When questions of constitutional significance are raised, the Court can exercise its power of judicial review only if the following requisites are present: (1) the existence of an actual and appropriate case; (2) the existence of personal and substantial interest on the part of the party raising the constitutional question; (3) recourse to judicial review is made at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case.
Both parties dwelt lengthily on the issue of constitutionality of the respondents’ appointments in light of E.O. No. 2 and the subsequent filing before the Court of several petitions questioning this Executive Order. The parties, however, appear to have overlooked the basic principle in constitutional adjudication that enjoins the Court from passing upon a constitutional question, although properly presented, if the case can be disposed of on some other ground. In constitutional law terms, this means that we ought to refrain from resolving any constitutional issue “unless the constitutional question is the lis mota of the case.”
Lis mota literally means “the cause of the suit or action.” This last requisite of judicial review is simply an offshoot of the presumption of validity accorded the executive and legislative acts of our co-equal branches of the government. Ultimately, it is rooted in the principle of separation of powers. Given the presumed validity of an executive act, the petitioner who claims otherwise has the burden of showing first that the case cannot be resolved unless the constitutional question he raised is determined by the Court.
In the present case, the constitutionality of the respondents’ appointments is not the lis mota of the case. From the submitted pleadings, what is decisive is the determination of whether the petitioner has a cause of action to institute and maintain this present petition – a quo warranto against respondent Urro. If the petitioner fails to establish his cause of action for quo warranto, a discussion of the constitutionality of the appointments of the respondents is rendered completely unnecessary. The inclusion of the grounds for certiorari and/or prohibition does not alter the essential character of the petitioner’s action since he does not even allege that he has a personal and substantial interest in raising the constitutional issue insofar as the other respondents are concerned.