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Charter, SC’s internal rules uphold majority decision

/ 12:12 AM April 07, 2016

In less than a week, the Inquirer came out with two stimulating opinions which highlight a seeming dilemma or uncertainty in the recent Supreme Court adjudication on the eligibility of Sen. Grace Poe to run for president of the Philippines.

One is the editorial no less, with the provocative title “A divided SC?” (Opinion, 3/16/16); the second is the opinion of a columnist who dangles this question: Whose version of what comprises a majority in the resolution of the citizenship issue is correct, the chief justice’s or the senior associate justice’s?

There is nothing wrong with the high court being divided, especially in this instance. The vigorous clash of views and arguments reflects the magistrates’ appreciation of the primordial importance to the country and people of the concerns at stake in the cases.

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There is no dilemma or uncertainty. At the end of the process, the dispute is settled as it should be according to the majority rule. The protocol along with the benchmark is installed in the Supreme Court’s Internal Rules: “All decisions and actions in Court en banc cases shall be made upon the concurrence of the majority of the Members of the Court who actually took part in the deliberations on the issue or issues involved and voted on them” [Rule 12, Section 1(a)].

This internal rule is derived from a similar provision of the Constitution: “All cases… which shall be heard by the Supreme Court en banc… shall be decided with the concurrence of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon” [Article VIII, Section 4(2)].

Without doubt, the majority opinion in the consolidated cases is the decision of the Supreme Court. It is binding on all the parties to the cases, as well as the polity, subject of course to the outcome of the motion for reconsideration.

Three justices refrained from voting on the merits of the citizenship issue on a perceived technicality. Should one, two or all three choose to vote on the motion for reconsideration one way or the other, and one side gets eight votes or the court majority, that side’s opinion is the decision that will become part of the law of the land or jurisprudence.

—DANTE O. TIÑGA, former Supreme Court associate justice

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TAGS: Citizenship, Constitution, Supreme Court
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