October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Presumption of Innocence. In this case, the so-called frame-up was virtually pure allegation bereft of credible proof. The narration of the police officer who implemented the search warrant was found, after trial and appellate review, as the true story. It is on firmer ground than the self-serving statement of the accused-appellant of frame-up.  The defense cannot solely rely upon the constitutional presumption of innocence for, while it is constitutional, the presumption is not conclusive.  Notably, the accused-appellant herself stated in her brief that “no proof was proffered by the accused-appellant of the police officers’ alleged ill motive.” Stated otherwise, the narration of the incident by law enforcers, buttressed by the presumption that they have regularly performed their duties in the absence of convincing proof to the contrary, must be given weight. People of the Philippines vs. Olive Rubio Mamaril. G.R. No. 171980, October 6, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Probable Cause. There is no general formula or fixed rule for the determination of probable cause since the same must be decided in light of the conditions obtaining in given situations and its existence depends to a large degree upon the findings or opinion of the judge conducting the examination. It is presumed that a judicial function has been regularly performed, absent a showing to the contrary. The defense’s reliance of the quoted testimony of the police officer alone, without any other evidence to show that there was indeed lack of personal knowledge, is insufficient to overturn the finding of the trial court.  The accused-appellant, having failed to present substantial rebuttal evidence to defeat the presumption of regularity of duty of the issuing judge, cannot not be sustained by the Court. People of the Philippines vs. Olive Rubio Mamaril. G.R. No. 171980, October 6, 2010.

Constitutionality; Actual Controversy; Standing to Sue.  The power of judicial review can only be exercised in connection with a bona fide controversy involving a statute, its implementation or a government action.  Without such controversy, courts will decline to pass upon constitutional issues through advisory opinions, bereft as they are of authority to resolve hypothetical or moot questions.  The limitation on the power of judicial review to actual cases and controversies defines the role assigned to the judiciary in a tripartite allocation of power, to assure that the courts will not intrude into areas committed to the other branches of government.  But even with the presence of an actual case or controversy, the Court may refuse judicial review unless the constitutional question or the assailed illegal government act is brought before it by a party who possesses locus standi or the standing to challenge it.  To have standing, one must establish that he has a “personal and substantial interest in the case such that he has sustained, or will sustain, direct injury as a result of its enforcement.”  Particularly, he must show that (1) he has suffered some actual or threatened injury as a result of the allegedly illegal conduct of the government; (2) the injury is fairly traceable to the challenged action; and (3) the injury is likely to be redressed by a favorable action.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law (Part III)

Counterclaims; tests to determine if compulsory.  Going now to the first assigned error, petitioner submits that its counterclaim for the rentals collected by Fernando from the CMTC is in the nature of a compulsory counterclaim in the original action of Fernando against petitioner for annulment of bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT No. 76183. Respondents, on the other hand, alleged that petitioner’s counterclaim is permissive and its failure to pay the prescribed docket fees results into the dismissal of its claim.

To determine whether a counterclaim is compulsory or not, the Court has devised the following tests: (a) Are the issues of fact and law raised by the claim and by the counterclaim largely the same? (b) Would res judicata bar a subsequent suit on defendant’s claims, absent the compulsory counterclaim rule? (c) Will substantially the same evidence support or refute plaintiff’s claim as well as the defendant’s counterclaim? and (d) Is there any logical relation between the claim and the counterclaim? A positive answer to all four questions would indicate that the counterclaim is compulsory.

Tested against the above-mentioned criteria, this Court agrees with the CA’s view that petitioner’s counterclaim for the recovery of the amount representing rentals collected by Fernando from the CMTC is permissive. The evidence needed by Fernando to cause the annulment of the bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT is different from that required to establish petitioner’s claim for the recovery of rentals.  The issue in the main action, i.e., the nullity or validity of the bid award, deed of absolute sale and TCT in favor of CMTC, is entirely different from the issue in the counterclaim, i.e., whether petitioner is entitled to receive the CMTC’s rent payments over the subject property when petitioner became the owner of the subject property by virtue of the consolidation of ownership of the property in its favor.  Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) vs. Heirs of Fernando P. Caballero, et al., G.R. No. 158090, October 4, 2010

Docket fees; GSIS not exempt from payment.  Petitioner [GSIS] further argues that assuming that its counterclaim is permissive, the trial court has jurisdiction to try and decide the same, considering petitioner’s exemption from all kinds of fees.

