May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected May 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Agrarian reform; coverage.  Lands acquired by the National Housing Authority for resettlement purposes or housing development are exempt from the coverage of agrarian reform laws.  Such acquisition converts the land by operation of law from agricultural to residential.  The National Housing Authority is not bound to pay disturbance compensation to any tenant in possession of the purchased land. National Housing Authority vs. Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al., G.R. No. 175200, May 4, 2010.

Agrarian reform; just compensation.  In computing just compensation for rice lands tenanted as of October 21, 1972, the grant of 6% yearly interest under DAR Administrative Order No. 13, Series of 1994, as amended, must be reckoned from October 21, 1972 up to the time of actual payment of the compensation, and not only up to the time the Land Bank of the Philippines approves payment of the compensation and deposits the amount in the name of the landowner, considering that release of such deposit is still subject to compliance with documentary requirements.  The concept of just compensation embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the owner of the land, but also payment within a reasonable time from its taking.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Domingo and Mamerto Soriano, G.R. No. 180772 & G.R. No. 180776, May 6, 2010.

Commission on Elections; registration of party coalition.  Comelec may not, through a resolution setting the deadline for registration of political parties, differentiate between political parties, on the one hand, and political organizations and coalitions, on the other.  There is no substantial distinction among these entities germane to the act of registration that would justify creating distinctions among them in terms of deadlines.  Thus, Comelec Resolution No. 8646, dated July 14, 2009, which sets August 17, 2009 as the deadline for filing petitions for registration of political parties, without mentioning political organizations and coalitions, should be understood as covering the latter entities as well.  A petition for registration as a political coalition filed beyond that deadline is time-barred, and the Comelec resolution granting that petition constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

Political coalitions, even if composed of registered political parties, need to register separately in accordance with established norms and procedures, if they are to be recognized as such and be given the benefits accorded by law to registered coalitions. Registered political parties carry a different legal personality from that of the coalition they may wish to establish with other registered parties.  If parties want to coalesce with one another without the formal registration of their coalition, they can do so on their own in the exercise of their and their members’ democratic freedom of choice, but they cannot receive official recognition for their coalition.  Liberal Party, etc. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010.

Electoral tribunals; grave abuse of discretion.  The Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to review decisions and orders of electoral tribunals is exercised only upon showing of grave abuse of discretion committed by the tribunal; otherwise, the Court will not interfere with the tribunal’s exercise of its discretion and jurisdiction.  There was no grave abuse of discretion when the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal ordered to continue the revision and appreciation of ballots after the case had been submitted for resolution and when it issued its decisions without the participation of any of the Justices of the Court who were members of that tribunal. Henry “Jun” Dueñas, Jr. vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, et al., G.R. No. 191550, May 4, 2010.

Province; requirements for creation.  Section 10 of Article X of the Constitution mandates that the criteria in the Local Government Code must be followed in the creation of a province.  Any derogation of or deviation from those criteria violates the Constitution.  Thus, a law creating a province, which failed to comply with either the population or territorial requirement of the Local Government Code, is unconstitutional.  The Court can pass upon the validity of such law even if the province it created has begun its existence.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, May 12, 2010.

Right to information; duty to disclose.  Comelec has the duty and can be compelled to explain fully its preparations for the May 10, 2010 elections under Section 7 of Article III of the Constitution on the people’s right to information and Section 28 of Article II on the State’s corresponding duty of full public disclosure of all transactions involving public interest.  Any citizen can file a petition for mandamus if the same is anchored on the people’s right to information.  Teofisto Guingona, Jr. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 191846, May 6, 2010.