“The arguments used as basis in the Supreme Court’s decision were questions of facts, issues that should not be tackled by the Supreme Court. The [high] court is not a trier of fact but should only decide on issues of laws and jurisdiction,” [Atty. Raul] Lambino [of Sigaw ng Bayan] told ABS-CBN’s Magandang Umaga Pilipinas.
Atty. Lambino’s reaction to the dismissal of the petition for people’s initiative is understandable – the Supreme Court, as a rule, deals only with questions of law, and not questions of fact. (Read the discussion of Lambino vs. COMELEC here or here).
A question of fact exists when the doubt or difference arises as to the truth or falsehood of alleged facts, while a question of law exists when the doubt or difference arises as to what the law is on a certain state of facts.
The Supreme Court, however, MAY, in its discretion, deal with questions of fact. A notable example is the case dealing with the resignation of former President Joseph Estrada and the automatic succession to the presidency by President Gloria Arroyo. That 2001 case is an original action filed directly with the Supreme Court, which means that the facts supporting the Court’s finding of resignation (e.g., the diary of Executive Secretary Angara serialized in the Philippine Daily Inquirer) were first presented and taken cognizance by the Supreme Court (Estrada vs. Desierto).
Another high-profile example wherein the Supreme Court made findings of fact is the case involving the election automation machines (ITF vs. COMELEC, 2004).
In other words, the Supreme Court may, exercising its discretion in certain meritorious cases, decide to consider questions of fact.