April 2009 Decisions on Constitutional and Related Laws

Here are selected April 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on constitutional and related laws:

Constitutional Law

Administrative regulation; void. Executive Order No. 566, which grants the CHED the power to regulate review center, is unconstitutional as it expands Republic Act No. 7722,. The CHED’s coverage under RA 7722 is limited to public and private institutions of higher education and degree-granting programs in all public and private post-secondary educational institutions.  EO 566 directed the CHED to formulate a framework for the regulation of review centers and similar entities.    A review center is not an institution of higher learning as contemplated by RA 7722.  It does not offer a degree-granting program that would put it under the jurisdiction of the CHED. Review Center Associations of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretatry Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180046,  April 2, 2009.

Agrarian reform; coverage. For the parcels of land subject of this petition to come within the coverage of P.D. No. 27, it is necessary to determine whether the land is agricultural. Here, the subject parcels of land cannot be considered as within the ambit of P.D. No. 27 considering that the subject lots were reclassified by the DAR Secretary as suited for residential, commercial, industrial or other urban purposes way before petitioner filed a petition for emancipation under P.D. No. 27.  Laureano V. Hermoso, et al. vs. Heirs of Antonio Francia and Petra Francia, G.R. No. 166748,  April 24, 2009.

Compensation. Officers who in good faith have discharged the duties pertaining to their office are legally entitled to the compensation attached to the office for the services they actually rendered. Although the present petition must inevitably be dismissed on a technicality that serves as penalty for the pernicious practice of forum shopping, the Court nevertheless cannot countenance the refund of the compensation differential corresponding to petitioner’s tenure as HEDF head with the upgraded rank of Director III, since she had actually rendered services in the office with the elevated grade for that period.  Alicia D. Tagaro vs. Ester A. Garcia, etc.,G.R. No. 173931, April 2, 2009.

COMELEC; voting. Section 5 (a)of Rule 3 of the Comelec Rules of Procedure and Section 7 of Article IX-A of the Constitution require that a majority vote of all the members of the Comelec, and not only those who participated and took part in the deliberations, is necessary for the pronouncement of a decision, resolution, order or ruling.  Rodante Marcoleta, et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al./ Alagad Party-list represented by Diogenes S. Osabel, President vs. Commission on Elections, et al.,G.R. No. 181377,  April 24, 2009.

Deportation; power. The settled rule is that the entry or stay of aliens in the Philippines is merely a privilege and a matter of grace; such privilege is not absolute or permanent and may be revoked. However, aliens may be expelled or deported from the Philippines only on grounds and in the manner provided for by the Constitution, the Philippine Immigration Act of 1940, as amended, and administrative issuances pursuant thereto.

It must be remembered that aliens seeking entry in the Philippines do not acquire the right to be admitted into the country by the simple passage of time. When an alien, such as respondent, has already physically gained entry in the country, but such entry is later found unlawful or devoid of legal basis, the alien can be excluded anytime after it is found that he was not lawfully admissible at the time of his entry.  Every sovereign power has the inherent power to exclude aliens from its territory upon such grounds as it may deem proper for its self-preservation or public interest. The power to deport aliens is an act of State, an act done by or under the authority of the sovereign power. It is a police measure against undesirable aliens whose continued presence in the country is found to be injurious to the public good and the domestic tranquility of the people. The Secretary of Justice, et al. vs. Christopher Koruga, G.R. No. 166199,  April 24, 2009.

Double jeopardy. The elements of double jeopardy are (1) the complaint or information was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction; (2) the court had jurisdiction; (3) the accused had been arraigned and had pleaded; and  (4) the accused was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed without his express consent. These elements are present here: (1) the Information filed in Criminal Case No. 96-413 against Postanes was sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction; (2) the MeTC had jurisdiction over Criminal Case    No. 96-413; (3) Postanes was arraigned and entered a non-guilty plea; and (4) the MeTC dismissed Criminal Case No. 96-413 on the ground of insufficiency of evidence amounting to an acquittal from which no appeal can be had.  Clearly, for this Court to grant the petition and order the MeTC to reconsider its decision, just what the RTC ordered the MeTC to do, is to transgress the Constitutional proscription not to put any person “twice  x x x in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.”David Tiu vs. Court of Appeals and Edgardo PostanesG.R. No. 162370,  April 21, 2009.

