Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thank you to my peers in IBP Leyte Chapter

I thank the lawyers, prosecutors, judges and law professors who voted for me in my bid for director of the Integrated Bar of the Phils. (IBP) - Leyte Chapter during the election held today in Tacloban City. Although I did not make it by a very slim margin of 20 votes, many recognized my credentials as a Bar leader, legal academician, and trial lawyer and my desire to serve the Rule of Law and the Justice System in the Region. The next election will be in February 2013. Many have asked me to take another bid. I am seriously considering their encouraging suggestion. Access to justice, legal education, and Bar reform are public-interest advocacies that are very close to my heart since I became a lawyer in 1985.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jurisdiction; Legal fees; Estopppel.


PATERNO LU YM, SR., et. al.,

PATERNO LU YM, SR., et. al.,


G.R. No. 153690
G.R. No. 157381
G.R. No. 170889
February 15, 2011


x x x.

The Value of the Subject Matter Cannot be Estimated

On the claim that the complaint had for its objective the nullification of the issuance of 600,000 shares of stock of LLDC, the real value of which based on underlying real estate values, as alleged in the complaint, stands at P1,087,055,105, the Court’s assailed August 4, 2009 Resolution found:

Upon deeper reflection, we find that the movants’ [Lu Ym father & sons] claim has merit. The 600,000 shares of stock were, indeed, properties in litigation. They were the subject matter of the complaint, and the relief prayed for entailed the nullification of the transfer thereof and their return to LLDC. David, et al., are minority shareholders of the corporation who claim to have been prejudiced by the sale of the shares of stock to the Lu Ym father and sons. Thus, to the extent of the damage or injury they allegedly have suffered from this sale of the shares of stock, the action they filed can be characterized as one capable of pecuniary estimation. The shares of stock have a definite value, which was declared by plaintiffs [David Lu, et al.] themselves in their complaint. Accordingly, the docket fees should have been computed based on this amount. This is clear from the following version of Rule 141, Section 7, which was in effect at the time the complaint was filed[.][21] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The said Resolution added that the value of the 600,000 shares of stock, which are the properties in litigation, should be the basis for the computation of the filing fees. It bears noting, however, that David, et al. are not claiming to own these shares. They do not claim to be the owners thereof entitled to be the transferees of the shares of stock. The mention of the real value of the shares of stock, over which David, et al. do not, it bears emphasis, interpose a claim of right to recovery, is merely narrative or descriptive in order to emphasize the inequitable price at which the transfer was effected.

The assailed August 4, 2009 Resolution also stated that “to the extent of the damage or injury [David, et al.] allegedly have suffered from this sale,” the action “can be characterized as one capable of pecuniary estimation.” The Resolution does not, however, explore the value of the extent of the damage or injury. Could it be the pro rata decrease (e.g., from 20% to 15%) of the percentage shareholding of David, et al. vis-à-vis to the whole?

Whatever property, real or personal, that would be distributed to the stockholders would be a mere consequence of the main action. In the end, in the event LLDC is dissolved, David, et al. would not be getting the value of the 600,000 shares, but only the value of their minority number of shares, which are theirs to begin with.

The complaint filed by David, et al. is one for declaration of nullity of share issuance. The main relief prayed for both in the original complaint and the amended complaint is the same, that is, to declare null and void the issuance of 600,000 unsubscribed and unissued shares to Lu Ym father and sons, et al. for a price of 1/18 of their real value, for being inequitable, having been done in breach of director’s fiduciary’s duty to stockholders, in violation of the minority stockholders’ rights, and with unjust enrichment.

As judiciously discussed in the Court’s August 26, 2008 Decision, the test in determining whether the subject matter of an action is incapable of pecuniary estimation is by ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. It explained:

x x x To be sure, the annulment of the shares, the dissolution of the corporation and the appointment of receivers/management committee are actions which do not consist in the recovery of a sum of money. If, in the end, a sum of money or real property would be recovered, it would simply be the consequence of such principal action. Therefore, the case before the RTC was incapable of pecuniary estimation.[22] (italics in the original, emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Actions which the Court has recognized as being incapable of pecuniary estimation include legality of conveyances. In a case involving annulment of contract, the Court found it to be one which cannot be estimated:

Petitioners argue that an action for annulment or rescission of a contract of sale of real property is a real action and, therefore, the amount of the docket fees to be paid by private respondent should be based either on the assessed value of the property, subject matter of the action, or its estimated value as alleged in the complaint, pursuant to the last paragraph of §7(b) of Rule 141, as amended by the Resolution of the Court dated September 12, 1990. Since private respondents alleged that the land, in which they claimed an interest as heirs, had been sold for P4,378,000.00 to petitioners, this amount should be considered the estimated value of the land for the purpose of determining the docket fees.

On the other hand, private respondents counter that an action for annulment or rescission of a contract of sale of real property is incapable of pecuniary estimation and, so, the docket fees should be the fixed amount of P400.00 in Rule 141, §7(b)(1). In support of their argument, they cite the cases of Lapitan v. Scandia, Inc. and Bautista v. Lim. In Lapitan this Court, in an opinion by Justice J.B.L. Reyes, held:

A review of the jurisprudence of this Court indicates that in determining whether an action is one the subject matter of which is not capable of pecuniary estimation, this Court has adopted the criterion of first ascertaining the nature of the principal action or remedy sought. If it is primarily for the recovery of a sum of money, the claim is considered capable of pecuniary estimation, and whether jurisdiction is in the municipal courts or in the courts of first instance would depend on the amount of the claim. However, where the basic issue is something other than the right to recover a sum of money, or where the money claim is purely incidental to, or a consequence of, the principal relief sought, like in suits to have the defendant perform his part of the contract (specific performance) and in actions for support, or for annulment of a judgment or to foreclose a mortgage, this Court has considered such actions as cases where the subject of the litigation may not be estimated in terms of money, and are cognizable exclusively by courts of first instance. The rationale of the rule is plainly that the second class cases, besides the determination of damages, demand an inquiry into other factors which the law has deemed to be more within the competence of courts of first instance, which were the lowest courts of record at the time that the first organic laws of the Judiciary were enacted allocating jurisdiction (Act 136 of the Philippine Commission of June 11, 1901).

Actions for specific performance of contracts have been expressly pronounced to be exclusively cognizable by courts of first instance: De Jesus vs. Judge Garcia, L-26816, February 28, 1967; Manufacturer's Distributors, Inc. vs. Yu Siu Liong, L-21285, April 29, 1966. And no cogent reason appears, and none is here advanced by the parties, why an action for rescission (or resolution) should be differently treated, a "rescission" being a counterpart, so to speak, of "specific performance". In both cases, the court would certainly have to undertake an investigation into facts that would justify one act or the other. No award for damages may be had in an action for rescission without first conducting an inquiry into matters which would justify the setting aside of a contract, in the same manner that courts of first instance would have to make findings of fact and law in actions not capable of pecuniary estimation expressly held to be so by this Court, arising from issues like those raised in Arroz v. Alojado, et al., L-22153, March 31, 1967 (the legality or illegality of the conveyance sought for and the determination of the validity of the money deposit made); De Ursua v. Pelayo, L-13285, April 18, 1950 (validity of a judgment); Bunayog v. Tunas, L-12707, December 23, 1959 (validity of a mortgage); Baito v. Sarmiento, L-13105, August 25, 1960 (the relations of the parties, the right to support created by the relation, etc., in actions for support), De Rivera, et al. v. Halili, L-15159, September 30, 1963 (the validity or nullity of documents upon which claims are predicated). Issues of the same nature may be raised by a party against whom an action for rescission has been brought, or by the plaintiff himself. It is, therefore, difficult to see why a prayer for damages in an action for rescission should be taken as the basis for concluding such action as one capable of pecuniary estimation — a prayer which must be included in the main action if plaintiff is to be compensated for what he may have suffered as a result of the breach committed by defendant, and not later on precluded from recovering damages by the rule against splitting a cause of action and discouraging multiplicity of suits.[23] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

IN FINE, the Court holds that David Lu, et al.’s complaint is one incapable of pecuniary estimation, hence, the correct docket fees were paid. The Court thus proceeds to tackle the arguments on estoppel and lien, mindful that the succeeding discussions rest merely on a contrary assumption, viz., that there was deficient payment.

Estoppel Has Set In

Assuming arguendo that the docket fees were insufficiently paid, the doctrine of estoppel already applies.

The assailed August 4, 2009 Resolution cited Vargas v. Caminas[24] on the non-applicability of the Tijam doctrine where the issue of jurisdiction was, in fact, raised before the trial court rendered its decision. Thus the Resolution explained:

Next, the Lu Ym father and sons filed a motion for the lifting of the receivership order, which the trial court had issued in the interim. David, et al., brought the matter up to the CA even before the trial court could resolve the motion. Thereafter, David, at al., filed their Motion to Admit Complaint to Conform to the Interim Rules Governing Intra-Corporate Controversies. It was at this point that the Lu Ym father and sons raised the question of the amount of filing fees paid. They also raised this point again in the CA when they appealed the trial court’s decision in the case below.

We find that, in the circumstances, the Lu Ym father and sons are not estopped from challenging the jurisdiction of the trial court. They raised the insufficiency of the docket fees before the trial court rendered judgment and continuously maintained their position even on appeal to the CA. Although the manner of challenge was erroneous – they should have addressed this issue directly to the trial court instead of the OCA – they should not be deemed to have waived their right to assail the jurisdiction of the trial court.[25] (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Lu Ym father and sons did not raise the issue before the trial court. The narration of facts in the Court’s original decision shows that Lu Ym father and sons merely inquired from the Clerk of Court on the amount of paid docket fees on January 23, 2004. They thereafter still “speculat[ed] on the fortune of litigation.”[26] Thirty-seven days later or on March 1, 2004 the trial court rendered its decision adverse to them.

Meanwhile, Lu Ym father and sons attempted to verify the matter of docket fees from the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA). In their Application for the issuance a writ of preliminary injunction filed with the Court of Appeals, they still failed to question the amount of docket fees paid by David Lu, et al. It was only in their Motion for Reconsideration of the denial by the appellate court of their application for injunctive writ that they raised such issue.

Lu Ym father and sons’ further inquiry from the OCA cannot redeem them. A mere inquiry from an improper office at that, could not, by any stretch, be considered as an act of having raised the jurisdictional question prior to the rendition of the trial court’s decision. In one case, it was held:

Here it is beyond dispute that respondents paid the full amount of docket fees as assessed by the Clerk of Court of the Regional Trial Court of Malolos, Bulacan, Branch 17, where they filed the complaint. If petitioners believed that the assessment was incorrect, they should have questioned it before the trial court. Instead, petitioners belatedly question the alleged underpayment of docket fees through this petition, attempting to support their position with the opinion and certification of the Clerk of Court of another judicial region. Needless to state, such certification has no bearing on the instant case.[27] (italics in the original; emphasis and underscoring in the original)

The inequity resulting from the abrogation of the whole proceedings at this late stage when the decision subsequently rendered was adverse to the father and sons is precisely the evil being avoided by the equitable principle of estoppel.

