Republic of the Philippines
SUPREME COURT
Manila

EN BANC

 

G.R. No. 108399 July 31, 1997

RAFAEL M. ALUNAN III, in his capacity as Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the BOARD OF ELECTION SUPERVISORS composed of Atty. RUBEN M. RAMIREZ, Atty. RAFAELITO GARAYBLAS, and Atty. ENRIQUE C. ROA, GUILLERMINA RUSTIA, in her capacity as Director of the Barangay Bureau, City Treasurer Atty. ANTONIO ACEBEDO, Budget Officer EUFEMIA DOMINGUEZ, all of the City Government of Manila, petitioners,
vs.
ROBERT MIRASOL, NORMAN NOEL T. SANGUYA, ROBERT DE JOYA, ARNEL R. LORENZO, MARY GRACE ARIAS, RAQUEL L. DOMINGUEZ, LOURDES ASENCIO, FERDINAND ROXAS, MA. ALBERTINA RICAFORT, and BALAIS M. LOURICH, and the HONORABLE WILFREDO D. REYES, Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 36, Metro Manila, respondents.

 

MENDOZA, J.:

This is a petition for review on certiorari of the decision dated January 19, 1993 of the Regional Trial Court of Manila (Branch 36), 1 nullifying an order of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), which in effect cancelled the general elections for the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) slated on December 4, 1992 in the City of Manila, on the ground that the elections previously held on May 26, 1990 served the purpose of the first elections for the SK under the Local Government Code of 1991 (R.A. No. 7160).

Section 423 of the Code provides for a SK in every barangay, to be composed of a chairman, seven (7) members, a secretary, and a treasurer. Section 532(a) provides that the first elections for the SK shall be held thirty (30) days after the next local elections. The Code took effect on January 1, 1992.

The first local elections under the Code were held on May 11, 1992. Accordingly, on August 27, 1992, the Commission on Elections issued Resolution No. 2499, providing guidelines for the holding of the general elections for the SK on September 30, 1992 The guidelines placed the SK elections under the direct control and supervision of the DILG, with the technical assistance of the COMELEC. 2 After two postponements, the elections were finally scheduled on December 4, 1992.

Accordingly, registration in the six districts of Manila was conducted. A total of 152,363 youngsters, aged 15 to 21 years old, registered, 15,749 of them filing certificates of candidacies. The City Council passed the necessary appropriations for the elections.

On September 18, 1992, however, the DILG, through then Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III, issued a letter-resolution "exemption" the City of Manila from holding elections for the SK on the ground that the elections previously held on May 26, 1990 were to be considered the first under the newly-enacted Local Government Code. The DILG acted on a letter of Joshue R. Santiago, acting president of the KB City Federation of Manila and a member of City Council of Manila, which called attention to the fact that in the City of Manila elections for the Kabataang Barangay (the precursor of the Sangguniang Kabataan) had previously been held on May 26, 1990. In its resolution, the DILG stated:

[A] close examination of . . . RA 7160 would readily reveal the intention of the legislature to exempt from the forthcoming Sangguniang Kabataan elections those kabataang barangay chapters which may have conducted their elections within the period of January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 under BP 337. Manifestly the term of office of those elected KB officials have been correspondingly extended to coincide with the term of office of those who may be elected under RA 7160.

On November 27, 1992 private respondents, claiming to represent the 24,000 members of the Katipunan ng Kabataan, filed a petition for certiorari and mandamus in the RTC of Manila to set aside the resolution of the DILG. They argued that petitioner Secretary of Interior and Local Government had no power to amend the resolutions of the COMELEC calling for general elections for SKs and that the DILG resolution in question denied them the equal protection of the laws.

On November 27, 1992, the trial court, through Executive Judge, now COMELEC Chairman, Bernardo P. Pardo, issued an injunction, ordering petitioners "to desist from implementing the order of the respondent Secretary dated September 18, 1992, . . . until further orders of the Court." On the same day, he ordered petitioners "to perform the specified pre-election activities in order to implement Resolution No. 2499 dated August 27, 1992 of the Commission on Elections providing for the holding of a general election of the Sangguniang Kabataan on December 4, 1992 simultaneously in every barangay throughout the country."

