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PABLITO V.

SANIDAD vs COMELEC

FACTS:

In September 1976, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued PD 991 calling for a
national referendum on 16 Oct 1976 for the Citizens Assemblies (“barangays”) to
resolve, among other things, the issues of martial law, the interim assembly, its
replacement, the powers of such replacement, the period of its existence, the length of
the period for the exercise by the President of his present powers. 20 days after, the
President issued another related decree, PD 1031, amending the previous PD 991, by
declaring the provisions of PD 229 providing for the manner of voting and canvass of
votes in “barangays” applicable to the national referendum-plebiscite of Oct 16, 1976.
Quite relevantly, PD 1031 repealed inter alia, Sec 4, of PD. 991. On the same date of
22 Sept 1976, Marcos issued PD. 1033, stating the questions to he submitted to the
people in the referendum-plebiscite on Oct 16, 1976. The PD recites in its “whereas”
clauses that the people’s continued opposition to the convening of the interim NA
evinces their desire to have such body abolished and replaced thru a constitutional
amendment, providing for a new interim legislative body, which will be submitted directly
to the people in the referendum-plebiscite of Oct 16.

On September 27, 1976, Atty. Pablito Sanidad filed a Prohibition with Preliminary
Injunction seeking to enjoin the COMELEC from holding and conducting the
Referendum Plebiscite on Oct 16; to declare without force and effect PD Nos. 991 and
1033, insofar as they propose amendments to the Constitution, as well as PD 1031,
insofar as it directs the COMELEC to supervise, control, hold, and conduct the
Referendum-Plebiscite scheduled on Oct 16, 1976.Petitioners contend that under the
1935 and 1973 Constitutions there is no grant to the incumbent President to exercise
the constituent power to propose amendments to the new Constitution. As a
consequence, the Referendum-Plebiscite on Oct 16 has no constitutional or legal basis.
The Sol-Gen contended that the question is political in nature hence the court cannot
take cognizance of it. The Sol-Gen principally maintains that petitioners have no
standing to sue; the issue raised is political in nature, beyond judicial cognizance of the
SC; at this state of the transition period, only the incumbent President has the authority
to exercise constituent power; the referendum-plebiscite is a step towards
normalization.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the issue is a political question

HELD:

The SC ruled that the issue is not a political question but rather a justiciable one. This is
especially true in cases where the power of the Presidency to initiate the amending
process by proposals of amendments, a function normally exercised by the legislature,
is seriously doubted. Political questions are neatly associated with the wisdom, not the
legality of a particular act. Where the vortex of the controversy refers to the legality or
validity of the contested act, that matter is definitely justiciable or non-political. What is
confronting the SC is not the wisdom of the act of the incumbent President in proposing
amendments to the Constitution, but his constitutional authority to perform such act or to
assume the power of a constituent assembly. Whether the amending process confers
on the President that power to propose amendments is therefore a downright justiciable
question. Should the contrary be found, the actuation of the President would merely be
a brutum fulmen. If the Constitution provides how it may be amended, the judiciary as
the interpreter of that Constitution, can declare whether the procedure followed or the
authority assumed was valid or not.