June 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Administrative cases; quantum of evidence.  In administrative cases, the quantum of evidence necessary to find an individual administratively liable is substantial evidence.  Substantial evidence does not necessarily mean preponderant proof as required in ordinary civil cases, but such kind of relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion or evidence commonly accepted by reasonably prudent men in the conduct of their affairs.  The evidence upon which respondent’s administrative liability would be anchored lacked that degree of certainty required in administrative cases, because the two separate audits conducted by the Commission on Audit yielded conflicting results.  Evidence of shortage in respondent’s cash and accounts, as alleged in the first audit report, is imperative to hold him liable.  In this case, the evidence against respondent could not be relied upon, because the second audit report, which was favorable to him, necessarily puts into question the reliability of the initial audit findings.  Whether the zero balance as appearing in the second audit report was correct or inadvertently indicated, the credibility and accuracy of the two audit reports were already tarnished.  Even in administrative cases, a degree of moral certainty is necessary to support a finding of liability.  Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) vs. Rodolfo Zaldarriaga, G.R. No. 175349, June 22, 2010.

Agrarian cases; just compensation.  The taking of property under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) is a government exercise of the power of eminent domain.  Since the determination of just compensation in eminent domain proceedings is a judicial function, a court proceeding to fix just compensation cannot be made to depend on the existence of, and is considered separate and independent from, an administrative case of a similar nature.  Thus, the filing by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) of a new petition for judicial determination of just compensation after the dismissal without prejudice of another LBP-initiated court proceeding on the same issue cannot be regarded as barred by the filing of the latter proceeding beyond the 15-day period prescribed under Rule XIII, Section 11 of the Rules of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB). Although the formula for fixing just compensation found in Section 17 of the CARL may be justly adopted in certain cases, it is by no means the only formula that the court may adopt in determining just compensation. Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Fortune Savings and Loan Association, Inc., represented by Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, G.R. No. 177511, June 29, 2010.

Due process; local autonomy; police power. Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Administrative Order No. 01-02, as amended, which sets out rules on land use conversion, does not violate the due process clause, because in providing administrative and criminal penalties, the Secretary of Agrarian Reform simply implements the provisions of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, both of which provide penalties for illegal land conversion. Contrary to petitioner’s assertions, the penalties provided under DAR AO No. 01-02 are imposed upon the illegal or premature conversion of lands within DAR’s jurisdiction.

In providing that reclassification of agricultural lands by local government units (LGUs) shall be subject to the requirements of, and procedures for, land use conversion, including DAR approval or clearance, DAR AO No. 01-02 did not violate the autonomy of the LGUs. The power of LGUs to reclassify agricultural lands is not absolute, and the Local Government Code recognizes the authority of DAR to approve conversion of agricultural lands. DAR Memorandum No. 88, which temporarily suspended the processing and approval of all land use conversion applications, is a valid exercise of police power, as it was issued upon the instruction of the President in order to address the unabated conversion of prime agricultural lands for real estate development because of the worsening rice shortage in the country at that time. Such measure was made in order to ensure that there are enough agricultural lands in which rice cultivation and production may be carried into. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Associations, Inc. vs. The Secretary of Agrarian Reform, G.R. No. 183409, June 18, 2010.