December 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Emancipation patent; issuance. Following are the steps in transferring land to a tenant-tiller under Presidential Decree No. 27: (a) identification of tenant, landowner, and the land covered; (b) land survey and sketching of portion actually cultivated by the tenant to determine parcel size, boundaries, and possible land use; (c) issuance of Certificate of Land Transfer; (d) valuation of the land for purposes of computing the amortization; (e) amortization payments of the tenant-tiller over a 15-year period; and (f) issuance of Emancipation Patent.  In this case, there is no evidence that these steps were followed. There are several supporting documents that the tenant-farmer must submit before he can receive the Emancipation Patent. The Supreme Court found that majority of these supporting documents is lacking. Hence, it was improper for the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board to order the issuance of the Emancipation Patent in favor of respondent. There was also no sufficient evidence to prove that respondent has fully paid the value of the land. Full payment of just compensation is required prior to issuance of Emancipation Patents. Renato Reyes, represented by Ramon Reyes vs Leopoldo Barrios, G.R. No. 172841, December 15, 2010.

Equal protection clause; concept.  The Court here struck down Executive Order No. 1 (which created the Truth Commission) for violating the equal protection clause.  The clear mandate of the Truth Commission is to investigate and find out the truth “concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administrationonly. The intent to single out the previous administration was plain, patent and manifest.  According to the Court, the Arroyo administration is a member of a class, that is, the class of past administrations.  It is not a class of its own. Not to include in the Commission’s mandate past administrations similarly situated constitutes arbitrariness, which the equal protection clause cannot sanction.  Although Section 17 gives the President discretion to expand the scope of investigations of the Commission so as to include acts of graft and corruption committed in other past administrations, it does not guarantee that they would be covered in the future.  This expanded mandate of the Commission will still depend on the discretion of the President.  If he decides not to include them, the provision would be meaningless. Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

Judicial review; requisites. Judicial review requires the following: (1) an actual case or controversy calling for the exercise of judicial power; (2) the person challenging the act must have the standing to question the validity of the act or issuance; (3) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (4) the issue of constitutionality must be the very subject matter of the case. As to standing, the Court here held that petitioners, who are legislators, met the requirement as they are questioning the constitutionality of Executive Order No. 1 creating the Truth Commission on the basis that the latter’s mandate constitutes usurpation of the power of the Congress.  However, with regard to the petitioner who is questioning EO No. 1 as a taxpayer, the Court held that he had no standing since he has not shown that he sustained, or is in danger of sustaining, any personal and direct injury attributable to the implementation of that EO.  The Court took cognizance of the case as the matter involved was of transcendental importance.  Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

President; creation of Truth Commission; power to reorganize. The creation of the Truth Commission does not fall within the President’s power to reorganize. Section 31 of the Revised Administrative Code contemplates “reorganization” as limited by the following functional and structural lines: (1) restructuring the internal organization of the Office of the President by abolishing, consolidating or merging units thereof or transferring functions from one unit to another; (2) transferring any function under the Office of the President to any other department or agency or vice versa; or (3) transferring any agency under the Office of the President to any other department or agency or vice versa.  This provision, according to the Court, refers to reduction of personnel, consolidation of offices, or abolition thereof by reason of economy or redundancy of functions.  These refer to situations where a body or an office is already existent but a modification or alteration thereof has to be effected.  Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

President; creation of Truth Commission; power of control.  The creation of the Commission is not justified by the President’s power of control. Control is essentially the power to alter, modify, nullify or set aside what a subordinate officer had done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former with that of the latter.  Clearly, the power of control is entirely different from the power to create public offices. The former is inherent in the Executive, while the latter finds basis from either a valid delegation from Congress, or the Executive’s inherent duty to faithfully execute the laws.  Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

President; creation of Truth Commission; power to conduct investigations.  The President’s power to conduct investigations to aid him in ensuring the faithful execution of laws – in this case, fundamental laws on public accountability and transparency – is inherent in the President’s powers as the Chief Executive.  It flows from the faithful-execution clause of the Constitution under Article VII, Section 17 thereof.  One of the recognized powers of the President is the power to create ad hoc committees. This flows from the need to ascertain facts and determine if laws have been faithfully executed or guide the President in performing his duties relative to the execution and enforcement of laws.  Contrary to petitioners’ apprehension, the Truth Commission will not supplant the Ombudsman or the Department of Justice or erode their respective powers.  The investigative function of the Commission will complement those of the two offices.  The recommendation to prosecute is but a consequence of the overall task of the Commission to conduct a fact-finding investigation.  The actual prosecution of suspected offenders, much less adjudication on the merits of the charges against them, is certainly not a function given to the Commission.  Louis “Barok” C. Biraogo vs. The Philippine Truth Commission of 2010 / Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, et al. vs. Exec. Sec. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., et al., G.R. No. 192935 & G.R. No. 19303, December 7, 2010.

Tenancy relationship; elements.  For purposes of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, there is tenancy relationship between parties if the following elements concur: (1) the parties are the landowner and the tenant or agricultural lessee; (2) the subject matter of the relationship is an agricultural land; (3) there is consent between the parties to the relationship; (4) the purpose of the relationship is to bring about agricultural production; (5) there is personal cultivation on the part of the tenant or agricultural lessee; and (6) the harvest is shared between landowner and tenant or agricultural lessee. All the foregoing requisites must be proved by substantial evidence.  In this case, the continued stay of the purported tenant in the premises of the company was the result of an amicable settlement in a labor dispute and not because there was a landlord-tenant relationship.  The fact that the stay was free of charge only proves the absence of such a relationship.  Even assuming that the employer was receiving a share of the produce, the fact of receipt, without an agreed system of sharing, does not ipso facto create a tenancy.  There was no evidence to indicate that the parties agreed to any system of sharing.  The employee’s activities in the property cannot be classified as one for agricultural production. There was no record showed that he was engaged in any planting or other agricultural activity.  Heirs of Jose Barredo, namely, Lolita Barredo, et al. vs. Lavoiser Besañes, G.R. No. 164695, December 13, 2010.

Warrantless arrest.  The Supreme Court here found that the prosecution failed to prove the guilt of the accused, as (a) the evidence against them is inadmissible and (b) granting the same to be admissible, the chain of custody has not been duly established. The police went to the house of one of the accused based solely on the report of a concerned citizen that a pot session was going on. Sole reliance on such a tip does not constitute probable cause.  The apprehending officers should have first conducted a surveillance considering that the identity and address of one of the accused had earlier been ascertained. After conducting the surveillance and determining the existence of probable cause, a search warrant should have been secured prior to effecting the arrest and seizure.  The arrest being illegal, the ensuing search is likewise illegal.  The items seized during the illegal arrest are thus inadmissible. People of the Philippines vs. Arnold Martinez y Angeles, et al., G.R. No. 191366, December 13, 2010.

(Teng thanks Charmaine Rose K. Haw for assisting in the preparation of this post.)

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