September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected September 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional Law

Citizenship;  election.  Com. Act No. 625 which was enacted pursuant to Section 1(4), Article IV of the 1935 Constitution, prescribes the procedure that should be followed in order to make a valid election of Philippine citizenship. Under Section 1 thereof, legitimate children born of Filipino mothers may elect Philippine citizenship by expressing such intention “in a statement to be signed and sworn to by the party concerned before any officer authorized to administer oaths, and shall be filed with the nearest civil registry. The said party shall accompany the aforesaid statement with the oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the Government of the Philippines.”

However, the 1935 Constitution and Com. Act No. 625 did not prescribe a time period within which the election of Philippine citizenship should be made. The 1935 Charter only provides that the election should be made “upon reaching the age of majority.” The age of majority then commenced upon reaching 21 years. In the opinions of the then Secretary of Justice on cases involving the validity of election of Philippine citizenship, this dilemma was resolved by basing the time period on the decisions of the Supreme Court prior to the effectivity of the 1935 Constitution. In these decisions, the proper period for electing Philippine citizenship was, in turn, based on the pronouncements of the Department of State of the United States Government to the effect that the election should be made within a “reasonable time” after attaining the age of majority. The phrase “reasonable time” has been interpreted to mean that the election should be made within three (3) years from reaching the age of majority.

It is true that we said that the 3-year period for electing Philippine citizenship may be extended as when the person has always regarded himself as a Filipino. In hits case, not a single circumstance was sufficiently shown meriting the extension of the 3-year period. The fact that Carlos exercised his right of suffrage in 1952 and 1955 does not demonstrate such belief, considering that the acts were done after he elected Philippine citizenship. On the other hand, the mere fact that he was able to vote does not validate his irregular election of Philippine citizenship. At most, his registration as a voter indicates his desire to exercise a right appertaining exclusively to Filipino citizens but does not alter his real citizenship, which, in this jurisdiction, is determined by blood (jus sanguinis). The exercise of the rights and privileges granted only to Filipinos is not conclusive proof of citizenship, because a person may misrepresent himself to be a Filipino and thus enjoy the rights and privileges of citizens of this country.

It is incumbent upon one who claims Philippine citizenship to prove to the satisfaction of the court that he is really a Filipino. No presumption can be indulged in favor of the claimant of Philippine citizenship, and any doubt regarding citizenship must be resolved in favor of the state.  Carlos T. Go., Sr., vs. Luis T. Ramos/Jimmy T. Go vs. Luis T. Ramos/Hon. Alipio F. Fernandez, etc., et al. vs. Jimmy T. Go a.k.a. Jaime T. Gaisano,  G.R. No. 167569/G.R. No. 167570/G.R. No. 171946, September 4, 2009.

Citizenship;  jus soli.  The doctrine of jus soli was for a time the prevailing rule in the acquisition of one’s citizenship. However, the Supreme Court abandoned the principle of jus soli in the case of Tan Chong v. Secretary of Labor. Since then, said doctrine only benefited those who were individually declared to be citizens of the Philippines by a final court decision on the mistaken application of jus soli.

Neither will the Philippine Bill of 1902 nor the Jones Law of 1916 make Carlos a citizen of the Philippines. His bare claim that his father, Go Yin An, was a resident of the Philippines at the time of the passage of the said laws, without any supporting evidence whatsoever will not suffice.

It is a settled rule that only legitimate children follow the citizenship of the father and that illegitimate children are under the parental authority of the mother and follow her nationality. Moreover, we have also ruled that an illegitimate child of a Filipina need not perform any act to confer upon him all the rights and privileges attached to citizens of the Philippines; he automatically becomes a citizen himself. However, it is our considered view that absent any evidence proving that Carlos is indeed an illegitimate son of a Filipina, the aforestated established rule could not be applied to him.  Carlos T. Go., Sr., vs. Luis T. Ramos/Jimmy T. Go vs. Luis T. Ramos/Hon. Alipio F. Fernandez, etc., et al. vs. Jimmy T. Go a.k.a. Jaime T. Gaisano,  G.R. No. 167569/G.R. No. 167570/G.R. No. 171946, September 4, 2009.

Civil Service Commission;  jurisdiction.  The CSC is the constitutional body charged with the establishment and administration of a career civil service which embraces all branches and agencies of the government. In the recent case of Civil Service Commission v. Alfonso, the Court held that special laws such as R.A. 4670 did not divest the CSC of its inherent power to supervise and discipline all members of the civil service, including public school teachers. This Court has also previously held in Civil Service Commission v. Albao that the CSC has the authority to directly institute proceedings to discipline a government employee in order to protect the integrity of the civil service.  Civil Service Commission vs. Fatima A. Macud, G.R. No. 177531. September 10, 2009

COMELEC:  poll automation contract.  Assayed against the provisions of the Constitution, the enabling automation law, RA 8436, as amended by RA 9369, the RFP and even the Anti-Dummy Law, which petitioners invoked as an afterthought, the Court finds the project award to have complied with legal prescriptions, and the terms and conditions of the corresponding automation contract in question to be valid. No grave abuse of discretion, therefore, can be laid on the doorsteps of respondent Comelec. And surely, the winning joint venture should not be faulted for having a foreign company as partner.