Due process; court decisions. Faithful adherence to Section 14, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution is indisputably a paramount component of due process and fair play.  The parties to a litigation should be informed of how it was decided, with an explanation of the factual and legal reasons that led to the conclusions of the court.

In the assailed Decision, the Court of Appeals reiterates the rule that a notarized and authenticated deed of sale enjoys the presumption of regularity, and is admissible without further proof of due execution.  On the basis thereof, it declared Antonio a buyer in good faith and for value, despite petitioner’s contention that the sale violates public policy.  While it is a part of the right of appellant to urge that the decision should directly meet the issues presented for resolution, mere failure by the appellate court to specify in its decision all contentious issues raised by the appellant and the reasons for refusing to believe appellant’s contentions is not sufficient to hold the appellate court’s decision contrary to the requirements of the law and the Constitution.  So long as the decision of the Court of Appeals contains the necessary findings of facts to warrant its conclusions, we cannot declare said court in error if it withheld “any specific findings of fact with respect to the evidence for the defense.”  We will abide by the legal presumption that official duty has been regularly performed,and all matters within an issue in a case were laid down before the court and were passed upon by it. Marissa R. Unchuan vs. Antonio J.P. Lozada, Anita Lozada and the Register of Deeds of Cebu CityG.R. No. 172671,  April 16, 2009.

Ecozone. R.A. No. 7903 does not authorize the ZAMBOECOZONE Authority to operate and/or license games of chance/gambling. Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation, etc. vs. Philippine EGaming Jurisdiction, Incorporated (PEJI) Zamboanga City Special Economic Zone Authority (ZAMBOECOZONE), et al., G.R. No. 177333,  April 24, 2009.

Election contests; jurisdiction. The House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal’s (HRET’s) sole and exclusive jurisdiction over contests relative to the election, returns and qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives “begins only after a candidate has become a member of the House of Representatives.” Thus, once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath, and assumed office as a Member of the House of Representatives, COMELEC’s jurisdiction over elections relating to the election, returns, and qualifications ends, and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.

Señeres filed this petition before this Court on July 23, 2007, the right of the nominees as party-list representatives had been recognized and declared in the July 19, 2007 Resolution and the nominees had taken their oath and already assumed their offices in the House of Representatives. As such, the proper recourse would have been to file a petition for quo warranto before the HRET within ten (10) days from receipt of the July 19, 2007 Resolution and not a petition for certiorari before this Court. Dr. Hans Christian M. Señeres vs. Commission on Elections and Melquiades A. Robles,G.R. No. 178678,  April 16, 2009.

Eminent domain; proceedings.  In an expropriation proceeding there are two stages:  first, the determination of the validity of the expropriation, and second, the determination of just compensation. In Tan v. Republic, the Supreme Court explained the two (2) stages in an expropriation proceeding, to wit:

(1)               Determination of the authority of the plaintiff to exercise the power of eminent domain and the propriety of its exercise in the context of the facts involved in the suit. It ends with an order, if not of dismissal of the action, with condemnation declaring that the plaintiff has a lawful right to take the property sought to be condemned for the public use or purpose described in the complaint, upon payment of just compensation. An order of expropriation is final. An order of dismissal, if this be ordained, would be a final one, as it finally disposes of the action and leaves nothing more to be done by the courts on the merits. The order of expropriation would also be a final one for after its issuance, no objection to the right of condemnation shall be heard. The order of expropriation may be appealed by any party aggrieved thereby by filing a record on appeal.

(2)               Determination by the court of the just compensation for the property sought to be taken with the assistance of not more than three (3) commissioners. The order fixing the just compensation on the basis of the evidence before the court and findings of the commissioners would likewise be a final one, as it would leave nothing more to be done by the court regarding the issue. A second and separate appeal may be taken from this order fixing the just compensation.  Metropolitan Cebu Water District vs. J. King and Sons Company, Inc., G.R. No. 175983, April 16, 2009.

