March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Constitutionality; justiciable controversy. Courts will not assume jurisdiction over a constitutional question unless the following requisites are satisfied: (1) there must be an actual case calling for the exercise of judicial review; (2) the question before the court must be ripe for adjudication; (3) the person challenging the validity of the act must have standing to do so; (4) the question of constitutionality must have been raised at the earliest opportunity and (5) the issue of constitutionality must be the very lis mota of the case.

Respondents aver that the first three requisites are absent in this case. According to them, there is no actual case calling for the exercise of judicial power and it is not yet ripe for adjudication.

An actual case or controversy involves a conflict of legal rights or an assertion of opposite legal claims which is susceptible of judicial resolution as distinguished from a hypothetical or abstract difference or dispute. On the other hand, a question is considered ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has a direct adverse effect on the individual challenging it.

Contrary to respondents’ assertion, we do not have to wait until petitioner’s members have shut down their operations as a result of the MCIT or CWT. The assailed provisions are already being implemented. As we stated in Didipio Earth-Savers’ Multi-Purpose Association, Incorporated (DESAMA) v. Gozun: “By the mere enactment of the questioned law or the approval of the challenged act, the dispute is said to have ripened into a judicial controversy even without any other overt act. Indeed, even a singular violation of the Constitution and/or the law is enough to awaken judicial duty.”

If the assailed provisions are indeed unconstitutional, there is no better time than the present to settle such question once and for all.  Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. Vs. The Hon. Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, et al., G.R. No. 160756, March 9, 2010.

Constitutionality; justiciable controversy. We hold that the petitions set forth an actual case or controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. The reality is that the JBC already commenced the proceedings for the selection of the nominees to be included in a short list to be submitted to the President for consideration of which of them will succeed Chief Justice Puno as the next Chief Justice. Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial determination, because the next steps are the public interview of the candidates, the preparation of the short list of candidates, and the “interview of constitutional experts, as may be needed.”

A part of the question to be reviewed by the Court is whether the JBC properly initiated the process, there being an insistence from some of the oppositors-intervenors that the JBC could only do so once the vacancy has occurred (that is, after May 17, 2010). Another part is, of course, whether the JBC may resume its process until the short list is prepared, in view of the provision of Section 4(1), Article VIII, which unqualifiedly requires the President to appoint one from the short list to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court (be it the Chief Justice or an Associate Justice) within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

The ripeness of the controversy for judicial determination may not be doubted. The challenges to the authority of the JBC to open the process of nomination and to continue the process until the submission of the list of nominees; the insistence of some of the petitioners to compel the JBC through mandamus to submit the short list to the incumbent President; the counter-insistence of the intervenors to prohibit the JBC from submitting the short list to the incumbent President on the ground that said list should be submitted instead to the next President; the strong position that the incumbent President is already prohibited under Section 15, Article VII from making any appointments, including those to the Judiciary, starting on May 10, 2010 until June 30, 2010; and the contrary position that the incumbent President is not so prohibited are only some of the real issues for determination. All such issues establish the ripeness of the controversy, considering that for some the short list must be submitted before the vacancy actually occurs by May 17, 2010. The outcome will not be an abstraction, or a merely hypothetical exercise. The resolution of the controversy will surely settle – with finality – the nagging questions that are preventing the JBC from moving on with the process that it already began, or that are reasons persuading the JBC to desist from the rest of the process.   Arturo M. De Castro vs. Judicial and Bar Council, et al., G.R. No. 191002, G.R. No. 191032, G.R. No. 191057, A.M. No. 10-2-5-SC, G.R. No. 191149, G.R. No. 191342, March 17, 2010.

Continue reading

March 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Tax Law

Here are selected March 2010 rulings of the Supreme Court of the Philippines on tax law:

Constitutionality; justiciable controversy. A dispute ripens into a judicial controversy by the mere enactment of a questioned law or the approval of a challenged act, even without any other overt act. Thus, there is no need to wait until the concerned taxpayers have shut down their operations as a result of the questioned minimum corporate income tax (MCIT) or creditable withholding tax (CWT). Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. vs. The Hon. Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, et al., G.R. No. 160756, March 9, 2010.

Court of Tax Appeals; issues not raised. Failure by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue (CIR) to timely plead and prove before the CTA the defenses that Toshiba was VAT-exempt under Republic Act No. 7916 and that its export sales were VAT-exempt under the Tax Code is deemed a waiver of such defenses. Toshiba Information Equipment (Phils.), Inc. vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 157594, March 9, 2010.

