May 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Agrarian reform; coverage.  Lands acquired by the National Housing Authority for resettlement purposes or housing development are exempt from the coverage of agrarian reform laws.  Such acquisition converts the land by operation of law from agricultural to residential.  The National Housing Authority is not bound to pay disturbance compensation to any tenant in possession of the purchased land. National Housing Authority vs. Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board, et al., G.R. No. 175200, May 4, 2010.

Agrarian reform; just compensation.  In computing just compensation for rice lands tenanted as of October 21, 1972, the grant of 6% yearly interest under DAR Administrative Order No. 13, Series of 1994, as amended, must be reckoned from October 21, 1972 up to the time of actual payment of the compensation, and not only up to the time the Land Bank of the Philippines approves payment of the compensation and deposits the amount in the name of the landowner, considering that release of such deposit is still subject to compliance with documentary requirements.  The concept of just compensation embraces not only the correct determination of the amount to be paid to the owner of the land, but also payment within a reasonable time from its taking.  Land Bank of the Philippines vs. Domingo and Mamerto Soriano, G.R. No. 180772 & G.R. No. 180776, May 6, 2010.

Commission on Elections; registration of party coalition.  Comelec may not, through a resolution setting the deadline for registration of political parties, differentiate between political parties, on the one hand, and political organizations and coalitions, on the other.  There is no substantial distinction among these entities germane to the act of registration that would justify creating distinctions among them in terms of deadlines.  Thus, Comelec Resolution No. 8646, dated July 14, 2009, which sets August 17, 2009 as the deadline for filing petitions for registration of political parties, without mentioning political organizations and coalitions, should be understood as covering the latter entities as well.  A petition for registration as a political coalition filed beyond that deadline is time-barred, and the Comelec resolution granting that petition constitutes grave abuse of discretion.

Political coalitions, even if composed of registered political parties, need to register separately in accordance with established norms and procedures, if they are to be recognized as such and be given the benefits accorded by law to registered coalitions. Registered political parties carry a different legal personality from that of the coalition they may wish to establish with other registered parties.  If parties want to coalesce with one another without the formal registration of their coalition, they can do so on their own in the exercise of their and their members’ democratic freedom of choice, but they cannot receive official recognition for their coalition.  Liberal Party, etc. et al. vs. Commission on Elections, et al., G.R. No. 191771, May 6, 2010.

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In the News: Trendsetting

Traditionally, the results of Philippine national and local elections were not available until several weeks after the day of the election.  While the votes were being counted manually, candidates exchanged charges of vote-padding and vote-shaving (dagdag-bawas) and other forms of cheating, marring the credibility of our elections.

The 2010 elections saw the implementation of an automated election system.  New precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that would count votes electronically were heralded as the solution to the Philippines’ election woes. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) even declared that the election results would be available only several hours after the voting, thereby minimizing the risk of election cheating.

True enough, the COMELEC began publishing the results as early as the evening immediately following the election.  The polls closed at 7:00 p.m. of May 10, and by 9:00 to 10:00 p.m. of the same day, tallies showing that millions of votes had been counted were published by the COMELEC through the media.  Although the tallies were labeled as “partial, unofficial, uncanvassed” election results, the release of this information contributed greatly to the perception that the 2010 Philippine elections were generally clean and honest, and helped boost an uptick in the local markets.

Despite its earlier declaration that the results would be available within several hours, however, the release of the “unofficial” results slowed markedly in the days that followed.  Eventually, the COMELEC ceased to publish the results of its internal tally altogether, reportedly after having been put on notice by various candidates that such publication constituted a violation of applicable laws.  Some candidates alleged that by releasing “unofficial” results, the COMELEC was engaged in “trending,” or conditioning the public to believe that a particular candidate or set of candidates was winning.

Philippine law does not specifically define “trending,” but it is generally understood to mean “to turn in a specified direction.”  In the context of an election, “trending” can mean the phenomenon where the release of partial election results, or worse, selected election results  (showing that one candidate is leading), influences other voters who have not yet cast their votes.  Although theoretically, this could happen in the Philippines (e.g., where exit poll results are released in the middle of the day of the election), trending might be more relevant in countries that span more than one time zone, in cases where poll results are made available from one electoral district when another electoral district has not yet opened for voting.

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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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August 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional law

Congress; legislative immunity.  The immunity Senator Santiago claims is rooted primarily on the provision of Article VI, Section 11 of the Constitution.

As American jurisprudence puts it, this legislative privilege is founded upon long experience and arises as a means of perpetuating inviolate the functioning process of the legislative department. Without parliamentary immunity, parliament, or its equivalent, would degenerate into a polite and ineffective debating forum. Legislators are immune from deterrents to the uninhibited discharge of their legislative duties, not for their private indulgence, but for the public good. The privilege would be of little value if they could be subjected to the cost and inconvenience and distractions of a trial upon a conclusion of the pleader, or to the hazard of a judgment against them based upon a judge’s speculation as to the motives.

This Court is aware of the need and has in fact been in the forefront in upholding the institution of parliamentary immunity and promotion of free speech. Neither has the Court lost sight of the importance of the legislative and oversight functions of the Congress that enable this representative body to look diligently into every affair of government, investigate and denounce anomalies, and talk about how the country and its citizens are being served. Courts do not interfere with the legislature or its members in the manner they perform their functions in the legislative floor or in committee rooms. Any claim of an unworthy purpose or of the falsity and mala fides of the statement uttered by the member of the Congress does not destroy the privilege. The disciplinary authority of the assembly and the voters, not the courts, can properly discourage or correct such abuses committed in the name of parliamentary immunity.

For the above reasons, the plea of Senator Santiago for the dismissal of the complaint for disbarment or disciplinary action is well taken. Indeed, her privilege speech is not actionable criminally or in a disciplinary proceeding under the Rules of Court. It is felt, however, that this could not be the last word on the matter. Antero J. Pobre vs. Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, A.C. No. 7399. August 25, 2009.

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