Republic of the Philippines
SPECIAL SECOND DIVISION
G.R. No. 131457           August 19, 1999
HON. CARLOS O. FORTICH, PROVINCIAL GOVERNOR OF BUKIDNON, HON. REY B. BAULA, MUNICIPAL MAYOR OF SUMILAO, BUKIDNON, NQSR MANAGEMENT AND DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, petitioners,
HON. RENATO C. CORONA, DEPUTY EXECUTIVE SECRETARY, HON. ERNESTO D. GARILAO, SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRARIAN REFORM, respondents.
R E S O L U T I O N
This resolves the pending incidents before us, namely, respondents' and intervenors' separate motions for reconsideration of our Resolution dated November 17, 1998, as well as their motions to refer this case to this Court En banc.
Respondents and intervenors jointly argue, in fine, that our Resolution dated November 17, 1998, wherein we voted two-two on the separate motions for reconsideration of our earlier Decision or April 24, 1998, as a result of which the Decision was deemed affirmed, did not effectively resolve the said motions for reconsideration inasmuch as the matter should have been referred to the Court sitting en banc, pursuant to Article VIII, Section 4(3) of the Constitution. Respondents and intervenors also assail our Resolution dated January 27, 1999, wherein we noted without action the intervenors' "Motion For Reconsideration With Motion To Refer The Matter To The Court En Banc" filed on December 3, 1998, on the following considerations, to wit:
the movants have no legal personality to further seek redress before the Court after their motion for leave to intervene in this case was denied in the April 24, 1998 Decision. Their subsequent motion for reconsideration of the said decision, with a prayer to resolve the motion to the Court En Banc, was also denied in the November 17, 1998 Resolution of the Court. Besides, their aforesaid motion of December 3, 1998 is in the nature of a second motion for reconsideration which is a forbidden motion (Section 2, Rule 52 in relation to Section 4, Rule 56 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure). The impropriety of movants' December 3, 1998 motion becomes all the more glaring considering that all the respondents in this case did not anymore join them (movants) ill seeking a reconsideration of the November 17, 1998 Resolution.1
Subsequently, respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor General, filed their "Motion For Reconsideration Of The Resolution Dated November 17, 1998 And For Referral Of The Case To This Honorable Court En Banc (With Urgent Prayer For Issuance Of A Restraining Order)" on December 3, 1998, accompanied by a "Manifestation and Motion"2 and a copy of the Registered Mail Bill3 evidencing filing of the said motion for reconsideration to this Court by registered mail.1âwphi1.nęt
In their respective motions for reconsideration, both respondents and intervenors pray that this case be referred to this Court en banc. They contend that inasmuch as their earlier motions for reconsideration (of the Decision dated April 24, 1998) were resolved by a vote of two-two, the required number to carry a decision, i.e., three, was not met. Consequently, the case should be referred to and be decided by this Court en banc, relying on the following constitutional provision:
Cases or matters heard by a division shall be decided or resolved 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, and in no case without the concurrence of at least three of such Members. When the required number is not obtained, the case shall be decided en banc: Provided, that no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the Court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed except by the Court sitting en banc.4
A careful reading of the above constitutional provision, however, reveals the intention of the framers to draw a distinction between cases, on the one hand, and matters, on the other hand, such that cases are "decided" while matters, which include motions, are "resolved". Otherwise put, the word "decided" must refer to "cases"; while the word "resolved" must refer to "matters", applying the rule of reddendo singula singulis. This is true not only in the interpretation of the above-quoted Article VIII, Section 4(3), but also of the other provisions of the Constitution where these words appear.5
With the aforesaid rule of construction in mind, it is clear that only cases are referred to the Court en banc for decision whenever the required number of votes is not obtained. Conversely, the rule does not apply where, as in this case, the required three votes is not obtained in the resolution of a motion for reconsideration. Hence, the second sentence of the aforequoted provision speaks only of "case" and not "matter". The reason is simple. The above-quoted Article VIII, Section 4(3) pertains to the disposition of cases by a division. If there is a tie in the voting, there is no decision. The only way to dispose of the case then is to refer it to the Court en banc. On the other hand, if a case has already been decided by the division and the losing party files a motion for reconsideration, the failure of the division to resolve the motion because of a tie in the voting does not leave the case undecided. There is still the decision which must stand in view of the failure of the members of the division to muster the necessary vote for its reconsideration. Quite plainly, if the voting results in a tie, the motion for reconsideration is lost. The assailed decision is not reconsidered and must therefore be deemed affirmed. Such was the ruling of this Court in the Resolution of November 17, 1998.