CTA; judicial admissions. An admission made in a stipulation of facts at pre-trial by the parties is considered a judicial admission and, under the Rules of Court, requires no proof. Such admission may be controverted only by a showing that it was made through a palpable mistake or that no such admission was made. Toshiba Information Equipment (Phils.), Inc. vs. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, G.R. No. 157594, March 9, 2010.

Creditable withholding tax (CWT); constitutionality; due process. Imposition of CWT does not constitute a deprivation of property without due process because seller may claim tax refund if net income is less than the taxes withheld. Practical problems in claiming tax refund do not affect the constitutionality and validity of CWT as a method of collecting tax. Chamber of Real Estate and Builders’ Associations, Inc. vs. The Hon. Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, et al., G.R. No. 160756, March 9, 2010.

Continue reading

February 2010 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Equal protection;  requisites. The equal protection clause does not require the universal application of the laws to all persons or things without distinction. What it simply requires is equality among equals as determined according to a valid classification. The test developed by jurisprudence here and yonder is that of reasonableness, which has four requisites:

(1) The classification rests on substantial distinctions;

(2) It is germane to the purposes of the law;

(3) It is not limited to existing conditions only; and

(4) It applies equally to all members of the same class.

The assailed Decision readily acknowledged that these deemed-resigned provisions satisfy the first, third and fourth requisites of reasonableness. It, however, proffers the dubious conclusion that the differential treatment of appointive officials vis-à-vis elected officials is not germane to the purpose of the law.  Eleazar P. Quinto and Gerino A. Tolentino, Jr. vs. Commission on Elections, G.R. No. 189698, February 22, 2010.

Expropriation;  private use.  It is well settled that the taking of private property by the Government’s power of eminent domain is subject to two mandatory requirements: (1) that it is for a particular public purpose; and (2) that just compensation be paid to the property owner. These requirements partake of the nature of implied conditions that should be complied with to enable the condemnor to keep the property expropriated.

More particularly, with respect to the element of public use, the expropriator should commit to use the property pursuant to the purpose stated in the petition for expropriation filed, failing which, it should file another petition for the new purpose. If not, it is then incumbent upon the expropriator to return the said property to its private owner, if the latter desires to reacquire the same. Otherwise, the judgment of expropriation suffers an intrinsic flaw, as it would lack one indispensable element for the proper exercise of the power of eminent domain, namely, the particular public purpose for which the property will be devoted. Accordingly, the private property owner would be denied due process of law, and the judgment would violate the property owner’s right to justice, fairness, and equity.

In light of these premises, we now expressly hold that the taking of private property, consequent to the Government’s exercise of its power of eminent domain, is always subject to the condition that the property be devoted to the specific public purpose for which it was taken. Corollarily, if this particular purpose or intent is not initiated or not at all pursued, and is peremptorily abandoned, then the former owners, if they so desire, may seek the reversion of the property, subject to the return of the amount of just compensation received. In such a case, the exercise of the power of eminent domain has become improper for lack of the required factual justification.  Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) and Air Transportation Office (ATO) vs. Bernardo Lozada, et al., G.R. No. 176625, February 25, 2010.

Gerrymandering; meaning. “Gerrymandering” is a term employed to describe an apportionment of representative districts so contrived as to give an unfair advantage to the party in power. Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, defined “gerrymandering” as the formation of one legislative district out of separate territories for the purpose of favoring a candidate or a party. The Constitution proscribes gerrymandering, as it mandates each legislative district to comprise, as far as practicable, a contiguous, compact and adjacent territory.

As stated by the Office of the Solicitor General, the Province of Dinagat Islands consists of one island and about 47 islets closely situated together, without the inclusion of separate territories. It is an unsubstantiated allegation that the province was created to favor Congresswoman Glenda Ecleo-Villaroman.  Rodolfo G. Navarro, et al. vs. Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, et al., G.R. No. 180050, February 10, 2010.

House of Representative Electoral Tribunal (HRET);  jurisdiction. The HRET has jurisdiction over the question of qualifications of petitioners Abayon and Palparan as nominees of Aangat Tayo and Bantay party-list organizations, respectively, who took the seats at the House of Representatives that such organizations won in the 2007 elections.

Section 17, Article VI of the Constitution provides that the HRET shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to, among other things, the qualifications of the members of the House of Representatives. Since party-list nominees are “elected members” of the House of Representatives no less than the district representatives are, the HRET has jurisdiction to hear and pass upon their qualifications. By analogy with the cases of district representatives, once the party or organization of the party-list nominee has been proclaimed and the nominee has taken his oath and assumed office as member of the House of Representatives, the COMELEC’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his qualifications ends and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins.  Electoral Tribunal, et al. /Congressman Jovito S. Palparan, Jr. vs. House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), et al., G.R. No. 189466/G.R. No. 189506,. February 11, 2010.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

November 2009 Philippine Supreme Court Decisions on Political Law

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

Constitutional Law

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. TThe Civil Service Commission (CSC) Caraga has jurisdiction to conduct the preliminary investigation of a possible administrative case of dishonesty against PO1 Capablanca for alleged CSP examination irregularity.