The Comelec is an independent constitutional body with a distinct and pivotal role in our scheme of government. In the discharge of its awesome functions as overseer of fair elections, administrator and lead implementor of laws relative to the conduct of elections, it should not be stymied with restrictions that would perhaps be justified in the case of an organization of lesser responsibility. It should be afforded ample elbow room and enough wherewithal in devising means and initiatives that would enable it to accomplish the great objective for which it was created––to promote free, orderly, honest and peaceful elections. This is as it should be for, too often, Comelec has to make decisions under difficult conditions to address unforeseen events to preserve the integrity of the election and in the process the voice of the people. Thus, in the past, the Court has steered away from interfering with the Comelec’s exercise of its power which, by law and by the nature of its office properly pertain to it. Absent, therefore, a clear showing of grave abuse of discretion on Comelec’s part, as here, the Court should refrain from utilizing the corrective hand of certiorari to review, let alone nullify, the acts of that body. Harry L. Roque, et al. vs. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 188456, September 10, 2009.

Eminent domain;  just compensation. Section 18 of the CARL mandates that petitioner shall compensate the landowner in such amount as may be agreed upon by the landowner, DAR, and petitioner, or as may be finally determined by the court, as the just compensation for the land. In determining just compensation, Section 17 of the CARL enumerates the factors to be considered in the determination of just compensation, namely, the cost of acquisition of the land; the current value of like properties; its nature, actual use and income; the sworn valuation by the owner; the tax declarations; and the assessment made by government assessors. The social and economic benefits contributed by the farmers and the farm workers and by the government to the property, as well as the non-payment of taxes or loans secured from any government financing institution on the said land, shall be considered as additional factors to determine its value.

In the case at bar, the SAC arrived at the just compensation due respondents for their subject property by taking into account the market value of the subject property, the tax declaration of respondents, the actual use of and income from the subject property, the assessor’s valuation, and the volume and value of its produce; and factors specifically mentioned under Section 17 of the CARL. The Court of Appeals affirmed in toto the determination of just compensation by the SAC. There being no allegation or evidence that the determination of just compensation for the subject property by the SAC, as affirmed by the appellate court, was not in conformity with or was in violation of the provisions of the CARL, the applicable law, then we have no reason to disturb the same.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Heirs of Asuncion Anonuevo Vda. Santos, et al., G.R. No. 179862, September 3, 2009.

PCGG; power. The PCGG’s power to sequester alleged ill-gotten properties is likened to the provisional remedies of preliminary attachment or receivership which are always subject to the control of the court.”

The PCGG, therefore, as the “receiver” of sequestered assets and in consonance with its duty under EO 1, Series of 1986, to protect and preserve them, has the power to exercise acts of dominion provided that those acts are approved by the proper court.

From the foregoing discussion, it is clear that it is the PCGG—not COCOFED or the CIIF companies—that has the right and/or authority during sequestration to seek this Court’s approval for the proposed conversion. Consequently, the terms and conditions sought by COCOFED for the conversion are not material to the proposed conversion. At most, COCOFED’s prayer for approval of the conversion reflects its conformity to said transfiguration.

After a circumspect evaluation of the incident at bar, we resolve to approve the conversion. The Court holds that respondent Republic has satisfactorily hurdled the onus of showing that the conversion is advantageous to the public interest or will result in clear and material benefit to the eventually declared stock owners, be they the coconut farmers or the government itself.  Philippine Coconut Producers Federation, Inc. (COCOFED), Manuel V. Del Rosario, Domingo P. Espina, et al. vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 177857-58, September 17, 2009.

Search;  plain view.  The “plain view doctrine” may not be used to launch unbridled searches and indiscriminate seizures or to extend a general exploratory search made solely to find evidence of defendant’s guilt. The doctrine is usually applied where a police officer is not searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object.  Sr. Inspector Jerry Valeroso vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines,  G.R. No. 164815, September 3, 2009.

Search;  warrantless arrest.  When an arrest is made, it is reasonable for the arresting officer to search the person arrested in order to remove any weapon that the latter might use in order to resist arrest or effect his escape. Otherwise, the officer’s safety might well be endangered, and the arrest itself frustrated. In addition, it is entirely reasonable for the arresting officer to search for and seize any evidence on the arrestee’s person in order to prevent its concealment or destruction.

