Ratification Cases, officially titled as Javellana v. Executive Secretary (G.R. No. L-36142, March 31, 1973; 50 SCRA 30) was a case decided by the Philippine Supreme Court in 1973, said decision becoming the legal basis for the 1973 Philippine Constitution to be of full force and effect, and paving the way for the extension of the term of President Ferdinand Marcos and rule by absolute force and decree until his ouster by the People Power Revolution in 1986. The said decision also became the cornerstone of subsequent decisions whenever the question of the validity of the 1973 Constitution is put into question.
Marcos declared the Philippines under martial law on September 21, 1972. Upon its declaration, Congress was padlocked, and full legislative authority was vested upon Marcos via rule of decree. Many prominent members of the opposition, notably Benigno Aquino, Jr. and Jose W. Diokno, among others, was arrested and placed in military stockades.
It was also during that time that the proceedings of the 1971 Constitutional Convention were still continuing despite the declaration of martial law. Eventually, on November 29, 1972, the Convention approved the new constitution. The next day, Marcos issued Presidential Decree 73, "submitting to the Filipino people for ratification or rejection the Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines proposed by the 1971 Constitutional Convention, and appropriating funds therefore," as well as setting the plebiscite for said ratification or rejection of the Proposed Constitution on January 15, 1973. At this instance, Charito Planas (a staunch critic and later vice-mayor of Quezon City) filed a case (known as the Plebiscite Cases, Planas v. COMELEC (1973)) before with the Supreme Court calling the stop the proposed ratification upon the grounds, among others, that the Presidential Decree "has no force and effect as law because the calling... of such plebiscite, the setting of guidelines for the conduct of the same, the prescription of the ballots to be used and the question to be answered by the voters, and the appropriation of public funds for the purpose, are, by the Constitution, lodged exclusively in Congress..." and "there is no proper submission to the people there being no freedom of speech, press and assembly, and there being no sufficient time to inform the people of the contents thereof."
On January 15, 1973, while the Plebiscite Cases were being heard in the Supreme Court, the president signed Proclamation 1102, which states that the 1973 Constitution was supposedly "ratified by an overwhelming majority of all the votes cast by the members of all the Barangays (Citizens Assemblies) throughout the Philippines..."
By virtue of the said decree, the Supreme Court dismissed the case for being moot and academic, without prejudice to the filing of a case questioning the validity of Proclamation 1102. Thus, the Ratification cases came into being for the purpose of questioning such Proclamation.
On January 20, 1973, Josue Javellana initially filed the case questioning the said Proclamation. Similar petitions followed suit, among others, by Vidal Tan, J. Antonio Araneta, Alejandro Roces, Manuel Crudo, Antonio U. Miranda, Emilio de Peralta and Lorenzo M. Tañada on January 23, 1973; on February 3, 1973, by Eddie Monteclaro, (as President of the National Press Club of the Philippines); and on February 12, 1973, by Napoleon V. Dilag, Alfredo Salapantan, Jr., Leonardo Asodisen, Jr. and Raul M. Gonzalez. Likewise, on January 23, 1973, several senators filed a case against the Executive Secretary, as well as Senate President Gil J. Puyat and Senate President Pro Tempore Jose Roy, alleging that Congress must still hold session, and that they are being prevented to do so by agents of the Government, invoking Proclamation 1102, and that said Proclamation has a shadow of doubt as to its validity.
The lawyers representing the petitioners included Ramon A. Gonzales, Lorenzo Tañada, Jovito Salonga, Sedfrey Ordoñez, Francisco ’Soc’ Rodrigo, Pablo Sanidad, Joker Arroyo and Rogelio B. Padilla, and Raul M. Gonzalez.
Morning and afternoon hearings were held by the Supreme Court from February 12–16, 1973. During the deliberations, former Senator Lorenzo Tañada occasionally rebuked the justices. After the deliberations, the parties were allowed to submit their notes and other arguments.
The Composition of the Court
The Supreme Court at that time consisted of Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, and Associate Justices Querube Makalintal, Calixto Zaldivar, Fred Ruiz Castro, Enrique Fernando, Claudio Teehankee, Antonio Barredo, Felix Makasiar, Felix Antonio and Salvador Esguerra. Of the members of the court, Concepcion, Makalintal and Zaldivar were the justices not initially appointed by Marcos, Concepcion being appointed in 1954 (he was later appointed Chief Justice in 1966), Makalintal in 1962 and Zaldivar in 1964.
The decision of the Plebiscite Cases by the court showed the diverse opinions placed individually by the members of the court. It turned out that the said case would be a precursor to the decision of the Ratification Cases.
Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, similarly in the Plebiscite Cases, wrote the decision. In the said decision, he wrote the summary of facts, then his own dissenting opinion of the case (which he said that the 1973 Constitution has not been properly ratified according to law), then proceeded to make the summary of votes by the members of the court.
The issues raised would be as follows:
- Is the issue of the validity of Proclamation No. 1102 a (political) question?
