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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Dissension in the Court: March 2010

Every so often, the members of the Supreme Court, whether sitting in division or En Banc, are unable to arrive at a unanimous position. In those cases, as it is in a boxing match, the Honorable Justices have sometimes been forced to come in from different corners to slug it out.

The following are selected decisions promulgated by the High Court in March 2010 where at least one Justice felt compelled to express his or her dissent from the decision penned by the ponente and the summaries below highlight some issues involved in those cases where the Justices differed in their opinions. Let’s get ready to rumble.

THE UNDERCARDS

1. Mutuality and Conventional Compensation (Peralta vs. Carpio)

In conventional compensation, is it required that the parties be mutual creditors and debtors of each other?

The essential facts in United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. vs. Court of Appeals that are relevant to that query are as follows:

(a)      United Planters Sugar Milling Company, Inc. (UPSUMCO) obtained several loans from Philippine National Bank (PNB).

(b)     To secure UPSUMCO’s obligations to PNB, among other things, UPSUMCO granted PNB contractual rights to set-off against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations, moneys of UPSUMCO on deposit with PNB.

(c)     PNB subsequently assigned to the Asset Privatization Trust (APT) all of its “rights, title and interest over UPSUMCO.”

(d)     Following UPSUMCO’s default, moneys in UPSUMCO’s deposit accounts with PNB were applied, without UPSUMCO’s knowledge, against UPSUMCO’s outstanding obligations under the takeoff loans and the operational loans.

As ponente for the majority decision, in denying UPSUMCO’s Motion for Reconsideration, Justice Diosdado Peralta affirmed the earlier decision of the Supreme Court where it upheld the set-off against the UPSUMCO deposit accounts held by PNB to satisfy obligations owed to APT:

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July 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Double positions. The office of the Chairman of the Philippine National Red Cross is not a government office or an office in a government-owned or controlled corporation for purposes of the prohibition in Section 13, Article VI of the 1987 Constitution, which provides: “No Senator or Member of the House of Representatives may hold any other office or employment in the Government, or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations or their subsidiaries, during his term without forfeiting his seat. Neither shall he be appointed to any office which may have been created or the emoluments thereof increased during the term for which he was elected.”  Dante Liban, et al. vs. Richard J. Gordon, G.R. No. 175352, July 15, 2009.

Illegal search. Even assuming that petitioner or any lawful occupant of the house was not present when the search was conducted, the search was done in the presence of at least two witnesses of sufficient age and discretion residing in the same locality. Manalo was the barangay chairman of the place while Velasco was petitioner’s employee. Petitioner herself signed the certification of orderly search when she arrived at her residence. Clearly, the requirements of Section 8, Rule 126 of the Rules of Court were complied with by the police authorities who conducted the search. Further, petitioner failed to substantiate her allegation that she was just forced to sign the search warrant, inventory receipt, and the certificate of orderly search. In fact, the records show that she signed these documents together with three other persons, including the barangay chairman who could have duly noted if petitioner was really forced to sign the documents against her will.

Articles which are the product of unreasonable searches and seizures are inadmissible as evidence pursuant to Article III, Section 3(2) of the Constitution. However, in this case, the Supreme Court sustained the validity of the search conducted in petitioner’s residence and, thus, the articles seized during the search are admissible in evidence against petitioner.  Rosario Panuncio  vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165678, July 17, 2009.

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April 2009 Decisions on Constitutional and Related Laws

Here are selected April 2009 decisions of the Supreme Court on constitutional and related laws:

Constitutional Law

Administrative regulation; void. Executive Order No. 566, which grants the CHED the power to regulate review center, is unconstitutional as it expands Republic Act No. 7722,. The CHED’s coverage under RA 7722 is limited to public and private institutions of higher education and degree-granting programs in all public and private post-secondary educational institutions.  EO 566 directed the CHED to formulate a framework for the regulation of review centers and similar entities.    A review center is not an institution of higher learning as contemplated by RA 7722.  It does not offer a degree-granting program that would put it under the jurisdiction of the CHED. Review Center Associations of the Philippines vs. Executive Secretatry Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180046,  April 2, 2009.

Agrarian reform; coverage. For the parcels of land subject of this petition to come within the coverage of P.D. No. 27, it is necessary to determine whether the land is agricultural. Here, the subject parcels of land cannot be considered as within the ambit of P.D. No. 27 considering that the subject lots were reclassified by the DAR Secretary as suited for residential, commercial, industrial or other urban purposes way before petitioner filed a petition for emancipation under P.D. No. 27.  Laureano V. Hermoso, et al. vs. Heirs of Antonio Francia and Petra Francia, G.R. No. 166748,  April 24, 2009.

Compensation. Officers who in good faith have discharged the duties pertaining to their office are legally entitled to the compensation attached to the office for the services they actually rendered. Although the present petition must inevitably be dismissed on a technicality that serves as penalty for the pernicious practice of forum shopping, the Court nevertheless cannot countenance the refund of the compensation differential corresponding to petitioner’s tenure as HEDF head with the upgraded rank of Director III, since she had actually rendered services in the office with the elevated grade for that period.  Alicia D. Tagaro vs. Ester A. Garcia, etc.,G.R. No. 173931, April 2, 2009.

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