Press Release
June 6, 2011


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, regarded as the resident Senate expert on constitutional law, said that it is constitutional for Congress to pass a bill postponing ARMM elections to 2013.

"The rules of constitutional construction provide that we must harmonize the principle of synchronization on the one hand, with the principle of local autonomy on the other hand," she said.

In her remarks during the Senate plenary debate yesterday (June 6), Santiago said that both synchronization and local autonomy are in pari materia, meaning that they cover the same subject and are therefore equal in weight.

"Since all constitutional provisions enjoy equal dignity, synchronized elections and local autonomy should be harmonized and reconciled," she said.

Santiago said that if Congress were to be prohibited from passing a bill on synchronized elections, there would be no agency left to legislate on synchronized elections, thus creating a vacuum, which is an absurd result.

The senator said that when the Constitution enumerates the legislative powers of ARMM, and the enumeration does not include synchronization, the conclusion is that synchronization is vested in the Congress.

Santiago also cited cases, particularly the 1991 case of Menzon v. Petilla, where the Supreme Court ruled that vacant public offices should be filled by the President in the exercise of his residual powers, although she qualified that he exercised the executive power of presidential appointment.

The senator said that if the Senate passes the bill and the critics question it before the Supreme Court, the bill will enjoy the presumption of constitutionality and the burden of proof will lie on the critics.

"A party who alleges the unconstitutionality of a statute has the heavy burden of substantiating the claim. The quantum of proof is clear, palpable, or manifest violation of the Constitution. I doubt very much if the critics could show proof beyond reasonable doubt of unconstitutionality," she said.

Santiago said that the construction of the Constitution made by the Congress is even weightier than such construction by the constitutional convention.

"Congress has passed seven laws changing the date of ARMM elections. These laws constitute a long-continued practical construction by Congress," the senator said.

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