Eminent domain; power.  For Metropolitan Cebu Water District to exercise its power of eminent domain, two requirements should be met, namely: first, its board of directors passed a resolution authorizing the expropriation, and; second, the exercise of the power of eminent domain was subjected to review by the LWUA. In this case, petitioner’s board of directors approved on 27 February 2004, Board Resolution No. 015-2004 authorizing its general manager to file expropriation and other cases. Moreover, the LWUA did review and gave its stamp of approval to the filing of a complaint for the expropriation of respondent’s lot. Specifically, the LWUA through its Administrator, Lorenzo H. Jamora, wrote petitioner’s manager, Armando H. Paredes, a letter dated 28 February 2005 authorizing petitioner to file the expropriation case “against the owner of the five-square meter portion of Lot No. 921-A covered by TCT No. 168805, pursuant to Section 25 of P.D. No. 198, as amended.”  Metropolitan Cebu Water District vs. J. King and Sons Company, Inc.G.R. No. 175983.  April 16, 2009

Eminent domain; writ of possession. Section 4 of R.A. No. 8974 is emphatic to the effect that “upon compliance with the guidelines…the court shall immediately issue to the implementing agency an order to take possession of the property and start the implementation of the project.” Under this statutory provision, when the government, its agencies or government-owned and controlled corporations, make the required provisional payment, the trial court has a ministerial duty to issue a writ of possession.Metropolitan Cebu Water District vs. J. King and Sons Company, Inc., G.R. No. 175983,  April 16, 2009.

Eminent domain;  just compensation.   Under the factual circumstances of the case, the agrarian reform process is still incomplete as the just compensation to be paid respondents has yet to be settled.  Considering the passage RA 6657 before the completion of this process, the just compensation should be determined and the process concluded under the said law.

Excise tax.  Section 145 of the Tax Code, as amended by RA 9334:  (1)  does not violate the equal protection and unformity of taxation clauses;  (2)  does not violate the constitutional prohibition on unfair competition;  and (3)  does not vilate the constitutional prohibition on regresssive and inequitable taxation.  British American Tobacco vs. Jose Isidro N. Camacho, et al. G.R. No. 163583,  April 15, 2009.

Freedom of expression. Jurisprudence distinguishes between  a content-neutral regulation, i.e., merely concerned with the incidents of the speech, or one that merely controls the time, place or manner, and under well defined standards; and a content-based  restraint or censorship, i.e., the restriction is based on the subject matter of the utterance or speech.  Content-based laws are generally treated as more suspect than content-neutral laws because of judicial concern with discrimination in the regulation of expression.  Content-neutral regulations of speech or of conduct that may amount to speech, are subject to lesser but still heightened scrutiny. Ostensibly, the act of an LGU requiring a business of proof that the property from which it operates has been zoned for commercial use can be argued, when applied to a radio station, as content-neutral since such a regulation would presumably apply to any other radio station or business enterprise within the LGU.

However, the circumstances of this case dictate that we view the action of the respondents as a content-based restraint.

The Court is of the position that the actions of the respondents warrant heightened or strict scrutiny from the Court, the test which we have deemed appropriate in assessing content-based restrictions on free speech, as well as for laws dealing with freedom of the mind or restricting the political process, of laws dealing with the regulation of speech, gender, or race as well as other fundamental rights as expansion from its earlier applications to equal protection. The immediate implication of the application of the “strict scrutiny” test is that the burden falls upon respondents as agents of government to prove that their actions do not infringe upon petitioners’ constitutional rights. As content regulation cannot be done in the absence of any compelling reason, the burden lies with the government to establish such compelling reason to infringe the right to free expression.   Newsounds Broadcasting Network, Inc., et al. vs. Hon. Ceasar G. Dy, et al., G.R. No. 170270/G.R. No. 179411,  April 2, 2009.

