G.R. No. 167011 - SPS. CARLOS S. ROMUALDEZ, ETC. v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS, ET AL.
[G.R. NO. 167011 : December 11, 2008]
SPOUSES CARLOS S. ROMUALDEZ and ERLINDA R. ROMUALDEZ, Petitioners, v. COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS and DENNIS GARAY, Respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
For resolution is the Motion for Reconsideration filed by petitioner Spouses Carlos Romualdez and Erlinda Romualdez on 26 May 2008 from the Decision of this Court dated 30 April 2008, affirming the Resolutions, dated 11 June 2004 and 27 January 2005 of the COMELEC En Banc.
We find that petitioner has not raised substantially new grounds to justify the reconsideration sought. Instead, petitioner presents averments that are mere rehashes of arguments already considered by the Court. There is, thus, no cogent reason to warrant a reconsideration of this Court's Decision.
Similarly, we reject the contentions put forth by esteemed colleagues Mr. Justice Dante O. Tinga in his Dissent, dated 2 September 2008, which are also mere reiterations of his earlier dissent against the majority opinion. Mr. Justice Tinga's incessant assertions proceed from the wrong premise. To be clear, this Court did not intimate that penal statutes are beyond scrutiny. In our Decision, dated 30 April 2008, this Court emphasized the critical limitations by which a criminal statute may be challenged. We drew a lucid boundary between an "on-its-face" invalidation and an "as applied" challenge. Unfortunately, this is a distinction which Mr. Justice Tinga has refused to understand. Let it be underscored that "on-its-face" invalidation of penal statutes, as is sought to be done by petitioners in this case, may not be allowed. Thus, we said:
The void-for-vagueness doctrine holds that a law is facially invalid if men of common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application. However, this Court has imposed certain limitations by which a criminal statute, as in the challenged law at bar, may be scrutinized. This Court has declared that facial invalidation or an "on-its-face" invalidation of criminal statutes is not appropriate. We have so enunciated in no uncertain terms in Romualdez v. Sandiganbayan, thus:
In sum, the doctrines of strict scrutiny, overbreadth, and vagueness are analytical tools developed for testing "on their faces" statutes in free speech cases or, as they are called in American law, First Amendment cases. They cannot be made to do service when what is involved is a criminal statute. With respect to such statute, the established rule is that 'one to whom application of a statute is constitutional will not be heard to attack the statute on the ground that impliedly it might also be taken as applying to other persons or other situations in which its application might be unconstitutional.' As has been pointed out, 'vagueness challenges in the First Amendment context, like overbreadth challenges typically produce facial invalidation, while statutes found vague as a matter of due process typically are invalidated [only] 'as applied' to a particular defendant.'" (underscoring supplied)
"To this date, the Court has not declared any penal law unconstitutional on the ground of ambiguity." While mentioned in passing in some cases, the void-for-vagueness concept has yet to find direct application in our jurisdiction. In Yu Cong Eng v. Trinidad, the Bookkeeping Act was found unconstitutional because it violated the equal protection clause, not because it was vague. Adiong v. Comelec decreed as void a mere Comelec Resolution, not a statute. Finally, Santiago v. Comelec held that a portion of RA 6735 was unconstitutional because of undue delegation of legislative powers, not because of vagueness.
Indeed, an "on-its-face" invalidation of criminal statutes would result in a mass acquittal of parties whose cases may not have even reached the courts. Such invalidation would constitute a departure from the usual requirement of "actual case and controversy" and permit decisions to be made in a sterile abstract context having no factual concreteness. In Younger v. Harris, this evil was aptly pointed out by the U.S. Supreme Court in these words:
"[T]he task of analyzing a proposed statute, pinpointing its deficiencies, and requiring correction of these deficiencies before the statute is put into effect, is rarely if ever an appropriate task for the judiciary. The combination of the relative remoteness of the controversy, the impact on the legislative process of the relief sought, and above all the speculative and amorphous nature of the required line-by-line analysis of detailed statutes, x x x ordinarily results in a kind of case that is wholly unsatisfactory for deciding constitutional questions, whichever way they might be decided."
