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The meaning of ‘next adjournment’

I write about what lawyer-columnist Emil Jurado said in three successive columns – May 28, May 30 and June 2, 2020.

“Once Congress adjourns, all emergency powers granted to the President (under the Bayanihan Heal As One Act) shall cease,” he said.

Jurado based his assertion by referring to Sec. 23(2), Art. VI of the 1987 Constitution on the power of Congress to grant emergency powers to the President of the Philippines in times of war and other national emergencies, the last sentence of which reads: “Unless sooner withdrawn by resolution of the Congress, such powers shall cease upon the next adjournment thereof.”

The phrase “upon the next adjournment thereof” evidently refers to the adjournment of the session of Congress which will be convened on July 27, 2020 – the fourth Monday of July pursuant to Art. VI, Sec. 15 of the 1987 Constitution.

The phrase cannot obviously refer to the adjournment on June 5, 2020 of the First Special Session of the 18th Congressional which approved the Bayanihan Heal as One Act because “adjournment” is modified by “next.” Simple grammatical analysis, logic and the basic rules of statutory construction that every word in a constitutional or statutory provision should be accorded their accepted meaning and be given effect support this conclusion.

Therefore, “next adjournment” means a future or subsequent adjournment, not to the adjournment of the current session of Congress.

Furthermore, absurd result must be avoided in construing or interpreting a constitutional or statutory provision. Statutes should receive a sensible construction as will give effect to the legislative intention and avoid an unjust or an absurd conclusion. To illustrate:

If both Houses of Congress currently convened in special session enacts a one-section law extending the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act for such period of time as they may determine; or enact an entirely new law granting emergency powers to the President who forthwith approves it and have it published in a newspaper of general circulation on June 4, 2020, all the emergency powers granted to the President under the extended or the new law will automatically cease when the present Congress adjourns on June 5, 2020 – dead already even before it becomes effective. An absurd result, all because the plain and simple meaning of “next adjournment” is disregarded.


Topics: Mail Matters , Emil Jurado , Congress , next adjournment , 1987 Constitution , Bayanihan to Heal as One Act
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