Case Digests
Constitutional Law 1 Digests

Case Digest: Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. L-28196, 9 November 1967

Gonzales v. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. L-28196, 9 November 1967

TOPIC: Amendment vs. Revision of the Constitution: Proposal Stage: Constituent Assembly and Constitutional Convention


The main facts are not disputed. On March 16, 1967, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the following resolutions:

  1. R. B. H. (Resolution of Both Houses) No. 1, proposing that Section 5, Article VI, of the Constitution of the Philippines, be amended so as to increase the membership of the House of Representatives from a maximum of 120, as provided in the present Constitution, to a maximum of 180, to be apportioned among the several provinces as nearly as may be according to the number of their respective inhabitants, although each province shall have, at least, one (1) member;
  2. R. B. H. No. 2, calling a convention to propose amendments to said Constitution, the convention to be composed of two (2) elective delegates from each representative district, to be “elected in the general elections to be held on the second Tuesday of November, 1971;” and
  3. R. B. H. No. 3, proposing that Section 16, Article VI, of the same Constitution, be amended so as to authorize Senators and members of the House of Representatives to become delegates to the aforementioned constitutional convention, without forfeiting their respective seats in Congress.

Subsequently, Congress passed a bill, which, upon approval by the President, on June 17, 1967, became Republic Act No. 4913, providing that the amendments to the Constitution proposed in the aforementioned Resolutions No. 1 and 3 be submitted, for approval by the people, at the general elections which shall be held on November 14, 1967.

Ramon A. Gonzales, the petitioner in L-28196, is admittedly a Filipino citizen, a taxpayer, and a voter. He claims to have instituted case L-28196 as a class unit, for and in behalf of all citizens, taxpayers, and voters similarly situated. Although respondents and the Solicitor General have filed an answer denying the truth of this allegation, upon the ground that they have no knowledge or information to form a belief as to the truth thereof, such denial would appear to be a perfunctory one. In fact, at the hearing of case L-28196, the Solicitor General expressed himself in favor of a judicial determination of the merits of the issued raised in said case.


  1. WON that the Court has jurisdiction either to grant the relief sought in the petition, or to pass upon the legality of the composition of the House of Representatives;
  2. WON that the petition, if granted, would, in effect, render inoperational the legislative department; and that “the failure of Congress to enact a valid reapportionment law . . . does not have the legal effect of rendering illegal the House of Representatives elected thereafter, nor of rendering its acts null and void.


  1. As early as Angara vs. Electoral Commission,4 this Court — speaking through one of the leading members of the Constitutional Convention and a respected professor of Constitutional Law, Dr. Jose P. Laurel — declared that “the judicial department is the only constitutional organ which can be called upon to determine the proper allocation of powers between the several departments and among the integral or constituent units thereof.”

Indeed, the power to amend the Constitution or to propose amendments thereto is not included in the general grant of legislative powers to Congress.10 It is part of the inherent powers of the people — as the repository of sovereignty in a republican state, such as ours11 — to make, and, hence, to amend their own Fundamental Law. Congress may propose amendments to the Constitution merely because the same explicitly grants such power.12 Hence, when exercising the same, it is said that Senators and Members of the House of Representatives act, not as members of Congress, but as component elements of a constituent assembly. When acting as such, the members of Congress derive their authority from the Constitution, unlike the people, when performing the same function,13 for their authority does not emanate from the Constitution — they are the very source of all powers of government, including the Constitution itself .

Since, when proposing, as a constituent assembly, amendments to the Constitution, the members of Congress derive their authority from the Fundamental Law, it follows, necessarily, that they do not have the final say on whether or not their acts are within or beyond constitutional limits. Otherwise, they could brush aside and set the same at naught, contrary to the basic tenet that ours is a government of laws, not of men, and to the rigid nature of our Constitution. Such rigidity is stressed by the fact that, the Constitution expressly confers upon the Supreme Court,14 the power to declare a treaty unconstitutional,15 despite the eminently political character of treaty-making power.

In short, the issue whether or not a Resolution of Congress — acting as a constituent assembly — violates the Constitution essentially justiciable, not political, and, hence, subject to judicial review, and, to the extent that this view may be inconsistent with the stand taken in Mabanag vs. Lopez Vito,16 the latter should be deemed modified accordingly. The Members of the Court are unanimous on this point.

  1. In the cases at bar, it is conceded that the R. B. H. Nos. 1 and 3 have been approved by a vote of three-fourths of all the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives voting separately. This, notwithstanding, it is urged that said resolutions are null and void because:
  2. The Members of Congress, which approved the proposed amendments, as well as the resolution calling a convention to propose amendments, are, at best, de facto Congressmen;
  3. Congress may adopt either one of two alternatives propose — amendments or call a convention therefore but may not avail of both — that is to say, propose amendment and call a convention — at the same time;
  4. The election, in which proposals for amendment to the Constitution shall be submitted for ratification, must be a special election, not a general election, in which officers of the national and local governments — such as the elections scheduled to be held on November 14, 1967 — will be chosen; and
  5. The spirit of the Constitution demands that the election, in which proposals for amendment shall be submitted to the people for ratification, must be held under such conditions — which, allegedly, do not exist — as to give the people a reasonable opportunity to have a fair grasp of the nature and implications of said amendments.