The case was subsequently reraffled to Branch 36 of the same court. On January 19, 1993, the new judge, Hon. Wilfredo D. Reyes, rendered a decision, holding that (1) the DILG had no power to "exempt" the City of Manila from holding SK elections on December 4, 1992 because under Art. IX, C, 2(1) of the Constitution the power to enforce and administer "all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall" is vested solely in the COMELEC; (2) the COMELEC had already in effect determined that there had been no previous elections for KB by calling for general elections for SK officers in every barangay without exception; and (3) the "exemption" of the City of Manila was violative of the equal protection clause of the Constitution because, according to the DILG's records, in 5,000 barangays KB elections were held between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 but only in the City of Manila, where there were 897 barangays, was there no elections held on December 4, 1992.

Petitioners sought this review on certiorari. They insist that the City of Manila, having already conducted elections for the KB on May 26, 1990, was exempted from holding elections on December 4, 1992. In support of their contention, they cite 532(d) of the Local Government Code of 1991, which provides that:

All seats reserved for the pederasyon ng mga sangguniang kabataan in the different sangguniang shall be deemed vacant until such time that the sangguniang kabataan chairmen shall have been elected and the respective pederasyon presidents have been selected: Provided, That, elections for the kabataang barangay conducted under Batas Pambansa Blg. 337 at any time between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 shall be considered as the first elections provided for in this Code. The term of office of the kabataang barangay officials elected within the said period shall be extended correspondingly to coincide with the term of office of those elected under this Code. (emphasis added)

They maintain that the Secretary of the DILG has authority to determine whether the City of Manila came within the exception clause of 532(d) so as to be exempt from holding the elections on December 4, 1992.

The preliminary question is whether the holding of the second elections on May 13, 1996 3 rendered this case moot and academic. There are two questions raised in this case. The first is whether the Secretary of Interior and Local Government can "exempt" a local government unit from holding elections for SK officers on December 4, 1992 and the second is whether the COMELEC can provide that "the Department of Interior and Local Government shall have direct control and supervision over the election of sangguniang kabataan with the technical assistance by the Commission on Elections."

We hold that this case is not moot and that it is in fact necessary to decide the issues raised by the parties. For one thing, doubt may be cast on the validity of the acts of those elected in the May 26, 1990 KB elections in Manila because this Court enjoined the enforcement of the decision of the trial court and these officers continued in office until May 13, 1996. For another, this case comes within the rule that courts will decide a question otherwise moot and academic if it is "capable of repetition, yet evading review." 4 For the question whether the COMELEC can validly vest in the DILG the control and supervision of SK elections is likely to arise in connection with every SK election and yet the question may not be decided before the date of such elections.

In the Southern Pacific Terminal case, where the rule was first articulated, appellants were ordered by the Interstate Commerce Commission to cease and desist from granting a shipper what the ICC perceived to be preferences and advantages with respect to wharfage charges. The cease and desist order was for a period of about two years, from September 1, 1908 (subsequently extended to November 15), but the U.S. Supreme Court had not been able to hand down its decision by the time the cease and desist order expired. The case was decided only on February 20, 1911, more than two years after the order had expired. Hence, it was contended that the case had thereby become moot and the appeal should be dismissed. In rejecting this contention, the Court held:

The question involved in the orders of the Interstate Commerce Commission are usually continuing (as are manifestly those in the case at bar), and these considerations ought not to be, as they might be, defeated, by short-term orders, capable of repetition, yet evading review, and at one time the government, and at another time the carriers, have their rights determined by the Commission without a chance of redress. 5

In Roe v. Wade, 6 petitioner, a pregnant woman, brought suit in 1970 challenging anti-abortion statutes of Texas and Georgia on the ground that she had a constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy at least within the first trimester. The case was not decided until 1973 when she was no longer pregnant. But the U.S. Supreme Court refused to dismiss the case as moot. It was explained: "[W]hen, as here, pregnancy is a significant fact the litigation, the normal 266-day human gestation period is so short that the pregnancy will come to term before the usual appellate process is complete. If that termination makes a case moot, pregnancy litigation seldom will survive. Our laws should not be that rigid. Pregnancy provides a classic justification for a conclusion of nonmootness. It truly could be 'capable of repetition, yet evading review.'" 7

We thus reach the merits of the questions raised in this case. The first question is whether then DILG Secretary Rafael M. Alunan III had authority to determine whether under 532(d) of the Local Government Code, the City of Manila was required to hold its first elections for SK. As already stated, petitioners sustain the affirmative side of the proposition. On the other hand, respondents argue that this is a power which Art. IX, C, 2(1) of the Constitution vests in the COMELEC. Respondents further argue that, by mandating that elections for the SK be held on December 4, 1992 "in every barangay," the COMELEC in effect determined that there had been no elections for the KB previously held in the City of Manila.