No Intent to Defraud the Government

Assuming arguendo that the docket fees paid were insufficient, there is no proof of bad faith to warrant a dismissal of the complaint, hence, the following doctrine applies:

x x x In Sun Insurance Office, Ltd., (SIOL) v. Asuncion, this Court ruled that the filing of the complaint or appropriate initiatory pleading and the payment of the prescribed docket fee vest a trial court with jurisdiction over the subject matter or nature of the action. If the amount of docket fees paid is insufficient considering the amount of the claim, the clerk of court of the lower court involved or his duly authorized deputy has the responsibility of making a deficiency assessment. The party filing the case will be required to pay the deficiency, but jurisdiction is not automatically lost.[28] (underscoring supplied)

The assailed Resolution of August 4, 2009 held, however, that the above-quoted doctrine does not apply since there was intent to defraud the government, citing one attendant circumstance– the annotation of notices of lis pendens on real properties owned by LLDC. It deduced:

From the foregoing, it is clear that a notice of lis pendens is availed of mainly in real actions. Hence, when David, et al., sought the annotation of notices of lis pendens on the titles of LLDC, they acknowledged that the complaint they had filed affected a title to or a right to possession of real properties. At the very least, they must have been fully aware that the docket fees would be based on the value of the realties involved. Their silence or inaction to point this out to the Clerk of Court who computed their docket fees, therefore, becomes highly suspect, and thus, sufficient for this Court to conclude that they have crossed beyond the threshold of good faith and into the area of fraud. Clearly, there was an effort to defraud the government in avoiding to pay the correct docket fees. Consequently, the trial court did not acquire jurisdiction over the case.[29]

All findings of fraud should begin the exposition with the presumption of good faith. The inquiry is not whether there was good faith on the part of David, et al., but whether there was bad faith on their part.

The erroneous annotation of a notice of lis pendens does not negate good faith. The overzealousness of a party in protecting pendente lite his perceived interest, inchoate or otherwise, in the corporation’s properties from depletion or dissipation, should not be lightly equated to bad faith.

That notices of lis pendens were erroneously annotated on the titles does not have the effect of changing the nature of the action. The aggrieved party is not left without a remedy, for they can move to cancel the annotations. The assailed August 4, 2009 Resolution, however, deemed such act as an acknowledgement that the case they filed was a real action, concerning as it indirectly does the corporate realties, the titles of which were allegedly annotated. This conclusion does not help much in ascertaining the filing fees because the value of these real properties and the value of the 600,000 shares of stock are different.

Further, good faith can be gathered from the series of amendments on the provisions on filing fees, that the Court was even prompted to make a clarification.

When David Lu, et al. filed the Complaint on August 14, 2000 or five days after the effectivity of the Securities Regulation Code or Republic Act No. 8799,[30] the then Section 7 of Rule 141 was the applicable provision, without any restricted reference to paragraphs (a) and (b) 1 & 3 or paragraph (a) alone. Said section then provided:

SEC. 7. Clerks of Regional Trial Courts. –

(a) For filing an action or a permissive counterclaim or money claim against an estate not based on judgment, or for filing with leave of court a third-party, fourth-party, etc. complaint, or a complaint in intervention, and for all clerical services in the same, if the total sum claimed, exclusive of interest, or the stated value of the property in litigation, is:

x x x x

(b) For filing:

1. Actions where the value of the subject matter cannot be estimated

……….….. x x x

2. Special civil actions except judicial foreclosure of mortgage which shall be governed by paragraph (a) above

…...….……. x x x

3. All other actions not involving property

……….…… x x x

In a real action, the assessed value of the property, or if there is none, the estimated value thereof shall be alleged by the claimant and shall be the basis in computing the fees.

x x x x[31] (emphasis supplied)

The Court, by Resolution of September 4, 2001 in A. M. No. 00-8-10-SC,[32] clarified the matter of legal fees to be collected in cases formerly cognizable by the Securities and Exchange Commission following their transfer to the RTC.

Clarification has been sought on the legal fees to be collected and the period of appeal applicable in cases formerly cognizable by the Securities and Exchange Commission. It appears that the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate Rehabilitation and the Interim Rules of Procedure for Intra-Corporate Controversies do not provide the basis for the assessment of filing fees and the period of appeal in cases transferred from the Securities and Exchange Commission to particular Regional Trial Courts.

The nature of the above mentioned cases should first be ascertained. Section 3(a), Rule 1 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure defines civil action as one by which a party sues another for the enforcement or protection of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong. It further states that a civil action may either be ordinary or special, both being governed by the rules for ordinary civil actions subject to the special rules prescribed for special civil actions. Section 3(c) of the same Rule, defines a special proceeding as a remedy by which a party seeks to establish a status, a right, or a particular fact.

Applying these definitions, the cases covered by the Interim Rules for Intra-Corporate Controversies should be considered as ordinary civil actions. These cases either seek the recovery of damages/property or specific performance of an act against a party for the violation or protection of a right. These cases are:

(1) Devices or schemes employed by, or any act of, the board of directors, business associates, officers or partners, amounting to fraud or misrepresentation which may be detrimental to the interest of the public and/or of the stockholders, partners, or members of any corporation, partnership, or association;

(2) Controversies arising out of intra-corporate, partnership, or association relations, between and among stockholders, members or associates; and between, any or all of them and the corporation, partnership, or association of which they are stockholders, members or associates, respectively;

(3) Controversies in the election or appointment of directors, trustees, officers, or managers of corporations, partnerships, or associations;

(4) Derivative suits; and

(5) Inspection of corporate books.

On the other hand, a petition for rehabilitation, the procedure for which is provided in the Interim Rules of Procedure on Corporate Recovery, should be considered as a special proceeding. It is one that seeks to establish the status of a party or a particular fact. As provided in section 1, Rule 4 of the Interim Rules on Corporate Recovery, the status or fact sought to be established is the inability of the corporate debtor to pay its debts when they fall due so that a rehabilitation plan, containing the formula for the successful recovery of the corporation, may be approved in the end. It does not seek a relief from an injury caused by another party.

Section 7 of Rule 141 (Legal Fees) of the Revised Rules of Court lays the amount of filing fees to be assessed for actions or proceedings filed with the Regional Trial Court. Section 7(a) and (b) apply to ordinary civil actions while 7(d) and (g) apply to special proceedings.

In fine, the basis for computing the filing fees in intra-corporate cases shall be section 7(a) and (b) l & 3 of Rule 141. For petitions for rehabilitation, section 7(d) shall be applied. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

The new Section 21(k) of Rule 141 of the Rules of Court, as amended by A.M. No. 04-2-04-SC[33] (July 20, 2004), expressly provides that “[f]or petitions for insolvency or other cases involving intra-corporate controversies, the fees prescribed under Section 7(a) shall apply.” Notatu dignum is that paragraph (b) 1 & 3 of Section 7 thereof was omitted from the reference. Said paragraph[34] refers to docket fees for filing “[a]ctions where the value of the subject matter cannot be estimated” and “all other actions not involving property.”

By referring the computation of such docket fees to paragraph (a) only, it denotes that an intra-corporate controversy always involves a property in litigation, the value of which is always the basis for computing the applicable filing fees. The latest amendments seem to imply that there can be no case of intra-corporate controversy where the value of the subject matter cannot be estimated. Even one for a mere inspection of corporate books.

If the complaint were filed today, one could safely find refuge in the express phraseology of Section 21 (k) of Rule 141 that paragraph (a) alone applies.

In the present case, however, the original Complaint was filed on August 14, 2000 during which time Section 7, without qualification, was the applicable provision. Even the Amended Complaint was filed on March 31, 2003 during which time the applicable rule expressed that paragraphs (a) and (b) l & 3 shall be the basis for computing the filing fees in intra-corporate cases, recognizing that there could be an intra-corporate controversy where the value of the subject matter cannot be estimated, such as an action for inspection of corporate books. The immediate illustration shows that no mistake can even be attributed to the RTC clerk of court in the assessment of the docket fees.

Finally, assuming there was deficiency in paying the docket fees and assuming further that there was a mistake in computation, the deficiency may be considered a lien on the judgment that may be rendered, there being no established intent to defraud the government.

WHEREFORE, the assailed Resolutions of August 4, 2009 and September 23, 2009 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Court’s Decision of August 26, 2008 is REINSTATED.

The Court of Appeals is DIRECTED to resume the proceedings and resolve the remaining issues with utmost dispatch in CA-G.R. CV No. 81163.


The cityhood laws constitutional; SC reversed itself for the 3rd time.

Supreme Court

League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer
Commission on Elections; Municipality of Baybay, Province of Leyte; Municipality of Bogo, Province of Cebu; Municipality of Catbalogan, Province of Western Samar; Municipality of Tandag, Province of Surigao del Sur; Municipality of Borongan, Province of Eastern Samar; and Municipality of Tayabas, Province of Quezon,

League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer
Commission on Elections; Municipality of Lamitan, Province of Basilan; Municipality of Tabuk, Province of Kalinga; Municipality of Bayugan, Province of Agusan del Sur; Municipality of Batac, Province of Ilocos Norte; Municipality of Mati, Province of Davao Oriental; and Municipality of Guihulngan, Province of Negros Oriental,

League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), represented by LCP National President Jerry P. Treñas; City of Calbayog, represented by Mayor Mel Senen S. Sarmiento; and Jerry P. Treñas, in his personal capacity as Taxpayer
Commission on Elections; Municipality of Cabadbaran, Province of Agusan del Norte; Municipality of Carcar, Province of Cebu; Municipality of El Salvador, Province of Misamis Oriental; Municipality of Naga, Cebu; and Department of Budget and Management,

G.R. No. 176951
G.R. No. 177499
G.R. No. 178056
February 15, 2011


x x x.

For consideration of this Court are the following pleadings:

1. Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010 dated and filed on September 14, 2010 by respondents Municipality of Baybay, et al.; and

2. Opposition [To the “Motion for Reconsideration of the ‘Resolution’ dated August 24, 2010”].

Meanwhile, respondents also filed on September 20, 2010 a Motion to Set “Motion for Reconsideration of the ‘Resolution’ dated August 24, 2010” for Hearing. This motion was, however, already denied by the Court En Banc.

A brief background —

These cases were initiated by the consolidated petitions for prohibition filed by the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP), City of Iloilo, City of Calbayog, and Jerry P. Treñas, assailing the constitutionality of the sixteen (16) laws,[1] each converting the municipality covered thereby into a component city (Cityhood Laws), and seeking to enjoin the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) from conducting plebiscites pursuant to the subject laws.

In the Decision dated November 18, 2008, the Court En Banc, by a 6-5 vote,[2] granted the petitions and struck down the Cityhood Laws as unconstitutional for violating Sections 10 and 6, Article X, and the equal protection clause.

In the Resolution dated March 31, 2009, the Court En Banc, by a 7-5 vote,[3] denied the first motion for reconsideration.

On April 28, 2009, the Court En Banc issued a Resolution, with a vote of 6-6,[4] which denied the second motion for reconsideration for being a prohibited pleading.

In its June 2, 2009 Resolution, the Court En Banc clarified its April 28, 2009 Resolution in this wise—

As a rule, a second motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading pursuant to Section 2, Rule 52 of the Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that: “No second motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final resolution by the same party shall be entertained.” Thus, a decision becomes final and executory after 15 days from receipt of the denial of the first motion for reconsideration.

However, when a motion for leave to file and admit a second motion for reconsideration is granted by the Court, the Court therefore allows the filing of the second motion for reconsideration. In such a case, the second motion for reconsideration is no longer a prohibited pleading.

In the present case, the Court voted on the second motion for reconsideration filed by respondent cities. In effect, the Court allowed the filing of the second motion for reconsideration. Thus, the second motion for reconsideration was no longer a prohibited pleading. However, for lack of the required number of votes to overturn the 18 November 2008 Decision and 31 March 2009 Resolution, the Court denied the second motion for reconsideration in its 28 April 2009 Resolution.[5]

Then, in another Decision dated December 21, 2009, the Court En Banc, by a vote of 6-4,[6] declared the Cityhood Laws as constitutional.

On August 24, 2010, the Court En Banc, through a Resolution, by a vote of 7-6,[7] resolved the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration and Motion to Annul the Decision of December 21, 2009, both filed by petitioners, and the Ad Cautelam Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioners-in-intervention Batangas City, Santiago City, Legazpi City, Iriga City, Cadiz City, and Oroquieta City, reinstating the November 18, 2008 Decision. Hence, the aforementioned pleadings.