It is the movants' further contention in support of their plea for the referral of this case to the Court en banc that the issues submitted in their separate motions are of first impression. In the opinion penned by Mr. Justice Antonio M. Martinez during the resolution of the motions for reconsideration on November 17, 1998, the following was expressed:
Regrettably, the issues presented before us by the movants are matters of no extraordinary import to merit the attention of the Court En Banc. Specifically, the issue of whether or not the power of the local government units to reclassify lands is subject to the approval of the DAR is no longer novel, this having been decided by this Court in the case of Province of Camarines Sur, et al. vs. Court of Appeals wherein we held that local government units need not obtain the approval of the DAR to convert or reclassify lands from agricultural to non-agricultural use. The dispositive portion of the Decision in the aforecited case states:
WHEREFORE, the petition is GRANTED and the questioned decision of the Court of Appeals is set aside insofar as it (a) nullifies the trial court's order allowing the Province of Camarines Sur to take possession of private respondent's property (b) orders the trial court to suspended the exportation proceedings; and (c) requires the Province of Camarines Sur to obtain the approval of the Department of Agrarian Reform to convert or reclassify private respondents' property from agricultural to non-agricultural use.
x x x           x x x           x x x(Emphasis supplied)
Moreover, the Decision sought to be reconsidered was arrived at by a unanimous vote of all five (5) members of the Second Division of this Court, Stated otherwise, this Second Division is of the opinion that the matters raised by movants are nothing new and do not deserve the consideration of the Court en banc. Thus, the participation of the full Court in the resolution of movants' motions for reconsideration would be inappropriate.6
The contention, therefore, that our Resolution of November 17, 1998 did not dispose of the earlier motions for reconsideration of the Decision dated April 24, 1998 is flawed. Consequently, the present motions for reconsideration necessarily partake of the nature of a second motion for reconsideration which, according to the clear and unambiguous language of Rule 56, Section 4, in relation to Rule 52, Section 2, of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, is prohibited.
True, there are exceptional cases when this Court may entertain a second motion for reconsideration, such as where there are extraordinarily persuasive reasons. Even then, we have ruled that such second motions for reconsideration must be filed with express leave of court first obtained.7 In this case, not only did movants fail to ask for prior leave of court, but more importantly, they have been unable to show that there are exceptional reasons for us to give due course to their second motions for reconsideration. Stripped of the arguments for referral of this incident to the Court en banc, the motions subject of this resolution are nothing more but rehashes of the motions for reconsideration which have been denied in the Resolution of November 17, 1998. To be sure, the allegations contained therein have already been raised before and passed upon by this Court in the said Resolution.
The crux of the controversy is the validity of the "Win-Win" Resolution dated November 7, 1997. We maintain that the same is void and of no legal effect considering that the March 29, 1996 decision of the Office of the President had already become final and executory even prior to the filing of the motion for reconsideration which became the basis of the said "Win-Win" Resolution. This ruling, quite understandably, sparked a litany of protestations on the part of respondents and intervenors including entreaties for a liberal interpretation of the rules. The sentiment was that notwithstanding its importance and far-reaching effects, the case was disposed of on a technicality. The situation, however, is not as simple as what the movants purport it to be. While it may be true that on its face the nullification of the "Win-Win" Resolution was grounded on a procedural rule pertaining to the reglementary period to appeal or move for reconsideration, the underlying consideration therefor was the protection of the substantive rights of petitioners. The succinct words of Mr. Justice Artemio V. Panganiban are quoted in the November 17, 1998 opinion of Mr. Justice Martinez, viz.: "Just as a losing party has the right to file an appeal within the prescribed period, the winning party also has the correlative right to enjoy the finality of the resolution of his/her case."8
In other words, the finality of the March 29, 1996 OP Decision accordingly vested appurtenant rights to the land in dispute on petitioners as well as on the people of Bukidnon and other parts of the country who stand to be benefited by the development of the property. The issue in this case, therefore, is not a question of technicality but of substance and merit.9
Before finally disposing of these pending matters, we feel it necessary to rule once and for all on the legal standing of intervenors in this case. In their present motions, intervenors insist that they are real parties in interest inasmuch as they have already been issued certificates of land ownership award, or CLOAs, and that while they are seasonal farmworkers at the plantation, they have been identified by the DAR as qualified beneficiaries of the property. These arguments are, however, nothing new as in fact they have already been raised in intervenors' earlier motion for reconsideration of our April 24, 1998 Decision. Again as expressed in the opinion of Mr. Justice Martinez, intervenors, who are admittedly not regular but seasonal farmworkers, have no legal or actual and substantive interest over the subject land inasmuch as they have no right to own the land. Rather, their right is limited only to a just share of the fruits of the land.10 Moreover, the "Win-Win" Resolution itself states that the qualified beneficiaries have yet to be carefully and meticulously determined by the Department of Agrarian Reform.11 Absent any definitive finding of the Department of Agrarian Reform, intervenors cannot as yet be deemed vested with sufficient interest in the controversy as to be qualified to intervene in this case. Likewise, the issuance of the CLOA's to them does not grant them the requisite standing in view of the nullity of the "Win-Win" Resolution. No legal rights can emanate from a resolution that is null and void.
