The 1987 Constitution allows only one (1) member of a bicameral Congress to sit in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). This, according to the Supreme Court in a majority decision penned by J. Mendoza and promulgated last April 16, 2013, was the intention of the framers of the Constitution who conceived of the JBC as an independent body representative of all the stakeholders in the judicial appointment process to recommend nominees to the President in order to rid such process of partisan political activities, and carefully worded Section 8, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution in this wise:
Section 8. (1) A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex officio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.
Here are select April 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on criminal law and procedure:
1. REVISED PENAL CODE
Conspiracy; conspiracy may be inferred from the acts of the accused-appellants before, during and after the commission of the crime which indubitably point to a joint purpose, concerted action and community of interest. Spouses Betty and Monico were among the ten accused convicted by the trial court for kidnapping a certain Albert Yam for ransom. Although Betty and Monico did not participate in actually abducting Albert, it was in their abandoned house where Albert was brought to by the eight other accused. Also, Betty and Monico twice visited the safehouse where Albert was brought, with Betty serving food for Albert and Monico assisting the latter in climbing up and down the stairs. The Supreme Court considered them as co-conspirators. In a conspiracy to commit the crime of kidnapping for ransom, the place where the victim is to be detained is logically a primary consideration. In the case of Betty and Monico, it can be reasonably inferred that the house fitted the purpose of the kidnappers. Albert’s detention was accomplished not solely by reason of the restraint exerted upon him by the presence of guards in the safehouse, but by the circumstance of being put in a place where escape became highly improbable. In other words, Betty and Monico were indispensable in the kidnapping of Albert because they knowingly and purposely provided the venue to detain Albert. The spouses’ ownership of the safehouse, Monico’s presence therein during Albert’s arrival on the evening of April 7, 2002 and Betty’s visits to bring food reasonably indicate that they were among those who at the outset planned·, and thereafter concurred with and participated in the execution of the criminal design. The conviction of Betty and Monico was affirmed. People of the Philippines v. Betty Salvador y Tabios, et al, G.R. No. 201443, April 10, 2013.
Much like a swinging pendulum, the decision of the Supreme Court on which parties compose the party list system swings from one side to the other. Previously, the Supreme Court limited the party list system to representatives of marginalized and underprivileged sectors. In Atong Paglaum v. COMELEC (G.R. Nos. 203766, et al., April 2, 2013), the latest in the series of party list cases, the pendulum now points to the opposite side.
The New Ruling
Atong Paglaum involved 54 Petitions for Certiorari and Petitions for Certiorari and Prohibition filed by 52 party-list groups against COMELEC for disqualifying them from participating in the May 13, 2013 party-list elections. One of the main reasons for the disqualification was their failure to represent the marginalized and underrepresented.
Two issues were presented:
(1) Whether COMELEC committed grave abuse of discretion in disqualifying the petitioners from participating in the May 2013 elections; and
(2) Whether the criteria for participating in the party-list system laid down in Ang Bagong Bayani v. COMELEC (ABB) and BANAT v. COMELEC (BANAT) should be applied by the COMELEC in the coming May 2013 elections.
In our criminal justice system, one kind of injustice, that victimizes only the poor, happens every day whenever an accused, who has the right to post bail to attain liberty during the course of the trial of his criminal case, is not able to enjoy such right because he cannot afford to post bail for his release. This reality tramples upon the social justice mandate of our Constitution and has caused great injustice to the poor, especially those who are wrongly accused of the crime for which they have been charged and arrested.
There is a recent legislation that seeks to address this problem: Republic Act 10389 or the Recognizance Act of 2012 (“RA 10389” or the “Act”), which was signed into law by President Benigno S. Aquino III on March 14, 2013, and which is intended to promote restorative justice amid problems confronting the criminal justice system such as protracted trials, prolonged resolution of cases, inability to post bail bond, and congestion in jails.
Here are select March 2013 rulings of the Philippine Supreme Court on legal and judicial ethics:
Attorney; a lawyer shall not assist in the unauthorized practice of law. Atty. Bancolo admitted that the Complaint he filed for a former client before the Office of the Ombudsman was signed in his name by a secretary of his law office. He likewise categorically stated that because of some minor lapses, the communications and pleadings filed against Tapay and Rustia were signed by his secretary, albeit with his tolerance. Clearly, he violated Rule 9.01 of Canon 9 of the Code of Professional Responsibility (CPR), which provides:
CANON 9 – A LAWYER SHALL NOT, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, ASSIST IN THE UNAUTHORIZED PRACTICE OF LAW.
Rule 9.01 – A lawyer shall not delegate to any unqualified person the performance of any task which by law may only be performed by a member of the Bar in good standing.
Atty. Bancolo’s authority and duty to sign a pleading are personal to him. Although he may delegate the signing of a pleading to another lawyer, he may not delegate it to a non-lawyer. Further, under the Rules of Court, a counsel’s signature serves as a certification that (1) he has read the pleading; (2) to the best of his knowledge, information and belief there is good ground to support it; and (3) it is not interposed for delay. Thus, by affixing one’s signature to a pleading, it is counsel alone who has the responsibility to certify to these matters and give legal effect to the document. For violating rule 9.01 of the CPR, Atty. Bacolo was meted with the penalty the suspension from the practice of law for one year. Rodrigo E. Tapay and Anthony J. Rustia v. Attys. Charlie Bancolo and Janus Jarder; A.C. No. 9604. March 20, 2013.
Here are select March 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on civil law:
Contracts; contract of sale; perfection; essential elements; stages. A contract of sale is perfected at the moment there is a meeting of minds upon the thing which is the object of the contract and upon the price. Thus, for a contract of sale to be valid, all of the following essential elements must concur: a) consent or meeting of the minds; b) determinate subject matter; and c) price certain in money or its equivalent.
As for the price, fixing it can never be left to the decision of only one of the contracting parties. But a price fixed by one of the contracting parties, if accepted by the other, gives rise to a perfected sale.
Here are select March 2013 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on commercial law:
Corporation; separate personality. A corporation is an artificial entity created by operation of law. It possesses the right of succession and such powers, attributes, and properties expressly authorized by law or incident to its existence. It has a personality separate and distinct from that of its stockholders and from that of other corporations to which it may be connected. As a consequence of its status as a distinct legal entity and as a result of a conscious policy decision to promote capital formation, a corporation incurs its own liabilities and is legally responsible for payment of its obligations. In other words, by virtue of the separate juridical personality of a corporation, the corporate debt or credit is not the debt or credit of the stockholder. This protection from liability for shareholders is the principle of limited liability. Phil. National Bank vs. Hydro Resources Contractors Corp., .G.R. Nos. 167530, 167561, 16760311. March 13, 2013
Corporation; piercing the corporate veil. Equally well-settled is the principle that the corporate mask may be removed or the corporate veil pierced when the corporation is just an alter ego of a person or of another corporation. For reasons of public policy and in the interest of justice, the corporate veil will justifiably be impaled only when it becomes a shield for fraud, illegality or inequity committed against third persons.