We find the petition to be meritorious.

First. As already stated, by 4 of Resolution No. 2499, the COMELEC placed the SK elections under the direct control and supervision of the DILG. Contrary to respondents' contention, this did not contravene Art. IX, C, 2(1) of the Constitution which provides that the COMELEC shall have the power to "enforce and administer all laws and regulations relative to the conduct of an election, plebiscite, initiative, referendum, and recall." Elections for SK officers are not subject to the supervision of the COMELEC in the same way that, as we have recently held, contests involving elections of SK officials do not fall within the jurisdiction of the COMELEC. In Mercado v. Board of Election Supervisors, 8 it was contended that

COMELEC Resolution No. 2499 is null and void because: (a) it prescribes a separate set of rules for the election of the SK Chairman different from and inconsistent with that set forth in the Omnibus Election Code, thereby contravening Section 2, Article 1 of the said Code which explicitly provides that "it shall govern all elections of public officers", and, (b) it constitutes a total, absolute, and complete abdication by the COMELEC of its constitutionally and statutorily mandated duty to enforce and administer all election laws as provided for in Section 2(1), Article IX-C of the Constitution; Section 52, Article VIII of the Omnibus Election Code; and Section 2, Chapter 1, Subtitle C, Title 1, Book V of the 1987 Administrative Code. 9

Rejecting this contention, this Court, through Justice Davide, held:

Section 252 of the Omnibus Election Code and that portion of paragraph (2), Section 2, Article IX-C of the Constitution on the COMELEC's exclusive appellate jurisdiction over contest involving elective barangay officials refer to the elective barangay officials under the pertinent laws in force at the time the Omnibus Election Code was enacted and upon the ratification of the Constitution. That law was B.P. Blg. 337, otherwise known as the Local Government Code, and the elective barangay officials referred to were the punong barangay and the six sangguniang bayan members. They were to be elected by those qualified to exercise the right of suffrage. They are also the same officers referred to by the provisions of the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines on election of barangay officials. Metropolitan and municipal trial courts had exclusive original jurisdiction over contests relating to their election. The decisions of these courts were appealable to the Regional Trial Courts.

xxx xxx xxx

In the light of the foregoing, it is indisputable that contests involving elections of SK (formerly KB) officials do not fall within Section 252 of the Omnibus Election Code and paragraph 2, Section 2, Article IX-C of the Constitution and that no law in effect prior to the ratification of the Constitution had made the SK chairman an elective barangay officials. His being an ex-officio member of the sangguniang barangay does not make him one for the law specifically provides who are its elective members, viz., the punong barangay and the seven regular sangguniang barangay members who are elected at large by those who are qualified to exercise the right of suffrage under Article V of the Constitution and who are duly registered voters of the barangay. 10

The choice of the DILG for the task in question was appropriate and was in line with the legislative policy evident in several statutes. Thus, P.D. No. 684 (April 15, 1975), in creating Kabataang Barangays in every barangay throughout the country, provided in 6 that the "Secretary of Local Government and Community Development shall promulgate such rules and regulations as may be deemed necessary to effectively implement the provisions of this Decree." Again, in 1985 Proclamation No. 2421 of the President of the Philippines, in calling for the general elections of the Kabataang Barangay on July 13-14, 1985, tasked the then Ministry of Local Government, the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, and the Commission on Elections to assist the Kabataang Barangay in the conduct of the elections. On the other hand, in a Memorandum Circular dated March 7, 1988, President Corazon C. Aquino directed the Secretary of Local Government to issue the necessary rules and regulations for effecting the representation of the Kabataang Barangay, among other sectors, in the legislative bodies of the local government units.

The role of the COMELEC in the 1992 elections for SK officers was by no means inconsequential. DILG supervision was to be exercised within the framework of detailed and comprehensive rules embodied in Resolution No. 2499 of the COMELEC. What was left to the DILG to perform was the enforcement of the rules.