Considering these circumstances where the Court En Banc has twice changed its position on the constitutionality of the 16 Cityhood Laws, and especially taking note of the novelty of the issues involved in these cases, the Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010 deserves favorable action by this Court on the basis of the following cogent points:


The 16 Cityhood Bills do not violate Article X, Section 10 of the Constitution.

Article X, Section 10 provides—

Section 10. No province, city, municipality, or barangay may be created, divided, merged, abolished, or its boundary substantially altered, except in accordance with the criteria established in the local government code and subject to approval by a majority of the votes cast in a plebiscite in the political units directly affected.

The tenor of the ponencias of the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution is that the exemption clauses in the 16 Cityhood Laws are unconstitutional because they are not written in the Local Government Code of 1991 (LGC), particularly Section 450 thereof, as amended by Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9009, which took effect on June 30, 2001, viz.—

Section 450. Requisites for Creation. –a) A municipality or a cluster of barangays may be converted into a component city if it has a locally generated annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least One Hundred Million Pesos (P100,000,000.00) for at least two (2) consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices, and if it has either of the following requisites:

x x x x

(c) The average annual income shall include the income accruing to the general fund, exclusive of special funds, transfers, and non-recurring income. (Emphasis supplied)

Prior to the amendment, Section 450 of the LGC required only an average annual income, as certified by the Department of Finance, of at least P20,000,000.00 for the last two (2) consecutive years, based on 1991 constant prices.

Before Senate Bill No. 2157, now R.A. No. 9009, was introduced by Senator Aquilino Pimentel, there were 57 bills filed for conversion of 57 municipalities into component cities. During the 11th Congress (June 1998-June 2001), 33 of these bills were enacted into law, while 24 remained as pending bills. Among these 24 were the 16 municipalities that were converted into component cities through the Cityhood Laws.

The rationale for the enactment of R.A. No. 9009 can be gleaned from the sponsorship speech of Senator Pimentel on Senate Bill No. 2157, to wit—

Senator Pimentel. Mr. President, I would have wanted this bill to be included in the whole set of proposed amendments that we have introduced to precisely amend the Local Government Code. However, it is a fact that there is a mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities. Whereas in 1991, when the Local Government was approved, there were only 60 cities, today the number has increased to 85 cities, with 41 more municipalities applying for conversion to the same status. At the rate we are going, I am apprehensive that before long this nation will be a nation of all cities and no municipalities.

It is for that reason, Mr. President, that we are proposing among other things, that the financial requirement, which, under the Local Government Code, is fixed at P20 million, be raised to P100 million to enable a municipality to have the right to be converted into a city, and the P100 million should be sourced from locally generated funds.

What has been happening, Mr. President, is, the municipalities aspiring to become cities say that they qualify in terms of financial requirements by incorporating the Internal Revenue share of the taxes of the nation on to their regularly generated revenue. Under that requirement, it looks clear to me that practically all municipalities in this country would qualify to become cities.

It is precisely for that reason, therefore, that we are seeking the approval of this Chamber to amend, particularly Section 450 of Republic Act No. 7160, the requisite for the average annual income of a municipality to be converted into a city or cluster of barangays which seek to be converted into a city, raising that revenue requirement from P20 million to P100 million for the last two consecutive years based on 2000 constant prices.[8]

While R.A. No. 9009 was being deliberated upon, Congress was well aware of the pendency of conversion bills of several municipalities, including those covered by the Cityhood Laws, desiring to become component cities which qualified under the P20 million income requirement of the old Section 450 of the LGC. The interpellation of Senate President Franklin Drilon of Senator Pimentel is revealing, thus—

THE PRESIDENT. The Chair would like to ask for some clarificatory point.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. This is just on the point of the pending bills in the Senate which propose the conversion of a number of municipalities into cities and which qualify under the present standard.

We would like to know the view of the sponsor: Assuming that this bill becomes a law, will the Chamber apply the standard as proposed in this bill to those bills which are pending for consideration?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, it might not be fair to make this bill, on the assumption that it is approved, retroact to the bills that are pending in the Senate conversion from municipalities to cities.

THE PRESIDENT. Will there be an appropriate language crafted to reflect that view? Or does it not become a policy of the Chamber, assuming that this bill becomes a law tomorrow, that it will apply to those bills which are already approved by the House under the old version of the Local Government Code and are now pending in the Senate? The Chair does not know if we can craft a language which will limit the application to those which are not yet in the Senate. Or is that a policy that the Chamber will adopt?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Mr. President, personally, I do not think it is necessary to put that provision because what we are saying here will form part of the interpretation of this bill. Besides, if there is no retroactivity clause, I do not think that the bill would have any retroactive effect.

THE PRESIDENT. So the understanding is that those bills which are already pending in the Chamber will not be affected.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. These will not be affected, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT. Thank you Mr. Chairman.[9]

Clearly, based on the above exchange, Congress intended that those with pending cityhood bills during the 11th Congress would not be covered by the new and higher income requirement of P100 million imposed by R.A. No. 9009. When the LGC was amended by R.A. No. 9009, the amendment carried with it both the letter and the intent of the law, and such were incorporated in the LGC by which the compliance of the Cityhood Laws was gauged.

Notwithstanding that both the 11th and 12th Congress failed to act upon the pending cityhood bills, both the letter and intent of Section 450 of the LGC, as amended by R.A. No. 9009, were carried on until the 13th Congress, when the Cityhood Laws were enacted. The exemption clauses found in the individual Cityhood Laws are the express articulation of that intent to exempt respondent municipalities from the coverage of R.A. No. 9009.

Even if we were to ignore the above quoted exchange between then Senate President Drilon and Senator Pimentel, it cannot be denied that Congress saw the wisdom of exempting respondent municipalities from complying with the higher income requirement imposed by the amendatory R.A. No. 9009. Indeed, these municipalities have proven themselves viable and capable to become component cities of their respective provinces. It is also acknowledged that they were centers of trade and commerce, points of convergence of transportation, rich havens of agricultural, mineral, and other natural resources, and flourishing tourism spots. In this regard, it is worthy to mention the distinctive traits of each respondent municipality, viz—

Batac, Ilocos Norte – It is the biggest municipality of the 2nd District of Ilocos Norte, 2nd largest and most progressive town in the province of Ilocos Norte and the natural convergence point for the neighboring towns to transact their commercial ventures and other daily activities. A growing metropolis, Batac is equipped with amenities of modern living like banking institutions, satellite cable systems, telecommunications systems. Adequate roads, markets, hospitals, public transport systems, sports, and entertainment facilities. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5941, introduced by Rep. Imee R. Marcos.]

El Salvador, Misamis Oriental – It is located at the center of the Cagayan-Iligan Industrial Corridor and home to a number of industrial companies and corporations. Investment and financial affluence of El Salvador is aptly credited to its industrious and preserving people. Thus, it has become the growing investment choice even besting nearby cities and municipalities. It is home to Asia Brewery as distribution port of their product in Mindanao. The Gokongwei Group of Companies is also doing business in the area. So, the conversion is primarily envisioned to spur economic and financial prosperity to this coastal place in North-Western Misamis Oriental. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 6003, introduced by Rep. Augusto H. Bacullo.]

Cabadbaran, Agusan del Norte – It is the largest of the eleven (11) municipalities in the province of Agusan del Norte. It plays strategic importance to the administrative and socio-economic life and development of Agusan del Norte. It is the foremost in terms of trade, commerce, and industry. Hence, the municipality was declared as the new seat and capital of the provincial government of Agusan del Norte pursuant to Republic Act No. 8811 enacted into law on August 16, 2000. Its conversion will certainly promote, invigorate, and reinforce the economic potential of the province in establishing itself as an agro-industrial center in the Caraga region and accelerate the development of the area. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3094, introduced by Rep. Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante.]

Borongan, Eastern Samar – It is the capital town of Eastern Samar and the development of Eastern Samar will depend to a certain degree of its urbanization. It will serve as a catalyst for the modernization and progress of adjacent towns considering the frequent interactions between the populace. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 2640, introduced by Rep. Marcelino C. Libanan.]

Lamitan, Basilan – Before Basilan City was converted into a separate province, Lamitan was the most progressive part of the city. It has been for centuries the center of commerce and the seat of the Sultanate of the Yakan people of Basilan. The source of its income is agro-industrial and others notably copra, rubber, coffee and host of income generating ventures. As the most progressive town in Basilan, Lamitan continues to be the center of commerce catering to the municipalities of Tuburan, Tipo-Tipo and Sumisip. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5786, introduced by Rep. Gerry A. Salapuddin.]

Catbalogan, Samar – It has always been the socio-economic-political capital of the Island of Samar even during the Spanish era. It is the seat of government of the two congressional districts of Samar. Ideally located at the crossroad between Northern and Eastern Samar, Catbalogan also hosts trade and commerce activates among the more prosperous cities of the Visayas like Tacloban City, Cebu City and the cities of Bicol region. The numerous banks and telecommunication facilities showcases the healthy economic environment of the municipality. The preeminent and sustainable economic situation of Catbalogan has further boosted the call of residents for a more vigorous involvement of governance of the municipal government that is inherent in a city government. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 2088, introduced by Rep. Catalino V. Figueroa.]

Bogo, Cebu – Bogo is very qualified for a city in terms of income, population and area among others. It has been elevated to the Hall of Fame being a five-time winner nationwide in the clean and green program. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3042, introduced by Rep. Clavel A. Martinez.]

Tandag, Surigao del Sur – This over 350 year old capital town the province has long sought its conversion into a city that will pave the way not only for its own growth and advancement but also help in the development of its neighboring municipalities and the province as a whole. Furthermore, it can enhance its role as the province’s trade, financial and government center. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 5940, introduced by Rep. Prospero A. Pichay, Jr.]

Bayugan, Agusan del Sur – It is a first class municipality and the biggest in terms of population in the entire province. It has the most progressive and thickly populated area among the 14 municipalities that comprise the province. Thus, it has become the center for trade and commerce in Agusan del Sur. It has a more developed infrastructure and facilities than other municipalities in the province. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 1899, introduced by Rep. Rodolfo “Ompong” G. Plaza.]

Carcar, Cebu – Through the years, Carcar metamorphosed from rural to urban and now boast of its manufacturing industry, agricultural farming, fishing and prawn industry and its thousands of large and small commercial establishments contributing to the bulk of economic activities in the municipality. Based on consultation with multi-sectoral groups, political and non-government agencies, residents and common folk in Carcar, they expressed their desire for the conversion of the municipality into a component city. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3990, introduced by Rep. Eduardo R. Gullas.]

Guihulngan, Negros Oriental – Its population is second highest in the province, next only to the provincial capital and higher than Canlaon City and Bais City. Agriculture contributes heavily to its economy. There are very good prospects in agricultural production brought about by its favorable climate. It has also the Tanon Strait that provides a good fishing ground for its numerous fishermen. Its potential to grow commercially is certain. Its strategic location brought about by its existing linkage networks and the major transportation corridors traversing the municipality has established Guihulngan as the center of commerce and trade in this part of Negros Oriental with the first congressional district as its immediate area of influence. Moreover, it has beautiful tourist spots that are being availed of by local and foreign tourists. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3628, introduced by Rep. Jacinto V. Paras.]

Tayabas, Quezon – It flourished and expanded into an important politico-cultural center in [the] Tagalog region. For 131 years (1179-1910), it served as the cabecera of the province which originally carried the cabecera’s own name, Tayabas. The locality is rich in culture, heritage and trade. It was at the outset one of the more active centers of coordination and delivery of basic, regular and diverse goods and services within the first district of Quezon Province. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3348, introduced by Rep. Rafael P. Nantes.]

Tabuk, Kalinga – It not only serves as the main hub of commerce and trade, but also the cultural center of the rich customs and traditions of the different municipalities in the province. For the past several years, the income of Tabuk has been steadily increasing, which is an indication that its economy is likewise progressively growing. [Explanatory Note of House Bill No. 3068, introduced by Rep. Laurence P. Wacnang.]

