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191618 November 23, 2010 FACTS: A petition was filed by Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal (Atty. Macalintal), that questions the constitution of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) as an illegal and unauthorized progeny of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution: The Supreme Court, sitting en banc, shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the President or Vice-President, and may promulgate its rules for the purpose. While petitioner concedes that the Supreme Court is "authorized to promulgate its rules for the purpose," he chafes at the creation of a purportedly "separate tribunal" complemented by a budget allocation, a seal, a set of personnel and confidential employees, to effect the constitutional mandate. Petitioners averment is supposedly supported by the provisions of the 2005 Rules of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (2005 PET Rules), specifically: (1) Rule 3 which provides for membership of the PET wherein the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices are designated as "Chairman and Members," respectively; (2) Rule 8(e) which authorizes the Chairman of the PET to appoint employees and confidential employees of every member thereof; (3) Rule 9 which provides for a separate "Administrative Staff of the Tribunal" with the appointment of a Clerk and a Deputy Clerk of the Tribunal who, at the discretion of the PET, may designate the Clerk of Court (en banc) as the Clerk of the Tribunal; and (4) Rule 11 which provides for a "seal" separate and distinct from the Supreme Court seal. Grudgingly, petitioner throws us a bone by acknowledging that the invoked constitutional provision does allow the "appointment of additional personnel." Further, petitioner highlights our decision in Buac v. COMELEC which peripherally declared that "contests involving the President and the Vice-President fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the PET, x x x in the exercise of quasi-judicial power." On this point, petitioner reiterates that the constitution of the PET, with the designation of the Members of the Court as Chairman and Members thereof, contravenes Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution, which prohibits the designation of Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law to any agency performing quasijudicial or administrative functions. ISSUES: 1. Whether the petitioner has locus standi to file the petition 2. Whether the constitution of the PET, composed of the Members of this Court, is unconstitutional, and violates Section 4, Article VII and Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution. 3. Whether the PET exercises quasi-judicial functions in contravention of Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution. HELD:

1. NO. The petitioner does not possess the locus standi in filing the instant petition as he was unmistakably estopped in assailing the jurisdiction of the PET before which tribunal he had ubiquitously appeared and had acknowledge its jurisdiction in 2004 therefore making the petitioners standing still imperiled by thee white elephant in the petition (i.e., his appearance as counsel for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Macapagal-Arroyo) in the election protest filed by 2004 presidential candidate Fernando Poe, Jr. before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal). Judicial inquiry requires that the constitutional question be raised at the earliest possible opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the Tribunals constitution. The 1987 Constitution introduces an innovation about the Supreme Courts independence as cited in Section 4, Article VII. The judicial power expanded, but it remained absolute. 2. NO. A plain reading of Article VII, Section 4, paragraph 7, readily reveals a grant of authority to the Supreme Court sitting en banc. In the same vein, although the method by which the Supreme Court exercises this authority is not specified in the provision, the grant of power does not contain any limitation on the Supreme Courts exercise thereof. The Supreme Courts method of deciding presidential and vice-presidential election contests, through the PET, is actually a derivative of the exercise of the prerogative conferred by the aforequoted constitutional provision. Thus, the subsequent directive in the provision for the Supreme Court to "promulgate its rules for the purpose." By the same token, the PET is not a separate and distinct entity from the Supreme Court, albeit it has functions peculiar only to the Tribunal. It is obvious that the PET was constituted in implementation of Section 4, Article VII of the Constitution, and it faithfully complies not unlawfully defies the constitutional directive. The adoption of a separate seal, as well as the change in the nomenclature of the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices into Chairman and Members of the Tribunal, respectively, was designed simply to highlight the singularity and exclusivity of the Tribunals functions as a special electoral court. 3. NO. The issue in Buac v. COMELEC involved the characterization of the enforcement and administration of a law relative to the conduct of a plebiscite which falls under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Elections. However, petitioner latches on to the enumeration in Buac which declared, in an obiter, that "contests involving the President and the Vice-President fall within the exclusive original jurisdiction of the PET, also in the exercise of quasi-judicial power." Section 12, Article VIII of the Constitution reads: SEC. 12. The Members of the Supreme Court and of other courts established by law shall not be designated to any agency performing quasi-judicial or administrative functions. The traditional grant of judicial power is found in Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution which provides that the power "shall be vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law." Consistent with our presidential system of government, the function of "dealing with the settlement of disputes, controversies or conflicts involving rights, duties or prerogatives that are legally demandable and enforceable" is apportioned to courts of justice. With the advent of the 1987 Constitution, judicial power was expanded to include "the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on

the part of any branch or instrumentality of the Government." The power was expanded, but it remained absolute. The set up embodied in the Constitution and statutes characterizes the resolution of electoral contests as essentially an exercise of judicial power. At the barangay and municipal levels, original and exclusive jurisdiction over election contests is vested in the municipal or metropolitan trial courts and the regional trial courts, respectively. At the higher levels city, provincial, and regional, as well as congressional and senatorial exclusive and original jurisdiction is lodged in the COMELEC and in the House of Representatives and Senate Electoral Tribunals, which are not, strictly and literally speaking, courts of law. Although not courts of law, they are, nonetheless, empowered to resolve election contests which involve, in essence, an exercise of judicial power, because of the explicit constitutional empowerment found in Section 2(2), Article IX-C (for the COMELEC) and Section 17, Article VI (for the Senate and House Electoral Tribunals) of the Constitution. Besides, when the COMELEC, the HRET, and the SET decide election contests, their decisions are still subject to judicial review via a petition for certiorari filed by the proper party if there is a showing that the decision was rendered with grave abuse of discretion tantamount to lack or excess of jurisdiction. The PET is not simply an agency to which Members of the Court were designated. The PET, as intended by the framers of the Constitution, is to be an institution independent, but not separate, from the judicial department, i.e., the Supreme Court. McCulloch v. State of Maryland proclaimed that "[a] power without the means to use it, is a nullity." The vehicle for the exercise of this power, as intended by the Constitution and specifically mentioned by the Constitutional Commissioners during the discussions on the grant of power to this Court, is the PET. Thus, a microscopic view, like the petitioners, should not constrict an absolute and constitutional grant of judicial power.