Immunity from Suit. GTZ consistently has been unable to establish with satisfaction that it enjoys the immunity from suit generally enjoyed by its parent country, the Federal Republic of Germany. Consequently, both the Labor Arbiter and the Court of Appeals acted within proper bounds when they refused to acknowledge that GTZ is so immune by dismissing the complaint against it. Our finding has additional ramifications on the failure of GTZ to properly appeal the Labor Arbiter’s decision to the NLRC. As pointed out by the OSG, the direct recourse to the Court of Appeals while bypassing the NLRC could have been sanctioned had the Labor Arbiter’s decision been a “patent nullity.”  Since the Labor Arbiter acted properly in deciding the complaint, notwithstanding GTZ’s claim of immunity, we cannot see how the decision could have translated into a “patent nullity. Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Techniche Vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al., G.R. No. 152318, April 16, 2009.

Inquiry in aid of legislation. A legislative investigation in aid of legislation and court proceedings has different purposes. On one hand, courts conduct hearings or like adjudicative procedures to settle, through the application of a law, actual controversies arising between adverse litigants and involving demandable rights. On the other hand, inquiries in aid of legislation are, inter alia, undertaken as tools to enable the legislative body to gather information and, thus, legislate wisely and effectively; and to determine whether there is a need to improve existing laws or enact new or remedial legislation, albeit the inquiry need not result in any potential legislation. On-going judicial proceedings do not preclude congressional hearings in aid of legislation.

While Sabio and Standard Chartered Bank advert only to pending criminal and administrative cases before lower courts as not posing a bar to the continuation of a legislative inquiry, there is no rhyme or reason that these cases’ doctrinal pronouncement and their rationale cannot be extended to appealed cases and special civil actions awaiting final disposition before this Court. . .

When the Committee issued invitations and subpoenas to petitioners to appear before it in connection with its investigation of the aforementioned investments, it did so pursuant to its authority to conduct inquiries in aid of legislation. This is clearly provided in Art. VI, Sec. 21 of the Constitution, which was quoted at the outset. And the Court has no authority to prohibit a Senate committee from requiring persons to appear and testify before it in connection with an inquiry in aid of legislation in accordance with its duly published rules of procedure.  Sabio emphasizes the importance of the duty of those subpoenaed to appear before the legislature, even if incidentally incriminating questions are expected to be asked. Reghis M. Romero II, Edmond Q. Sese, Leopoldo T. Sanchez, Reghis M. Romero III, Michael L. Romero, Nathaniel L. Romero and Jerome R. Canals vs. Sen. Jinggoy E. Estrada and Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, G.R. No. 174105,  April 2, 2009.

Judicial review. It is beyond cavil that the BI has the exclusive authority and jurisdiction to try and hear cases against an alleged alien, and that the BOC has jurisdiction over deportation proceedings.  Nonetheless, Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution has vested power of judicial review in the Supreme Court and the lower courts such as the CA, as established by law. Although the courts are without power to directly decide matters over which full discretionary authority has been delegated to the legislative or executive branch of the government and are not empowered to execute absolutely their own judgment from that of Congress or of the President, the Court may look into and resolve questions of whether or not such judgment has been made with grave abuse of discretion, when the act of the legislative or executive department is contrary to the Constitution, the law or jurisprudence, or when executed whimsically, capriciously or arbitrarily out of malice, ill will or personal bias. The Secretary of Justice, et al. vs. Christopher KorugaG.R. No. 166199,  April 24, 2009.

Judicial review; political question.    In asking the Supreme Court to declare Section 19 of the Oil Deregulation Law as unconstitutional for contravening Section 19, Article XII of the Constitution, petitioner invokes the exercise by the Supreme Court of its power of judicial review, which power is expressly recognized under Section 4(2), Article VIII of the Constitution.  The power of judicial review is the power of the courts to test the validity of executive and legislative acts for their conformity with the Constitution.  Through such power, the judiciary enforces and upholds the supremacy of the Constitution. For a court to exercise this power, certain requirements must first be met, namely:

(1)       an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power;

(2)     the person challenging the act must have “standing” to challenge; he must have a personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement;

(3)     the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and

(4)     the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.

The Supreme Court ruled that that the issues petitioner presented to thee Supreme Court are non-justiciable matters that preclude the Supreme Court from exercising its power of judicial review. The immediate implementation of full deregulation of the local downstream oil industry is a policy determination by Congress which the Supreme Court cannot overturn without offending the Constitution and the principle of separation of powers.  Congressman Enrique T. Garcia Vs. The Executive Secretary, et al. G.R. No. 157584, April 2, 2009.