Available information on Baybay, Leyte; Mati, Davao Oriental; and Naga, Cebu shows their economic viability, thus:

Covering an area of 46,050 hectares, Baybay [Leyte] is composed of 92 barangays, 23 of which are in the poblacion. The remaining 69 are rural barangays. Baybay City is classified as a first class city. It is situated on the western coast of the province of Leyte. It has a Type 4 climate, which is generally wet. Its topography is generally mountainous in the eastern portion as it slopes down west towards the shore line. Generally an agricultural city, the common means of livelihood are farming and fishing. Some are engaged in hunting and in forestall activities. The most common crops grown are rice, corn, root crops, fruits, and vegetables. Industries operating include the Specialty Products Manufacturing, Inc. and the Visayan Oil Mill. Various cottage industries can also be found in the city such as bamboo and rattan craft, ceramics, dress-making, fiber craft, food preservation, mat weaving, metal craft, fine Philippine furniture manufacturing and other related activities. Baybay has great potential as a tourist destination, especially for tennis players. It is not only rich in biodiversity and history, but it also houses the campus of the Visayas State University (formerly the Leyte State University/Visayas State College of Agriculture/Visayas Agricultural College/Baybay National Agricultural School/Baybay Agricultural High School and the Jungle Valley Park.) Likewise, it has river systems fit for river cruising, numerous caves for spelunking, forests, beaches, and marine treasures. This richness, coupled with the friendly Baybayanos, will be an element of a successful tourism program. Considering the role of tourism in development, Baybay City intends to harness its tourism potential. ( visited September 19, 2008)

Mati [Davao Oriental] is located on the eastern part of the island of Mindanao. It is one hundred sixty-five (165) kilometers away from Davao City, a one and a half-hour drive from Tagum City. Visitors can travel from Davao City through the Madaum diversion road, which is shorter than taking the Davao-Tagum highway. Travels by air and sea are possible, with the existence of an airport and seaport. Mati boasts of being the coconut capital of Mindanao if not the whole country. A large portion of its fertile land is planted to coconuts, and a significant number of its population is largely dependent on it. Other agricultural crops such as mango, banana, corn, coffee and cacao are also being cultivated, as well as the famous Menzi pomelo and Valencia oranges. Mati has a long stretch of shoreline and one can find beaches of pure, powder-like white sand. A number of resorts have been developed and are now open to serve both local and international tourists. Some of these resorts are situated along the coast of Pujada Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Along the western coast of the bay lies Mt. Hamiguitan, the home of the pygmy forest, where bonsai plants and trees grow, some of which are believed to be a hundred years old or more. On its peak is a lake, called “Tinagong Dagat,” or hidden sea, so covered by dense vegetation a climber has to hike trails for hours to reach it. The mountain is also host to rare species of flora and fauna, thus becoming a wildlife sanctuary for these life forms. ( accessed on September 19, 2008.)

Mati is abundant with nickel, chromite, and copper. Louie Rabat, Chamber President of the Davao Oriental Eastern Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized the big potential of the mining industry in the province of Davao Oriental. As such, he strongly recommends Mati as the mining hub in the Region.


Naga [Cebu]: Historical Background—In the early times, the place now known as Naga was full of huge trees locally called as “Narra.” The first settlers referred to this place as Narra, derived from the huge trees, which later simply became Naga. Considered as one of the oldest settlements in the Province of Cebu, Naga became a municipality on June 12, 1829. The municipality has gone through a series of classifications as its economic development has undergone changes and growth. The tranquil farming and fishing villages of the natives were agitated as the Spaniards came and discovered coal in the uplands. Coal was the first export of the municipality, as the Spaniards mined and sent it to Spain. The mining industry triggered the industrial development of Naga. As the years progressed, manufacturing and other industries followed, making Naga one of the industrialized municipalities in the Province of Cebu.

x x x.

The enactment of the Cityhood Laws is an exercise by Congress of its legislative power. Legislative power is the authority, under the Constitution, to make laws, and to alter and repeal them.[10] The Constitution, as the expression of the will of the people in their original, sovereign, and unlimited capacity, has vested this power in the Congress of the Philippines. The grant of legislative power to Congress is broad, general, and comprehensive. The legislative body possesses plenary powers for all purposes of civil government. Any power, deemed to be legislative by usage and tradition, is necessarily possessed by Congress, unless the Constitution has lodged it elsewhere. In fine, except as limited by the Constitution, either expressly or impliedly, legislative power embraces all subjects, and extends to matters of general concern or common interest.[11]

Without doubt, the LGC is a creation of Congress through its law-making powers. Congress has the power to alter or modify it as it did when it enacted R.A. No. 9009. Such power of amendment of laws was again exercised when Congress enacted the Cityhood Laws. When Congress enacted the LGC in 1991, it provided for quantifiable indicators of economic viability for the creation of local government units—income, population, and land area. Congress deemed it fit to modify the income requirement with respect to the conversion of municipalities into component cities when

it enacted R.A. No. 9009, imposing an amount of P100 million, computed only from locally-generated sources. However, Congress deemed it wiser to exempt respondent municipalities from such a belatedly imposed modified income requirement in order to uphold its higher calling of putting flesh and blood to the very intent and thrust of the LGC, which is countryside development and autonomy, especially accounting for these municipalities as engines for economic growth in their respective provinces.

Undeniably, R.A. No. 9009 amended the LGC. But it is also true that, in effect, the Cityhood Laws amended R.A. No. 9009 through the exemption clauses found therein. Since the Cityhood Laws explicitly exempted the concerned municipalities from the amendatory R.A. No. 9009, such Cityhood Laws are, therefore, also amendments to the LGC itself. For this reason, we reverse the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution on their strained and stringent view that the Cityhood Laws, particularly their exemption clauses, are not found in the LGC.


The Cityhood Laws do not violate Section 6, Article X and the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Both the November 18, 2008 Decision and the August 24, 2010 Resolution impress that the Cityhood Laws violate the equal protection clause enshrined in the Constitution. Further, it was also ruled that Section 6, Article X was violated because the Cityhood Laws infringed on the “just share” that petitioner and petitioners-in-intervention shall receive from the national taxes (IRA) to be automatically released to them.

Upon more profound reflection and deliberation, we declare that there was valid classification, and the Cityhood Laws do not violate the equal protection clause.

As this Court has ruled, the equal protection clause of the 1987 Constitution permits a valid classification, provided that it: (1) rests on substantial distinctions; (2) is germane to the purpose of the law; (3) is not limited to existing conditions only; and (4) applies equally to all members of the same class.[12]

The petitioners argue that there is no substantial distinction between municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress and municipalities that did not have pending bills, such that the mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress is not a material difference to distinguish one municipality from another for the purpose of the income requirement. This contention misses the point.

It should be recalled from the above quoted portions of the interpellation by Senate President Drilon of Senator Pimentel that the purpose of the enactment of R.A. No 9009 was merely to stop the “mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities” and the apprehension that before long the country will be a country of cities and without municipalities. It should be pointed out that the imposition of the P100 million average annual income requirement for the creation of component cities was arbitrarily made. To be sure, there was no evidence or empirical data, such as inflation rates, to support the choice of this amount. The imposition of a very high income requirement of P100 million, increased from P20 million, was simply to make it extremely difficult for municipalities to become component cities. And to highlight such arbitrariness and the absurdity of the situation created thereby, R.A. No. 9009 has, in effect, placed component cities at a higher standing than highly urbanized cities under Section 452 of the LGC, to wit—

Section 452. Highly Urbanized Cities. – (a) Cities with a minimum population of two hundred thousand (200,000) inhabitants, as certified by the National Statistics Office, and with the latest annual income of at least Fifty Million Pesos (P50,000,000.00) based on 1991 constant prices, as certified by the city treasurer, shall be classified as highly urbanized cities.

(b) Cities which do not meet above requirements shall be considered component cities of the province in which they are geographically located. (Emphasis supplied)

The P100 million income requirement imposed by R.A. No. 9009, being an arbitrary amount, cannot be conclusively said to be the only amount “sufficient, based on acceptable standards, to provide for all essential government facilities and services and special functions

commensurate with the size of its population,” per Section 7[13] of the LGC. It was imposed merely because it is difficult to comply with. While it could be argued that P100 million, being more than P20 million, could, of course, provide the essential government facilities, services, and special functions vis-à-vis the population of a municipality wanting to become a component city, it cannot be said that the minimum amount of P20 million would be insufficient. This is evident from the existing cities whose income, up to now, do not comply with the P100 million income requirement, some of which have lower than the P20 million average annual income. Consider the list[14] below—

x x x.

The undeniable fact that these cities remain viable as component cities of their respective provinces emphasizes the arbitrariness of the amount of P100 million as the new income requirement for the conversion of municipalities into component cities. This arbitrariness can also be clearly gleaned from the respective distinctive traits and level of economic development of the individual respondent municipalities as above submitted.

Verily, the determination of the existence of substantial distinction with respect to respondent municipalities does not simply lie on the mere pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress. This Court sees the bigger picture. The existence of substantial distinction with respect to respondent municipalities covered by the Cityhood Laws is measured by the purpose of the law, not by R.A. No. 9009, but by the very purpose of the LGC, as provided in its Section 2 (a), thus—

SECTION 2. Declaration of Policy.—(a) It is hereby declared the policy of the State that the territorial and political subdivisions of the State shall enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals. Toward this end, the State shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization whereby local government units shall be given more powers, authority, responsibilities and resources. The process of decentralization shall proceed from the National Government to the local government units.

Indeed, substantial distinction lies in the capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces. Congress, by enacting the Cityhood Laws, recognized this capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become the State’s partners in accelerating economic growth and development in the provincial regions, which is the very thrust of the LGC, manifested by the pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress and their relentless pursuit for cityhood up to the present. Truly, the urgent need to become a component city arose way back in the 11th Congress, and such condition continues to exist.

Petitioners in these cases complain about the purported reduction of their “just share” in the IRA. To be sure, petitioners are entitled to a “just share,” not a specific amount. But the feared reduction proved to be false when, after the implementation of the Cityhood Laws, their respective shares increased, not decreased. Consider the table[15] below—

x x x.

What these petitioner cities were stating as a reduction of their respective IRA shares was based on a computation of what they would receive if respondent municipalities were not to become component cities at all. Of course, that would mean a bigger amount to which they have staked their claim. After considering these, it all boils down to money and how much more they would receive if respondent municipalities remain as municipalities and not share in the 23% fixed IRA from the national government for cities.

Moreover, the debates in the Senate on R.A. No. 9009, should prove enlightening:

SENATOR SOTTO. Mr. President, we just want to be enlightened again on the previous qualification and the present one being proposed. Before there were three…

SENATOR PIMENTEL. There are three requisites for a municipality to become a city. Let us start with the finance.

SENATOR SOTTO. Will the distinguished sponsor please refresh us? I used to be the chairman of the Committee on Local Government, but the new job that was given to me by the Senate has erased completely my memory as far as the Local Government Code is concerned.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Yes, Mr. President, with pleasure. There are three requirements. One is financial.

SENATOR SOTTO. All right. It used to be P20 million.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. It is P20 million. Now we are raising it to P100 million of locally generated funds.

SENATOR SOTTO. In other words, the P20 million before includes the IRA.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. No, Mr. President.

SENATOR SOTTO. It should not have been included?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. The internal revenue share should never have been included. That was not the intention when we first crafted the Local Government Code. The financial capacity was supposed to be demonstrated by the municipality wishing to become a city by its own effort, meaning to say, it should not rely on the internal revenue share that comes from the government. Unfortunately, I think what happened in past conversions of municipalities into cities was, the Department of Budget and Management, along with the Department of Finance, had included the internal revenue share as a part of the municipality, demonstration that they are now financially capable and can measure up to the requirement of the Local Government Code of having a revenue of at least P20 million.