The first objection is based upon Section 5, Article VI, of the Constitution, which provides:

The House of Representatives shall be composed of not more than one hundred and twenty Members who shall be apportioned among the several provinces as nearly as may be according to the number of their respective inhabitants, but each province shall have at least one Member. The Congress shall by law make an apportionment within three years after the return of every enumeration, and not otherwise. Until such apportionment shall have been made, the House of Representatives shall have the same number of Members as that fixed by law for the National Assembly, who shall be elected by the qualified electors from the present Assembly districts. Each representative district shall comprise, as far as practicable, contiguous and compact territory.

It is urged that the last enumeration or census took place in 1960; that, no apportionment having been made within three (3) years thereafter, the Congress of the Philippines and/or the election of its Members became illegal; that Congress and its Members, likewise, became a de facto Congress and/or de facto congressmen, respectively; and that, consequently, the disputed Resolutions, proposing amendments to the Constitution, as well as Republic Act No. 4913, are null and void.

It is not true, however, that Congress has not made an apportionment within three years after the enumeration or census made in 1960. It did actually pass a bill, which became Republic Act No. 3040,17 purporting to make said apportionment. This Act was, however, declared unconstitutional, upon the ground that the apportionment therein undertaken had not been made according to the number of inhabitants of the different provinces of the Philippines.

Moreover, we are unable to agree with the theory that, in view of the failure of Congress to make a valid apportionment within the period stated in the Constitution, Congress became an “unconstitutional Congress” and that, in consequence thereof, the Members of its House of Representatives are de facto officers. The major premise of this process of reasoning is that the constitutional provision on “apportionment within three years after the return of every enumeration, and not otherwise,” is mandatory. The fact that Congress is under legal obligation to make said apportionment does not justify, however, the conclusion that failure to comply with such obligation rendered Congress illegal or unconstitutional, or that its Members have become de facto officers.

It is conceded that, since the adoption of the Constitution in 1935, Congress has not made a valid apportionment as required in said fundamental law. The effect of this omission has been envisioned in the Constitution, pursuant to which:

. . . Until such apportionment shall have been made, the House of Representatives shall have the same number of Members as that fixed by law for the National Assembly, who shall be elected by the qualified electors from the present Assembly districts. . . . .

The provision does not support the view that, upon the expiration of the period to make the apportionment, a Congress which fails to make it is dissolved or becomes illegal. On the contrary, it implies necessarily that Congress shall continue to function with the representative districts existing at the time of the expiration of said period.

It is argued that the above-quoted provision refers only to the elections held in 1935. This theory assumes that an apportionment had to be made necessarily before the first elections to be held after the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, or in 1938.19 The assumption, is, however, unwarranted, for there had been no enumeration in 1935, and nobody could foretell when it would be made. Those who drafted and adopted the Constitution in 1935 could be certain, therefore, that the three-year period, after the earliest possible enumeration, would expire after the elections in 1938.

What is more, considering that several provisions of the Constitution, particularly those on the legislative department, were amended in 1940, by establishing a bicameral Congress, those who drafted and adopted said amendment, incorporating therein the provision of the original Constitution regarding the apportionment of the districts for representatives, must have known that the three-year period therefor would expire after the elections scheduled to be held and actually held in 1941.

Thus, the events contemporaneous with the framing and ratification of the original Constitution in 1935 and of the amendment thereof in 1940 strongly indicate that the provision concerning said apportionment and the effect of the failure to make it were expected to be applied to conditions obtaining after the elections in 1935 and 1938, and even after subsequent elections.


Then again, since the report of the Director of the Census on the last enumeration was submitted to the President on November 30, 1960, it follows that the three-year period to make the apportionment did not expire until 1963, or after the Presidential elections in 1961. There can be no question, therefore, that the Senate and the House of Representatives organized or constituted on December 30, 1961, were de jure bodies, and that the Members thereof were de jure officers. Pursuant to the theory of petitioners herein, upon expiration of said period of three years, or late in 1963, Congress became illegal and its Members, or at least, those of the House of Representatives, became illegal holder of their respective offices, and were de facto officers.

Even if we assumed, however, that the present Members of Congress are merely de facto officers, it would not follow that the contested resolutions and Republic Act No. 4913 are null and void. In fact, the main reasons for the existence of the de facto doctrine is that public interest demands that acts of persons holding, under color of title, an office created by a valid statute be, likewise, deemed valid insofar as the public — as distinguished from the officer in question — is concerned.21 Indeed, otherwise, those dealing with officers and employees of the Government would be entitled to demand from them satisfactory proof of their title to the positions they hold, before dealing with them, or before recognizing their authority or obeying their commands, even if they should act within the limits of the authority vested in their respective offices, positions or employments.22 One can imagine this great inconvenience, hardships and evils that would result in the absence of the de facto doctrine.

As a consequence, the title of a de facto officer cannot be assailed collaterally.23 It may not be contested except directly, by quo warranto proceedings. Neither may the validity of his acts be questioned upon the ground that he is merely a de facto officer.24 And the reasons are obvious: (1) it would be an indirect inquiry into the title to the office; and (2) the acts of a de facto officer, if within the competence of his office, are valid, insofar as the public is concerned.



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