WHEREFORE, based on the foregoing, the following incidents, namely: intervenors' "Motion For Reconsideration With Motion To Refer The Matter To The Court En Banc," dated December 3, 1998; respondents' "Motion For Reconsideration Of The Resolution Dated November 17, 1998 And For Referral Of The Case To This Honorable Court En Banc (With Urgent Prayer For Issuance Of A Restraining Order)," dated December 2, 1998; and intervenors' "Urgent Omnibus Motion For The Supreme Court Sitting En Banc To Annul The Second Division's Resolution Dated 27 January 1999 And Immediately Resolve The 28 May 1998 Motion For Reconsideration Filed By The Intervenors," dated March 2, 1999; are all DENIED with FINALITY. No further motion, pleading, or paper will be entertained in this case.
Melo, J., please see separate opinion.
Puno, J., in the result. I maintain my original position that the case should go to CA for further proceedings.
Mendoza, J., in the result.
MELO, J., separate opinion;
On the merits, I still maintain my vote with Mr. Justice Puno that this case should be referred to the Court of Appeals for further proceedings.
Since what is now before us is a second motion for reconsideration, which under the rules is generally proscribed, the majority deemed it pertinent to limit its resolution in regard to cogent procedural points.
At the outset, I wish to point out that inasmuch as I am bound to abide by the Court En Banc's Resolution No. 99-109-SC dated January 2, 1999, which settled the issue of an even (2-2) vote in a division, I am constrained to vote with the majority in denying all of the subject motions in the above-captioned case. Nevertheless, I wish to express my views on this issue and put them or record, so, in the event that the Court decides to open and re-discuss this issue at some future time, these consideration may be referred to.
I continue to have some reservations regarding majority's position regarding an even (2-2) vote in a division, due to the following considerations:
By mandate of the Constitution, cases heard by a division when the required majority of at least 3 votes in the division is not obtained are to be heard and decided by the Court En Banc. Specifically, Paragraph 3, Section 4, Article VIII of the Constitution provides that:
x x x           x x x           x x x
(3) Cases or matters heard by a division shall e decided or resolved 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, and in no case, without the concurrence of at least three of such members. When the required number is not obtained, the case shall be decided en banc: provided, that no doctrine or principle of law laid down by the court in a decision rendered en banc or in division may be modified or reversed by the court sitting en banc.
The deliberations of the 1986 Constitutional Commission disclose that if the case is not decided in a division by a majority vote, it goes to the Court En Banc and not to a longer division. Moreover, the elevation of a case to the Banc shall be automatic. Thus,
MR. RODRIGO: Madam President, may I ask some questions for clarification.
MR. PRESIDENT: Commissioner Rodrigo is recognized.
MR. RODRIGO: Under these provisions, there are 3 kinds of divisions: one would be a division composed of 3 justices in which case there will be 5 divisions; another division is composed of 5 justices each, in which case there will be 3 divisions; and the other is composed of 7 members each, in which case, there will be 2 divisions.
Let us take the smallest division of 3 and the vote is 2-1. So, it is less than 3 votes. Should it immediately go to the court en banc of 15 justices or should it first go to a bigger division?
MR. CONCEPCION: Yes.
MR. RODRIGO: They immediately go to the court en banc?
MR. SUAREZ: Yes, Madam President.
MR. RODRIGO: Is that automatic? Let us say that in the division of 3, the vote is 2-1, automatically it goes to the court en banc?
MR. SUAREZ: Yes, because the required number of 3 is not obtained. So, this last phrase would operate automatically — "WHEN THE REQUIRED NUMBER IS NOT OBTAINED, THE CASE SHALL BE DECIDED EN BANC."
x x x           x x x           x x x
(V Record 635, Oct. 8, 1986)
Explicit, therefore, is the requirement that at least 3 members must concur in any case or matter heard by a division. Failing thus, or, when the required number of 3 votes is not obtained, the case or matter will have to be decided by the Court En Banc.
In a situation where a division of 5 has only 4 members, the 5th member having inhibited himself or is otherwise not in a position to participate, or has retired, a minimum of 3 votes would still be required before there can be any valid decision or resolution by that division. There may, then, be instances when a deadlock may occur, i.e., the votes tied at 2-2. It is my humble view that under the clear and unequivocal provisions of the 1986 Constitution, if the required majority is not reached in a division, the case should automatically got to the Court En Banc.