In In Re: Petition for Recognition of the Exemption of the Government Service Insurance System from Payment of Legal Fees, the Court ruled that the provision in the Charter of the GSIS, i.e., Section 39 of Republic Act No. 8291, which exempts it from “all taxes, assessments, fees, charges or duties of all kinds,” cannot operate to exempt it from the payment of legal fees. This was because, unlike the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions, which empowered Congress to repeal, alter or supplement the rules of the Supreme Court concerning pleading, practice and procedure, the 1987 Constitution removed this power from Congress.  Hence, the Supreme Court now has the sole authority to promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law (Part II)

Certiorari; improper remedy.  A party desiring to appeal by certiorari from a judgment, final order, or resolution of the CA, as in this case, may file before this Court a verified petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Civil Procedure within 15 days from notice of the judgment, final order, or resolution appealed from. Petitioners, instead of a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45, filed with this Court the instant petition for certiorari under Rule 65, an improper remedy. By availing of a wrong or inappropriate mode of appeal, the petition merits outright dismissal.  Esmeraldo C. Romullo, et al. v.. Samahang Magkakapitbahay ng Bayanihan Compound Homeowners Association, Inc. represented by its President, Paquito Quitalig, G.R. No. 180687, October 6, 2010

Certiorari; not available to set aside denial of motion to dismiss in absence of grave abuse of discretion.  An order denying a motion to dismiss is an interlocutory order which neither terminates nor finally disposes of a case as it leaves something to be done by the court before the case is finally decided on the merits. As such, the general rule is that the denial of a motion to dismiss cannot be questioned in a special civil action for certiorari which is a remedy designed to correct errors of jurisdiction and not errors of judgment. To justify the grant of the extraordinary remedy of certiorari, the denial of the motion to dismiss must have been tainted with grave abuse of discretion. By “grave abuse of discretion” is meant such capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment that is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction. The abuse of discretion must be grave as where the power is exercised in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or personal hostility, and must be so patent and gross as to amount to an evasion of positive duty or to a virtual refusal to perform the duty enjoined by or to act all in contemplation of law. In the instant case, Global did not properly substantiate its claim of arbitrariness on the part of the trial court judge that issued the assailed orders denying the motion to dismiss. In a petition for certiorari, absent such showing of arbitrariness, capriciousness, or ill motive in the disposition of the trial judge in the case, we are constrained to uphold the court’s ruling, especially because its decision was upheld by the CA.  Global Business Holdings, Inc. vs. Surecomp Software B.V., [G.R. No. 173463. October 13, 2010]

Certiorari; period to file.  The petition before the CA was filed out of time. A perusal of the allegations in the subject petition reveals that though it sought the nullification of the February 2, 2004 Decision of the RTC, what it questioned was the RTC’s resolve to render a judgment before trial pursuant to Section 4, Rule 4 of the Interim Rules of Procedure for Intra-Corporate Controversies.  Said section provides,

Sec. 4. Judgment before pre-trial. – If, after submission of the pre-trial briefs, the court determines that, upon consideration of the pleadings, the affidavits and other evidence submitted by the parties, a judgment may be rendered, the court may order the parties to file simultaneously their respective memoranda within a non-extendible period of twenty (20) days from receipt of the order. Thereafter, the court shall render judgment, either full or otherwise, not later than ninety (90) days from the expiration of the period to file the memoranda.

As correctly pointed out by the Farmix Group, it is very clear that the issues raised in the subject petition pertained to previous orders of the RTC – the November 12 and December 3, 2003 Orders – submitting the case for decision.