SENATOR SOTTO. I am glad that the sponsor, Mr. President, has spread that into the Record because otherwise, if he did not mention the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management, then I would have been blamed for the misinterpretation. But anyway, the gentleman is correct. That was the interpretation given to us during the hearings.

So now, from P20 million, we make it P100 million from locally generated income as far as population is concerned.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. As far as population is concerned, there will be no change, Mr. President. Still 150,000.

SENATOR SOTTO. Still 150,000?


SENATOR SOTTO. And then the land area?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. As to the land area, there is no change; it is still 100 square kilometers.

SENATOR SOTTO. But before it was “either/or”?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. That is correct. As long as it has one of the three requirements, basically, as long as it meets the financial requirement, then it may meet the territorial requirement or the population requirement.

SENATOR SOTTO. So, it remains “or”?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. We are now changing it into AND.




SENATOR PIMENTEL. That is the proposal, Mr. President. In other words…

SENATOR SOTTO. Does the gentleman not think there will no longer be any municipality that will qualify, Mr. President?

SENATOR PIMENTEL. There may still be municipalities which can qualify, but it will take a little time. They will have to produce more babies. I do not know—expand their territories, whatever, by reclamation or otherwise. But the whole proposal is geared towards making it difficult for municipalities to convert into cities.

On the other hand, I would like to advert to the fact that in the amendments that we are proposing for the entire Local Government Code, we are also raising the internal revenue share of the municipalities.


SENATOR PIMENTEL. So that, more or less, hindi naman sila dehado in this particular instance.

SENATOR SOTTO. Well, then, because of that information, Mr. President, I throw my full support behind the measure.

Thank you, Mr. President.

SENATOR PIMENTEL. Thank you very much, Mr. President. (Emphasis supplied)[16]

From the foregoing, the justness in the act of Congress in enacting the Cityhood Laws becomes obvious, especially considering that 33 municipalities were converted into component cities almost immediately prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 9009. In the enactment of the Cityhood Laws, Congress merely took the 16 municipalities covered thereby from the disadvantaged position brought about by the abrupt increase in the income requirement of R.A. No. 9009, acknowledging the “privilege” that they have already given to those newly-converted component cities, which prior to the enactment of R.A. No. 9009, were undeniably in the same footing or “class” as the respondent municipalities. Congress merely recognized the capacity and readiness of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces.

Petitioners complain of the projects that they would not be able to pursue and the expenditures that they would not be able to meet, but totally ignored the respondent municipalities’ obligations arising from the contracts they have already entered into, the employees that they have already hired, and the projects that they have already initiated and completed as component cities. Petitioners have completely overlooked the need of respondent municipalities to become effective vehicles intending to accelerate economic growth in the countryside. It is like the elder siblings wanting to kill the newly-borns so that their inheritance would not be diminished.

Apropos is the following parable:

There was a landowner who went out at dawn to hire workmen for his vineyard. After reaching an agreement with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them out to his vineyard. He came out about midmorning and saw other men standing around the marketplace without work, so he said to them, “You too go along to my vineyard and I will pay you whatever is fair.” They went. He came out again around noon and mid-afternoon and did the same. Finally, going out in late afternoon he found still others standing around. To these he said, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” “No one has hired us,” they told him. He said, “You go to the vineyard too.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the workmen and give them their pay, but begin with the last group and end with the first.” When those hired late in the afternoon came up they received a full day’s pay, and when the first group appeared they thought they would get more, yet they received the same daily wage. Thereupon they complained to the owner, “This last group did only an hour’s work, but you have paid them on the same basis as us who have worked a full day in the scorching heat.” “My friend,” he said to one in reply, “I do you no injustice. You agreed on the usual wage, did you not? Take your pay and go home. I intend to give this man who was hired last the same pay as you. I am free to do as I please with my money, am I not? Or are you envious because I am generous?”[17]

Congress, who holds the power of the purse, in enacting the Cityhood Laws, only sought the well-being of respondent municipalities, having seen their respective capacities to become component cities of their provinces, temporarily stunted by the enactment of R.A. No. 9009. By allowing respondent municipalities to convert into component cities, Congress desired only to uphold the very purpose of the LGC, i.e., to make the local government units “enjoy genuine and meaningful local autonomy to enable them to attain their fullest development as self-reliant communities and make them more effective partners in the attainment of national goals,” which is the very mandate of the Constitution.

Finally, we should not be restricted by technical rules of procedure at the expense of the transcendental interest of justice and equity. While it is true that litigation must end, even at the expense of errors in judgment, it is nobler rather for this Court of last resort, as vanguard of truth, to toil in order to dispel apprehensions and doubt, as the following pronouncement of this Court instructs:

The right and power of judicial tribunals to declare whether enactments of the legislature exceed the constitutional limitations and are invalid has always been considered a grave responsibility, as well as a solemn duty. The courts invariably give the most careful consideration to questions involving the interpretation and application of the Constitution, and approach constitutional questions with great deliberation, exercising their power in this respect with the greatest possible caution and even reluctance; and they should never declare a statute void, unless its invalidity is, in their judgment, beyond reasonable doubt. To justify a court in pronouncing a legislative act unconstitutional, or a provision of a state constitution to be in contravention of the Constitution x x x, the case must be so clear to be free from doubt, and the conflict of the statute with the constitution must be irreconcilable, because it is but a decent respect to the wisdom, the integrity, and the patriotism of the legislative body by which any law is passed to presume in favor of its validity until the contrary is shown beyond reasonable doubt. Therefore, in no doubtful case will the judiciary pronounce a legislative act to be contrary to the constitution. To doubt the constitutionality of a law is to resolve the doubt in favor of its validity.[18]

WHEREFORE, the Motion for Reconsideration of the “Resolution” dated August 24, 2010, dated and filed on September 14, 2010 by respondents Municipality of Baybay, et al. is GRANTED. The Resolution dated August 24, 2010 is REVERSED and SET ASIDE. The Cityhood Laws—Republic Acts Nos. 9389, 9390, 9391, 9392, 9393, 9394, 9398, 9404, 9405, 9407, 9408, 9409, 9434, 9435, 9436, and 9491—are declared CONSTITUTIONAL.


Direct contempt; procedure; remedies.


Regional Trial Court, Branch 29, Catbalogan, Samar,

A.M. No. RTJ-11-2666
[Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 09-3320-RTJ]
February 15, 2011


x x x.

Rule 71 of the Rules of Court provides:

SECTION. 1. Direct contempt punished summarily. ─ A person guilty of misbehavior in the presence of or so near a court as to obstruct or interrupt the proceedings before the same, including disrespect toward the court, offensive personalities toward others, or refusal to be sworn or to answer as a witness, or to subscribe an affidavit or deposition when lawfully required to do so, may be summarily adjudged in contempt by such court and punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand pesos or imprisonment not exceeding ten (10) days, or both, if it be a Regional Trial Court or a court of equivalent or higher rank; or by a fine not exceeding two hundred pesos or imprisonment not exceeding (1) day, or both, if it be a lower court.

SEC. 2. Remedy therefrom. ─ The person adjudged in direct contempt by any court may not appeal therefrom, but may avail himself of the remedies of certiorari or prohibition. The execution of the judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition, provided such person file a bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him. (emphasis and underscoring supplied)

Failure to follow basic legal commands as prescribed by law and the rules is tantamount to gross ignorance of the law. By accepting the exalted position of a judge, respondent ought to have been familiar with the legal norms and precepts as well as the procedural rules.[17]

Contrary to respondent’s claim, complainant has no remedy of appeal, as the above-quoted Section 2 of Rule 71 shows. And the penalty for direct contempt if imprisonment is imposed should not, as Section 1 of Rule 71 provides, exceed 10 days. As stated earlier, complainant was detained for 19 days or 9 days more than the limit imposed by the Rules.

More. Respondent did not fix the bond, in violation of the same Section 2 of Rule 71, which complainant could have posted had she desired to challenge the order. And on the same day the Order was issued, respondent ordered the confinement of complainant to the provincial jail.

Oclarit v. Paderanga[18] instructs:

… [A]n order of direct contempt is not immediately executory or enforceable. The contemner must be afforded a reasonable remedy to extricate or purge himself of the contempt. Thus, in the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, the Court introduced a new provision granting a remedy to a person adjudged in direct contempt by any court. Such person may not appeal therefrom, but may avail himself of certiorari or prohibition. In such case, the execution of the judgment shall be suspended pending resolution of such petition provided the contemner files a bond fixed by the court which rendered the judgment and conditioned that he will abide by and perform the judgment should the petition be decided against him.[19] (underscoring supplied)

Under Section 8 (of Rule 140, gross ignorance of the law or procedure is classified as a serious charge which is, under Section 11(A), punishable by:

1. Dismissal from the service, forfeiture of all or part of the benefits as the Court may determine, and disqualification from reinstatement or appointment to any public office, including government- owned or –controlled corporations. Provided, however, That the forfeiture of benefits shall in no case include accrued leave credits;

2. Suspension from office without salary and other benefits for more than three (3) but not exceeding six (6) months; or

3. A fine of more than P20,000.00 but not exceeding P40,000.00

Respondent having been repeatedly penalized by this Court, with suspension and fine, as shown by the above-listed administrative charges, the recommended penalty of P21,000 should be increased to P30,000.

WHEREFORE, for gross ignorance of the law and procedure, Judge Sibanah Usman is FINED in the amount of Thirty Thousand (P30,000) Pesos, with a WARNING that a repetition of the same or similar act shall be dealt with more severely.


Judge fined: delayed decisions.


A.M. No. 09-7-284-RTC
February 16, 2011


This administrative matter stemmed from the Report dated July 6, 2009 on the judicial audit and physical inventory of cases conducted by the Audit Team of the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) in March 2007 in the Regional Trial Court of Mandaue City, Branch 56, Cebu, in anticipation of the compulsory retirement of Judge Augustine A. Vestil (Judge Vestil), then presiding judge of the same court.

The report disclosed that during the audit, the trial court has: (1) a total caseload of 1,431 cases consisting of 555 civil cases and 876 criminal cases; (2) 15 cases submitted for decision, but were already beyond the reglementary period;[1] (3) two cases with pending incidents awaiting resolution, which were beyond the reglementary period;[2] and (4) 247 cases, which had remained dormant for a considerable length of time.

It was further reported that Branch 56 did not observe an organized record management. No system was being followed to facilitate the monitoring of the status of cases. The court records were found to be in disarray as: (1) court records of terminated and archived cases were mixed with active cases; (2) copies of orders, pleadings and other documents were not chronologically attached to the case folders; (3) copies of the minutes of the hearings/proceedings were left unattached to the case folders and were merely kept in a separate file; and (4) loose copies of orders, pleadings and other documents were found merely inserted in the case folders.

Thus, on April 23, 2007, then Deputy Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepaño issued a Memorandum, directing Judge Vestil to: (1) submit an explanation of his failure to: [a] decide 15 cases submitted for decision within the reglementary period, [b] resolve the incidents for resolution in two cases within the reglementary period, and [c] take further action on the 247 cases despite the lapse of a considerable length of time; (2) decide the 15 cases submitted for decision and resolve the incidents in two cases; and (3) take appropriate action on the 247 dormant cases within 45 days from notice.

Likewise, in the same Memorandum, Atty. Emeline Bullever-Cabahug (Atty. Cabahug), Clerk of Court of the same court, was directed to devise and adopt a records management system that will ensure the immediate and orderly filing of court records, and effectively facilitate the monitoring of the status of cases and supervise her staff members to ensure prompt delivery of their respective assignments.

x x x.

x x x.

A review of the records would show the undisputed delay in the disposition of numerous cases assigned to Branch 56 which was then presided by Judge Vestil. There were at least 80 civil cases, some were filed as early as 1997, which are still pending as of March 2007. Furthermore, at least 100 criminal cases are still pending beyond the 90-day reglementary period.

