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B. Institutional independence safeguards

1. CREATED BY THE CONSTITUTION

The Constitutional Commissions are created by the 1987 Constitution. (Article IX, 1987 Constitution)

2. INDEPENDENT

The Constitutional Commissions are expressly described as independent in the 1987 Constitution. (Section 1, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.)

Article IX-A, Section 1, of the Constitution expressly describes all the Constitutional Commissions as “independent.” Although essentially executive in nature, they are not under the control of the President of the Philippines in the discharge of their respective functions. Each of these Commissions conducts its own proceedings under the applicable laws and its own rules and in the exercise of its own discretion. Its decisions, orders and rulings are subject only to review on Certiorari by this Court as provided by the Constitution in Article IX-A, Section 7. (Brillantes, Jr. v. Yorac, En Banc, 18 December 1990)

3. POWERS AND FUNCTIONS DERIVED FROM THE CONSTITUTION

The powers and functions of the Constitutional Commissions are derived from the 1987 Constitution. (Part B, C, and D, Article IX, Ibid.)

4. QUALIFICATIONS AND DISQUALIFICATIONS

The Chairperson and the Members are subject to qualifications and disqualifiactions under the 1987 Constitution. (Part B, C, and D, Article IX, Ibid.)

5. SECURITY OF TENURE AND IMPEACHMENT

The Chairperson and the Members may only be removed by impeachment under the 1987 Constitution. (Part B, C, and D, Article IX, Ibid.)

6. LONG AND GUARANTEED TERM OF OFFICE

The term of office of the Chairperson and the Members is guaranteed and long at seven (7) years under the 1987 Constitution. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Part B, C, and D, Article IX, Ibid.)

7. STAGGERED TERMS OFFICE

The terms of office of the Chairperson and the Members are staggered to avoid appointment of the majority by the same President. (Paragraph 2, Section 1, Part B, C, and D, Article IX, Ibid.)

8. NO REAPPOINTMENT

The Chairperson and the Members may not be reappointed. (Ibid.)

9. NO APPOINTMNENT OR DESIGNATION IN TEMPORARY OR ACTING CAPACITY

The Chairperson and the Members may not be appointed or designated in a temporary or acting capacity. (Ibid.)

Each of the Constitutional Commissions conducts its own proceedings under the applicable laws and its own rules and in the exercise of its own discretion… The choice of a temporary chairman in the absence of the regular chairman comes under that discretion. That discretion cannot be exercised for it, even with its consent, by the President of the Philippines. (Brillantes, Jr. v. Yorac, supra.)

A designation as Acting Chairman is by its very terms essentially temporary and therefore revocable at will. No cause need be established to justify its revocation. (Ibid.)

In the choice of the Acting Chairman, the members of the Commission on Elections would most likely have been guided by the seniority rule as they themselves would have appreciated it. In any event, that choice and the basis thereof were for them and not the President to make. (Ibid.)

10. VACANCY APPOINTMNENT FOR UNEXPIRED TERM ONLY

Appointment to any vacancy shall be only for the unexpired term of the predecessor. (Ibid.)

An ad interim appointment is characterized “as a permanent appointment that takes effect immediately and can no longer be withdrawn by the President once the appointee has qualified into office.” Notwithstanding, it has also ben positively ruled that “an ad interim appointment that has lapsed by inaction of the Commission on Appointments does not constitute a term of office.” (Calderon v. COMELEC, En Banc, G.R. No. 191890, 04 December 2012)

An ad interim appointment that has lapsed by inaction of the Commission on Appointments does not constitute a term of office. The period from the time the ad interim appointment is made to the time it lapses is neither a fixed term nor an unexpired term. To hold otherwise would mean that the President by his unilateral action could start and complete the running of a term of office in the COMELEC without the consent of the Commission on Appointments. This interpretation renders inutile the confirming power of the Commission on Appointments. (Matibag v. Benipayo, G.R. No. 149036, 02 April 2002)

11. SALARIES ARE FIXED BY LAW AND MAY NOT BE DECREASED DURING TENURE

The salary of the Chairman and the Members shall be fixed by law and shall not be decreased during their tenure. (Section 3, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.)

12. OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES

The Constitutional Commissions shall appoint their officials and employees in accordance with law. (Section 4, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.)

13. FISCAL AUTONOMY

The Constitutional Commissions shall enjoy fiscal autonomy. Their approved annual appropriations shall be automatically and regularly released. (Section 5, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.)

As envisioned in the Constitution, the fiscal autonomy enjoyed by the Judiciary, the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Audit, the Commission on Elections, and the Office of the Ombudsman contemplates a guarantee of full flexibility to allocate and utilize their resources with the wisdom and dispatch that their needs require. It recognizes the power and authority to levy, assess and collect fees, fix rates of compensation not exceeding the highest rates authorized by law for compensation and pay plans of the government and allocate and disburse such sums as may be provided by law or prescribed by them in the course of the discharge of their functions. (Bengzon v. Drilon, G.R. No. 103524, 15 April 1992)

Fiscal autonomy means freedom from outside control. (Re: COA Opinion on the Computation of the Appraised Value of the Properties Purchased by the Retired Chief/Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, En Banc, A.M. No. 11-7-10-SC, 31 July 2012)

14. INTERNAL RULES OF PROCEDURE

Each Commission en banc may promulgate its own rules concerning pleadings and practice before it or before any of its offices. Such rules however shall not diminish, increase, or modify substantive rights. (Section 6, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.)

15. MAJORITY VOTE IN DECISION-MAKING

Each Commission shall decide by a majority vote of all its Members any case or matter brought before it within sixty (60) days from the date of its submission for decision or(Section 7, Part A, Article IX, Ibid.) resolution.

A case or matter is deemed submitted for decision or resolution upon the filing of the last pleading, brief, or memorandum required by the rules of the Commission or by the Commission itself. (Ibid.)

Unless otherwise provided by this Constitution or by law, any decision, order, or ruling of each Commission may be brought to the Supreme Court on certiorari by the aggrieved party within thirty days from receipt of a copy thereof. (Ibid.)

a. Majority of all members, not just those who participated

It is the majority vote of all its members and not only those who participated and took part in the deliberations. (Estrella v. COMELEC, G.R. No. 160465, 27 May 2004)

b. Decision, binding only after promulgation

A decision becomes binding only after its promulgation.  If at the time it is promulgated, a judge or member of the collegiate court who had earlier signed or registered his vote has vacated office, his vote on the decision must automatically be withdrawn or cancelled. (Dumayas v. COMELEC, G.R. Nos. 141952-53, 20 April 2001)

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