extending the hold on power of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo beyond her term which ends in 2010. Puno said he was prepared to face any attempt to impeach him.
“It is not in our hands,” he said. “If they proceed with that move, then let it be. We cannot prevent it. We’ll meet it when it happens. I’m in perfect peace.” He said he was concerned that the reported moves to impeach him could have devastating effects on the independence of the judiciary. “I like to think that I’m just an incident in this fight. The bigger stake is the independence of the judiciary. If we lose the independence of the judiciary, democracy would die,” Puno said.
He said the Limkaichong electoral case was decided by the entire Supreme Court. “The Court itself has already explained what happened to the case. And this is the position taken collectively by the 15 justices,” he said. “So, if they think there is fault in that collective stand of the 15 justices why don’t they complain about the entire Court? Why are they trying to pin the blame on a single person when the entire Court has explained that this is not my decision alone but the decision of the entire Court?”
In a resolution last month, the Court explained why Reyes’ draft was not promulgated despite the concurrence of all the justices during an en banc session in July last year. It pointed out that nine justices concurred only “in the result.” With nine out of 15 justices concurring only in the result, the ruling written by Reyes “has no doctrinal value,” the Court said. Thus, “the justices decided to withhold the promulgation of the ‘ponencia’ [authored decision] of Justice Reyes.”
There were threats that privilege speeches were to be delivered in the House when Congress resumes its session on Monday to denounce Puno for wrongdoings related to the non-promulgation of the Court’s draft decision on the unseating of Limkaichong. These attacks were planned to jump-start the impeachment moves by members of the President’s party, Kampi.
Should this move materialize, it would be the second time an impeachment move has been taken against a chief justice since 2003, when an impeachment complaint was filed against Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., spearheaded by the hit men of Eduardo Cojuangco’s Nationalist People’s Coalition. The attack was led by Cojuangco’s two sons in the House and his nephew Gilberto Teodoro. They accused Davide of alleged misappropriation of funds intended for the living allowances of court employees. Standing its ground against this frontal assault from a co-equal political department of government, the court unequivocally ruled that the impeachment complaint against Davide was unconstitutional.
This time, the attack on the Puno Court is spearheaded by a citizen, Louis Biraogo who claims he has filed a taxpayer’s suit in the cause of “public interest” to put pressure on the Supreme Court to promulgate the draft decision that would unseat Limkaichong. Biraogo also launched a media campaign, accusing Puno of giving favorable treatment to Limkaichong. He went to the media and imputed wrongdoing by Puno for withholding the promulgation of the draft.
These accusations provided ammunition for the President’s political allies in the House to begin moving against Puno. Claims by Biraogo that his intervention in the Limkaichong case was motivated by “public interest” are undermined when tested by the question, who stands to gain from the impeachment of Puno?
If impeachment proceedings against Puno are initiated in Congress, Kampi voting as a party could muster enough votes to impeach Puno. If Puno is impeached, the administration will be free to appoint a new chief justice who will be accommodating to Charter change through a constituent assembly. Puno is known to be against Charter change through a constituent assembly created by Congress voting as one chamber. This explains why Puno is alarmed.
With Due Respect
By Artemio V. Panganiban
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:39:00 01/18/2009
TOMORROW, Jan. 19, Congress will resume its session amid talk that an impeachment complaint would be filed against Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno for allegedly withholding the promulgation of a decision, penned by Justice Ruben T. Reyes, ousting Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong from her congressional seat. I believe that, by itself, this withholding cannot support an impeachment.
CJ not personally liable. First, in its Resolution dated Dec. 10, 2008, the Supreme Court stated, “Since nine (9) Justices, not counting the Chief Justice, would concur only ‘in the result,’ the Justices unanimously decided to withhold the promulgation of the ponencia of Justice Reyes. It was noted that if a majority concurs only ‘in the result,’ the ponencia has no doctrinal value. More importantly, any decision ousting a sitting member of the House of Representatives should spell out clearly the legal basis relied upon by the majority for such extreme measure.” (bold types and italics in original)
Plainly then, it was the Court itself, not the Chief Justice, that withheld the promulgation. Some, including me, may—with due respect—disagree with the Court’s two reasons (and even with the grammar used) for the non-promulgation. The Constitution does not require “doctrinal value” to validate a judgment. Neither does it demand such value in ousting a solon. Indeed, there are many decisions that do not lay down doctrines. Nonetheless, the inaction of the Court en banc as a collegial body cannot be used against the CJ.
Second, I believe that the subject decision is unconstitutional, not because it lacks doctrinal value, but because it violates Sec. 14 of Article VIII of the Constitution that states, “No decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and law on which it is based.” Per Velarde v Social Justice Party (June 28, 2004), a decision that violates this provision is void and non-existent.
An “in the result” vote concurs with the conclusion of the decision, but not with its premises and reasons. The majority who merely concurred “in the result” did not express “clearly and distinctly the facts and law” justifying their vote. In effect, the majority did not state at all the bases of the judgment.
Third, the grounds for impeachment are: “Culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.” Sitting on a void decision is not one of them. Au contraire, promulgating a decision with nine justices concurring only “in the result” may arguably—repeat, arguably—constitute “culpable violation of the Constitution.”
Numbers game? Many politicians claim that impeachment is a numbers game where all that is needed is the vote of “at least one-third of all the members of the House of Representatives.” However, I think that to ignore the constitutional grounds would constitute grave abuse of discretion that the Supreme Court could enjoin, as it did with the attempt to oust Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Jr. in 2003. A naked insistence to impeach Chief Justice Puno based on sheer tyranny of numbers would be political terrorism of the most odious kind.
Having said that, I also believe that the Court should decide the Limkaichong case with deliberate speed. Already, more than one and a half years have lapsed in the three-year term of a representative. The case has been amply deliberated upon. The issues are not difficult. In fairness, the Court should issue a prudent decision within 30 days from now.