The November 12, 2003 Order was received by WINCORP on November 13, 2003. It then filed a Manifestation and Motion adopting the UOB Group’s motion for reconsideration of said order and even raised additional arguments. Thereafter, the RTC issued the December 3, 2003 Order denying UOB Group’s motion for reconsideration but there was no mention of WINCORP’s manifestation and motion.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Remedial Law (Part 1)

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on remedial law:

Civil Procedure

Accion Publiciana; nature and purpose.  An accion publiciana is an ordinary civil proceeding to determine the better right of possession of realty independently of title.  Accion publiciana is also used to refer to an ejectment suit where the cause of dispossession is not among the grounds for forcible entry and unlawful detainer, or when possession has been lost for more than one year and can no longer be maintained under Rule 70 of the Rules of Court. The objective of a plaintiff in accion publiciana is to recover possession only, not ownership.  Pio Modesto and Cirila Rivera-Modesto vs. Carlos Urbina, substituted by the heirs of Olympia Miguel Vda. de Urbina, et al., G.R. No. 189859, October 18, 2010.

Appeals; dismissal of appeal on purely technical ground not favored.   Appeal is an essential part of our judicial system.  Its purpose is to bring up for review a final judgment of the lower court.  The courts should, thus, proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of his right to appeal.  In the recent case of Almelor v. RTC of Las Pinas City, Br. 254, the Court reiterated: While the right to appeal is a statutory, not a natural right, nonetheless it is an essential part of our judicial system and courts should proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of the right to appeal, but rather, ensure that every party-litigant has the amplest opportunity for the proper and just disposition of his cause, free from the constraints of technicalities.  In the case at bench, the respondent should be given the fullest opportunity to establish the merits of his appeal considering that what is at stake is the sacrosanct institution of marriage. Cynthia S. Bolos vs. Danilo T. Bolos, G.R. No. 186400, October 20, 2010.

Appeal; dismissal of appeal on purely technical ground not favored.  As a final note, it is worthy to emphasize that the dismissal of an appeal on a purely technical ground is frowned upon especially if it will result in unfairness.  The rules of procedure ought not to be applied in a very rigid, technical sense for they have been adopted to help secure, not override, substantial justice.  For this reason, courts must proceed with caution so as not to deprive a party of statutory appeal; rather they must ensure that all litigants are granted the amplest opportunity for the proper and just ventilation of their causes, free from the constraint of technicalities.  Cebu Metro Pharmacy, Inc. vs. Euro-Med Laboratories, Inc., G.R. No. 164757, October 18, 2010.

Appeal; effect of failure to attach material and relevant documents to petition.  The foregoing preliminary matters thus clarified, we find that the CA cannot be faulted for dismissing the petition for review ZFMC filed pursuant to Rule 43 of the Rules by way of appeal from the 30 June 2003 decision in O.P. Case No. 5613.   A perusal of said petition shows that, instead of formulating its own “concise statement of the facts and the issues involved” as required under Rule 43 of the Rules, ZFMC merely quoted the first ten (10) pages of the 25 June 1985 decision in MNR Case No. 4023.  Altogether oblivious of the missing third page of its copy of said decision and the relevant facts it resultantly omitted, ZFMC also appended copies of only the following documents to its petition, viz.: (a) the decision in O.P. Case No. 5613; (b) its motion for reconsideration thereof; and, (c) the 30 September 2003 order denying said motion for lack of merit.  Despite being alerted to the deficiencies of its petition in the CA’s 30 January 2004 resolution directing the submission of the pleadings filed before the MNR and the Office of the President, ZFMC stubbornly maintained, that said documents were no longer necessary since the undisputed facts of the case were already narrated in the 25 June 1984 decision rendered in MNR Case No. 4023.

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Public Private Partnership Center

One of the cornerstones of President Benigno Aquino III’s economic policy under his new administration is the development of the country’s much needed infrastructure projects through public-private sector partnership. During the conference dubbed as Infrastructure Philippines 2010, Investing and Financing in Public-Private Partnership Projects, held from November 17 to 19, 2010, the government announced its infrastructure agenda and the different projects open for public-private partnerships. These projects are mostly in the transportation, tourism, energy, agriculture and health sectors.