Just compensation. The Special Agrarian Court and the Court of Appeals committed no reversible error when it ruled that it is the provisions of RA 6657 that is applicable to the present case.  The SAC arrived at the just compensation for respondents’ property after taking into consideration the commissioners’ report on the nature of the subject landholding, its proximity from the city proper, its use, average gross production, and the prevailing value of the lands in the vicinity.  The SAC correctly determined the amount of just compensation due to respondents in accordance with, and guided by, RA 6657 and existing jurisprudence. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Carolina vda. de Abello, et al., G.R. No. 168631,  April 7, 2009.

Partisan political activity. Robles’ act of submitting a nomination list for BUHAY cannot, without more, be considered electioneering or partisan political activity within the context of the Election Code. The twin acts of signing and filing a Certificate of Nomination are purely internal processes of the party or organization and are not designed to enable or ensure the victory of the candidate in the elections.  The act of Robles of submitting the certificate nominating Velarde and others was merely in compliance with the COMELEC requirements for nomination of party-list representatives and, hence, cannot be treated as electioneering or partisan political activity proscribed under by Sec. 2(4) of Art. IX(B) of the Constitution for civil servants. Dr. Hans Christian M. Señeres vs. Commission on Elections and Melquiades A. RoblesG.R. No. 178678,  April 16, 2009.

Party list.     In determining the allocation of seats for party-list representatives under Section 11 of R.A. No. 7941, the following procedure shall be observed:

(1)     The parties, organizations, and coalitions shall be ranked from the highest to the lowest based on the number of votes they garnered during the elections.

(2)     The parties, organizations, and coalitions receiving at least two percent (2%) of the total votes cast for the party-list system shall be entitled to one guaranteed seat each.

(3)     Those garnering sufficient number of votes, according to the ranking in paragraph 1, shall be entitled to additional seats in proportion to their total number of votes until all the additional seats are allocated.

(4)    Each party, organization, or coalition shall be entitled to not more than three (3) seats.

In computing the additional seats, the guaranteed seats shall no longer be included because they have already been allocated, at one seat each, to every two-percenter.  Thus, the remaining available seats for allocation as “additional seats”  are  the maximum seats reserved under the Party List System less the guaranteed seats.  Fractional seats are disregarded in the absence of a provision in R.A. No. 7941 allowing for a rounding off of fractional seats. Barangay Association for National Advancement and Transparency (BANAT) vs. Commission on Elections/ Bayan Muna, et al. vs. Commission on Elections,  G.R. No. 179271/G.R. No. 179295, April 21, 2009.

Police power. Police power to prescribe regulations to promote the health, morals, education, good order or safety, and the general welfare of the people flows from the recognition that salus populi est suprema lex – the welfare of the people is the supreme law.  Police power primarily rests with the legislature although it may be exercised by the President and administrative boards by virtue of a valid delegation. Here,  no delegation of police power exists under RA 7722 authorizing the President to regulate the operations of non-degree granting review centers. Review Center Associations of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretatry Eduardo Ermita, et al.,G.R. No. 180046,  April 2, 2009.

Public domain; classification. The classification of lands of the public domain is of two types, i.e., primary classification and secondary classification. The primary classification comprises agricultural, forest or timber, mineral lands, and national parks.  These are lands specifically mentioned in Section 3, Article XII of the Constitution. The same provision of the Constitution, however, also states that agricultural lands of the public domain may further be classified by law according to the uses to which they may be devoted. This further classification of agricultural lands is referred to as secondary classification.

Under existing laws, Congress has granted authority to a number of government agencies to effect the secondary classification of agricultural lands to residential, commercial or industrial or other urban uses. Laureano V. Hermoso, et al. vs. Heirs of Antonio Francia and Petra Francia, G.R. No. 166748,  April 24, 2009.

Public Land Act; encumbrance. Section 118 of the Public Land Act, as amended, prohibits any encumbrance or alienation of lands acquired under homestead provisions from the date of the approval of application and for a term of five years from and after the date of issuance of the patent or grant.  The same provision provides that no alienation, transfer, or conveyance of any homestead after five years and before 25 years after issuance of title shall be valid without the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources, which approval shall not be denied except on constitutional and legal grounds.

