Regina Reyes beat the son of Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. by almost 4,000 votes in the last concluded elections for the post of representative for the lone district of Marinduque. Pursuant to established jurisprudence, all controversy concerning her qualification to sit as a member of the House of Representatives should be resolved exclusively by the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal. For still unknown reasons, the Supreme Court departed from jurisprudence and ruled that the Certificate of Candidacy of Rep. Reyes was null and void allegedly because she is an American citizen. I yield my space today to print portions of the dissenting opinion of Justice Arturo D. Brion. He was joined by Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. and Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen.
No basis exists to dismiss the petition
Section 6 of Rule 64 of the Rules of Court merely requires that the petition be sufficient in form and substance to justify an order from the Court to act on the petition and to require the respondents to file their comments. The same rule also provides that the Court may dismiss the petition outright (as the majority did in the present case) if it was filed manifestly for delay or if the questions raised are too unsubstantial to warrant further proceedings.
In the present case, the petition is indisputably sufficient in form and substance… Thus, the question before the Court… is whether the issues raised by Reyes were too unsubstantial to warrant further proceedings.
…the issues raised cannot be unsubstantial as they involve crucial issues of jurisdiction and due process. …the Court cannot simply go through the motions of evaluation and then simply strike out the petitioner’s positions. The Court’s role as adjudicator and the demands of basic fairness require that we should fully hear the parties and rule based on our appreciation of the merits of their positions in light of what the law and established jurisprudence require.
HRET has jurisdiction
…the matter of jurisdiction between the Comelec and the HRET has always constituted a dichotomy; the relationship between the Comelec and the HRET in terms of jurisdiction is not an appellate one but is mutually exclusive.
This mutually exclusive jurisdictional relationship is, as a rule, sequential. …the Comelec’s jurisdiction ends when the HRET’s jurisdiction begins. …there is no point in time, when a vacuum in jurisdiction would exist… This jurisdiction …refers to jurisdiction over the subject matter …Under Section 17, Article VI, the subject matter of HRET’s jurisdiction is the “election, returns, and qualifications of Members of the House of Representatives.”
I submit … that the proclamation of the winning candidate is the operative fact that triggers the jurisdiction of the HRET…the proclamation of a winning candidate divests the Comelec of its jurisdiction over matters pending before it at the time of the proclamation and the party questioning the qualifications of the winning candidate should now present his or her case in a proper proceeding (i.e. quo warranto) before the HRET who, by constitutional mandate, has the sole jurisdiction to hear and decide cases involving the election, returns and qualification of members of the House of Representatives. …as far as the HRET is concerned, the proclamation of the winner in the congressional elections serves as the reckoning point as well as the trigger that brings any contests relating to his or her election, return and qualifications within its sole and exclusive jurisdiction.
…by holding that the Comelec retained jurisdiction … the majority effectively emasculates the HRET of its jurisdiction as it allows the filing of an election protest or a petition for quo warranto only after the assumption to office by the candidate (i.e, on June 30 in the usual case).
Comelec gravely abused its discretion
… common sense and the minimum sense of fairness dictate that an article in the internet cannot simply be taken to be evidence of the truth of what it says, nor can photocopies of documents not shown to be genuine be taken as proof of the “truth.” To accept these materials as statements of “truth” is to be partisan and to deny the petitioner her right to both procedural and substantive due process.
It is also basic in the law of evidence that one who alleges a fact has the burden of proving it. …Reyes’ view is not without its merits and should not simply be dismissively set aside.
First, Tan submitted an article published online … stated that the author had obtained records from the BID stating that Reyes is an American citizen; that she is the holder of a US passport and that she has been using the same since 2005.
How the law on evidence would characterize Obligacion’s blog article …is not hard for a law student answering the Bar exam to tackle: the article is double hearsay or hearsay evidence that is twice removed from being admissible as it was offered to prove its contents (that Reyes is an American citizen) without any other competent and credible evidence to corroborate them.
Second, Tan also submitted a photocopy of a “certification” issued by … the BID showing the travel records of Reyes …and that she is a holder of US Passport No. 306278853.
Contributory to the possible answer is the ruling of this Court that a “certification” is not a certified copy and is not a document that proves that a party is not a Filipino citizen.
…in the absence of sufficient proof (i.e, other than a photocopy of a “certification”) that she is not a natural born Filipino citizen, no burden of evidence shifts to her to prove anything, particularly the fact that she is not an American citizen. Considering that Tan might have also failed to prove by substantial evidence his allegation that Reyes is an American citizen, the burden of evidence also cannot be shifted to the latter to prove that she had availed of the privileges of RA 9225 in order to re-acquire her status as a natural born Filipino citizen.
…in the absence of sufficient proof that Reyes lost her Filipino citizenship, the twin requirements under RA 9225 for re-acquisition of Filipino citizenship should not apply to her.
All told, the Comelec does not appear to have an airtight case based on substantial evidence on the citizenship and residence issues and much less a similar case on the jurisdictional issue, to justify A VERY PROMPT OUTRIGHT DISMISSAL ACTION from this Court.
If this Court is indeed SERIOUS IN ADMINISTERING JUSTICE or at least to BE SEEN TO BE ADMINISTERING JUSTICE in the way described in the speeches of many Justice of this Court, it should not deliver the kind of hasty and imprudent action it did in this case.