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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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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February 2011 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Administrative cases; right to be presumed innocent. The trial court was correct in declaring that respondents had the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that an employee who has a pending administrative case filed against him is given the benefit of the doubt and is considered innocent until the contrary is proven. In this case, respondents were placed under preventive suspension for 90 days from 23 May 2002 to 21 August 2002. After serving the period of their preventive suspension and without the administrative case being finally resolved, respondents should have been reinstated and entitled to the grant of step increment. The Board of Trustees of the Government Service Insurance System, et al. v. Albert M. Velasco, et al. G.R. No. 170463, February 2, 2011.

Equal Protection; valid classification. Petitioners argue that there is no substantial distinction between municipalities with pending cityhood bills in the 11th Congress and municipalities that did not have pending bills, such that the mere pendency of a cityhood bill in the 11th Congress is not a material difference to distinguish one municipality from another for the purpose of the income requirement. The SC held that the purpose of the enactment of R.A. No 9009 was merely to stop the “mad rush of municipalities wanting to be converted into cities” and the apprehension that before long the country will be a country of cities and without municipalities. It found that the imposition of the P100 million average annual income requirement for the creation of component cities was arbitrarily made as there was no evidence or empirical data, such as inflation rates, to support the choice of this amount.  The imposition of a very high income requirement of P100 million, increased from P20 million, was simply to make it extremely difficult for municipalities to become component cities. The SC also found that substantial distinction lies in the capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become component cities of their respective provinces.  Congress, by enacting the Cityhood Laws, recognized this capacity and viability of respondent municipalities to become the State’s partners in accelerating economic growth and development in the provincial regions, which is the very thrust of the LGC, manifested by the pendency of their cityhood bills during the 11th Congress and their relentless pursuit for cityhood up to the present. League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al./League of Cities of the Phil. etc., et al. v. COMELEC, et al. G.R. No. 176951/G.R. No. 177499/G.R. No. 178056, February 15, 2011.

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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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August 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. The civil service encompasses all branches and agencies of the Government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, like the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), or those created by special law. Thus, GSIS employees are part of the civil service system and are subject to the law and to the circulars, rules and regulations issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) on discipline, attendance and general terms and conditions of employment. The CSC has jurisdiction to hear and decide disciplinary cases against erring employees. Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al./Winston F. Garcia vs. Mario I. Molina, et al., G.R. No. 157383/G.R. No. 174137, August 18, 2010.

Double compensation. Section 8, Article IX-B of the Constitution provides that no elective or appointive public officer or employee shall receive additional, double or indirect compensation, unless specifically authorized by law, nor accept without the consent of the Congress, any present emolument, office or title of any kind from any foreign government.  Pensions and gratuities shall not be considered as additional, double or indirect compensation. This provision, however, does not apply to the present case as there was no double compensation to the petitioners. The questioned resolutions of the Monetary Board are valid corporate acts of petitioners that became the bases for granting them additional monthly representation and transportation allowance (RATA), as members of the Board of Directors of Philippine International Convention Center Inc. (PICCI), a government corporation whose sole stockholder is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). RATA is distinct from salary as a form of compensation.  Unlike salary which is paid for services rendered, RATA is a form of allowance intended to defray expenses deemed unavoidable in the discharge of office.  Hence, RATA is paid only to certain officials who, by the nature of their offices, incur representation and transportation expenses.  Indeed, aside from the RATA that they have been receiving from the BSP, the grant of RATA to each of the petitioners for every board meeting they attended, in their capacity as members of the Board of Directors of PICCI, in addition to their per diem, does not violate the constitutional proscription against double compensation. Gabriel C. Singson, et al. vs. Commission on Audit, G.R. No. 159355, August 9, 2010.

Eminent domain; voluntary agreement by landowner. Where the landowner agrees voluntarily to the taking of his property by the government for public use, he thereby waives his right to the institution of a formal expropriation proceeding covering such property. Failure for a long time of the owner to question the lack of expropriation proceedings covering a property that the government had taken constitutes a waiver of his right to gain back possession. The landowner’s remedy in such case is an action for the payment of just compensation, not ejectment. Here, the Court of Appeals erred in ordering the eviction of petitioner from the property that it has held as government school site for more than 50 years. The evidence on record shows that the respondents intended to cede the property to the City Government of Lipa permanently. In fact, they allowed the city to declare the property in its name for tax purposes. And when they sought to have the bigger lot subdivided, the respondents earmarked a specific portion for the City Government of Lipa. Under the circumstances, it may be assumed that the respondents had agreed to transfer ownership of the land to the government, whether to the City Government of Lipa or to the Republic of the Philippines, but the parties never formalized and documented such transfer. Consequently, petitioner should be deemed entitled to possession pending the respondents’ formal transfer of ownership to it upon payment of just compensation. Republic of the Philippines vs. Primo Mendoza and Maria Lucero, G.R. No. 185091, August 8, 2010.

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