In his defense, Judge Vestil sought refuge from the fact that Branch 56 was saddled with a heavy caseload. We are, however, unconvinced. The Court knew the heavy caseloads heaped on the shoulders of every trial judge. But such cannot excuse him from doing his mandated duty to resolve cases with diligence and dispatch. Judges burdened with heavy caseloads should request the Court for an extension of the reglementary period within which to decide their cases if they think they cannot comply with their judicial duty. This, Judge Vestil failed to do. Corollarily, a heavy caseload may excuse a judge’s failure to decide cases within the reglementary period but not their failure to request an extension of time within which to decide the case on time.[3] Hence, all that respondent judge needs to do is request for an extension of time over which the Court has, almost customarily, been considerate.

Moreover, as correctly pointed out by the OCA, it is not enough that he pens his decision; it is imperative to promulgate the same within the mandated period. The lack of staff that will prepare and type the decision is equally inexcusable to justify the delay in the promulgation of the cases.

We cannot overemphasize the Court’s policy on prompt resolution of disputes. Justice delayed is justice denied. Failure to resolve cases submitted for decision within the period fixed by law constitutes a serious violation of Section 16,[4] Article III of the Constitution.

The honor and integrity of the judicial system is measured not only by the fairness and correctness of decisions rendered, but also by the efficiency with which disputes are resolved. Thus, judges must perform their official duties with utmost diligence if public confidence in the judiciary is to be preserved. There is no excuse for mediocrity in the performance of judicial functions. The position of judge exacts nothing less than faithful observance of the law and the Constitution in the discharge of official duties.[5]

Furthermore, the proper and efficient court management is the responsibility of the judge, and he is the one directly responsible for the proper discharge of his official functions.[6] What we emphasized before bears repeating: “It is the duty of a judge to take note of the cases submitted for his decision or resolution and to see to it that the same are decided within the 90-day period fixed by law, and failure to resolve a case within the required period constitutes gross inefficiency.” “A judge ought to know the cases submitted to him for decision or resolution and is expected to keep his own record of cases so that he may act on them promptly.” “The public trust character of his office imposes upon him the highest degree of responsibility and efficiency.”[7] Accordingly, it is incumbent upon him to devise an efficient recording and filing system in his court, so that no disorderliness can affect the flow of cases and their speedy disposition.

Failure to render decisions and orders within the mandated period constitutes a violation of Rule 3.05,[8] Canon 3, of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which then makes Judge Vestil liable administratively. Section 9, Rule 140 of the Revised Rules of Court classifies undue delay in rendering a decision or order as a less serious charge punishable under Section 11 (B) of the same Rule.

Here, considering that Judge Vestil had been previously administratively sanctioned for dereliction of duty,[9] the imposition of fine amounting to P40,000.00 is, thus, proper.

WHEREFORE, in view of all the foregoing, Judge Augustine A. Vestil is adjudged administratively liable for failure to decide cases within the reglementary period and is hereby FINED in the amount of P40,000.00, to be deducted from the P100,000.00 previously retained from his retirement benefits. The Fiscal Management Office is DIRECTED to immediately release the balance of Judge Vestil’s retirement benefits after such fine has been deducted therefrom.


Motion without notice of hearing: scrap of paper


A.M. No. RTJ-11-2272
(Formerly A.M. OCA IPI No. 07-2559-RTJ)
February 16, 2011


x x x.

Our Ruling

We disagree with the finding and recommendation of the OCA.

At first glance, it would seem that the respondent was guilty of undue delay, if not, absolute neglect in resolving Emelita’s motion for execution pending appeal. The respondent had not taken any action on the said motion and, in fact, came to consider Emelita’s plea for an execution pending appeal only after the latter had filed an Urgent Motion. From the filing of the motion for execution pending appeal, a period of more than five (5) months had to pass before the respondent finally directed a writ of execution to be issued. Under these circumstances, it was understandable why the complainant cried out against the inaction.

A deeper look at the records of the case, however, reveals that no administrative fault may be attributed on the part of the respondent.

An inspection of Emelita’s motion for execution pending appeal discloses a defective notice of hearing. Thus:[35]






Kindly submit the foregoing MOTION for the consideration and approval of the Honorable Court immediately upon receipt hereof, or at any time convenient to the Honorable Court.

Paranaque City for Quezon City

November 12, 2005

Atty. Nelson B. Bayot (Sgd.)

(Emphasis supplied).

The Rules of Court require every written motion, except those that the court may act upon without prejudicing the rights of an adverse party, to be set for hearing by its proponent.[36] When a motion ought to be heard, the same rules prescribe that it must be served to the adverse party with a notice of hearing.[37]

The substance of a notice of hearing is, in turn, laid out in Section 5 of Rule 15 of the Rules of Court. The provision states:[38]

Section 5. Notice of hearing. — The notice of hearing shall be addressed to all the parties concerned, and shall specify the time and date of the hearing which must not be later than ten (10) days after the filing of the motion. (Emphasis supplied)

In the case at bench, it is clear that the notice of hearing in Emelita’s motion for execution pending appeal did not comply with the foregoing standards.

First. Rather than being addressed to the adverse party, the notice of hearing in Emelita’s motion was directed to the Branch Clerk of Court. Such gaffe actually contradicts a basic purpose of the notice requirement—i.e., to inform an adverse party of the date and time of the proposed hearing.

Second. The notice of hearing did not specify a date and time of hearing. In fact, there was nothing in the notice that even suggests that the proponent intended to set a hearing with the trial court in the first place. As may be observed, the notice is merely an instruction for the clerk of court to submit the motion “for the consideration and approval” of the trial court “immediately upon receipt” or “at any time convenient” with the said court. The notice of hearing in Emelita’s motion does not, in reality, give any kind of notice.

Jurisprudence had been categorical in treating a litigious motion without a valid notice of hearing as a mere scrap of paper.[39] In the classic formulation of Manakil v. Revilla,[40] such a motion was condemned as:

x x x [n]othing but a piece of paper filed with the court. It presented no question which the court could decide. The court had no right to consider it, nor had the clerk any right to receive it without a compliance with Rule 10 [now Sections 4 and 5 of Rule 15]. It was not, in fact, a motion. It did not comply with the rules of the court. It did not become a motion until x x x the petitioners herein fixed a time for hearing of said alleged motion. (Emphasis supplied).

An important aspect of the above judicial pronouncement is the absence of any duty on the part of the court to take action on a motion wanting a valid notice of hearing. After all, the Rules of Court places upon the movant, and not with the court, the obligations both to secure a particular date and time for the hearing of his motion[41] and to give a proper notice thereof on the other party.[42] It is precisely the failure of the movant to comply with these obligations, which reduces an otherwise actionable motion to a “mere scrap of paper” not deserving of any judicial acknowledgment.

Accordingly, a judge may not be held administratively accountable for not acting upon a “mere scrap of paper.” To impose upon judges a positive duty to recognize and resolve motions with defective notices of hearing would encourage litigants to an unbridled disregard of a simple but necessary rule of a fair judicial proceeding. In Hon. Cledera v. Hon. Sarmiento,[43] this Court aptly observed:

The rules commanding the movant to serve of the adverse party a written notice of the motion (Section 2, Rule 37) and that the notice of hearing "shall be directed to the parties concerned, and shall state the time and place for the hearing of the motion" (Section 5, Rule 15), do not provide for any qualifications, much less exceptions. To deviate from the peremptory principle x x x would be one step in the emasculation of the revised rules and would be subversive of the stability of the rules and jurisprudence thereon — all to the consternation of the Bench and Bar and other interested persons as well as the general public who would thereby be subjected to such an irritating uncertainty as to when to render obedience to the rules and when their requirements may be ignored. We had to draw a line somewhere and WE did when we promulgated on January 1, 1964 the Revised Rules of Court, wherein WE delineated in a language matchless in simplicity and clarity the essential requirements for a valid notice of hearing on any motion, to eliminate all possibilities of equivocation or misunderstanding.[44] (Emphasis supplied)

Verily, We find the respondent free from any administrative liability in not taking action on Emelita’s motion for execution pending appeal. The motion itself is not entitled to judicial cognizance—the reason for which is imputable to the fault of the movant herself and not to an apparent breach of the respondent of her duties as a member of the bench. Notably, the respondent did act on the matter of the execution of the MeTC judgment pending appeal when the issue was properly scheduled for hearing in the 8 February 2006 Urgent Motion.

x x x.

Monday, February 21, 2011




X x x.

X x x. Public respondent argues that when petitioner filed the present petition on September 13, 2010, it had not gone beyond the determination of the sufficiency of form and substance of the two complaints.

X x x. In the present petition, there is no doubt that questions on, inter alia, the validity of the simultaneous referral of the two complaints and on the need to publish as a mode of promulgating the Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings of the House (Impeachment Rules) present constitutional vagaries which call for immediate interpretation.

The unusual act of simultaneously referring to public respondent two impeachment complaints presents a novel situation to invoke judicial power. X x x.

X x x. Petitioner basically anchors her claim on alleged violation of the due process clause (Art. III, Sec. 1) and of the one-year bar provision (Art. XI, Sec 3, par. 5) of the Constitution.

Due process of law

Petitioner alleges that public respondent’s chairperson, Representative Niel Tupas, Jr. (Rep. Tupas), is the subject of an investigation she is conducting, while his father, former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas, Sr., had been charged by her with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act before the Sandiganbayan. To petitioner, the actions taken by her office against Rep. Tupas and his father influenced the proceedings taken by public respondent in such a way that bias and vindictiveness played a big part in arriving at the finding of sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints against her.

The Court finds petitioner’s allegations of bias and vindictiveness bereft of merit, there being hardly any indication thereof. Mere suspicion of partiality does not suffice.

The act of the head of a collegial body cannot be considered as that of the entire body itself. X x x.

In the present case, Rep. Tupas, public respondent informs, did not, in fact, vote and merely presided over the proceedings when it decided on the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints.

Even petitioner’s counsel conceded during the oral arguments that there are no grounds to compel the inhibition of Rep. Tupas.

X x x.

Petitioner contends that the “indecent and precipitate haste” of public respondent in finding the two complaints sufficient in form and substance is a clear indication of bias, she pointing out that it only took public respondent five minutes to arrive thereat.

An abbreviated pace in the conduct of proceedings is not per se an indication of bias, however. X x x.

Petitioner goes on to contend that her participation in the determination of sufficiency of form and substance was indispensable. As mandated by the Impeachment Rules, however, and as, in fact, conceded by petitioner’s counsel, the participation of the impeachable officer starts with the filing of an answer.

X x x.

Rule III(A) of the Impeachment Rules of the 15th Congress reflects the impeachment procedure at the Committee-level, particularly Section 5 which denotes that petitioner’s initial participation in the impeachment proceedings – the opportunity to file an Answer – starts after the Committee on Justice finds the complaint sufficient in form and substance. That the Committee refused to accept petitioner’s motion for reconsideration from its finding of sufficiency of form of the impeachment complaints is apposite, conformably with the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner further claims that public respondent failed to ascertain the sufficiency of form and substance of the complaints on the basis of the standards set by the Constitution and its own Impeachment Rules.

The claim fails.

The determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is an exponent of the express constitutional grant of rule-making powers of the House of Representatives which committed such determinative function to public respondent. In the discharge of that power and in the exercise of its discretion, the House has formulated determinable standards as to the form and substance of an impeachment complaint. Prudential considerations behoove the Court to respect the compliance by the House of its duty to effectively carry out the constitutional purpose, absent any contravention of the minimum constitutional guidelines.

Contrary to petitioner’s position that the Impeachment Rules do not provide for comprehensible standards in determining the sufficiency of form and substance, the Impeachment Rules are clear in echoing the constitutional requirements and providing that there must be a “verified complaint or resolution,” and that the substance requirement is met if there is “a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.”

