“Never again must we have a Supreme Court that is not independent from the President.”
The Ratification Cases is a series of petitions challenging the imposition of martial law imposed on September 21, 1972, when President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation 1081.
The Ratification cases culminated with the Supreme Court rendering a decision on March 31, 1973, in Javellana vs. Executive Secretary, which validated the 1973 Constitution.
With the entire country placed under martial law, Marcos dissolved Congress, prominent opposition leaders, notably Benigno Aquino Jr. and Jose W. Diokno, were arrested and placed in military jails. Some pro-administration legislators, like Roque Ablan Jr. of Ilocos Norte, were also jailed.
The 1971 Constitutional Convention or ConCon convened in June, seven months after the Constitutional Convention delegates were elected, to draft a new constitution to replace the 1935 Constitution.
This was two months before the Plaza Miranda bombing during a political rally of the opposition Liberal Party where Aquino Jr., the secretary general, was absent. The ConCon convened 15 months before the imposition of martial law.
The ConCon delegates, headed by Marcos’ predecessor former President Diosdado Macapagal, who succeeded to that post when the previously elected ConCon president Carlos Garcia died two weeks after ConCon convened, presented the constitution, approved by the delegates on November 29, 1972, on December 1, 1972 to Marcos.
Marcos then 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 therefor.” The Proclamation also set the plebiscite for ratification on January 15, 1973.
The very first Supreme Court set of petitions, known as the Plebiscite Cases, sought to stop the proposed ratification on 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.”
Eventually, however, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition for being moot and academic, when Marcos issued Proclamation 1102.
The Court ruled therein that the 1973 Constitution was “ratified by an overwhelming majority of all the votes cast by the members of all the barangays (citizens’ assemblies) throughout the Philippines…” during the 1973 constitutional plebiscite.
Finally, the Supreme Court rendered its decision in the celebrated case of Javellana v. Executive Secretary, September 17, 1974, dismissing petitions for habeas corpus on the ground that Martial Law was a political question beyond the jurisdiction of the court; and that, furthermore, the court had already deemed the 1973 Constitution in full force and effect, replacing the 1935 Constitution.
In the said case, Josue Javellana filed a case questioning Proclamation 1102.
He was followed by other petitioners including Vidal Tan, J. Antonio Araneta, Alejandro Roces, Manuel Crudo, Antonio U. Miranda, Emilio de Peralta, and Lorenzo M. Tañada on January 23, 1973, and other senators who filed respective petitions against the Executive Secretary, as well as Senate President Gil Puyat and Senate President Pro Tempore Jose Roy, alleging that Congress must still hold session and that they were being prevented to do so by agents of the Government, invoking Proclamation 1102.
The Supreme Court at that time was composed 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. Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion wrote the ponencia.
On the issue of whether or not petitioners are entitled to relief, six members of the court (Justices Makalintal, Castro, Barredo, Makasiar, Antonio, and Esguerra) voted to dismiss the petitions, thus upholding the 1973 Constitution and Marcos’s rule.
CJ Concepcion, together with Justices Zaldivar, Fernando, and Teehankee, voted to grant the petition.
As to whether or not the 1973 Constitution has been ratified validly, six members of the court answered that the Constitution was not validly ratified.
Those who said that the Constitution was not validly ratified were Querube Makalintal and Fred Ruiz Castro who voted to dismiss the petitions.
The Court capped its decision by saying “This being the vote of the majority, there is no further judicial obstacle to the new Constitution being considered in force and effect.”
The Ratification Cases finally put a lid on any legal challenge to the Marcos dictatorship. The decision paved the way for Marcos to exercise absolute powers as president until he was booted out of office in 1986.
Chief Justice Roberto Concepcion, dissented from the Javellana case, and famously added “I dissent.” right after the dispositive portion.
He opted for an early retirement shortly after. He got his “sweet revenge” when Chief Justice Concepcion was appointed by President Corazon Aquino as a member of the 1987 Constitutional Commission that would draft the new charter.
Concepcion was chosen to head the Committee that drafted the provisions of the Judiciary and he obliged by drafting the rule on the extraordinary power of judicial review by the Supreme Court designed for the Javellana decision not to be repeated again.
One other notable member of the Concepcion Court was associate justice Claudio Teehankee who, in the early days, was perceived to be a Marcos supporter.
He later became known as the court’s “activist” justice because of his dissenting opinions in many vital cases affecting the Marcos regime.
In 1987, he was appointed by Aquino as the 16th chief justice of the Supreme Court. He would also make sure that many—although sadly and inexplicably not all—of the Marcos Supreme Court doctrines would be reversed.
Never again must we have a Supreme Court that is not independent from the President!