The CSC, as the central personnel agency of the Government, is mandated to establish a career service, to strengthen the merit and rewards system, and to adopt measures to promote morale, efficiency and integrity in the civil service. The civil service embraces all branches, subdivisions, instrumentalities, and agencies of the government, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters. Specifically, Section 91 of Republic Act (RA) No. 6975 (1990) or the “Department of Interior and Local Government Act of 1990” provides that the “Civil Service Law and its implementing rules and regulations shall apply to all personnel of the Department,” to which herein petitioner belongs.

Section 12 of Executive Order (EO) No. 292 or the “Administrative Code of 1987,” enumerates the powers and functions of the CSC. In addition, Section 28, Rule XIV of the Omnibus Civil Service Rules and Regulations specifically confers upon the CSC the authority to take cognizance over any irregularities or anomalies connected with the examinations. To carry out this mandate, the CSC issued Resolution No. 991936, or the Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, empowering its Regional Offices to take cognizance of cases involving CSC examination anomalies.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the CSC acted within its jurisdiction when it initiated the conduct of a preliminary investigation on the alleged civil service examination irregularity committed by the petitioner. Eugenio S. Capablanca vs. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 179370, November 18, 2009.

Civil Service Commission; jurisdiction. It has already been settled in Cruz v. Civil Service Commission that the appellate power of the CSC will only apply when the subject of the administrative cases filed against erring employees is in connection with the duties and functions of their office, and not in cases where the acts of complainant arose from cheating in the civil service examinations.  Eugenio S. Capablanca vs. Civil Service Commission, G.R. No. 179370, November 18, 2009.

Constitutionality;  equal protection. The equal protection guarantee under the Constitution is found under its Section 2, Article III, which provides: “Nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws.” Essentially, the equality guaranteed under this clause is equality under the same conditions and among persons similarly situated. It is equality among equals, not similarity of treatment of persons who are different from one another on the basis of substantial distinctions related to the objective of the law; when things or persons are different in facts or circumstances, they may be treated differently in law.

Appreciation of how the constitutional equality provision applies inevitably leads to the conclusion that no basis exists in the present case for an equal protection challenge. The law can treat barangay officials differently from other local elective officials because the Constitution itself provides a significant distinction between these elective officials with respect to length of term and term limitation. The clear distinction, expressed in the Constitution itself, is that while the Constitution provides for a three-year term and three-term limit for local elective officials, it left the length of term and the application of the three-term limit or any form of term limitation for determination by Congress through legislation. Not only does this disparate treatment recognize substantial distinctions, it recognizes as well that the Constitution itself allows a non-uniform treatment. No equal protection violation can exist under these conditions.

From another perspective, we see no reason to apply the equal protection clause as a standard because the challenged proviso did not result in any differential treatment between barangay officials and all other elective officials. This conclusion proceeds from our ruling on the retroactivity issue that the challenged proviso does not involve any retroactive application.  Commission on Elections vs. Conrado Cruz, et al., G.R. No. 186616, November 20, 2009.

Continue reading

Constitutionality of law penalizing loitering

Article 202 of the Revised Penal Code penalizes any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support. It provides:

Art. 202. Vagrants and prostitutes; penalty. — The following are vagrants:

1.     Any person having no apparent means of subsistence, who has the physical ability to work and who neglects to apply himself or herself to some lawful calling;

2.     Any person found loitering about public or semi-public buildings or places or tramping or wandering about the country or the streets without visible means of support;

3.     Any idle or dissolute person who lodges in houses of ill fame; ruffians or pimps and those who habitually associate with prostitutes;

4.     Any person who, not being included in the provisions of other articles of this Code, shall be found loitering in any inhabited or uninhabited place belonging to another without any lawful or justifiable purpose;

5.     Prostitutes.

For the purposes of this article, women who, for money or profit, habitually indulge in sexual intercourse or lascivious conduct, are deemed to be prostitutes.

Any person found guilty of any of the offenses covered by this articles shall be punished by arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos, and in case of recidivism, by arresto mayor in its medium period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 2,000 pesos, or both, in the discretion of the court.

Evangeline Siton and Krystel Kate Sagarano were charged with vagrancy under Article 202 (2) of the Revised Penal Code. Instead of submitting their counter-affidavits as directed, they filed separate Motions to Quash on the ground that Article 202 (2) is unconstitutional for being vague and overbroad.

Continue reading