November 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Right to Speedy Trial. The right to speedy trial is considered violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays.  In this case, far from being vexatious, capricious and oppressive, the delays entailed by the postponements of the hearings were, to a great extent, attributable to petitioner Francisco’s extraordinary remedies against the interlocutory orders issued by the lower court and the assignment of at least three public prosecutors to the case.  Although the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure mandate commencement of trial within 30 days from receipt of the pre-trial order, and the continuous conduct thereof for a period not exceeding 180 days, Section 3(a)(1) of Rule 119 provides that delays resulting from extraordinary remedies against interlocutory orders shall be excluded in computing the time within which trial must commence.  In determining the right of an accused to speedy trial, courts are required to do more than a mathematical computation of the number of postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case and to give particular regard to the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case. Based on the foregoing, the Court rejected petitioner Francisco’s claim that the postponements of the pre-trial conferences before the lower court violated his right to a speedy trial. Nelson Imperial, et al. vs. Maricel M. Joson, et al./Santos O. Francisco vs. Spouses Gerard and Maricel Joson Nelson/Imperial, et al. vs.. Hilarion C. Felix, et al., G.R. No. 160067/G.R. Mo. 170410/G.R. No. 171622, November 17, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Right to Speedy Trial.  In determining whether the right of the accused to a speedy trial was violated, any delay should be considered in relation to the entirety of the proceedings. Here, there had been an undue and inordinate delay in the reinvestigation of the cases by the Office of the Ombudsman, which failed to submit its reinvestigation report despite the lapse of the 60-day period set by the Sandiganbayan, and did so only after more than a year thereafter.  However, while such reinvestigation delayed the proceedings, the Court held that said process could not have been dispensed with as it was undertaken for the protection of the rights of petitioners and their co-accused.  These rights should not be compromised at the expense of expediency. Thus, even though the Court acknowledged the delay in the criminal proceedings, as well as the prejudice suffered by petitioners and their co-accused by reason thereof, the Court held that petitioners’ right to speedy trial and disposition of the cases involving them do not justify the dismissal of the criminal cases. The Court further held that the State should not be prejudiced and deprived of its right to prosecute the criminal cases simply because of the ineptitude or nonchalance of the Office of the Ombudsman. Monico V. Jacob, et al. vs. Sandiganbayan, et al., G.R. No. 162206, November 17, 2010.

Constitutionality; Legal Standing. Petitioner questioned the constitutionality of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET). The Court held that he has no legal standing.  The issue of legal standing is derived from the following requisites of a judicial inquiry:  (1) There must be an actual case or controversy; (2) The question of constitutionality must be raised by the proper party; (3) The constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity; and (4) The decision of the constitutional question must be necessary to the determination of the case itself.  The Court said that even if the petitioner’s claim that he is a proper party on the basis that the creation and operation of the PET involves the use of public funds and the issue he raised is of transcendental importance, his standing was still imperiled by his appearance as counsel to then presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 election protest filed by her opponent before the PET.  A constitutional question must be raised at the earliest possible opportunity.  That appearance would have been the first opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of the PET’s constitution. Instead, petitioner ubiquitously entered his appearance before the PET and acknowledged its jurisdiction.  His failure to raise a seasonable constitutional challenge at that time, coupled with his unconditional acceptance of the PET’s authority, meant that he did not meet the third condition and therefore has no standing to file the petition. Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Presidential Electoral Tribunal, G.R. No. 191618, November 23, 2010.

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