February 2009 Decisions on Constitutional Law and Administrative Law

Here are some of the decisions promulgated by the Supreme Court in February 2009 on constitutional law and administrative law.

Administrative Law

1.  Administrative liability.  It is a fundamental principle in the law on public officers that administrative liability is separate from and independent of criminal liability. A simple act or omission can give rise to criminal, civil or administrative liability, each independently of the others. This is known as the “threefold liability rule.” Thus, absolution from a criminal charge is not a bar to an administrative prosecution, and vice-versa. The dismissal of the administrative cases against the petitioners will not necessarily result in the dismissal of the criminal complaints filed against them.  Eleno T. Regidor, Jr. et al. Vs. People of the Philippines, et al. G.R. No. 166086-92, February 13, 2009.

2. Reorganization.  A reorganization “involves the reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.” It alters the existing structure of government offices or units therein, including the lines of control, authority and responsibility between them to make the bureaucracy more responsive to the needs of the public clientele as authorized by law. It could result in the loss of one’s position through removal or abolition of an office. For a reorganization for the purpose of economy or to make the bureaucracy more efficient to be valid, however, it must pass the test of good faith, otherwise it is void ab initio. In the case at bar, petitioner claims that there has been a drastic reduction of plantilla positions in the new staffing pattern in order to address the local government unit’s gaping budgetary deficit. Thus, he states that in the municipal treasurer’s office and waterworks operations unit where respondents were previously assigned, only 11 new positions were created out of the previous 35 which had been abolished; and that the new staffing pattern had 98 positions only, as compared with the old which had 129. The CSC, however, highlighted the recreation of six (6) casual positions for clerk II and utility worker I, which positions were previously held by respondents Marivic, Cantor, Asor and Enciso.  Petitioner inexplicably never disputed this finding nor proferred any proof that the new positions do not perform the same or substantially the same functions as those of the abolished. Nowhere in the records does it appear that these recreated positions were first offered to respondents. The appointment of casuals to these recreated positions violates R.A. 6656.   Pan vs. Pena, G.R. No. 174244, February 13, 2009.

Constitutional Law

1. Expropriation.  The National Power Corporation (NPC) filed a complaint for the acquisition of easement right of way over lots of Co in connection with the construction of NPC’s transmission lines. The Supreme Court held that: (a) Republic Act No. 8974 applies applies to properties expropriated for the installation of NPC’s power transmission lines; (b) NPC is liable to pay the full amount of the fair market value and not merely a 10 percent easement fee for the expropriated property; (c) the value of the property should be reckoned as of 27 June 2001, the date of the filing of the complaint in compliance with Rule 67 of the Rules of Court.  National Power Corporation vs. Co, GR No. 166973, February 10, 2009.

2. Political question.  The challenge to the jurisdiction of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to hear the so called Moscow incident effectively asks the Court to inquire into a matter that is within the full discretion of the Senate. The issue partakes of the nature of a political question that, in Tañada v. Cuenco, was characterized as a question which, under the Constitution, is to be decided by the people in their sovereign capacity, or in regard to which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government. Pursuant to this constitutional grant of virtually unrestricted authority to determine its own rules, the Senate is at liberty to alter or modify these rules at any time it may see fit, subject only to the imperatives of quorum, voting and publication. It is not for the Supreme Court to intervene in what is clearly a question of policy, an issue dependent upon the wisdom, not the legality, of the Senate’s action.  Sps. PNP Director Eliseo D. Dela Paz, et al. Vs. Senate Committee., G.R. No. 184849, February 13, 2009.

3. Dual citizenship.  Dual citizenship is not a ground for disqualification from running for any elective local position.  Cordora vs. Comelec, et al..R. No. 176947, February 19, 2009.

Miscellaneous Laws

Witness. The Supreme Court held that “for an allegation of tampering to be the basis for the disconnection of a customer’s electric supply, the discovery of such must be personally witnessed and attested to by an officer of the law or an ERB representative. This requirement can not be dispensed with. In the present case, it is admitted that no police officer or ERB representative was present during the inspection, removal and subsequent replacement of the electric meters alleged to have been tampered with, hence, the requirement of the law was not complied with – a lapse fatal to MERALCO’s cause.  Manila Electric Company Vs. Hsing Nan Tannery Phils., Inc., G.R. No. 178913, February 12, 2009