April 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected April 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Cityhood Laws; Equal protection. The petitioners in this case reiterate their position that the Cityhood Laws violate Section 6 and Section 10 of Article X of the Constitution, the Equal Protection Clause, and the right of local governments to a just share in the national taxes. This was denied by the Supreme Court. Congress clearly intended that the local government units covered by the Cityhood Laws be exempted from the coverage of R.A. No. 9009 (the Cityhood Law). The House of Representatives adopted Joint Resolution No. 29, entitled Joint Resolution to Exempt Certain Municipalities Embodied in Bills Filed in Congress before June 30, 2001 from the coverage of Republic Act No. 9009.  However, the Senate failed to act on Joint Resolution No. 29. Even so, the House of Representatives readopted Joint Resolution No. 29 as Joint Resolution No. 1 during the 12th Congress, and forwarded Joint Resolution No. 1 to the Senate for approval. Again, the Senate failed to approve Joint Resolution No. 1.  Thereafter, the conversion bills of the respondents were individually filed in the House of Representatives, and were all unanimously and favorably voted upon by the Members of the House of Representatives. The bills, when forwarded to the Senate, were likewise unanimously approved by the Senate. The acts of both Chambers of Congress show that the exemption clauses ultimately incorporated in the Cityhood Laws are but the express articulations of the clear legislative intent to exempt the respondents, without exception, from the coverage of R.A. No. 9009.  Thereby, R.A. No. 9009, and, by necessity, the LGC, were amended, not by repeal but by way of the express exemptions being embodied in the exemption clauses. League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 176951/G.R. No. 177499/G.R. No. 178056. April 12, 2011.

Cityhood Laws; Just share in national taxes. The share of local government units is a matter of percentage under Section 285 of the Local Government Code (LGC), not a specific amount.  Specifically, the share of the cities is 23%, determined on the basis of population (50%), land area (25%), and equal sharing (25%). This share is also dependent on the number of existing cities, such that when the number of cities increases, then more will divide and share the allocation for cities. However, the Supreme Court noted that the allocation by the National Government is not a constant, and can either increase or decrease. With every newly converted city becoming entitled to share the allocation for cities, the percentage of internal revenue allotment (IRA) entitlement of each city will decrease, although the actual amount received may be more than that received in the preceding year. That is a necessary consequence of Section 285 and Section 286 of the LGC. In this case, since the conversion by the Cityhood Laws is not violative of the Constitution and the LGC, the respondents are thus also entitled to their just share in the IRA allocation for cities. League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Philippines etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al., G.R. No. 176951/G.R. No. 177499/G.R. No. 178056. April 12, 2011.

Expenditure of Public Funds; Requirements. The Administrative Code of 1987 expressly prohibits the entering into contracts involving the expenditure of public funds unless two prior requirements are satisfied. First, there must be an appropriation law authorizing the expenditure required in the contract. Second, there must be attached to the contract a certification by the proper accounting official and auditor that funds have been appropriated by law and such funds are available. Failure to comply with any of these two requirements renders the contract void. The clear purpose of these requirements is to insure that government contracts are never signed unless supported by the corresponding appropriation law and fund availability. The Supreme Court found that the three contracts between Philippine National Railways (PNR) and Kanlaon do not comply with the requirement of a certification of appropriation and fund availability. Even if a certification of appropriation is not applicable to PNR if the funds used are internally generated, still a certificate of fund availability is required. Thus, the three contracts between PNR and Kanlaon were found to be void for violation of Sections 46, 47, and 48, Chapter 8, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987, as well as Sections 85, 86, and 87 of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines. Philippine National Railways v. Kanlaon Construction Enterprises, Co., Inc., G.R. No. 182967. April 6, 2011.

Locus Standi. For a party to have locus standi, one must allege “such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.”  Because constitutional cases are often public actions in which the relief sought is likely to affect other persons, a preliminary question frequently arises as to this interest in the constitutional question raised. It cannot be denied that movants-intervenors will suffer direct injury in the event their Urgent Motion to Recall Entry of Judgment is denied and their Motion for Leave to Intervene and to File and to Admit Intervenors’ Motion for Reconsideration of the Resolution is denied with finality. Indeed, according to the Supreme Court, they have sufficiently shown that they have a personal and substantial interest in the case, such that if the Resolution ordering finality be not reconsidered, their election to their respective positions during the May 10, 2010 polls and its concomitant effects would all be nullified and be put to naught. Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. Vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050. April 12, 2011.