In line with this emphasis on private sector participation in infrastructure projects, President Aquino previously issued Executive Order No. 8 on September 9, 2010 reorganizing and re-naming the Build, Operate and Transfer (BOT) Center to the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center. The executive order also transferred the PPP Center from being an attached agency of the Department of Trade and Industry to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

According to NEDA Secretary Cayetano Paderanga, Jr., the PPPs will be undertaken mainly under the framework of the BOT Law and its implementing regulations. Thus, the role of the BOT Center, now PPP Center, is important.

Among the powers and functions of the PPP Center under EO No. 8 are:

1.     Assist the implementing agencies (IAs) and local government units (LGUs) in addressing impediments and bottlenecks in the implementation of PPP projects;

2.     Provide advisory services, technical assistance and training to IAs and LGUs in PPP project preparation and development;

3.     Monitor and facilitate the implementation of priority PPP programs and projects;

4.     Recommend plans, policies and implementing guidelines related to PPP in consultation with appropriate oversight committees, IAs and LGUs;

5.     Manage and administer a revolving fund for the preparation of business case, pre-feasibility and feasibility studies and tender documents for PPP programs and projects; and

6.     Prepare reports on the implementation of PPP programs and projects for submission to the President each year.

According to EO No. 8, the project approval process for qualified solicited PPPs shall be completed within six months subject to existing laws, rules and regulations. The PPP Center should help in ensuring that this timetable is achieved.

October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Labor Law and Procedure

Here are selected October 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippine on labor law and procedure:

Compensable illness. Respondent is entitled to sickness wages because the shooting pain in his right foot is an injury which he suffered during the course of his employment. This is in consonance with the Standard Terms and Conditions Governing the Employment of Filipino Seafarers On Board Ocean-Going Vessels of the Department of Labor and Employment. Applying the said provisions of this standard contract, respondent is entitled to receive sickness wages covering the maximum period of 120 days. Moreover, petitioners violated the contract when it failed to provide continuous treatment for respondent in accordance with the recommendation of their company physician.  Because of this failure, respondent was forced to seek immediate medical attention at his own expense.  Thus, he is also entitled to reimbursement of his medical expenses. Varorient Shipping Co., Inc., et al. vs. Gil Flores, G.R. No. 161934, October 6, 2010

Compensable illness. For an injury or illness to be duly compensated under the terms of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Standard Employment Contract (POEA-SEC), there must be a showing that the injury or illness and the ensuing disability occurred during the effectivity of the employment contract. Moreover, all of these conditions must be satisfied — 1.) The seafarer’s work must involve the risks described in the POEA-SEC; 2.) The disease was contracted as a result of the seafarer’s exposure to the described risks; 3.) The disease was contracted within a period of exposure and under such other factors necessary to contract it;  and 4.) There was no notorious negligence on the part of the seafarer.  Specifically, with respect to mental diseases, the POEA-SEC requires that it must be due to traumatic injury to the head which did not occur in this case.  In fact, respondent claimed that he became depressed due to the frequent verbal abuse he received from his German superiors. However, he failed to show concrete proof that, if indeed he was subjected to abuse, it directly resulted in his depression.  Philippine Transmarine Carriers, Inc., Global Navigation, Ltd. vs.. Silvino A. Nazam, G.R. No. 190804. October 11, 2010.

Constructive dismissal; transfer. It is management prerogative to transfer or assign employees from one office or area of operation to another. However, the employer must show that the transfer is not unreasonable, inconvenient or prejudicial to the employee, or that it does not involve a demotion in rank or a diminution of his salaries, privileges and other benefits.  Should the employer fail to overcome this burden, the employee’s transfer shall be tantamount to constructive dismissal. In the instant case, Del Villar’s demotion is readily apparent in his new designation as a mere Staff Assistant to the Corporate Purchasing and Materials Control Manager from being Transportation Services Manager. The two posts are not of the same weight in terms of duties and responsibilities. Moreover, while Del Villar’s transfer did not result in the reduction of his salary, there was a diminution in his benefits because as a mere Staff Assistant, he could no longer enjoy the use of a company car, gasoline allowance, and annual foreign travel, which he previously enjoyed as Transportation Services Manager. Thus, Del Villar was clearly constructively dismissed. Coca Cola Bottlers Philippines, Inc. vs. Angel U. Del Villar, G.R. No. 163091, October 6, 2010.

