February 2012 Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected February 2012 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on political law.

Constitutional Law

Autonomous Region; plebiscite requirement. Section 18, Article X of the Constitution provides that “the creation of the autonomous region shall be effective when approved by majority of the votes cast by the constituent units in a plebiscite called for the purpose.”  The Supreme Court interpreted this to mean that only amendments to, or revisions of, the Organic Act constitutionally-essential to the creation of autonomous regions – i.e., those aspects specifically mentioned in the Constitution which Congress must provide for in the Organic Act– require ratification through a plebiscite.   While it agrees with the petitioners’ underlying premise that sovereignty ultimately resides with the people, it disagrees that this legal reality necessitates compliance with the plebiscite requirement for all amendments to RA No. 9054. For if we were to go by the petitioners’ interpretation of Section 18, Article X of the Constitution that all amendments to the Organic Act have to undergo the plebiscite requirement before becoming effective, this would lead to impractical and illogical results – hampering the ARMM’s progress by impeding Congress from enacting laws that timely address problems as they arise in the region, as well as weighing down the ARMM government with the costs that unavoidably follow the holding of a plebiscite. Also, Sec. 3 of R.A. No. 10153 cannot be seen as changing the basic structure of the ARMM regional government. On the contrary, this provision clearly preserves the basic structure of the ARMM regional government when it recognizes the offices of the ARMM regional government and directs the OICs who shall temporarily assume these offices to “perform the functions pertaining to the said offices.” Datu Michael Abas Kida, etc., et al. vs. Senate of the Phil., etc., et al./Basari D. Mapupuno vs. Sixto Brillantes, etc., et al./Rep. Edcel C. Lagman vs. Paquito N. Ochoa, Jr., etc., et al./Almarin Centi Tillah, et al. vs. The Commission on Elections, etc., et al./Atty. Romulo B. Macalintal vs. Commission on Elections, et al./Luis “Barok” Biraogo, G.R. No. 196271, February 28, 2012.

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June 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Commission on Audit; jurisdiction over Boy Scouts.  The issue was whether or not the Boy Scouts of the Philippines (“BSP”) fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Audit.  The BSP contends that it is not a government-owned or controlled corporation; neither is it an instrumentality, agency, or subdivision of the government.  The Supreme Court, however, held that not all corporations, which are not government owned or controlled, are ipso facto to be considered private corporations as there exists another distinct class of corporations or chartered institutions which are otherwise known as “public corporations.” These corporations are treated by law as agencies or instrumentalities of the government which are not subject to the tests of ownership or control and economic viability but to a different criteria relating to their public purposes/interests or constitutional policies and objectives and their administrative relationship to the government or any of its departments or offices.  As presently constituted, the BSP is a public corporation created by law for a public purpose, attached to the Department of Education Culture and Sports pursuant to its Charter and the Administrative Code of 1987.  It is not a private corporation which is required to be owned or controlled by the government and be economically viable to justify its existence under a special law.     The economic viability test would only apply if the corporation is engaged in some economic activity or business function for the government, which is not the case for BSP.  Therefore, being a public corporation, the funds of the BSP fall under the jurisdiction of the Commission on Audit.  Boy Scouts of the Philippines vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 177131. June 7, 2011.

Local governments; principle of local autonomy.  The claim of petitioners in this case that the subject proclamation and administrative orders violate the principle of local autonomy is anchored on the allegation that, through them, the President authorized the DILG Secretary to take over the operations of the ARMM and assume direct governmental powers over the region.  The Supreme Court held that in the first place, the DILG Secretary did not take over control of the powers of the ARMM.  The SC observed that after law enforcement agents took respondent Governor of ARMM into custody for alleged complicity in the Maguindanao massacre, the ARMM Vice-Governor, petitioner Ansaruddin Adiong, assumed the vacated post on December 10, 2009 pursuant to the rule on succession found in Article VII, Section 12, of RA 9054.  In turn, Acting Governor Adiong named the then Speaker of the ARMM Regional Assembly, petitioner Sahali-Generale, Acting ARMM Vice-Governor.  In short, the DILG Secretary did not take over the administration or operations of the ARMM.  Datu Zaldy Uy Ampatuan, et al. v. Hon. Ronaldo Puno, et al., G.R. No. 190259. June 7, 2011.