For this reason, generally disfavored is an on-its-face invalidation of statutes, described as a "manifestly strong medicine" to be employed "sparingly and only as a last resort." In determining the constitutionality of a statute, therefore, its provisions that have allegedly been violated must be examined in the light of the conduct with which the defendant has been charged. (Emphasis supplied.)1
Neither does the listing by Mr. Justice Tinga of what he condemns as offenses under Republic Act No. 8189 convince this Court to overturn its ruling. What is crucial in this case is the rule set in our case books and precedents that a facial challenge is not the proper avenue to challenge the statute under consideration. In our Decision of 30 April 2008, we enunciated that "the opinions of the dissent which seek to bring to the fore the purported ambiguities of a long list of provisions in Republic Act No. 8189 can be deemed as a facial challenge."2 On this matter, we held:
An appropriate "as applied" challenge in the instant Petition should be limited only to Section 45 (j) in relation to Sections 10 (g) and (j) of Republic Act No. 8189–the provisions upon which petitioners are charged. An expanded examination of the law covering provisions which are alien to petitioners' case would be antagonistic to the rudiment that for judicial review to be exercised, there must be an existing case or controversy that is appropriate or ripe for determination, and not conjectural or anticipatory.3
In conclusion, I reiterate that the doctrine embodied in Romualdez and Estrada remains good law. The rule established in our jurisdiction is, only statutes on free speech, religious freedom, and other fundamental rights may be facially challenged. Under no case may ordinary penal statutes be subjected to a facial challenge. The rationale is obvious. If a facial challenge to a penal statute is permitted, the prosecution of crimes maybe hampered. No prosecution would be possible. A strong criticism against employing a facial challenge in the case of penal statutes, if the same is allowed, would effectively go against the grain of the doctrinal requirement of an existing and concrete controversy before judicial power may be appropriately exercised. A facial challenge against a penal statute is, at best, amorphous and speculative. It would, essentially, force the court to consider third parties who are not before it. As I have said in my opposition to the allowance of a facial challenge to attack penal statutes, such a test will impair the State's ability to deal with crime. If warranted, there would be nothing that can hinder an accused from defeating the State's power to prosecute on a mere showing that, as applied to third parties, the penal statute is vague or overbroad, notwithstanding that the law is clear as applied to him.
As structured, Section 45 enumerates acts deemed election offenses under Republic Act No. 8189. The evident intent of the legislature in including in the catena of election offenses the violation of any of the provisions of Republic Act No. 8189, is to subsume as punishable, not only the commission of proscribed acts, but also the omission of acts enjoined to be observed. On this score, the declared policy of Republic Act No. 8189 is illuminating. The law articulates the policy of the State to systematize the present method of registration in order to establish a clean, complete, permanent and updated list of voters.
In People v. Gatchalian, the Court had the occasion to rule on the validity of the provision of the Minimum Wage Law, which in like manner speaks of a willful violation of "any of the provisions of this Act." This Court upheld the assailed law, and in no uncertain terms declared that the provision is all-embracing, and the same must include what is enjoined in the Act which embodies the very fundamental purpose for which the law has been adopted.
Finally, as the records would show, petitioners managed to set up an intelligent defense against the informations filed below. By clearly enunciating their defenses against the accusations hurled at them, and denying their commission thereof, petitioners' allegation of vagueness must necessarily be rejected. Petitioners failed to overcome the heavy presumption of constitutionality in favor of the law. The constitutionality must prevail in the absence of substantial grounds for overthrowing the same.
The phraseology in Section 45(j) has been employed by Congress in a number of laws which have not been declared unconstitutional:
1) The Cooperative Code
Section 124(4) of Republic Act No. 6938 reads:
"Any violation of any provision of this Code for which no penalty is imposed shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) months nor more than one (1) year and a fine of not less than One Thousand Pesos (
P1,000.00) or both at the discretion of the Court."
2) The Indigenous Peoples Rights Act
Section 72 of Republic Act No. 8371 reads in part:
"Any person who commits violation of any of the provisions of this Act, such as, but not limited to '"
3) The Retail Trade Liberalization Act
Section 12, Republic Act No. 8762, reads:
"Any person who would be found guilty of violation of any provisions of this Act shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than six (6) years and one (1) day but not more than eight (8) years, and a fine of at least One Million (
P1,000,000.00) but not more than Twenty Million ( P20,000,000.00).
For reasons so stated, we deny the Motion for Reconsideration.
1 Romualdez v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 167011, 30 April 2008.
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