FACTS: Section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 657 provides:
“Any decision, order, or ruling of the Commission on Elections may be reviewed by the Supreme Court by writ of certiorari in accordance with the Rules of Court or with such rules as may be promulgated by the Supreme Court.”
Here is a petition filed by Vicente Sotto for review of the decision of the Commission on Elections which declared the respondent Emilio M. Javier as the true and legitimate President of the Popular Front (Sumulong) Party. The petitioner Vicente Sotto contends in his petition that he is the President of said Party, and prays that said decision be reviewed and reversed and that petitioner be declared the legitimate President of the Party.
ISSUE#1: Can the Supreme Court review the rulings or findings of facts by the Commission on Elections?
Under Section 2, Article VIII of the Constitution of the Philippines, as well as our Rules of Court, final judgment and decrees of the inferior or lower courts may be reviewed by this Court by appeal, writ of error, or certiorari. By appeal the appellate court reviews all the findings of law and of fact of the court a quo, as in special proceedings (Rule 105, Rules of Court). By writ of error the appellate court reviews only the findings of law or of fact of the lower court assigned in the assignment of errors of the appellant, as in ordinary civil actions (section 19, Rule 48). And by certiorari the appellate or superior Court can only review questions or errors of law decided or committed by the lower court, as provided in Rules 43, 44 and 46 of the Rules of court. Questions or findings of fact of the inferior tribunal, can not be reviewed on certiorari. “Evidence which is made a part of the record can not be examined to determine whether or not it justifies the finding on which the decision or judgment was made. (See the following rule.).
The general rule is that, in the absence of statue or local practice otherwise, questions or findings of fact, in the inferior tribunal, are not reviewable on certiorari, and that evidence which is made a part of the record cannot be examined to determine whether or not it justified the findings on which the decision or judgment was made; nor will rulings on questions of fact, within the inferior tribunal’s jurisdiction, be reviewed. (14 Corpus Juris Secundum, pp. 311, 312.) (Emphasis supplied.)
In accordance with the provision of section 9 of Commonwealth Act No. 657, this Court can not, therefore, review the rulings or findings of fact of the Commission on Elections.
It is true that Article X, Section 2, of the Constitution of the Philippines provides that “decisions, orders and rulings of the Commission shall be subject to review by the Supreme Court.” As the review may only be effected, as above-stated, by any one of the three modes or ways abovementioned, and not by the three at the same time, for the scope of each one is different and at variance with the others, and the Philippine Congress has provided in section 9, Commonwealth Act No. 657, that decisions, orders and rulings of the Commission on Elections may be reviewed by this Court by writ of certiorari in accordance with the Rules of Court, we have to apply said provision of Act No. 657, since its constitutionality is not assailed by the parties in this case, and the presumption is that it is constitutional. xxx
But assuming that this Court may review the findings of facts in the decision of the Commission on Elections, it is obvious that the findings of fact as well as of law in the decision of the Commission are supported by the evidence in the record and are in accordance with the law.
ISSUE#2: Should the Court pass upon a constitutional question not raised by the parties?
It is a well-established rule that a court should not pass upon a constitutional question and decide a law to be unconstitutional or invalid, unless such question is raised by the parties, and that when it is raised, if the record also presents some other ground upon which the court may rest its judgment, that course will be adopted and the constitutional will be left for consideration until a case arises in which a decision upon such question will be unavoidable (Cooley’s Constitutional Limitations, seventh edition, p. 231). The contention in the dissenting opinion that “whether the point (unconstitutionality) of the provision of section 9, Act No. 657, is raised or not by either party, we can not close our eyes to the constitutional mandate,” is therefore evidently erroneous.