A distinction has been made between "cases" and "matters" referred to in the above-quoted constitutional provision. "Cases" being decided, and "matters" being resolved. Only "cases" are referred to the Court En Banc for decision whenever the required number of votes is not obtained Matters" are not referred anymore.
I regret I cannot square with such position.
The majority view is that "cases" would only refer to deliberations at first instance on the merits of a case filed with the Court, and other deliberations, such as motions, including motions of reconsideration, are "matters" to be resolved. To give flesh to this distinction, it is cited that if a tie occurs in the voting on motions for reconsideration, the decision which already been passed stands.
This is not true all the time. It may be true only in original cases, as opposed to appealed cases, filed with the Court. However, because of the doctrine of hierarchy of courts, to only original cases which are taken cognizable of by this Court are those wherein it has exclusive jurisdiction. But, invariably, these cases are all required by the Constitution to be heard by the Court En Banc. so, there will be no instance when a division will be ever taking cognizance of an original actions filed with this Court.
It may be noted that cases taken cognizable of by the divisions are either petitions for review on certiorari under Rule 45 or petitions for certiorari, prohibition or mandamus, under Rule 65. Under Rule 45, appeal by way of petition for review on certiorari is not a matter of right. Thus, should there be a tie in the voting on deliberation of a "case" by the division, although apparently no action is passed, a decision may still be rendered — the petition is thereby DENIED due course, and it is forthwith DISMISSED. This is definitely in consonance with the majority's line of reasoning in the 2-2 vote on motions for reconsideration. But why is it that, the 2-2 vote in the deliberation of the "case" at the first instance should still be referred to the Court En Banc? The reason is simple. Because the express provision of the Constitution requires a vote of at least three justices for there to be a valid and binding decision of the Court. But, why do we not apply the same rule to motions for reconsideration? Even on this score alone, it is my view that, in all instances, whether it be in the deliberations of a case at first instance or on a motion for reconsideration, a division having a 2-2 vote cannot pass action.1âwphi1.nęt
I submit that the requirement of 3 votes equally applies to motions for reconsideration because the provision contemplates "cases" or "matters" (which for me has no material distinction insofar as divisions are concerned) heard by a division, and a motion for reconsideration cannot be divorced from the decision in a case that it seeks to be reconsidered. Consequently, if the required minimum majority of 3 votes is not met, the matter of the motion for reconsideration has to be heard by the Court En Banc, as mandated by the Constitution (par. 3, Sec. 4, Art. VIII). To say that the motion is lost in the division on 2-2 vote, is to construe something which cannot be sustained by a reading of the Constitution. To argue that a motion for reconsideration is not a "case" but only a "matter" which does not concern a case, so that, even through the vote thereon in the division is 2-2, the matter or issue is not required to elevated to the Court En Banc, is to engage in a lot of unfounded hairsplitting.
Furthermore, I humbly submit that the theory of leaving the issue hanging on a 2-2 vote or any even vote may be sustained only in cases where there is no recourse to a higher assemblage.
In the Court of Appeals, for instance, an even vote in a division of 5 (2-2, with 1 abstaining) would result in the motion not being carried, but only because there is and there cannot be recourse to the Court of Appeals En Banc which, does not act on judicial matters. In a legislative body, an even vote results in the failure of the proposition, only because there is no higher body which can take over. In our own Court En Banc, if there voting is evenly split, on a 7-7 vote with 1 slot vacant, or with 1 justice inhibiting or disqualifying himself, the motion shall, of course, not be carried because that is the end of the line.
But in the situation now facing us, the even vote is in a division, and there being recourse to the Court En Banc, and more so, this being expressly directed by the Constitution, the matter of the motion for reconsideration should, by all means, be decided by the Court En Banc.
1 Rollo, p. 1310. References to the Rollo pages are omitted.
2 Rollo, p. 1313.
3 Rollo, p. 1319.
4 Art. VIII, Section 4 (3).
5 See Article VIII, Section 15; Article XVIII, Section 12 to 14.
6 Rollo, pp. 1243-1244: emphasis omitted.
7 Ortigas and Company Ltd. Partnership v. Judge Tirso Velasco, et al., 254 SCRA 234 (1996).
8 Videogram Regulatory Board v. Court of Appeals, 265 SCRA 50, 56 (1996).
9 Opinion of Justice Martinez, November 17, 1998, p. 10.
10 Ibid., pp. 12-13, citing the Constitution, Article XIII, Section 4, and Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, The 1987 Philippine Constitution: A Reviewer-Primer, Third Edition (1997), p. 441.
11 Ibid., p. 13.
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