Notatu dignum is the fact that it is only in the Impeachment Rules where a determination of sufficiency of form and substance of an impeachment complaint is made necessary. This requirement is not explicitly found in the organic law, as Section 3(2), Article XI of the Constitution basically merely requires a “hearing.” In the discharge of its constitutional duty, the House deemed that a finding of sufficiency of form and substance in an impeachment complaint is vital “to effectively carry out” the impeachment process, hence, such additional requirement in the Impeachment Rules.

Petitioner urges the Court to look into the narration of facts constitutive of the offenses vis-à-vis her submissions disclaiming the allegations in the complaints.

This the Court cannot do.

Francisco instructs that this issue would “require the Court to make a determination of what constitutes an impeachable offense. Such a determination is a purely political question which the Constitution has left to the sound discretion of the legislature. Such an intent is clear from the deliberations of the
Constitutional Commission. x x x x Clearly, the issue calls upon this court to decide a non-justiciable political question which is beyond the scope of its judicial power[.]” Worse, petitioner urges the Court to make a preliminary assessment of certain grounds raised, upon a hypothetical admission of the facts alleged in the complaints, which involve matters of defense.

In another vein, petitioner, pursuing her claim of denial of due process, questions the lack of or, more accurately, delay in the publication of the Impeachment Rules.

To recall, days after the 15th Congress opened on July 26, 2010 or on August 3, 2010, public respondent provisionally adopted the Impeachment Rules of the 14th Congress and thereafter published on September 2, 2010 its Impeachment Rules, admittedly substantially identical with that of the 14th Congress, in two newspapers of general circulation.

Citing Tañada v. Tuvera, petitioner contends that she was deprived of due process since the Impeachment Rules was published only on September 2, 2010 a day after public respondent ruled on the sufficiency of form of the complaints. She likewise tacks her contention on Section 3(8), Article XI of the Constitution which directs that “Congress shall promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the purpose of this section.”

Public respondent counters that “promulgation” in this case refers to “the publication of rules in any medium of information, not necessarily in the Official Gazette or newspaper of general circulation.”

Differentiating Neri v. Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations which held that the Constitution categorically requires publication of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, public respondent explains that the Impeachment Rules is intended to merely enable Congress to effectively carry out the purpose of Section 3(8), Art. XI of Constitution.

Black’s Law Dictionary broadly defines promulgate as: “To publish; to announce officially; to make public as important or obligatory. The formal act of announcing a statute or rule of court. An administrative order that is given to cause an agency law or regulation to become known or obligatory.” (emphasis supplied)
While “promulgation” would seem synonymous to “publication,” there is a statutory difference in their usage.

The Constitution notably uses the word “promulgate” 12 times. A number of those instances involves the promulgation of various rules, reports and issuances emanating from Congress, this Court, the Office of the Ombudsman as well as other constitutional offices.

To appreciate the statutory difference in the usage of the terms “promulgate” and “publish,” the case of the Judiciary is in point. In promulgating rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, pleading, practice and procedure in all courts, the Court has invariably required the publication of these rules for their effectivity. As far as promulgation of judgments is concerned, however, promulgation means “the delivery of the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication.”

Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution contains a similar provision directing Congress to “promulgate its rules for the canvassing of the certificates” in the presidential and vice presidential elections. Notably, when Congress approved its canvassing rules for the May 14, 2010 national elections on May 25, 2010, it did not require the publication thereof for its effectivity. Rather, Congress made the canvassing rules effective upon its adoption.

In the case of administrative agencies, “promulgation” and “publication” likewise take on different meanings as they are part of a multi-stage procedure in quasi-legislation. As detailed in one case, the publication of implementing rules occurs after their promulgation or adoption.

Promulgation must thus be used in the context in which it is generally understood—that is, to make known. Generalia verba sunt generaliter inteligencia. What is generally spoken shall be generally understood. Between the restricted sense and the general meaning of a word, the general must prevail unless it was clearly intended that the restricted sense was to be used.

Since the Constitutional Commission did not restrict “promulgation” to “publication,” the former should be understood to have been used in its general sense. It is within the discretion of Congress to determine on how to promulgate its Impeachment Rules, in much the same way that the Judiciary is permitted to determine that to promulgate a decision means to deliver the decision to the clerk of court for filing and publication.

It is not for this Court to tell a co-equal branch of government how to promulgate when the Constitution itself has not prescribed a specific method of promulgation. The Court is in no position to dictate a mode of promulgation beyond the dictates of the Constitution.

Publication in the Official Gazette or a newspaper of general circulation is but one avenue for Congress to make known its rules. X x x.

Had the Constitution intended to have the Impeachment Rules published, it could have stated so as categorically as it did in the case of the rules of procedure in legislative inquiries, per Neri. Other than “promulgate,” there is no other single formal term in the English language to appropriately refer to an issuance without need of it being published.

IN FINE, petitioner cannot take refuge in Neri since inquiries in aid of legislation under Section 21, Article VI of the Constitution is the sole instance in the Constitution where there is a categorical directive to duly publish a set of rules of procedure. Significantly notable in Neri is that with respect to the issue of publication, the Court anchored its ruling on the 1987 Constitution’s directive, without any reliance on or reference to the 1986 case of Tañada v. Tuvera. Tañada naturally could neither have interpreted a forthcoming 1987 Constitution nor had kept a tight rein on the Constitution’s intentions as expressed through the allowance of either a categorical term or a general sense of making known the issuances.

From the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission, then Commissioner, now retired Associate Justice Florenz Regalado intended Section 3(8), Article XI to be the vehicle for the House to fill the gaps in the impeachment process.

X x x.

The discussion clearly rejects the notion that the impeachment provisions are not self-executing. Section 3(8) does not, in any circumstance, operate to suspend the entire impeachment mechanism which the Constitutional Commission took pains in designing even its details.

X x x.

Even assuming arguendo that publication is required, lack of it does not nullify the proceedings taken prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules which faithfully comply with the relevant self-executing provisions of the Constitution. Otherwise, in cases where impeachment complaints are filed at the start of each Congress, the mandated periods under Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution would already run or even lapse while awaiting the expiration of the 15-day period of publication prior to the effectivity of the Impeachment Rules. In effect, the House would already violate the Constitution for its inaction on the impeachment complaints pending the completion of the publication requirement.

Given that the Constitution itself states that any promulgation of the rules on impeachment is aimed at “effectively carry[ing] out the purpose” of impeachment proceedings, the Court finds no grave abuse of discretion when the House deemed it proper to provisionally adopt the Rules on Impeachment of the 14th Congress, to meet the exigency in such situation of early filing and in keeping with the “effective” implementation of the “purpose” of the impeachment provisions. In other words, the provisional adoption of the previous Congress’ Impeachment Rules is within the power of the House to promulgate its rules on impeachment to effectively carry out the avowed purpose.

Moreover, the rules on impeachment, as contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, merely aid or supplement the procedural aspects of impeachment. Being procedural in nature, they may be given retroactive application to pending actions. “It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural laws does not violate any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected, nor is it constitutionally objectionable. The reason for this is that, as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws.” In the present case, petitioner fails to allege any impairment of vested rights.

It bears stressing that, unlike the process of inquiry in aid of legislation where the rights of witnesses are involved, impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic, and not for the punishment of the offender.

X x x.

Petitioner in fact does not deny that she was fully apprised of the proper procedure. She even availed of and invoked certain provisions of the Impeachment Rules when she, on September 7, 2010, filed the motion for reconsideration and later filed the present petition. The Court thus finds no violation of the due process clause.

The one-year bar rule

Article XI, Section 3, paragraph (5) of the Constitution reads: “No impeachment proceedings shall be initiated against the same official more than once within a period of one year.”

Petitioner reckons the start of the one-year bar from the filing of the first impeachment complaint against her on July 22, 2010 or four days before the opening on July 26, 2010 of the 15th Congress. She posits that within one year from July 22, 2010, no second impeachment complaint may be accepted and referred to public respondent.

On the other hand, public respondent, respondent Reyes group and respondent-intervenor submit that the initiation starts with the filing of the impeachment complaint and ends with the referral to the Committee, following Francisco, but venture to alternatively proffer that the initiation ends somewhere between the conclusion of the Committee Report and the transmittal of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. Respondent Baraquel group, meanwhile, essentially maintains that under either the prevailing doctrine or the parties’ interpretation, its impeachment complaint could withstand constitutional scrutiny.

Contrary to petitioner’s asseveration, Francisco states that the term “initiate” means to file the complaint and take initial action on it. The initiation starts with the filing of the complaint which must be accompanied with an action to set the complaint moving. It refers to the filing of the impeachment complaint coupled with Congress’ taking initial action of said complaint. The initial action taken by the House on the complaint is the referral of the complaint to the Committee on Justice.

Petitioner misreads the remark of Commissioner Joaquin Bernas, S.J. that “no second verified impeachment may be accepted and referred to the Committee on Justice for action” which contemplates a situation where a first impeachment complaint had already been referred. Bernas and Regalado, who both acted as amici curiae in Francisco, affirmed that the act of initiating includes the act of taking initial action on the complaint.

X x x.

The Court, in Francisco, thus found that the assailed provisions of the 12th Congress’ Rules of Procedure in Impeachment Proceedings ─ Sections 16 and 17 of Rule V thereof ─ “clearly contravene Section 3(5) of Article XI since they g[a]ve the term ‘initiate’ a meaning different from filing and referral.”

X x x.

Petitioner fails to consider the verb “starts” as the operative word. Commissioner Maambong was all too keen to stress that the filing of the complaint indeed starts the initiation and that the House’s action on the committee report/resolution is not part of that initiation phase.

X x x.

To the next logical question of what ends or completes the initiation, Commissioners Bernas and Regalado lucidly explained that the filing of the complaint must be accompanied by the referral to the Committee on Justice, which is the action that sets the complaint moving. X x x.

X x x.

Contrary to petitioner’s emphasis on impeachment complaint, what the Constitution mentions is impeachment “proceedings.” Her reliance on the singular tense of the word “complaint” to denote the limit prescribed by the Constitution goes against the basic rule of statutory construction that a word covers its enlarged and plural sense.

The Court, of course, does not downplay the importance of an impeachment complaint, for it is the matchstick that kindles the candle of impeachment proceedings. The filing of an impeachment complaint is like the lighting of a matchstick. Lighting the matchstick alone, however, cannot light up the candle, unless the lighted matchstick reaches or torches the candle wick. Referring the complaint to the proper committee ignites the impeachment proceeding. With a simultaneous referral of multiple complaints filed, more than one lighted matchsticks light the candle at the same time. What is important is that there should only be ONE CANDLE that is kindled in a year, such that once the candle starts burning, subsequent matchsticks can no longer rekindle the candle.

A restrictive interpretation renders the impeachment mechanism both illusive and illusory.

For one, it puts premium on senseless haste. Petitioner’s stance suggests that whoever files the first impeachment complaint exclusively gets the attention of Congress which sets in motion an exceptional once-a-year mechanism wherein government resources are devoted. A prospective complainant, regardless of ill motives or best intentions, can wittingly or unwittingly desecrate the entire process by the expediency of submitting a haphazard complaint out of sheer hope to be the first in line. It also puts to naught the effort of other prospective complainants who, after diligently gathering evidence first to buttress the case, would be barred days or even hours later from filing an impeachment complaint.

Placing an exceedingly narrow gateway to the avenue of impeachment proceedings turns its laudable purpose into a laughable matter. One needs only to be an early bird even without seriously intending to catch the worm, when the process is precisely intended to effectively weed out “worms” in high offices which could otherwise be ably caught by other prompt birds within the ultra-limited season.

Moreover, the first-to-file scheme places undue strain on the part of the actual complainants, injured party or principal witnesses who, by mere happenstance of an almost always unforeseeable filing of a first impeachment complaint, would be brushed aside and restricted from directly participating in the impeachment process.