Moreover, in lawful arrests, it becomes both the duty and the right of the apprehending officers to conduct a warrantless search not only on the person of the suspect, but also in the permissible area within the latter’s reach. Otherwise stated, a valid arrest allows the seizure of evidence or dangerous weapons either on the person of the one arrested or within the area of his immediate control. The phrase “within the area of his immediate control” means the area from within which he might gain possession of a weapon or destructible evidence. A gun on a table or in a drawer in front of one who is arrested can be as dangerous to the arresting officer as one concealed in the clothing of the person arrested.  Sr. Inspector Jerry Valeroso vs. Court of Appeals and People of the Philippines,  G.R. No. 164815, September 3, 2009.

Statutes; constitutionality.  Article 202(2) of the RPC, which penalizes any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support, is constitutional.  The provision is not vague and does not violate the equal protection clause. People of the Philippines vs. Evangeline Siton y sacil, et al., G.R. No. 169364, September 18, 2009.

Administrative Law

Administrative proceedings;  liability. An administrative proceeding is different from a criminal case and may proceed independently thereof. Even if respondents would subsequently be found guilty of a crime based on the same set of facts obtaining in the present administrative complaint, the same will not automatically mean that they are also administratively liable.

A finding of guilt in the criminal case will not necessarily result in a finding of liability in the administrative case. Conversely, respondents’ acquittal will not necessarily exculpate them administratively. The basic premise is that criminal and civil cases are altogether different from administrative matters, such that the disposition in the first two will not inevitably govern the third and vice versa.

It must be stressed that the basis of administrative liability differs from criminal liability. The purpose of administrative proceedings is mainly to protect the public service, based on the time-honored principle that a public office is a public trust. On the other hand, the purpose of criminal prosecution is the punishment of crime. To state it simply, petitioner erroneously equated criminal liability to administrative liability. Dr. Castor C. De Jesus vs. Rafael D. Guerrero III, Cesario R. Pagdilao and Fortuna B. Aquino, G.R .No. 171491, September 4, 2009.

Administrative proceedings;  quantum of proof.  In administrative proceedings, the quantum of proof necessary for a finding of guilt is substantial evidence, i.e., that amount of relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Further, the complainant has the burden of proving by substantial evidence the allegations in his complaint. The basic rule is that mere allegation is not evidence and is not equivalent to proof. Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation likewise cannot be given credence. Hence, when the complainant relies on mere conjectures and suppositions, and fails to substantiate his allegations, the administrative complaint must be dismissed for lack of merit.  Dr. Castor C. De Jesus vs. Rafael D. Guerrero III, Cesario R. Pagdilao and Fortuna B. Aquino, G.R .No. 171491, September 4, 2009.

Administrative remedies;  exhaustion. The doctrine of non-exhaustion of administrative remedies requires that resort be first made with the administrative authorities in the resolution of a controversy falling under their jurisdiction before the controversy may be elevated to a court of justice for review. A premature invocation of a court’s intervention renders the complaint without cause of action and dismissible.

EO 149 transferred LLDA from the Office of the President to the DENR “for policy and program coordination and/or administrative supervision x x x.” Under EO 149, DENR only has administrative power over LLDA. Administrative power is concerned with the work of applying policies and enforcing orders as determined by proper governmental organs.

However, Executive Order No. 192 (EO 192), which reorganized the DENR, mandates the DENR to “promulgate rules and regulations for the control of water, air and land pollution” and to “promulgate ambient and effluent standards for water and air quality including the allowable levels of other pollutants and radiations.” EO 192 created the Pollution Adjudication Board under the Office of the DENR Secretary which assumed the powers and functions of the NPCC with respect to the adjudication of pollution cases, including NPCC’s function to “[s]erve as arbitrator for the determination of reparation, or restitution of the damages and losses resulting from pollution.” Hence, TACC has an administrative recourse before the DENR Secretary which it should have first pursued before filing a petition for certiorari before the Court of Appeals. The Alexandra Condominium Corporation vs. Laguna Lake Development Authority, G.R. No. 169228. September 11, 2009.

Dismissal;  gross misconduct.  Pursuant to Section 52, Rule IV of the Civil Service Rules, gross misconduct is a grave offense punishable with dismissal for the first offense, without prejudice to the Ombudsman’s right to file the appropriate criminal case against the petitioner or other responsible individuals. We are, of course, aware that in several administrative cases, this Court has refrained from strictly imposing the penalties provided by the law, in light of mitigating factors such as the offending employee’s length of service, acknowledgment of his or her infractions and feeling of remorse, family circumstances, advanced age, and other equitable considerations. However, we find that petitioner’s recalcitrant refusal to explain the use (or misuse) of the more than P700,000.00 in cash placed in her possession makes her unworthy of such humanitarian consideration, and merits the most serious penalty provided by law. Gloria G. Hallasgo, Municipal Treasurer of Damulong, Bukidnon vs. Commission on Audit (COA), Regional Office No. X, G.R. No. 171340, September 11, 2009.