Second. It is contended that, in its resolution in question, the COMELEC did not name the barangays which, because they had conducted kabataang barangay elections between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992, were not included in the SK elections to be held on December 4, 1992. That these barangays were precisely to be determined by the DILG is, however, fairly inferable from the authority given to the DILG to supervise the conduct of the elections. Since 532(d) provided for kabataang barangay officials whose term of office was extended beyond 1992, the authority to supervise the conduct of elections in that year must necessarily be deemed to include the authority to determine which kabataang barangay would not be included in the 1992 elections.

The authority granted was nothing more than the ascertainment of a fact, namely, whether between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 elections had been held in a given kabataang barangay. If elections had been conducted, then no new elections had to be held on December 4, 1992 since by virtue of 532(d) the term of office of the kabataang barangay officials so elected was "extended correspondingly to coincide with the term of office of those elected under [the Local Government Code of 1991]." In doing this, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government was to act merely as the agent of the legislative department, to determine and declare the event upon which its expressed will was to take effect. 11 There was no undue delegation of legislative power but only of the discretion as to the execution of a law. That this is constitutionally permissible is the teaching of our cases. 12

Third. Respondents claim, however, that the May 26, 1990 KB elections in Manila were void because (a) they were called at the instance of then Mayor Gemiliano C. Lopez who did not have authority to do so and (b) it was not held under COMELEC supervision.

The 1990 elections for the Kabataang Barangay were called by then Manila Mayor Gemiliano C. Lopez, Jr., who in his Executive Order No. 21 dated April 25, 1990 stated:

WHEREAS, the Kabataang Barangay as an organization provided for under Batas Pambansa Bilang 337, has been practically dormant since the advent of the present national administration;

WHEREAS, there is an urgent need to involve the youth in the affairs and undertaking of the government to ensure the participation of all sectors of our population in the task of nation building;

WHEREAS, the last elections for the Kabataang Barangay officers were held in November 1985 yet, which is over their three years term of office;

WHEREAS, most of the present crop of KB officers are way past the age limit provided for under the law;

xxx xxx xxx

The elections were actually held on May 26, 1990 in the 897 barangays of Manila. Later, on June 30, 1990, KB City Federation elections were conducted.

It was precisely to foreclose any question regarding the validity of KB elections held in the aftermath of the EDSA revolution and upon the effectivity of the new Local Government Code that the exception clause of 532(d) was inserted. The proceedings of the Bicameral Conference Committee which drafted the Code show the following: 13

CHAIRMAN DE PEDRO: Isa-cite na lang ko ano iyong title o chapter o section, ha!

HON. LINA: . . .

Page 436, lines 13 to 14 delete within eighteen months prior to December 31, 1990, and in lieu thereof, insert from 1988 up to the effectivity of the Code. The rationale. . . .

CHAIRMAN DE PEDRO: How should it be read?

HON. LINA: It will read as follows: "Provided however, that the Local Government Units which have conducted elections for the Kabataang Barangay as provided for, in Batas Pambansa Bilang 337, up to the effectivity. . . ."

CHAIRMAN DE PEDRO: So, any deletion from the word "within," ha, up to. . . .

HON. LINA: Remove the words, the phrase, "within eighteen months prior to December 31, 1990, and insert from 1988 up to the effectivity of this Code."

CHAIRMAN DE PEDRO: From?

HON. LINA: From 1988 up to the effectivity of this Code. Kasi meron nang mga election, eh, na ginawa, eh. There are five thousand barangays, based on the record of the DILG, out of forty thousand, imaging that, na nag-conduct na ng election nila based on the KB Constitution and By-Laws, and they're sitting already, now if we do not recognize that, mag[ka]karoon sila ng question.

CHAIRMAN DE PEDRO: Accepted, Mr. Chairman.

Section 532(d) may thus be deemed to be a curative law. Curative laws, which in essence are retrospective in effect, are enacted to validate acts done which otherwise would be invalid under existing laws, by considering them as having complied with the existing laws. Such laws are recognized in this jurisdiction. 14

Fourth. It is finally contended that the exemption of the barangays of the City of Manila from the requirement to hold elections for SK officers on December 4, 1992 would deny the youth voters in those barangays of the equal protection of laws. Respondent claim that only in barangays in the City of Manila, which then numbered 897, were elections for SK not held in 1992 on the ground that between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 there had already been SK elections held, when, according to petitioners' own evidence, during that period, SK elections had actually been conducted in 5,000 barangays.