Dismissal; closure of business. Petitioner terminated the employment of respondents on the ground of closure or cessation of operation of the establishment which is an authorized cause for termination under Article 283 of the Labor Code. While it is true that a change of ownership in a business concern is not proscribed by law, the sale or disposition must be motivated by good faith as a condition for exemption from liability. In the instant case, however, there was, in fact, no change of ownership. Petitioner did not present any documentary evidence to support its claim that it sold the same to ALPS Transportation.  On the contrary, it continuously operates under the same name, franchises and routes and under the same circumstances as before the alleged sale. Thus, no actual sale transpired and, as such, there is no closure or cessation of business that can serve as an authorized cause for the dismissal of respondents. Peñafrancia Tours and Travel Transport, Inc. vs. Joselito P. Sarmiento and Ricardo S. Catimbang, G.R. No. 178397, October 20, 2010.

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October 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Legal and Judicial Ethics

Here are selected September 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on legal and judicial ethics:

Attorney; misconduct. Respondent (lawyer) was ordered to reimburse his client Php16,300.00.  Nine years after the directive was made, he effected payment.  Respondent’s belated “compliance” with the order glaringly speaks of his lack of candor, of his dishonesty, if not defiance of Court orders, qualities that do not endear him to the esteemed brotherhood of lawyers. The lack of any sufficient justification or explanation for the nine-year delay in complying with the Resolutions betrays a clear and contumacious disregard for the lawful orders of this Court. Such disrespect constitutes a clear violation of the lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility. Leonard W. Richards vs. Patricio A. Asoy, A.C. No. 2655, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; conduct prejudicial to best interest of the service. This case filed by Argoso against Regalado  involves money received by Regalado from an interested  party to implement a writ of execution.  Regalado should not have received money from Argoso for his transportation to Daet, without previously submitting his expenses for the court’s approval.  Regalado’s admission that he received money without complying with the proper procedure in enforcing writs of execution, made him guilty of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service. Levi M. Agroso vs. Achilles Andrew Regalado II, etc., A.M. No. P-09-2735, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty. Respondent (clerk of court) failed to regularly submit monthly reports of collections and deposits, as required by SC Circular No. 32-93, and official receipts and other documents, despite the Court’s repeated orders.  The failure to remit the funds in due time amounts to dishonesty and grave misconduct, which the Court cannot tolerate for they diminish the people’s faith in the judiciary.  Office of the Court Administrator vs. Marcela V. Santos, Clerk of Court II etc., A.M. No. P-06-2287, October 12, 2010.

Court personnel; dishonesty etc. Fernandez deserves to be sanctioned.  Her habitual tardiness and absenteeism, coupled with her submission of a falsified document to cover up some of her absences, do not speak well of her fitness for employment in the public service, especially in the judiciary.  We cannot ignore the gross dishonesty involved in her submission of a falsified document to cover up several unauthorized absences.   Isabel D. Marquez vs. Jocelyn C. Fernandez, A.M. No. P-07-2358, October 19, 2010.

Court personnel; gross misconduct. On several instances, Abellanosa demanded and received various sums of money from party-litigants in cases pending before the RTC of Makati, Branch 137.  Also, the Order of the Makati RTC Branch 137 was published in the Taliba newspaper, but it did not go through the mandated procedure for distribution of judicial notices or orders by raffle to qualified newspapers or periodicals under P.D. No. 1079.  Abellanosa’s acts of soliciting money from litigants to facilitate the publication of their petitions or orders of the court clearly manifested her desire to achieve personal gain and constitutes gross misconduct which is deplorable. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino vs. Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc./Jessica B. Abellanosa, etc. vs. Judge Jenny Lind R. Aldecoa-Delorino/Jessica B. Abellanosa etc. vs. Rowena L. Ramos, etc., A.M. No. P-08-2472/A.M. No. RTJ-08-2106/A.M. No. P-08-2420, October 19, 2010.

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