Public officer; private sector representative.  A private sector representative appointed to the National Book Development Board is a public officer for purposes of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Revised Penal Code.  Carolina R. Javier vs. Sandiganbayan, et al.,  G.R. Nos. 147026-27, September 11, 2009.

Election law

Ballots; appreciation. The neighborhood rule is a settled rule stating that where the name of a candidate is not written in the proper space in the ballot, but is preceded by the name of the office for which he is a candidate, the vote should be counted as valid for said candidate. Such rule is usually applied in consonance with the intent rule which stems from the principle that in the appreciation of the ballot, the object should be to ascertain and carry into effect the intention of the voter, if it could be determined with reasonable certainty.  Ernesto Batalla vs. Commission on Elections and Teodoro Bataller, G.R. No. 184268, September 15, 2009.

Candidates;  domicile.  In Japzon v. Commission on Elections, it was held that the term “residence” is to be understood not in its common acceptation as referring to “dwelling” or “habitation,” but rather to “domicile” or legal residence, that is, “the place where a party actually or constructively has his permanent home, where he, no matter where he may be found at any given time, eventually intends to return and remain (animus manendi).”

In Domino v. Commission on Elections, the Court explained that domicile denotes a fixed permanent residence to which, whenever absent for business, pleasure, or some other reasons, one intends to return. It is a question of intention and circumstances. In the consideration of circumstances, three rules must be borne in mind, namely: (1) that a man must have a residence or domicile somewhere; (2) when once established it remains until a new one is acquired; and (3) a man can have but one residence or domicile at a time.

If one wishes to successfully effect a change of domicile, he must demonstrate an actual removal or an actual change of domicile, a bona fide intention of abandoning the former place of residence and establishing a new one, and definite acts which correspond with the purpose. Without clear and positive proof of the concurrence of these three requirements, the domicile of origin continues.  Makil U. Pundaodaya vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 179313. September 17, 2009

Candidates;  premature campaigning.  The conduct of a motorcade is a form of election campaign or partisan political activity, falling squarely within the ambit of Section 79(b)(2) of the Omnibus Election Code, on “[h]olding political caucuses, conferences, meetings, rallies, parades, or other similar assemblies, for the purpose of soliciting votes and/or undertaking any campaign or propaganda for or against a candidate[.]” A motorcade is a procession or parade of automobiles or other motor vehicles.[31] The conduct thereof during election periods by the candidates and their supporters is a fact that need not be belabored due to its widespread and pervasive practice. The obvious purpose of the conduct of motorcades is to introduce the candidates and the positions, to which they seek to be elected, to the voting public; or to make them more visible so as to facilitate the recognition and recollection of their names in the minds of the voters come election time. Unmistakably, motorcades are undertaken for no other purpose than to promote the election of a particular candidate or candidates.

In the instant Petition, Penera never denied that she took part in the conduct of the motorcade after she filed her COC on the day before the start of the campaign period.

For violating Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, proscribing election campaign or partisan political activity outside the campaign period, Penera must be disqualified from holding the office of Mayor of Sta. Monica.  Rosalinda A. Penera vs. Commission on Elections and Edgar T. Andanar, G.R. No. 181613, September 11, 2009.

Candidates; premature campaigning.   The Dissenting Opinion ultimately concludes that because of Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8436, as amended, the prohibited act of premature campaigning in Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, is practically impossible to commit at any time.

We disagree. Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code remains relevant and applicable despite Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8436, as amended.

A close reading of the entire Republic Act No. 9369, which amended Republic Act No. 8436, would readily reveal that that it did not contain an express repeal of Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code. An express repeal is one wherein a statute declares, usually in its repealing clause, that a particular and specific law,identified by its number or title, is repealed.[35] Absent this specific requirement, an express repeal may not be presumed.

To our mind, there is no absolute and irreconcilable incompatibility between Section 15 of Republic Act No. 8436, as amended, and Section 80 of the Omnibus Election Code, which defines the prohibited act of premature campaigning. It is possible to harmonize and reconcile these two provisions and, thus, give effect to both.  Rosalinda A. Penera vs. Commission on Elections and Edgar T. Andanar, G.R. No. 181613, September 11, 2009.

Note:  At the time this article was posted, the September 2009 decisions published at the Supreme Court website covered until September 25, 2009 only.