Paras v. Comelec [GR 123169, 4 November 1996]; Resolution
En Banc, Francisco (p): 14 concur
Facts: Danilo E. Paras is the incumbent Punong Barangay of Pula, Cabanatuan City who won during the 1994 barangay election. A petition for his recall as Punong Barangay was filed by the registered voters of the barangay. Acting on the petition for recall, Comelec resolved to approve the petition, scheduled the petition signing on 14 October 1995, and set the recall election on 13 November 1995. At least 29.30% of the registered voters signed the petition, well above the 25% requirement provided by law. The Comelec, however, deferred the recall election in view of petitioner’s opposition. On 6 December 1995, the Comelec set anew the recall election, this time on 16 December 1995. To prevent the holding of the recall election, petitioner filed before the RTC Cabanatuan City a petition for injunction (SP Civil Action 2254-AF), with the trial court issuing a TRO. After conducting a summary hearing, the trial court lifted the restraining order, dismissed the petition and required petitioner and his counsel to explain why they should not be cited for contempt for misrepresenting that the barangay recall election was without Comelec approval.
In a resolution dated 5 January 1996, the Comelec, for the third time, re-scheduled the recall election on 13 January 1996; hence, the instant petition for certiorari with urgent prayer for injunction. On 12 January 1996, the Court issued a TRO and required the OSG, in behalf of Comelec, to comment on the petition. In view of the OSG’s manifestation maintaining an opinion adverse to that of the Comelec, the latter through its law department filed the required comment. Paras thereafter filed a reply.
The Supreme Court dismissed the petition for having become moot and academic, as the next regular elections are 7 months away. The TRO issued on 12 January 1996, enjoining the recall election, was made permanent.
- Every part of statute must be interpreted with reference to the context of the whole enactment
It is a rule in statutory construction that every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context, i.e., that every part of the statute must be considered together with the other parts, and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment. In the case at bar, Paragraph (b) of Section 74 construed together with paragraph (a) merely designates the period when such elective local official may be subject of a recall election, i.e. during the second year of his term of office. SK elections cannot be considered a regular election as this would render inutile the recall provision of the LGC.
- Assumption that Legislature intended to enact an effective law
In the interpretation of a statute, the Court should start with the assumption that the legislature intended to enact an effective law, and the legislature is not presumed to have done a vain thing in the enactment of a statute. An interpretation should, if possible, be avoided under which a statute or provision being construed is defeated, or as otherwise expressed, nullified, destroyed, emasculated, repealed, explained away, or rendered insignificant, meaningless, inoperative or nugatory.
- Statute interpreted in harmony with the Constitution
It is a basic precept in statutory construction that a statute should be interpreted in harmony with the Constitution. In the case at bar, the interpretation of Section 74 of the LGC, specifically paragraph (b) thereof, should not be in conflict with the Constitutional mandate of Section 3 of Article X of the Constitution to enact a local government code which shall provide for a more responsive and accountable local government structure instituted through a system of decentralization with effective mechanisms of recall, initiative, and referendum.
- Intent of law paramount; too literal interpretation discouraged
The spirit, rather than the letter of a law determines its construction; hence, a statute must be read according to its spirit and intent. The too literal interpretation of the law leads to absurdity which the Court cannot countenance. A too-literal reading of the law constrict rather than fulfill its purpose and defeat the intention of its authors. That intention is usually found not in ‘the letter that killeth but in the spirit that vivifieth’.
- Intent of the law in prohibiting recall elections for one year immediately preceding a regular election
Recall election is potentially disruptive of the normal working of the local government unit necessitating additional expenses, hence the prohibition against the conduct of recall election one year immediately preceding the regular local election. The proscription is due to the proximity of the next regular election for the office of the local elective official concerned. The electorate could choose the official’s replacement in the said election who certainly has a longer tenure in office than a successor elected through a recall election. It would, therefore, be more in keeping with the intent of the recall provision of the Code to construe regular local election as one referring to an election where the office held by the local elective official sought to be recalled will be contested and be filled by the electorate.