Moot and academic Principle; Exception. The “moot and academic” principle is not a magical formula that can automatically dissuade the courts from resolving a case.  Courts will decide cases, otherwise moot and academic, if: (1) there is a grave violation of the Constitution; (2) there is an exceptional character of the situation and the paramount public interest is involved; (3) the constitutional issue raised requires formation of controlling principles to guide the bench, the bar, and the public; and (4) the case is capable of repetition yet evading review. Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. Vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050. April 12, 2011.

Administrative Law

Government Employee; Dishonesty; Misconduct. Dishonesty is defined as the concealment or distortion of truth in a matter of fact relevant to one’s office or connected with the performance of his duty. On the other hand, misconduct is a transgression of some established or definite rule of action, is a forbidden act, is a dereliction of duty, is willful in character, and implies wrongful intent and not mere error in judgment. More particularly, it is an unlawful behavior by the public officer. The term, however, does not necessarily imply corruption or criminal intent. In this case, petitioner’s acts were found by the Supreme Court as clearly reflecting his dishonesty and grave misconduct. He allowed the Spouses Abuan to use his position as SSS Senior Member Services Representative to make their “clients” believe that he could give them undue advantage – over others without the same connection – by processing their SSS claims faster. Likewise, his acts, according to the SC, imply malevolent intent, and not merely error in judgment. He was aware of what the Spouses Abuan were doing and was complicit in the same. At the very least, according to the Supreme Court, he failed to stop the illegal trade, and that constitutes willful disregard of the laws and rules. Jerome Japson v. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 189479. April 12, 2011.

Agrarian Law

Agrarian Reform; Right to just compensation. Apart from the requirement that compensation for expropriated land must be fair and reasonable, compensation, to be “just,” must also be made without delay. In simpler terms, for the government’s payment to be considered just compensation, the landowner must receive it in full without delay. In the present case, it is undisputed that the government took the petitioners’ lands on December 9, 1996; the petitioners only received full payment of the just compensation due on May 9, 2008. This circumstance, by itself, was found by the Supreme Court as already confirming the unconscionable delay in the payment of just compensation. APO Fruits Corporation and Hijo Plantation, Inc. v. Land Bank of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164195. April 5, 2011.

Local Government Code

Local Government; Requisites for creation of province. The central policy considerations in the creation of local government units are economic viability, efficient administration, and capability to deliver basic services to their constituents.  The criteria prescribed by the Local Government Code, i.e., income, population and land area, are all designed to accomplish these results. Without doubt, the primordial criterion in the creation of local government units, particularly of a province, is economic viability.  This is the clear intent of the framers of the LGC. However, there is an exemption provided in the Local Government Code in terms of the land area requirement. When the local government unit to be created consists of one (1) or more islands, it is exempt from the land area requirement as expressly provided in Section 442 and Section 450 of the LGC, if the local government unit to be created is a municipality or a component city, respectively. This exemption is absent in the enumeration of the requisites for the creation of a province under Section 461 of the LGC, although it is expressly stated under Article 9(2) of the LGC-IRR. The Supreme Court found no reason why this exemption should not apply also to provinces.  In fact, the Supreme Court observed that considering the physical configuration of the Philippine archipelago, there is a greater likelihood that islands or group of islands would form part of the land area of a newly-created province than in most cities or municipalities.  It is, therefore, logical to infer that the genuine legislative policy decision was expressed in Section 442 (for municipalities) and Section 450 (for component cities) of the LGC, but was inadvertently omitted in Section 461 (for provinces). Thus, when the exemption was expressly provided in Article 9(2) of the LGC-IRR, the inclusion was intended to correct the congressional oversight in Section 461 of the LGC – and to reflect the true legislative intent. The Court thus upheld the validity of Article 9(2) of the LGC-IRR. Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. Vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050. April 12, 2011.

(Teng thanks Charmaine Rose K. Haw for her help in preparing this post.)