- Has the 1973 Constitution been ratified validly?
- Has the aforementioned proposed Constitution been acquiesced in (with or without valid ratification) by the people?
- Are petitioners entitled to relief? And
- Is the aforementioned proposed Constitution in force?
The court was severely divided on the following issues raised in the petition: but when the crucial question of whether the petitioners are entitled to relief, six members of the court (Justices Makalintal, Castro, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio and Esguerra) voted to dismiss the petition. Concepcion, together Justices Zaldivar, Fernando and Teehankee, voted to grant the relief being sought, thus upholding the 1973 Constitution and made legitimate the rule of Marcos.
In the issue of whether or not the 1973 Constitution has been ratified validly, six members of the court (the Chief Justice, and Justices Makalintal, Zaldivar, Castro, Fernando and Teehankee), answered that the said Constitution was not validly ratified. (Barredo’s opinion was equivocal in its nature according to Cruz, but Joaquin Bernas, in his book on the Constitution, annotates that his opinion would be counted as concurring with the six justices). But it is unusual that of those who said that the Constitution was not validly ratified, Querube Makalintal and Fred Ruiz Castro voted to dismiss the petitions. Makalintal and Castro, in a joint opinion, justified their non-granting of relief on the basis of a case in relation to Luther v. Borden (48 U.S. (7 Harv.) 1; 12 L.Ed. 581, 1849). It said that the inquiry was indeed a political determination and not a judicial one.
It was speculated that the two Justices, being next in line for the position of Chief Justice, voted as such so as not to lose favor with Marcos. Such speculation was seen as Makalintal was subsequently appointed Speaker of the Interim Batasang Pambansa, and Castro evidently showing his support of the Marcos regime through his court decisions and public statements.
The last sentence of the decision contained the following last words:
"This being the vote of the majority, there is no further judicial obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and effect"
It is disputed as to whether or not Concepcion placed the said sentence intentionally, or that someone intercalated the said words after he signed the decision.
The Ratification Cases erased any doubt as to the legality of the Marcos regime, thus he had absolute power as President of the Philippines until he was forced out of power in 1986. It also showed that his acts cannot be questioned, proof of such absolute power is shown by a rubber-stamp legislature and a Supreme Court, which virtually under his thumb, is there to affirm or consent any government act being questioned.
Chief Justice Concepcion took leave 18 days after the decision became public (50 days from his scheduled retirement) supposedly because he was disappointed on the outcome of the decision. He would later become a member of the Constitutional commission that drafted the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Drawing from his experiences in the martial law years, he introduced several new innovations designed to assure the independence of the Supreme Court, such as the Judicial and Bar Council and the express conferment on the Court the power to review any acts of government.
In The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, It was aptly observed by Primitivo Mijares in the Chapter "Spineless Judiciary: Legitimizing A Pretender" that, while the Ratification Cases was resolved in a matter of months, the other cases involving Marcos’ imprisoned critics were not decided until a year or two later. In fact, some of the critics withdraw their petitions, mostly for writ of habeas corpus, due to the lack of confidence that the Supreme Court would grant their relief.
Makalintal, when he became Chief Justice, also took a similar approach of Concepcion in deciding the case of the Habeas Corpus Cases of Benigno Aquino, Jr. (Aquino, Jr. v. Enrile (1973)) by summarizing the diverse votes of the members of the court. He explained the reason why there was no collegial opinion by the Court, among others, that the justices of the Supreme Court are conscious of "the future verdict of history".
At the time of Chief Justices Castro and Fernando, the Supreme Court, using the ‘legitimizing’ power, affirmed the legality of the Ratification Cases through several cases (see Sanidad v. COMELEC (1976) and Occena v. COMELEC (1981)).
Of the four justices who voted to grant relief, Concepcion and Calixto Zaldivar left the court due to retirement. Justices Teehankee, first identified with the regime, began to show his independence by consistently dissenting on several decisions made by the court. He was accompanied by Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma, and later, by Vicente Abad Santos, in such dissents. Fernando, though expected that he would be one to oppose the excesses of the Marcos’ regime, became its supporter. Fernando was later caught on camera holding an umbrella to First Lady Imelda Marcos, an act many considered inappropriate for a Chief Justice.
The decision in the Ratification Cases are still studied by students of Philippine Law with respect to the proper ratification and approval of a new Constitution. It also gave a lesson and reminder of the Marcos regime and its effects to the Filipino people.
It also shows that the Supreme Court are composed of human beings susceptible of error, in the words of Justice Isagani Cruz, "...is not an ivory tower occupied by demigods but not an infallible institution composed of persons slightly higher than their fellowmen, perhaps, but also showing their foibles and failings."
- Bernas, Joaquin (2003). The 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines: a Commentary. Rex Book Store, Manila
- Cruz, Isagani A. (2000). Res Gestae: A Brief History of the Supreme Court. Rex Book Store, Manila
- Mijares, Primitivo(1976). The Conjugal Dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, Union Square Publications, San Francisco, U.S.A.