Further, prospective complainants, along with their counsel and members of the House of Representatives who sign, endorse and file subsequent impeachment complaints against the same impeachable officer run the risk of violating the Constitution since they would have already initiated a second impeachment proceeding within the same year. Virtually anybody can initiate a second or third impeachment proceeding by the mere filing of endorsed impeachment complaints. Without any public notice that could charge them with knowledge, even members of the House of Representatives could not readily ascertain whether no other impeachment complaint has been filed at the time of committing their endorsement.

The question as to who should administer or pronounce that an impeachment proceeding has been initiated rests also on the body that administers the proceedings prior to the impeachment trial. As gathered from Commissioner Bernas’ disquisition in Francisco, a proceeding which “takes place not in the Senate but in the House” precedes the bringing of an impeachment case to the Senate. In fact, petitioner concedes that the initiation of impeachment proceedings is within the sole and absolute control of the House of Representatives. Conscious of the legal import of each step, the House, in taking charge of its own proceedings, must deliberately decide to initiate an impeachment proceeding, subject to the time frame and other limitations imposed by the Constitution. This chamber of Congress alone, not its officers or members or any private individual, should own up to its processes.

The Constitution did not place the power of the “final say” on the lips of the House Secretary General who would otherwise be calling the shots in forwarding or freezing any impeachment complaint. Referral of the complaint to the proper committee is not done by the House Speaker alone either, which explains why there is a need to include it in the Order of Business of the House. It is the House of Representatives, in public plenary session, which has the power to set its own chamber into special operation by referring the complaint or to otherwise guard against the initiation of a second impeachment proceeding by rejecting a patently unconstitutional complaint.

Under the Rules of the House, a motion to refer is not among those motions that shall be decided without debate, but any debate thereon is only made subject to the five-minute rule. Moreover, it is common parliamentary practice that a motion to refer a matter or question to a committee may be debated upon, not as to the merits thereof, but only as to the propriety of the referral. With respect to complaints for impeachment, the House has the discretion not to refer a subsequent impeachment complaint to the Committee on Justice where official records and further debate show that an impeachment complaint filed against the same impeachable officer has already been referred to the said committee and the one year period has not yet expired, lest it becomes instrumental in perpetrating a constitutionally prohibited second impeachment proceeding. Far from being mechanical, before the referral stage, a period of deliberation is afforded the House, as the Constitution, in fact, grants a maximum of three session days within which to make the proper referral.

As mentioned, one limitation imposed on the House in initiating an impeachment proceeding deals with deadlines. The Constitution states that “[a] verified complaint for impeachment may be filed by any Member of the House of Representatives or by any citizen upon a resolution or endorsement by any Member thereof, which shall be included in the Order of Business within ten session days, and referred to the proper Committee within three session days thereafter.”

In the present case, petitioner failed to establish grave abuse of discretion on
the allegedly “belated” referral of the first impeachment complaint filed by the Baraquel group. For while the said complaint was filed on July 22, 2010, there was yet then no session in Congress. It was only four days later or on July 26, 2010 that the 15th Congress opened from which date the 10-day session period started to run. When, by Memorandum of August 2, 2010, Speaker Belmonte directed the Committee on Rules to include the complaint in its Order of Business, it was well within the said 10-day session period.

There is no evident point in rushing at closing the door the moment an impeachment complaint is filed. Depriving the people (recall that impeachment is primarily for the protection of the people as a body politic) of reasonable access to the limited political vent simply prolongs the agony and frustrates the collective rage of an entire citizenry whose trust has been betrayed by an impeachable officer. It shortchanges the promise of reasonable opportunity to remove an impeachable officer through the mechanism enshrined in the Constitution.

But neither does the Court find merit in respondents’ alternative contention that the initiation of the impeachment proceedings, which sets into motion the one-year bar, should include or await, at the earliest, the Committee on Justice report. To public respondent, the reckoning point of initiation should refer to the disposition of the complaint by the vote of at least one-third (1/3) of all the members of the House. To the Reyes group, initiation means the act of transmitting the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate. To respondent-intervenor, it should last until the Committee on Justice’s recommendation to the House plenary.

X x x.

As pointed out in Francisco, the impeachment proceeding is not initiated “when the House deliberates on the resolution passed on to it by the Committee, because something prior to that has already been done. The action of the House is already a further step in the proceeding, not its initiation or beginning. Rather, the proceeding is initiated or begins, when a verified complaint is filed and referred to the Committee on Justice for action. This is the initiating step which triggers the series of steps that follow.”

Allowing an expansive construction of the term “initiate” beyond the act of referral allows the unmitigated influx of successive complaints, each having their own respective 60-session-day period of disposition from referral. Worse, the Committee shall conduct overlapping hearings until and unless the disposition of one of the complaints ends with the affirmance of a resolution for impeachment or the overriding of a contrary resolution (as espoused by public respondent), or the House transmits the Articles of Impeachment (as advocated by the Reyes group), or the Committee on Justice concludes its first report to the House plenary regardless of the recommendation (as posited by respondent-intervenor). Each of these scenarios runs roughshod the very purpose behind the constitutionally imposed one-year bar. Opening the floodgates too loosely would disrupt the series of steps operating in unison under one proceeding.

The Court does not lose sight of the salutary reason of confining only one impeachment proceeding in a year. Petitioner concededly cites Justice Adolfo Azcuna’s separate opinion that concurred with the Francisco ruling. Justice Azcuna stated that the purpose of the one-year bar is two-fold: “to prevent undue or too frequent harassment; and 2) to allow the legislature to do its principal task [of] legislation,” with main reference to the records of the Constitutional Commission, that reads:

It becomes clear that the consideration behind the intended limitation refers to the element of time, and not the number of complaints. The impeachable officer should defend himself in only one impeachment proceeding, so that he will not be precluded from performing his official functions and duties. Similarly, Congress should run only one impeachment proceeding so as not to leave it with little time to attend to its main work of law-making. The doctrine laid down in Francisco that initiation means filing and referral remains congruent to the rationale of the constitutional provision.

Petitioner complains that an impeachable officer may be subjected to harassment by the filing of multiple impeachment complaints during the intervening period of a maximum of 13 session days between the date of the filing of the first impeachment complaint to the date of referral.

As pointed out during the oral arguments by the counsel for respondent-intervenor, the framework of privilege and layers of protection for an impeachable officer abound. The requirements or restrictions of a one-year bar, a single proceeding, verification of complaint, endorsement by a House member, and a finding of sufficiency of form and substance – all these must be met before bothering a respondent to answer – already weigh heavily in favor of an impeachable officer.

Aside from the probability of an early referral and the improbability of
inclusion in the agenda of a complaint filed on the 11th hour (owing to pre-agenda standard operating procedure), the number of complaints may still be filtered or reduced to nil after the Committee decides once and for all on the sufficiency of form and substance. Besides, if only to douse petitioner’s fear, a complaint will not last the primary stage if it does not have the stated preliminary requisites.

To petitioner, disturbance of her performance of official duties and the deleterious effects of bad publicity are enough oppression.

Petitioner’s claim is based on the premise that the exertion of time, energy and other resources runs directly proportional to the number of complaints filed. This is non sequitur. What the Constitution assures an impeachable officer is not freedom from arduous effort to defend oneself, which depends on the qualitative assessment of the charges and evidence and not on the quantitative aspect of complaints or offenses. In considering the side of the impeachable officers, the Constitution does not promise an absolutely smooth ride for them, especially if the charges entail genuine and grave issues. The framers of the Constitution did not concern themselves with the media tolerance level or internal disposition of an impeachable officer when they deliberated on the impairment of performance of official functions. The measure of protection afforded by the Constitution is that if the impeachable officer is made to undergo such ride, he or she should be made to traverse it just once. Similarly, if Congress is called upon to operate itself as a vehicle, it should do so just once. There is no repeat ride for one full year. This is the whole import of the constitutional safeguard of one-year bar rule.

Applicability of the Rules
on Criminal Procedure

On another plane, petitioner posits that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own Impeachment Rules, the same rules she earlier chastised.

In the exercise of the power to promulgate rules “to effectively carry out” the provisions of Section 3, Article XI of the Constitution, the House promulgated the Impeachment Rules, Section 16 of which provides that “the Rules of Criminal Procedure under the Rules of Court shall, as far as practicable, apply to impeachment proceedings before the House.”

Finding that the Constitution, by express grant, permits the application of additional adjective rules that Congress may consider in effectively carrying out its mandate, petitioner either asserts or rejects two procedural devices.

First is on the “one offense, one complaint” rule. By way of reference to Section 16 of the Impeachment Rules, petitioner invokes the application of Section 13, Rule 110 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure which states that “[a] complaint or information must charge only one offense, except when the law prescribes a single punishment for various offenses.” To petitioner, the two impeachment complaints are insufficient in form and substance since each charges her with both culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust. She concludes that public respondent gravely abused its discretion when it disregarded its own rules.

Petitioner adds that heaping two or more charges in one complaint will confuse her in preparing her defense; expose her to the grave dangers of the highly political nature of the impeachment process; constitute a whimsical disregard of certain rules; impair her performance of official functions as well as that of the House; and prevent public respondent from completing its report within the deadline.

Public respondent counters that there is no requirement in the Constitution that an impeachment complaint must charge only one offense, and the nature of impeachable offenses precludes the application of the above-said Rule on Criminal Procedure since the broad terms cannot be defined with the same precision required in defining crimes. It adds that the determination of the grounds for impeachment is an exercise of political judgment, which issue respondent-intervenor also considers as non-justiciable, and to which the Baraquel group adds that impeachment is a political process and not a criminal prosecution, during which criminal prosecution stage the complaint or information referred thereto and cited by petitioner, unlike an impeachment complaint, must already be in the name of the People of the Philippines.

The Baraquel group deems that there are provisions outside the Rules on Criminal Procedure that are more relevant to the issue. Both the Baraquel and Reyes groups point out that even if Sec. 13 of Rule 110 is made to apply, petitioner’s case falls under the exception since impeachment prescribes a single punishment – removal from office and disqualification to hold any public office – even for various offenses. Both groups also observe that petitioner concededly and admittedly was not keen on pursuing this issue during the oral arguments.

Petitioner’s claim deserves scant consideration.

Without going into the effectiveness of the suppletory application of the Rules on Criminal Procedure in carrying out the relevant constitutional provisions, which prerogative the Constitution vests on Congress, and without delving into the practicability of the application of the one offense per complaint rule, the initial determination of which must be made by the House which has yet to pass upon the question, the Court finds that petitioner’s invocation of that particular rule of Criminal Procedure does not lie. Suffice it to state that the Constitution allows the indictment for multiple impeachment offenses, with each charge representing an article of impeachment, assembled in one set known as the “Articles of Impeachment.” It, therefore, follows that an impeachment complaint need not allege only one impeachable offense.

The second procedural matter deals with the rule on consolidation. In rejecting a consolidation, petitioner maintains that the Constitution allows only one impeachment complaint against her within one year.

Records show that public respondent disavowed any immediate need to consolidate. Its chairperson Rep. Tupas stated that “[c]onsolidation depends on the Committee whether to consolidate[; c]onsolidation may come today or may come later on after determination of the sufficiency in form and substance,” and that “for purposes of consolidation, the Committee will decide when is the time to consolidate[, a]nd if, indeed, we need to consolidate.” Petitioner’s petition, in fact, initially describes the consolidation as merely “contemplated.”

Since public respondent, whether motu proprio or upon motion, did not yet order a consolidation, the Court will not venture to make a determination on this matter, as it would be premature, conjectural or anticipatory.

Even if the Court assumes petitioner’s change of stance that the two impeachment complaints were deemed consolidated, her claim that consolidation is a legal anomaly fails. Petitioner’s theory obviously springs from her “proceeding = complaint” equation which the Court already brushed aside.

x x x.

Atty. Manuel J. Laserna Jr.