July 2012 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are select July 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of rights; right of confrontation.  The examination of witnesses must be done orally before a judge in open court.  This is true especially in criminal cases where the Constitution secures to the accused his right to a public trial and to meet the witnesses against him face to face.  The requirement is the “safest and most satisfactory method of investigating facts” as it enables the judge to test the witness’ credibility through his manner and deportment while testifying.  It is not without exceptions, however, as the Rules of Court recognizes the conditional examination of witnesses and the use of their depositions as testimonial evidence in lieu of direct court testimony.  Go, et al.  v. The People of the Philippines and Highdone Company, Ltd., et al., G.R. No. 185527, July 18, 2012.

Bill of rights; right of confrontation; conditional examination of witnesses.  But for purposes of taking the deposition in criminal cases, more particularly of a prosecution witness who would foreseeably be unavailable for trial, the testimonial examination should be made before the court, or at least before the judge, where the case is pending as required by the clear mandate of Section 15, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure…

Certainly, to take the deposition of the prosecution witness elsewhere and not before the very same court where the case is pending would not only deprive a detained accused of his right to attend the proceedings but also deprive the trial judge of the opportunity to observe the prosecution witness’ deportment and properly assess his credibility, which is especially intolerable when the witness’ testimony is crucial to the prosecution’s case against the accused…

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January 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected January 2011 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bill of Rights; Rights under custodial investigation. As found by the Court of Appeals, (1) there is no evidence of compulsion or duress or violence on the person of Nagares; (2) Nagares did not complain to the officers administering the oath during the taking of his sworn statement; (3) he did not file any criminal or administrative complaint against his alleged malefactors for maltreatment; (4) no marks of violence were observed on his body; and (5) he did not have himself examined by a physician to support his claim. Moreover, appellant’s confession is replete with details, which, according to the SC, made it highly improbable that it was not voluntarily given. Further, the records show that Nagares was duly assisted by an effective and independent counsel during the custodial investigation in the NBI. As found by the Court of Appeals, after Nagares was informed of his constitutional rights, he was asked by Atty. Esmeralda E. Galang whether he accepts her as counsel. During the trial, Atty. Galang testified on the extent of her assistance. According to her, she thoroughly explained to Nagares his constitutional rights, advised him not to answer matters he did not know, and if he did not want to answer any question, he may inform Atty. Galang who would be the one to relay his refusal to the NBI agents. She was also present during the entire investigation. Thus, the SC held that there was no duress or violence imposed on the person of Nagares during the custodial investigation and that Nagares was duly assisted by an independent counsel during such investigation in the NBI. People of the Philippines vs. Rodolfo Capitle and Arutor Nagares, G.R. No. 175330, January 12, 2010.

Bill of Rights; Double jeopardy. As a rule, a judgment of acquittal cannot be reconsidered because it places the accused under double jeopardy. On occasions, however, a motion for reconsideration after an acquittal is possible.  But the grounds are exceptional and narrow as when the court that absolved the accused gravely abused its discretion, resulting in loss of jurisdiction, or when a mistrial has occurred. In any of such cases, the State may assail the decision by special civil action of certiorari under Rule 65. Here, although complainant Vizconde invoked the exceptions, he was not able to bring his pleas for reconsideration under such exceptions. Complainant Vizconde cited the decision in Galman v. Sandiganbayan as authority that the Court can set aside the acquittal of the accused in the present case.  But the Court observed that the government proved in Galman that the prosecution was deprived of due process since the judgment of acquittal in that case was “dictated, coerced and scripted.”  It was a sham trial.  In this case, however, Vizconde does not allege that the Court held a sham review of the decision of the CA.  He has made out no case that the Court held a phony deliberation such that the seven Justices who voted to acquit the accused, the four who dissented, and the four who inhibited themselves did not really go through the process. Antonio Lejano vs. People of the Philippines / People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176389/G.R. No. 176864. January 18, 2011.

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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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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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Dissension in the Court: September 2010

The following is a decision promulgated by the High Court in September 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente.

1. Guilty or Not Guilty (Villarama vs. Carpio and Abad)

The consolidated cases of Lenido Lumanog, et al. vs. People of the Philippines, Cesar Fortuna vs. People of the Philippines and People of the Philippines vs. SPO2 Cesar Fortuna y Abudo, et al., involved the criminal trials and proceedings arising from the macabre ambush-slaying of Colonel Rolando N. Abadilla done in broad daylight in the morning of June 13, 1996.

In the course of police investigations, certain persons were at various stages, identified as suspects (both through sworn statements as well as at police line-ups), apprehended, subjected to custodial investigation and charged in court.

Justice Martin S. Villarama, Jr. went to great lengths to detail the facts of the case, the rulings of the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the evidence for the prosecution and defense and the arguments posited to the Supreme Court by each side.  Although the ponencia touches upon many important aspects of criminal law and procedure, one of the focal constitutional issues discussed in the decision revolved around the rights of the accused during custodial investigation, particularly the right to counsel.

In the Bill of Rights of the Constitution, Article III, Section 12 provides:

Sec. 12 (1) Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived except in writing and in the presence of counsel.

x     x     x

(3) Any confession or admission obtained in violation of this or section 17 hereof (right against self-incrimination) shall be inadmissible in evidence against him.

x     x     x

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December 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected December 2009 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law and related laws:

Constitutional Law

Bill of rights;  eminent domain.  Expropriation is not limited to the acquisition of real property with a corresponding transfer of title or possession. The right-of-way easement resulting in a restriction or limitation on property rights over the land traversed by transmission lines also falls within the ambit of the term expropriation.  National Power Corporation vs. Hon. Amer Ibrahim, etc., et al., G.R. No. 183297, December 23, 2009.

Bill of Rights; eminent domain. In computing for the value of the land subject to acquisition, the formula provided in DAO No. 6, Series of 1992, as amended, requires that figures pertaining to the Capitalized Net Income (CNI) and Market Value (MV) of the property be used as inputs in arriving at the correct land valuation. Thus, the applicable formula, as correctly used by the LBP in its valuation, is LV (Land Value) = (CNI x 0.9) + (MV x 0.1).

To arrive at the figure for the CNI of lands planted to a combination of crops, Item II B.5 of the said administrative order provides that the same should be computed based on the combination of actual crops produced on the covered land.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Kumassie Plantation Company Incorporated/Kumassie Plantation Company Incorporated vs. Land Bank of the Philippines, et al.  G.R. No. 177404/G.R. No. 178097. December 4, 2009.

Bill of rights; eminent domain; interest. The taking of property under CARL is an exercise by the State of the power of eminent domain. A basic limitation on the State’s power of eminent domain is the constitutional directive that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation. Just compensation refers to the sum equivalent to the market value of the property, broadly described to be the price fixed by the seller in open market in the usual and ordinary course of legal action and competition, or the fair value of the property as between one who receives and one who desires to sell. It is fixed at the time of the actual taking by the State. Thus, if property is taken for public use before compensation is deposited with the court having jurisdiction over the case, the final compensation must include interests on its just value, to be computed from the time the property is taken up to the time when compensation is actually paid or deposited with the court.  National Power Corporation vs. Hon. Amer Ibrahim, etc., et al., G.R. No. 183297, December 23, 2009.

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