Case Brief: Lozano v Nograles

G.R. No. 187883  June 16, 2009
ATTY. OLIVER O. LOZANO and ATTY. EVANGELINE J. LOZANO-ENDRIANO, Petitioners,
– versus –
SPEAKER PROSPERO C. NOGRALES, Representative, Majority, House of Representatives, Respondents

x – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – x
G.R. No.  187910
LOUIS “BAROK” C. BIRAOGO, Petitioner
– versus
SPEAKER PROSPERO C. NOGRALES, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Congress of the Philippines, Respondents.

Facts:
The two petitions, filed by their respective petitioners in their capacities as concerned citizens and taxpayers, prayed for the nullification of House Resolution No. 1109 entitled “A Resolution Calling upon the Members of Congress to Convene for the Purpose of Considering Proposals to Amend or Revise the Constitution, Upon a Three-fourths Vote of All the Members of Congress,” convening the Congress into a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution. In essence, both petitions seek to trigger a justiciable controversy that would warrant a definitive interpretation by this Court of Section 1, Article XVII, which provides for the procedure for amending or revising the Constitution. The petitioners contend that the House Resolution contradicts the procedures set forth by the 1987 Constitution regarding the amendment or revision of the same as the separate voting of the members of each House (the Senate and the House of Representatives) is deleted and substituted with a vote of three-fourths of all the Members of Congress (i.e., ¾ of the “members of Congress” without distinction as to which institution of Congress they belong to).

Issue:
Whether the court has the power to review the case of the validity of House Resolution No. 1109.

Held:
No. The Supreme Court cannot indulge petitioners’ supplications. While some may interpret petitioners’ moves as vigilance in preserving the rule of law, a careful perusal of their petitions would reveal that they cannot hurdle the bar of justiciability set by the Court before it will assume jurisdiction over cases involving constitutional disputes.

The Court’s power of review may be awesome, but it is limited to actual cases and controversies dealing with parties having adversely legal claims, to be exercised after full opportunity of argument by the parties, and limited further to the constitutional question raised or the very lis mota presented. The “case-or-controversy” requirement bans this court from deciding “abstract, hypothetical or contingent questions,” lest the court give opinions in the nature of advice concerning legislative or executive action

An aspect of the “case-or-controversy” requirement is the requisite of “ripeness.” In the United States, courts are centrally concerned with whether a case involves uncertain contingent future events that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all. Another approach is the evaluation of the twofold aspect of ripeness: first, the fitness of the issues for judicial decision; and second, the hardship to the parties entailed by withholding court consideration. In our jurisdiction, the issue of ripeness is generally treated in terms of actual injury to the plaintiff. Hence, a question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it. An alternative road to review similarly taken would be to determine whether an action has already been accomplished or performed by a branch of government before the courts may step in.

In the present case, the fitness of petitioners’ case for the exercise of judicial review is grossly lacking. In the first place, petitioners have not sufficiently proven any adverse injury or hardship from the act complained of. In the second place, House Resolution No. 1109 only resolved that the House of Representatives shall convene at a future time for the purpose of proposing amendments or revisions to the Constitution. No actual convention has yet transpired and no rules of procedure have yet been adopted. More importantly, no proposal has yet been made, and hence, no usurpation of power or gross abuse of discretion has yet taken place. In short, House Resolution No. 1109 involves a quintessential example of an uncertain contingent future event that may not occur as anticipated, or indeed may not occur at all. The House has not yet performed a positive act that would warrant an intervention from this Court.

As in the case of Tan v. Macapagal, as long as any proposed amendment is still unacted on by it, there is no room for the interposition of judicial oversight. Only after it has made concrete what it intends to submit for ratification may the appropriate case be instituted. Until then, the courts are devoid of jurisdiction

A party will be allowed to litigate only when he can demonstrate that (1) he has personally suffered some actual or threatened injury because of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by the remedy being sought. In the cases at bar, petitioners have not shown the elemental injury in fact that would endow them with the standing to sue. Locus standi requires a personal stake in the outcome of a controversy for significant reasons. It assures adverseness and sharpens the presentation of issues for the illumination of the Court in resolving difficult constitutional questions. The lack of petitioners’ personal stake in this case is no more evident than in Lozano’s three-page petition that is devoid of any legal or jurisprudential basis.

Neither can the lack of locus standi be cured by the claim of petitioners that they are instituting the cases at bar as taxpayers and concerned citizens. A taxpayer’s suit requires that the act complained of directly involves the illegal disbursement of public funds derived from taxation. It is undisputed that there has been no allocation or disbursement of public funds in this case as of yet.

The possible consequence of House Resolution No. 1109 is yet unrealized and does not infuse petitioners with locus standi

The rule on locus standi is not a plain procedural rule but a constitutional requirement derived from Section 1, Article VIII of the Constitution, which mandates courts of justice to settle only “actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable.”
Moreover, while the Court has taken an increasingly liberal approach to the rule of locus standi, evolving from the stringent requirements of “personal injury” to the broader “transcendental importance” doctrine, such liberality is not to be abused. It is not an open invitation for the ignorant and the ignoble to file petitions that prove nothing but their cerebral deficit.

IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petitions are dismissed.

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