A homestead patent is one of the modes to acquire title to public lands suitable for agricultural purposes.  Under the Public Land Act, as amended, a homestead patent is one issued to any citizen of this country, over the age of 18 years or the head of a family, and who is not the owner of more than 24 hectares of land in the country.  To be qualified, the applicant must show that he has resided continuously for at least one year in the municipality where the land is situated and must have cultivated at least one-fifth of the land applied for.

The Court also cannot consider the subject property to have been held in trust by Hermogenes for and on behalf of Hizon.  Settled is the rule that a homestead applicant must personally comply with the legal requirements for a homestead grant.  The homestead applicant himself must possess the necessary qualifications, cultivate the land, and reside thereon.  It would be a circumvention of the law if an individual were permitted to apply “in behalf of another,” as the latter may be disqualified or might not comply with the residency and cultivation requirements. Marcelino Lopez, et al. vs. Hon. Court of Appeals, et al./ Noel Rubber and Development Corp, et al. vs. Jose Esquivel, Jr., et al.,G.R. No. 168734/G.R. No. 170621,  April 24, 2009.

Small scale mining permits. Petitioners’ small-scale mining permits are legally questionable. Under Presidential Decree No. 1899, applications of small-scale miners are processed with the Director of the Mines and Geo-Sciences Bureau.  Pursuant to Republic Act No. 7076, which took effect on 18 July 1991, approval of the applications for mining permits and for mining contracts are vested in the Provincial/City Mining Regulatory Board.  Composed of the DENR representative, a representative from the small-scale mining sector, a representative from the big-scale mining industry and a representative from an environmental group, this body is tasked to approve small-scale mining permits and contracts.

In the case under consideration, petitioners filed their small-scale mining permits on 23 August 1991, making them bound by the procedures provided for under the applicable and prevailing statute, Republic Act No. 7076.  Instead of processing and obtaining their permits from the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board, petitioners were able to get the same from the governor of Davao del Norte.  Considering that the governor is without legal authority to issue said mining permits, the same permits are null and void. Leonora P. Calanza, et al. vs. Paper Industries Corp., et al., G.R. No. 146622,  April 24, 2009.

Speedy Trial.  Under the circumstances of the cases, the right to the accused to a speedy tril was not violated.  Dante Tan vs. People of the Philippines,  G.R. No. 173637, April 21, 2009.

Subpoena; Congress. PS Resolution Nos. 537 and 543 were passed in 2006 and the letter-invitations and subpoenas directing the petitioners to appear and testify in connection with the twin resolutions were sent out in the month of August 2006 or in the past Congress. On the postulate that the Senate of each Congress acts separately and independently of the Senate before and after it, the aforesaid invitations and subpoenas are considered functos oficio and the related legislative inquiry conducted is, for all intents and purposes, terminated.  Reghis M. Romero II, Edmond Q. Sese, Leopoldo T. Sanchez, Reghis M. Romero III, Michael L. Romero, Nathaniel L. Romero and Jerome R. Canals vs. Sen. Jinggoy E. Estrada and Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, G.R. No. 174105,  April 2, 2009.

Usurpation of legislative power. EO 566 in this case is not supported by any enabling law. Since EO 566 is an invalid exercise of legislative power, the RIRR is also an invalid exercise of the CHED’s quasi-legislative power. Review Center Associations of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretatry Eduardo Ermita, et alG.R. No. 180046,  April 2, 2009.

Warrantless search.    There is no question that the police officers went to the house of petitioner because of the information relayed by Sunit that petitioner had in his possession illegally cut lumber. When the police officers arrived at the house of petitioner, the lumber were lying around the vicinity of petitioner’s house. The lumber were in plain view. Under the plain view doctrine, objects falling in “plain view” of an officer who has a right to be in the position to have that view are subject to seizure and may be presented as evidence. When asked whether he had the necessary permit to possess the lumber, petitioner failed to produce one. Petitioner merely replied that the lumber in his possession was intended for the repair of his house and for his furniture shop. There was thus probable cause for the police officers to confiscate the  lumber. There was, therefore, no necessity for a search warrant.  The seizure of the lumber from petitioner who did not have the required permit to possess the forest products cut is sanctioned by Section 68 of the Forestry Code.  Olympio Revaldo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 170589,  April 16, 2009.

