Case Digests
Constitutional Law 1 Digests

Case Digest: Mabanag v. Lopez Vito, G.R. No. L-1123, 5 March 1947

Mabanag v. Lopez Vito, G.R. No. L-1123, 5  March 1947

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


The case was heard on the pleadings and stipulation of facts. In our view of the case it is unnecessary to go into the facts at length. We will mention only the facts essential for the proper understanding of the issues. For this purpose it suffices to say that three of the plaintiff senators and eight of the plaintiff representatives had been proclaimed by a majority vote of the Commission on Elections as having been elected senators and representatives in the elections held on April 23, 1946. The three senators were suspended by the Senate shortly after the opening of the first session of Congress following the elections, on account of alleged irregularities in their election. The eight representatives since their election had not been allowed to sit in the lower House, except to take part in the election of the Speaker, for the same reason, although they had not been formally suspended. A resolution for their suspension had been introduced in the House of Representatives, but that resolution had not been acted upon definitely by the House when the present petition was filed.

As a consequence these three senators and eight representatives did not take part in the passage of the questioned resolution, nor was their membership reckoned within the computation of the necessary three-fourths vote which is required in proposing an amendment to the Constitution. If these members of Congress had been counted, the affirmative votes in favor of the proposed amendment would have been short of the necessary three-fourths vote in either branch of Congress.


  1. WON the court has jurisdiction to try this
  2. WON the exclusion of the senators and congressmen in the determination of the 3/4 votes of Congress valid


  1. No
  2. Yes, it is Congress’ prerogative

If ratification of an amendment is a political question, a proposal which leads to ratification has to be a political question. The two steps complement each other in a scheme intended to achieve a single objective. It is to be noted that the amendatory process as provided in section 1 of Article XV of the Philippine Constitution “consists of (only) two distinct parts: proposal and ratification.” There is no logic in attaching political character to one and withholding that character from the other. Proposal to amend the Constitution is a highly political function performed by the Congress in its sovereign legislative capacity and committed to its charge by the Constitution itself. The exercise of this power is even independent of any intervention by the Chief Executive. If on grounds of expediency scrupulous attention of the judiciary be needed to safeguard public interest, there is less reason for judicial inquiry into the validity of a proposal than into that of a ratification. As the Mississippi Supreme Court has once said:

There is nothing in the nature of the submission which should cause the free exercise of it to be obstructed, or that could render it dangerous to the stability of the government; because the measure derives all its vital force from the action of the people at the ballot box, and there can never be danger in submitting in an established form, to a free people, the proposition whether they will change their fundamental law. The means provided for the exercise of their sovereign right of changing their constitution should receive such a construction as not to trammel the exercise of the right. Difficulties and embarrassments in its exercise are in derogation of the right of free government, which is inherent in the people; and the best security against tumult and revolution is the free and unobstructed privilege to the people of the State to change their constitution in the mode prescribed by the instrument. (Green vs. Weller, 32 Miss., 650; note, 10 L.R.A., N.S., 150.)

Mr. Justice Black, in a concurring opinion joined in by Justices Roberts, Frankfurter and Douglas, in Miller vs. Coleman, supra, finds no basis for discriminating between proposal and ratification. From his forceful opinion we quote the following paragraphs:

The Constitution grant Congress exclusive power to control submission of constitutional amendments. Final determination by Congress that ratification by three-fourths of the States has taken place “is conclusive upon the courts.” In the exercise of that power, Congress, of course, is governed by the Constitution. However, whether submission, intervening procedure or Congressional determination of ratification conforms to the commands of the Constitution, call for decisions by a “political department” of questions of a type which this Court has frequently designated “political.” And decision of a “political question” by the “political department” to which the Constitution has committed it “conclusively binds the judges, as well as all other officers, citizens and subjects of . . . government.” Proclamation under authority of Congress that an amendment has been ratified will carry with it a solemn assurance by the Congress that ratification has taken place as the Constitution commands. Upon this assurance a proclaimed amendment must be accepted as a part of the Constitution, leaving to the judiciary its traditional authority of interpretation. To the extent that the Court’s opinion in the present case even impliedly assumes a power to make judicial interpretation of the exclusive constitutional authority of Congress over submission and ratification of amendments, we are unable to agree.

The State court below assumed jurisdiction to determine whether the proper procedure is being followed between submission and final adoption. However, it is apparent that judicial review of or pronouncements upon a supposed limitation of a “reasonable time” within which Congress may accept ratification; as to whether duly authorized State officials have proceeded properly in ratifying or voting for ratification; or whether a State may reverse its action once taken upon a proposed amendment; and kindred questions, are all consistent only with an intimate control over the amending process in the courts. And this must inevitably embarrass the course of amendment by subjecting to judicial interference matters that we believe were intrusted by the Constitution solely to the political branch of government.

The Court here treats the amending process of the Constitution in some respects as subject to judicial construction, in others as subject to the final authority of the Congress. There is no disapproval of the conclusion arrived at in Dillon vs. Gloss, that the Constitution impliedly requires that a properly submitted amendment must die unless ratified within a “reasonable time.” Nor does the Court now disapprove its prior assumption of power to make such a pronouncement. And it is not made clear that only Congress has constitutional power to determine if there is any such implication in Article 5 of the Constitution. On the other hand, the Court’s opinion declares that Congress has the exclusive power to decide the “political questions” of whether as State whose legislature has once acted upon a proposed amendment may subsequently reverse its position, and whether, in the circumstances of such a case as this, an amendment is dead because an “unreasonable” time has elapsed. No such division between the political and judicial branches of the government is made by Article 5 which grants power over the amending of the Constitution to Congress alone. Undivided control of that process has been given by the Article exclusively and completely to Congress. The process itself is “political” in its entirely, from submission until an amendment becomes part of the Constitution, and is not subject to judicial guidance, control or interference at any point.


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