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April 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

COA; powers. The 1987 Constitution has made the COA the guardian of public funds, vesting it with broad powers over all accounts pertaining to government revenue and expenditures and the uses of public funds and property including the exclusive authority to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods for such review, and promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations.  Section 11, Chapter 4, Subtitle B, Title I, Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987 echoes this constitutional mandate given to COA.

In light of these express provisions of law granting respondent COA its power and authority, we have previously ruled that its exercise of its general audit power is among the constitutional mechanisms that give life to the check and balance system inherent in our form of government. Furthermore, we have also declared that COA is endowed with enough latitude to determine, prevent and disallow irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures of government funds.

Based on the foregoing discussion and due to the lack or absence of any law or jurisprudence saying otherwise, we rule that, in resolving cases brought before it on appeal, respondent COA is not required to limit its review only to the grounds relied upon by a government agency’s auditor with respect to disallowing certain disbursements of public funds.  In consonance with its general audit power, respondent COA is not merely legally permitted, but is also duty-bound to make its own assessment of the merits of the disallowed disbursement and not simply restrict itself to reviewing the validity of the ground relied upon by the auditor of the government agency concerned.  To hold otherwise would render COA’s vital constitutional power unduly limited and thereby useless and ineffective.  Ramon R. Yap vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 158562, April 23, 2010.

Freedom of expression; LGBT group.  Under our system of laws, every group has the right to promote its agenda and attempt to persuade society of the validity of its position through normal democratic means. It is in the public square that deeply held convictions and differing opinions should be distilled and deliberated upon.

The OSG argues that since there has been neither prior restraint nor subsequent punishment imposed on Ang Ladlad, and its members have not been deprived of their right to voluntarily associate, then there has been no restriction on their freedom of expression or association.

The OSG fails to recall that petitioner has, in fact, established its qualifications to participate in the party-list system, and – as advanced by the OSG itself – the moral objection offered by the COMELEC was not a limitation imposed by law. To the extent, therefore, that the petitioner has been precluded, because of COMELEC’s action, from publicly expressing its views as a political party and participating on an equal basis in the political process with other equally-qualified party-list candidates, we find that there has, indeed, been a transgression of petitioner’s fundamental rights. Ang Ladlad LGBT Party vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 190582, April 8, 2010.

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October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

Here are selected October 2009 Philippine Supreme Court decisions on political law:

Constitutional Law

Bail.  Section 13, Article III of the Constitution provides that “All persons, except those charged with offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua when evidence of guilt is strong, shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, or be released on recognizance as may be provided by law.”

Section 4 of Rule 114 of the Revised Rules of Court, as amended, thus provides that all persons in custody shall, before conviction by a regional trial court of an offense not punishable by death, reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment, be admitted to bail as a matter of right.

The exercise by the trial court of its discretionary power to grant bail to an accused charged with a capital offense thus depends on whether the evidence of guilt is strong.  The People of the Philippines vs. Luis Plaza y Bucalon, G.R. No. 176933, October 2, 2009.

Civil Service Commission; powers. The Commission, as the central personnel agency of the government, has statutory authority to establish rules and regulations to promote efficiency and professionalism in the civil service. Presidential Decree No. 807, or the Civil Service Decree of the Philippines, provides for the powers of the Commission, including the power to issue rules and regulations and to review appointments. Leah M. Nazareno, et al. vs. City of Dumaguete, et al., G.R. No. 181559, October 2, 2009.

Commission on Audit;  powers. Under Commonwealth Act No. 327, as amended by P.D. No. 1445, the COA, as one of the three independent constitutional commissions, is specifically vested with the power, authority and duty to examine, audit and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property owned or held in trust by the government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations. To ensure the effective discharge of its functions, it is vested with ample powers, subject to constitutional limitations, to define the scope of its audit and examination and establish the techniques and methods required therefor, to promulgate accounting and auditing rules and regulations, including those for the prevention and disallowance of irregular, unnecessary, excessive, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures or uses of government funds and properties.

Clearly, the matter of allowing or disallowing a money claim against petitioner is within the primary power of the COA to decide. This no doubt includes money claims arising from the implementation of R.A. No. 6758. Respondents’ claim against petitioner, although it has already been validated by the trial court’s final decision, likewise belongs to that class of claims; hence, it must first be filed with the COA before execution could proceed. And from the decision therein, the aggrieved party is afforded a remedy by elevating the matter to this Court via a petition for certiorari in accordance with Section 1 Rule XI, of the COA Rules of Procedure.  National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation vs. Mario Abayari, et al., G.R. No. 166508, October 2, 2009.

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