A Brief History of the HRET
The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) was constituted under Section 17, Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution which provides:
The Senate and the House of Representatives shall each have an Electoral Tribunal, which shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of their respective Members. Each Electoral Tribunal shall be composed of nine Members, three of whom shall be Justices of the Supreme Court to be designated by the Chief Justice, and the remaining six shall be Members of the Senate or the House of Representatives, as the case may be, who shall be chosen on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and the parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented therein. The senior Justice in the Electoral Tribunal shall be its Chairman.
When the Philippine government was initially established through the passage of the Philippine Bill of 1902 (Cooper Act), the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively, were the sole judges of the elections, returns, and qualifications of their elective members. (Section 18, Philippine Bill of 1902, 01 July 1902)
Also, in the subsequent Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 (Jones Law), this authority was placed with the Philippine Assembly, or the legislature itself. (Section 7, Philippine Autonomy Act, United States Congress, 29 August 1916)
After a constitutional convention was called pursuant to the Tydings–McDuffie Act or the Philippine Independence Act of 1934, and the 1935 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines was approved and ratified through a plebiscite, the Electoral Commission composed of three (3) justices of the Supreme Court, and six (6) members of the National Assembly was created. Under a unicameral legislature, the Electoral Commission was the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the Members of the then National Assembly. (Section 4, Article VI, 1935 Constitution)
The intention is to have an electoral body composed of three justices of the Supreme Court and six legislative members, which were equally divided between the majority and the minority parties. It is said that the inclusion of Supreme Court Justices as members of the Electoral Commission was meant to compliment the commission's judicial functions and balance blind partisanships during the disposal of election protests. Should the legislative members happen to vote along party lines, the balance of power would have been placed in the hands of three (3) justices of the Supreme Court. (Concurring Opinion of J. Perfecto in Suanes vs. The Chief Accountant, G.R. No. L-2460, October 26, 1948)
In 1940, the 1935 Constitution was amended to create a bicameral legislative department composed of a Senate and a House of Representatives. This led to the establishment of separte and independent electoral tribunals for each house of Congress, both of which assumed the authority and jurisdiction previously held by the Electoral Commission over their respective members (Section 11, Article VI, 1935 Constitution, as amended). This is similar to the present electoral tribunals that we have today.
However, when 1973 Constitution was approved and ratified, no similar provision existed and the jurisdiction on election contests against the Members of the National Assembly or the Legislature was lodged with the Commission on Elections. (Section 2(2), Article XII-C, 1973 Constitution)
With the approval and ratification of the 1987 Constitution, the authority of the HRET to be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications of the Members of the House of Representatives was revived, and the HRET that it is today was organized.
Under the present setup, the HRET has and exercises all such powers as are vested in it by the Constitution or by law, and such other powers as may be necessary or incidental to the accomplishment of its purposes and the effective exercise of its functions. When performing its functions, the Tribunal has inherent powers to: (1) Preserve and enforce order in its immediate presence; (2) Enforce order in proceedings before it or before any of its officials acting under its authority; (3) Compel obedience to its judgments, orders, resolutions and processes; (4) Compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of evidence in any case or proceeding before it; (5) Administer or cause to be administered oaths in any case or proceeding before it, and in all other cases where it may be necessary in the exercise of its powers; (6) Control its processes and amend its resolutions or orders to make them conform with law and justice; (7) Authorize a copy of a lost or destroyed pleading or other paper to be filed and used in lieu of the original, and restore and supply deficiencies in its records and proceedings; and (8) Promulgate its own rules of procedure and amend or revise the same. (Rules 9 and 10, 2015 HRET Rules)
Through the years, the HRET stands proud of its accomplishments since its reconstitution in 1987 as it strives to fulfill its mandate in furtherance of its established mission and vision as one of the Republic's constitutional bastions of democracy.