Not good for Grace Poe

Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino
Not good for Grace Poe
The Supreme Court's minute resolution on the Poe case in effect keeps the door open to a legitimate contest – after the election

In a “minute resolution,” the Supreme Court denied the consolidated motions for reconsideration filed by those who had sought the disqualification of Ms. Grace Poe. A minute resolution is a one, two or three-liner that cites the minutes of the Court’s session at which a resolution is reached without an extended opinion.

Some read it as the Court making short shrift of the motions by waving them off without so much as the favor of full argument. That is not how I see things, not especially in the light of circumstances publicly known.

It is known that while the majority of the Court maintains that the Comelec gravely abused its discretion in disqualifying Poe, it never ruled with finality on the issue of her nationality and her residence. 

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Philippine Bar Association – lawyers’ associations both politically unaligned – have endeavored to make this clear, and they are to be commended for doing so. The public has the right to this information, especially as the pol ads of Ms. Poe are not exactly models of forthrightness!

What this means should be clear. Since there is no res judicata on the pivotal issues of nationality and residence, they may yet be raised – and most certainly will – in quo warranto proceedings, should she win the election.

I have said it before. I will repeat my position: The possibility of an adverse judgment in a disqualification case is one good reason not to vote a candidate to the Office of President. The Republic cannot afford a protracted period of uncertainty, with the sword of disqualification dangling over an elected president’s head.

Poe would have reason to celebrate had the Court, as anticipated, ruled with finality on the twin issues of nationality and residence. It declined to do so, and so the votes remain as they were – finding grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Comelec but not holding her qualified either!

So, why the minute resolution? 

It was one way of setting the present dispute aside – for the moment, without having to re-enter the turbid waters of the debate on her nationality and residence. It was in effect keeping the door open to a legitimate contest – after the election.

One other reason, I surmise, is that the Court finds itself in a rather awkward position. It has found the Comelec to have acted with grave abuse of discretion.

2013 case

To arrive at this conclusion, the Court had to find what it required in a 2013 case, Malayang Manggagawa v. NLRC, to cite just one case.  

For grave abuse of discretion to be concluded the Court required this:

The term “grave abuse of discretion” has a specific meaning. An act of a court or tribunal can only be considered as with grave abuse of discretion when such act is done in a “capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction.” The abuse of discretion must be so patent and gross as to amount to an “evasion of a positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform a duty enjoined by law, or to act at all in contemplation of law, as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary and despotic manner by reason of passion and hostility.”

Furthermore, the use of a petition for certiorari is restricted only to “truly extraordinary cases wherein the act of the lower court or quasi-judicial body is wholly void.” From the foregoing definition, it is clear that the special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65 can only strike an act down for having been done with grave abuse of discretion if the petitioner could manifestly show that such act was patent and gross. x x x. (Citations omitted.)

In this case, nowhere in the petition did petitioner show that the issuance of the Decision dated July 1, 2002 of the Court of Appeals was patent and gross that would warrant striking it down through a petition for certiorari. Aside from a general statement in the Jurisdictional Facts portion of the petition and the sweeping allegation of grave abuse of discretion in the general enumeration of the grounds of the petition,35 petitioner failed to substantiate its imputation of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Court of Appeals.


Now, if, because the Court failed to muster the requisite majority, there was no definite ruling on nationality and residence – the very grounds Comelec rested its disqualification on, what basis was there then for a finding of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Comelec? 

In other words, the Supreme Court would have to show that the Comelec’s holding on nationality and residence in the case of Ms. Poe was patently abusive, despotic, whimsical, tantamount to an evasion of duty and a cavalier disregard for the law – a finding it could not make precisely because it refused (in the main decision) and has continued to refuse (in the Reso disposing of the MR) to resolve them, opening the possibility instead for a revival of these questions in a post-election quo warrants case.

Clearly, this was and is very awkward, and one expedient way of getting rid of it fast was through a minute resolution – to which nevertheless concurring and dissenting opinions were attached. 

It is really hard to see how one can dissent or concur with a minute resolution that merely declares what was resolved. But it has happened, probably for the first time in the history of Philippine jurisprudence. –


The author is Dean, Graduate School of Law, San Beda College



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