Warrantless arrest.    On whether the police officers had the authority to arrest petitioner, even without a warrant, Section 80 of the Forestry Code authorizes the forestry officer or employee of the DENR or any personnel of the PNP to arrest, even without a warrant, any person who has committed or is committing in his presence any of the offenses defined by the Forestry Code and to seize and confiscate the tools and equipment used in committing the offense or the forest products gathered or taken by the offender.  Petitioner was in possession of the lumber without the necessary documents when the police officers accosted him. In  open court, petitioner categorically admitted the possession and ownership of the confiscated lumber as well as the fact that he did not have any legal documents therefor and that he merely intended to use the lumber for the repair of his dilapidated house. Mere possession of forest products without the proper documentation consummates the crime. Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but that is the law.  Olympio Revaldo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 170589, April 16, 2009.

Election Law

Election contests.  Once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath, and assumed office as a Member of the House of Representatives, the jurisdiction of  the  House  of Representatives Electoral Tribunal begins over election contests relating to his election, returns, and qualifications, and mere allegation as to the invalidity of her proclamation does not divest the Electoral Tribunal of its jurisdiction.  Jocelyn Sy Limkaichong vs. COMELECG.R. Nos. 178831-32/G.R. No. 179120/G.R. Nos. 179132-33/G.R. Nos. 179240-41,  April 1, 2009.

Election protests. Jurisprudence makes it clear that the mere filing of a petition denominated as a pre-proclamation case or one seeking the annulment of a proclamation will not suspend the ten-day period for filing an election protest. It is required that the issues raised in such a petition be restricted to those that may be properly included therein. in the absence of any clear showing or proof that the election returns canvassed are incomplete or contain material defects; appear to have been tampered with, falsified or prepared under duress; and/or contain discrepancies in the votes credited to any candidate, which would affect the result of the election, a petition cannot be properly considered as a pre-proclamation controversy. The purpose of a pre-proclamation controversy is to ascertain the winner or winners in the election on the basis of the election returns duly authenticated by the board of inspectors and admitted by the board of canvassers. It is a well-entrenched rule that the Board of Canvassers and the COMELEC are not to look beyond or behind electoral returns. A pre-proclamation controversy is summary in nature. It is the policy of the election law that pre-proclamation controversies be summarily decided, consistent with the law’s desire that the canvass and proclamation be delayed as little as possible. There is no room for the presentation of evidence aliunde, the inspection of voluminous documents, and for meticulous technical examination. That is why such questions as those involving the appreciation of votes and the conduct of the campaign and balloting, which require more deliberate and necessarily longer consideration, are left for examination in the corresponding election protest. Harlin Castillo Abayon Vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 181295,  April 2, 2009.

Administrative Law

Dishonesty.  The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees enunciates the State’s policy of promoting a high standard of ethics and utmost responsibility in the public service. And no other office in the government service exacts a greater demand for moral righteousness and uprightness from an employee than in the judiciary. Persons involved in the dispensation of justice, from the highest official to the lowest clerk, must live up to the strictest standards of integrity, probity, uprightness and diligence in the public service. As the assumption of public office is impressed with paramount public interest, which requires the highest standards of ethical standards, persons aspiring for public office must observe honesty, candor and faithful compliance with the law.

While dishonesty is considered a grave offense punishable by dismissal even at the first instance, jurisprudence is replete with cases where the Court lowered the penalty of dismissal to suspension taking into account the presence of mitigating circumstances such as length of service in the government and being a first time offender. Office of the Court Administrator Vs. Ma. Celia A. FloresA.M. No. P-07-2366, April 16, 2009.

Re-assignment; detail. A reassignment is a movement of an employee from one organizational unit to another in the same department or agency which does not involve a reduction in rank, status or salary and does not require the issuance of an appointment.  A detail, on the other hand, is a movement from one agency to another.  National Transmission Corp. Vs. Venusto D. Hamoy, Jr.G.R. No. 179255.  April 2, 2009