Whether this claim is true cannot be ascertained from the records of this case. Merely showing that there were 5,000 barangays which similarly held KB elections between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992 does not prove that despite that fact these same barangays were permitted to hold elections on December 4, 1992. For one thing, according to the Manila Bulletin issue of November 18, 1992 (p. 9), 568 barangays in the Province of Bulacan did not have SK elections on December 4, 1992 either, because they already had elections between January 1, 1988 and January 1, 1992. For another, even assuming that only barangays in Manila were not permitted to hold SK elections on December 4, 1992 while the rest of the 5,000 barangays were allowed even if KB elections had already been held there before, this fact does not give the youth voters in the 897 Manila barangays ground for complaint because what the other barangays did was contrary to law. There is no discrimination here.

In People v. Vera 15 this Court struck down the Probation Law because it permitted unequal application of its benefits by making its applicability depend on the decision of provincial governments to appropriate or not to appropriate funds for the salaries of probation officers, with the result that those not disposed to allow the benefits of probations to be enjoyed by their inhabitants could simply omit to provide for the salaries of probation officers. The difference between that case and the one at bar lies in the fact that what youth voters in the other barangays might have been allowed was not a right which was denied to youth voters in Manila. If those barangays were not entitled to have SK elections on December 4, 1992 but nevertheless were allowed to have such elections, that fact did not mean those in Manila should similarly have been allowed to conduct elections on December 4, 1992 because the fact was that they already had their own, just two years before on May 26, 1990. Respondents' equal protection argument violates the dictum that one wrong does not make another wrong right.

WHEREFORE, the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila, Branch 36 is REVERSED and the case filed against petitioner by private respondents is DISMISSED.

SO ORDERED.

Padilla, Regalado, Davide, Jr., Romero, Bellosillo, Melo, Puno, Vitug, Kapunan, Francisco, Hermosisima, Jr. and Panganiban, JJ., concur.

Narvasa, C.J. and Torres, Jr., J., are on leave.

Footnotes

1 Per Judge Wilfredo D. Reyes, Rollo, pp. 72-80.

2 Resolution No. 2499, 2 and 4.

3 The second elections were held pursuant to R.A. No. 7808, approved on September 2, 1994 which provided that "the regular elections for the sangguniang kabataan shall be held on the first Monday of May 1996: Provided, further. That the succeeding regular elections for the sangguniang kabataan shall be held every three (3) years thereafter: Provided, finally, that the national, special metropolitan, provincial, city, and municipal federations of the sangguniang kabataan shall conduct the election of their respective officers thirty (30) days after the May 1996 sangguniang kabataan elections on dates to be scheduled by the Commission on Elections."

4 Southern Pac. Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 U.S. 498, 55 L.Ed. 310 (1911): Moore v. Ogilvie, 394 U.S. 814, 23 L.Ed.2d 1 (1969) (challenge to signature requirement on nominating petitions, election had been held before the U.S. Supreme Court could decide case); Dunn v. Blumstein, 405 U.S. 330, 31 L.Ed.2d 274 (1972) (U.S. Supreme Court decided merits of a challenge to durational residency requirement for voting even though Blumstein had in the meantime satisfied that requirement).

5 Id. at 515, 55 L.Ed. at 316.

6 410 U.S. 113, 35 L.Ed.2d 147 (1973).

7 Id. at 125, 35 L.Ed.2d at 161.

8 243 SCRA 422 (1995).

9 Id, at 426.

10 Id, at 434.

11 Panama Refining Co. v. Ryan, 293 U.S. 388, 79 L.Ed. 469 (1935).

12 Cruz v. Youngberg, 56 Phil. 234 (1931): Edu v. Ericta, 146 Phil. 469 (1970).

13 Records of Deliberations of the Bicameral Conference Committee on Local Government, May 31, 1991, pp. 4-5 (emphasis added).

14 Municipality of San Narciso, Quezon v. Mendez, Sr., 239 SCRA 11 (1994).

15 65 Phil. 56 (1937).


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